Gateway: Living

Gig Harbor quilting shop offers classes, fabric, notions and more

Nancy Davis-Altman stands next to her automated longarm quilting machine at Nancy’s Quilt Shop last week. The machine allows Davis-Altman to upload stitching patterns, which then are stitched at a press of a button.
Nancy Davis-Altman stands next to her automated longarm quilting machine at Nancy’s Quilt Shop last week. The machine allows Davis-Altman to upload stitching patterns, which then are stitched at a press of a button. jbessex@gateline.com

Customers visiting Nancy’s Longarm Quilting and Nancy’s Quilt Shop get a three-for-one deal.

Not only will they receive professional and uninterrupted help in choosing just the right fabrics for their quilt, they can take a quilting class. When their quilt is finished, they can bring it back and have their once-in-a-lifetime piece finished professionally on the longarm quilting machine.

The longarm machine is used to sew together the quilt top, batting and backing into a beautiful finished quilt. This process produces a finished product that allows the quilter to avoid the time-consuming process of using a normal sewing machine or hand quilting, and is extremely popular at Nancy’s.

When husbands visit the shop with their wives, the men want to see the 12-foot longarm quilting machine and figure out how it works.

“Men are fascinated by the longarm,” said Davis-Altman.

Nancy’s employs four staff members.

“We are a team. Each person has their own skill that they bring to the store, whether they are teaching or customer service or long-arming,” she said. “We each have our own expertise.”

The quilting industry is booming and shows no signs of slowing down.

“Nationwide, quilting is in the billions. The average quilter is approximately 60 years old and most quilters have been doing it for awhile,” Davis-Altman said.

“A lot of women start thinking about what they will do when they retire and so they take a class. It is one of those addictive things,” she said, adding that she has taught her daughter and grandchildren to quilt and comes from a long line of quilters herself.

The shop offers classes from learning how to quilt to advanced quilting, with six to eight classes running each month. Staff members ask people signing up for a class a lot of questions to make sure the class is just the right fit for them. Even customers with some experience are encouraged to start out with a beginning class.

“We ask, ‘What are your interests and what do you want to learn?’” said Davis-Altman.

Every Monday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the shop is open for a “sew in.”

“People come in and sit and work on a project, and staff is able to help if they have a question. This is a social time when gals can sit and talk to each other,” Davis-Altman said.

Every fourth Wednesday a classroom is made available for a comfort quilt group that makes quilts for breast cancer patients.

“They have given away several thousand quilts over the years,” she said.

Every first Wednesday of the month an American Hero group meets to work on quilts for wounded soldiers coming out of Afghanistan. Anyone wishing to join is welcome.

“They appreciate all the help they can get,” she said.

Davis-Altman describes the shop as a happy, busy place.

“To me, quilting is as much social as it is sewing,” she said.

When Davis-Altman gives lectures on quilting, she tells the crowd how for centuries quilters have been involved in doing things for other people, from war time when quilters made quilts for the Red Cross or the military.

Quilts tell wonderful stories — you just have to look for them.

Nancy Davis-Altman, owner of Nancy’s Longarm Quilting and Nancy’s Quilt Shop

“Quilts tell wonderful stories — you just have to look for them,” she said.

One quilt Davis-Altman holds near and dear is a schoolhouse theme, made in the early 1800s.

“On the back of that quilt it had the name of the man that made it, and I was able to research it. I went online and found that the five blocks on the quilt that were made out of black fabric represented the five children he lost. I think those blocks were made from his wife’s mourning gowns. You just have to look behind the quilts to find the story,” she said.

The shop prides itself on customer service and staff members will often spend hours with a new customer helping them pick out fabric, pattern and the longarm design.

“It is important to us that the product they wind up with is something they will love,” she said, adding that at the end of the day she sits down in front of her own sewing machine and works on a quilt. “It is my passion.”

Since opening the shop four years ago, Davis-Altman has finished more than 1,000 quilts for customers on her longarm.

When customers come in to pick up their finished quilt, the staff has a lot of fun with them.

“It takes about a month to finish the quilts since we have quite a backup, and when they come in we do a reveal,” she said.

All customers have seen so far is the unfinished top of the quilt and they are instructed to turn away. When they turn back around to see their finished creation, they are amazed.

“Quilting is an art form and our medium is fabric. It isn’t just making someone something to keep them warm — each quilt is a piece of art. Quilts will hold up for hundreds of years if taken care of,” Davis-Altman said.

Both shops are open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nancy’s shops are located at 7716 Pioneer Way in Suites C and D.

For more information, call 253-358-3856.

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