The Traveling Quilter: Quilt Shops in Vancouver, B.C. 
By Lynn Holland

 


Most people yearn for tropical climes in mid-winter, but not the Traveling Quilter. This past January found us excitedly packing for Canada, with Vancouver, British Columbia, as the destination. After all, it’s hard to use your quilt on the beach!

 

We had read for a number of years about Satin Moon Quilt Shop and The Cloth Shop, both Quilt Sampler picks from years past. So we got out our Quilter’s Travel Companion, affectionately known as the QTC, and began to plan.

 

Our first day consisted of mostly airports and airplanes. We arrived in the late afternoon, and made our way through downtown from the airport, then across the bridge and down scenic Marine Drive to West Vancouver.  By 4 o’clock Vancouver time and 7 o’clock body time we were pulling into the driveway of the Lighthouse Park Bed and Breakfast. An off-the-beaten-path kind of place, the Lighthouse is just a short walk from the famous Point Atkinson (guess what?) lighthouse. Since it was beginning to get dark as we arrived, we decided to postpone a hike to the local landmark until morning. Instead, we settled into the “Angel Suite.” There was a lovely sitting room in addition to the bedroom, which gave us room to store our luggage and other assorted stuff without tripping over it. Fresh roses greeted us in the bedroom, and the sherry in the decanter made us a little less grumpy after a long day of travel. We took host Hanna Pankow’s suggestion and had dinner at Troll’s in Horseshoe Bend. They have great fish and chips, which seemed entirely fitting for our first night in British Columbia .

 

We were up early the next morning and tromped off to see the water and the lighthouse, which is located in a stand of old growth Canadian evergreens that make you understand the term “North American rain forest.” The mist and the foliage were both thick!  Then we were back at the B&B just in time for Hanna’s yummy pancakes with vanilla yogurt and fresh fruit. Fortified for the day ahead, we set out for The Cloth Shop (3068 Highland Blvd., North Vancouver British Columbia V7R 2X4 604-990-1325 toll free 1-877-224-1325 Monday - Saturday: 10:00 - 5:30 Sunday: 12:00 - 5:00) as the first stop on a swing through North Vancouver, where several shops are located. The Cloth Shop is nestled in the too-cute Edgemont Village area (there is another one downtown as well), a shopping district that was full of mothers and their children at coffee spots enjoying the sunshine of a January thaw. Even though the coffee and treats were tempting, we headed right for the true delights: fabric. The Cloth Shop, a relatively small store with green awnings over the windows, was very Canadian from the start, with local patterns prominently displayed and labeled with a “Made in Canada ” sticker. It had lots and lots of beautiful fabrics (about 2000 bolts), and a northwest feel, with a wide variety of shop samples displayed on the walls. Rustic birdhouses and pine boughs were scattered about the plain varnished wood furnishings. In spite of the northwestern theme, the fabric buyer’s tastes seemed to run to brights, and many of the class samples reflected this. Perhaps it’s an antidote to the shortness of winter days! There was a generous selection of the latest quilt books, as well as a large variety of quilting notions.

 

The clerks there that day made several lunch suggestions, including one place that was reported to have excellent pie, which seems to be a Canadian favorite. A brief discussion ensued, during which it was opined that although pie was indeed full of calories, it contained many of the food groups as well! Even our brief journey up and down the street yielded quite a number of eating options from white table-clothed bistros to take out at Cob’s Bread.

 

Just down the hill a little (and around the bend along Burrard Inlet), we found Threadbear Fabrics, Ltd. (238 Fell Avenue, North Vancouver , Phone: 604-929-0308,  www.threadbear.com ). From the street, its charms are hidden in a rather plain building, set among auto parts and tire stores. Our encounter with this shop did not begin with Quilter’s Travel Companion, but rather when we drove past the former location on Marine Drive and I thought, “Cute name.” Since we have spent many hours on previous trips on dirt roads and winding highways chasing non-existent stores, we decided to call the old number to see if they were still in business. Indeed they are, and they kindly provided me with explicit directions to the new shop. Anyway, the building entryway features a bear mural that announces that Threadbear is upstairs. By walking up the stairwell instead of taking the elevator, quilters are treated to more large animal painting all the way up to the store. These paintings are annotated with clever fabric-related explanations, such as “A beaver dam has been known to house two adult beavers, 6 beaver kits and 356 quilt kits.” The Traveling Quilter was crazy about the shop before she even got into the main area. At the top of the stairs, quilters emerge to face, through a glass wall, a scenic view of a small but rambunctious Canadian river running by. Treats of Almond Roca along with coffee and tea greeted us as we entered. All this cool stuff and then there was fabric, too.

