Island Quilter brings splash of color to Vashon’s core

Anja Shive Moritz prepares her new store downtown and is planning for a Feb. 7 and 8 grand opening. All the fabric is encased in plastic to keep it clean during the hustle and bustle of moving. - Susan Riemer/staff photo
Anja Shive Moritz prepares her new store downtown and is planning for a Feb. 7 and 8 grand opening. All the fabric is encased in plastic to keep it clean during the hustle and bustle of moving.
— image credit: Susan Riemer/staff photo

After nearly two years serving area quilters from a home nestled in the woods off Thorsen Road, Anja Shive Moritz, the owner of Island Quilter, plans to open the store next week in downtown Vashon, bringing with her roughly 4,500 bolts of fabric — and plenty of color.

From batiks to vibrant florals to novelties, the store carries fabrics suited to every type of quilting and every personal taste. All the material is 100-percent-cotton, high-thread count, quality fabric, Moritz said, good for quilters who spend many hours on projects and want them to last.

The store is not simply for quilters, though. Moritz also offers a small selection of home decorator fabrics, patterns, thread and other sewing notions, such as elastic and Velcro. She is looking into selling yarn and, by popular request, buttons.

“It’s really hard for to people to leave the Island when a shirt button pops,” she said, noting it became difficult to buy a button on Vashon when Island Variety closed.

Moritz said she will listen to what people want and try to stock it if possible.

If people have a sewing need, “It’s absolutely worth checking with me,” she said.

With the move into town, Moritz also plans to offer more classes than she had before: basic machine sewing, basic quilting, quilting appliqué, paper piecing and more.

“There’s no limit, really,” Moritz said. “Once I know what people are interested in, I will find a teacher and teach it.”

Moritz moved to the Island in 2001 and while looking for a home to buy, she saw examples of the art of quilting and was drawn to it. A native of Germany, which has no history of quilting, Moritz felt quilting would be more fun than sewing, particularly sewing clothes, which she did professionally in Hamburg.

She took up quilting shortly after it inspired her, teaching herself from books.

“It’s much easier to do it for relaxing,” she said, comparing it to some of her previous sewing endeavors.

She adopted her son in 2002 and, a busy mother, grew frustrated when she ran out of something for a project during one of her small windows of free time.

“You have limited time when you have young children. You run out of something, and then you can’t get it, and then you have to fix dinner, and the day is over,” she said.

“That’s when I thought it would be great to have a quilt store on the Island.”

Moritz opened her business in May of 2007 and, unsure then if the Island could support a quilt store, began to sell fabric online as well, mostly through eBay, she said.

That income has been vital to the success of the business, even though her customers come from around the area, including quilt groups from around the region.

Moritz is moving Island Quilter now to comply with county code, and with her partner Paul Robinson has done considerable work in the former home of the Island Insurance Center to transform it into a store “with a little bit of character, a personal touch.” They have painted over the old dark teal walls, put in a new floor and plan to swap the fluorescent lights for track lighting to create a warmer feel and show off the true colors of the fabric.

The move is a big one for Moritz, especially during these rough economic times. But the transition brings some changes she is looking forward to, she added. The store will have 2,000 square feet all on one floor, a treat for some of the customers who have a hard time getting around and had difficulty navigating the stairs at the old shop, and the new store will be in the thick of things downtown, enabling Moritz to participate in more activities, including the first Friday Gallery Cruise, when Moritz plans to showcase a “Quilter of the Month.” The store is also displaying the quilt to be auctioned off in Vashon Community Care Center’s Labor of Love auction.

“It’s spectacular,” Moritz said of the quilt made by Islander Annie Miksch.

Some of the store’s customers are enthusiastic about the move to town, which they say will make it easier to shop and take classes — but some are also wary of what it will do to their pocketbooks.

Customer Nancy Zellerhoff recounted that a quilter friend of hers greeted the news of the store’s move a stone’s throw away from her south-of-town home by saying, “Oh, this is bad.”

That’s the kind of reaction that bodes well for the Main Street newcomer. In the store and surrounded by fabric that could outdo even the most extravagant of color wheels, Moritz said, “Hopefully a lot of people will come in because they just can’t resist.”

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