PRINCETON, Ill. — When friends become business partners,
something’s got to give. Usually it’s the friendship.
“We’re not even friends” was Beth Rosene’s response to Carol
Rosene approached Keller, who was then only an acquaintance,
to talk about opening up a store that catered to and supplied their shared hobby
— quilting. The two women met on the quilting circuit, as they traveled to
different quilt shows, events and shops.
“I said I’ve always had this thing where if you go into
business with a friend, you end up becoming enemies and Beth said,” Keller
“But we’re not even friends,” Rosene finished her sentence.
It’s safe to say that Keller’s fear did not come true, and
that quilting, which has long been a traditionally social activity with women
gathering to sew pieces of fabric together to make bed coverings, again showed
it’s social side.
Rosene bought the building on Main Street in Princeton, and
the two opened Quilter’s Garden in March of 2000.
Beth and her husband, Cary, are grain farmers, and Carol and
her husband, Marty, raise grain and cattle.
Far from being enemies, Rosene and Keller reflect the social
side of quilting, finishing each other’s sentences and occasionally laughing and
giggling at a comment.
That’s the same atmosphere that they encourage in the shop
and through the two annual quilting retreats and the classes they offer.
The social side of quilting — of being able to talk to
people face to face and relax over a shared hobby, exchange tips and information
— is why the traditional craft has maintained and increased its popularity.
“It’s so much the camaraderie,” Keller said.
“People love to get together to quilt,” Rosene added.
The retreats — a weekend filled with quilting — are
conducted twice a year at the nearby Wise Guys Banquet Center.
“We meet at Wise Guys, and we take over the whole banquet
center for the weekend. We just sew and snack and giggle. It’s that camaraderie
and that we all love quilting and sewing so much,” Rosene said.
While the social side of quilting has stayed the same, the
mechanical side has changed.
“It did start out as totally utilitarian. Women took apart
worn garments or had leftover fabric from making garments, and they used that in
quilting. Everything was done slowly and by hand and in groups,” Rosene said.
Technology has advanced in the traditional craft. Machines
dedicated to sewing quilts can cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Quilter’s Garden offers all the tools and various fabrics
needed to create quilts for gifts and for home decoration. Many younger people
are getting interested in quilting as a way to create decorations for their
home, such as wall hangings, pillows and throws.
The appeal of quilting is not just the social aspect, but of
creating something tangible that can be passed to future generations.
“It’s something they can accomplish. It’s not only their
hobby, but it’s producing something of use, and it’s such gratification to
produce a quilt and then give it as a gift,” Rosene said.
Most garden communities have some sort of a garden club, a
group of enthusiasts who gather to create and swap ideas, and Quilter’s Garden
has its Garden Club. Garden Club is a group of about 70 quilters who meet
monthly to work on projects, swap ideas, tips and tricks.
They also have an annual project, a quilt to work on that
will be created in 12 months. But the design of the quilt has Rosene’s and
Keller’s own stamp on it.
“One thing Beth and I have done is we design a lot of our
own patterns, so that’s a unique feature of our shop,” Keller said.
This year’s project is called “Barn to Quilt.” Rosene drew
on her and Keller’s shared farming and agriculture background for the
Rosene drove in Bureau, Lee and Ogle counties and
photographed various barns. She and Keller then turned the barns into quilt
block designs and cut out the fabric for each block.
“We kit the fabric for one block, and it’s ‘block of the
month,’ so the Garden Club members and the public can purchase one block a
month. Then the next month, they come back, and we have another block ready,”
Keller and Rosene have degrees in home economics fields, and
they both come from retail clothing and textile and crafting backgrounds. But
they emphasized that sewing garments and quilting are two entirely different
Even the tools used are different. The walls of the cozy
back room in the shop are filled with the different rulers and rotary cutters,
used to cut quilting material.
Accuracy is the most difficult skill to master in quilting,
“You need to be accurate, so learning to sew accurately and
learning to cut with the tools because you don’t use the same tools from garment
sewing to quilting are probably some of the most difficult,” Keller said.
The front of the shop is stacked with bolts of quilting
fabric, and it’s here that Quilter’s Garden spaces itself ahead of the fabric
departments in big-box stores.
“The basic fabric is on a greige good. The basic greige good
of our fabric is much better quality than the basic greige good of a big-box
store. Our quality is much better, so our quilts are going to hold up for many
more years — they won’t start fraying or falling apart,” Rosene said.
Quilters can make pieced quilts, the traditional patchwork
quilts, or they can make panel quilts, which are pre-printed and easier and
faster to produce. Quilter’s Garden also offers a large selection of Shannon
Fabrics Cuddle varieties, thick, lush fabric that resembles a luxurious fur
“Once people make one with the Shannon Cuddle fabric, they
want to make more — it’s so soft,” Keller said.
Classes at Quilter’s Garden teach new and beginning quilters
the steps of getting started. Those who take the classes reflect a wide array of
backgrounds ages — and gender.
“We’ve got a man tonight, two ladies in their 30s and
another lady who’s newly retired and a couple of others,” Rosene said of one
night’s beginning quilting class.
The classes are conducted on an as-requested basis.
The fear that Keller had, 14 years ago when her quilting
acquaintance suggested they go into business together, appears to have been
unfounded. Keller and Rosene are firm friends as are their husbands, they both
They extend that warmth and hospitality and sense of fun to
all who enter their shop. In fact, quilting is such a social activity that
traveling quilters even have their own guidebook, a thick volume that has all
the quilt shops in the U.S.
“We get people from the Chicago suburbs, from Peoria and the
Quad Cities, from all over,” Keller said.
But for all who enter the doors of Quilter’s Garden, they
are more than customers. The thread of camaraderie and laughter and fun run
through every encounter made through a common love of a traditional skills, that
of sewing quilts.
“These people aren’t just our customers, they become our
friends,” Rosene said.