Quilting a Rural Fabric
When you open the door of the Hen & Chicks Studio in downtown Conrad, Iowa, get set to cross over the threshold into an oasis of creativity and unbridled adventure.
Beyond the colorful quilt displays and array of fabrics, you might see a dozen young kids engrossed in making paper bag scrapbooks. Nearby, a group of women known as The Happy Hookers could be perfecting the art of traditional rug hooking.
Heidi Kaisand, owner of Hen & Chicks, watches over her customers like a mother hen. "I'm constantly searching to bring in creative people who can help unleash the creativity in all of us," she says.
She purchased the shell of the old store building in August 2011 (it had housed a quilt shop), and after extensive renovation, she opened her new business in October.
Kaisand, former editor of Better Homes and Gardens American Patchwork & Quilting magazine for 15 years, had commuted 140 miles daily to and from work in Des Moines – until the birth of twin daughters, Goldie and Virginia, now 5 years old. Son Henry is 8 years old. Kaisand's husband, Jeff, is a veterinarian who farms part time and operates a small cow-calf herd.
In 2007, she accepted a position that would allow her to work from home: a national sales manager for APQS, a long-arm quilting machine company.
Quilting is a lifelong passion for Kaisand, inspired by her grandmother. She started by quilting pillows and made her first quilt as a 9-year-old 4-Her. Her first full-size quilt was selected for the Iowa State Fair when she was a high school sophomore.
If you look around her shop, you'll see quilts made by her grandmother. "She made beautiful, traditional, and timeless quilts," Kaisand says.
In addition to fabric and quilting supplies, Hen & Chicks Studio features a full calendar of events. Kaisand invites master quilters, craft instructors, and other artists to host workshops. Janet Brandt (janetbrandt.com) is one such embroidery expert extraordinaire.
Other regular events include Sit and Sew every other Friday, and Click and Crop, a group of traditional and digital scrapbookers. Kaisand is a Creative Memories consultant. Saturday, October 20, is a special all-day scrapbooking day.
The Wednesday Wool Club meets monthly to work on appliqué blocks from the book Wool Crazy by JoAnn Mullaly.
Grown-up play dates
Kaisand added a retreat center known as The Nest on the upper floor of the old store. It's fully equipped with a furnished kitchen, dining area, craft area, three full bathrooms, laundry, and dorm-style sleeping facilities that can accommodate up to 20 quilters or scrapbookers. Each bed is topped with a unique homemade quilt and partitioned by a hand-painted door.