Laurie Johnson had been quilting for 15 years when her husband suggested she open Stitcharie. “‘You are always driving to quilt shops. Why don’t you just open one?’ he said. I jumped on the idea like a panther. I had worked in retail most of my life, including ten years at a fabric store. The only other quilt shop in Sarnia-Lambton had been closed for two years, so the idea and timing just felt right,” explains Johnson. The name of the quilt shop also came from Johnson’s husband. “My husband calls me ‘Rie,’ short for Laurie, and I’m always stitching, so he suggested Stitcharie. I loved it.”

Stitcharie is located at 4247 Oil Heritage Road in Petrolia, and opened in February 2015, three months after Johnston’s husband first suggested it. “I found a good location with reasonable rent. Quilting shops are often destination shops but you still want to be easy to find. A good location can make or break you.” Johnston continued to work at her part-time bank job after she opened the shop. “I was working 18-hour days between the shop and bank. Eight months in, I knew I just couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted and needed to devote more time to the shop.”

Robin Bruton was one of the first employees at Stitcharie. One year in, Johnston and Bruton became business partners, each bringing a different skill set to the shop. Johnston looks after administration and ordering and Bruton operates the longarm quilting machine. Both partners work in the retail shop and teach classes. “It’s hard to go it alone. It’s good to have the support of a partner. Robin’s style is classic and mine is more modern. Our customers really love the fabric and pattern choices we select. We really complement each other.”

Stitcharie sells fabric, patterns, books, batting, thread and notions. “We sell just about everything you need to make a quilt, and if you’ve never quilted before, we can teach you.” Stitcharie regularly offers 6-week beginner classes where participants make a small 30x40-inch project from start to finish. They also offer intermediate and advanced classes on topics such as free motion quilting, walking foot quilting and a variety of projects. “Some customers love to piece together the top of a quilt but don’t enjoy the actual quilting, or they don’t have a machine that can do the job. Robin is a highly-skilled machine quilter and we offer longarm quilting services to our customers.”

Last year, to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, the Canadian Quilters’ Association wanted to make and donate 300 quilts to Ronald McDonald House. “We participated in that event and in the end over 1,000 quilts were made.” Stitcharie also organizes mystery bus tours where participants spend a day travelling to quilt shops or shows. “We have met so many fantastic people. What’s unique about our business is that it becomes a community. People come in to learn and they make new friends. We work to make every class and event fun!”