Try 1 month for 99¢

On any day but Sunday, quilters gather behind the facade of Old Town Quilt Shop to talk fabric, colors, stitch and patterns. They gather in the clubhouse to create quilted crafts while swapping stories and sharing expertise.

“I’m always astounded by what people do. They’ll take pieces of fabric and use it in a way I haven’t thought of. We can have a class working on the same pattern, but if you have 10 people in the class, you’ll have 10 different quilts,” said shop owner Michelle Strunka.

Strunka entered the quilting fray while still working at University of San Diego. Several members of her vanpool signed up for a class. Only Strunka carried it into a borderline obsession.

“I fell in love with it. It’s like an addiction. I love the colors of the fabric, and I feel like it satisfies an artistic part of me,” Strunka said.

After retiring from 33 years with UCSD, Strunka moved to the Santa Maria Valley where she discovered the quilt shop Maxine Campbell had established in 2005. Strunka began filling in now and again, became a business partner in 2014, then took over the business when Campbell retired earlier this year.

“I love doing it. I enjoy the customers. I especially love when they come back and show me something they’ve completed with our help. We’re so happy for them. It’s just satisfying to see someone enjoying something like that,” Strunka said.

Today, she works alongside her daughter, Stacy Murray.

Together, they have moved the store to a more modern fabric look.

“Modern quilting has become a big movement. I tend to like bright things, and polka dots are my favorite, so we have a lot of that,” Strunka said.

There isn’t enough room on the shop walls for samples, so many of those hang in the clubhouse where guilds meet, dessert clubs are held and classes reign supreme.

“It’s basically a fun place to come spend awhile,” Strunka said.

Dessert Club is a single-evening event featuring, of course, dessert, but also projects that can be completed in the single, three- to four-hour session. Past projects have included computer tablet cases, cell phone wallets, and project bags.

“The things you create don’t actually have to have a purpose. You can create just because it’s something you want to do. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who do paintings just for the sake of painting, and there aren’t enough walls for all of those. They just feel the urge. They love the technique. They want to try doing something new. If you’re happy, that’s fine,” Strunka said.

Stepping into the quilt shop allows crafters the opportunity to stack fabrics for perfect color and pattern matches, and to take advantage of employees’ years of experience.

“We’ll spend sometimes several hours with someone looking for that perfect border or helping match things they need,” Strunka said.

Old Town Quilt Shop also makes its clubhouse available for guilds and private retreats. The facility includes a kitchen area and space for 20 people to sew, tables, chairs, ironing boards, design walls and store access for all or parts of the projects.

“That’s become the biggest part of our business. People come from out of town to sew there,” Strunka said.

Old Town Quilt Shop will be open for Black Friday and celebrate Small Business Saturday. It will also offer gift certificates and discounts in the thick of the holiday season.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Jennifer Best can be reached at