|When asked how Stitchin’ Dreams got its name,
Joyce Spencer smiles widely, “My first book was about a dragon.
It was before I could read. I like to spend a lot of time reading
fantasy books. I have a limited edition of Draco (from the story
While we talk, Joyce is wearing one of her many Tshirts decorated with a dragon. “My house is covered in them. I may have a thousand different ones.”
Spencer wants it to be clear that there are many different kinds of dragons. “In most cultures, dragons are protectors. I did some research while on a recent trip to China which supported that view.”
“I have been told that I live in a bubble world. For much of my life, I saw everybody as a good person, having a good heart. I grew up in Los Angeles (actually Westchester) in a protected, safe upper class environment.” Joyce was raised with four brothers and sisters in Southern California, although her family roots are in Indiana.
Co-owners of Stitchin’ Dreams are Sheila Crow, her lifelong friend and Bobbie Hansen, Sheila’s daughter. Spencer worked for many years in the petroleum industry and later moved up to Senior Administrative Assistant at the Rialto Police Department where Sheila was a Police Sergeant.
Joyce began commercial embroidery in 1997. “A good friend told us that his embroidery work took too long to get done at a local store. His thoughts were generally, ‘If it takes 3-4 weeks for a name drop then he (the local store) is too busy,’ thus a need for additional embroiderers. So, we started Stitchin’ Dreams in my garage. I had some money and invested $50,000 in equipment. A portable, middle-of-the-line Toyota embroidery machine (Toyota was a major name in sewing long before automobiles), computer and software, designs and accessories.”
“In the beginning, it was parttime work. The first job was hats for my brother’s molding company. Then, others for friends and family quickly followed. Work for the first two years just through word of mouth. No advertising.”
Within two years, the business owned three embroidery machines. It was time for Joyce to quit her day job. “It was scary. I wasn’t sure if it could float on its own, support itself. But, business picked up.”
“The girls” (Joyce, Sheila and Bobbie) maintain and repair their own embroidery machines. Sheila was trained as a technician in Japan four years ago. “The equipment requires regular maintenance. Most repairs are fairly simple.”
While Joyce developed the embroidery business, Sheila maintained her fulltime police job. “Sheila was on call and helped whenever needed as she still does.”
“We had a lot of law enforcement business and still do because of our custom law designs. That was about half our business, but it’s changing some since moving to Harlowton. We have always worked with Mom and Pop businesses and have never set minimum orders. One is enough.”
“Everyone stands in line for the larger orders, the bigger money orders; but no one was really helping the little busineses. Our primary goal was to take care of the smaller orders and eliminate or minimize the setup fees that seem to run rampant in the industry. Everyone’s orders are important! Not as much money in this niche, but very rewarding.”
One SDE Mom and Pop business is now a popular musical group named Alien Ant Farm. They have signed with DreamWorks in Hollywood. “AAF printed a thank you to Stitchin’ Dreams on their first CD cover. We have also done work for Dick Wolfe for the Law and Order set, the Cairo Police Department in Egypt and numerous pro-bass tournament customers.”
What about the move to Montana? “I never liked California even though I grew up there. People can be so mean and unthoughtful. The crime rate keeps rising.
“I lived in a small community with lots of open space, but housing tracts kept expanding and soon my small community had 120,000 other people. And, the traffic! I used to get up at 3:15 am to get to work in Los Angeles by 7:00 am.
“Bobbie had been here for 15 years. We would come out to visit her and always left saying, ‘Someday, I am moving out here.’
Bobbie responded, ‘Right, Mom. Someday, will never happen.’ But, we decided it was time to get out and left two years ago on May 27. Sold the house and locked the door for the last time on that day. We had Noah’s Ark Caravan. Each vehicle was full of assorted animals. Bobbie flew out to help us pack and to get to our new home.”
Bobbie Hansen has lived in Harlowton for ten years. “We helped her get started with Stitchin’ Time Embroidery about eight years ago. When we moved here, we merged our companies. We left our screenprinting equipment in California in deference to Wildlife Art which has been operating here for many years.”
With the merger of businesses, Stitchin’ Dreams bought their previously rented building, put on siding and a new roof, painted inside, expanded inventory and added vinyl banners and lettering as additional products. SDE has just recently made banners for the Chamber and lettering to upgrade rodeo advertising signs for members.
While just a Chamber member for a year, Stitchin’ Dreams has been a sponsor of the Chamber’s Russell Country Planner advertisement, hosted a youth haunted house on Halloween night, helped sponsor the upcoming Montana Festival of the Wind, and donated signage for the new daycare center. SDE has digitized the Festival Logo and will be producing caps embroidered with the logo. Joyce just designed a terrific Wind Farm Trail Challenge cap for the Wheatland Memorial Healthcare. “I’m looking forward to the Festival. It’s going to be neat. People are starting to pay attention locally and community pride seems to be on the upswing.”
Back to that Dragon. “It’s really how I started. Our first logo had the dragon being stitched out of a machine. The dragon is just a fantasy, not real. We created him one stitch at a time.”
Art has always been important to Joyce Spencer. Drawing, creativity and colors. Joyce, Bobbie and Sheila’s business would like to help you ‘stitch your dreams.’ “If you can dream it, think it, we can probably stitch it.”