By Robin Gallaher Branch | Photography courtesy of Kerry Scott
Cheery, elegant linens from Mississippi hang in homes around the country and provide a little color for special occasions.
Although she owns and operates a thriving firm based on sewing, Kerry Scott confessed something quite surprising, “I have no idea how to sew!”
Nevertheless, Hanging By A Thread, a wholesale business located in Hernando, Mississippi, ships literally thousands of high quality household linens to gift shops nationwide.
Although she is not a seamstress, Scott brings to her business – now in its 16th year – an amazing skillset. What she does know is how to operate industrial machines, produce fine work, market products, and consistently offer new, creative items for sale. Her shop hums with the background sounds of machines sewing throughout the day. She starts preparing for Christmas in June, and that means working from 5:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. six days a week.
Her specialties include towels (tea, bath, and beach), tablecloths and napkins, makeup bags, and practically anything else that can be monogrammed or decorated via machine.
“A pretty monogram never goes out of style,” said Scott, a woman of few words and lots of action. As the sole, full-time employee of Hanging, she multitasks all day long.
Scott, 44, credits her business success to word of mouth. Facebook provides her only advertising. However, her page displays her excellent eye, for her photographs are striking, well framed and positioned, and very colorful.
“I come from an artistic family and have a dance background,” she said. Her dance ability carries over to the math and balance required for patterns.
Scott starts with ready-made household linens on fine fabrics from China and India. She designs by computer. She types in coordinates; a pattern emerges. Scott puts the pattern on a fabric, cuts the material, and glues it on, say, a bath towel or a waffle-weave tea towel. She then secures the whole thing in a plastic hoop somewhat like a hand embroidery hoop but useable on an industrial machine. Lastly, she chooses the thread, sets more coordinates, flips a switch, and the machine starts sewing.
“Although done by machine, the process is very labor intensive,” she said. “There’s no way I could do hand embroidery and make a profit.”
Scott came to business ownership with lots of workplace experience. As children, she and her sister helped in their mother’s drapery business in Hernando. Scott went to college, got a job as a flight attendant, was laid off after 9/11, and returned home to Hernando. She resumed helping her mother and started experimenting with industrial machines.
Her knowledge of fabrics, ribbons, finishes, designs, patterns, and cutting transitioned seamlessly from drapery to decorated linens.
She exhibited at fairs. Businesses responded, and she started shipping orders. Scott has kept her customers for years. “A thank you is when they call and reorder,” she said.
Watson Brooks Hall, owner of The Brooks Collection in Collierville, Tennessee, is a long-time Hanging By A Thread customer.
Hall appreciates Scott’s consistent, artistic eye from thread color to the perfect ribbon. “Everything always looks great,” she said. “She’s always coming up with cute ideas.”
For example, when Hall hears laughter in her store, she knows exactly where it’s coming from. “Someone’s reading Kerry’s towel, ‘This Wine Is Making Me Awesome,’” Hall chuckled.
Another popular seller in Collierville is something essential for a college student’s flat, a tea towel proclaiming team loyalty like Vols Kitchen, Bulldog Kitchen, Bama Kitchen, or Rebel Kitchen.
For this and other reasons, Hall gives her vendor the best kind of feedback: “We cannot keep her towels in the shop.”
Smiling when hearing this praise, Scott said that while “it’s really hard work to own a business, it’s rewarding to see people using your products and very rewarding to do a good job.”
Laura Patterson owns Accents Fine Home Interiors and Gifts, a 10-year-old business in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She’s been a Hanging customer for eight years.
Once again, Hanging’s hand towels sell well. “A new hand towel is a quick, clean, elegant way to freshen up a kitchen or bath before guests arrive. It’s pretty, and everybody likes something with their initial on it,” Patterson said, adding that a towel sells for under $20.
Seasonal gifts at Accents include Hanging’s laundry bags for graduations and beach towels for when summer starts and everybody heads to the beach or pool. Makeup bags sell year round.
Scott watches changes in consumer moods. Trendy right now are the Mr & Mrs kitchen towels she monograms and individual bath towels monogrammed with His and Hers. In terms of color, customers like sand, taupe, white, and oyster. “It’s neutral tones now and gray, a lot of grays,” she said.
When asked about her personal preferences, Scott had a surprising response: “I prefer hot pink and green, but most people don’t like that,” she said. “I don’t think you can get too much color. I haven’t met a bright color I didn’t like.”
Want to know more?