My heart was warmed and my cynicism reduced by two different, but connected, stories written by Allison Engle, in the June edition of American Patchwork & Quilting magazine.  As a quilter who makes every effort to check out the quilt shops in any new place I visit, I can tell you that quilters are good people.  Quilt shop owners are among the friendliest and most helpful of business people anywhere.  Need some quilting direction or wisdom?  Feel free to ask a shop owner or, for that matter, other quilters who happen to be in the shop to buy or take a class.  Just passing through but need directions to the state highway or a recommendation for a good place to eat?  Just stop in the local quilt shop.  They’re just as pleased to help a non-quilter as they are us afficienados.

Quilters equally return that helpfulness and loyalty to their shop staff.  We quilters do really regard each other as family - particularly in smaller towns.  Ms Engle wrote that after an F-4 tornado leveled the town of Ringgold, Georgia in April 2011, the town took awhile to recover from the shock.  When everyone in town has lost everything, who do you turn to for help getting back on your feet?  For several days, Gloria Black, owner of the Sew Bee It quilt shop in Ringgold couldn’t even bring herself to go look at the pile of rubble that had been her 4,00 square foot business, but her loyal staff and friends did.  They soon arrived at the site and began to rescue muddy, wet bolts of fabric, strewn yarn, thread notions, and shop samples.  When Gloria did arrive, she was overwhelmed by what they had already cleaned up and by her customers, who were providing food and hot coffee to the volunteers.  Gloria’s landlord immediately set about rebuilding the shop, which re-opened on August 1st, only 3 months after the devastation. Employee Martha Steele said, “We’ve gotten our old customers back and more new ones, including travelers to the area who have followed the re-building process on the internet. It just shows you that in the worst of times, you can count on the quilting family.”

In another part of Ringgold that April day, Jeaneane Hullender, a Sew Bee It customer, and her husband lost their home, barns, trees, fences, and even four cows.  But the possession she mourned the most was a quilt she had made from blocks hand-stitched by her deceased mother-in-law. The quilt could not be found in the rubble.  It had simply blown away.  Then that September, one month after Sew Bee It’s re-opening, Jeaneane received a phone call from Marcia Barker, who had found the quilt in her pasture in Riceville, Tennessee, 50 miles northeast of Ringgold!  The only reason Marcia knew who to contact was because Jeaneane had sewn a quilt label on the back of the quilt (like all of us quilters have been told to do), embroidered with the following: Stitched with love in memory of Nita Hullender  1916-2009.  Not owning a computer, Marcia called her sister in Florida and asked her to “google” the name Nita Hullender. From that they were able to track down Jeaneane’s address and phone number.  What a reunion that must have been!  On top of that, Marcia had cleaned the quilt such that you couldn’t see any evidence of its muddy flight to Tennessee.  Jeaneane’s quilting friends washed and ironed the yardage in her fabric stash recovered from the mud.  A local dry cleaner - whose business had probably just re-opened - cleaned the remainder of her quilt collection, that had been rescued, free of charge.  A group of California quilters collected money for Jeaneane to rebuild her sewing studio. Quilt designer Anne Sutton, having read that Jeaneane lost all her patterns, sent replacements and a box full of fabric!  I must agree with what Jeaneane told reporters, “This has really shown me the bond among quilters.”  Yep, quilters are good people.