Nancy J to be honored by state guild

Nancy Barrows, known to most as Nancy J, chats with a customer during a recent quilting show near Shipshewana. She will be honored July 19 by the Indiana State Quilt Guild. Photo by Harold V. Chatlosh

By Joseph Slacian

A Wabash business owner will receive the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award later this month from the Indiana State Quilt Guild in Marion.

Nancy Barrows, better known as Nancy J, will receive the honor during a ceremony Thursday, July 19, at the Marion Public Library. Activities are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

The ceremony is one of several events slated during the annual quilters celebration, scheduled for July 19-21 in Marion.

“My first response was I’m not old enough for a lifetime achievement award,” Barrows said with a laugh. “It’s nice to be recognized, but I do so humbly. I do what I do because I like to do it, not for awards.”

Barrows is a leader in the quilting community in many ways, according to the event brochure. She has assisted Rosalind Webster Perry in her early work of establishing the Quilters Hall of Fame. She also serves on the advisory committee of the gathering, an event which takes place in Central Indiana.

She also helped create the Kokomo One Stop Shop Hop, which brings quilting businesses together to help quilting enthusiasts be able to shop at different locations without having to travel great distances.

“It is clear to the board of the ISQG that Nancy J has made a significant impact on Indiana quilters and beyond,” according to the brochure.

Barrows opened her store, Nancy J’s, in 1980. It was about four years later when she began doing quilting seminars.

“It just seemed to be a better track,” she said. “People would drive further for fabric for quilts. The skills involved in making clothing versus making quilts is open to more people.

“We slowly kind of transitioned.”

Barrows said she would enjoy making quilts, “if I had time,” admitting, “I don’t get to sew much.”

According to the 2017 Quilting in America Survey the quilting industry is a $3.7 Billion industry.

The survey estimates there are 7-10 million quilters in the U.S.; 6-8.3 million households with a quilter, and an average of $442 is spent annually per quilting household.

“It’s something you can do who are important to you,” Barrows said, discussing the popularity of quilting. “A lot of people make baby quilts, quilts for graduation, weddings.

It’s kind of a therapy. It’s cheaper than a psychiatrist. It’s a social thing.”

She said she personally has “several” quilts, including some antique ones dating prior to the 1920s.

Making quilts is an art form, she said.

“It’s not your grandmother’s quilt anymore,” Barrows said. “There’s so much out there that you can do.”

Barrows has displays at six or seven shows per year, primarily in Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan.

“I don’t venture too far,” she said. “It’s hard to be gone from the shop for that long. But the opportunities do exist. You can go from New England to California to Florida to the state of Washington. They’re all over the place.”

The theme for her store, located at 1604 S. Wabash St., is “Colors Gone Wild.”

“In 1983, there were approximately three fabric companies that you could order quilt fabrics from, and they were all traditional, in that they were all the little calico prints that people associate with quilting,” she said. “But then fabric companies began to expand. There were fabric companies coming out of California that had a different thought process, so we started getting in more modern, brightly colored fabrics.”

When the store launched its website, she wanted it to have its own identity, hence the Colors Gone Wild theme.

“Most of the things on the website are more modern and brightly colored,” she said. “I don’t do browns and grays.”

Posted on 2018 Jul 10