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The Traveling Quilter: The Atlanta Shop Hop, 2007

 

What possessed the Traveling Quilter to get aboard a tour bus and visit thirteen local stores in two days’ time? It could only be the Greater Atlanta Quilt Shop Hop.

In previous years, we have “hopped” in a variety of ways, usually involving tearing out to one or two shops after work  on Thursday and Friday and then cramming in as many as we could on Saturday. Things have been a little better since the shops started opening on Sunday,  too.  Metro Atlanta is a big area, so when we had the opportunity to leave the driving to someone else, we decided to jump at the chance. 

Blessedly, the Saturday of the Hop dawned sunny but chilly. Roughly thirty intrepid quilters gathered at Intown Quilters, organizers of the bus tour. Shop owner Sarah Phillips got the party going with bagels and coffee, and of course, our first opportunity of the day to buy FABRIC. Fabric, the driving force behind the whole concept of the shop hop, was why we gathered to make this pilgrimage in the first place. Sure, books and notions are great, but mostly it’s all about the fabric. 

The bus took a while to get going. First, the hoppers had to finish buying stuff at Intown, and then the bus driver had not gotten the itinerary or directions from his employer, so Sarah had to rectify that. Other bus delights included our driver trying to turn a huge bus around on a hilly country two-lane while half the local populace watched. You can imagine how much fun this guy had being the chauffer for a bus load of opinionated women! 

It took me some time to “get with it” and let the experience take me. I just browsed at Intown, which is my “home” store.  (We all have one, I realized after listening to our bus companions talk with each other about which shop was “their” store.). Before 9 am I had made my first mistake of the day: not buying some fabric I liked at Sarah’s.  But I was barely awake, even with all the wonderful brights at Intown to chose from! 

The first day was getting to know the other passengers, getting directions mixed up and getting off and on the bus a lot of times. Although the time allotted for each stop was 45 minutes, of course it took longer. I almost didn’t go on Day Two. Day One was so tiring, I was getting shopped-out and I was going to be by myself without Rob on Sunday. But after a night’s rest (the bus didn’t leave until 11 on Sunday), compulsion took over and I was right back at Intown.  

By Day Two, the sisterhood had formed. People brought quilts for en route show and tell, and it was much more social from the get-go. I sat with someone who was without a ready-made companion, and took some ribbing about Rob having dropped out because the pace was too much for him! People had learned the drill, and had brought what they wished they had on Day One. Women who had taken it slowly on Day One began to become part of the fabric frenzy and it was generally much more of a group experience. So much so that when one quilter announced that she had just made her first fabric purchase without knowing what she was going to use it for, the whole bus applauded! 

Without taking you up and down the bus steps and in and out of each stop individually, here were the highlights as I saw them: 

Ladies on the bus: We were a broad demographic, ranging from mid-twenties up, of varying ethnicities, tastes and experience with quilting. There were several mother-daughter teams, some sister sets, quilting buddies and one couple (us). One woman had flown in from New York to hop with her sister. Guilds represented from the Atlanta area were Brown Sugar, Phoenix, and Intown. 

Hop theme: Springtime in Georgia. Each store had a different aspect of spring as their theme. It would have been good to print that on the “Passport,” so perhaps it would have been easier to tell what each store was trying to portray. 

Best interpretation of theme: Really a three-way tie.

Heritage Quilts in Newnan was a standout with their wedding theme: Bridal gowns of the staff were displayed in the window, wedding pictures were placed all around, everyone wore bridal veils and lace-embellished white T-shirts. Cupcakes, mints and nuts with homemade punch (complete with floating ice mold) were truly reception-worthy refreshments. Add to that an hourly bouquet-toss for a door prize and a cake constructed of Styrofoam and caulk, and well, you get the idea. Beautiful job. Not to mention that this unique store had lots and lots of fabulous reproduction fabric! 

“Easter” at Quilts and Fixins in Jonesboro was not to be forgotten either. Proprietress Jeanne and her family always do Shop Hop to the max.  Standing in her rabbit suit and bunny slippers, she presided over the egg hunt (plastic eggs were hidden throughout the store and could be redeemed for a prize). Staff all wore bunny ears and there were lots of baskets stuffed with fabric, Easter themed fat quarters and many, many seasonal projects on display in the back room and throughout the store. Mr. Rabbit adorned each goodie bag and there was carrot fabric as well! 

Last stop of the day was not a disappointment either. Although we were pretty tired, Sweet Home Quilts hit a home run with their baseball spring training interpretation. Crackerjack was in each goodie bag,   Staff wore baseball caps and hand-crafted baseball-shaped nametags. Atlanta Braves shirts adorned the walls, and each room was marked as a base. The room with the register was home plate! 

