Just around the corner and down the street from Stitch N Sew Cottage in Kalona IA is Woodin Wheel Antiques. It’s not a quilt shop, filled with fabric and patterns and quilting paraphernalia. It’s an antique and gift shop.
Woodin Wheel is at the heart of the Quilting Community in Kalona. And the reason is a lady named Marilyn Woodin. Marilyn and her husband have been enthusiastic supporters of the Kalona community since their arrival fifty years ago. She soon established the first gift shop in the area carrying handcrafted items, providing an outlet for local women to sell their beautiful handicrafts. As she told The Kalona News, ““We started the shop because we saw women making so many lovely quilts and not needing all of them. . . . We hoped they would consign them for sale.” And they did. Woodin Wheel Antiques followed a few years later.
Marilyn was a founder of the Kalona Historical Society which established the Kalona Historical Village and also offers a variety of Historical Tours that explore the unique Amish and Mennonite heritage of the Kalona area. Her fascination with quilts led her to collect over 200, both new and antique, over the years. Though not a quilter herself, she is recognized as a quilt expert, is a sought-after lecturer in historical quilts, and established the first quilt seminar in the state of Iowa. Under her auspices, the Woodin Wheel became a major sponsor of the Kalona Quilt Show and Sale which has been held each April for over 40 years. And the Quilt and Textile Museum that is a part of the Historical Village had its genesis with Marilyn’s generous gift of 32 quilts from her collection. She now serves as the Museum’s curator and oversees the production of its ever changing exhibits.
Several years ago, Marilyn turned Woodin Wheel Antiques over to new owners Katie Karnes and Brenda Herington, who carry on her active sponsorship of quilting and quilters in Kalona with undiminished enthusiasm.
Katie welcomed us warmly to her shop. She started working at Woodin Wheel while she was still in high school, continued through summer breaks as she earned her college degree in business administration, and is thrilled to be able to share the bounty of the shop with visitors who come from all over the world. And there are treasures to gladden the hearts of quilters and non-quilters alike.
I was intrigued by this handcrafted spool caddy, made by local artisans. What a wonderful way to keep your thread close at hand when working on applique or stitching down a quilt binding!
Next, a collection of Jim Shore Santas caught my eye.
And, of course, The Quilt Shop Navigator’s latest directories were ready for the next traveling quilter.
Everywhere I looked, there were fascinating things to examine, a marvelous treasure trove of delights old and new.
And then there were the quilts.
Quilts and more quilts.
Piles of beautiful quilts in every imaginable style and all the colors of the rainbow.
And it’s easy to see why, as Katie told us, “Woodin Wheel is known internationally for its selection of handquilted American quilts both old and new.”
Just outside the door of Woodin Wheel Antiques is one of Kalona’s celebrated Sidewalk Quilts, an Iowa Star block.
And here’s the Mariner’s Compass from Stitch N Sew Cottage,
the Kalona Rotary Club’s Amish Stripes and Squares,
an Amish Basket Sidewalk Quilt from The Kalona News,
and, my favorite, the Kalona Cooperative Telephone Company’s Blackford’s Beauty Sidewalk Quilt.
From the quilts displayed in the Kalona Quilt and Textile Museum to the many Barn Quilts that adorn the surrounding countryside, from the world-renowned Kalona Quilt Show to the Sidewalk Quilts that grace the town, it’s easy to see why Kalona is the Quilt Capital of Iowa, and well worth visiting.
Next year’s Kalona Quilt Show and Sale will be held Thursday through Saturday, April 24-26, 2014. There should be between 200 and 300 quilts on display, about a third of them antiques and the rest new. Don’t miss it!