Sew what?

Tricia Helmers is the new owner of A Stitch Above the Rest, 15 S. First St. She became the proprietor of the long-established Fort Dodge embroidery shop in June.

This is a new career venture for Helmers, who spent most of her professional life after college in the insurance world.

“I’ve always wanted to own my own business and live the American dream,” she said, explaining that the opportunity to buy A Stitch Above the Rest made turning that goal into a reality possible.

Adding embroidered letters, logos and artwork to garments – or just about any product made of fabric – is the specialty of the team at Stitch Above the Rest.

“We do a lot of embroidery for businesses – polos, letter jackets,” Helmers said. “Anything can be customized. We do a lot of baby blankets, hats, coats.”

Anyone who imagines that this involves someone laboriously sewing the desired result by hand would be wrong. Decades ago that would have been the process. Today, however, the design work and embroidery are handled using computers and high-tech embroidery machines.

Helmers said her shop has eight state-of-the-art embroidery machines. That means if a large order is being processed, up to eight units can be generated simultaneously. Alternatively, several jobs could be underway at the same time.

The store sells a wide array of garments suitable for embroidered enhancements. Just about anything not already in stock and be ordered, Helmers said. She stressed, however, that customers are also welcome to bring in for embroidery products purchased elsewhere.

Helmers said Stitch Above the Rest has a large number of commercial clients, but also welcomes individual customers who may need only an item or two embroidered.

“It’s mostly businesses, but we do a lot of individuals,” she said.

In addition to doing the embroidery, A Stitch Above the Rest can help a customer develop a design that meets their needs.

“We can design it with the colors the client wants and print it out,” Helmers said, noting that in some cases the design must be sent to a digitizer to turn it into a sewing format the machines can use. She said if that is necessary, there is a modest, one-time-only extra charge to get the design into her system.

Designs can be complex and colorful.

“We’ve had logos that have had 50 colors,” Helmers said. “The sky is the limit.”

Asked what makes her business appealing to customers, Helmers has a straightforward, multifaceted answer.

“We have fast turnaround times,” she said, as quick as same-day if needed. “We pay attention to detail. We have no minimum orders. You can order one thing if you like. We have a variety of products. If people need a shirt quick sewn up, they can grab one off the rack and we’ll sew it for them.”

While she has only been the owner for a short time, Helmers has plans to strengthen the enterprise. She said a website will soon be created.

“We just started having sale racks,” Helmers said. “That’s something new.”

On the horizon other changes are being evaluated.

“There are some trends in embroidery that we don’t currently offer that I’d like to get into,” Helmers said.

About Stitch Above the Rest

The shop was launched in 1990 by Diane Knupp. It was subsequently owned by Sandee Peterson and was purchased by Tricia Helmers in June. The staff team consists of Helmers and Peterson, the previous owner.

Helmers and Peterson both said they enjoy their work.

“I love to come to work,” Peterson said. “It’s something different every day. You get to be creative. You get to make people’s ideas come to life; produce something they’ll cherish. It’s never ever boring. It’s fun.”

Helmers said she finds the technical embroidery process fascinating.

“I love watching the machines and being able to customize things and making people happy with what they see,” she said.