Old church a blessing for quilt aficionados
When does our devotion to quilting become a religious experience?
It happened for me when I walked into a quaint quilt shop housed in a former Lutheran church in Newton, Iowa, about 30 miles east of Des Moines.
Owner Laura Jochems purchased the white steepled church in April when the congregation offered it for sale. Instead of pews, the sanctuary now holds white shelves bulging with bolts of fabric and an area of tables where she sells Brother sewing machines.
Downstairs in the roomy basement, Jochems has plenty of classroom space for quilt workshops, as well as a large longarm sewing machine.
She opened the business in June in the city of 15,000, and by the time of my September visit, Jochems was counting her blessings as well as the greenbacks.
The sign that first caught my attention from the street was about as far from pious as angels are from black magic. Large, crimson letters in a disorderly font screamed “Crazy Redhead Quilting.” Below it stated: Parking in Back.
“Hey, look! Let’s stop here,” I said to my husband, who was driving us along First Avenue East. He made a severe left-hand turn and pulled into a lot behind the church. It took me a moment to realize that a flag on the building’s front door that said “OPEN” was beckoning me into the crazy redhead’s shop.
Sure enough, the strawberry blonde proprietress inside greeted me effervescently and praised her variety of quilting wares. Of course, Jochems was preaching to the choir, as they say, with her litany of inventory.
On top of the shelves, she displayed a collection of at least a hundred toy sewing machines, many metal and some plastic versions from the 1950s and ‘60s.
“At least now, I finally have room to show them off,” Jochems said, referring to the once-reverential building with its peaked ceiling supported by wooden rafters.
Because she had been to quilt market the month before in Kansas City, Jochems was eager to share some new finds — leaf-shaped batik bowls, for example, made with stiff stabilizer that can be molded with heat into any shape. It’s called Inn-Spire Plus.
I couldn’t resist purchasing a yard of new fabric called “Text” by Timeless Treasures. I recently had learned to send messages by thumbing the letters on my cellphone keyboard, and this techie shorthand fascinated me: 2G2BT (two good to be true), ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing) and GNSD (Good Night, Sweet Dreams).
When my husband tired of waiting for me in the car, he entered the church, where an authentic back pew is reserved for wayward gentlemen to patiently wait for their shoppers.
After I’d paid my respects at the altar of quilting, we headed back to the car. Dear husband was quick to point out an Iowa license plate on a nearby vehicle, which we guessed belonged to Jochems. The novelty frame read: “Obsessed Quilter. Will Brake for Fabric.”
She is a crazy redhead. Hallelujah.