Business Spotlight: Quilt shop was an opportunity they couldn't pass up

Frank and Julie Karasek, of Patched Works in Elm Grove, makes the solitary hobby of quilting a social endeavor. They bought the business in 2006.

Frank and Julie Karasek, of Patched Works in Elm Grove, makes the solitary hobby of quilting a social endeavor. They bought the business in 2006. Photo By Peter Zuzga

Dec. 22, 2015

Time-honored crafts are a bit of a contradiction nowadays. Though fewer children are learning skills like sewing and knitting, crafting is becoming intensely popular. Among the crafts on the rise is quilting, and many folks have made Patched Works in Elm Grove their go-to resource for all things quilting.

Owner Julie Karasek of Milwaukee began sewing at around the age of five, and was inspired in the craft by her mother who also was a sewer.

She originally planned on opening a quilt shop upon retirement, but when Patched Works came up for sale, she purchased it in July of 2006.

"I thought it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we seized it," Karasek said of herself and her husband, Frank.

In addition to offering the largest supply of quilting materials in southeastern Wisconsin, Patched Works focuses on education for their customers. The shop offers a variety of classes from beginners on.

"It is our goal to motivate and educate our customers."

Many of the classes are taught in a lecture style classroom where students observe how to execute a technique, which they then practice at home. Patched Works is also home to several "clubs," each of which focuses on a particular style of quilting such as batik, an abstract form of quilting, and strip quilting, which pieces together 21/2 inch strips of fabric to create designs. Clubs meet at the shop where they can sew together, provide support for each other, and receive assistance from staff.

Because quilting can be a rather solitary hobby, Karasek sees the shop as a meeting place where quilters can come together in a more social environment.

While younger generations may tend to see quilting as an outdated pastime, Karasek said that there is an resurgence of younger people picking up the craft. People today are so reliant on technology and spend so much of their days in front of a screen, that "I really think as a culture we are looking to make things," especially tactile things.

It also seems that this reliance on technology, however, is responsible for the resurrection of crafting. She said that thanks to social media outlets like Pinterest and the easy accessibility to digital sources, many people are picking up hobbies such as knitting, and Karasek thinks that the rise of interest in quilting is an extension of that.

"We definitely have had a very large growth in the quilting community," she said.

Some people quilt for fun, some to create heirlooms, but almost every quilter can agree that regardless of motive, it's therapeutic and a good excuse to step away from technology for a while.

"I love the tactile component (of quilting) in this digital world."

A focus on community doesn't stop at the front door. Patched Works is a proud drop-off point for Project Linus, which collects and distributes handmade blankets to children in hospitals, shelters, social service agencies and other organizations that help children.

Several times during the year, they encourage the community to donate to the Million Pillowcase Challenge, which gives the pillowcases to local charities. For the past two years, Patched Works has held "Pillowpalooza" in June, where people can come to the shop and make a pillow case with a group.

Through her shop, Karasek is able to watch people bring an idea to fruition, and into something that they're proud of.

"It's really rewarding watching the process."

Name: Patched Works

Type of Business: Quilting Shop/Classes

Location: 13330 Watertown Plank Rd., Elm Grove

Phone: (262) 786-1523

Hours: Mon, Tue, Thu 10-5 | Wed 10-8 | Fri 10-5 | Sat 10-4 | Sun 12-4 Website:

Unofficial Motto: "It's always a party at Patched Works."

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