By Patricia Belyea
SEATTLE WA In 1977, when Jason Yenter was in Grade 1, his mother Sharon opened In The Beginning—a fabric store on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Located in a 400 square-foot loft space above his grandmother and aunt’s dollhouse shop, the business started small. Over time the store moved twice, with its final 6000 square-foot location on Lake City Way bursting with fabrics, friends and fun.
Jason’s involvement with fabrics and quilting grew from putting bolts away as a Grade 8 student and making his first quilt as a high school senior for a humanities project. Here are close-ups of some fabulously detailed quilts Jason made after he graduated from university and began working full-time for the family business:
When In The Beginning began its fabric division in 1996, Jason designed his first collection: Atlantis. Since then Jason has created upteen collections with his patterns printed on almost 2 million yards of cotton, men’s shirts and even paper products for Michael’s. No longer finding time to sew, Jason designs quilts and produces quilt books—16 to date—often coordinating with specific fabric collections.
Here’s Paradise Quilt, made with his Paradise collection that’s in stores right now:
Visiting In The Beginning Fabrics corporate headquarters, I first stepped into a welcoming showroom. (In The Beginning shuttered its store in 2005 to focus on producing high-quality fabrics for quilters.)
I found Jason, now President and Creative Director, in his office brimming with printouts of fabric collections—taped to the wall, on the floor and on all horizontal surfaces. Even his computer screen displayed fabric patterns. The new fabrics will be coming out in 2015 so he didn't mind me taking pictures.
Besides designing his own collections, Jason collaborates with a cadre of artists to develop 12 to 14 collections every year. Julie Paschkis, an illustrator, author and quilter, created this fabric collection called Azuli that’s coming out next September. Inspired by tilework in Spain and Portugal, Julie infuses a whimsical energy into her art.
Walking through the various spaces with Jason, we happened upon Leah Rowley Nelson compiling handouts. Leah’s grandmother’s surname was Belyea—making her a long-lost cousin of mine! Even though In The Beginning Fabrics has a warehouse across town, tons of fabric filled the backrooms of the sprawling one-story building.
As we finished up our time together, Jason spoke passionately about In The Beginning’s role in making fabrics for quilters. “Quilts are heirlooms that are handed down from generation to generation. In 100 years from now, people will be looking at quilts with our fabrics in them! We’re creating New History here.”
He also talked about Sharon. “I’m so proud of my mom. She’s created a legacy. Mom has a studio at home and designed one collection last year. Her heart’s still in it.”
Sharon and Jason—a mother and son—have brought color, pattern, and a love of quilting to others. They’ve made delightful contributions to quilters in Seattle and around the world for almost 40 years.
To visit In The Beginning Fabrics website +click here