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2023 Winner Highlights: Quilts by the Bay

Quilts by the Bay in Brighton, Digby, Canada is our 2023 Canadian Grand Prize and Nova Scotia Regional Prize Winner.

We asked them about their store, staff, and the impact of our contest.

Can we share some history about the store?

I started selling my quilts to a local shop, but when the shop owner retired, I decided to sell them from what was then my two-car garage/now quilt shop. People would stop in to purchase quilts and some who stopped were expecting me to sell fabric as well.

My husband, who is my biggest supporter, suggested selling some of my abundant “stash”. I decided to try that, and it quickly turned into what it is today. It has taken over more of my house than I expected, but it works for us. Our children have grown and gone and grandchildren love sleeping on the floors.

Our grandchildren love to come help in the shop as well, even co-hosting the Friday night shows from time to time.

Store owner: Debra Howard

For those that have not seen the store, please describe it.

My store is just outside the little town of Digby, Nova Scotia, on the east coast.  

I try to carry a varied selection that appeals to my customer base.

I also have two longarms and offer that service to my customers. I pride myself on a quick turnaround.  

I stock 100% cotton fabrics, notions, and finished quilts. If I don’t stock items customers are looking for, I special order products in.

Do you have any events to share so that we can help spread the word?

I host two retreats yearly (for up to 100 people), spring and fall, at the Pines Resort and Spa.  

Live videos every Friday night with sales and new product reveals.

Often I have live videos on Wednesday mornings with things like SAL’s, demonstrations etc.

Retreat fun with Jenny Doan!
Retreat fun
Friday Night Frenzy
Friday Night Frenzy fun

—2023 Contest Customer Comment —
Friday night Fabric frenzies are always a time. Debra and her crew go above and beyond and have created a community unlike any other. Top notch customer service that is personalized even when you’re in another province!


Tell us about your staff.

My husband, Wally, was my first staff. He’d helped in every way possible, cutting fabric, picking fabric, tending the store when I was away. Gradually my staff numbers have grown. 

Twila works with me Monday-Friday. Without her, this wouldn’t be possible. We work so well together.

I do have to say that our staff here have become more like friends than staff. Karen Sampson works a couple days a week and keeps us all on track here with her organizational skills. I also have weekend staff and friends that make my Friday Night Frenzy’s possible…Karen and Jeannine.

I also have two people who help make shop samples: Lloyd aka ‘my man sewer’ and now Nancy Steeves has been a welcome addition! As soon as new fabrics arrive, they turn it into something to inspire our viewers. Jennifer also posts free patterns for us every Monday to keep people checking in and inspired.

—2023 Contest Customer Comment —
The owner Debra Howard, and her girls- Twilla, Jeannine and 2 Karen’s are so knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. Together they make an unstoppable team. Deb also will bring anything you want, and tries very hard to keep her costs down.


What inspired you to become a local quilt shop owner?

I previously worked as a paramedic and quilting was my avenue to unwind from stressful calls and shifts. I kept a sewing machine in my locker and would get it out every chance I could.   When I think about my passion, I would have to say I have a few: fabric, quilts, children (3), and grandchildren (9). I have a strong belief in God, and I am thankful to him every day for my health and success.  

One of the highlights of what we do here at the shop is charity work. We get our viewers involved by making blocks and sending them to us.  We turn them into quilts and then, whoever has donated a block, their name is entered into a draw and they get to have them mailed back to them to give to the charity of their choice. This has been a huge success and I plan to keep this going. So far in the last year, we have given 10 quilts away. Such a great way to get everyone involved!

—2023 Contest Customer Comment —
Debra treats every customer like a close friend. Her fabric supply seems endless. If you need a gadget and you can’t find it anywhere else, Debra has several and in different sizes. It’s a long drive from Halifax and it’s worth every minute spent on the road.


In closing

Debra Howard owner of Quilts by the Bay said, “Without contests and viewers spreading the word, it wouldn’t have been possible to grow and spread the joy of quilting. The contest has certainly added some new customers to our base and helped me realize just how much my online family continues to support my endeavors.”

We are full of gratitude as well.


  1. Debra Howard

    We, at Quilts By The Bay, are so pleased and thankful to ByAnnies and all the sponsors for this contest which raises awareness of so many local quilt shops, to promote this industry, and the passion of sewing to so many. Its been a long month of watching those numbers climb and we are just so thankful to all of our viewers and customers for helping us win this. We’ve welcomed new customers this month and we are very thankful to ByAnnie’s for helping our business grow even more. Congratulations to all the other winners in this contest.

  2. Kim Barton

    A big CONGRATULATIONS! to Debra and all her “peeps.” I am new to Quilts by the Bay – I was introduced to Debra and friends at a quilting retreat on Prince Edward Island. The women at the retreat (known as “the island girls” to Debra) switched on the television Friday at 7pm and I was hooked with the “Fabric Frenzy.” I know that it has taken a lot of hard work and dedication to maintain the high calibre of respect and commitment Debra&co have achieved over the years. Recognition with this award and the number of votes recognizes the passion and a job well done!

  3. Jayne Demeester

    While on vacation last summer from Ontario, visiting friends just down the road from you, it was obvious from the moment I stepped into the shop that I was in for a real treat! The seemingly endless amount of quilts, fabrics, notions, patterns and more all displayed beautifully in a limited space was incredible. Being a newbie to quilting, Deborah was kind enough to demo her long arm quilting machine for me as I hadn’t ever seen one in action before. The staff was friendly and very helpful too. I’m so glad to know my vote helped Quilts by the Bay win the LQS contest this year, Congratulations to them!

  4. Joyce Doyle

    When will you be hosting the By Annie trunk show? As a Maritimer, I’d love to take a road trip and enjoy the eye candy!

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