How Aly Parks Built a Small Business From Quilt Scraps
Cookeville is no stranger to creatives. Tennessee Tech student Aly Parks is no exception to that statement. Parks, a fashion merchandising student, independently runs an upcycling business in which she repurposes vintage quilts that she thrifts. By either embellishing existing garments or sewing entirely new pieces, Parks breathes new life into discarded works of art. The business mainly operates through her Instagram account, @bigalstuff, the handle paying homage to a childhood nickname given to her by her father.
When asked where it all started, Parks traced her memory back to the fifth grade when she first learned what “upcycling” meant. Parks latched onto it as a hobby, turning it into an outlet. “Taking an existing piece of second-hand clothing or fabric was the perfect start for my creative journey. It felt empowering to rework something I liked into something I loved,” she explains. However, it wasn’t until 2020 that Parks would begin taking sewing more seriously as a pastime while stuck at home during the pandemic. It was then that it occurred to Parks that she could monetize this beloved hobby of hers. “This was ultimately the reason I decided to attend Tennessee Tech for fashion merchandising, which pushed me into starting my own business,” says Parks
When asked about her sources of inspiration, Parks names other creatives like herself, such as @softpawvintage and @greenfolkcollective on Instagram. Her main love lies within the art of quilting, however. “The appreciation that comes with understanding how these works of art were made has always been with me. Intricate designs and needlework done by generations of women are so inspiring to me. This is the reason I take discarded quilts and give them a new life,” says Parks. “It pains me to see the potential that even the most ragged quilts have be wasted in any way.”
When it comes to this mission of hers, Parks has no plans of stopping any time soon. Balancing her business with a budding music career, all while being a full-time college student is an impressive feat, to say the least. When it comes to her business and her music, however, her business takes precedence. “I am still writing songs and playing shows when opportunities present themselves but I have been giving myself the space to learn and grow in my business that I hadn’t before.” In addition to offering commissions for custom pieces, Parks has also begun to set up her creations at various maker’s markets around the state to grow her business. A self-described people person, Parks is excited to show off her creations at her upcoming pop-up market at Glass Tangerine on July 8th.
While her upcycling business may be her main focus, Parks still plans on making music. Already having released two singles, Parks counts on music being part of her life indefinitely. “It’s in my blood and there’s no way I won’t be writing songs and playing them 50 years from now,” she says. Never one to sell herself short, Parks has big plans for a future where her love for music and her love for creating unique pieces will coexist together. It’s safe to say that Aly Parks has found her niche, and she seems to think so as well, claiming, “Creating art is what I was made to do.”