Rindge couple have built a business for quilters

  • Joel and Bobbie Bergquist of Rindge spend about 40 weeks a year on the road for their business, Quilters Treasure. They are on their fourth motorhome since starting the business 18 years ago, estimating they've traveled 700,000 miles. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

  • Bobbie Bergquist uses her motorhome as her office, design studio, manufacturing and shipping departments for Quilters Treasure, the business she runs with her husband, Joel. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Bobbie Bergquist uses her motorhome as her office, design studio, manufacturing and shipping departments for Quilters Treasure, the business she runs with her husband, Joel. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/6/2019 11:22:26 AM
Modified: 9/6/2019 11:22:14 AM

The motorhome that sits in the driveway of Joel and Bobbie Bergquist’s Rindge home serves many purposes.

First of all, it’s where they live because they are on the road approximately 40 weeks out of the year traveling the country for their business so they rent out the log cabin that Joel built near Lake Contoocook.

It’s also their office, manufacturing and shipping departments, design studio and transportation for work. As the owners of Quilters Treasure, the Bergquists don’t have the most conventional of business models. They do about 10% of their business online, have never had a storefront location and sell most of their products at quilting shows – hence the fact they’re constantly off to another area of the U.S.

“When people ask if we have a store, I say no, we come to you,” Joel said. “And with the click of a couple buttons, we’re open 24/7.”

They started out making and selling marbled fabric and it has blossomed into a full service business for quilters. They create kits for people to make their own wall hanging or quilt, sell fabric and all the necessary tools. There are loads of patterns available, including stain glass, Celtic, and ones called Elegant Lady and Ravenwood, some of which were created by Bobbie. Along the way, they created a specialized product called leadline – a flexible polyester bias tape that hides the raw edges of the fabric – that helped solidify their quilting techniques.

“Once you put the leadline on, everything pops,” Bobbie said. “And you can’t buy this from anyone but us. The leadline is our product.”

In the 18-plus years since they founded their business, the Bergquists are on their fourth motorhome and estimate they’ve traveled about 700,000 miles. But it’s what has made their business work and they enjoy criss-crossing the country.

“We get restless when we’re home too long,” Bobbie said.

Quilting started out as a hobby for Bobbie. Dealing with migraines for years, her doctor told her she needed something to get her out of bed. So she taught herself to quilt. At that point in time, everything was done by hand because the sewing machines were too noisy.

When she was making her first full size quilt, using stain glass patterns created by Donna Shultz, Bobbie realized something.

“I tried to find fabric that looked like stain glass and I couldn’t,” she said.

They had come across this couple who made marble patterned scarves and thought it would be perfect for stain glass quilting. They got some paints specifically for marbling and Joel got to work painting fabric.

They took about 25 yards to their first show in Clayton, New York and the response was encouraging.

“People saw our fabric and didn’t know what it was,” Bobbie said. “But we sold most of it and we actually made money.”

Someone recommended they go to one of the big American Quilter’s Society shows in Paducah, Kentucky. Bobbie heard it could take five to ten years to be accepted into one of their shows, but once the organization saw what they’d be bringing, they had six weeks to get ready. In that month and a half, they made 800 yards of their marbled fabric.

“You could imagine it was quite a project,” Bobbie said. “But we went down there and made money.”

Now they do about 30 to 35 shows a year, but they don’t make their own fabric anymore – there’s no way they could with the volume they need and being on the road so much. The fabric is made in South Korea, using all their original fabric patterns. When they order it, they must get at least 1,000 yards per color with a minimum of six colors.

“When I said we have to find someone to manufacture our fabric, Joel said I was crazy,” Bobbie said.

They have friends in Wisconsin who store the bulk of their fabric and have it shipped wherever they will be.

The kits, which range from $20 to $200, include all the fabric, the leadline, directions and the pattern for both stained glass and Celtic designs. They also sell their marble fabric by the fat quarter, half yard or by the yard. The leadline is manufactured for them in black, green and white and the patterns, which can be purchased individually, are produced by a company in Florida.

“They’re all real stain glass patterns,” Bobbie said.

In addition to the sales part of the business, Bobbie also gives presentations at shows, hosts workshops and talks at guilds around the company. And she’s also a judge. She has created numerous techniques over the years including “applique for cheaters” and “quilt as you go.”

“I try to simplify the techniques so everyone can do it,” Bobbie said.

She’s always thinking of new ways to get people interested, including the addition of zentangle patterns and painting fabrics.

“You’ve got to keep reinventing yourself,” Bobbie said.

Bobbie said the patterns and the leadline is what keeps them competitive. And the fact they appeal to that first time quilter.

Since the travel so much and don’t have a store, Bobbie feels they’re relatively unknown in their hometown.

In the motorhome, they utilize every inch of space. Joel has a desk area that pulls out from the dash in front of the passenger seat. The underneath is filled with kits, supplies and samples. And the car they tow behind is used for storage as well.

When they pack up to go to the Quilt Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, from Sept. 5-7, the Bergquists will then head to the Philadelphia area before coming home for a short time. Then they hit the road again, and they won’t be back till May.

For more, visit www.quilterstreasure.com.


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