Stimulating the economy

I've been doing my part lately to keep quilt shops afloat. But before reading about my patriotic efforts, I suggest you run to Madison, WI, to the Chazen Museum of Art to see Writing with Thread: Traditional Textiles of Southwest Chinese Minorities. This visual feast of an exhibition includes more than 500 textiles, mostly clothing, that are well worth drooling over if you're in the Madison area before April 18. (After that it will be moving to Santa Fe.) A description of the exhibition noted that many of these people had no written language and that these textiles were they way they told a person's story—I loved that idea! I also loved the way one garment combined numerous patches and bands incorporating various textile treatments: embroidery, weaving, piecing, resist dying, metalwork, and more.

Now on to my personal stimulus efforts:

Paul had to go to Madison last week for work, so I tagged along. He had to work all day Wednesday, so I took the opportunity to visit quilt shops. The first was Stitcher's Crossing, a shop I'd written about in 2006 for the 2007 Best of Quilt Sampler "bookazine." It was my first big assignment for Meredith and a terrific learning experience for me. I got to interview 20 shop owners who'd been featured in the past in Quilt Sampler in order to update their shop profiles.

It's always a treat when I get to meet in person the people I've interviewed by phone and Quilter's Crossing owner Sharon Luehring was no exception. She's friendly and warm and her sunny and cheerful shop is fabulous—a terrific selection of cottons and wools, plus yarn for knitting and other fiber crafts. Her staff was very helpful and after I'd admired a purse, a staffer led me to the pattern, a creation of a local designer. I just loved both the very small and largest bags—I nearly bought fabric to make them, but decided instead I'd wait and see what I had in my stash. They also suggested a couple more shops I could visit in the Madison area, so my day was set! I decided that this trip would be my version of buying locally grown food—I'd buy locally produced patterns.

Next on the tour was the Mill House Quilts in Waunakee. Again, a very friendly staff (they took one pattern right off a display for me because it was the last one in the shop). Tons of sample quilts hung from the wooden rafters of the old building and fabric, patterns, and kits were plentiful. Again, I opted for patterns designed by local designers. I've got a bunch of Heather Bailey Freshcut fabric that will work perfectly for the Ingrid Barlow pattern and while the other is a bit more traditional looking than the patterns I'm drawn to, they also had it made up in 30s repro fabrics and I realized it could look just as great in contemporary brights.

Finally, I went to JJ Stitches in Sun Prairie. If you're a fan of traditional quilting and antique and reproduction quilts, this is the place for you. The brick walls of the shop perfectly set off the quilt samples that line the walls. It turned out I'd interviewed Julie Hendricksen, the shop owner, for American Patchwork and Quilting about a year ago. The back room of JJ Stitches was awash with bright 30s fabrics and three mannequins sported aprons. I bought this last pattern, thinking that the without the lace and with its cinched waist it had a bit of sass that would look good on a young thing...I happen to know a few.