Garner barn site of two September quilting camps
GARNER – After more than 20 years of business and 800 published quilt patterns and books, Mary Etherington and Connie Tesene built more than a thriving business.
The duo turned their County Thread Quilt Shop into a vacation destination.
Housed on Etherington’s farm four miles west of Garner, the fabric/pattern shop started with extra bolts of fabric and grew into three buildings, including the spacious 1920s barn that is home to three quilting camps. They are offered in the spring and fall with two camps slated for September. Bittersweet Camp is offered Sept. 8-11, and Sunflower Camp is offered Sept. 22-25.
“Connie and I began buying fabrics wholesale 30 years ago,” Etherington said. “That way I got a bolt, Connie got a bolt, and then we had an extra.”
As the inventory grew so did interest in the unique business from quilters across the country.
“We had a group from Carrollton, Texas who wanted to do a class awhile back,” Etherington said, “but we didn’t have the space to offer one.”
As the idea of quilting camps took root, Etherington knew exactly where she and Tesene could house a large group of quilters for an extended period of time: the hayloft of the barn. She put high school volunteers to work sprucing up the hay loft as chickens and goats roamed the lower part of the building.
“They scooped out all the pigeon manure,” Etherington said, “and then Connie and I provided the finishing touches.”
The loft offered groups high ceilings, plenty of light, numerous work tables to accommodate large numbers, and an adornment of quilts created by the businesswomen.
“When the barn was ready, the group from Texas was the first to have a class in the barn,” Etherington said.
Ever since Carrollton crew christened the hayloft with their first stitches 10 years ago, the number of camps has grown to three a year and accommodate 25 people per camp from coast to coast. The camps’ popularity grew by word of mouth.
When County Living Magazine licensed Country Threads Quilt Shop to design two quilts per year for the publication, they also ran a feature on the women’s camps. But the national recognition hasn’t changed the line-up of camp registrants.
“The majority of the women who sign up for the camps are repeat customers,” Etherington said. “We fill up the slots really quickly.”
Etherington thinks part of the allure is a get-away from the normal. Many of the women who attend the camps are from high-powered financial businesses in New York, California and Texas, and for four days, the women “rough it” in the barn. They are allowed free reign of the ground, which includes unrestricted access to the fabric and pattern shops.
“People are stitching 24/7,” Etherington said. “We let them come down and cut their own fabric because many of them will be up sewing past midnight.”
While quilting may not be as prevalent as it used to be, there are many reasons people take up the hobby.
Etherington enjoys piecing the quilt blocks and combining fabrics. Tesene enjoys it because of the art’s permanence.
“I like it because it’s something that can’t be undone at the end of the day,” Tesene said. “Unlike housework like laundry – which is never finished – quilting gives one something to show for their efforts at the end of the day.”
And, the bonding is another perk since the women spend four days with one another learning new patterns and techniques. Etherington by the end of the camp, many of the women have forged new friendships that last.
There’s also an educational atmosphere in the loft.
“The guests love to do show and tell,” Tesene said of the classes. “Everyone learns something new. I learn as much from them as they learn from me.”
But the quilts these women work on are not heirlooms that hang on walls. They are more practical created from simple patterns for use.
Even with simplicity, not everyone learns easily from a pattern, which is another reason Tesene and Etherington offer the classes.
“While many people who come to our camps know their way around a sewing machine,” Tesene said, “many women I know are visual learners.”
For those women the hands-on learning and group atmosphere comes in handy when working on the 12 to 15 new patterns fresh from Country Threads’ creative business owners.
As the women notice fewer young faces in quilting circles, they’re considering creating another camp.
“Perhaps, one of these days we’ll offer a quilting for beginners,” Etherington said. “For some women, quilting is intimidating because it’s hard to read the patterns. A beginners class would help a lot of those people are interested in quilting overcome those fears.”
To learn more about Country Threads Quilting, LLC, its camps or products, visit them online at www.countythreads.com.
Contact Lindsey Ory by e-mail at email@example.com.
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