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The Traveling Quilter

Mountain Quilt Quest: My shop hop initiation tour

By Penny Schmitt

What do you find when you shop hop? Along with fabric, tools, and other shop hoppers’ loot, I found great ideas, and new admiration for the women who make their businesses into centers for art and community.

The proprietors of the Quilt Shoppe (Summersville) and the Woolen Willow (Williamstown) take the queen’s place at their counters.

In a typical shop hop, owners in a connected geographic area put together an event that lasts for several days, and invite quilters to visit all their shops. The hop gets far-away quilters acquainted with new sources for ideas, materials and services—and encourages them to make their hobby into an opportunity for tourism. It also invites local customers to expand the number of stores they regularly visit.

A crowd of shop hoppers and staff chat at Quilts by Phyllis in Hurricane.

These mostly women-owned enterprises boost every shop’s potential through cooperation rather than competition. For example, when I proved the lucky winner of a basket at Quilts & More, the owner arranged a swap with the store in Elkins. No shipping charges for me, no trip to the Post Office for her! The two proprietors were happy to work it out later. Popular shops benefit more remotely located shops by including them in the shop hop. Since most stores have web sites, all have a chance to gain customers. The store owner at the Elkins Sewing Center confessed that her first shop hop found her unprepared for the participation. “We made up 50 kits,” she said, “and sold them out before lunch on the first day! Now we know to expect 350 to 400!”  

Some common shop hop elements are:

  • A theme quilt: Each shop offers a kit for one patch of the theme quilt. ‘Finishing kits’ may also be offered, with material for setting squares and borders.
  • A passport: Shop hoppers carry a brochure or passport that is ‘stamped’ as they enter each participating store.
  • Prizes: To gain rewards for participation, shop hoppers put their name in the hat for local prizes and / or for a final grand prize. Smart shoppers carry stick-on address labels to complete entry forms in a flash.
  • Refreshments & hospitality: Stores often have drinks and snacks available for shoppers. Their staff is also ready to talk with you about projects, local attractions, nearby restaurants, and even directions.
  • Souvenirs: You may collect pins, charms or other mementos in each store.

I  had a brush with one such event in Southwestern Virginia last year, when I became a participant by chance during a weekend visit with a friend’s family. When I saw a full-page ad for the West Virginia Mountain Quilt Quest in one of my quilting magazines early this year, I knew that was the event for me! www.mountainquiltquest.com will show you the map, information about all the stores, and pictures of the theme quilts.

I love the Mountain State, and the idea of hitting 13 quilt stores over four days sounded like the perfect way to keep me connected to people and my quilting hobby as I ventured on a solo road trip.

My souvenirs include some great fabric, a pin loaded with charms, and a completely stamped passport.

Now I am back home with a basket full of new projects, a pin jingling with charms, a head bursting with of ideas, 200 or more new photos of quilts and beautiful scenery, and the experience of driving back roads, meeting new people, and staying in fascinating places—YES! I want to do this again.        

Here are a few ideas for making your shop hop adventure a pleasure from beginning to end.

Plan ahead: Make a route plan with plenty of time for shopping stops, visits to other attractions, and meals. Most participating shops open a little early and stay open late to accommodate traveling shoppers, but don’t overcrowd your day. I found that being an early bird at my first shop of the day (about nine) would put me at the finish line between three or four in the afternoon. Use a GPS device or directions from a site like MapQuest to get you from door to door. Always have road maps for a back up! Send for your shop hop ‘passport’ right away—the shop owners’ directions from the main highway to their front door are more helpful than any map.  Scope out available hotels, inns, or bed and breakfast locations, and reserve your rooms well ahead of time. Remember that you will be tired, and if you can afford it, treat yourself to a little extra comfort and some amenities with your lodging.

My stay in Matewan included a pretty quilt on the bed and a big Victorian tub to soak in!

Plan your spending: Face it, ladies and gents, you will be tempted to burn up the plastic as you encounter fabric and project opportunities that shopper’s lust tells you will never come again. Believe me, you have time to ‘think it over’. You can call a shop back and ask for a must have item to be shipped to you later.

  

Owner Elonda (right) shows off her especially beautiful setting of the theme quilt. I called back to her shop for the finishing kit!  

Set an overall budget for lodging, meals, gas, and shopping, as you may want to splurge in one place and scrimp in another. Have an idea of what you can afford, and stay in bounds. You don’t want to bring home a load of guilt! My personal technique was to dip into savings, pay my credit card the sum I decided I was going to spend, and keep subtracting from that total as I went along. Every store benefited at least a little by my visit. One or two cleaned up!

Include some non-quilting moments: Lest your shop hop become a grim slog across the fabric landscape, build in other places, people, or attractions along the way. The changes of pace will keep you fresh! My trip included a pre-shop hop visit to historic Matewan, West Virginia, where the Hatfields & McCoys feuded across the border with Kentucky and striking miners exchanged fatal gunfire with gunmen hired by the Island Creek Coal Company in 1920.

A view of  historic Matewan from the Liberty Tax Service on Mate Street.

The unexpected benefit of this side trip was an opportunity to meet Dollie Hatfield, a local quilter and descendant of the famous feuding families who generously showed me some of her beautiful hand-quilted work.

Dollie Hatfield shows off her hand quilted Log Cabin design

A descendant of the feuding Hatfields and McCoys, Mrs. Hatfield has made a special memory quilt.

