About mid-October, Row by Row excitement soars when the new theme is announced. Creative juices flow like crazy. Row design ideas whirl around inside shop owner heads. Rowers start dreaming too, wondering what their favorite shop will offer.

Many shop owners design their own rows. Some hire professional designers or collaborate with other shops. Some reach out to talented members in their local community to brainstorm ideas. Long-time shop owner, Judy Fenton, of Millcreek Sewing & Fabric in Erie, PA turned to her staff member Carol Schuler.

Carol Schuler at Millcreek Sewing & Fabric.

Carol is the lead Baby Lock educator at Millcreek Sewing and just happens to be a classically trained flute and piccolo player. She was the perfect person to take on the task of designing their 2018 Sew Musical row.

Carol looked to her hometown, Erie, PA, and her experience as a young adult playing in the local theater orchestra for inspiration. “We have a lot of musical vibes here in Erie,” she added. “Our Erie Playhouse is one of the top ten community theaters in the US. Our Erie Philharmonic Orchestra is strong and the Warner Bros. theater in downtown Erie has been totally refurbished to its original movie palace glory.”


Tapping into that hometown vibe and mixing it with a bit of musical nostalgia, Carol chose Barbershop harmony as the genre that would inspire her design. But, as her shop’s row designer, she had to consider many elements that would make the design successful.

The barber poll was long and skinny making it work well in the classic row shape. The sense of nostalgia is appealing and most folks know what Barbershop singing is. It was easy to render the design into flat shapes and fit them on paper. And, it didn’t require specialty fabric. It was the perfect way to interpret the Sew Musical theme.

But, Carol added something special. Let’s find out how she did it.

Millcreek Sewing in Erie, PA. 814-866-8227

Carol knew how a barber poll looked with the iconic peppermint stripe twist and globe top. That was easy. But she had to Google the shape of the hat, called a straw boater, and the mustache plus the lettering style font to capture just the right look.

After that research, the next step was drawing the shapes and putting it all together in a quilt-making-way to create a memorable design.

Carol is a big machine applique fan. Her row design looks like it includes piecing, but it’s actually all applique. Sorry patchwork fans! But the shapes are big and easy and Carol knew how to write the pattern well for you. Her first draft had eyes on the head. But she omitted them in favor of simplicity. We agree!

The special sauce Carol added was the way she secretly titled the row with the x4 element on the bottom. It’s a curious little word puzzle that you have to look twice to figure out. The aha moment you experience when you do is a mini thrill and oh so memorable! (Don’t get it? See the end of this post.)

Thank you Carol and Millcreek Sewing for sharing your 2018 theme interpretation with all of us.


Here are some other shops and rows that used Barbershop themes in their 2018 row designs. If we missed any, leave a comment below.

Village Quilts in Lethbridge, Alberta. 403-320-1817

Quilt Lovers’ Hangout in North Fort Myers, Florida. 239-995-0045

Rumpled Quilt Skins in Okotoks, Alberta. 403-938-6269

Here’s a Barbershop inspired FabricPlate too! There may be others around RxR land. Enjoy them all!

ShippenStitch in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. 717-477-6938

Author’s note: There’s nothing quite like the vocal harmony of an all-male Barbershop chorus. Sweet Adelines too! Like our craft of quilt making, the general public doesn’t really understand what we do as quilt makers in the 21st century. I highly encourage you to seek out the performance of a ‘modern day’ Barbershop a cappella singing group. You’ll be amazed!

Answer: Barbershop Quartet. X4. Times 4. Quartet. Get it now?