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Shop Springs quilt shop feels 'sew right'

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By KEN BECKSpecial to The Wilson Post

SHOP SPRINGS -- For some ladies and a few gents, quilting can be just as addictive as hunting, fishing or golfing.

During the past five years, Lebanon’s Margie Harris has grown just the right place to feed the needs of those hooked on quilting at her Country Store Quilt Shop in Shop Springs. She opened her store with 250 bolts of fabric. Today, the inventory numbers about 2,000 bolts.

Her charming shop is tucked inside a 25-by-50-foot building that was a country store run by the Coffee family from the 1920s into the 1980s. Two white rocking chairs on the wooden front porch beckon travelers to come sit a spell, and, once guests walk through the red front door, they’re greeted a welcome from the clanging cowbell overhead.

 

Margie Harris models a quilt on the front porch of her Country Store Quilt Shop in Shop Springs. She opened her quilt shop five years ago in a 1922 building that served the community for seven decades as a country store.

KEN BECK / The Wilson Post

“I’ve been sewing since I was 4 or 5 years old,” Harris said two weeks ago as she celebrated the fifth anniversary of her business. “My great-aunt made doll clothes for me, and she and my mom taught me how to make my own clothes.”

Now into her 18th year as a nurse at UMC, Harris was creating her own wardrobe by junior high school and began making quilts in her 20s. That was some 300 quilts ago.

“I have a quilt my great-great-aunt made. I think you can just love quilts. I always have,” she said.

Harris is not alone in her passion for quilts. In fact, she has six associates who help keep things knitted together at the little shop. 

Melanie Jenkins and Pam Thorne of Lebanon assist as long-arm quilters, while Joy Adams, Joyce Midgett and Edna Forbes, also of Lebanon, and Ann Wilkerson of Lascassas volunteer with various tasks around the store. Basically, the shop has become their hangout and an escape from the busy world outside its doors.

Wilkerson’s husband has another name for the place.

“Whenever I leave to come here, my husband says, ‘You going down to the pool hall?’” Wilkerson joked.

On the fifth anniversary weekend, Sharlene Litchy of Franklin found several items to her liking at the store. She hits the place about three times a year.  “The quilt shops have shop hops every year. That’s how I found out about it,” Litchy said. “Every shop is a little different. I love coming here. I’m very visual, so I have to see something. Margie’s great. I happen to like what she likes.”

“We want to be friendly and helpful,” said Harris, most often found behind a 9-by-6-foot cutting table with a rotary cutter in her hand as she slices through fabrics that lay on a giant cutting mat.

While her shop offers quilters fabrics, pattern kits, books and notions (thread, pins, thimbles, needles) at a fair price, the best thing here is good advice that comes from experience and at no charge.

“Every quilt is distinct. Customers are looking for fabrics, and I help them pick out colors. Some people can’t see the big picture,” said Harris, who has a knack of seeing beyond a bolt of fabric.

As for quilt patterns, there are thousands of varieties. Some of the more well-known include bear paw, maple leaf, log cabin, nine patch, churn dish, shoofly and Dresden plate.

The queen bee of quilters offers classes and plans a beginning-intermediate class on Saturday, July 11 that will run six weeks as students sew a churn dash legacy quilt. Classes are held in back of store where chairs encircle a table with room for six, and a white Janome sewing machine sits ready for nimble hands.

There are four basic steps in making a quilt according to Harris: 1: Picking out the pattern and fabric; 2: Cutting it out; 3: Piecing it; 4: Quilting it and binding it (quilting is the stitching together the batting or the insulation, the backing and the quilt top,

Harris said it can take 30 to 40 hours to make a quilt, and the cost of materials for a beginning quilter might run $250. However, to purchase a queen-sized quilt, the price could easily be $600 to $700.

Thirteen gorgeous quilts in a variety of patterns decorate the side and back walls of Harris’s shop. Most are for display, but two are for sale at more than $600 apiece.

“Nowadays, there is a big market for people who like to quilt. They make them for family gifts, wedding gifts and people just enjoy making quilts,” Harris said. “Friends go on retreats all the time and sew together. It’s therapeutic.”

“We make them for aesthetics,” Wilkerson said. “My grandmother made quilts during the Depression out of denim jeans and men’s ties because of necessity.”

For retired advertising agency artist and graphic designer Jim Murff, quilting is a form of expression.

“I made my first quilt 10 years ago but been hard at it for the past five years. They (the women at Country Store Quilt Shop) taught me how,” Murff said. “I go down there and hang out, and they say, ‘Who taught you how to sew like that?’ They jump on me and show me how to do it right. They’ve always been helpful. They’re good people and have quite an excellence selection of the stuff I like to do.”The aged country store building is owned by Forbes, whose husband Sammy operates Shop Springs Farmers Market a half mile farther down the highway beneath a shade tree.

Edna had seen a quilting kit that Harris had packaged and met with her.

Said Edna, “I told Margie, ‘Maybe I’ve got something you need. I’ve got a shop in the Shop Springs community on Highway 70 between Lebanon and Watertown. It would make a good quilt shop.’”   

Harris and two friends explored the old store and realized it would make a perfect quilt shop, indeed. So, five years ago, Edna and Sammy painted the outside and fixed the electrical unit, and Margie and her husband Robert painted the inside of the structure.

Today, customers come from across Middle Tennessee and also drift in from Alabama, Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia, even from Brazil.

“My dream was to have a quilt shop and Edna made that dream come true,” Harris said.

And, speaking of dreams, Wilkerson added, “Life is better sleeping under a quilt.”

Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at kbtag2@gmail.com.

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