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HAMILTON - Patchworks Quilts, owned by Claudia Williams, is participating in the “Row by Row H2O Experience” with a splash. She also has fabric license plates and is offering unique fabric quilt pieces of Bitterroot Valley images photographed by her husband.

Quilters in all 50 states and Canada are participating in the Row by Row Experience by visiting quilt shops, seeing new fabrics, collecting the free designs for quilt rows, gathering fabric license plates and making unique quilts that represent the fun of summer travels. Row by Row began in mid-June, collecting the free row patterns ends Sept. 8, and then quilters have until Oct. 31 to submit a quilt for a prize.

“This was initially designed to get quilters out in the summertime, because I think quilters nationwide are quite a bit like us,” said Williams. “They get wrapped up in their gardens and their company, and they quilt much more in the fall and winter than they do in the summer. This is enticing them to stay involved in the summer and to be together and have road trips. That’s really fun.”

As a participating quilt shop, Williams had to design a row pattern with a water theme, and then give them away free to anyone who comes into the shop participating in the RBR Experience.

“My row was inspired by the beautiful Bitterroot River that runs through our town and the fantastic trout fishing it has,” she said. “If customers want a kit – to make it exactly like my sample – then I sell the kits, for $18.95. They receive the pattern for the fish and all the fabric to make the border and everything.

“[As a minimum] quilters can go to eight shops and pick up their free patterns, then put eight of them together in a quilt – if you’re the first one in with a complete quilt – that means pieced, quilted, bound and labeled – then you win.”

At Patchwork Quilts, the first one to bring it in, with the PQ row included, wins 25 fat quarters, equaling 6.5 yards of fabric.

“The rows are so creative – you can design a row using water in any shape or form,” she said. “One shop did snow boots and ice skates, and another one did umbrellas. They are so creative. Most of the Montana rows are about lakes and streams, which is why a lot of quilters come here. Their husbands fish, and they come quilt. It’s the best of both worlds – your husband is happy, you’re happy.”

The Row by Row Experience started in New York as a Shop Hop with 20 quilt stores in 2011. In 2014, there were over 1,250 quilt shops in 34 states participating. This year, all 50 states and several Canadian provinces have fun planned for visiting quilters. As a quilter, you can gather designs from anywhere and add rows to your quilt.

Like plastering stickers from exotic locations on steamer trunks of old, quilters are also gathering fabric license plates from all their favorite quilt shops nationwide. They sew them into their quilts – front or back – or add one to other quilted items like tote bags.

“This is the biggest thing in the quilt world right now,” said Williams. “It’s a great way for quilters to bond with other quilters way out of the area. You can view each state on their Facebook page – our state is called “Montana Row by Row Experience,” and it shows all participating shops, their rows, if there are kits and their license plates. Helena’s plate is really cute. We have so many shops participating, from Kalispell to Shelby and all over Montana.

“I believe Montana leads the nation in vanity plates. I’m serious. I read that. So, this lady created a background with a water theme, and every shop that decides to participate has to come up with their own personalization. I’ve seen SEWCRZY, SEW’N 4 FUN and other very cute ideas. Ours is BITTERROOT QLTN because we live in this wonderful Bitterroot Valley known for its wonderful fishing.

“I believe every Row by Row shop has them. I’ve had people order them from me online – California, Oregon – we sell online.”

Quilters and sewing enthusiasts collecting Montana treasurers can also purchase another fun creation at Patchwork Quilts.

Williams’ husband John is a photographer and he has printed some of his great photographs onto 4-by-6-inch pieces of fabric. Images include Bitterroot flowers, beargrass flowers, Bitterroot Valley scenes and mountains, a boat of fishermen headed downstream, a freshly caught trout and other Montana icons. He has even created a composite of a photo and a quilt.

“My husband created this photo. He’s taken his photo of the Bitterroot River and substituted a blue patchwork quilt for the water in the image,” Williams said.

To receive your local Row by Row free pattern, you must visit Patchwork Quilts in Hamilton at 1782 N. First Street. The license plate and photograph panels can be purchased online.

For more information, visit, and Facebook Montana Row by Row Experience.

Reach reporter Michelle McConnaha at 363-3300 or

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