Calico Hutch serves as a living tradition

Published 9:36 am Thursday, December 29, 2016

By Steve Browne

HAYWARD — Hayward is a small town — barely a wide spot in the road — but it is famous among the worldwide community of quilters as the home of Calico Hutch quilters supply. Calico Hutch was featured in the spring/summer issue of Quilt Sampler magazine.

“This is the third location since it was started in 1982 by LaVonne Williams, but it’s always been in Hayward,” said Jessica Steinbach, who helps manage the business in the absence of owner Carolyn Matson.

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Matson started working for Williams after selling a school bus company she owned, according to Steinbach. When Williams retired 13 years ago, Matson bought the business and brought Linda Galkin, one of her bus drivers, along with her.

“I’d sewn blocks for my kids, but I didn’t really start quilting till I came here,” Galkin said. “Carolyn asked me if I wanted to work here part time; then I started working four days a week.”

Blocks are squares of fabric layers used to make quilts and are typically 15 inches a side. Quilts are made with a top layer of blocks sewn together, a back of one large piece of fabric or a few sewn together, and batting in between for warmth. The various patterns on the blocks are what gives quilts their signature appearance.

Steinbach took up quilting after taking advantage of the kits and courses offered at Calico Hutch.

“I had always wanted to learn,” she said. “I had quilters in my extended family, but I didn’t live near them. I started here, and after a while they suggested I come work for them.”

Quilting is an old tradition in many communities around the world, and is maintained today by people who appreciate the artistry, heritage and the opportunity to come together for fellowship. Though quilters are few in any given location, there are millions across the country and the world.

“We get customers from all over the country and overseas,” Galkin said. “We’ve got orders from Ireland, England and Canada right now.”

In addition to fabric and patterns for quilts, handbags and table runners, Calico Hutch offers beginning and advanced classes, bus tours and quilting retreats in Austin. Each retreat can accommodate 120 quilters, and there is a waiting list, which prompted Matson to schedule retreats back-to-back in November and April. Another retreat is in February.

Calico Hutch also offers the use of a longarm, a sewing machine with an arm long enough to pass a full-sized quilt through, to do the stitching across the length and breadth of the quilt once it has been put together.   

Some quilters work from patterns purchased at the store, and some prefer to make their own as they go along. All enjoy the creativity involved in making something both artistic and practical.

“It’s something made with love you can put a little bit of yourself in,” Steinbach said. “And you can try something a little more difficult each time.”

Quilters follow different styles of design including modern, Civil War reproductions and the 1930s style created by quilters during the Depression who used printed flour sacks for material.