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Stitching together traditional, modern

November 4, 2012 12:10 am


The Crazy Cousin will host a trunk show of Amy Bradley's quirky patterns this month. bz110112crazycousin1.jpg

Rhonda Trahern cuts fabric at her new quilt shop, The Crazy Cousin, in Chancellor Center shopping center.

RHONDA TRAHERN planned to be an art teacher but wound up working in law enforcement.

Now retired, she's gone back to her first love and on Saturday opened a quilt shop called The Crazy Cousin in Chancellor Center shopping center on State Route 3 in Spotsylvania County.

"I had a great career. I traveled the world and got to help other officers out," said Trahern, who was one of eight certified geographic profilers in the world. "Now I'm getting to do what I truly enjoy."

The Kansas native, who has always loved art, color and fabrics, got interested in quilting after joining the group of women at her church, Tabernacle United Methodist in Spotsylvania, who make prayer quilts.

When Trahern had a hard time finding the materials she wanted, she decided to go into business offering fabric, patterns and equipment that aren't available locally. Among other things, The Crazy Cousin will sell, service and give classes on using Handi-Quilters, a brand of long-arm quilting machines. Previously, the closest place to get them was in Hughesville, Md.

The Crazy Cousin is also stocked with a variety of quilt patterns, new and vintage fabrics, and vintage quilts. Fabrics appropriate for baby quilts are displayed in an 1880s crib, and there's a "man cave" with a sofa where men can sit while the women in their lives shop.

Trahern, a longtime antiques dealer, chose "Blending vintage roots with modern design" as the main motto for her new business. She said she appreciates the time women used to spend hand-sewing quilts, as well as the new fabrics, designs and sewing machines available to quilters today.

Her other motto is "A place where friends create," because The Crazy Cousin will offer classes and a chance to participate in such things as Project Linus, which provides quilts for children who've been hospitalized.

The store is opening with a trunk show, which will run through Nov. 30, of Kansas designer Amy Bradley's contemporary quilt patterns with comical characters such as Quilt Diva and Bountiful Beauties.

From Dec. 1 to 15, The Crazy Cousin will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg by holding an exhibit of Civil War-era quilts and a trunk show of California stitchery artist Lolita Newman's hand-embroidered quilts and patterns. Her work features African-American soldiers of that period.

In addition, Mary Kerr of Woodbridge, an American Quilt Society certified appraiser, will be on hand to do appraisals on Dec. 8.

Trahern's new venture is the latest in an interesting career. It began when she graduated with a master's degree in school counseling from Fort Hayes State University in Kansas and worked alongside probation and truancy officers in a pilot program to counsel first offenders.

"I met a guy who worked with the investigators, and he told me I was too spunky and needed to be a federal agent," she said. "I said to him, 'Get me an interview.'"

Trahern was hired by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and eventually became chief of ATF's Explosives Detection and Accelerant Detection Canine Program for seven years. She also helped establish its ombudsman program.

She later became a supervisory special agent/geographic profiler with the ATF, and specialized in serial violent crimes. For the past eight years, she was stationed at the behavioral analysis center at the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime at Quantico.

"It was just kind of dark," Trahern said of the work she did. "After I retired, I thought: 'What could be profitable and fun in the art world?' I decided to jump into the fire and do it."

She picked the location in the Chancellor Center for The Crazy Cousin because it's close to her house, has plenty of parking and is just off Interstate 95.

Finding a name for the business was easy. When Trahern and two of her cousins from Wichita, Kan., got together at a hand-stitching retreat last year, they were laughing so much that people told them they were crazy.

"We said, 'Yes, we're the crazy cousins,'" Trahern said. "I couldn't convince them to move to Virginia, hence the name is just singular."

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407

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