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The Traveling Quilter: Quilt Shops in the Seattle Area

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In a city whose symbol is the Space Needle and is the home of Martingale Press, you'd have to expect the quilt stores to be fabulous. Throw in the original Starbuck's Coffee and Pike Place Market, and the Traveling Quilter was in heaven.

Sue's Rags Quilt Shop
1520 SW Dash Point Road
Federal Way, WA 
(253) 941-5076

Arriving at Sea-Tac airport in mid-afternoon (after having breakfast twice on different flights!), we grabbed our luggage and our rental car and headed for our first store destination, Sue's Rags. Sue's map in the Quilter's Travel Companion is excellent: we had no difficulty locating her store. Actually in Federal Way, Sue's is a very friendly shop tidily tucked into a free-standing building which she shares with another business. Entering the store, you are greeted with lots of gorgeous samples, a good selection of fabric and very friendly folks. Although not a huge store, Sue's carries smocking supplies, ribbons, felt squares, buttons, and dyeing items in addition to the quilting basics. She's got a great selection of novelty prints, and I loved the way she folded her fat quarter packets into the shape of an Ohio Star. 

Judging from the samples and the class schedule, there are many unique opportunities for quilters of all skill and interest levels. In addition to introductory classes, there are several Welsh Quilt classes (new to me), a quilted bowl class, crazy quilt embroidery along with smocking and silk ribbon embroidery. Classes are held in a downstairs space, and most of them offer multiple sessions in each quarter, which helps if you have a busy schedule and just HAVE to take a certain class. 

While we were in the shop, one of Sue’s regulars stopped in, weary from a week-long quilting retreat. Garbed in a fabulous watercolor jacket (which we closely inspected and tried not to drool upon), she explained that she was so exhausted could hardly move. However, since the store would be closed the next day (Sunday), she had to come today so she could get border fabric to finish her quilt! We had a great time visiting with Sue, admiring her original quilt designs and learning about the area. We picked up a brochure describing the Crazy Quilters Guild of Federal Way. We were thrilled when she gave us a 2000 store pin as a souvenir of our stop there. She also gave us some tips on how to get to a new store in the area, and even drew us a little map.

Byrd's Nest Quilting
1613 E. 31st St.
Tacoma, WA 
(253) 274-0336

After considering our options, we decided to save the new store for another day, since we had sort of preplanned our route. Our next stop was in Tacoma, not too far from Federal Way by freeway. Although the map from the QTC seemed to take us away from the business area, we were sort of surprised when we turned down a mainly residential street. However, Byrd's Nest was indeed located on that street, a cozy little cottage stuffed full of quilt goodies. (1613 31st St.) The first room offered lots of examples of redwork, along with fabric to complement the designs. We loved the tea towels that were tied up with little snowmen, and admired the gorgeous vests made with vintage Japanese silks. There was several families shopping that afternoon, and the children were having a great time selecting novelty prints for their very own quilts. The class space is tucked in the back of the shop, and although a class schedule was not available the afternoon we stopped, the tags on the samples throughout the store indi cated a good variety of offerings. Our only complaint was the shop was, like most older houses, not as well lighted as one might like.


Calico Cat
201 Auburn Way N #A
Auburn, WA 
(253) 939-0885

The last stop of the day was in Auburn, where we visited The Calico Cat and Bernina, Too. A 1999 Quilt Sampler Store, it was evident from the very front door why the shop was selected. Linda Johnson, author of Pink Lemonade, had been there for a book signing the day before. A beautiful sample of the quilt was hanging from the upper level wall, and although we had missed meeting Linda, there were leftover homemade cookies! This large, two-level store has plenty of beautiful fabrics, with full size samples on beds and walls. 

There's a sizeable oriental section, including fabric and patterns and even quilting books and magazines written in Japanese. There were lots of reproductions and flannels, and I loved the way the lofted store provided lots of space for displaying quilt samples. However, as we went up the steps we realized that they led to a true dollmaker's paradise. Tons of patterns, a fabulous selection of fiber for hair and beards and many hard to find turning and stuffing notions are in the upper level. This shop sponsors a biennial five day doll makers workshop. Next one is scheduled for July 2002- I'm already checking for cheap flights to Washington. The shop has many classes (doll and otherwise) and they have TWO classrooms, so this store could easily be on any quilter's "A" list. Calico Cat has a great website www.thecalicocat.com, with many great doll photos. Be sure to check it out if you can't get there in person, especially if you're in need of hair for that special doll.

