Stefanie Gruenig operates Charming Lulu Sewing Boutique at 1300 N. Mullan Road in Spokane Valley, which features a Janome sewing machine dealership, and sells sewing and quilting supplies, offers classes and hosts sewing groups. (Jesse Tinsley)
Stefanie Gruenig operates Charming Lulu Sewing Boutique at 1300 N. Mullan Road in Spokane Valley, which features a Janome sewing machine dealership, and sells sewing and quilting supplies, offers classes and hosts sewing groups. (Jesse Tinsley)

Charming Lulu Sewing Boutique adds modern flair to sewing, quilting

Sewers and quilters in Spokane Valley can stitch together something new, thanks to Charming Lulu Sewing Boutique.

The shop, which Stefanie and Shayne Gruenig opened last November in the space formerly occupied by Scrapper’s Attic on Mullan, stocks a mix of modern fabrics, notions and patterns to complement the Janome sewing machines they sell, service and repair.

The name, said Stefanie Gruenig, combines the fun and happy flair of Lulu with an appreciative nod to her husband.

“My husband is prince charming,” she said with a smile. He is also a certified Janome technician.

Customers can test, try and choose from a starter machine that costs a few hundred dollars all the way to the Horizon Memory Craft 15000, which comes equipped with an iPad and costs about $12,000.

You can set it up, then sit on your couch and download or create embroidery patterns on the tablet computer, transmitting them to the machine wirelessly.

To draw in sewing groups who could use the space to work with the camaraderie of other crafters, the shop has seven machines available and ample work space with several dining room tables available to reserve – some people book birthday parties at the shop. Gruenig said they can accommodate groups of about 20.

She also hosts project-specific classes, such as bag-of-the-month or apron classes. Most classes, which are posted on the store’s Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages, include some supplies and last about two hours, though Gruenig said customers can stay until they finish their projects or the shop closes, whichever comes first.

“Ladies like to leave with completed projects,” she said.

Gruenig said the shop is a fun challenge for a lifetime sewer. She learned from her mom when she was about 11 years old. “I was making my own prairie skirts,” she said. “I’ve been sewing all these years.”

Five years ago, she took up quilting, inspired by ideas in magazines. “I saw fresh, modern things. It awoke something in me,” she said. “It’s very relaxing. For me it’s therapeutic. Making something new out of a scrap of fabric releases all those endorphins.”

The walls are adorned with a variety of colorful quilts she’s made, with bolts of bright fabric nestled for display on bed frames with an assortment of sewing machines, and fat quarter bundles for quilters who don’t want to mix and match fabrics for a new project.

The store has a bright, vibrant vibe with modern fabrics including lines from Moda, Michael Miller, Riley Blake and Art Gallery. When it opened, Gruenig expected this to attract a younger customer base.

“So many shops in the Valley do traditional and do it well. We wanted to complement that scene,” she said. Since she sometimes brings a child to work, Gruenig created a children’s corner that’s available while customers with young children shop.

“We welcome everybody. … We want moms to feel at home,” she said, adding that she was surprised to discover her biggest customer demographic is longtime quilters who want to try something new.

“Our fabric appeals to a younger market but it also appeals to older people looking to expand,” she said.

That’s one reason Peggy Seccomb shops and sews at Charming Lulu. “I love this because it has modern fabrics. It’s a fresh look,” she said.

For Jennifer Samsell, the store offers inspiration and a chance to forge friendships with women of all ages who share the same love of sewing and quilting.

“For a lot of us, it’s a creative outlet. It felt like sewing was dying within rigid quilting rules. Stefanie colors outside the lines,” she said, pointing at a hand-painted mural and a whimsical quilt that Gruenig made and displays in the store.

“It’s a really fun experience to meet new people who have the same interest,” said Samsell. Her friendship with Seccomb, who is a couple decades older, has deepened while sewing together at the store.

In fact, after Samsell admired the Teepee Adventures quilt Seccomb made using a pattern and fabric from the Art Gallery line, the seasoned sewer decided to make a quilt for Samsell’s 1 year old son, using left over fabric.

“I made another quilt out of the scraps,” she said, giving her friend a hug. “It’s for that little boy over there because this mama liked that one so much.”


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