What is Chilcompton famous for? Or maybe you’re wondering, where, or what on earth, is Chilcompton. UK resident or not, you might be forgiven for not having heard of this small village, tucked away in the middle of nowhere in Somerset. If you’re not from the area, the nearest recognisable city is probably Bath, but even that is a 45 minute drive away, which in UK units is quite a long way. So what is it that draws so many people, even internationally, to this quaint piece of rural England?
The answer, is Midsomer Quilting, voted ‘the UKs favourite quilting shop’ by the British Patchwork and Quilting magazine. Quite the accolade, although the Quilting Hub list of quilt shops in England implies there are only five there, two in Northern Ireland, one in Wales and that quilting is illegal in Scotland. (For any visitors to the UK, I assure you this information is incorrect and there are in fact many charming places that sell fabric, quilting tools and in all ways resemble quilt shops).
It is a little bit of an adventure/pilgrimage to get there but you’ll very quickly realise just why Midsomer Quilting is the subject of such high praise. The photographs in this post are from the old shop location as they have now moved just down the road. Britex Fabrics also moved shortly after my last visit so I’m starting to wonder if this is becoming a bit of a trend… If anyone has a shop they need relocating let me know and I’ll come and visit. The good news is that they haven’t downsized, they’ve just moved premises.
While you’re struck dumb staring at the walls and walls of fabric, you will usually find someone offering you a complimentary coffee or tea (unless you throw it on the fabric… it might get quite expensive then). This is because Midsomer Quilting has really gone beyond just being a series of walls that house an impressive fabric collection, it has very much formed its own community.
It goes without saying that they have an excellent fabric range and I would guess are also probably one of the largest quilting shops in the UK. Doughty’s Fabrics, who have an awesome online service and are great at their roadshows, claim to be the biggest, but I think Midsomer Quilting offers quite an adequate wallet drain as it is. They’ve got an extensive and amazing selection of gadgets, tools and waddings, and some beautiful batiks that it would have been sinful not to take home, but that’s still not really makes the store so special.
I highly recommend signing up for their newsletter just for a bit of a light relief with every issue. This newsletter and Shiela Dixon’s Handspinning News are proof that it is possible for a newsletter to put a smile on someone’s face. Midsomer Quilting is a little quirky, and eccentric, but all the staff are quilting experts and really just want to share their passion with you. This isn’t some stuffy shop where you’ll discover the ‘One True Way’ of quilting but a place to go, have fun, and actually enjoy the fun side of fabric rather than arguing about the ‘correct’ order for seam piercing or opinions on prewashing fabrics.
It has the same kind of atmosphere that is why I love Spinning Weal so much, you’re in the company of experts who just want to help you make your fibery dreams come true. On another note, if you’re into fiber-anything, including knitting and crochet, Handspinning News is a really, really awesome resource and I would highly recommend donating for the VIP version of the newsletter too.
Midsomer Quilting makes for a fun day out, and is near the beautiful Mendip Hills if you haven’t satisfied your thirst for adventure, but if you can’t make it to the physical shop, their online service is actually really awesome. My orders were packed same day and shipped as fast as the British post service would allow. They turned up nicely wrapped and complete. Plus, who couldn’t love a site that has a section devoted to fish?