 

Every detail in Threadbear is nicely executed. Even the classroom doors have the store bear logo etched in glass. There is an excellent selection of all types of fabrics, especially Asian and batiks. Not surprisingly, there are bear classes and supplies available here. As is the case with many quilt stores these days, Threadbear has a knitting corner. Although I wished I could stay to take a bear class, I noticed that there were several Santas about the shop, and I had a mini-crisis deciding if I should buy the pattern for another doll when I already had at least a dozen waiting to be made. I stuck with my resolution, and passed on the totally adorable doll. Sorry, Pearl Santa. Maybe next year! I did, however, purchase some nifty Oriental yardage, which I think will appear in a Judith Murrah jacket.

 

After Threadbear, we visited the city market on Granville Island, which we found full of activity. After figuring out the “buy-a-parking-ticket-for-the-amount-of-time-you’re-going-to-be-here machine,” we went looking for lunch. The microbrewery did not appear to have food, just beer, so we wound up at Kharma Kitchen where we had some great curried ginger-coconut soup and a veggie sandwich. Many of the artisans were closed for January, but we did see some great prints and a hand-dyed orange wool vest with multi-colored wool roving trim. Very cool.   

 

Still having shops on our list, we set out for Quilted Treasures in Coquitlam (#140 - 1140 Austin Ave, Coquitlam, British Columbia, Phone: (604) 936-4778),  an eastern suburb about 15 miles from town. On our way out there, we had the obligatory getting lost argument.  We followed the map in QTC, and when there was a discrepancy between the exit number and what we thought we should do, we went with the exit number. Bad decision. We found ourselves in the midst of the sprawl-mall of Coquitlam. Thankfully, our cell phones worked in Canada , and we were able to find our way. In our back-tracking, we passed a strange looking little house identified as “Museum,” but with no other explanation.

 

Quilted Treasures was indeed a treasure, a little jewel of a shop with a pronounced personal feel and obviously an enthusiastic clientele. Owner Monica Hay has decorated the shop by rimming the room with wonderful old toys. She welcomed us, recognizing us as the lost callers from a few minutes before, and immediately treated us to a show and tell of a quilt she had just machine quilted that week. Apologizing for the dog hair on the quilt, she explained that she was trying to prepare for a guild presentation that evening on “quilting toys.” For a small shop, there was a very good selection of notions (toys), and I noticed a surprisingly good selection of turquoise and brown fabric. The shop has a very good, balanced selection which must keep her loyal customers happy. (There were two customers in the store at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon in spite of rush hour traffic -- that’s loyal!)

 

We were pretty worn out by the time we finished our visit to Quilted Treasures, and decided to stop by one of the local Bread Gardens and pick up wrap sandwiches to have for dinner that evening. We amused ourselves by watching TV and checking out commercials for typically Canadian products.

The next morning we caught the ferry to Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island ,with Victoria our ultimate destination. The long ferry ride was pleasant and made even moreso by the on-board restaurants and gift stores. The family in front of us was anxious to get to a student hockey tournament, and discussed the merits of Belize as an ultimate tourist/ retirement venue. It was gray and cold when we arrived in Nanaimo , a small town 60 miles north of Victoria , which laid claim to a well-stocked quilt store called “Snip & Stitch.” (1 - 4047 Norwell Drive, Nanaimo, BC V9T 1K8, Phone 250-756-2176, http://www.snipandstitch.com ). Although the brochure we had been sent by the tourist bureau showed beautiful sun glistening on the water, our drive to “Snip & Stitch” was not particularly cheerful. We passed grim little houses with smoke curling from metal chimneys and rather uninspiring landscapes.

