Scottish style for sale
Before the Camp Fire, Jamie Kalanquin mostly treated sewing as a hobby, occasionally selling her infinity scarves to friends, family and patrons at holiday markets. But after losing nearly everything at her former home in Magalia (including most of her scarves), a friend gave her a gift card to a fabric store, which served as the impetus to move forward creatively. Instead of accepting money from friends post-fire, she suggested that people buy a scarf to support her work. In the two months between the fire and Christmas 2018, she made roughly 1,000 scarves, and from there, the business grew exponentially. This last December, she formally opened Thistle and Stitch, her Chico shop on Zanella Way where she sells her Scottish-themed plaid scarves, embroidered accessories and other locally made items. To find out more, go to thistleandstitch.com
Why the focus on plaid/Scottish themes?
I fell in love with a blue and green plaid pattern years ago, and I still have that scarf. It inspired me to use that style and those fabrics, and it grew from there. My friend told me my stuff would do well at Scottish festivals, and I went to my first one just last year in Monterey. Seeing everyone in plaid and kilts, I had tears in my eyes and thought, “These are my people!” Finding that theme helped me grab hold of a direction and find a niche. I’m planning to vend at about a dozen Scottish festivals this year.
So you’re Scottish, then?
I’m part Scottish, but growing up, I didn’t really know much about my heritage. I did an ancestry kit and it turns out that two of the top cities where my DNA comes from are located in Scotland. And my husband and I are actually going there for the first time ever this year!
How much inventory do you produce?
I estimated that I have to make about 20 scarves a day, five days a week, all year, to keep up with demand. Most of my sales are in the second half of the year, because I have a seasonal product. But I need to be working on it now to keep up. I use my embroidery machine to work on tote bags and hats, but for my scarves, I’m just using a basic sewing machine for now.
Why did you choose to set up a brick-and-mortar shop?
When I had booths at events, people would ask, “Where are you located?” But I was just working out of my home at the time, and the business was taking over the entire house, with hundreds of yards of fabric on hand. It was getting mildly insane.
Did you have a background in business before opening Thistle and Stitch?
Nope! [Laughs.] They suggested I do a write-up on myself, and I’m thinking, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I make scarves. The end.” But I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, even as a kid. It’s been fun to have this business grow and to see that it’s bigger than I ever imagined it to be.