GLEN ELLYN – Growing up, Wheaton designer Lynn Schmitt turned to crayons as a creative outlet.
The new space also serves as her design studio.
"It's primarily my design studio, and then it doubles as a store," she said. "That's the focus I want to maintain."
Schmitt liked the building's charm.
"I could not see myself going into a strip mall or something like that, which was the other level of retail space that was available to me," she said. "So I wanted something that had some charm to it, but it was in really terrible disrepair. It was, as I understand it, affectionately referred to as the 'Red House' in Glen Ellyn."
Schmitt is a former commercial interior designer. In taking up quilting several years ago, she doesn't think she has made too much of a career change.
"I feel like I've just kind of come full circle," she said. "Because really, laying out quilts and designing quilts is really not a whole lot different than laying out a floor plan. It's geometry. It's all squares and rectangles and circles and [looking] at how do things intersect."
Along with fabrics, the store also sells quilting patterns Schmitt has designed, as well as other people's patterns. Schmitt takes a nontraditional approach to quilting.
That includes using fabrics other than cotton for her quilts, such as wool and silk: an approach that has won her fans.
"The one thing that I consistently hear at this point is, 'Thank God for something new,'" Schmitt said. "I refer to it as eclectics because it's this mix of nontypical things and nontraditional things, really. And a lot of the patterning I take on has to do with old patterns revisited and seen a different way. It's not like reinventing the wheel, it's more like taking the old and bringing it forward and kind of blending it with other stuff."
Not surprisingly then, A Different Box of Crayons carries fabrics one might not find in a more traditional fabric store.
"We offer something different," Schmitt said. "If I purchase fabric, I'm purchasing it because I want to do something with it. It's not because I think my customer base will necessarily go, 'Wow, that's good. I saw that in such and such magazine and I need to go find that.' That's not my focus. My focus is if I love it and I want to do something with it, I'll buy it and bring it out to the floor and in essence share my so-called coloring box. And that's what kind of happens here."
Schmitt will be talking about her quilting experience in a book set for release next fall. She hopes the book will help her reach a bigger audience and introduce quilters to new concepts.
"I'm looking to expand the options for quilters," she said. "The intent is to give them more options in terms of what they use to create their projects. … So what I am trying to do is give them permission to look beyond the so-called rules. I'm trying to take away the rules."
If you go
WHAT: A Different Box of Crayons
WHERE: 439 Pennsylvania Ave., Glen Ellyn
INFO: 847-308-1101, facebook.com/adifferentboxofcrayons