July Stockist of the Month: Midsomer Quilting

Voted the UK's favourite quilting shop by Patchwork & Quilting magazine Midsomer Quilting is now one of the largest quilt shops in the country and have had visitors travel from far and wide to shop there, with over 3000 fabrics and the coffee and biscuits in the welcome area or "man creche" proving a big hit for the non-sewers visiting the shop!

The business runs a exciting and varied workshop programme and also runs an annual quilting challenge which frequently attracts over 300 entrants and raises over £3000 for the local hospice.

Founder De Pickford tells us more... 

Midsomer Quilting was started in 2004 in old farm buildings in Chilcompton, Somerset, midway between Bath and Wells. It was the dream child of De Pickford, a local teacher and to start with - until she completed her teaching commitment - was run by her good friends Chris and Birgitta Howell. Both are still very much an essential part of what MQ is.  De and Birgitta have long had a passion for craft. Knitting, sewing in general and Lacemaking are on the list but after a visit to the Amish in Lancaster County, USA (Chris has connections!)  the focus became Quilting and Patchwork.  We found premises and Midsomer Quilting was born.

We have grown to be one of the larger quilt shops in the UK and the team has expanded with the shop.  Yvonne and Lynne have been with us since we acquired a Gammill Longarm Quilting machine and their skill in operating it has come with lots of practice in the beginning and years of experience that have followed.  Nik and Julie came next  in 2015 and Sally joined us in 2017.  They are all invaluable for their individual talents and for the very natural way they work together with customers.  They are happy to help with fabric choices as well as advising on projects, calculating quantities and reassuring the less confident when overwhelmed by the task at hand.  We all make a point of knowing our stock and getting to know our customers – everyone who comes through the door is important.  We have many customers who travel a distance and have many regulars from overseas. To keep everyone in touch with what is happening we produce a newsletter that is distributed to more than 2000 people.

It has always been our ambition to have a friendly, welcoming quilting centre and since moving to new premises in 2017 we have had more space in which to provide a social atmosphere. The coffee and biscuit welcome in the seating area is always a big hit and for some, has earned the nickname of the “man crèche”.  It certainly helps  people to relax and it has been known for a trip to the shop to be suggested by the non-sewer in the family – just for a day out- magic! It’s not unusual for people to travel for many miles - even internationally - especially to shop with us.  (The record stay for a normal shopping visit was 5 hours and 20 minutes.)

Quilting is a wonderful medium in which to share experiences and we welcome the fact that people from many varied backgrounds are regularly able to meet at the shop.  We love the fact that we provide the space, materials and help to encourage people to develop their skills ( rather like when we were teaching!) Our workshop is open three days a week for groups to meet, sew, share and chat.  They work on individual projects with many destined for charitable causes.  We have regular visits from Linda, the local Project Linus co-ordinator, who also has strong links with the RUH in Bath. One of our regulars made over 150 quilts last year for Linda to distribute. I think she has a cupboard full of sewing Elves!!

We set up an online service at the end of last year and are working to improve it all the time.  We love to share on social media and are always thrilled to see the finished article.  So much fabric goes out and it is always exciting to see what people have made with it.  The choice of fabric used to be difficult but over the years we have listened to the customer and considered the trends to provide a collection that appeals to many ages and styles. The ultimate choice is down to De and Chris.  Chris often provides the voice of reason and has a good eye for colour and for the unusual.
We run an exciting and varied workshop program with teachers offering a mix of traditional and contemporary styles. Textile Art  is now one of my favourite activities having watched or taken part in workshops at MQ.  Every year we run a quilting challenge, inviting customers to create 12” x 12” mini quilts on a theme.  So when I am asked “what am I working on”, it will usually be a mini quilt for our next challenge. This year will be the ninth and we anticipate up to 300 ‘entries’ which are exhibited throughout December. Most are sold by secret auction and we regularly raise in excess of £3000 for our local hospice

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