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Ashland quilt store featured in national magazine

Karen Bates is almost as good at keeping a secret as she is at designing quilts.

The owner of Sew Creative found out last July that her Ashland fabric and quilt store had been plucked out of some 3,000 quilt stores across the U.S. to be featured in Quilt Sampler, a Better Homes & Gardens magazine.

Upon surprising Bates with the good news, a Quilt Sampler representative had two requests: keep the honor and its planned five-page spread a secret until just before the publication date; and create a quilt pattern for Quilt Sampler to photograph for the spread.

Bates managed to do both, and the Quilt Sampler featuring her original design hit news stands Friday.

“It’s a huge honor,” said Bates, whose store is at 115 E. Main St., next to Paddington Station. “I was very excited when I first heard, and we have been gearing up for this for the last three to four months because we are selling kits so that people can make the quilt that I designed for the magazine.”

The kit, titled “Walkabout” and available on Sew Creative’s website for $199, includes 25 fabrics, and once Bates announced the honor and released “Walkabout,” the orders started pouring in.

Sew Creative was one of 10 shops selected to be featured in Quilt Sampler, which is published twice a year. To apply, Bates had to submit a detailed application on her shop’s history, business promotions, charitable work, teaching schedules and design philosophies. A panel of quilt experts and American Patchwork and Quilting staffers review the applications and select the winners. Bates was interviewed and her shop was photographed for the spread.

“They told me in the summer (that Sew Creative was selected), but I had to keep it hush-hush until only about a month ago,” Bates said. “They called me on my cellphone. They didn’t even want me to tell my staff until it was much closer to the [print] time. They really try to keep all the [winners] top secret until a couple weeks before.”

The honor, while great for business, put pressure on Bates and her staff to create a pattern worthy of a national publication. One of the first decisions concerning the fabric and color scheme proved to be a no-brainer. Sew Creative has one of the largest collections of Australian aboriginal fabric in the country, Bates said, so she and her staff decided to start there.

It’s a choice that will likely satisfy Sew Creative’s regular customers and also attract new ones.

“I have a very contemporary quilt store,” said Bates, who has been busy throughout the COVID-19 lockdown sewing masks. “It’s not your grandma’s quilt store, and aboriginal fabric is bright and bold. I just fell in love with it, and we just kept buying it, and it became of one of things we’re known for.”

Bates said Quilt Sampler’s instructions regarding her design were specific: they wanted her to draw two quilt designs and color each two different ways so they would have four options from which to choose. Bates loves to play with fabric during her design process, so she reverse-engineered Quilt Sampler’s instructions.

She knew she wanted to use purple fabric and had a general idea of what the quilt might look like, but rather than starting with a rough sketch she broke out her machine and scissors and played with different combinations. After a few long days of work, she thought she had it — which meant it was time to send the pattern to Quilt Sampler for final approval. She took pictures, filling in with a couple of color choices, then sent another pattern, a sort of backup, just in case.

“And I said, this is done, this is what I think would be great; you let me know,” Bates said. “And they just said, ‘Done, we love it.’ So that was really great. I was so relieved, because I really didn’t want to make another one.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.

Sew Creative owner Karen Bates in her store in downtown Ashland.{ } Andy Atkinson / Daily Tidings