Thursday, May 5, 2011

Visiting "The Cotton Patch" Quilt Shop

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. 


  1. The quilt shop that you feature looks wonderful!! I am one of the unlucky quilters in that I have no local quilt shops. I do have two favorites though. One is in Wisconsin near where my daughter lives (and I will be there next week) it is a wonderful old mill that was turned into a quilt shop. I visit it every time I go there
    The other that I like is in Arkansas about 85 miles from me and is only open 2 days a week - it is off the beaten path and it is called . it is small but full of wonderful delightful fabric and everything that goes with it.

  2. I have lots of C and T books! Never knew the backstory!


  3. I am in the french countryside, there is NOTHING here.I mostly buy by internet. In october i 'll go to Holland to visit quilting fair!
    How fun the shop Karenfae mention in her comment is a shop where i bought my Aunt Grace fabric, very good service....(mamasloghouse)

  4. That shop looks like heaven, the quilt shops I like best are the ones where the fabric is displayed by colour, so much easier to find what you are looking for. I do have several C and T books as well, they have been well worth the money I spent on them. I do a fair bit of online shopping but visit 3 quilt shops in Adelaide regularly: Hetties Patch, Riverlea Quilts and Tricia's Discount Fabrics.

  5. My faaaaavorite quilt shop is in Jordon, ON Canada. Not only is the owner the most peaceful person I know (at least on the outside), it is also in the most beautiful small town with a few winerys in the area. Her sense of decor is amazing. All canadiana beauties that she stores the fabric in. She loves civil war fabrics then throws in French General, Anna Maria Horner, Denise Schmitt, and other vintage repros. Always has the kettle cooking and a fire in the hearth. Have a seat and stitch. Want to come join me for a cuppa????

  6. My favorite quilt shop is Sew Sweet Quilt Shop in Brunswick, Missouri. A lovely retired nurse opened it about a year and a half ago, and every time I go she has more and more beautiful fabric and lots of books and patterns. In the summer you can enjoy an ice cream cone, and in the winter you can enjoy the fireplace.


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