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Linda Hannawalt fell in love with a quilt she saw on a cruise through Skagway, Alaska in 2006. She didn’t know how to make one but decided to learn. Last November, having completed more than 500, she opened the San Francisco Quilt Shop in Mazatlán.

Obviously, Hannawalt’s enthusiasm quickly became a passion. In her first year, she made 49 quilt tops, which cost $12,000 USD to have “quilted” into usable objects with innards and backing. Hijole! Pronto-donto, she learned how to do that part herself. She opened a non-profit in San Francisco which creates quilts and pillowcases for charity (“fabric hugs,” she calls them), “bringing joy to some of our community’s most vulnerable citizens,” said a review.

Fast forward to February 2014: Hannawalt visits Mazatlán with a friend, toting both precut fabric and a sewing machine along. Soon curious folks were walking into her open doorway, eager to buy the colorful quilting pieces strewn on every available surface.

Never one to dawdle when inspiration strikes, she visited a workshop in Mazatlán where local women who knew nothing about quilting were engaged in numerous other sewing endeavors and immediately decided to teach them…then spotlight their talents in a tienda here. After all, declaimed Hannawalt, “A working woman is a woman changing the world.”

Back home in San Francisco, she worked feverishly to bring 10 Mazatlecas to her home, setting in motion a dizzying chain of events leading to the merchandise-filled shop on Carnaval. Recalling that frantic beginning, Hannawalt called it “a miracle where failure became success.” The rooms she used to house her students were meant for something that never panned out, but now they had a purpose. After a whirlwind 10 days of instruction, she sent the women home, each gifted with a plastic tub containing a sewing machine, cotton fabric, bobbins, thread and tools.

Once the die was cast, Hannawalt was truly on a mission. She realized Mazatlán was definitely her new home when she bought a house last May and dispatched 10,800 pounds of treasures here to fill it. Then she found another property close by and transformed it into the San Francisco Quilt Shop. She and her Mexican partners now teach classes there. They also sell supplies and operate a boutique showcasing reasonably priced handmade goods ranging from finished quilts to shopping bags, tortilla warmers, jackets, vests, etc.

“Our merchandise would cost at least twice as much in the US,” Hannawalt said.
Given the varied talents of her pupils, one can get custom sewing (window treatments are popular), repairs and alterations done here too. There’s also handmade jewelry, body care products and vanilla from local purveyors. Plus a newly-constructed courtyard has ushered in Tamale Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Visiting quilting enthusiasts have jumped on the bandwagon, volunteering their talents so more local women can join in this empowering experience. “Your students are teaching me new skills,” one of these snowbirds told Hannawalt.

Just viewing her two gigantic long arm quilting machines – lugged here on 18-wheelers from the US border – is worth a trip to the shop. She’s #24 on Artwalk and recently welcomed a group of 60 quilting enthusiasts visiting Mazatlán on a Princess Cruise. “They bought everything in sight,” Hannawalt contentedly recalled.

She’s hoping the shop runs without her before long, saying her partners are not only talented artistically but quick to learn entrepreneurial skills.

“Quilting is a community-building art that’s more enjoyable done with others,” Hannawalt said. “Until I started doing this, I never knew it could be so much fun to cut up beautiful fabric and put it back together again.” •

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