THUNDER BAY -- Former executive director of St. Joseph’s Foundation of Thunder Bay, Katrina O’Neill has a new calling in life - she is the founder and owner of Sew Flippin’ Creations, where people can rent space and/or sewing and quilting machines for use by the hour.
When O'Neill left her job at St.Joseph’s, she felt burnt out and didn’t know what to do next. As a starting point, she decided to buy herself a brand new expensive sewing machine, but soon found out that the closest dealerships were in Winnipeg or Hamilton.
“I thought, ‘hmm, there’s an opportunity there,’” she recalls. “It always surprises me how much is not in Thunder Bay.”
O’Neill didn’t just want to become a sewing machine dealer, though. “I wanted to provide a space where the creative community could use equipment that they probably couldn’t afford,” she says.
She reached out to sewing machine maker Brother and long-arm quilting machine manufacturer APQS, and the stars aligned - she found the perfect space, right across from Fabricland.
Sew Flippin’ Creations opened in October 2019. The space is over 2000 sq. ft., and has nine sewing machines, six embroidery machines, two long arm quilting machines and two craft cutting machines. “Everything you would need in a sewing room is here,” O’Neill says proudly.
Cost is a significant barrier for crafters. Embroidery machines start in the thousands of dollars, while quilting machines can cost tens of thousands. Even if cost were not an issue, space is - the “Millie” quilting machine has a frame large enough for 12-foot quilts, which means it would require a space considerably larger than the average spare bedroom. At Sew Flippin’ Creations, you can rent space for $12 an hour, or sewing machines from $15 an hour, up to $35 for the “Millie.”
O’Neill’s clientele are diverse, but 70% are 30 and under, she says. “Young people are fearless, and it’s fantastic,” she says. “Older people like myself, we had to learn to sew, you were given a pattern and you follow the pattern exactly. I’ve had younger people come in without a pattern, they cut the fabric and just go for it!”
“It’s nice for me as an older person to be challenged by that. There are no rules,” she says.
The new entrepreneur “absolutely wishes” she had gone into this business sooner. Things have been going well so far, and she can afford three part time employees. “I’m trying not to get ahead of myself,” she says, but she feels like the creative community has lots of room for growth. “I may be knocking down that wall to make space for more machines. I need more toys!”