Quilters who walk into Bonnie Bechtol’s shop for the first time somehow feel as though they’ve come home. The 1920s Grass Valley house boasts 1,800 square feet of everything the seasoned quilter could dream up. The walls are lined with more than 2,500 cotton bolts of fabric; quilting kits with pre-cut, color coordinated kits; and a “sewing notions” wall stocked with needles, marking tools, pins, rulers, rotary cutters, books, patterns, thread and much more.
“Anyone is welcome to come in and pat the fabric; there’s no cover charge,” said Bechtol with a laugh.
“I just love fabric and I love helping people select what they like. The best part is that everyone is happy when they come in.”
The sole quilting store in Nevada County, Bechtol opened the Sugar Pine Quilt Shop in 2003 not long after a longtime store, the Quilted Feather, closed. She felt instantly embraced by the quilting community.
“Quilters are incredibly supportive,” she said. “After retiring and moving here, I wouldn’t have met a tenth of the people I have if not for quilting and my shop.”
Bechtol spent many years practicing real estate law in Los Angeles County before she and her husband retired and moved to Humboldt County in 1993. Settling in the small town of Trinidad after years of the relentless pressures of a law practice, for the first time Bechtol found herself in need of a hobby.
“There was a quilt shop down the street, so I thought I’d investigate,” she said. “I liked the idea of quilting because you can make something practical while expressing the artistic side within you. I became addicted.”
Since moving to Grass Valley 12 years ago, Bechtol has gone to large, national quilting shows twice a year in search of fabrics and accessories that enhance her already existing inventory.
She is proud of the shop’s eclectic mix of fabrics including Civil War reproduction fabrics, Australian Aboriginal fabrics, Asian fabrics, batiks and bold colors, not to mention just-for-fun fabrics. Also on hand are fabrics designed by the likes of Kaffe Fasset, Denyse Schmidt, Alexander Henry, Moda, Kaufman and Michael Miller.
The Sugar Pine Quilt Shop also offers the popular “fat quarters” of all fabrics, thereby expanding design choices.
Whether it’s for patchwork or appliqué, a fat quarter gives quilters the opportunity to cut larger chunks of fabric than would be possible from a regular quarter-yard, thereby offering more versatility. Pre-cut 5- and 10-inch squares, “known as layer cake,” are also for sale, in addition to two and a half inch strips called jelly rolls.
“If you’re just starting out, there’s always someone here to help you,” said Bechtol. “There is never lack of advice and always an opinion.”
The store has resources for projects way beyond quilts. Purses, runners, wall hangings and pillow cases are also popular.
Quilting classes based on various themes are offered regularly by local quilters — sometimes taught by one of the shop’s employees — in an upstairs studio next to the store. The large space can accommodate 18 students, and there is a chair lift modified for sewing machines so students don’t have to carry their heavy equipment upstairs.
“In addition to classes, every other month we host a girls’ night out,” said Bechtol. “We sew together and we feed you. It’s a lot of fun.”
Quilting, she said, is “not your grandma’s game anymore” as there is a new movement among people in their 20s and 30s. Many are learning to quilt on YouTube and are coming up with bold new designs.
The most rewarding part about owning a quilt shop is meeting interesting people and seeing beautifully made items, Bechtol said.
“At this point in my life, when people come in with a problem, it can be solved with a piece of fabric or an idea,” Bechtol said.
“Not four years of litigation. I love where I am and what I do.”
To contact staff writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com or call 530-477-4203.