|The Traveling Quilter: Quilt Shops
I knew I had only one day to visit quilt stores in the Ft. Worth-Dallas "metroplex," so I tried to carefully plan my time and not venture too far afield. As it turned out, I wandered farther than I intended, but the serendipitous discoveries I made were more than worth it.
While consulting my trusty Quilters' Travel Companion, I noticed a string of stores that extended up highway 75 north of Dallas, and decided that I would head out for Sharon's Quilt Depot in McKinney, about a half-hour from town. It wasn't the farthest of the shops, but it seemed a comfortable place to start and then head back toward downtown. And they had a full-page listing in the QTC that made it seem quite enticing.
Oops! I didn't follow my own cardinal rule and call first. I went tooling up the freeway in my rented car to a charming little Texas town with a courthouse square and quaint streets filled with little shops. But there was no Sharon's Quilt Depot to be found. OK, so NOW I decide to call. Maybe they moved. Nope, the number had been disconnected. I called information to see if there was a new number, but they had no listing for the Quilt Depot. I found out later that the store had closed a few months before after more than 20 years in business.
So now what? I was out in the north Texas countryside with a decision to make. I could head back into town or drive another 12 miles out through increasing sparseness of development to the tiny town of Van Alstyne, Texas, to visit The Carriage House Quilt Shoppe. What the heck, I'd driven this far, what's another few miles?
Carriage House Quilt Shoppe
Van Alstyne is a town that looks like it came straight out of the "The Last Picture Show." There are some shops and houses, and the distinction between residential and commercial not particularly well-defined. There wasn't much traffic on the morning I was there, and few people in the streets. In fact, there weren't many streets! I wondered for a few moments whether the town might have been abandoned. But then I found the quilt shop, on a corner, in a grouping of stores that might now be called a strip mall. Except that it looked too much like Mayberry to be called that. I wondered, as I have many another time in seemingly desolate places, how quilt stores can possibly survive this far from "civilization."
As soon as I walked inside, I had my answer. The Carriage House Quilt Shoppe creates its own civilization! Owned and operated by Roxanne Rentzel and Joyce Kislack, this shop completely captures you when you enter the door. The emphasis is on country, with a specialty in reproduction fabrics, and the store carries more than 2,000 bolts from the major manufacturers, including a great many flannels. Cozy but not overstuffed, the interior has what I call a "tea-dyed" feel to it. Books are scattered around in casual arrangements, and there are lots of cut fat quarters for $2.00 apiece.
Roxanne and Joyce were more than welcoming, and were excited to tell me about all the quilt activity around the Dallas area. They had recently participated in a Shop Hop, and shared with me the map to all the stores, suggesting the best ones to visit with my limited time. They had also recently opened a website (http://www.chqshoppe.net) where they sell their wonderful fabrics online. They have a full listing of classes, including a unique "Batter Up!" sports quilt class, a chenille workshop, and a civil war block of the month using their signature reproduction fabrics. One of the secrets of the shop's survival, according to the owners, was a billboard they rent along busy highway 75. They get a lot of traveling quilters as a result of that sign.
After I had my fill of Carriage House, it was lunchtime, and I asked what the owners recommended locally. They steered me around the corner to the Yellow Rose Rexall Drugstore, which was one of the most wonderful experiences of the entire trip. The Yellow Rose has an old-fashioned lunch counter with unique sandwiches, and the owner has preserved, and added to, the old-timey drugstore feel of the place with vintage accessories and posters that he has rescued from closing drugstores all over Texas. I hope the Yellow Rose doesn't go the way of all the others -- I was the only patron for lunch during the time I was there!
Country Calicos Quilt Shop
(Editor's note: I have been informed by sources in Dallas that since this article was published in the summer of 2000, Country Calicos Quilt Shop has closed. )
After lunch I headed back south toward Dallas, my next planned stop in Plano where Country Calicos was waiting for me. Plano is of course a close commercial suburb of Dallas, and the quilt store was ensconced in a strip mall that had none of the feel of Mayberry. Actually the store had two names -- Silver Threads and Country Calicos, the product of a patchwork of ownership over a period of time. The physical store is very large -- about 3500 square feet. There are two big front rooms and two classrooms, plus a room in which there is a big Gamill longarm where the store's resident quilter, Richard Larson, does wonderful freeform work. Richard was working while I was there and the sureness of his technique was a wonder to behold. He was working on a big commission quilt and doing creative patterns that complimented the design of the quilt. Richard's own work tends toward the fanciful, with metallic threads in mythical dragon and other designs done entirely in stitches. He has won a number of awards and told me of his plans to enter several items in an upcoming national show. His other point of pride was that he didn't have a huge, months-long backlog of work. He attributed that to the fact that he spends eight hours a day doing longarm quilting, and he loves it.
The store is more eclectic than The Carriage House, with a wider variety of fabrics reflecting the taste of the owner. She was very informative, telling me how she had driven up to McKinney to "claim" Richard, who had been working out of the now defunct Quilt Depot. She keeps about 2,000 bolts of fabric, a wall of books, and a full complement of tools and threads in the store, and it has an informal, welcoming feel to it. There is a Teddy Bear corner as well.
It was now getting toward midafternoon, and I would soon have to return my rental car, so I chose one last store that had come highly recommended, Quiltmakers in Dallas proper. Just a couple of miles from Country Calicos, Quiltmakers has the least curb appeal of the stores I visited. Almost invisible behind a gas station, it was in a homely building that belied that wonders that were within. Quiltmakers calls itself a "Social Club and Supply House," and it definitely had the feel of a hangout. 4,000 bolts of fabric were artfully arranged throughout the generous space on plain wood racks. Fabrics tended toward brights (no tea-dye in evidence!) and there were interesting shop samples of innovative techniques such as raw-edge piecing and blooming ninepatch.
Adding to the friendly atmosphere was a children's corner with a wonderful painted mural of an outdoor scene, and a resident cat, Thomas, who regularly retreated to the bathroom, where his food and his catbox were kept. One of the store's specialties is its photo transfer business. The folks tending the store told me that it grew out of a need the shop's patrons had when the local printers stopped doing photo transfers onto fabric. In response to the need, Quiltmakers provides the service for a fee, or will help you do it yourself, selling their own line of transfer paper.
I could have lingered in the friendly confines of
Quiltmakers for hours, but had to move on, so I bought
Lynn a Quiltmakers Social Club and Supply House mousepad
for her computer, and said my farewell. There are more
than 20 quilts ships in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, so I
just barely scratched the surface. I seem to find myself
there with some frequency, and it's good to know I left
plenty left for next time!