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Quilt Shop in Howell Continues Traditional Hobby Long Into 21st Century

Mouse Creek provides unique opportunities for customers in a friendly environment

 

Walking into the it's almost impossible to not be overwhelmed by the variety of fabric the relatively small shop offers. 

Looking around her shop at 4645 Highway 9, owner Claire Berg said one of the best parts of her job is the fact that not only do her and her employees know each of the more than 3000 bolts of fabric, but they also know how to help their customers find just the right one for their project.

"I think it's because we all love what we do," she said. "All the girls that work here are all friends of mine and it's just our passion for so long."

That passion means seeing even a small piece of fabric that a customer brings in and then flying around the store to find other pieces that would complement it perfectly. "They all have a really great sense," she said. "When someone comes in, they just say I need a match do you have anything that goes with this and we just take off."

Even in a business like quilting shops where locations are few and far between, Berg said she knows she has to give her customers a reason to keep coming back.

"When you need that perfect shade of blue to match somebody's fabric, if I don't have it, they'll go someplace else," she said. 

Having been a quilter herself for close to 40 years, Berg said she was excited for the opportunity to open the shop four years ago.

"It's a hobby that just kind of took over my life," she said. "And isn't it great to be able to do what you like as your business."

What started out as an interesting article in a magazine has become so much more as her interest in quilting has changed along with the times.

"I just kind of taught myself how to do it and then somewhere in the late 70's or early 80's quilting kind of made a turn and kind of started to come back into people's vision again," she said.

With more contemporary fabrics available, she said more people got interested in a hobby that had started to fade. "The industry really just bloomed around that time period," she said.

These days, customers are looking for a variety of styles and fabrics for the quilts as they go from an idea to a beautiful creation, Berg said.

"A lot of times, quilt shops have a focus and some will be reproduction fabric, or they'll be contemporary," Berg noted. "I'd say we're a very eclectic shop. We have a wide range of fabrics from very contemporary to very traditional and a good selection within each, so I think in that way we're very diverse."

Whether it is someone who has been quilting for decades or someone just looking to try something new, Berg said her shop offers something for everyone include classes for quilters of all skill levels.

"We're getting a little bit of a shift in age," she said. "We get some much younger quilters who are starting to come in and we're getting more women in their 30's, 40's and 50's who are coming back in and starting up again."

The new blood in quilting is good, but Berg said the veterans also play an important role in keeping the traditions going. That includes doing much of the work by hand instead of using a more modern machine.

"There are many of the quilters who still do hand work in one way or the other because there is a tie to history for us," she said. "I think we feel that pretty strongly as we do some of these different projects. You work on them and you fell like women did this 100 years ago and we're still doing the same sorts of things."

For the customers at Mouse Creek, quilting is the focus, but Berg said it is not the only craft done in the shop. "I think we keep trying to keep the needle arts going and we don't want to see the needle arts die so we do the embroidery here and somebody was teaching smocking and all of the old needle arts that in today's world are just disappearing."

Berg said another problem quilters face is simply finding the time to sit down and work on their creations. "It is a challenge for all of us because apparently the women that retire are busier after they retire than they were before," she said with a laugh. "It's a challenge for all of us to find those times when you can sit down and sew."

Because of that, the shop offers a four-hour stretch of time every other Friday for quilters to come in and take some time for themselves. "We have four hours of just dedicated time where the women can come in and work on their projects and just have that friendship and collaboration with other women," she said.

They may not be able to cut the outside world off completely, but Berg said it may be as close as many of them can get. "I think what we find is that when we don't quilt for a while, you start craving it. You miss doing it. It is definitely an obsession."

Even teaching at two local colleges in addition to working at the shop, Berg admits she is no exception to that obsession. "I quilt every single night. I sit doing my handwork every single night," she said. In addition to spending close to six hours a night quilting, she said she also spends a day or two just working at her sewing machine. "My challenge is to keep my customers challenged," she said. "If I've got samples up and they can see what they can do with the fabric it keeps their creative juices going and we all benefit from that."

In addition to her passion for quilting, Berg said she also has a deep connection to the town that she has called home for more than 30 years.

In fact, some of the women who work in the shop are people she met serving on the PTA at the old Southard School. "It's where my friends are," she said. "It's where my roots are."

Having looked at other places to open the shop, Berg said she was glad to find a place not only in the town where she lives but also near her home. She said she has been known to leave the shop while helping a customer to get the right fabric from her own personal stash.

"It's where my kids grew up," she said of Howell. "It's where my whole family is."

Even in these tough economic times, Berg said she has been lucky enough to have people come to her shop for what can be an expensive hobby.

"I have a fabulous customer base," she said. "It's just that sisterhood, that friendship of quilters that is so strong and I think we are very successful at building a place where they feel like they can come and they can hang out and they can be here and it's a safe place." 

For more information on the shop check out their website and their Facebook page

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