Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Quiltfolk Road Trip to Cape Cod

My ideal vacation involves a road trip and a few quilt shop visits. Nothing nears the warm sense of “home” I (Teri) feel in a shop filled with the friendly faces of those who share my passion. Imagine the joy of finding myself on a road trip to Cape Cod last fall, visiting three new shops in one day! Not to mention the fact that I was taking this road trip with the staff of Quiltfolk magazine: I would be writing articles about three of the shops for Issue 05. 

I have been a fan of this publication since its first issue in December of 2016. Kara and I discovered the Quiltfolk booth at Market in Houston that fall and were instantly drawn to their vision, which mirrors our view of the value of the stories of the quilts we create. I couldn't wait to read the first issue when it arrived, and it did not disappoint. I eagerly awaited each issue and devoured them, each time visiting a new state and "meeting" many fellow quilters. I was excited to be joining the team as a writer.

Quiltfolk display at 2016 Market in Houston 

In late September, I left warm sunshine in Maryland to fly to Boston, where an uninvited guest named José was expected to make his arrival in eastern Massachusetts, as well. The remnant of that hurricane enveloped us with gray, rainy weather. We rose early, and armed with our morning coffee, braved the storm and headed to the Cape with a packed agenda—three quilt shops and a gathering of guild members. The bleak weather was no match for the warmth we met as we visited with Cape Cod quilters. The three shops we visited that day were unique and different, but each resonated with me in some special way.

A tiny sliver of the goodness at Tumbleweed:
shelves organized by color, and reproductions
Our first stop was Tumbleweed Quilt Shop, where we met with the manager, Mary Carlson. The shop was extensive; my budget could take a big hit if I lived close to Tumbleweed. Mary talked about how she encourages her customers to enjoy their quilting and have fun—not to fret over every little "mistake" they make. “Don’t worry about it; cover it with a quilting stitch or something," she advises. "Step back, like you’re at the door of the bedroom—can you see it? And if they say no, I say okay; if you’re not entering it in a national show or putting it in a museum, it’s not a problem, right? So relax!” Yes, we should all heed her sage advice; our quilting should be fun! We have often told our students much the same thing: those 'errors' are really design opportunities for more appliqué or embroidery! The entire staff at Tumbleweed was welcoming, sharing their stories and projects as if we were longtime friends.

I left with my purchase of this lighthouse panel,
to stitch the story of my trip to Cape Cod.
After lunch—a lobster roll, scallops, and clam chowder, of course—we headed to our next stop, Quilt-ish of Cape Cod. Owner June Herold is all about stories, and she is quite the storyteller about everything Cape Cod. Most of her quilt and fabric designs reflect the stories of the cape. Her customers all leave having learned something about the area; but June has the ability to draw stories from her visitors as well. She shared some fascinating tales that she had heard from patrons, often spurred on by a fabric panel depicting local life, like the one of all the lighthouses on the cape. One particular tale was told by granddaughters of the lightkeeper in Narragansett Bay when the hurricane of 1938 hit. "They told me, 'Our grandfather saved a number of people; only six were left, and the storm tossed all six of them out to sea, including my great-grandmother. All six of them died, but the sea tossed him back. Our grandfather survived.' They tell me unbelievable stories," June exclaimed.

We next visited the home of one of the members of the Bayberry Quilters of Cape Cod, the largest guild of the area. What a pleasure it was to hear the stories of their stunning work. Not only are they incredibly active as a group—making and donating quilts to those in need, and putting on an annual quilt show which draws tourists in droves—but they are also prolific in their individual art work, with many varying styles. 

Our final visit was to Cape Cod Quilts and Cottages, owned by Pat Murphy. Pat's charm and wit were delightful—sunshine on a rainy day. Pat is one who grabs every opportunity to live her dreams. Formerly an Army sergeant and then mayor of a Connecticut town, she is currently fulfilling her dream to own a quilt shop. And she rents cottages. (Sounds like the PERFECT vacation destination...a cottage by a quilt shop!) One quilt in particular really grabbed my attention in Pat's shop: her 9/11 quilt, below. My eyes kept returning to this riveting piece; I asked her to tell me more about it.

Quilt remembering 9/11, by Pat Murphy, Cape Cod, MA
I told her that it was hard to look at this and not have an emotional response, reliving aspects of that day. Pat responded, "I’ve taken it down a couple of times, but whenever I do, someone comes in and says they’ve brought a friend to see the 9/11 quilt. So I put it back up. I used to have it a prominent spot in my office, when I was mayor. It helped when people came in with a trivial complaint; it gave perspective: your day could be worse." She pointed out many of the items in her border. "I’m an old army sergeant, so I had to put in some patriotic stuff. Computers were down, so I included computer board fabric, bricks from the crumbled buildings, and fabric with twin towers all needed to be in the quilt. And photos of the first responders. It was really about the people. This quilt was my way of getting rid of that anger everybody had that day." Indeed, I could feel that emotion when I looked at her piece—a striking visual reminder of the blessing, and the cost, of our freedom.

"The explosion was created with dryer lint and tulle.
I already had the fabric with the people." 

Pat included this poem, written by a friend (Ron Crowcroft)
who is a naturalized citizen.  She said they would read this
poem each year at the  9/11 ceremony when she was mayor.
"It was a tearjerker, so I'd have someone else read it."
You can read more about Pat's quilt by clicking here.

When Michael McCormick, Quiltfolk's Editor in Chief, first called me to talk about the possibility of doing some writing for the magazine, I was—as you might imagine—thrilled. I am learning that one is never too old for new adventures, or even brand new ventures. By nature, I am not a risk-taker, but I am learning how to step outside my comfort zone. Not that it could ever be uncomfortable talking to quilters!! 

I so enjoyed spending the day with the Quiltfolk staff, watching (and being a part of) the behind-the-scenes workings of the magazine. It was different for me not to be taking pictures, as that is often a big part of my quilt shop stops. But observing Leah, the photographer, work her magic was a great learning experience for me. My day was filled with lessons: don't fret the mistakes and have fun stitching; tell your stories; and strive to live your dreams. In fact, I never know what my next dream might be. Sometimes they just fall into my lap!

My first printed by-line

I have only given you a glimpse into one day of the Quiltfolk road trip through eastern Massachusetts. Issue 05 is packed with more quilt shops, quilters, and quilty goodness. I hope you'll check it out!

To learn more about Quiltfolk magazine and how to subscribe, click here
To read our previous posts about Quiltfolk, check out these posts:


  1. it is nice to visit your site.great article.thanks for sharing it.

  2. I have to agree that I enjoyed every bit of this issue (and all of them). Congratulations on your superb article. I must admit when I first read it I was wondering why that name sounded so familiar. It was out of context (like seeing your first grade teacher in the grocery store!) so it took me a minute to realize that it was you! Keep up the good work! And, thanks for sharing your talent for writing (and quilting).

    1. Thanks, Wendy! I had to chuckle, as I received plenty of those looks from my students back when I was teaching elementary school when I'd see them out in public. :)