Pokagon citizen opens quilting shop

DOWAGIAC — Roughly four miles outside of downtown Dowagiac, Julie Winchester-Farver inspected a quilt inside of the former Wayne Township Hall.

Looking closely, she pointed out a subtle oak leaf pattern stitched into the bright orange and yellow fabric. More than a design choice, Farver said the pattern is a celebration of her heritage. 

“That signifies that I made the quilt,” Farver, a Pokagon tribal citizen, said, her finger tracing over the pattern. “The Potawatomi are known for their woodland, floral designs, and one of those designs is the Potawatomi oak leaf. I wanted to relate that into my designs and into my store.”

Now, Farver can share the stories of her quilts with the community.

In March, Farver opened Quilted Oak Leaf at 53480 Glenwood Road, Dowagiac. Open for a busy few weeks until COVID-19 and Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order closed its doors, the business sells fabrics, quilts and quilting supplies, in addition to baby clothes and gifts. Now that her business has been allowed to open back up for curbside delivery and appointments, Farver said she is ready to share her love of quilting with the Dowagiac community.

“I just loved quilting and loved fabrics,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to own a shop of some kind, and when I started getting into fabrics, I knew it had to be a quilt shop.”

Farver began quilting in 2000. Initially, she set out to learn how to sew clothing, but ended up “absolutely hating it.”

Upon the suggestion of a cousin, Farver tried her hand at making a quilt. Twenty years later, she is still making quilts, saying that, unlike making clothes, quilts allow her to use her creativity, tell a story and create an heirloom families can enjoy for years to come by using meaningful fabrics and patterns.

Over the years, Farver has made quilts for the Pokagon Band, for people’s weddings, and to celebrate adoptions and the reunification of families.

“I call it putting the puzzle together. You take the pieces apart and put them back together,” she said. “This is what brings me joy.”

Quilted Oak Leaf’s tagline is “where friendships and creations are made,” meant to represent the friendships Farver has made over the past 20 years of quilting. Once all COVID-19 mandates are lifted, and her store is allowed to fully open, Farver hopes to cultivate more friendships through the classes she will host at her store. Not only is she planning on offering quilting classes, but she also hopes to offer courses in other areas, including sign painting.

“We will have something for everyone,” she said.

As her business continues to grow, Farver expects to become even busier, as she continues to keep up with orders. Despite the busyness of her schedule, she said she could not be happier to have achieved her dream of opening a store and to able to share her love of quilting with the community.

“I’m very excited to be here,” she said. “This is just the right time.”

Currently, Quilted Oak Leaf is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays. During the summer, hours will be expanded.