Sewing up a successful niche
by Marguerite Cline
July 24, 2014 08:38 PM | 4016 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Donna Rolan remembers what her brother, Cherokee County banker Carl Hames Jr., said about how to be successful in business. “Find a niche and fill it.” Donna has done exactly that.

Her road to success started when her husband, Mark Rolan, gave her a sewing machine. One of the most interested things about that was she did not know how to sew.

At the time, practically newlyweds, she and Mark were living in an apartment in Woodstock on Main Street in the building where Beverly’s Day Spa is now located. It had been divided into three apartments.

The home was owned by Mary Howell. Her mother, Lula Ragsdale, lived in the third apartment. She taught Donna how to sew.

For years Donna was a stay-at-home mom with son Lee. In his work, Mark was often traveling. After Lee left for college, Donna found herself with time on her hands.

That was when she took Carl’s advice. She found a niche and filled it.

Most people cannot replace a broken zipper, hem their own clothes or slightly alter a garment. They pay serious money to have those things done for them.

Since Donna is an expert seamstress as well as an expert instructor, she established her business.

Thus, began sewing camps for children — “Its Sew Fun Kids” — during summers and sewing classes throughout the year.

She converted a part of their downstairs area into a sewing studio with stations for six students including a sewing machine, bolts of fabric, scissors, patterns, pin cushions, etc. She even has a magnet designed for picking up pins when they are dropped.

Donna thinks the perfect age for learning to sew is when children are 8 years old. At that age, many girls love their American Girl Doll(s). Wisely, she decided her camps would begin with girls making clothes for their dolls.

I learned about “Its Sew Fun Kids” camp when it was suggested I enroll my granddaughter Laney as a birthday gift. After the first day of the four-day camp, Laney called with rave reviews. She said it was the best present I had ever given her and she could not wait to go back the next day.

Before I observed a class, I had visions of six 8-year-olds turned loose with sewing machines, scissors, pins, etc., guaranteeing chaos. I also thought the instructor might be pulling her hair out.

Not so. Everything is well organized. First, there is instructions on using a sewing machine and then the fun begins. The girls start selecting patterns and choosing fabric for each outfit they will make for their doll.

Some of the girls are more advanced than others. As good teachers do, Donna lets budding seamstresses move at their own pace. Those more accomplished may make totes, stuffed toys, pillowcases or cushions.

Donna, with the patience of Job, quietly moves around the studio giving encouragement and instructions and answering questions. Soft music plays in the background and not a single learner gets off task. They are too busy cutting, serging, pressing, and fitting each outfit for the model.

Some of the children have never used an iron. Occasionally, an “ouch” is heard. That means someone got slightly burned or stuck themselves with a pin.

When students move on to weekly sewing lessons, they make garments, curtains and most anything they want to make during their lessons. This is where they master advanced skills such as making buttonholes and zippers. Some even make quilts.

Students in sewing classes purchase their own patterns and material. Donna explains that since some fabric will shrink, they must wash and dry the fabric before they cut out the garment.

It is not unusual for someone to ask Donna if she will make a very special outfit for them. The answer is always, “No.”

However, that will change slightly. She and Mark now have a granddaughter. Lee and his wife, Alexis, have blessed them with Hayden. I was not surprised to learn Donna is already sewing for Hayden.

When Hayden is christened she will be wearing “The Rolan Dress.” Donna made it of imperial batiste fabric with French lace.

It was first worn for the christening of Avery Grace Lawson, daughter of Drew and Nicole Lawson. On the slip of the dress, Donna will embroider the name and christening date of each baby who wears it.

As her brother advised her, Donna Rolan has found her niche and filled it well. If you want to know more about her camps and classes, go to her website at

Laney and I both highly recommend it.

Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska.

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