It’s great to get away in the summer-time to visit new places, meet exciting people and to have the opportunity to get to know and to teach fellow quilters and bag makers. It’s an added bonus when the shop you visit is so well laid out and the owners are so warm and friendly. That was my experience earlier in August when I visited the Around the Block Quilt Shop in Beaverlodge, Alberta to teach two two-day classes.
The Around the Block Quilt Shop
The Around the Block Quilt Shop is owned by Fay and Lyle Sipe. Their talented daughter Erin is also a shareholder, guaranteeing a continuous Sipe family connection for the business for years to come.
Fay and Lyle started their fledgling quilt shop in an old rickety store in the same location in 1999. It wasn’t long after when the building was razed and they custom build the present shop, a 4,500 square foot show piece. With 14 foot ceilings and boosted lighting it’s the perfect venue to display finished quilts a full line of sewing machines and all the quilting treasures.
Fay was working at a bank at the prior to their purchase and Lyle ran cattle on the family farm. They even owned a gas station for a time near Dawson Creek. Both felt like they needed a change in order to create a truly fulfilled life. Lyle, sensing there was business potential in Fay’s hobby, was the driving force behind their big career changes. Seeing them together you’d understand how perfect this venture is for the both of them.
A quilter’s dream in Beaverlodge, Alberta
In case you are wondering, Beaverlodge, a town of about 3,000, is not the spot you’d expect to find such a well stocked, bright and spacious quilt shop. Quilters come from miles around to visit, listen to the vinyl playing on Lyles juke box, try out the various sewing machines for sale, shop for the latest fabrics, and take classes like those held at their annual summer retreat that I was invited to teach at.
If you are a map lover like me, Beaverlodge lies about 42 kms north of Grand Prairie, Alberta and is about an hour from the British Columbia border. When Erin told me they were just an hour from Dawson Creek I displayed my general ineptitude with northern Canadian geography, getting Dawson Creek mixed up with Dawson City. It’s no wonder a greenhorn like me was confused as it seems to stay bright outside till well into the night. Thankfully Fay and Lyle gave me a map to straighten me out and drove me over to Dawson Creek for an evening tour just to reinforce my geography lesson.
I was thrilled to have been invited to be the guest teacher by Fay and was excited to have been asked to design a bag using the shop’s name, Around the Block, as inspiration for a new bag. Since bags tend to travel that inspirational idea was easy to work with. Early in the year I sent the prototype bag to Fay and Lyle. Lyle was so enamored with the bag that we ended up trading just so that he could keep it.
Day 1: The Around the Block Bag
The classes were a blast. Having so many bright and engaged students was such a rush.
As you’ll see, my two groups made good headway, with many completely finishing their bags in their first day of the retreat. Everybody will be going back to the Around the Block Quilt Shop with their Around the Block Bags to get their 5% discount from Lyle in the months to come. (hint, hint!) That’s me in the purple.
Day 2: The Roll & Go
Our second day of the class was less intense as the gals worked on my Roll & Go design.
It’s a tag-along quilt to take to picnics, the beach, to use as a stadium blanket or to keep warm around at a Bar-B-Q come evening. After inserting 3 zippers in the bag the day before the one zipper installation on the carry-all portion of the Roll & Go was a breeze.
Students had the opportunity to create their own personalized embroidered pattern sections prior to class, the front of the carry-all being the perfect spot to feature a team logo or to personalize with a name.
Making several blocks to form the first row was quick work and left lots of time for the no-fail, free-form machine quilting technique on each block. Sashing strips sewn by hand or machine completed the rows. There were a lot of smiles as the students discovered just how easy it is to do a little free-form machine quilting.
Naturally it’s always fun to see the color combinations that come together. I’m convinced that choosing your own colors is one of the most creative outlets in quilting.
The time flew by and then it was time for me to fly as well after saying farewell to my new friends. I left with happy memories of a great shop, a fun class and of many very fine quilters. Thanks everyone!