Handmade: Ann's By Design keeps retired couple active and social

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News
Phil and Ann Hughes opened their Ann's By Design shop in 2015. It offers 65 different types of yarns.

Ann Hughes and her husband, Phil, were both close to retirement, and wondered: What they would do with all that time on their hands? 

Phil loved the work he'd done for 48 years in retail, and Ann, had a 30-year career working with Lenawee and Adrian Chambers of Commerce. She spent much of her spare time pursuing quilt making, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, and wool applique as hobbies. In fact, a group of quilters joined her every Monday for 25 years in the basement of their Adrian home for social quilting.

"It was 1994, and quilt shops were drying up in Lenawee County," recalled Ann. "We had an empty basement,  so we turned it into a classroom." It was Phil's idea that they use the space to start their own group and hire a quilting instructor. 

In April of 2015, the couple decided to open a brick and mortar at 118 West Maumee in Adrian that would be designed around the things they loved. It was a way to stay active and meet new people. They named the business Ann's By Design.

"The name was to show we opened the store with intention -- to provide access to yarn in particular in a local shop here in Adrian, and to continue to promote quilting, knitting and other needlearts." The Monday quilters were then moved to their shop.

"When we were getting ready to open, we originally weren't going to carry yarn, recalled Ann. "We were going to be a quilt shop, but from just talking to people, and wanting to be sure we had a varied enough product base that would go a long way and help us be successful, we decided to carry yarn. I would hate to have only one product, but if we had only one, it would be yarn. But, I'm glad we have a varied inventory."

The shop currently offers 65 different types of yarns -- "from lace and fingering to worsted, chunky and bulky." And, there's "no question about it," knitting is the most popular needleart at the shop. However, Ann said, "crocheting has definitely picked up here. We have classes on a regular basis, as well as knitting."

Ann and Phil both work full time at the shop. There are no "true employees," but they have a number of volunteers, including Jan Parson, Heather Hughes, Marilyn Coffey and Kathy Tripp, all of Adrian, and Linda Schwalm of Manitou Beach.

Parson, a prolific knitter who's been written about twice in this space, plays an "important" role in the "growth of the shop's yarn department." Ann said, "We just set up the display for her Magic Ball Survivor Shawl." She's also one of the knitting instructors.

The shop's other knitting (and crocheting) instructors include Lyn Dorman, Sue Nelson, Thea Chamber, all of Adrian, and Sue Colvia of Jerome.

There's also a three-step series of classes for beginning quilters, "starting with Stacked Rectangles and moving on to the Yellow Brick Road and Lucky Stars."

And, in terms of quilting fabrics, Ann said, "We are a go with, or blender store. Quilters arrive with fabrics in hand and ask us 'Do you have anything to go with this?' We have tried some licensed, juvenile and focal fabrics, but they don't sell for us. What does sell is an array of colorful and neutral quality cotton fabrics that are used to blend well with more pronounced fabrics."

Ann's By Design also offers classes in embroidery and wool applique.  

Along with a rainbow of color and yummy textures, the shop's "extremely warm and welcoming environment," is also filled with "friendships, laughter and compassionate support." Ann said, "We are the kind of shop people feel comfortable in. Our environment is warm and welcoming. We usually have social knitters and others sitting on the main floor, working on projects, offering help when needed."

Can't make it to the store? Ann's By Design welcomes needleart enthusiasts to shop their online store (annsbydesign.com), as well. Items can be mailed anywhere in the contiguous United States for a $7 flat rate shipping fee on all orders.

Since opening the shop, Ann said she isn't able to "accomplish nearly as many quilts or other projects" as she would like, "but that is OK"  because she had "a pretty realistic view of what life would be like." Besides -- she's benefitting so many in the community by spreading her love for needlearts!

And, in the meantime, Phil, who handles inventory, has learned to cut fabric. "He makes a mean fat quarter," laughed Ann.  

Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or Facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.

Contact Ann's By Design (118 West Maumee, Adrian) at (517) 438-8459 or annsbydesign.com.