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The Traveling Quilter: Quilt Shops in Kentucky

By Lynn Holland
March 2002

Kentucky was one of the first states to document its quilting heritage, leading the way for similar quilt cataloguing efforts in many states. It has a rich quilting heritage, and a number of excellent quilt shops to serve the quilters who continue the tradition there. On a recent trip, we visited several of the best in the Louisville and Lexington areas, as well as encountering some interesting diversions along the way.   

We began our exploration in Louisville. Although there are no quilt stores in the tone-y antique district that lines Bardstown Road, the neighborhood has the quasi-famous restaurant, Lynn’s Paradise Café. Lynn’s features home-cooking turned upscale with unbelievably delicious entrees served up in unspeakably kitschy surroundings. Statues of pigs, cows and rabbits crowd the parking lot, next to humongous teapots and cups. Inside, fifties lamps gone bad and funky artifacts decorate the chrome and formica tables. 

We also noted a flyer on the door at Lynn's saying the place would be featured on The Food Channel's "The Best Of . . ." show. It was indeed, the following week, and though we didn't meet the owner while there, we got to know her through the broadcast.

After a great lunch, we were hungry for fabric. We headed out slightly south of downtown to the Happy Hearts Quilt Shop. We found the shop’s blend of eclectic décor and display to be a similarly amazing place.

Happy Heart Quilt Shop
7913 Third Street
Louisville, KY
(502) 363-1171

Happy Heart claims to have 4000 bolts, but we suspect that this is an underestimate. Tucked in a semi-residential neighborhood, the store shares property with a  sandblasting company and school buses are parked next door. Old men’s moccasins are pots for succulents at the doorstep, adding a fun touch to the entryway. Inside, recycled church pews prop bolt after bolt of fabulous fabric, and an old department store case/counter combo are home to all sorts of wonderful finds. Happy Heart has a truly super selection of white and neutral tone on tones, along with almost every popular fabric line you can name. There’s a whole wall of bargain fabric, marked at $3, $4 and $5.

In addition, the shop features many things that you don’t ordinarily expect at quilt stores, but add wonderful depth to this store. Where to start? First, there are genuine seed sacks for $2 each. A clever doll fashioned from one of the sacks hangs from the back of a door that has been pressed into service as a display area, and there’s a whole room full of finished wearables and other goodies. A giant antique crock holds homespun bolts, and about a dozen baby quilts adorn the wall, most of them for sale at a very reasonable $60.

Look elsewhere and an old tin and wood pie safe houses more homespun and flannel, while to another side vintage ties are heaped in a pile. Happy Heart is one of the few places offering cutter quilts for sale, most of them bagged up and in the $10-30 range. Other hard-to-find-in-stores items that this store features are the stamped for embroidery quilt block kits (usually seen only in mail order catalogs), along with die cut kits for Sunbonnet Sue, Double Wedding Ring, and Grandmother’s Fan.

Don’t fail to notice all the beautifully worn old wooden boxes and the benches that are disguised as bolt-laden endcaps. Bags of crib batting spill from an old wringer washer, and there are baskets full of bits of vintage trim for your crazy quilt projects. If you don’t scour the shop carefully, you might miss the shelves where the old quilts tops wait to be discovered. Of varying ages and types, there were several wonderful vintage crazy quilt examples and lots of varied examples of pieced tops of all sorts and ages. Way in the back of the store we found flour sacks in mint condition resting atop suitcases that took many a train trip. On your way out, be sure to stop at the register and admire the shop commemorative, the hooked rug on the wall. 

There is another Louisville quilt store listed in the Yahoo! Yellow Pages that will be our excuse to return to this very interesting town. If you’re visiting there, you might try:

Forget-Me-Not Quilt Shoppe
2116 S. Preston St.
Louisville, KY 40217
(502) 638-0630

Be sure to call ahead!

The next day, a short drive from Louisville put us in Frankfort, the state capitol. Although there are no quilt stores in Frankfort (unless you count the Joann Fabric), there are a number of antique shops, many of them in the quaint downtown. We visited several of them, and lucked into the purchase of a very original jockey and horse fabric doll set made by a local artist. Unhappily, her name was not on the tag of the dolls we purchased or we’d recognize her here.

