Fabrics, classes and gadgets

Elkridge outlet's inventory includes fabric in about 1,600 patterns

Business profile Main Street Quilt Shop

January 17, 2007|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,special to the sun

One problem with owning a quilt shop is that it doesn't leave much time for making quilts. On the plus side, you can bring your dogs to work, and you meet people who share your love of sewing together pieces of fabric to create something timeless and beautiful.

Dee Maier, who owns the Main Street Quilt Shop in Elkridge with partner Denise Lassiter-Vachon, hardly ever indulges her passion for quilt-making these days. She is too busy choosing fabrics to sell, conducting classes and stocking up on the latest quilting-related gadgets.

Maier, who has been quilting about 14 years, opened the store after she and her husband, David, purchased the 19th-century building in 2001 and converted it from a residence to businesses. The building, which has a parking lot, is on a historic street in Elkridge.

One entrance is for David Maier's EntryPoint Door Transformations franchise, which fits ordinary front doors with cut-glass insets. Another is for the quilt shop.

Maier and Lassiter-Vachon - who met in a quilting group - opened the store in 2003. "It's a big undertaking," said Maier, who has five children between the ages of 16 and 23. "You have to have a lot of inventory."

That inventory includes fabric in about 1,600 patterns. The fabric, which costs between $6.50 and $9.50 a yard, has grown more sophisticated in recent years, Maier said.

The owners, who travel to trade shows and meet with vendors, would like to have as many as 2,000 varieties, but no more than that.

Finding materials that work together is a priority, she said. "We always keep on eye on what goes with what," she said.

Recently, three women were taking their time poking around the store, enjoying one another's company as they looked at fabrics. Chelle Ginsburg of Columbia is a fabric artist and quilter who was looking for material for her next project. She had brought three strips of indigo-dyed fabric with her, and she was holding them against various patterns to see how they looked next to one another.

"I have the idea of doing something for a wall," she said, examining a vibrant bolt with a red pattern. "The fabrics kind of pull you into doing these projects."

With her were Carol Boden of Ellicott City and Barbara Levine of Columbia. Boden, a weaver and dyer who had been to the store, said she was "coming along just to enjoy the fabrics."

"I'm just here to ogle everything," said Levine, who said she does not know how to quilt but "Chelle is trying to teach me."

Quilting is an ancient skill that is enjoying a surge in popularity. These days, computer programs can help quilters form the geometric patterns that define the art form, but even so, a knowledge of geometry and proportion can go a long way.

Maier said that learning to draft patterns - with or without a computer - is one of the most challenging and satisfying aspects of quilting. At the shop, customers can sign up for a "block of the month," she said. For $5, they get a pattern and material to make one block, or square. If they bring in the completed block, they can get the next month's block free.

A quilting machine can also help with the patterned stitching. The Main Street Quilt Shop has an HQ Sixteen quilting machine available for rent. The machine, which allows the user to move the stitching mechanism while the material is held on a frame, can be purchased for $7,100, Maier said. That may seem like a lot of money, but "people who are dedicated quilters and sewers understand that the right tools make a big difference," she said.

The shop offers classes for all levels of quilters, for $30 to $100 for the full series.

The lessons include a yearlong session that meets once a month and culminates with a finished quilt, Maier said. Quilters come to the store for three hours at a time, working in a classroom set up toward the back. Classes are limited to five students, so everyone has enough room and attention, Maier said.

Young people are becoming quilters, too. One daughter, Kerry Maier, 18, is a college student who works in the store when she has time. She started quilting a couple of years ago, and is trying to start a class for some of her college friends, she said.

The Main Street Quilt Shop is at 5782 Main Street, Elkridge. The phone is 410-796-4614.

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