Charlotte Wolfe is surrounded by bolts of creativity at her quilt shop in downtown Newton. This creativity comes from within Wolfe herself and from the other talented people she has working at both of her shops, as well as customers and numerous finished quilts in a rainbow of colors that hang on the walls.
Inspirational magazines and books also contribute to the shop?s creative feel.
Wolfe has an extensive selection of fabrics in 8,000 bolts, including batiks and cottons, quilt patterns and quilting supplies, such as rotary cutters and templates.
And she loves to make quilts.
?Creating something from scratch is very satisfying to the soul,? Wolfe said. ?I love playing with fabric ? sewing together lots of different fabric, shapes, sizes, seeing the magic happen. The end product, quilts, are cozy and secure year round. They can be made in any weight, even for air-conditioned houses. I feel comfortable surrounded by homemade items, especially ones I?ve made myself.?
She likes to experiment with fabrics to see what happens when she cuts them up and sews them back together.
?It?s just fun to do,? Wolfe said.
As part of her quilting passion, Wolfe has joined the Emma Creek Quilt Guild, which will offer a show, ?Quilter?s Delight,? this fall. It will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 18 and 19 at Salem United Methodist Church in Newton. Admission is $5, and a tea room will serve coffee, tea and dessert items.
A whole cloth opportunity quilt, ?Quilter?s Delight,? will be given away during a donation drawing at the close of the show. The show is a fund-raiser for the guild, with money going toward educational programs.
Wolfe started sewing when she was quite young, making such things as doll clothes, and then in college, she majored in costume design. In 1985, she opened Charlotte?s Natural Fabrics in Hesston and then moved in 1987 to where Peace Connections now is in Newton.
?We moved during a car show,? Wolfe said, laughing. ?It was hot, and I remember Randy (her husband) was driving a big rental truck I had.?
When they brought the large truck downtown, car show participants had to move his vehicles.
When Wolfe opened her first store, she said there was a renaissance of quilting going on at the time.
?It was just a trend in the industry,? Wolfe said. ?It was just a natural thing that was happening. People who loved fabric just started making quilts again. I really probably started making quilts after I?d had my store a couple of years.?
Wolfe carried 100 percent cotton fabrics and said ?everyone else? sold poly-cotton blend fabrics. Since cotton fabrics are better for making quilts, quilters would shop at her store.
At the time, Newton had three other fabric stores: Four Walls, Pin Cushion and Quilt Room, Wolfe said, and there was little fabric made just for quilting. Then Andover Fabrics and Hoffman Fabrics starting making all-cotton fabric. Before that, they only offered poly-cotton blends for clothing construction, Wolfe said.
Now, Wolfe mostly caters to quilters, although at her other shop, Charlotte?s Bargain Fabric & Stitchery at the Newton outlet mall, she offers some clothing fabric.
Wolfe learned how to quilt from books and some classes, like ones offered at market.
?You learn a lot by making mistakes,? Wolfe said.
Wolfe the student then became a teacher to her daughter, Lily Schneider, who picked up an interest in quilting from her mother.
?It?s similar to beading or embroidery or hand-stitching as therapeutic most of the time,? Schneider said. ?I literally grew up in Mom?s store, so it was almost impossible not to get the quilting bug.
?While I was definitely blessed in respect to having a mother who took time to teach me how to piece, arrange colors and use a sewing machine, quilting is really a way to use what artistic skills I have formed to help create beautiful pieces.?
Schneider recently brought to the downtown store one such piece, which she was making as a table topper in a variety of colored fabrics set off with white, all in hexagon shapes. She and her mother were talking about which fabric to use in the table topper?s border.
In addition to discussing quilting projects, Schneider also works part time for her mother?s stores, mostly from home.
?Lily is a vital link to the social media crowd of all ages,? Wolfe said. ?I write newsletters, Lily promotes them and keeps the store in front of people on Facebook, Pinterest, etc. She has helped design our evolving ?look? and is involved with promotion, the print media and advertising, as well as social media platforms.?
All of these advertising efforts, classes and a large variety of fabrics keep customers coming through the doors, doors Wolfe likes having open. What Wolfe enjoys most about running a quilt shop is getting to purchase just what she wants.
?It?s on hand because I want it,? Wolfe said.
The store has a wide range of fabrics ? a lot of variety, from reproduction fabrics in Civil War-era and 1930s, to modern. All fabrics are new, and there is a great deal of turnover.
Wolfe stands by her business philosophy, which is ?to buy what I like and find people with similar tastes to (mine) who I can share it with who will keep me in business. I like lots of things, so that?s not so hard.?
Another part of her business philosophy is to have a friendly atmosphere conducive to creativity, Wolfe said, so having like-minded people working there is important.
Wolfe appears to like what she?s doing, which goes along with her philosophy of life ? to be sure she likes what she?s doing. She said that is a ?little bit weird? for a businessperson because when she was younger, she tried to not pay too much attention to what other people thought of her, but as a businessperson, she does have to pay attention to what other people think.
?My philosophy is to not be thinking carefully about what you?re doing every day,? Wolfe said. ?I feel extremely lucky to have been able to do this for 30 years or however long I?ve been doing this.?
Schneider said she loves working with her mom.
?It?s a huge blessing to be able to have her as a resource,? Schneider said. ?Sewing is a passion of mine, and I know that she helped ignite that fire. It?s not necessarily something that comes by super easy for me ? like some of the techniques ? but she helps push me out of my comfort zone.?
Schneider, Wolfe and staff at the store also are involved in the 15th annual Central Kansas Shop Hop, which will be from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 4 and 5, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 6 at 11 participating area quilt shops. These shops include Charlotte?s in Newton, Cottonwood Quilts in Hutchinson, Hen Feathers in Wichita, Kessler Creations in Hillsboro and Needle in a Haystack in Severy.
A black-and-white fabric, called ?Black Tie Affair,? was printed specially for the shop hop and includes names of all the towns participating, as well as the word ?Kansas.?
Each shop will sell fabric for one particular block, different than any blocks in stores taking part in the hop. Each shop also will have its own finishing kits for sale, designing their own quilts from all of the stores? different blocks. The quilts can be viewed at www.centralkansasquiltshophop.4t.com in September. Those with passports stamped at all 11 stores are eligible to win prizes.
Those attending the shop hop may notice trends in the quilting industry, including the use of hexagons. Trends also are showing up in color and style, Wolfe said. Popular colors include blue, turquoise, magenta and coral.
?These colors appeal to younger people but also to older, since many people like blue,? Wolfe said. ?Lots of use of solid color fabrics in the patterns being shown together with prints. The industry is encouraging younger stitchers, as well as men with lots of variety in styles, particularly simple, graphic designs.?
Schneider sees another trend.
?Talking with others of the Generation Y group, it?s obvious that despite how technologically dependent we?ve all become, there is a great desire to learn how to sew and quilt. Hopefully, we as a community of quilters can continue to share that knowledge with every generation.?
Photos and story by?Wendy Nugent