Erwin Woman's Needlework draws National Attention
By Shana Hoilman | Special to the Bristol Herald | February 04, 2008***This story appeared in the Bristol Herald Courier on Feb. 4, 2008.***
ERWIN, Tenn. ? Susan Lilly enjoyed learning to sew in her seventh-grade home economics class, but little did she know the skill she was learning would contribute to her life's passion and livelihood.
Lilly has been creating unique patterns and dolls for 15 years. Her creations are an enchanting mix of whimsical fantasy and country class.
Those qualities proved distinctive when scouts from McCall's Patterns discovered Lilly's dolls at a crafts show. They were so taken with one that its pattern was presented in a 1998 issue.
Her creations have also been displayed five times on the covers of Country Marketplace magazine, featured in CNA ? Craft and Needlework Age magazine ? and advertised in Country Sampler magazine.
Lilly's pieces, which are available at her Web store, www.fruitfullhands.com, and at The Cave House in Abingdon, Va., are completely handcrafted to the tiniest details, including handmade fabrics and extravagant embellishments.
In the past year, Lilly expanded her creations to include one-of-a-kind collectible dolls that are only produced in limited editions and come with certificates of authenticity.
She is capable of customizing a doll to fit any occasion and can incorporate personal mementos or heirlooms into the doll's ensemble.
"The most amazing thing is Susan's attention to detail," Gary Lilly said of his wife's creations. "Everything is incredibly intricate, and it makes her customers passionate about her designs."
Sewing has always played a role in Susan Lilly's life.
"My mom sewed and it was always in the family," she said at her home in Erwin. "She was an inspiration to start."
At 13, she combined the inspiration from her mother with the skills she learned in home economics and began making her own clothes. Eventually, she tried her hand at dolls.
She found her sewing abilities blended with a natural creativity, possibly inherited from her great-grandparents, who immigrated from Italy and worked as tailors.
Inspiration for new doll ideas can come at any time for Lilly, who always has her eyes open for possibilities.
Her repertoire includes conventional favorites like "Raggedy Anne & Andy," but also contain dolls such as "Da Biker Hog." Da Hog's ensemble includes a Harley-Davidson jacket, sunglasses and a leather wallet on a chain with a tiny driver's license inside.
Lilly's creations will soon make another national appearance when Soft Dolls & Animals magazine features her bagpiper sheep doll "Laddie" in its May issue and the socialite giraffe doll "Abigail" in July.
Lilly has been creating unique patterns and dolls for 15 years. (From the Bristol Herald Courier)
She is capable of customizing a doll to fit any occasion. (From the Bristol Herald Courier)