Quilting store matches Danville history, revival of a craft

March 15, 2004|JOHN T. DAVIS

When Ron and Leslie Featherly were looking last fall for a new name for their store, then called World Wide Fabrics, they knew they wanted it to reflect not only the main thrust of their business - quilting - but also the history of this area.

"Danville was the center of government and commerce, and it was on the Wilderness Road," said Leslie Featherly of the town's beginnings.

So the couple came up with the name Wilderness Road Quilt Company for the business they had purchased in November 2002.

Then they went a step further and commissioned a quilt by store employee and veteran quilter Beverly Ann Zulueta. Today, Zulueta's work hangs prominently on the wall of the new store. It reveals not only Zulueta's exceptional skill as a quilter and a lot of Kentucky history but also something of Featherly's family history.


The quilt, which took Zulueta about a month to make, features a way station in the center with a ghost-like stagecoach nearby that one has to look carefully to see.

"My great-great-grandfather had a stagecoach stop in Buena Vista," said Featherly of the Garrard County community near Herrington Lake.

If the old Wilderness Road that ran through Danville in pioneer days was witness to a wave of settlers entering Kentucky and the unsettled lands of the West, the quilting business named after that historic pathway is witness to a wave of its own: the growing popularity of quilting.

Since purchasing the store, which had been a multiline garment business for many years, the Featherlys have focused on quilting and selling Swiss-made Bernina sewing machines, which Featherly said are the "quilters' choice."

Zulueta said the emphasis on quilting met a need.

"There was no quilt shop in this area," she said. "You had to go to Lexington or Louisville."

"There's been overwhelming support for turning it into a quilt shop," said Featherly, who worked at the store for several years before purchasing it. "That's what we all loved anyway."

Featherly "pieced" her first quilt top in 1990

Featherly "pieced" her first quilt top in 1990 while living in Tennessee. She had been selling sewing machines and making wedding dresses out of her home when owners of a local quilt shop gave her some space in their store. That's where she learned how to quilt.

"I've done a lot things from being a farmer to a welder, but this tops it all," said Featherly.

Zulueta, who has been quilting since 1976, attributes the rebirth of quilting as a craft and art to the nation's bicentennial celebration which occurred in that year. She belongs to a couple of international quilting groups and says the interest in the craft and art that began with women piecing together old clothes and rags to make bed coverings is strong worldwide.

"It doesn't matter where you're from or what language you speak," said Zulueta. "If you're a quilter, you're automatically compatible."

Featherly said her husband has been a driving force behind the business where he helps out in his spare time. He's the bookkeeper, works with the store's Web site,, provides technical support and helps publish the store's newsletter.

"He's constantly coming up with new ideas ... Recently he partnered us up with," she said. "On days when I've had all I can take, he'll come up with a new idea, and we'll be off on a new adventure."

One "adventure" that has paid off for the store is its Web site, which was launched in October. One of the services offered on the site is the store's quilting machine, which takes the drudgery out of quilting for people who enjoy "piecing tops" but not the time-consuming task of turning those "tops" into quilts.

"As soon as we launched the Web site, we had people calling us from all over the United States," she said. "We quilt them (the tops) and send them back."

Despite these technological innovations, Featherly said, the store's goal is to offer a "boutique" atmosphere based on personal knowledge of customers' needs. The store always has coffee and cookies on hand for customers and even has an area for "significant others" to hang out and relax while customers are shopping.

"We have the best customer base any store could have," Featherly said.

"Quilters are the nicest, kindest, best people I know to hang around with."

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