A stitch in 4-H time

Quilting company, YouTube channel trace beginnings to 4-H

Neither her mother nor grandmother knew how to sew. But young Jenny Doan wanted to learn.

That’s when she joined 4-H and learned to sew and quilt. Decades later, in 2008, she and her husband and children stitched together Missouri Star Quilt Company of Hamilton. The family says it is the biggest quilting channel on YouTube and offers the largest selection of pre-cut quilting fabric in the world. They also publish a bimonthly quilting magazine, Block.

Quilter Pat Wood, 4-H youth associate with MU Extension in Chillicothe, isn’t surprised that Doan learned early skills in 4-H.

She says sewing and quilting embody the attributes of 4-H. For decades, little girls have used a needle and thread to learn a lifelong skill. Quilt-making teaches patience, problem-solving, decision-making and organizational skills, Wood says.

Oct. 4-10, 2015, is National 4-H Week. In Missouri, 1,730 4-H members participate in sewing; 403 4-H members have chosen quilting as a project; 243 are in knitting projects, and 446 are in crochet projects.
Doan and her husband didn’t have a quilting company in mind when they moved their family from California to Missouri in search of a safer place to raise their seven children.

Her husband drove 90 minutes to work at the Kansas City Star. He lost a substantial part of his retirement savings during the stock market crash in 2008, and newspapers were laying off employees as the industry contracted. As with many rural Missouri towns, Hamilton’s employment opportunities were few and far between. The Doan children sought a way to help their parents toward retirement.

Doan smiles and shows off her quilt of 4-H clovers.

Jenny Doan of Missouri Star Quilt Co. in Hamilton, Mo., learned her sewing and quilting skills in 4-H. Here, she visited the 4-H booth at the Missouri State Fair with a quilt made by women prisoners in the Restorative Justice Program at the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Vandalia, Mo.

With a shoestring budget, they bought a building in Hamilton and began an online business for pre-cut bundles of coordinating fabrics. Doan’s theatre background came in handy when they launched a YouTube channel to teach beginning and advanced quilters.

The company continued to buy more buildings in the town of 1,800 to hold bolts of quilting material. Missouri Star Quilt employs 140 people to handle orders and the busloads of visitors who come to see the store, a “Disneyland for quilters.” Downtown restaurants and shops opened and expanded to meet tourist demands.

Success came from simple lessons learned long ago in 4-H and the connection remains strong. The company offers classes for 4-H members and Doan’s online tutorials appeal to 4-H’ers because they offer simple directions for a professional-looking project. She stresses that it is better to finish a quilt rather than try to make a perfect quilt and never complete it.

Five of Doan’s seven children work for the quilt company. None of them were 4-H members, but they learned from their mother. “I could teach them because 4-H taught me,” she says.