I am doing the A-Z challenge, focusing on places or entities that can be found within Mendocino County. I do not intend to imply that the subjects of my writing are the most significant, only that they have personal relevance to me. Today’s letter is Q for The Fat Quail.
The Fat Quail
On the south end of Laytonville is a picturesque quilting shop called The Fat Quail. Owned and operated by Debbie, the shop features a huge assortment of fabric, along with all of the accoutrements needed to quilt.
I have known Debbie since 1990 because she taught at the same small middle school, at which I taught. In addition to her regular duties, Debbie taught the sewing elective every quarter until her retirement. One of the more challenging elements of her sewing elective, included teaching kids who were willing to put in two semesters at the task, to make a quilt from scratch.
Now I have been around quilting for many years because Annie is a quilter. She once defined quilting for me as taking large pieces of fabric, cutting them up into small pieces, and then sewing them together in patterns, to form a very large piece of fabric. I also know about quilting because my middle son spent the requisite two quarters in Debbie’s sewing elective making a quilt, which turned out first class. Lest you think that sewing and making quilts is less than a machismo thing to do, I would say to you, that this same son is now an engineer for Cal Fire, and an EMT to boot.
After Debbie retired, she and her husband Dave, who taught in the high school, at the same school district as Debbie, began to look for a site for this quilting shop. After an extensive search in the area, they ended up purchasing a somewhat dilapidated home, which had seen better days. Because Dave is a handy sort of fellow, and both Dave and Debbie were willing to do the work themselves, they were able to remodel this worn-down home into the attractive shop that it is today.
I know a lot about this whole scene, because after Annie retired from the middle school, she bought a long-arm quilting machine, arranged to have it set up in the back room at The Fat Quail, and commenced to assembling quilts for many of Debbie’s customers. What Annie’s job entailed, dramatically simplified, was to take the the completed large quilt that the quilter has assembled, find an equally-sized piece of fabric for the backing, select the type of batting that the customer requested, and put it all together.
Batting comes in different thicknesses, so that if a thick quilt is desired, a thick type of batting is selected; if a thin quilt is desired-a thin type of batting. There are a number of logistical hoops to be overcome, if, for instance, the completed quilt is not square, or if there are inconsistencies in the way it is sewn together. Ultimately, when Annie would sew the whole project together, she had many different techniques that she could use, to make it all come out.
Some customers liked to have the stitches customized in very intricate patterns; others were not so concerned with intricacy, especially if it were a baby quilt, or a gift for a distant relative. In either case, Annie was the one to whom they spoke, and depending on how many quilts she was already dealing with, and what type of stitching was desired, would depend on how long it took. After a few years of having the long-arm in the shop, Annie moved it up here to our home, primarily to avoid the commute to town in the winter months, when the highway is so icy.
One nice thing is that many of the middle school students who went through Debbie’s sewing elective, are now young adults, who wish to keep on quilting. Lucky for them, there is now a topnotch shop in Laytonville at which fabric and advice can be obtained. Debbie also gives classes at the shop, both in sewing and quilting. Laytonville is lucky to have this shop, because otherwise, a person desiring quilting material would have to go up north to Eureka, or down south, to one of several different sites. So the next time you are traveling through Laytonville, keep an eye out for The Fat Quail and stop in for a look-see. I think you will find it well worth your time. And hey, say hi to Debbie for me!