by Jane Kendall
Photography by Christian Lee
For Senny Rose Powell, sewing and designing clothing comes as natural as breathing. She is named after her two grandmothers, Senny and Rose, both of whom who were master seamstresses in their day. Grandmother Senny was a tailor in a men’s clothing store. Grandmother Rose fashioned and sewed all of young Senny’s mother’s clothing. It is no surprise Senny began sewing at a very young age. Except for grandmothers’ guidance for sewing simple Christmas ornaments, Senny inherently taught herself. She would purchase fabric and patterns and learn by trial and error. Along with her sewing and design talents, Senny’s entrepreneurial talents surfaced at an early age, too. While in middle school Senny began designing wardrobes for the popular Barbie-like Revlon dolls. She would take trips to Marshall Field’s Department store to purchase velvets and taffetas, make evening gowns, and then sell them to the moms in the neighborhood for their children’s dolls.
Fast forward to the 1980s: Senny and her husband Steve were both employed as schoolteachers in the Chicago area. During that time, whenever one of co-workers became pregnant, Senny would custom design and stitch themed baby quilts for them. She loved to make appliqued items and accessories for themed nurseries. She described a Noah’s ark quilt, pillow and little stuffed animals strung together across the crib, with matching sheets and dust ruffle. The quilts became so popular Steve and Senny began selling them at craft fairs and boutiques all over the Windy City.
The couple has seven adopted children, 4 girls and 3 boys. Senny handmade all of their first daughter’s dresses, who came to them in 1981. Living on a sparse budget at the time, whenever Senny saw a dress in a store she liked, she would go home, sketch the appliques and make the dress. The Powells relocated to Hilton Head Island in 1983. They purchased the Snappy Turtle, a tiny children’s shop in 1984, which was located on the beach at the Hilton Head Inn. A year later they opened their exclusive children’s boutique store, Island Child, in the Village at Wexford Shops. Now, 33 years later, the store is filled with distinctive clothing and accessories up to children’s size 16. The shop also carries bedding, dolls, books, toys and furniture. Senny knows her customers by name, what they are looking for, even who their grandchildren are. The long-term relationships she has established are some of the most satisfying parts of her business.
Senny’s elegant sense of taste and expertise has led her to find exquisite and unique children’s clothing, accessory and shoe lines. Steve lends his artistic talents to t-shirts, which he paints by hand. Thirty-four years ago Steve created the Hilton Head Beach Bear t-shirt, which is still incredibly popular. Senny and Steve also have several silkscreen designs they make in their home.
Many of the beautiful, handmade items in the store are designed and sewn by Senny herself. Her favorite art form is still appliques. She gets ideas from Instagram, coloring books and children’s books. She is also inspired by current trends. She recently completed a mermaid quilt, as mermaids are all the rage these days. One of her signature and most popular designs is a girl’s long, white, traditional dress, often purchased for weddings and beach photos. Senny has never employed another person or manufacturer to produce her original designs. Since she could not possibly create and produce everything in her store, she sources other American handmade items whenever possible. Senny puts her signature touch of original appliques on many of them. A lady in Pennsylvania supplies gorgeous hand knit sweaters. Beautiful smocked dresses from Paris (the ones worn by Princess Charlotte of Cambridge) also grace the store’s inventory. It is Senny’s great joy to come to her store each day and serve her customers and delight in the world of children. Sewing is Senny’s happy place—a place of peace and quiet and creativity that makes her feel fulfilled. It’s a way to weave her passion with her business. It’s a way to stitch together a life designed and sewn with love.
Filled with gratitude for: Her husband Steve, her seven beautiful children, her artistic and
sewing talents, her business skills and her customers and friends.
Can hardly wait: Birth of her first grandchild in August 2018.
If You can Dream it: Senny dreams of designing a children’s clothing line named “Senny Rose” to honor her grandmothers.
Log On: www.islandchild.com
Facebook: Island Child
Location: The Village at Wexford G-4, 1000 William Hilton Parkway, Hilton Head Island