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Bill and Catherine Kane display a BerkShares note inside their business, Brookside Quiltworks, in South Egremont. Photo courtesy Schumacher Center for a New Economics

BerkShares Business of the Month: Brookside Quiltworks

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By Monday, Nov 12, 2018 Trade and Commerce

South Egremont — Some say not to mix business with pleasure but, at Brookside Quiltworks, Catherine Kane has turned a hobby into a successful operation. As a member of the Berkshire Quilters Guild, Kane and fellow members saw the need for a quilt shop in the Southern Berkshires, so the self-taught quilter left her career in the travel and tourism industry to open the shop with her family in 2010.

Aptly named, Brookside Quiltworks is situated on the banks of Karner Brook at the junction of Route 23 and Sheffield Road. It was formerly home to the Splendid Peasant folk art antiques shop and, when the building came up for sale, Kane and her husband, Bill, seized the opportunity to finally launch their business. In addition to selling patterns and fabrics for quilting, Brookside Quiltworks offers classes, services sewing machines and leads Quilt Camp during the summers for children ages 9–16.

The revival of quilting in the United States can be attributed to the 1976 bicentennial celebration of the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Kane shares that, during that year, “there were picnics happening all over the country where people would bring out their quilts and share stories.” However, it was the 1971 exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City that radically shifted public perception. Suddenly, quilts were seen not as just picnic blankets and bed coverings, but as pieces of fine art to be displayed and studied.

Kane believes quilting is still so popular because it’s so accessible. She said: “You don’t have to be an artist. If you have a nice pattern and nice fabric, anyone can make anything beautiful.” At Quilt Camp, young people from all over the region learn how to design and create quilts. The program nutures children’s creativity and cultivates the next generation of quilters.

The shop is home to over 2,000 bolts of fabric, all carefully selected to ensure the best quality material. The majority of the fabric is coming from Japan, where Kane believes that the best quilting is happening. It is difficult for her to source local textiles because fabric is considered a low-end good in the United States. However, Kane recognizes the importance of supporting the local economy. With the BerkShares she takes in, she often shops with fellow South Egremont BerkShares business Indian Line Farm and other businesses at the farmers’ market. In addition to accepting BerkShares, all the quilts sold in the shop, from vintage to contemporary quilts, are made by local artisans.

What really distinguishes Brookside Quiltworks is its gallery space. The exhibits, which change four times a year, have showcased the work of quilters from all over the country. Kane said that the gallery serves as an inspiration to quilters and gives the public a glimpse into the quilting community. A $3.8 million industry, shops like Kane’s help people from all walks of life engage with the rich pastime of quilting. She’s hopeful for the future of the craft and her business. Ultimately, she said, “I think people want to be able to make something that will outlast themselves.”

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