By Gary Nager

I have known Cathleene “Cathy” Tokish for at least a couple of years before she opened her Sweet Darling Quilts in the Grand Oaks Square plaza on S.R. 54, a mile or so west of Lexington Oaks, about a year ago.

When she opened, the wife of Chapel Cigars (located right next door) co-owner Tom Tokish had a nice selection — from what my untrained eye could see — of patterns, fabric, tools and other necessities to make some nice quilts. Today, however, Sweet Darling Quilts has at least four or five times as much “stuff” in-store as it did a year ago, and there is a lot of opportunity for anyone who already enjoys or is even a little bit interested in quilting to take an array of classes and buy everything they need to make quilts for baby and adult beds, pillows and even quilted clothing. New classes start up again in January, so check Sweet Darling’s website or come into the store to find out what’s available.

Cathy and store manager Lynn Herndon are both experienced quilters, but they both also say they still learn new things about this fun, rewarding “hobby” from the quilters and even award-winning quilt designers who come into Sweet Darling Quilts.

For example, well-known local artist and quilt designer Paula Ashford Lewis, who displays her amazing original cartoon character quilts at Sweet Darling, won “Best in Show” at the Cypress Creek Quilter’s Guild annual show (which was held at USF the weekend of Nov. 9-11), for her newest creation, “The Picnic,” which is a scene (photo top left) depicting a black-and-floral cat named Black Bart who has, “Invited the birds for a picnic. Oh, what to serve?”

“A lot of people who come into the store ask if they can buy patterns of Paula’s designs,” says Cathy. “It’s a lot of work to change a design into a pattern, but we keep hoping Paula will do it because her designs are just so unique and adorable!”

Cathy and Lynn agree that Sweet Darling is a lot more than just them.

“We have a lot of people who help us out here, from different designers (including “friend of the store” Karen Conter, who teaches wool quilting at Sweet Darling) who teach different classes (see below), to people who help us out when the different quilter’s guilds from all across the Tampa Bay area come here for sales event.”

Quilters Guilds from as far away as Palm Harbor, Brandon and Dade City have brought groups of as many as 50 quilters in buses to Sweet Darling, which Lynn says requires “a lot of hands here to help with measuring and cutting of fabric and helping them find the patterns they need. We serve them refreshments and make sure everyone goes home happy.”

Special events are a big part of Sweet Darling’s business, including two coming up very soon worth noting.

On “Black Friday” — Friday, November 23 — Sweet Darling Quilts will give anyone showing up between 8 a.m.-9 a.m. 30-percent-off all of their purchases all day. Arrive between 9 a.m.-10 a.m. and receive 20-percent-off all day and you’ll get 10-percent-off if you arrive 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Also coming up, on Wednesday, December 12, 5 p.m.-8 p.m., is the second annual “Guys Night Out” at Sweet Darling. Husbands and boyfriends can bring in their significant others’ wish lists, get their shopping done and their gifts wrapped while they sit next door at Chapel Cigars and enjoy great specials on premium cigars and ice cold micro-brewed beers while they wait.

For info about these events & the upcoming “Class Preview” on Wednesday, January 9, call Sweet Darling Quilts (26240 Wesley Chapel Blvd., Lutz) at 994-2994, see the ad on page 25 or visit

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