Retirement beckons after 40 years

Lovely couple: Betty and James Knowles will soon sell Miss Milly's Crafts and head into retirement. Photograph Zaida Glibanovic



THE beloved Miss Milly’s Crafts shop will soon be changing hands.

After 40 years of servicing the Traralgon community for all their arts and crafts needs, Betty and James (Jim) Knowles have decided to sell-up shop.

Tucked away in a little store on 74 Seymour Street, Traralgon, Miss Milly’s Crafts offers the good old-fashioned service with a smile that has been a shopping treasure for decades.

Before there was Miss Milly’s, there was Ms Knowles’ first business venture, Soap and Suds.

“We started with some friends in what was then first called Soap and Suds, which was bulk soap and detergent, and when Jeffery’s big store (Jeffery’s Drapery Store) closed that was over the road, we had so many people coming in asking us for different things, so we decided to go into the Haberdashery,” she said.

Miss Milly’s arts and crafts store is quite unique as it still sells many Australian-made materials and goods at very reasonable pricing, with patchworks, trims, lace, wool, yarn and fabrics of all kinds, and over $12,000-worth in buttons available in-store.

When the Knowles’ first started Miss Milly’s Crafts in the early 1980s, the price for a roll of fabric sat at just over $15; now, 40 years later, that same roll would be twice as much.

Mr Knowles came from a farming family from Gippsland and used to milk cows before he was cutting fabric, while Betty lived for sewing and fashion from day one.

“I’ve always sewn, made a few wedding dresses and knitted … I went into dress-making when I left school,” she said.

Mr Knowles’ favourite part of working in retail is chatting to the customers.

“One thing you can learn in business is to greet the customers as they come in and when they say ‘I’m just having a look’ I usually say, ‘We don’t charge for looking and we don’t close until five’ and that always seems to break the ice,” he said.

The couple have been putting smiles on customers’ faces for over four decades.

With a 4.8 star rating on Google, the couple is consistently recognised for their friendly service and low prices with reviews like: “Wonderful so helpful friendly staff….been going here for years.”

The Knowleses will miss servicing the community for all their craft and sewing needs.

“I think we’ll miss it, that’s for sure … I’ll probably miss the customers the most and our craft classes,” Ms Knowles said.

Miss Milly’s Crafts classes would run on Mondays and Fridays, with some of the attendees coming for over 30 years.

“They (the craft class) probably have gotten a bit better and do a few different things over the years, but they really come for chats and a bit of friendship,” she said.

Ms Knowles said the art of sewing and repairs is becoming lost as fast fashion becomes the norm.

“I think we all buy cheaper things than what we can make them, but they probably don’t last and you see something else come out in fashion, and you throw the old one out,” she said.

Ms Knowles will continue to repair the holes and hem the dress lines as she has been doing for decades, but from home now.

Though Ms Knowles says patchwork and sewing items have decreased in sales, she is hopeful for the generation of young knitters and crocheters carrying on arts and crafts traditions as they frequent the store for their supplies.

The shop will be sold to a new owner in the upcoming months, but don’t wait until then to pop into Miss Milly’s Crafts to give your thanks and goodbyes to the lovely Knowles couple for their decades of friendly service.