Best story of the Hop: One woman had driven back to Newnan from Buford (rumor was it was an 80 mile roundtrip) to buy fabric she has seen but not purchased the day before.) 

Above and beyond moment: One of the bus riders missed the bus at Intown. At the first stop, Fiber on a Whim, some 15 miles away, Sarah Phillips appeared with the tardy quilter in tow. Now that’s personal service. 

Overheard but too good not to repeat: “Of course you have to buy fabric you don’t plan to use right away. Some fabric has to season.” 

“My rotary cutter worked just fine until my husband used it to trim wallpaper.” 

“I give many of my books to the local library and let them be my storage space.” 

“I am not going to sign up for a class for the rest of this year. I have started at least 15 projects and I have to finish some. I might buy a new pattern, but I won’t take another class.”(Other passengers then got clarification. The top had to be done, but not necessarily quilted to count as finished!) 

Power shoppers: There were several hoppers who came to the bus with a mission. One had just moved and temporarily stashless, was about to take seven classes on consecutive days. 

Another had focus: Stripes

Others just wanted something for a particular project and brought swatches with them. 

At the beginning of the second day, an impromptu survey circulated on a brown bag. Total yardage for day one: Over 370 yards—but that was only the yardage to which we would admit. At least one shopper had inched toward a 100-yard total! 

Best serendipity: Little European Bakery, right next to Fiber on a Whim. Yummy pastry and lovely unusual decorations.  Also, Hiram’s antique store, that had nice old feed sack quilts, some super old cameras, where we made our second buying mistake of the day by leaving a wonderful specimen for someone else to find.

Oh, and seeing our friend (and star of Quilter’s News Network) Jodie Davis at Tiny Stitches in Marietta doing a demo of paper piecing. Jodie’s smile can light up a room in an instant, and her cute projects made standing in line to have our passport stamped fun. 

Test driving: Red Hen Quilts in Marietta let hoppers take their huge Handi-Quilter out for a spin. They also offer lessons on the long-arm and let quilters rent time once they have had the basic training. Red Hen also has two cute shop mascots, hound Sandy and poodle, Cookie. 

Shop with the most interesting assortment of products: Patrick’s, which is part seed and feed store, part quilt store. Where else can you find small animal traps, bulk candy, cheddar cut from a huge block, and bolts of  fabric all under one roof?  

Going the extra mile: Stitch N Quilt staye open way past closing time to accommodate a tardy bus load of shoppers who arrived well after 7 p.m. They were as gracious as though we had shown up first thing on Saturday, even though the staff must have been exhausted. This shop is always beautiful and full of wonderful quilt things, but they really went above and beyond to be sure we got a chance to visit their store. 

Most artsy and most likely to get a lot of money from me in the future:

Fiber On a Whim. This store is very over-the-top, not your grandmother  or mother or even sister’s quilt store unless she went to Berkeley. The block of the month is a mixed media journal by Patti Maderis Culea that I know I will have to do someday. Think embellishments and yarn and fabric dyes and needlefelting and WOW! 

Best relocation: Quiltin’ Time in Holly Springs. Their new historic house gives a whole new dimension to the experience. 

Most fun purchases not related directly to quilting: the PigTail turning fork for turning meat without releasing juices (www.pigtailff.com) and the Dyna-Disc which forces correct posture while you sit.  

Several great parts of the Hop that must be mentioned but don’t really fit a category exactly:  

Special dogwood design shop hop batik fabric in several colorways was a clever option for a hop souvenir.

All the beautiful Hop flower quilt blocks and all the different interpretations of how to use them in a quilt. 

The arrangements made by Intown and all the hard work to keep the hoppers happy while hopping. Huge thanks to Sarah, not only for her efforts but also for running one of the coolest shops EVER. A trip to Intown always lifts my mood, not just because the colors are so lush, but because her staff is always so pleasant and helpful. 

Exhausted. That’s the only way I can describe how I felt, even two days after I got off the bus for the last time and staggered to my car.  

But I’m glad we did it. Taking the Hop Bus with twenty some women we had never met was an incredible experience. 

But it wasn’t over yet. Monday I got a call that I had won the door prize from Quilt Station in Hiram! Since that necessitated a trip back out to Hiram, it seemed only fitting that we call the antique store and arrange to pick up the cool old camera that had caught our eye as well. I mean, if there was ever a clear signal that something was meant for us, this had to be it.

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