However, once we arrived at the quilt shop, everything changed. Opening the door, we walked into springtime. Bunnies and lovely pastel fabric awaited us. Owner Betty talked with us about her 37 years in business, the last twelve of which have been in the building she now occupies. In addition to housing tons of fabric, there are two classrooms in the shop, one upstairs and one down. That day, a paper-piecing class was getting started, while downstairs the last class of a six-month-long series was drawing to close.  Betty shared with us that the previous week she had held a special open house where the place was so packed that some people opted to go home and come back the next day! In her “spare” time, Betty plans and runs quilt cruises to Alaska .

Deciding not to go back into the main part of town, we found lunch and local color at a Tim Horton’s (http://www.timhortons.com) . Tim Horton’s is, well, a fast food place with customized china plates. They offer the usual burger and chicken sandwich stuff, but also soup and lots of baked goods including donuts, éclairs, pies and butter tarts.  We had a pretty decent veggie sandwich and a Nanaimo bar. As the story goes, Nanaimo bars originated many years ago because they kept well when sent to men working the mines. They were good, but so rich and sweet a half bar was enough.

 

We then began the long, non-freeway drive to Victoria. There were long stretches of nothing, but we did find a Country Grocer where we stopped for a look around and  bought some cokes. As you may know, I always visit grocery stores when I’m traveling. Here, I was struck by the many varieties of pie crust mix and the milk in a bag! It was also fun to check out the different cookies and juices. (We found a yummy new version of V-8 that I’ve never seen in the states, and became immediately addicted to Walker’s stem ginger cookies.)

 

We finally arrived in Victoria. We checked in at the beautiful Anderson House Bed and Breakfast, and found a super dinner at the Spinnaker Pub. Even though it was dark, the lights on the water provided a gorgeous view out the window by our table. We had a very un-pub-food tapas selection and a very pub-like ale. Lots of fun. Since we were just a few blocks from the Parliament Building on the Inner Harbor , Sunday morning we set out on our walk and explored the famous Empress Hotel, where the Bengal Room remains virtually unchanged from Rudyard Kipling’s era.  (Kipling was a frequent guest there.)

 

After our tour of the Inner Harbor, we returned to the Anderson House, where innkeepers Lorinda and Charles had prepared an impressive breakfast. Since the scale of Victoria is relatively small and human, we decided to forget driving and take in the town on foot. We tromped through a good number of souvenir shops, and managed to buy a few things. Our main objective was to visit the Satin Moon Quilt Shop, which is on Government Street near Chinatown (1689 Government Street, Victoria BC, phone 1-800-345-3811, http://www.satin-moon.com. ) Satin Moon is one of those incredibly active, stuffed-to-the-gills shops, where something stunning meets the eye at every turn. The fabric selection is large and eclectic, and shop samples hang from every rafter and cover the walls. Casually but obviously studiedly organized, the store has generous racks of books and notions, and a larger than usual selection of quilting computer software. Their class list includes a number of beginner and advanced Electric Quilt classes. In a separate storefront, called “The Studio,” they have a large space for classes. In addition to the store, Satin Moon does a very active mail order business over the internet.

    

Around the corner from Silver Moon was the best yarn store I’ve ever visited, BeeHive Wool (1700 Douglas Street, Victoria, BC Canada V8W 2G7, phone 1-888-334-9005, http://www.beehivewool.com) . Since sewing needles have become restricted items on airplanes, I’ve returned to knitting on plane trips. Having finished my scarf on the trip out, I was in need of a project for the way back. I decided on a fall-toned fuzzy acrylic, and decided to do another scarf. BeeHive was established in 1906, and occupies a lovely historical storefront. Their selection of wools and their design sense are superb, and the service is friendly, too! BeeHive also has a busy mail order store online.

