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Karin von Allmen, from left, proprietor Charlene Adam and Lillian McOuat sit on a quilt-laden bed among a variety of colourful materials available for purchase at The Quilted Raven on 53 Street Monday. - Galit Rodan/NNSL photo

The Quilted Raven takes flight

Galit Rodan
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On a cold and blustery Yellowknife day, walking into The Quilted Raven is like being transported into an otherworldly place of warmth and good cheer.

Surrounded by a rainbow of fabrics, everything from flannel to Indonesian batiks, Lillian McOuat and Karin von Allmen smile as they go about their duties in Yellowknife's newest quilt shop at the corner of 53 Street and 50 Avenue.

Proprietor Charlene Adam enters from the basement. She is wearing a fuschia cardigan commensurate with the brightness of her shop.

She sits down at a work station at the back of the room, an empty table which will later be taken over by aspiring quilters.

Though the myriad of fabrics, patterns, styles and techniques can be intimidating to a beginner, Adam believes anyone can learn to quilt.

In terms of the introductory class, "We call it the beginner beginner because they don't know how to quilt at all ... they just know how to turn the machine on and do a straight line," said Adam.

The newest of newbies take one class a week for five weeks.

"You don't always finish (the quilt) in your lesson but you get to the point where you know how to finish it," said Adam, who took up quilting about 10 years ago.

"I never thought I would quilt," she said. "I was one that when I sewed, I wanted to get it done right now and then if I didn't, it was put away ... Then I went to a baby shower and my friend brought a quilt and (I thought) 'Wow, I can do that.'"

Adam said she's had "all types" of quilters come in, the youngest being a girl of about 12 or 13. Though most of her customers are female, she says men, a few quite wide-eyed, occasionally wander in looking for a gift.

Adam has been in Yellowknife since 1980 but said she was inspired to open up shop when Wal-Mart scaled back its fabric section and another quilter, who had been selling her wares from her home, left town.

"I just felt there might be a call for another quilt store in town," said Adam. "There were a lot of us getting our fabric when we would go out of town."

Her hunch was right, apparently.

"It's been great. There's a lot of people supporting us and we've been kept very busy," she said.

Adam, in turn, supports the community through her shop.

The Quilted Raven sells a series of nine Northern-themed quilting patterns, created by local artist Janet Pacey for airline Canadian North, and sewn together by Hazel Wainwright for display in the store. Proceeds go to the Canadian North quilters project, which teaches children in Northern communities to express themselves through art.

"(The patterns) are very popular, especially with tourists," said Adam.

Adam also sells Yellowknife-themed designs created by Pacey and marketed as Ptarmi Ptown patterns.

Local staples like the ubiquitous ravens, ptarmigans, houseboats and the Wildcat Cafe are featured in cartoon-like style, with, for example, a headlamp-wearing ptarmigan pushing a gold-filled mine car through a Con Mine shaft.

As for Adam, her favourite quilt is a Bargello-style piece which took her about six months to complete and won her second prize in the viewer's choice category of the Yellowknife Quilt Guild's summer show in 2010. That particular quilt will be staying where it is likely appreciated most.

"It's at home on my bed," said Adam.

The Quilted Raven opened in early April.

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