Alison Dale saw the writing on the wall, and it led her to buy a quilt shop.
In Alison’s case, she probably saw the photo on the wall. That’s because in her previous work life, Alison was as a photo editor for newspapers. In 2007, she saw journalism changing and people in the industry being laid off. Around that same time, a local quilt shop was for sale. Alison, who had sewn for years and quilted since 1987, had a strong love of quilting but no experience running a business. “There was a big learning curve, and on top of it the economy tanked right when I bought the store,” says Alison. But 18 years later, Alison and Fabric Expressions are still going strong.
Located in Littleton, Colorado, about 12 miles from downtown Denver, Fabric Expressions is known for friendly service, lots of fun classes, and Block of the Month programs. It’s also known for its great selection of Moda fabrics, including plenty of precuts—Melody Busch has been Fabric Expressions Moda rep since Alison took over the store.
“We do Terrific Tuesday once a month, and demo a pattern that day that uses a pre-cut,” says Alison. For a dollar, customers get the pattern and after the demo they participate in a show-and-tell. Show-and-tell participants are entered into a drawing for a charm pack—the event is repeated three times on Terrific Tuesday.
Favorite Moda lines include Kansas Troubles and Fig Tree fabrics and the shop carries Kate Spain, One Canoe Two, Barbara Brackman, and Betsy Chutchian fabrics, among others. Lots of customers enjoy the shop’s wool offerings and English paper piecing and hexies are popular. “They’re easy to take on the a trip, and good for moms who are taking their kids to football games and practices,” says Alison.
Fabric Expression customers come from around the Denver metro area for classes that include BOM patterns, bags, and both large and miniature-sized quilts. “Whatever the newest trend is, we’ll have a class,” says Alison. Upcoming offerings include tuffet classes and Cheryl Phillips Eagle pattern, using a 10-degree ruler. The classroom is part of the shop and Alison likes it that way. “Customers hear people laughing and having fun and feel like it’s okay to come and take a peek,” says Alison. Other gatherings include an applique club, an embroidery club, and a Needlework Around the World group, which creates 8” blocks using techniques from numerous cultures. “They’ve done eight or nine countries, so far,” says Alison, who credits the class’s instructor Janelle with doing lots of research for each block. She recently invited quilters of Hungarian descent to share items their parents had made.
Fabric Expressions also participates in a number of charities, including Quilts of Valor and making pillowcases for local organizations. At the holidays customers bring in mittens, hats, and socks for the shop’s Christmas tree, which are donated to local shelters.
Alison move from newspapers to quilt shop ownership was a fortuitous one, and thanks to her journalism background creating under a tight timeline doesn’t stress her out. “I’m used to deadline pressure,” she says. “While her four employees stitch some of the shop’s samples, Alison makes most of them. “I don’t sleep a lot, so I sew. I really enjoy playing with fabric and I’m always making new stuff.”