Did you ever have a favorite quilt shop that was so interesting, so much fun, and so friendly, that you thought you could just spend the rest of your life there? Well, The Cotton Patch Quilt Shop in Lafayette, California is one of those special places for us.
The Cotton Patch is owned by very well-known, very popular, and very friendly Carolie Hensley, who moved the store to its current location in 1983. A savvy business entrepreneur, Carolie foresaw the revival of quilting just as the modern era of rotary cutting, machine piecing, and machine quilting was beginning about 30 years ago. She purchased bolts of 100% cotton fabric, a departure from the polyester blends used for sewing garments of that day, and mentored young professional quilt artists just beginning their careers, such as Alex Anderson and Roberta Horton. Here's Carolie below:
As interest in quilting grew, Carolie looked for a way to publish and distribute the latest ideas and patterns. Thus, she and her husband Tom founded what is now one of the biggest quilt publishing houses in the world, C and T Publishing (for Carolie and Tom). If you have any C and T- published quilt books on your shelves, then that is the company started by Carolie ! Later, they sold the company to their adult sons, who have enjoyed increasing success with each passing year.
One of Carolie' main beliefs about quilt shops is that they should have a fabric selection that is fresh and updated, displayed in such a way that the shopper can easily compare colors and patterns. Much of The Cotton Patch's 3000 bolts of fabric are grouped by color, making the fabric easy to locate. For example, if you're shopping for red fabric, you don't have to wander all over the store. She always displays quilt patterns interspersed with the fabric at eye level, so the patterns are close to the fabrics and easy to access.
Carolie believes in always making room for the latest and most recent fabrics, so there are always fabrics that are very current in her stock. Here's the latest Kaffe Fassett polka dots for this year, above, along with a display of his books and a bag project.
The Cotton Patch features an extensive list of quilt class offerings for all levels of quilters, as well as the latest sewing equipment, including gorgeous new Janome and Bernina machines. Recently, they added the Handi-Quilter Avante long arm machine to their inventory. It sits right next to the front door, so shoppers are encouraged to take it for a "test drive" (with the help of staff members), just like a shiny new car.
When we asked Carolie about her favorite aspect of owning a quilt shop, she enthusiastically stated that she loves the customer service the best. She genuinely loves people and loves to encourage quilters as their projects take shape. Here's Carolie in the center, along with teacher and Artichoke Collection pattern maker Christie Batterman on the left, helping a customer select borders and backing for her applique wall hanging.
Now it's your turn ! Do you have a favorite quilt shop that you really enjoy? We'd love to hear about quilt shops from our readers around the world and in the U.S.A. In the comments below, feel free to give a plug and some recognition to quilt shops that you love.