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Featured Shop: Calico Kate

Featured Shop: Calico Kate

Written by: 
Linzee McCray

The Welsh Quilt Museum isn’t the only venue to delight quilters in Lampeter, Wales, Just a couple doors down you’ll find Calico Kate, a knock-your-socks-off quilt store.

When I walked through the door I thought “What a sweet little shop!” Bright fabrics, gifts, buttons, and yarns were visible in the cozy rooms.

Then a glimpse of more fabric enticed me down a hallway and another room was revealed, the bolts of fabric stacked tidily on pine shelving…then another room…and another, and another. The place seems to go on forever, and that’s just the downstairs—upstairs it’s more of the (fabulous) same.

I emailed Calico Kate (Kate Barnes) herself to learn a bit more about this outstanding Moda-filled shop. Here’s what she had to say:

My original career was as an actress on the stage, so all my previous experiences seemed to have come together in Calico Kate.

My husband and I moved to Wales after all the family [Kate and her horticultural botanist husband Peter have three children and four grandchildren] had left home. Not being a Welsh speaker and having moved to a Welsh-speaking area, I first tried my hand at spinning and weaving and like so many English moving to Wales we bought a stone farmhouse with some land and soon had a small flock of Jacob and Shetland sheep and a few chickens. Great fun, but not a living! Following a course at Lampeter University “Women Working for Yourself” I ventured to earn a living weaving, but soon found selling and weaving were not a perfect match…people loved to watch, but not to buy!

At that time a friend was closing her tiny fabric shop in the town and I saw the opportunity to channel all my skills into finding a larger premises. Calico Kate was born in October 2002.

The building I found is in the High Street in Lampeter, originally a house with a shop at the front. My landlord is a local farmer and the deal was done over a handshake—the Welsh way!

I began with the room at the front and over the following years have expanded into the whole of the building, allowing me to have twelve themed rooms—be it by colour, designer, or collections— and it is rather like a stage set, so I have come full circle!

This part of Wales, is very rural and beautiful, inspiring people to be creative. Jen Jones opened The Welsh Quilt Centre in 2009 in the historic town hall next to Calico Kate, and has fresh exhibitions each Spring. Together we attract visitors from all over the world.

My favourite fabric is Moda , as you no doubt noticed when you visited, with six of the twelve rooms primarily displaying Moda fabric. I was introduced to Moda via a Layer Cake by Alan from Winbourne Fabrics, who are the distributors of Moda in the UK— and so my love affair for Moda fabric began.

I always order complete collections, making up a simple Layer Cake quilt as soon as the fabric arrives and so a quilt is up on the wall within a week. No, I don’t have time to hand quilt them, but pass them over to a long-arm quilting friend.

This I have found works on so many levels: it shows the beginner quilter the simplicity, the range of colours, and what happens when you put colours together, and all the designers at Moda have to be applauded for the way the collections are put together. For the intermediate and advanced quilter, as soon as they see the complete collection they are already planning what to do with it—job done!

Here is a link to how I celebrated my 70th birthday. (In the end we far exceeded the number, and in fact approximately 200 teddies, wearing their jumpers and with mini quilts, were delivered to Romania for the children last month.)

So Calico Kate is all about passion—a passion for fabric and a passion for people!

I loved hearing the story behind Calico Kate as much as I enjoyed visiting the shop myself. If you can’t make it to Lampeter, Kate says she’s got an excellent web site, with photos of fabric taken by Peter, “a keen photographer.” Orders are taken via phone or email. “We love to speak to our customers, and when in doubt regarding a colour match we suggest a small snippet of fabric is sent,” says Kate. “As we all know, the best way to buy fabric is to see it!  Customer service is paramount.”

Are you ready to hop on a plane (or jump in your car) and head to Lampeter?