Circle of Friends Quilt Shoppe in Thunder Bay

A Cornerstone of Community

Stepping through the door of the Circle of Friends Quilt Shoppe is a bit like coming home. There is something familiar about the feel of the place, the smells of wood and fresh laundry and sunshine streaming through windows, with floors that seem to creak in all the right places.

The brick house, with the wooden porch out front and the view of Lake Superior down the hill, casts a welcoming vibe right out into the street. It is a place where customers are more often than not greeted by name, and where time is encouraged to stop for a while.

It is a space, says owner Luci Andreacchi, that can be a refuge of sorts where people sometimes come to chat, share a cup of coffee, to stand amongst the clamour of colour and possibility, to engage imagination, and sometimes just to feel good. “It is not just a business,” she says; “my heart and soul have gone in to it.” You can feel that. It is a tangible thing. 

The walls, lined from floor to ceiling by wooden shelves, are bursting with every colour and pattern of fabric imaginable. Every flat surface is packed with the trappings of quilt making. There are bolts of fabric and squares tied in neat bundles, racks of thread in every hue and shade, a myriad of glass jars full of buttons and embroidery floss, finished quilts hang from walls and are folded and stacked neatly on top shelves. There are quilting gloves and needles both for machine and hand sewing, scissors and rulers, cutting mats and templates, books and magazines: everything one would need to begin quilting tomorrow.

Which is a real possibility, as Andreacchi speaks to a revival of self-sufficiency, of people returning to needlecraft and working with their hands. “It warms my heart,” she says to see people gathering in that way, to learn and create. It is a philosophy the shop helps facilitate by offering classes for all skill levels in their classroom space at the back of the shop, which is also overflowing with fabrics.

But Circle of Friends is not just a name; it embodies the very essence of the store. While the space and Andreacchi alike encourage the gathering together of people and ideas, this shop is very much a part of the larger community of not only Thunder Bay, and in association with the local Quilt Guild, but of the national and global community of quilters. 

Serving the entire Northwest Ontario region, the shop is also a popular spot for tourists passing through the area, especially since the shop became involved in the Row by Row Experience. This is a shop hop of sorts that encourages traveling quilters to visit stores in different communities, to collect patterns of individual rows designed by each participating shop with the purpose of creating finished quilts as colourful, engaging, chronicles of their travels.

This year’s design by Circle of Friends, like last year’s, includes the iconic silhouette of the Sleeping Giant along with other elements that speak to the natural beauty of the Thunder Bay area. Both designs are on display in the shop, which is located at 218 Tupper Street just off Cumberland. Check out their Facebook page for shop updates and class offerings.

About Heather Peden

Heather Peden is a writer, blogger and photographer living in Neebing, Ontario, a rural neighbouring municipality south of Thunder Bay. Heather has a passion for what she calls “life in the wilds of Northwest Ontario”, and it's reflective in her blog, “Three Dogs and a Couch,” and photoblog “Light Sifting.”

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