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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Caroline North, owner of Caroline's Cottage Cottons in Rome City, feels blessed to see her dream become a reality.

  • The shop has seen customers from all over the world visit Rome City for some fabric or other supplies.

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Various fabrics and patterns on display at Caroline's Cottage Cottons in Rome City on Friday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Various fabrics and patterns on display at Caroline's Cottage Cottons in Rome City on Friday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Various fabrics and patterns on display at Caroline's Cottage Cottons in Rome City on Friday.  

  • Caroline's Cottage Cottons receiving recognition at Spring Quilt Market in Portland, Oregon. Holding the quilt that Caroline designed for Quilt Sampler Magazine. The Quilt is called Indiana Fields and Furrows. (Courtesy Caroline North)

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Various fabrics and patterns on display at Caroline's Cottage Cottons in Rome City on Friday.  

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Owner of Caroline's Cottage Cottons, Caroline North at her shop in Rome City on Friday.  

Sunday, June 17, 2018 1:00 am

Quilt shop nationally recognized

Rome City business to be featured in Better Homes issue

Janet Patterson | For The Journal Gazette

At a glance

Business: Caroline's Cottage Cottons

Address: 195 Weston St., Rome City

Founded: October 2007

Services: Quilting supplies and fabrics, homespuns, batiks, and wools

Employees: Five

Annual revenue: Varies; business is privately owned

Tucked on a side street in tiny Rome City stands a brick cottage built in 1870 that is a destination for quilters from around the world.

Caroline's Cottage Cottons, at the corner of Weston and Washington streets near Sylvan Lake, is being recognized as one of the top 10 quilt shops in North America by Better Homes and Gardens' Quilt Sampler magazine.

Caroline North, who owns the cottage and the business with her husband, David North, is as proud of the little house as she is of the business that has reaped the recognition.

“There was so much to do when we bought this cottage,” said North, a lifelong Noble County resident. The Norths purchased the house, built of Georgia brick and hand-hewn native oak, July 6, 2007, with an eye to opening the quilt fabric business in late August. But cleaning and repairs delayed that target two months. Caroline's Cottage Cottons opened Oct. 29, 2007.

The former stay-at-home mom to two now-grown children has lovingly watched her dream grow to a reality that she can only call “blessed.”

Customer service

North is a fourth-generation business owner in Rome City. Her father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all Indiana fruit growers who owned Shull's Orchard, west of Rome City. She credits the hours working at the orchard's market and her father's keen business sense with teaching her how to run her shop.

“My father always said the consumer is king,” North said, and she has modeled her customer service with that advice in mind.

“When a customer comes in, we give them our undivided attention. We help them to be creative,” she said. She and her staff of five ask questions and listen carefully to their customers to help them make the best decisions about what they are planning to make. North said each member of her staff “is incredibly talented.”

North also pays attention to those who come with her customers. Since most are women, they sometimes have a husband or significant other in tow, and North suggests they may want to drop a fishing line into nearby Sylvan Lake, take in the garden behind the cottage, or grab a sandwich or ice cream at one of the nearby restaurants.

Customer service and a diversity of products are some of the reasons customers come from all over the U.S. as well as Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Germany, France and Holland. “Quilting is a “chick industry,” North said. “Women talk.”

Becky Fenton of Wolcottville is among the loyal clientele.

“Caroline is sweet and so are her people. They love to talk to you about your project,” said Fenton, a Fort Wayne native and professional quilter who recently moved back to the area.

North's shop is not only a mecca for quilting supplies but unique materials such as homespun fabrics and batiks hand-dyed in Indonesia.

“We are also known for our wools used for 'penny rugs,'” North added. This American colonial art form, she said, brought color into what was often a very dull existence for early settlers. Known as floor art, penny rugs were named for the medallions of scrap wool and felt cut into circles using coins for templates. The medallions were pieced together in layers to create rugs. “They were sometimes used on beds too. And sometimes instead of circles, there would be horses or whatever spoke of their lifestyle.”

Introduction

While North said her business sense comes from her father, she also credits the associate degree in marketing and bachelor's degree in sociology that she earned from IPFW. Her design sense, however, comes from a long line of crafty women.

“I have been working with fabrics since I was a child,” she said.

Hanging on the walls of the shop are two quilt rails hand-hewn by her great-grandfather that figure heavily in her development as a designer. “I made my first stitches on those rails.”

By the time she was 8 years old, North was designing and hand-stitching clothes for her Barbie dolls. A couple of years later, her sister taught her how to use a sewing machine.

Her mother, who was a home economics major in college, did intricate hand embroidery.

And along the way, her aunt Lena Shull and her grandma Ina Shull taught her how to crochet.

But it was her grandma Mae Schermerhorn who was the quilter.

“That's why I named this room after my grandmothers,” she said, looking around the tiny dining room/kitchen stocked with 1920s and '30s reproduction fabrics. Both grandmothers look upon the scene from photos on the wall.

Honored

Caroline's Cottage Cottons was one of nearly 3,000 quilt shops eligible to apply for this year's honor from Quilt Sampler.

“They approached me to apply, which I hear is pretty unusual,” North said.

The application process involved providing information such as the business history, promotions, charitable work, teaching schedules and design philosophies as well as photos of the shop.

“We got the call on Dec. 20 that we had been selected, and that a team from the magazine would be here in January to interview us and do a photo shoot,” North said, adding that only the shop workers could know about the selection. “We couldn't say a word to anyone else.”

The 10 shops selected were revealed in May at the spring Quilt Market in Portland, Oregon. All of the winners will be featured in the fall/winter issue of Better Homes and Gardens' Quilt Sampler magazine, which will be available in late August. Magazine officials did not return phone calls last week.

North said each selected shop submitted original designs for quilts to also be featured in the magazine. Hers was an Indiana-themed quilt.

Caroline's Cottage Cottons will also be featured as one of the Shop Hop Stops in the Shipshewana Quilt Festival, Wednesday to June 23. For more information go to https://www.shipshewanaquiltfest.com.