ORFORDVILLE — Move over bars and restaurants. Another heavyweight of downtown commerce has joined the village’s ranks. It’s The Sassy Farm Chicks Quilt Company, and it’s bringing in fans from afar and creating new participants in its wake.
The Sassy Farm Chicks Quilt Company, 203. W. Third St., celebrated its third anniversary on Sept. 1 and will bring the third Annual Airing of the Quilts Indoor and Outdoor Quilt Exhibition to downtown Orfordville on Saturday, Sept. 12. The show will begin at 10 a.m. The rain date is Sunday, Sept. 13.
More than 200 quilts will be displayed on buildings, in the sidewalks and empty lots with the more valuable and vintage items tucked within the rustic store.
“This will be the most colorful town you’ll ever see,” said Sassy Farm Chicks co-owner Rhonda Streich. “The fun will be seeing them waving in the wind.”
At 1 and 5 p.m. Saturday, Streich will give a presentation on quilt appraisal, which she describes as a combination of visual appeal, artfulness and condition.
Visitors will also be able to meet the massive longarm quilt machine taking up most of the quaint shop, across from the reams of fabric and chicken coop display. The longarm runs on a computer aided drafting system. Customers bring in their hand-sewn quilt tops and the longarm attaches it to batting and a bottom layer, known as the “quilt sandwich.”
Not only will the upcoming exhibition give visitors a chance to check out Orfordville’s increasingly bustling downtown and handwork of its citizens, it will give visitors a taste of the spirit of The Sassy Farm Chicks.
The shop is a popular attraction for the growing number of quilters in the state. Although there are 17 quilt shops within an hour’s drive, The Sassy Farm Chicks is always getting more customers from out of town.
“Quilters like to travel,” Streich said. “It’s a huge and growing art form.”
The Sassy Farm Chicks has become so popular some joke it’s rivaling the local watering holes. One day a group of motorcyclists pulled in as a die-hard quilter was among its ranks.
On Saturday, quilters were filing in to bring their creations for the exhibition and catching up on the news of the day.
Longtime quilter Sue Crooks was contributing a stack of artistic creations for the show. One included a vintage quilt started by her great grandmother which Crooks finished by hand. Another reminds her of her family farm.
Kim Lloyd, who only started quilting a couple of years ago, was bringing in her mystery quilt to be displayed in the show. The shop gave quilters a few blocks to do each month letting the overall pattern emerge later. Despite Lloyd being a newbie, Wellnitz and Streich said her progress has been phenomenal with careful pressing and stitching
“She is a careful, deliberate and intentional woman,” Streich said.
Wellnitz and Streich never imagined they would be running such a bustling business. Streich had worked at a dairy coop and Wellnitz was a farmer. Friends for years, the two started spending more time together when their husbands passed away.
“Eight years ago, my husband died in July and Tina’s husband died in October, three months apart. We spent a long winter together,” Streich said. “We went to a quilt show in Monroe and thought we should make some things and sell them online.”
Soon Wellnitz had put a down payment on a longarm quilt machine which moved to her farm, and the two were approached by the village to set up shop. They opened three years ago on Sept. 1.
The place steadily increased business and became swamped during COVID-19 as people took to crafting.
“The joke is, we are so busy it keeps us out of the tavern,” Streich said.
Streich said quilting was popular up until the 1950s and 1960s when it died down a bit as people enjoyed shopping in department stores. It started picking up strongly in the 1990s and beyond as traditional arts and handiwork became more popular.
“Wisconsin is home to pattern writers, designers and tool makers for quilts,” Streich said.
Streich has been quilting since she was in the eighth grade. She said quilting is an art which can be given to loved ones. It’s also a great way for people to stay connected.
For more information visit www.sassyfarmchicks.com or call 608-921-3466.