Liz Kuennen, owner of Udderly Quilts And More, one of Nevada’s newest businesses, feels there is a saying that pretty much describes her: "When life gives you scraps, make a quilt."
Kuennen has taken the scraps of her life experiences and fashioned them into this new shop that combines her love of quilting with arts, handmade items, vintage and antique finds, sewing machines and sewing-related items. The shop is located along Lincoln Highway, across from the fire station.
Udderly Quilts And More, in Kuennen’s opinion, is unlike almost any other quilt shop, because of its unique retail collection.
"I offer not only new, but older fabrics that range in age from being milled just a few years ago to antique yardage that dates back to 1870," she said, noting that 1870 is also about the year her large Nevada home was built. Kuennen said her business offers vintage and antique buttons, quilt tops and sewing-related items, including some toy sewing machines.
"All of the sewing machines that I have for sale are older." She recently sold a 66 Singer from 1916. "In my experience … I have learned that on average, older machines are much better made and can sew through thicker, tougher fabrics," she said. She owns a couple of Singer 221 Featherweights, which weigh only 11 pounds. "You cannot beat the quality of the stitch from these older machines."
One of Kuennen’s business goals is to offer classes, for both adults and children. One of her focal points in teaching classes, she said, will be the proper cleaning, oiling and care of the sewing machine, which she said few sewers today learn. "I used to teach a class to international women on campus at Iowa State University through a Christian ministry. We received many older machines which were not maintained, so I have learned to first teach how to maintain their machines," Kuennen said.
She also hopes to offer the use of her classroom – inside her shop – for retreats and other classes. "I am open to anyone who wants to teach other needle arts, other arts or even rent the space for meetings. I want to support others in the community and not just be an island by myself," she said.
Kuennen said she is an accomplished teacher, an award-winning quilter and a published author and designer. She has had several articles included in national quilting magazines, like "Quilt World," and "The American Quilters Society (AQS) Magazine." She is also the author of a booklet of original designs.
Before owning the shop on Lincolnway, Kuennen said she conducted business on a "very part-time basis" from her home for many years, selling items on eBay. Along with her physical shop, named to pay tribute to her husband’s farm background, Kuennen is starting up her eBay business to sell a few fabrics and other items. She is also developing a website and has a Facebook page where people can keep up with all facets of her business.
Kuennen credits God for helping bring her to the point of opening the shop she now has. Her background for coming into this occupation dates all the way back to when she was 8.
It was at the age of 8 that her grandmother, Bina Trampel, taught her to sew and quilt. Kuennen’s mother was dying of cancer at the time, so Trampel filled her granddaughter’s days with learning many needle skills that Kuennen said are no longer taught. They are now what is considered the "old-fashioned" method of quilting, using cardboard for templates and cutting with scissors.
"I finished my first quilt at about age 14," Kuennen remembers, saying it was a project she worked on for short periods of time when she visited her grandmother.
Over the years, Kuennen has used her abilities to help others. She’s donated quilts for fundraisers. She’s used her gift of making things as a way to give back.
She also hopes, through her shop, to help other area artists, by not only selling her own handmade items – like jewelry and quilts - but also helping them sell theirs. She will have gifts made by local glass painter Bev Packard, baskets woven by Sue Massman and hand-made thimbles, designed and cast by Tommie Lane, a more well-known artist in the quilting world.
In the future, Kuennen said she hopes to add a few employees, possibly starting with family members. "We will see what God has in store. I don’t know the future, but I know whatever it is, it will be what it is meant to be."