What would our quilt community be like with no specialty quilt shops?
We would miss many things that enhance our creativity and enable us to create spectacular quilts!
When traveling, I investigate local quilt shops. The past month, I
visited Rochester, Minnesota, quilt shops: “Just a Little Something, and “The Quilting Cupboard”.
Both are very different.
“Just a Little Something” is housed in an historic home, the Kalb House,
circa 1870. Owner Crystal Monson carries a large array of fabrics on the first floor. The second
floor is chock full of quilt patterns and fabulous yarns, many of them imported.
“The Quilting Cupboard” features original patterns by Ann Kisro. Ann is
the talented nineteen-year-old daughter of owner Sue Kisro. When asked what has inspired this very
young quiltmaker, she says, “I just love fabric.” Her designs are suitable for beginners and utilize
the newest fabrics and techniques.
Both shops got my creative juices going and I braved snow and ice several
times to see their newest additions. As I browsed and bought fabric, I was made aware of why I am
grateful to our shop owners across the United States who aim to provide whatever we quilters need or want.
Fabric, Fabric, Fabric! Quilters love fabric and we like lots of
choices, from batiks to 30’s reproductions. These quilt shop owners, like others I frequent, search
the marketplace and choose the highest quality fabrics available. You just can’t get such high quality
in chain stores because the manufacturers start with a lower grade of “gray goods,” the base fabric before
it’s dyed or printed. When these fibers are finished, the short cuts result in loosely woven fibers and
poor resolution in prints. Sometimes, “runs” occur across the width of the fabric, resulting in a hole
that you have to avoid. Some spots may not take the dye. This means that you must “fussy-cut” pattern
pieces. If you’re spending weeks on a project, why not get the best from a reliable source?
Advice & Encouragement: We can’t escape the sometimes frustrating choices
of making a quilt: how to quilt a pattern, what fabrics/colors to use, how big each block must be, or how
wide we should cut the borders. After thirty-five years of quilting, when I begin a project, I still have
questions. Currently, I am setting 25 “Sunbonnet Sue” blocks together. Easy, right? Nope! The “Sues”
are on point. I’ve had to decide whether to use sashing and I’m still searching for the perfect green solid
cotton fabric. Where have I gone for advice? My local quilt shop! And, when my enthusiasm is low, or a
quilt takes longer than I expect, I head to the shop for encouraging words. One Rochester shop has a sign
reading “GROUP THERAPY” in the window. This is no joke—we all need experienced quilters to help us through
the decision process.
Quilting Notions: There are many quilter-friendly gizmos that streamline
quiltmaking. Your quilt shop has them! In Rochester, I bought some needles to finish a knitting project.
The best part of the purchase was the screwtop case that the needles were stored in. That case is very
useful—I intend to use that case from now on to store my needles when I travel. I had thought I owned every
gadget in existence, but here was something new! Quilt shop employees know their stock and can demonstrate
how to use them. They know how to use fusibles, decorative threads, needles, and rulers. You wouldn’t want
a plumber to install your television, so why ask a grocery store clerk how to use a rotary cutter?
Classes: I learn by seeing and doing. I retain information best when I work,
hands-on. Quilt shops hire experts and bring in visiting authors to show you the best method for appliqué
or machine-quilt. Sometimes, these classes are free! Every class I’ve ever taken is worth my time. There
is always something new to learn, some tip that saves time and fabric.
Magazines & Books: The quilt world is changing so quickly, it makes my head
spin. It’s important to keep up with all the latest techniques. Quilt shops get the latest books automatically
shipped. They carry specialty magazines, too. If you can’t take a class from an expert, a book is the next
Finishing that Project! If you need a quilt finished, local quilt shops
know who will do it for you! Rochester’s quilt shops have names and resources for quilting, binding, and basting.
I love to piece and appliqué; I do lots of quilt repairs and even hand launder quilts for my clients. But when I
need a quilt machine-quilted, I call my local shop, Patches, etc., in St. Charles, MO. They advise me on the right
person for things I just don’t want to tackle.
The BEST batting: I wonder why quiltmakers spend time piecing an exquisite
quilt top and then put inferior batting inside! Your beautiful quilts deserve the best batting available If you’ve
ever asked a chain-store clerk about batting, you know that batting choice can be bewildering. Quilt shops purchase
high-quality batting and can advise you on what to use in a specific project.
Home Is Best: I love my home base quilt shop, but when I travel, it’s fun to
check out others. I come away from my searching with new appreciation of what variety and quality is “out there”
for us. Everyone has a unique view of the universe and every quilt shop has its own unique specialties. Whether
you’re traveling or near home, for the best in fabrics, notions, or patterns, go to your local quilt shop. If you
need inspiration or instruction, make a beeline to your independently owned quilt shop. They’ve got all the goods!
For more information, contact:
Just a Little Something
304 Sixth Street SW
Rochester, MN 55902
The Quilting Cupboard
115 N. Broadway NW
Rochester, MN 55906
337 S. Main Street
St. Charles, MO. 63301
©2004 Hallye Bone