Part of the fabric of life in Chesterville

CHESTERVILLE – From the early 1600s the quilt has been an ever changing part of the Canadian rural landscape.

Continuing the tradition of the quilt and carving out her own part of quilt-making in the region is Ruth Liscumb, who owned and operated Flair With Fabrics in Chesterville.

For the past 26 years, Liscumb has taught, advised, and shared her sewing expertise and products with thousands of quilters across Canada from her hometown of Chesterville.

On Sat., Aug. 31 she closed the door on that chapter of her life, shutting down the store at 3 King St.

It was a bittersweet moment as Liscumb said goodbye to her many customers who helped her make so many great memories.

She is ready to move on.

She said, “I was born and raised right here.”

“Our home is right where the parking lot for the Gathering House is today. Eventually her family moved to a home on Mary Street.

Ruth Liscumb in front of one of her many artistic quilts. Flair With Fabrics closed its doors in Chesterville Sat., Aug. 31. Morin Photo

Liscumb and her husband, Glen, live near Morewood, just a short drive from Chesterville.

She married Glen 50 years ago and the two headed to Winchester to begin their married life.

The couple raised three children.

Eventually they moved outside of Morewood just seven kilometers away from downtown Chesterville.

Liscumb worked at Brister Insurance in Winchester as a customer service representative before deciding to start up a business of her own.

Sitting behind a desk turned out to be something she did not like; however she loved to talk with the people who came in to ask about insurance.

She had learned all about quilting as a child and sewing and making crafts appealed to her.

She opened Flair With Fabrics in 1993 in Chesterville specializing in fabrics, crafts and knitting supplies.

Her shop was in a little corner of the Curran Flooring Centre across from the Chesterville Arena.

Liscumb offered classes in sewing and craft making. She quickly realized she would need to have more space. Eventually she would relocate her shop to where the Gathering House is today. After nine years there, she moved down the street to the store’s final location.

Liscumb has loved every minute of her time owning Flair With Fabrics.

“I love my little town,” she said.

She remembered how her shop became a kind of local gathering spot for the community. People would drop by to talk about quilting and also about the latest bit of news.

In 2007, she had decided to devote just about all of her efforts to quilting and quilting products.

Originally she offered sewing as a service, working on shirts and trousers to generate a basic income for her business.

“I had to do that to pay the rent,” she said.

Over time, quilting and quilting supplies became her focus, and her business thrived.

Despite the success, running any small business can be a challenge.

“It is not easy to be in business,” she said, “If you are not committed, you will not be successful.”

Success became the norm for her shop and her business, and reputation as a quilter grew. Liscumb is a member of the Upper Canada Quilt Guild and is no stranger to all of the quilting organizations in Eastern Ontario.

She loves quilting.

“It can be a hobby,” said Liscumb, “But just as easily it can become a way of life.”

Deciding to retire and close her shop was a recent decision. She decided to retire in March of this year. She only had one more big quilting event to attend at the EY Centre in Ottawa.

After that outing, she knew she was ready to move on.

“Retirement was not in my plans,” she said. “Business has been very good.”

Liscumb simply felt very weary. She attended several major quilting shows each year, loading up all of her products, taking them to a show, setting up her booth and then staying there for as long as the show went on. At the same time she had to look after her shop in Chesterville, as well as her staff.

“Having great staff made life easier,” she said. “Your staff makes or breaks you.”

Despite supportive staff, Liscumb still had to organize and attend all of those quilting shows, usually eight a year.

“You wake up one morning and you realize just how tired you are,” she said. “I did not want to do this anymore but I loved being with people and socializing.”

She said she did not want to be the boss anymore.

Reluctantly she decided to end one chapter of her life and begin another.

She admitted that quilting will always be a part of her life. The creativity and energy found in the quilts hanging on the walls of her shop are a testimony to her skill and commitment.

She has sold most of the fabrics in her shop and hopes to be completely out of the building by mid-September.

After enjoying some time off, she and some friends will be traveling down to Houston for a big quilting show. “I have never had the opportunity to get there,” she said. “I will be going for the first time as a tourist and I am really looking forward to it.”

Her next adventure in creative quilt making will be in a process described as stitched portrait quilting.

A quilter takes a photograph and re-creates it thread by thread as a quilt. As exacting and time consuming as it is, Liscumb is looking forward to it.

“I still have my health,” she said. “And I will stay connected to my customers and friends. There is so much I want to do.”