 

We had to stop in an in-town fabric store, Gala Fabrics, one of the few remaining fabric stores that still operate in the downtown area of the city. Most of its fabric (even the cottons) was wound on tubular bolts which gave it a different feel. Although not primarily stocked for quilters, they had many fabulous orientals and special occasion choices.

 

On our way back, we stopped in at Munro’s, the stunning bookstore, said by some to be the most magnificent bookstore in North America (http://www.munrobooks.com). It features a series of four seasons quilts on the high walls, and a terrific collection of titles for the bibliophile. Then we stopped in at Murchies, where all things tea are sold. They also had an incredible selection of goodies, but we were planning to “do” tea later, so we resisted the temptation, and settled for a box of tea that “was served at the Empress Hotel.” Stopping to leave our purchases at the B&B, we then set out to the local tea room, St. James. We had contemplated tea at the Empress, which we had heard was fabulous, but opted to do a more low-key, local sort of tea. Since it was Sunday, high tea was available.  Egg- and tuna-salad finger sandwiches, scones, butter tarts, lemon tarts, sherry trifle, and of course, tea, made up our repast. We were thankful we had been walking so much that day to help make up for the caloric intake! While we were there, a number of neighborhood folks came in for their customary Sunday tea -- a mother and daughter, some older women, both together and singly and a couple with a young daughter. It was a nice mix and gave us a glimpse into a usual Sunday for residents. Back at the B&B, we just zoned out for the rest of the afternoon and then had crackers and cheese for dinner!

 

Next morning, we were headed back to Vancouver via ferry. On our way to the docks, we passed the famous Butchart Gardens, and were sorry that we had planned our visit for winter rather than a more garden-suitable time of year. Another long ferry ride and then we found ourselves close to the huge fabric import store, Fabricana, in Richmond ( 4811 Hazelbridge Way , phone 604-273-5316, http://www.fabricanaimports.com) . Although the parking situation was a little strange, this store had an amazing selection of all things fiber. The entire second floor (lofted above the main floor), had cottons for quilting. I wound up buying lace to trim sheets, but enjoyed ogling the huge assortment of fleece and faux fur. There are two other Fabricanas in other suburban areas of the city.

 

Driving back into town, we realized that we were starving and headed for the famous vegetarian restaurant, The Nam, which is open 24 hours (W. 4th by McDonald). Although we had to park quite a few blocks away, our lunch was worth the trek. Frequented by an assortment of eccentrics and college types (as well as more boring types like the TQ), we sampled the fabled sesame fries and devoured cheese enchiladas that were well-stuffed with veggies and avocado.

 

Although it’s hard to believe that we could consider food, we did make a quick stop at the Safeway, just to check it out. There’s lots of culture to be had in those groceries! Our B&B for the evening was the Aberdeen Mansion. Though not as opulent as our previous two venues, it was quite large and offered friendly neighborhood stores within walking distance, as well as free wireless internet access.

 

For our last day in Vancouver, we decided to stop at the second location of The Cloth Shop (just for comparison!) and to check out the Gastown market as well. The Cloth Shop did not disappoint, although it did have a different flavor than the one in North Vancouver. This shop seemed smaller, but it was packed with nice samples and offers of fun classes. We made sure that we were near a White Spot Restaurant around lunch time so that we would have an opportunity to experience that Vancouver tradition. We had a hamburger with “Triple O” sauce and a house brand ale to go with it. On our way out, we purchased Ned Bailey pint glasses which came with a complimentary video of BC heroes. As we waited for the glasses, the waitstaff was busily trying to surprise the store manager with a birthday cake, so they were happy we had provided a diversion to legitimately get him to the back of the store while they unveiled the cake.

 

By that time, we were pretty tired. We were even fairly tired of looking at fabric, which almost never happens to the Traveling Quilter. We took a slow drive back to the bed and breakfast, enjoying the beautiful views that are at almost every turn (or stoplight) in Vancouver . Even though we had begun to understand the mysteries of meters of fabric and color-coded Canadian currency, the Traveling Quilters was ready to go home to sleep in her own bed and to sew on her very own sewing machine!

 

 

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