Quilt shop encourages customers to be creative

CLARE — Carolyn Birch McQuillan was born on the Clare farm where she now works, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

McQuillan, owner of Basketcases Unlimited, says she loves DeKalb County. Her business holds classes that teach sewing, quilting and basket-making, among other things, though quilting is its biggest draw.

"This is another way to offer DeKalb County's agricultural land to its people," McQuillan said. "Women are the heart and souls of farms, and quilting is part of it."

Basketcases Unlimited is located at a former livestock barn and is surrounded by farmland. McQuillan's parents bought the 160-acre farm in 1944, and after her father retired in 1977, he sold most of the farmland but kept five acres and the house.

Customers come from all over northern Illinois. Some are from farms, but others come from towns such as DeKalb and Sycamore.

DeKalb resident Ellen Deforest recently walked into the store to look at a quilt hanging on a wall. Deforest is in the process of creating her own quilt and wanted to see how the displayed quilt looked for help.

Deforest, a newbie to quilting, said Basketcases Unlimited sells nice, quality material. The Clare business even buys directly from one manufacturer in Iowa.

"Some things, I don't even know what I'd use them for," Deforest said. "Some of these quilts are gorgeous."

McQuillan also creates quilts for her customers with the help of a machine quilting computer program that speeds the process of creating a quilt pattern. She was recently creating a pinwheel pattern quilt for a client.

Basketcases Unlimited has been in business since 1995 and is DeKalb County’s oldest and only quilt shop, according to its website.

"The original reason for doing this was to encourage people to do handwork and to create things for their own use," McQuillan said.

Sharon Holmes, who has lived in DeKalb County for about 70 years. She recently came to Basketcases Unlimited to browse the selection of fabrics. Holmes, who served as DeKalb County Clerk from 1990 to 2010, said she has more time for quilting now that she's retired.

In April, Holmes helped start a quilting group in DeKalb that meets at the Senior Service Center, 330 Grove St., No. 3, DeKalb.

"I've been quilting for 30 years," Holmes said, "but since I've been retired, daily."