Taking embroidery from hobby to business

Barbara Kempf

What started as a hobby and a way to reward her special needs students has turned into a home business for Barbara Kempf, one she could never have imagined.

Kempf was teaching special needs elementary school children and decided to create individualized bookmarks as part of their rewards for meeting goals. She also embroidered a shirt for her husband, Gary Bruce, that featured a fish and bubbles.

“I love being able to create designs and the problem solving it involves,” Kempf said.  

She started a home-based business, Touch of Craft, while living in Pennsylvania and changed the name to LA Stitchery when she and her husband built their home at Lake Anna.   

During the early years, Kempf created clothing and other apparel with Lake Anna motifs and set up her wares at various craft fairs and in selected businesses around the lake.  

As her talent and reputation spread, orders for Kempf’s handiwork grew and she expanded her expertise to include doing logos and other work for businesses.

“Most of my business now is for businesses,” Kempf joked. “And, it’s spread across the country, which surprises me.”

Over the years, Kempf has added other aspects to her business including digital imaging, transfer printing or vinyl lettering and printing on apparel and sublimation, a process which allows imprinting on specialty tile, cutting boards, coasters, mouse pads and other souvenirs. 

“I essentially can do everything but screen-printing and have even looked into that, but it is a messy process and takes a lot of room so I decided to pass.”

Kempf is self-taught, learning mostly by trial and error.  She said she did take one class, but admits she already knew more than the instructor.

Many of Kempf’s clients are repeat customers and others have come from word of mouth recommendations or from networking contacts she has made over the years.   

A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Kempf said she can’t have a job hanging over her head and will often stay up into the wee hours of the night to complete a task.  

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