Two days later, I took a side trip to the Fenton Art Glass Company in Williamstown, WV along the Ohio River. There I saw an amazing profusion of decorative and useful glassware, and purchased treasures to bring home.

Here’s the façade of the Fenton Art Glass company, and the three pieces I chose for my own collection.

At the end of the tour, I stopped for two restful nights at the Cheat River Lodge in Elkins, West Virginia, where I soaked my road weariness away in the hot tub, enjoyed the company of my son and his girlfriend, and picked up some excellent West Virginia history books.

Enjoy those special shop hop moments: In a phone-home conversation, a guy friend said “don’t those shops all seem the same?” No indeed! Each place I went had its own special personality, great idea, or beautiful quilt to show me. Here are just a few that stand out in my memory:

Sew Many Blessings, Ceredo, WVThis cute granny decorated the ladies room. No chance I’d forget to wash my hands!  Contact sewmanyblessings@zoominternet.net

Quilts by Phyllis, Hurricane, WV—Eternal gratitude to the staff member who brought in a pot of great barbecue, slaw and rolls. . . and to owner Phyllis Hanley for her wonderful favor to all shoppers, a handy and colorful plastic basket. My basket proved a helpful way to carry camera, passport and notes throughout the tour. Contact: quiltsbyphyllis@aol.com

Sew Many Things, Walton, WV—This treasure of a shop is way out in the country on the top floor of a big general store. Elonda made the most of a modest-size space, gathering beautiful fabrics, and displaying notions in a wonderful big antique cupboard. A beautiful string star quilt hung at the bottom of the steep stairs. Contact Littlered142@yahoo.com

Here’s a quilted shop sign for Sew Many Things

 

At the bottom of the stairs hangs a beautiful antique string star quilt. 

Sneed’s Sewing Center, Charleston, WV—Sneed’s offered some great quilters’ tools, and a perfect flying geese demonstration and ruler that will make my work more accurate forever. Contact www.sneedswv.com

Woolen Willow, Williamstown, WV—Your fabric addiction isn’t enough? Well how about adding rug hooking and knitting? This shop is stuffed with wool and cotton projects, populated by a friendly staff, and lavish with beautiful quilt ideas. Contact www.woolenwillow.com

There’s more than fabric to fall for at the Woolen Willow!

This beautiful quilt will soon be a block-of-the-month-club at Woolen Willow.

Parkersburg Sewing & Quilting Center, WV—I fell for the owner’s treatment of a scenic panel as an ‘attic windows’ wall hanging. What a great view! Contact www.sewingwithsheryl.com

I bought three garden panels to turn into ‘attic windows’ wall hangings!

Pieces of the Past, Harrisville, WV—Loved the kits for making carry along quilter’s tools. I didn’t know they made cutting mats that size! Contact momcpo@aol.com

One of several charming displays at Pieces of the Past

Sew Chic, Fairmont, WV—Red barn! Bright colors! The staff let me get behind the counter and scrutinize the theme quilt settings on line. The fabric selection was fun and organized to tempt me. When I bought a railroad theme fabric, a visiting friend of the staff told how he had ‘run down to Grafton’ to get a photo of a Union Pacific train. That’s a rare appearance in West Virginia, and he felt about railroads the way we do about quilts. Contact: www.sewchic.com

The barn look belies the sophisticated, fabric-stuffed interior at Sew Chic.

Morgantown, WV—Yo-yos as embellishment were the bright idea here. The staff had decorated the basket-theme quilt with yo-yos, made a child’s quilt pop up in yo-yo daisies, and was demonstrating a nifty yo-yo making tool. I brought it home in three sizes. Contact: www.thesewinn.com

Pretty yo-yo additions dress up the theme quilt at the Sew Inn.

Quilts & More, Victor, WV—Antiques and quilts here. The owner offered packets of already-pieced but not set quilt patches from years gone by, and had antique furniture and quilts for sale. Also a real find were patterns from ‘Black Cat Creations’ of Houston, Texas. They feature blocks illuminated with Crayolas, and then heat set to bring out the velvety intensity of the colors. This was my favorite idea find of the trip. Contact: wvquilter1@aol.com

Saturated colors from heat-set Crayola application at Quilts & More.

The Quilt Shoppe, Summersville, WV—Wow, what a collection of collections! Civil War, 30s pastels, tempting redwork, batiks, novelty prints: you name it, they had it! Kudos to the owner and staff for putting their sale bolts right in the ‘front parlor’. Contact: vfleer@ezla.net

One of many pleasing and tempting displays at the Quilt Shoppe, Summersville

The Stitching House, Buckhannon, WV—In a big brick house just off main street, you’ll find many choices and be awed by the skills on display. The Gammill Long arm machine upstairs gave me a closer look at one source for fine machine quilting. My personal take home here? Rose-printed fabrics and a Quilt-in-a-day Delectable Mountains book by Eleanor Burns.  Contact: www.theStitchingHouse.com

Imagine having room for this Gammill system? Or imagine getting the Stitching house to finish your quilt!

Elkins Sewing Center, WV—This shop is an old favorite for me, since Elkins is where my son attended Davis and Elkins College. I always find something funky and unusual in their vast collection of fabrics—batiks, flannels, novelties, all kinds! Here, I bought a dress length of mod 60s style cotton in purple, lavender, white, and lime green, whoooeee! Contact: www.Elkinssewingcenter.com  

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