Nothing warms the heart — or for that matter the rest of you — like a handmade quilt. And thanks to Country Stitches with shops in East Lansing and Jackson, you can have that quilt all sewn up for Valentine’s Day or some other special occasion in no time. Country Stitches is owned and operated by Anita Covert, Ph.D. The East Lansing site spans more than 10,000 square feet and houses more than 6,000 bolts of cotton fabric. It also hosts quilting classes year round and offers in-store service by three certified technicians. The Jackson shop is about half the size but still provides the same great service, including one-on-one and group instruction. Covert, a former MSU professor, has won many accolades. In 1997, the shop was named one of the top 10 U.S. Quilt Shops by Better Homes and Gardens. And in 2001, Covert was named Michigan’s Small Business Person of the Year. The City of Lansing submitted her name to the national committee and she traveled to Washington D.C. to receive her award from President George Bush. Running the shop isn’t all business. It’s also fun. And Covert is happy that her mid-Michigan customers — quilters from all walks of life — are joining in the fun. Country Stitches’ roots date back to 1982 in Eaton Rapids. Covert was asked by a friend to help her run a quilt shop. By 1987, Covert decided to leave her teaching position at MSU to start her own shop in East Lansing’s “larger market.” Five years later, her daughter Ann Drane joined her and became head of the Education Department. A few years after that, she hired Sewing Machine Manager Brian Ladson. That’s when sewing machines began to go high tech. “When I first started Country Stitches, I never dreamed that there could be sewing machines with so much power,” said Covert. Where it used to take our grandmothers a year to hand sew a quilt, “today’s equipment makes it possible to complete a quilt over one weekend,” she said. The computerized sewing machines work with laptops to scan pictures and images and quickly reproduce them. And they’re not the only things that have gone high tech. Fabric has, too. Covert purchases thousands of bolts of fabric, and although she stocks many traditional materials such as Civil War reproductions, she also delights in more modern material — like 3D-printed textiles. “Regardless of the type, I love fabric,” she said. “I love the creativity of selecting different types and colors.” Even though the machines and some of the fabrics have advanced, Covert’s vision is still the same. She wants her customers to experience the joy of creating quilts. Judging by the popularity of the classes they offer, men and women of all ages are doing just that. “There are (more than) 1,500 classes per year,” she explained. The classes attract beginners and advanced students — some create original patterns and others duplicate established designs. Giving back to the community is important to Covert, too. Country Stitches hosts many events throughout the year to benefit such charities as the Greater Lansing Food Bank and Meals on Wheels. There is a quilting group dedicated to providing quilts for those in need. Last year more than 100 were finished and distributed around the community. So, when you think of a gift to give for Valentine’s Day this year, consider a quilt — a gift from your hands to someone else’s heart. To find out more about Country Stitches, visit their website at www.countrystitches.com.
Ann Cool, MPS, is a freelance writer who lives in Mason with her husband Bob.