Thursday, June 9, 2016

At Home in a Quilt Shop

For the last two weeks, I (Teri) have had the privilege of visiting Alaska. Our primary draw was spending time with our son's family, but we've also had the opportunity to visit some lovely parts of the state. And throughout our travels, one thing I've learned is that quilting is alive and well in The Last Frontier!

Whenever we travel, my wonderful husband indulges my passion by driving me to any quilt shop I find in our general vicinity. (The deal is that he gets to pick a BBQ restaurant for every quilt shop we hit. On this trip, I'm way ahead.)

We spent the weekend with my son, his wife, and our adorable grandson, and then took a side trip north to a small tourist town called Talkeetna. We walked through the many shops, most of which featured local artisans' work. While there was no actual quilt shop, there was something quilty in nearly every shop we entered. And much of it was uniquely Alaskan.

"The Blanket Toss today is used as a form of recreation and celebration. But the origin of the blanket toss had a much more serious purpose. Much of the coast of Northern and Western Alaska is barren and flat. The native people of this region would use a blanket made from the hide of a walrus to toss a member of their hunting party high into the air to spot game such as walrus, seal, whale, and polar bear. This practice often meant the difference in the success of a hunt.
This pin cushion represents not only the blanket toss, but also the ingenuity of Alaska Natives which helped them survive in their often harsh environment."

I was intrigued by these unusual thimbles, but I resisted the temptation to purchase one.

One gift shop had this small display of Alaska-themed fat quarters.

In another gift shop, we saw this lovely yarn display.
And then there were these rolled ribbon rabbit flowers.

The next day we ventured further north through Denali State Park, as far as the town of Healy, where we boarded the bus for our tour through Denali National Park. I was happily surprised to look across the street and see this big FABRIC sign; I wasn't expecting a quilt shop in this tiny town! Taking pictures in the shop wasn't allowed, so I can't share the joy with you, but there was a nice selection of Alaskan fabrics and original patterns, created by the owner's niece.

On our way back to my son's home in Anchorage, we sought out our next shop: Sylvia's Quilt Depot in Wasilla. Our GPS took us in a wrong direction, but I called the shop, and a gracious employee talked me there. What a delightful shop! Racks of Alaskan patterns, displays of fabrics designed by local artists (like Barbara Lavallee and McKenna Ryan), and lots of friendly quilters. The shop has an "open sew" on Wednesdays and Fridays, when anyone can come and sew. Some days they have potluck lunches, and on some they order from a local deli. Not just a quilt shop, but a gathering place for fellow stitchers.

A welcoming front-door view: so colorful! Great thread selection, as well as fabric.

The "sew-in" the day we were there was well-attended, and there was a lot of laughing with the sewing.


A bit further south, in Eagle River, we found The Quilt Cache. Again, I was greeted with warmth and friendliness. The young lady, above, showed me around the shop, and told me about making the bear's claw wall-hanging with her grandmother. I met the owner, who ironically, has good friends who live in my home town. The quilt world is a small one!

Patterns, wool, threads, rick rack: a bit of everything!

Alaskan fabrics, some designed by local artists.

The color wall, where fabrics go to make room for the newer bolts or collections in the center of the shop.

The following day, we all went to the Anchorage Market and Festival, with a variety of different kinds of vendors. I'm sure you can guess why this tent caught my eye. No better way to display one's goods than on lovely quilts!

The quilts drew us in, and we admired his wood-turning skill . . .

. . . but my attention was grabbed by these needle holders: beautiful wood containers, which open to store needles or pins, secured by a magnet inside. Such pretty and distinctive pin holders.

But when I saw these, I knew he must have a quilter in the family. (Indeed, his niece is a quilter.)
Perhaps unsewing would be less painful with such a beautiful tool. I may or may not have a lovely new awl and seam ripper. 
If you're interested, you can email the artist, David Staeheli, by clicking here.

One of the local quilt shops in Anchorage, Seams Like Home, had a tent set up at the market. They had a display of many fabrics and prints unique to Alaska. I purchased a hand-painted raven panel and received a coupon for a free fat quarter. Guess we'll have to check out the shop!

A good selection of hand-painted panels of prevalent Alaskan animals, including raven, bear, and moose

After the Market, we took a walk through downtown Anchorage. I knew there was a quilt shop in the city and wanted to visit. The Quilted Raven is a lovely shop, with something for everyone who loves needles!

Many Alaskan prints and panels; the wall on the left is full of panels by Alaskan artist Barbara Lavallee.

More Alaskan-themed patterns and stencils

A wonderful assortment of threads and wool fabrics

Talk about a color wall! A slice of rainbow heaven.

There are four more quilts shops here in Anchorage to visit, but I think I've fought photos in Blogger enough for one vacation. Perhaps I'll share more about those visits in a later post, as I'm quite sure we will make the stops. Maybe it's because of the long, dark winters that quilting is so popular, but fortunately, quilters in Alaska don't have far to go to stock up on the supplies of their craft. What a blessing it's been to see such wonderful works of artistic quiltmaking that reflect the stunning beauty of this state.

I was texting with my friend, Barb, telling her about my personal "shop hop." She responded that she always thinks it fun to go to quilt shops, because it's like visiting friends. I have to agree. Quilters are all friends, even if we don't know each other. I felt welcomed and at home in each shop I visited. I may live on the other side of the continent, but when I'm in a quilt shop, even in Alaska, I am at home.


  1. Quite a lot of shops to visit. What a great husband you have. My husband would do that, but our deal would probably be about finding places to eat fish. I'm looking forward to ferreting out shops in the Row by Row hop this year.

    1. And he drove me to three more the other day! He is pretty great. 😊
      The only regret I have is that we were a few weeks too early for the Row by Row Experience. Maybe next year!

  2. Thank you for a delightful trip down memory lane. We lived in rural Alaska for awhile, I wish these shops had been around on our trips into "town" I do have fond memories of sitting with new friends and learning how to do traditional beading and make earrings from caribou hide and porcupine quills and being gifted with a kuspuq that some of the elder ladies made for me. When people found out I had a sewing machine I was asked to repair dog harnesses for a race coming up! I made crazy quilt pillows for all my siblings that winter. Now I really want a rabbit rose to wear on my winter hat. Alaska is magical, I'm glad you got to experience it!

    1. What a great story, Beth! We visited the Anchorage Museum yesterday (probably a future post), and I was amazed by the intricate beading that was done on moccasins, mittens, and clothing. How cool that you had friends to teach you those skills. I can only imagine how wonderful your crazy quilt pillows are--lucky siblings! Alaska is pretty magical!

  3. I enjoyed seeing the Alaskan-themed fat quarters and those artistic seam rippers. It's so nice to know that there you saw many quilt shops during your travels.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed my quilt shop visits. Thanks for joining me!