By Dawn Aerts
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–At the 4EverQuilting Store, Deb Leoni and her assistants Annie Swearngin and Lynda McCulloch are hoping to make life a little more beautiful, ‘one stitch at a time.’
Leoni has worked in the field of accounting and owned her own business since 2001, a career that she pursued since 1985 — but her dream world, and the happy place for quilters she envisioned began with a class, making her first quilt in 2007.
“My late husband Michael encouraged me to take time for myself and to take some quilt classes at a local church,” said Leoni at the quilt shop she opened in Cedar just a year ago. “The ‘seed’ was planted back then, but opening my own place was something I only hoped to have the time to do… one of these days.”
It was only after selling the family home in Las Vegas that Leoni said she was ready to just start over and follow her inspiration.
Leoni still oversees an accounting business, but works with, and alongside, both experienced and new quilters. Today, her store is full of patterns and panels, variegated threads, fabrics and busy work tables with a big-screen TV for useful ‘how-to’s.
It was actually a visit to see some hands-on work on an old quilting machine in Boulder City, Nev., that inspired her decision to invest in an operation.
“It was an old Gammell model in the store, but I thought well, yes, I’d like to do that,” said Leoni of the ‘Handiquilter Infinity 26’ that found a place in her shop. “I had this huge machine sitting in my family room for two years, and I thought, if not me, who? I decided the time to open my own place was now.”
Leoni said her mother had a creative side as a painter while she pursued a talent for paper-inspired craft-making.
“I have to admit that in my home economics class I literally sewed a shirt into oblivion,” said Leoni with a laugh, “But after spending six weeks in a quilt class, I found something I enjoyed working on: finding the right panel, picking out the fabrics, the fat-quarters, patterns and threads. Now I help my customers with their choices.”
Leoni considers quilt-making a utilitarian skill that has evolved into an artform. “The fabric industry has put out amazing materials, and people have found beautiful ways to be creative, from decorative pillows and wall-hangings to one-of-a-kind quilts that they can personalize for weddings or as the ultimate, handmade gift.”
At her store, Leoni has begun quilting circles, and opportunities for seasoned and up-and-coming quilters to spend time during the week. “I would say it’s a relaxing atmosphere for ideas, to be creative, and to bring people together,” said Leoni of work-space and demonstration videos. “Here you can create something unique and it’s not a solitary thing anymore.”
Leoni envisions 4EverQuilting as a ‘hub for quilters’ of all ages, men and women. “Personally, I spend a lot of time looking at a quilt design before it goes onto a machine,” she said. “It’s fun to enhance the work and make it as beautiful as possible, so what they create stands out and I can help them achieve a vision.”
Her storefront is bright and welcoming with various displays and table seating for classes, demonstrations or personal projects. Leoni also started a Christmas Quilters Club at $10 a class on the first and third Saturdays of the month. She is part of the Cedar Chest Quilters Guild and encourages quilters to attend the annual retreat.
“Nowadays there are many opportunities for quilters to share their time and creative work with others,” said Leoni of the Jan. 20 to Feb. 1 Cedar Chest Quilters’ Guild show and classes, and an upcoming seven-night Pacific Coast Quilting cruise she is coordinating for quilters in March.
This fall, 4Ever Quilts will host a Dirndl Dress class with Ronnie Badgett; a Christmas Quilters Club, and a double-wedding ring table runner class using pre-cut Kits.
Leoni also participates in the Hoffman-Fabric challenge that begins with a small fabric design that quilters can turn into a finished entry for their national quilt trunk show and tour. “Over the years I’ve helped many people succeed in their business,” said Leoni of her shop, “Now I help people with their vision – a happy place for quilters.”