Late bloomer

WHEN patchwork guru Jacqui Smalley first tried quilting at the age of 38 her teacher would grit her teeth.

“She would tell me something and I couldn’t get it. I couldn’t even wind cotton on the bobbin.”

But Smalley went on to become a quilting teacher, and now shares the story with her students so they don’t give up.

Smalley opened Patchwork at Homespun in Willagee in the early naughties, and it did so well she expanded into the shop next door on Harrison Street.

• Patchwork at Homespun owner Jacqui Smalley. Photo by Jenny D’Anger

Colourful rolls of material and beautiful quilts create a welcoming atmosphere for “stitchers”, and Smalley’s mantra is “sit long, sew much and laugh often”.

The family-friendly business has 14 mostly part-time staff, and Smalley is happy to schedule employees’ hours around school and kids.

Before Patchwork, Smalley had a diverse range of jobs that included everything from working as a receptionist at a real estate agency to typing radio scripts for the ABC.

A promotion to editing saw her source film canister footage from the archives for the nightly news.

“But we got taken over by satellite and it was moved over east…So I moved into the education department,” she says.

There’s been a few jobs in between—including the small matter of raising a family—but eventually Smalley settled on quilting.

And with the help of a couple of mates she began teaching professionally.

“We all decided if we’re teaching, why not pool our resources and teach as a business,” she says.

“It took off, but the others moved on. I bought them out and I am the sole owner now.”

Patchwork runs regular “quilting” tours to the eastern states and overseas, along with quilting retreats at its Yallingup property.

“Quilting for the whole weekend…plus wineries and scenery,” Smalley says.

by JENNY D’ANGER

Patchwork at Homespun
6 Harrison Street
Willagee
9337 7182

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