Sunday we decided we ought to check out possibilities for non-quilters in Seattle (got to keep the family smiling somehow) so we got up early and walked to the Key Arena area. Of course, the first order of business was the Space Needle, long the symbol of this city. Although I’m not usually fond of typical attractions, this one was worth the ride. The panoramic view of the city was quite something, particularly since the day was less overcast than most. 

Next, at the urging of the teenaged daughter person, we decided to take in the Experience Music Project, one of Seattle's newer venues. The homage to Jimi Hendrix that just kept growing to include more and more musicians, EMP is housed in an ultra futuristic structure that reflects the Space Needle and allows the monorail to pass through it. Inside, the level of input is at times overwhelming, especially if you're not a big fan of rock music. The DP loved it, especially some of the interactive opportunities in the upstairs music lab. The Hendrix section was packed, even very early on Sunday morning, so it's probably a good idea to plan to go at a non-peak time if you can. And don’t miss the Janis Joplin costumes!

Then it was a hop on the monorail to Pike Place Market. There, we found goodies of all sorts, edible and otherwise. The "flying fish" vendors were doing their usual production, the veggies and fruits were beautiful, and many crafts tempted us. There were gorgeous glass beads, hand woven and knit hats, woodcrafts, incredible dried floral arrangements, boutique soaps and lotions -- just about anything you could want. We stopped at the pierogie place across the street for some quick food, and then walked to the original Starbucks where we were treated to one of the best street music performances ever. A gospel quartet composed of middle aged men gathered quite a crowd that afternoon. We didn’t linger long, because we were searching for the quilt store that was near the market, and open on Sunday.

Undercover Quilts
1411 1st Ave. #106
Seattle, WA 
(206) 622-6382

Undercover Quilts is around the corner from Pike's Market. They store carries mostly quilts for sale (new and old), displayed hanging from rug racks, so you can "flip" through them. There was a good choice of fat quarters, including bundles of six they call Pikettes, and some nice t-shirts for quilters. My favorite is “Piece on Earth”, which features a double wedding ring design. They also sell a good assortment of books and notions, and if you're hunting for a new or antiques quilt, check out the website at www.undercoverquilts.com.

In the Beginning
8201 Lake City Way NE
Seattle, WA 
(206) 523-8862

The next morning, we set out for the fabled quilt store, In the Beginning. We arrived there shortly after opening time, and the parking lot was already full, as were the close-in spaces on the surrounding street. Were they having some huge Monday morning sale? Nope, just the usual crush of business at this well-known store. The entry way boasts a bulletin board that allows customers to offer their for-sale items, as well as solicit assistance in locating that certain fabric needed to finish that quilt! There’s also a seating area for non-fabricholics. However, when faced with this store, it’s hard to believe that anyone couldn’t find something of interest.

There are South African hand-painted fabrics, hand-,marbled fabric, lots and lots of batiks. They have sun-reactive hand dyes with elaborate leaf and fern patterns (30inches wide), an Orientals area that includes vintage kimonos and obi fabric. Add to that a huge pattern wall, Hawaiian fabric, a huge cotton/linen floral collection tons and tons of cottons- you get the picture. But there's more. There's home dec fabric to order, canvas, denim, fleece, homespuns, themed flannels and lots and lots of wearables, hanging from the ceiling beams. A quick check of the class schedule reveals few days when at least one if not two classes are scheduled. The range of classes is fairly exhaustive as well. In additional to the traditional offerings, there are classes specializing in utilization of African fabric, fleece techniques, batik specialities dyeing classes, color selection classes, just about anything you can name. The teachers include many welll known teachers and authors, including Sandy Bonsib and Sally Schneider. While we were there, a toothbrush rug class was busily ripping fabric behind the glass windows of the well-designed classroom. Close by is a comfortable area full of books with tables and chairs for convenient browsing. There's even a TV/VCR combo for viewing tapes.

Martingale Press
20205 144th Ave. NE
Woodinville, WA 
(425) 483-3313
For more information on tours, and a map, go to:

After our visit to ITB, we were almost too overwhelmed to move on, but we had significant motivation. Our tour of Martingale Press (That Patchwork Place) was scheduled for 1:00! We arrived a few minutes early, and spent our time in the lobby admiring a collection of Campbell's Soup stuff that had been amassed by one of the employees named Campbell. Of course, there were also new books and QUILTS in the lobby, so we checked them out as well.

