You own a quilt shop, design fabrics, teach classes, and have written books. What do you enjoy most about each of these?
I have owned my store, In The Beginning Fabrics, for 27 years. I have loved most everything about the business--the challenges, the customers, the fabrics, quilts and books, creating trends, and being part of a changing and growing industry. But I am always looking for a new challenge. My son, Jason, is now president of ITB so he runs the wholesale fabric business and the store, along with our retail manager Laurie Shifrin and a great staff. It is interesting raising a child and having him grow up to be your boss! His two-year old son Zachary really should claim that title--he has both of us in his control!
I think I am a terrible teacher and I only taught during the early stages of my store. I forgot half of what I was supposed to say and didn't have the patience, desire, and skills necessary. I left that job to others and was fortunate enough to have my neighboring friend, Marsha McCloskey--teacher extraordinaire, as my store's first teacher.
In 1990 I was asked by That Patchwork Place to write a book about my store as part of their Quilt Shop Series. The book appealed to quilters--and I was on my way as an author. In The Beginning is now acting as its own publisher and currently we have four books in print. My Blended Wall Quilts book is our newest title and will be available in stores the end of January '04. This spring we will be introducing Blended Quilts II, written by Marsha McCloskey. I love doing the books because I enjoy designing new quilt patterns.
My fabric designing came about when I was asked to design a line of fabrics for Northcott Silk, Inc., a Canadian company with distribution in the U.S. I worked with them for a couple of years and then we decided to produce our own fabrics. When I start designing a line of fabric I usually think of a quilt design first. I plan the scale, lights and darks, and colors to make the kind of quilt I want. Then I design the fabric. This helps customers to put together a combination of fabrics easily. I really enjoy the fabric designing because it lets me use my design and art skills, and also develop trends. For example, I identified the Blended Quilts technique and created fabrics so that quiltmakers could make those quilts. I think I have the best job in the world.
If you could offer one piece of advice for quiltmakers today, what would it be?
I think it is important to keep the legacy of quiltmaking alive. This means encouraging friends to try quiltmaking as a hobby, starting small groups at work or in your neighborhood, or volunteering your quiltmaking skills as a teacher at retirement communities, schools, or neighborhood centers. I cannot stress enough the importance of supporting your local quilt shop by attending classes and purchasing fabric, books and notions from them. As a shop owner, I know what a hard job it is to run a quilt business, but we are committed to spreading the history, creativity and fun of quiltmaking--but we need the support of quilters to stay in the business.
Watch local quilt shops for Blended Quilts from In The Beginning, a book co-authored by Sharon Yenter and Marsha McCloskey that shares with a wealth of information on making blended quilts.