Quilt shop becomes social hub Quilting: Diane Janoske's little business has quickly grown to be Dayton's cultural hot spot.

May 07, 1998|By Becky S. Yoshitani | Becky S. Yoshitani,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The first time Quilt Block owner Diane Janoske staged an all-night quilting session she made a critical scheduling error. After playing host to 10 quilters at her shop on a Friday night that extended until breakfast on Saturday, she was faced with a seven-hour workday.

"I knew better the next time," she says with a laugh.

Now she schedules her twice-yearly marathons for Saturday nights -- she's closed on Sundays.

After two years in business, Janoske's store in Dayton is the center of life in this western Howard County community.

Begun as a one-room operation in space leased from a local builder, success soon propelled Janoske's operation to engulf the building. Last year, she purchased the facility, including 3 1/2 acres and a house.

She had tapped a rich vein. According to the Ellicott City-based organization Quilting in America, there are nearly 14 million quilters in the United States over age 18. The total U.S. quilting industry is valued at $1.21 billion.

In March, Janoske's teachers and customers paid tribute with a queen-sized customized quilt that they had secretly pieced together. She says she was surprised and overwhelmed: "I cried buckets."

Sitting on the store's front porch is reminiscent of a visit to Grandma's -- swinging on the porch, sipping lemonade, watching cars. Visitors are just as likely to stop for a spell of local news and a soda as get quilting supplies or advice.

Though relatively new to quilting -- she has five years' experience -- Janoske is a wealth of expertise and instruction.

True to form of quilters, she belongs to several local quilting guilds, including the Faithful Circle. In her experience, quilting is the only craft that truly crosses generations.

"As many 30-year-olds participate as 70-year-olds," she says.

Janoske's 20 years as a Spanish teacher -- 10 in Howard County -- hardly prepared her for owning a business. But she had always envied the culture of small, quaint shops.

After a yearlong search, a room opened up in a building around the corner from her home. Now it's a family affair, with husband Gary, 15-year-old Melissa, 13-year-old Brand and 10-year-old twins Sarah and Emily all helping.

The Quilt Block Club meets monthly at the store for free sessions open to experienced piecers and raw recruits alike.

"We have people come who have never quilted before and get hooked," she says. And of course there's the twice-yearly all-night frenzy for quiltaholics.

The shop walls are smothered with more than 60 quilts. Pieced together by local sewers, teachers, and Janoske herself, the samples -- which range from the simple to prize-winning caliber -- inspire visitors.

Janoske's favorite is the anniversary quilt made for her by 34 of her teachers and customers. In January conspirators schemed to honor Janoske and celebrate the second anniversary of her store with a 5 1/2 -foot-square wall hanging with the store depicted in the middle.

During one rendezvous in the back of Janoske's shop, three co-conspirators deemed daughter Melissa "old enough to keep a secret" and made her an accomplice. Furtive meetings were scheduled at remote locations. Materials were sneaked from the shop right under Janoske's nose during Quilt Block Club meetings.

Then on a Tuesday in March the conspirators and family presented the finished product, along with a scrapbook detailing the adventure.

"I was never in my life as surprised," Janoske says.

Quilting had bridged a gap.

"More than just customer and store owner, we had become friends," she says.

Pub Date: 5/07/98

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