Our other stop in Frankfort was at the home of Rebecca Ruth Candy, makers of the incredibly wonderful bourbon balls and other to-die-for confections. We bought some nicely boxed candy to give as a gift, and then a bag of “boo-boos” to devour ourselves. If you’d like to order some of these delights, you can find Rebecca Ruth at www.rebeccaruth.com.

We were back in Lexington in time for another meal at our favorite lunch spot, Flag Fork Herb Farm. Although it’s not next to any quilt shops, this little place is just a short way from downtown on N. Broadway. There are many specialties, among them burgoo, beer cheese, dilliscious dip and super desserts. Many of the herbs used in the preparation of the menu items are grown out back, and there are many food and gift items available in the attached shop. There’s always a specialty tea of the day, and don’t miss the lemon geranium cake!

 

The Corner Quilt Shop
153 Patchen Dr. #67
Lexington, KY 40517
(859) 268-7467

After lunch we checked out a shop we had missed in previous trips, the two-year-old Corner Quilt Shop. Tucked in a cute little cluster of high end beauty salons, boutiques, and a Japanese food store(!), this shop maximizes every square inch of space. As owner, Teresa Fritz, explained it, “everything is on wheels; we just move things around”.

The store had a nice group of Aunt Graces, Modas, flannels and country choices, along with some great doll stuff and batiks.

Classes are varied and range from sweatshirt jackets to applique. We wound up buying some batik fabric and a cute scrap of Aunt Grace type stuff that appealed to us. When we said we’d be back, Teresa warned us to call ahead, because she has plans to expand and will probably be moving.

One quick note: If you’re into knitting, there’s a knitting store directly in back of The Corner Quilt Shop.

 

Quilter’s Square
140 Moore Drive
Lexington, KY 40503
(859) 278-5010

Although we didn’t make it there this visit, we usually include a stop at Quilter’s Square when in Lexington. This giant shop has at least 5,000 bolts and just about anything quilt related you can imagine, along with stuff for French hand sewing and smocking. They have a whole room full of books, and probably the largest pattern wall we have seen anywhere. They also house a Bernina dealership. The place is so huge that there is a bed in the middle of one room that barely makes a dent in the space! It is truly family-run -- we once witnessed a birthday celebration while visiting! However, during our last visit we learned that proprietress Mary Charles was quite ill and awaiting a liver transplant. Concerned friends had gathered a collection of wonderful recipes, Sew Many Recipes, Sew Little Time, and proceeds from the sale were to help defray medical expenses. We understand that Mary has had the transplant, and is back at Quilter’s Square again. Although I don’t know if there are any copies of the cookbook still available, I can attest that the recipes are indeed yummy. Call the number above to inquire further.

Other trips to Kentucky have included visits to the amazing Quilt Box in Dry Ridge. (See our earlier review at http://planetpatchwork.com/travel/ohkytn.htm). The Quilt Box is down a gravel road on the farm of Natalie Lahner and her husband, and customers have an open invitation to enjoy its features. There’s a five hole pitch and putt golf course, a catch-and-release fish pond, and the usual farm animals, including a not-so-usual peacock who lords it over the place. Suffice it to say that it’s the only quilt store where my #4 son has ever deigned to get out of the car. The staff is very knowledgeable and friendly, and they make you feel like family every time you visit. Last trip we included a stop in the town of Dry Ridge (which is also known locally for a brace of outlet stores), and had lunch at a greasy spoon known as Little Shrimp. Obviously a local favorite, Little Shrimp serves up the largest foot-long chilidog I have ever seen for less than $3, along with an array of ice cream treats and kid-popular goodies. Next to Little Shrimp is a great hardware store where we bought a very large and gorgeous hosta for $6.95, an even better bargain than the food at Little Shrimp. We felt that we had been treated not just to the best Quilt Store experience in the world, but, as city folks, a few hours of living a vanishing part of American culture.

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