Finding a great quilt shop can make you feel like kicking off your shoes and dancing for joy. At Quilter’s Garden in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, it turns out customers actually do dance in the aisles (although most keep their shoes on).
“We play Tony Bennett radio and customers sway or sing along while they’re shopping,” says Vicki Reiter, who opened Quilter’s Garden in 2012. But there’s more than music that draws quilters. They come to see a shop located in a 175-year-old church with brick walls and exposed beams, where more than 3000 bolts of fabric from brights and solids to repros and batiks fill the shelves, and quilts adorn the 20+ foot-high walls.
Customers come from Indiana, but also from nearby Ohio and Kentucky: the small town of Lawrenceburg is located where the three states come together, and just two blocks from the Ohio river. Moda fabrics and precuts are shop favorites—fabrics by Kansas Troubles and French General, Sandy Gervais and Bonnie and Camille are popular and Vicki just put in her sixth order for Gingiber’s Thicket. Moda Grunge is one of their big sellers and Vicki buys every color of the basic Grunge. “No dots, no metallics—we say it’s like Classic Coke,” says Vicki with a laugh.
Both kids and adults take classes at Quilter’s Garden. It’s important to Vicki that classes remain affordable, so materials frequently are included in the class fee. When a class is making a quilt from a kit, Vicki offers the shop’s machine quilting services at no charge if the batting and backing are purchased at Quilter’s Garden. “We want them to finish their quilt so they’ll get hooked!” says Vicki.
Classes range from beginning quilting to tee-shirt quilts, pineapple blocks, and dollmaking. A special Mother’s Day class paired kids with moms to sew a simple throw-sized quilt using a Layer Cake. Quilter’s Garden recently added a second long-arm and a long-arm club will begin meeting in August. The Lawrenceburg Modern Quilt Guild held its second meeting at the shop in April. Quilter’s Garden employees also design patterns, including those for classes and the shop’s Block of the Month sessions.
Vicki opened Quilter’s Garden after a career in nursing. Her mother taught her she was little and she her grandmother, who was a hand-piecer and hand-quilter, taught her to quilt. Vicki made clothes for her dolls and book bags out of old blue jeans, but sewed less often as family responsibilities grew. “Then a friend got me back into it and I thought it would be neat to own a shop,” she says. She placed orders for fabric even before she signed a lease on her building. “I think about everything I didn’t know when I started this. But today I’ve learned a lot and have the best staff—each member has different assests. Some are great organizers, some very creative, and we all work well together.”
Quilter’s Garden prides itself on its community connections and on giving back. In addition to donating 100s of yards of fabric annually to causes like Quilts of Valor, Project Linus, and Cozy Chemo Quilts, for the past two years the shop has offered Sewing Sisters. Free of charge and open to anyone with a special need or physical condition, the program pairs quilters needing assistance—cutting fabric, moving it through the sewing machine, etc.—with a “sewing sister” who sits alongside the sewist as they work. Vicki started the program after Susan Bray came into the shop and asked for help: her 35-year-old daughter had had a stroke and was paralyzed on one side and Susan wanted to help her get back to sewing. Vicki says she sat on one hand and tried sewing and realized how challenging it would be and eventually came up with the idea of an assistant.
Coming up with new classes and quilt designs gives Vicki pleasure, but she says it’s the people she meets that bring her the greatest joy. “I know it sounds corny, but I learn so much from them—customers and staff members—every day,” she says. “They think I’m the expert, but I always learn something—that’s the most fun part.”