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Sew special

Betty Church fashions fabric into just about anything

Created date

January 8th, 2018
At her worktable in the second bedroom of her home at Maris Grove, Betty Church displays some of her handbag creations.

At her worktable in the second bedroom of her home at Maris Grove, Betty Church displays some of her handbag creations. 


Betty and Burt Church moved from Wilmington, Del., to Maris Grove six months after the Erickson Living retirement community in Delaware County, Pa., officially opened. 

“We were young and healthy,” Betty says, “but we had seen close friends get very ill and require 24-hour, in-home care. We didn’t ever want that, so we began the process of moving to a safe, secure retirement community.”

Maris Grove’s on-site medical center, continuing care neighborhood, and 24/7 security team convinced them to decide in its favor. Two months after they moved, they locked their door, signed out at the front desk, and left for Florida knowing their home and belongings were completely safe.

Personal project turned cottage business

When they returned, Betty joined a campus bridge group and made a little pieced and quilted bag to take with her to hold her glasses and some tissues. 

The card players were taken with her bag and asked where she’d purchased it; they wanted one too.  

So Betty stitched up six bags. But requests for her bags just kept coming. Before she knew it, Betty was running a cottage industry. 

“Over the next eight years I made 225 bags,” she says. She sold many of them at Maris Grove’s annual October arts fair.”

Soon she’d expanded her line to include eyeglass cases, and her bags expanded in style and size. “Betty’s Bitty Bags” soon morphed into “Bags by Betty.”

Fabric financier

Betty is a veteran entrepreneur. She’s so skilled with fabric that, years ago through word of mouth, a personal project evolved into a window treatment business. Betty routinely whipped up Roman shades, cascades, and other custom treatments. 

She recruited Burt to spend his evening and weekend hours installing what she’d created.

Betty turned her hand to whatever project struck her fancy. She stitched pillows for her and Burt’s home and placemats and napkins for a local boutique. “I loved creating things with my hands,” she says. “And I’ve always enjoyed the design and feel of different fabrics.”

She’s currently transforming tapestry remnants into large cross-body bags. She’s also experimenting with simulated leather fabric.

In-home studio

Betty fashions her creations in the couple’s second bedroom, which also serves as their office and computer area. Their gathering place at home is their patio, all year long, weather-permitting. “Every morning when we’re out there drinking coffee, we’re two happy campers,” Betty says.

She draws artistic inspiration from Maris Grove’s location within the rolling hills and wooded glens of the beautiful Brandywine Valley and from the different types of people who live at Maris Grove.

“There are people here who are employed, are homebodies, artists, or athletic types,” she says. “They all need different types of bags. I don’t have a specific style of my own. I try to reflect those individual needs and lifestyles.”

Her own lifestyle benefits from living at Maris Grove because it gives her time to pursue her hobby.

“I don’t have to care for a home and a garden and a yard,” says Betty. “Maris Grove takes care of those things. I also don’t have to cook dinner; my doctors are in the medical center; and I’m not isolated in my home.”