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May 25, 2013

Otego quilters offer a stitch in time

By Cathy B. Koplen
The Daily Star

---- — Barb Utter of Otego had been in the quilting business for more than seven years when she invited her friend, April Neske, to share her store space.

April’s Yarn Basket opened in 2011, sharing space with Country Fabrics and Quilts. But the two stores owners share more than their location, at 5252 State Highway 23 — they share a love of creating.

“We are not a necessity of life, but we are a necessity of happiness,” Utter said.

Utter runs quilting classes and clubs. The quilting side of the building has fabrics in hundreds of colors, quilting supplies and a long-arming quilting machine. The machine is 108 inches wide, and is used to attach the finished front of the quilt to the batting and back with decorative stitching.

“We use this so we don’t have to piece the back,” Utter said. “Every day I do a quilt on this machine. I am about six weeks out on taking orders right now.”

Country Fabrics and Quilts sells quilting kits and finished products including finished quilts, table runners and toppers, wall hangings, aprons and handbags. The store stocks remnants of upholstery fabrics as well.

Utter recently concluded a quilt-making party at her shop.

“We just had our dinner and show off party,” Utter said. “We had 17 different quilts. It is called, ‘My Friend Made This Quilt for Me’ — everybody gets to choose three fabrics and then you make 17 squares using the different colors. It is really a nice event. It gets people out of their comfort zones — using colors they might not ordinarily choose.

“And then we all bring a dish to pass and we show off our quilts.”

Visitors may wander through a maze of multi-colored cloth hanging in coordinated patterns and large, themed quilts mounted on the walls. Toward the back of the store the quilting merchandise stops, and through a wide doorway, there are skeins upon skeins of yarn, as well as finished sweaters and Afghan throws lining the walls.

“April does a really nice Tunisian crochet,” Utter said.

Tunisian crochet uses an Afghan hook and the pattern appears woven. It is often called a blend of crochet and knitting.

Neske holds knitting classes and hosts several groups who knit and crochet. April’s Yarn Basket inventory includes 200 different crochet and knitting products with linen, silk cotton and blended wool yarns in various colors.

The friends share a building, some expenses and they cover for each other, allowing more freedom to come and go as they need.

“Barb was here first, and then she recruited me,” Neske said. “But I had been thinking about it already. I really love knitting, and this was the perfect opportunity.”