Betty's Thimble Quilt Shop opens in Orion

Mindy Carls
Main Street Orion held a ribbon cutting for Betty’s Thimble Quilt Shop on Friday morning, July 29. Left to right are Krystin White, Main Street Orion executive director, and family members Hope Stropes; Leigh-Ann Stropes, Chad Stropes and Chance Stropes. The shop is in the former Swanson’s Hardware on Fourth Street between 10th and 11th avenues

"It's been a couple of years in the back of my head," said Orion resident Leigh-Ann Stropes as she sat in Betty's Thimble Quilt Shop the day before its grand opening on Friday, July 29.

"When my son Chance graduated from Orion High School, I needed something to do," she said.

Stropes started quilting a few years ago. She wanted to share her love of the craft and began thinking about a shop — perhaps in the the Swanson Hardware store on Fourth Street between 10th and 11th avenues.

"It didn't work out," she said. "I thought I would give it some time. I honestly thought God was saying take a step back and learn some things."

She worked in a quilt shop for a year. When Swanson's became available, she and her husband Chad bought the building.

"Things fell into place after that," she said. "I love old buildings, I love the character."

Removing a drop ceiling revealed a copper ceiling, and removing panels uncovered doors and windows and brought in natural light.

"Chad is a great source of knowledge and did most of the work," Stropes said. "I could not have done it without him."

The location near the post office attracts foot traffic, and a lot of people peeked in the windows to watch the renovation.

"The town likes watching progress and seeing things happen," Stropes said. "We need good businesses on Main Street to make this town alive again."

She tried a lot of names for the new shop, but nothing fit.

"One night I thought about my grandma, who always wore a thimble or carried one in her pocket," she said. Her grandmother Betty was an avid sewer, who always made her own clothes.

The store carries quilting cotton, fabric and sewing notions such as thread, Stropes said.

Two-day classes will be offered to young people from fourth grade through high school. If they take the pillow-making class, they will learn basic techniques. She will have classes for adults, too.

Classes will cover more than sewing. Stropes is bringing in the Mad Potter, and artists who can teach wood painting and oil painting.

Eventually Stropes will have longarm services and T-shirt quilts.

She loves the shop is bringing people together for a couple of hours at a time.

"We've been stuck at home long enough, through COVID," she said. "I was a stay-at-home mom, and I was lonely a lot."

She wants young women to realize quilting is not just "a grandma thing to do."

Betty's Thimble Quilt Shop will offer kits for all sizes of projects.

The most challenging part of opening the business has been waiting for back orders, Stropes said.

Also a challenge is knowing what to carry.

The shop is closed on Sunday and Monday, open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday.