Karen Bates and Terry Tobey have opened a new store downtown at 115 E. Main Street, called Sew Creative. Their mission is to share their love of sewing and creativity with the community of Ashland. Both Karen and Terry have been involved in sewing for more than thirty years. Karen easily remembers the date since she started her sewing career after the birth of her first son, while Terry has been sewing since her junior high home economics class. Karen has written three books on quilting. Her many original patterns are available at Sew Creative. Terry is a previous owner of the fabric store, Pioneer Quilts, in Happy Valley, Oregon, where she started many fabric clubs and the store’s ongoing charity quilt program. Both women have spent thousands of hours doing what they love: sewing, quilting, teaching, and sharing their passion with friends, family, neighbors, and children.
Karen and Terry, thank you for sharing your enthusiasm for sewing with Ashland and our greater community:
We are excited to have the opportunity to share with other fabric enthusiasts. We’re open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 until 6:00 and Sundays from 11:00 until 5:00. We are interested in hearing customer requests for new classes and products.
Karen, having fun with sewing has always been a huge focus for you. In addition to your three books, can you tell us about your enjoyment of sewing and in particular working with children?
I get great pleasure working with people of all ages. When they complete their first quilt block, and see what they’ve created, their sense of accomplishment makes my day! Many of my beginning quilt students have gone on to create incredible works of art.
Terry, you originally co-owned a quilting store in the Portland area and have since moved to Ashland. I guess it wasn’t long before you had to dive back in to the world of fabrics.
I loved working at, managing, and then owning Pioneer Quilts. Shortly after moving back to Ashland I started thinking about my next adventure with quilt stores, which eventually turned into Sew Creative and a partnership with Karen. We are lucky to have a terrific location, store space, and staff, and I’m excited to share it all with Ashland and beyond. Fabric and other textile arts have been my passion for most of my life, and it’s wonderful to be able to immerse myself in the world of fabric again.
One of your joint goals is to sew in community and this is exactly the opportunity you have created in opening “Sew Creative.” Will you tell us about your work space and calendar of classes you are offering?
We chose this location in part because of the wonderful classroom space. We want to have a welcoming place for people of all ages to come and sew and learn. We offer classes in basic clothing construction, embroidery, quilt making, applique, and we listen to customer requests. The classroom is equipped with several sewing machines. We have open sewing on Fridays, as well as various clubs and other group meetings, and are always happy to help if customers have questions about their projects.
Karen, I loved hearing that many of your classes appeal to all generations.
Yes, we offer an adult and child class for children ages seven and up who come with a parent or grandparent. Participants enjoy creating fiber projects together. Terry’s daughter, Elizabeth hosts Sew Sassy Sunday, held on the third Sunday of the month. This event is popular with the 20+ age group, who want to upcycle and repurpose their clothing. We’re thrilled that we’re sharing our love of sewing with people of all ages.
You both get to see a wide variety of interesting people coming in the door. What are they looking for in the way of sewing projects?
We’ve been amazed at the range of people’s requests: how to make full use of their sewing machines, workshops and classes in quilting and clothing construction, all kinds of hand work, ideas for hand made gifts, and we’ve even had non-sewers who want to learn simple skills such as patching their clothes.
Let’s talk about the store side of Sew Creative. You stock a wide variety of some amazing fabrics. Can you tell us how you went about choosing these?
We’re both interested in unusual fabrics, possibly because we both make art quilts as well as functional bed quilts. Our inventory includes Australian Aboriginal prints, batiks, and contemporary collections as well as hand dyed cottons and wools and embellishments. Coming soon is a beautiful group of ikat fabrics. (Ikat is an ancient technique of dyeing the warp threads before the fabric is woven.)
Sew Creative also sells much more than fabric. Can you tell us about this?
We carry some wonderful gift items, all high quality, hand made, and fabric related. We have beautiful silk mobiles, purses made from silk ties, fabric jewelry, silk scarves, and wonderful cards and journals. We also carry Presencia thread and embroidery floss, quilting patterns, books, project kits and a wide supply of sewing and quilting notions.
Let’s talk about the community aspect of sewing and more about your vision of establishing a welcoming space for Ashland’s sewing enthusiasts.
In addition to our “Free Sew Friday,” when you’re welcome to use our classroom all day, beginning October 16, we will host Project Linus, which donates blankets and quils to children in need. Quilts and blankets made at Sew Creative will be donated to many Jackson County programs.
Tell us a little more about your clothing classes.
Jeri Doney, who worked in the costume shop at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, brings years of sewing experience to her students. They’ve just completed simple pajama pants and will be progressing to more complicated garments. Jeri is also planning some other classes such as “Fear of Zippers” for people who feel intimidated when it comes to putting a zipper in a garment or handbag.
Are you participating in First Friday Art Walk?
We are open late on First Fridays, and we feature local art quilters each month. Be sure to stop in and see their fabulous work. We’re having a marvelous time getting to know our community members as well as visitors to Ashland.
Terry and Karen, do you have any last comments you’d like to share with our readers this month?
We’re thrilled by the warm response from both the Ashland community and visitors. By having three unique fabric stores in the downtown area, Ashland is becoming a destination for fabric lovers, and they are very excited. Please come and visit us; we are adding new classes and new inventory all the time.
115 East Main Street
Ashland, OR 97520