As we wandered through the offices of the folks who publish all those wonderful books, we had a great time seeing the actual quilts from the photos in the books. Many individuals had personal wall quilts adorning offices, while others had more famous "faces" decorating their spaces. But there were quilts everywhere! We were particularly pleased to meet Rhoda Lonergan, the wonderful person who makes sure we get our review copies at Planet Patchwork. But everyone at Martingale was friendly, even though there were about fifteen of us wandering through their workspace and gawking at them. At the end of the tour came a visit to the "scratch and dent" room, where bruised books were sold at discount prices. Some of the group came with lists sent by bargain-hunting friends, but everyone had a great time. We picked up dye for marbling fabric according to Judy Simmons' book, so we went away happy, too.

Keepsake Cottage
23732 Bothell Everett Highway #A
Bothell, WA
(425) 486-3483

By this time we were starving, so we said our goodbyes and thank yous to Martingale Press, and headed to the nearby town of Bothell and Keepsake Cottage. Fortunately, Keepsake Cottage is located in a cute country shopping village with places to eat. We had some great chicken salad, which gave us the strength to investigate the rest of the place, complete with resident roosters who march around the parking lot. Although not a gigantic shop, Keepsake has a smattering of almost everything, including beautiful florals and primitives. They had excellent watercolor quilt supplies and some very nice samples. The classes offered range from beginner to advanced, and the staff is friendly and informative. 

A ferry ride the next day took us to Bremerton to check out quilt stores on the other side of Puget Sound. Ferry riding is standard public transit for many residents of the area, and ferries have cafeteria-like areas that offer a wide selection of food items and even turn into mini-taverns for the afternoon commute. 

Christina's Heritage Quilts
2516 Bethell Rd. SE
Port Orchard, WA
(360) 895-1034

After our relaxing crossing with lots of house and tree watching, we drove to Port Orchard, where Christina's Heritage Quilts and Fine Fabrics sits in an a adorable little house, complete with flower boxes. Christina herself was there the morning we visited, where she has run the shop for eleven years. She was in the midst of reshuffling much of her existing inventory to accommodate Pfaff and Janome machines and Koala Cabinets. There were clever nooks full of fat quarters and half-yard cuts, and bolts and bolts of fabric. We admired the beautiful 3-D folded fabric block of the month the store features, as well as the original designs that Christina produces for the shop. We talked with her about how impressed we were with the number of quilters and quilt shops in the area, and she told us that quilt top finishing is in such demand locally, that many long time machine quilters were no longer taking new customers! 

Christina offers a wide selection of classes, including an on-going children's workshop, advanced hand piecing and smocking, in addition to hand and machine classes at various levels.

Rochelle's Fine Fabric
1700 SE Mile Hill Dr # 200c 
Port Orchard, WA
(360) 895-1515 

Next on the list was Rochelle's a mega-store in a shopping center, whose nest-door neighbor is "Create-A-Plate." This shop has a gigantic assortment of fabrics, including furs and mohairs for teddies and many doll-making supplies. Everywhere you look there is more great "stuff" and the bear and doll samples are incredible. Rochelles also carries fabric, laces and trims for bridal and formal wear, ultrasuede (in the store and not by special order), a large Stretch and Sew line, ultraleather, replacement pellets for beanbag furniture, plain and fancy polar fleece, bundles of fabric to create perfect faux chenille, and even scooters. (Yes, scooters!) Although Rochelle's was pretty quiet the Tuesday morning we visited, a quick look at the classes that take place in the spacious open classroom in the rear of the store reveal lots of activity. Bethany Reynolds herself teaches the Stack N Whack classes and Karen Shifton was slated to be there to teach her Leopold the Lion class. Not to mention that Elinor Peace Bailey would be there for their three day cloth doll fair. It came as no surprise that Rochellle's has been in business for 20 years. It's quite a place.

Harbor Quilt
3607 Hunt St.NW
Gig Harbor, WA 
(253) 858-5414

From there, it was on to Gig Harbor and Harbor Quilt. The energy of this store was apparent from the front door on. There were quilt tops on the ceiling, and the entire place was, well, crammed with fabric. There was a great selection of Oriental fabric, many, many Aunt Graces, lots of novelties, florals and so on.As we checked out the lighthouse nook , we overheard a customer on a cell phone in the hall painstakingly describing a particular fabric to a friend on the other end. I hope she bought the right one. There are lots of things that make this store distinctive: the Quilt of the Month, an entire quilt available as instructions or a kit, frequent customer pajama parties, regularly scheduled show and tell at a local Inn, and monthly Friday night appliqué gatherings, with pizza included. We really liked the Harbor Quilt Birthday Party idea. The birthday celebrant and four plus friends come to shop, and Harbor Quilt provides the cake and 15%off for all celebrants! Move over, Chuck E. Cheese.

