The name of Debbie Robert’s shop, The Quilted Moose, is a tribute to Debbie’s last name when she was young: Mowinkel. For her classmates, it was a direct route from there to Bullwinkle, the four-footed cartoon companion of Rocky the Squirrel. “Everyone called me that,” Debbie says. “You just had to embrace it.”
Not only did Debbie embrace it, she made it the heart of her shop. References to the gargantuan mammal abound from “Mooseketeer” gatherings where new patterns, samples, fabrics, and notions are unveiled, to Moose Tracks, the shop’s newsletter. “We recently had Moose Chips, a four-patch block exchange with Edyta Sitar,” says Debbie, of the event that included a trunk show of four-patch quilts. “And when we have a recipe exchange, it’s Taste of the Moose.”
This light-hearted approach resonates throughout The Quilted Moose, a shop that features original patterns designed by Debbie and her staff, lots of kits, and 6,000 bolts of fabric. Debbie’s written two books with Kansas City Star, Four Seasons at Minglewood and Baskets, Birds, and Boughs, which include patterns featuring her beloved appliqué. Designated a Top Ten Shop in 2007 by Quilt Sampler magazine, this Gretna, Nebraska shop is just five minutes off Interstate 80, so lots of travelers stop by, in addition to regulars from Omaha.
The Quilted Moose has stocked Moda fabrics since it opened in 2000 and Debbie fondly remembers her first Moda rep, Pat Tweedy. “She’d owned a fabric store with her mom and she helped me so much,” says Debbie. “One of the best pieces of advice she gave me was to go to Quilt Market and build relationships with fabric companies and other shop owners and designers.” While Debbie says that walking the floor of Market is the best way to meet just-starting-out designers and bring their work, as well as new fabrics, notions, and books back to her customers, she’s also created a wonderful social network based on Quilt Market connections. “I’ve gotten to know the girls in the office at Moda and shop owners from abroad, like Jen Kingwell,” says Debbie. “She and I hit it off right away and she came and taught at the shop. It was so exciting to find out she was going to design fabric for Moda!”
Relationships with her customers are a big part of what Debbie enjoys about her work. “You know their names and what’s going on with their families,” says Debbie. “And they know yours, too.”
Those customers appreciate the way Debbie and her staff go the extra mile. At the afore-mentioned Moosketeer events, which take place two or three times annually, they’ll stitch up to 36 samples ranging from queen-sized quilts to clutches and table runners to share. Once the new samples debut, Debbie hauls out the ladder and puts them on the walls. Three of four times each year, The Quilted Moose brings in national teachers for workshops (including Moda’s very own Carrie, who last November taught her patterns Lucy, Seven Letters, and Sugarboo ). And about five-and-a-half years ago, Debbie built Minglewood, a two-story, timber-frame building that sleeps 11 and is designed to accommodate ten 8-foot worktables for retreating quilters and scrapbookers. It’s where Debbie hosts her workshops, as well.
When she opened her shop, Debbie never imagined she’d add books and beds to her business. But she’s loving every minute. “I can’t believe it’s been 14 years!” she says. “I still really enjoy it.”