At the end of the week, thousands of people will descend on Beaver Dam for Nancy’s Notion’s annual sewing weekend.
Nancy’s Notions, 333 Beichl Ave., employees estimate that between 3,000 and 4,000 people attend the activities each day during the event, a huge leap from the 200 people that attended the first weekend in 1985.
“The neat thing about the sewing weekend is that this is really the only time of year that our doors are completely open to the public, that anybody can come,” said Laura Axelson, education and events coordinator at Nancy’s Notions. “Other places that you go to, they’ll charge you an entry fee, parking fee. Even if somebody just wanted to come in, walk around, see what we’re all about, look at the quilts. It’s a big thing for us and for the community.”
The weekend, which will take place on May 2 through 4, is free to attend, although there is a fee to register for the classes. The fee for the classes, which ranges from $6 to $40, covers the costs of the materials, teachers and use of the sewing machines. And the participants leave with a finished project in many cases.
Retail store manager Lynn Helbing noted that for anyone who isn’t familiar with the business, but may be interested in learning more, free demonstrations are offered in the retail store.
“If somebody has 20 minutes to spare and they do think they’re interested in a quilt machine or an embroidery machine, they can watch that demonstration,” Helbing said. “All they have to do is sign their name on a sheet to watch it. Then we give them a free little gift. It could be a magnet, key chain, tape measure, little things like that, that are just kind of a nice little warm fuzzy, just thank you for coming. Again, you don’t have to pay anything. It’s just something extra we do to try to get people interested in sewing.”
The projects done change every year, although Helbing noted that there are some favorite types.
“We find anything with bags or handbags (sells out), because women love handbags, just like shoes,” Helbing said.
The classes are four hours long, although one hour make-and-take-it classes are also offered utilizing the same techniques.
“We wanted to make sure the customer could complete the project and feel comfortable with the time frame. If they get done early, they can hang out and ask questions with the teacher or the educator or come back and shop. No one likes to leave with an unfinished project,” Helbing said. “Then if someone doesn’t want to take four hours out of their day, maybe they’re seeing other seminars or they have a lot of shopping to do, they can do a one-hour make-and-take-it. People pre-register so their spot is their time frame and they can come and go as they please.”
Eleanor Burns, Marci Baker, Bobbi Bullard, Lynne Farris, Anne van der Kley, Linda McGehee and Emma Seabrooke make up the list of presenters for the weekend.
“Eleanor really stepped up and we were very lucky and fortunate that she could come at a last minute thing. In the quilting industry, she’s big. Anybody who quilts knows Eleanor Burns. It’s really exciting that we could have her,” Axelson said. “She is doing two afternoon seminars and then also an evening seminar. We always do these evening events. For our Thursday evening, we have the Midwest Ya-Ya Sisters (sewing wrap-ups). During the evening events they learn a little bit, but it’s more entertaining. It’s 7:30 at night. People have been shopping all day and they just basically sit down, relax.”
Helbing said one of many new attractions this year will be a silent auction of quilts that will benefit the Dodge County Humane Society.
“We’ve done a charity every year, but this one is new," Helbing said.
Axelson said that in the past, donations have gone to homeless shelters or PAVE.
“Basically what we do is we put together these fabric packs,” Axelson said. “People have to buy this fat quarter pack, and when they buy this pack, there’s an entry form that’s included in it. It has all the rules. They have to use each fabric in this pack to create a quilt of a certain size. We have 38 quilts that have been turned in for this from all over the country.”
The quilts are displayed and the proceeds from the quilts will go the humane society.
“If you just love animals and you don’t know anything about sewing and you’d like to come view the quilts or make a donation to the humane society, that’s great, too,” Helbing said.