By Lindy Sholes
When Rachel Bishop took her first quilting class, she knew she wanted to turn it into a career. She now owns What’s Your Stitch, a quilting shop in Long Beach, and hosts charity quilting events.
“When I decided I wanted to open my own quilt shop, I always knew I wanted to have a charity aspect to it,” she said. “I decided making quilts for children was what I wanted to do. I opened in October of 2019.”
Last year, Bishop received a grant from the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, which she used to buy fabric and supplies such as cutting mats, rulers, scissors, pins and seam rippers. She also shared her cause with fabric companies, some of which donated fabric or gave her highly discounted offers. COVID-19 brought the world, and her business, to a halt shortly after she opened.
“So, I have had a closet of fabric just waiting for the day we could be together to sew,” she said.
In April of this year, Bishop hosted her first charity quilting event, which included two seasoned quilters and one beginner who is learning to quilt.
“The ladies who have been attending are having a blast digging through the scrap fabric that has been donated to make the quilts and then using the yardage for borders and backings,” she said. “Every month, we seem to gain a sewer. Everyone enjoys the conversation and sewing tips provided. Plus, it is always nice to sit and sew with people, because usually it is just you and your sewing machine.”
Gulfport resident Victoria Burkett took an interest in sewing during the onset of COVID-19, when she learned to sew face masks and scrunchies, but she is learning to quilt at the charity events and expects to finish her first one in September or October. She said most participants volunteer about an hour a month until they have a complete quilt.
“I’m learning this from the ground up,” she said. “[Rachel] said, ‘I’ll give you the materials and teach you to do everything.’…She is really amazing.”
The cause is important to Burkett, because she has a family member who was once in the foster system, and she loves that her finished quilt will help a child in need.
“You can tell everyone involved likes doing this, the charity aspect of it and creativity aspect of it,” she said. “It’s really beautiful, as if a giant room full of fabric isn’t beautiful enough.”
Since the first charity event, six quilts have been made. Finished quilts are donated to Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) of Harrison and Stone Counties, an organization that advocates for neglected or abused children, where Bishop also serves as a volunteer.
Bishop has applied for more grants, in hopes that she can buy a couple of sewing machines for people who may not have their own to use. She wants the art of quilting to be available to anyone who is interested. At the charity events, there is no cost to attend, but participants do need to provide their own sewing machine and should expect their quilt to be donated to CASA. Bishop also provides quilting classes for those who are interested in learning the skill.
“I believe it is so important to teach all age groups this art, so it can continue for generations to come,” she said. “Also, who does not love a quilt to snuggle with?”
She said Long Beach has been a great community for her family and her business.
“When I opened, I wanted What’s Your Stitch to feel like a place you could just drop in to chat while shopping, or just drop in to chat,” she said. “Through the shop, I now have a group of people I consider friends and who I have been able to share life experiences with.”
What’s Your Stitch is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is located at 112 East 2nd Street. Upcoming charity quilting days include August 11, September 8, October 13, November 10 and December 8. For more information, visit www.whatsyourstitch.com or the store’s Facebook page.