As might be expected for a store with so many fun events, there is a super selection of classes, with the added bonus that the store is open to non-class taking shoppers during those times. I’m sure this is popular with those quilters who have overloaded schedules during the day. In the works when we were visiting was a Gig Harbor Quilt Festival for October. 

Quilt Barn
1206 E. Main
Puyallup, WA 
(253) 845-1532

We headed back to Seattle via the land route, which allowed for a stop in Puyallup at the Quilt Barn. Located in a sure-enough barn, the Quilt Barn offers a great selection of fabrics and classes, which has kept it in business for over, 20 years As we entered, the lovely Puyallap Valley Quilters raffle quilt greeted us, along with the hum of activity in the rest of the shop. A customer was there purchasing fabric, she said for a cowboy quilt. "For your grandson? " inquired the staff person who was cutting the fabric. "No, it's for my husband. He's always wanted to be a cowboy, so I'm making him a quilt."

The barn's second floor is devoted to classroom space, and there's always lots of action upstairs. Deb Caffrey teaches there from time to time, and there are regularly scheduled activities like Mom and Kid's Sew, UFO night, Stitch and ____? Night, Blocks of the Month and Quilt Barn's own Row by Row. Then there are small tutorial sessions for particular issues, along with embellishment and dyeing classes, hand and machine study at all levels and intense Baltimore applique classes (two blocks per month). This store obviously has lots going on all the time, including the arrival of a huge shipment of new Hoffmans the day we visited. One unique service it offers it professional pressing onto transfer fabric, which allows customers that professional look without investing in the expensive equipment.

Quiltworks Northwest
145 106th Ave. NE
Bellevue, WA 98004
(425) 453-6005 or (877) 295-7222

Our last day in the Seattle area, we went to another Quilt Sampler pick, Quiltworks Northwest. Located in a large shopping strip, where it shares space with a pools and spas store, this store is a quilt-lover's delight. Extremely well lighted and spacious, it features a wide selection of merchandise along with clever displays. There are bolts and bolts of fabric, rug hooking supplies and polar fleece. Crazy quilters will find a nice assortment of bengalines and velvets, along with silk ribbon supplies for embellishment. We fell in love with the Shop 'Til You Melt Quilt, and had to buy the pattern for the snowmen crafted from Warm N Natural batting. The 7.5 yard grab bags at $34.99 tempted us, and we tried to imagine what could possibly be missing from the notions wall. The shop "newsletter" is twenty pages, with over 60 different classes/events scheduled in a four month period. Many of the classes offered more than once. Obviously, the class offerings are plentiful and range from Nancy Martin discussing the business of publishing quilt books to advanced garment fitting to wool painting and applique. Difficulty level starts with one moose head (beginner) and goes up to four, with most classes falling between two and three.

Pieces Quality Fabrics & Quilting
332 Burnett Ave. S.
Renton, WA 98055
(425) 271-7160

We ended our Seattle quilt venture at Pieces, in Renton. Since we were tired, the huge wingback chairs in the book area really appealed to us, but the bolts of fabric appealed even more. There was an excellent selection of homespuns, some dark plaid flannels that looked like good candidates for doll shirts, fresh-looking florals, a good group of Japanese fabrics and books and of course, bolts of Aunt Grace. They had some clever displays and gift ideas, too. Button collections were tied up in bags with 30’s fabric bows, and the shop had packaged pillowcase kits offering the right amounts of two coordinating fabrics. Small pieces of fabric in a basket were just 49 cents, and there was a large selection of items available in kit form.

We saw some Department of the Army fabric (no lie), which we had never previously encountered, and were thoroughly impressed as a staff person patiently explained the differences in types of thread to a young lady who had probably never threaded a needle, let alone stitched with it. Overall, Pieces packs quite a lot into the space they have. There are many fun events at the store, including Friday night Pizza Party which offers a different 6 hour class on Friday, and a once a month Girls' Night Out. There are several blocks of the month from which to choose.

As you can tell from this overview, the Seattle area is rich in resources for quilters. We visited in January, 2001, and the weather was temperate. We'll be returning, eventually, as there were many shops we weren't able to visit.

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