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The Traveling Quilter: Quilt Shops in the Seattle Area, 2008

The shibori dragon is the mascot of one of the Seattle area's most distinctive textile stores.

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Seattle may mean salmon and Starbucks to most people, but to many fiber artists it means quilts. We happened to find ourselves in Seattle and took a few days of vacation to visit (or re-visit) some places of the cloth persuasion.

The Traveling Quilter had been to Seattle seven years ago (2001) and visited the great publishers C&T and Martingale and the famous (now closed) quilt store, In the Beginning. (See that write-up here). This time we had just a little time to explore, so we tried to see some new places and check in with some former favorites. Trying to hold down the fabric purchases (this 1-bag, 50-lb airline limit really cramps the buying), I decided to concentrate on the blue batiks that I needed for a particular quilt.

I knew Seattle was quite a distance from Atlanta, but I did not realize that once I got there I’d get a trip to the Orient in the bargain. The most exotic quilt store ever (and most perfectly thematically consistent) has got to be Shobori Dragon in Lakewood.  Absolutely Oriental, from the vintage kimonos to the huge dragon puppets to amazing fabrics, this is not  the place to find Aunt Grace reproductions, to be sure. Everything (and we do mean everything) has ties to the Far East.  The class icon on the website is a kinono-ed man, and their sashiko classes are featured.  Gorgeous is the word that comes to mind when I think about this store, along with the feeling of Eastern perfection with which this place is imbued. At the adjoining Shobori Dragon Knits, beads are displayed in various glass dishes, next to a tabletop fountain, along the shop windows. They have an awesome collections of  yarns and fiber embellishments too. There are glittering

 

cases for jewelry at the shop entrance. SD is so breath-taking that you want to buy one of everything, because it’s not like any other store you’ve visited, and you’re afraid that you might not ever visit again. Luckily, restraint did kick in, but I just might have to order one of those giant red dragons. He would be so cool in my great room. There is really good store on the shop website http://www.shiboridragon.com, in case you want one, too!

The Calico Cat is a perennial favorite. The “home” store of several quilt designers, (some of them even are part of the staff), this is a friendly shop, packed with fabric and notions. The day we were there the store was filled with the drilling and poundings of renovation, so although it wasn’t as peaceful as usual, it was every bit as welcoming. Although not as many dolls seem to be “hanging out” at the store as I remember from our last visit, this shop offers many great opportunities to take classes with top doll artists (elinor peace bailey and Barbara Willis were there this summer). Plus, there are quilts all over the store, many of them available in kit form. I fell totally in love with Carol Atkinson’s “String of Lights” quilt, which they had executed in batiks. Unhappily, they were out of the book (Time-Out Quilts) and the dark batik for the quilt, but I bought the one fat quarter they had left and got the name of the fabric from the salesperson. There is always a good “feel” to this place and the one that I point to as one of the more doll-centric ones I have ever visited. Great things are on the shop website as well, and it’s very easy to navigate. There’s an upstairs loft that had some fun holiday things (including a great skinny snowman). You can visit them online at www.thecalicocat.com

One of the few quilt shops that is truly right downtown is Undercover Quilts (http://www.undercoverquilts.com). Part of the below-the-street  labyrinth that hooks to Pike Place Market, this place is most notable for the number of finished quilts that it displays like department store show rugs. They have great fabrics, too, but they really pack maximum punch per square inch in clever utilization of space available. Although they had an ample Aunt Grace selection, they also carry lovely batiks. I found several that fit into my current faience blue search for grandson William’s second birthday quilt.

Another return visit was to Harbor Quilts, located in Gig Harbor (http://www.harborquilt.com). It had formerly been outside the main town area in a quaint converted house. The new shop is right down where the “action” such as it is in this smalll waterfront community. That weekend the action was an arts and crafts market laden with wonderful lampwork offerings (Seattle is a mecca for bead artists) and assorted other goodies.

Harbor Quilts is a lively place with lots of lovely fabrics and cute kits. They have many items geared toward babies and children, too.  That afternoon, there was a group of travelers who came together in a van visiting the shop.

 

 

One quilter who had purchased a good bit of fabric (including what must have been the rest of a bolt, came back into the store with the cardboard around which the fabric had been wrapped, and announced, “Not enough room for this thing in the van. It was this or my husband, so I picked him!”. Ah, the sacrifices we make for our spouses.

Something I had forgotten about the Pacific Northwest was the abundance of beautiful, plentiful produce. There are a number of farmer’s markets during the week, and we visited two in Tacoma. Friday’s market had lots of cheap (by current standards) raspberries and cherries, lots of unique food vendors (think homemade tamales and soft German pretzels) and beautiful flowers.  Saturday’s find was not just more produce, but freshly grown lavender. Instead of the usual souvenir magnet or candy as gifts, my co-workers were treated to fragrant sachet bags. I still have one under my pillow every night. Of course, once our bodies had adjusted to the time zone, it was time to fly back to Atlanta. And I am happy to report that in addition to savoring the obligatory salmon and Starbucks, I added a number of the blue batiks that I was seeking for my quilt.

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