Nice Threads

She designs 'em. Amish women hand-stitch 'em. And each of these quilts goes for more than $2,000.

What: Maker of handmade quilts
Who: Denyse Schmidt of Denyse Schmidt Quilts
Where: Fairfield, Connecticut
When: Started in 1996

In today's fast-paced world, at least one entrepreneur is enjoying business as it comes-stitch by stitch. With a taste for bold fabrics and unorthodox patterns, Denyse Schmidt says customers just can't get enough of her hip homemade creations.

Specializing in hand-stitched quilts that retail for between $2,400 and $5,400 each, Schmidt offers 12 designs that can be made to order. One hundred percent cotton and machine-washable, the quilts are pieced together by Schmidt and her full-time assistant; the quilts are then hand-stitched by a group of Amish women in Rochester, Minnesota.

Although her business projects $250,000 in sales this year, Schmidt didn't start out with the intent of becoming an entrepreneur. Back in 1994, Schmidt, now 40, was working as a graphic designer for a children's book publisher. Feeling that her artistic capabilities were being wasted, she began working on a quilt for a friend. "It was a very tangible work experience," she remembers. "I would sit down for three hours, and I had a tangible [result] to show for what I had done during that time."

A few years later, she decided to exhibit some of her quilts at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City. After receiving positive feedback, she decided to take a two-week quilting workshop in Maine-"to get the momentum going because I was still working full time at my other job," Schmidt says. She eventually quit that job and has since expanded her business to include Denyse Schmidt Prints, a line of screen-printed bedding. She now sells her products through retail stores, designers and catalogs.

Although the standard delivery time is six months for each quilt, Schmidt says her buyers are more than willing to wait. "People really appreciate a handmade product," she says. "There is a very personal connection that people have with [a quilt]. It connotes home, security and coziness."

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This article was originally published in the October 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Nice Threads.

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