Savage Mill shop owner sews stitch in fight against cancer


December 12, 2003|By Lisa Kawata | Lisa Kawata,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

HEADS BENT over, two women sat on pink chairs at an old wooden table, snipping and matching colorful pieces of fabric and felt. In the middle of the table, a pile of canvas tote bags waited for artistic touches to be added by the day's visitors to And Sew It Goes, a new quilt shop in Historic Savage Mill.

In three hours, 25 bags were decorated and ready to be delivered to Howard County General Hospital's Breast Care Center.

Carolyn Schoenian, the shop's owner, used the Mill's annual Parade of Trees on the weekend before Thanksgiving to kick off her mission to help fight breast cancer as she pursues her dream of running a needlecraft store.

"Sewing has always been a passion of mine," said Schoenian, 57, who has been sewing since she was 10. She saved money to buy her own sewing machine when she was 12.

"I had always wanted to do this -- own a shop -- from the time I was a kid," she said.

Two years ago, Schoenian was laid off from her information technology job and decided the time was right to open a fabric shop. Then her daughter Lisa, who lives in Pennsylvania, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Before Schoenian found a space for her business, she knew she would use it to fight the disease.

On Nov. 23, the weekend open house for the Parade of Trees, Dawn and Lisa Stewart, a mother and daughter from Savage, spent more than an hour decorating tote bags. Ribbons of shooting stars flamed across one of Lisa's bags while she carefully sewed tiny bells on another. Meanwhile, Dawn sewed a heart with wings, a design by Lisa, on another bag.

The two visited And Sew It Goes because "it sounded like a fun thing to do for a worthwhile cause," Dawn said, adding that she was excited that the shop had opened near her home. She has been quilting for a decade and cross-stitching since she was a young girl.

While the women took turns at the tables or steam-ironing their bags, they chatted about sewing projects or quilts they had made for family and friends.

One woman popped in to show off a cross-stitched wedding sampler she had just finished after several years. It will be a gift for her daughter, who lives in Hawaii. Schoenian busied herself showing newcomers around her store and cutting fabric lengths for customers' projects. As if the bolts of pink and green, lavender and blue fabrics weren't pretty enough, the antique furniture and accessories that Schoenian has used to furnish the store would garner praise from any designer. Pipes and ductwork crisscross the ceiling and the topmost block walls -- reminders of the mill's origin.

In the shop, colors of home fill each corner. Soft pastel baby fabrics with sleeping stars and smiling frogs are stacked on an old changing table. Bags of batting stand upright inside a 150-year-old trunk. Even a primitive wooden ironing board, typewriter table and large pharmacist's hutch have found their way from Schoenian's home into her shop for use as storage. If all the chairs are filled, customers can sit on sturdy red-and-white-painted flea-market stepstools.

And Sew It Goes carries mostly fabrics in colors and motifs traditionally used in American needlecrafts. A shelf is dedicated to a line of fabrics called "Quest for the Cure," produced by Northcott Monarch, which donates a percentage of sales to breast cancer research.

And Sew It Goes carries two collections: Abbey Road and Porcelain. Schoenian also has dedicated 10 percent of her store's yearly profits to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. But during the Parade of Trees, donations for her shop's decorated tree will benefit the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource and Image Center in Columbia.

Since the opening of And Sew It Goes in September, customers have wasted no time becoming acquainted with the shop and its gregarious owner. Requests poured in for quilting and other needlecraft classes.

Quilting can be "very therapeutic; you feel renewed when you do this," Schoenian said. She believes that women need a creative outlet, and hopes her shop will become a gathering place for women to stitch, sew and swap ideas.

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