Friday, September 7, 2012

Great day to be a quilter

It was a great day to be a quilter! Had a busy day - and a fun one to boot.

Jean and I had errands to run (missions to complete), and since they were in pretty much the same area of Michigan (within a twenty mile radius, or so) we made up our minds to mix the business with a little pleasure....and what pleasure it was, too!

My "business" consisted of delivering the commissioned lap robe to the proud aunt who requested it. The honeymooning couple is off in Mexico, but will be returning this weekend, and she wanted to present it to them personally - hoping to see the looks on their faces as they open the package and see the quilt for the first time.

I do hope they love it.

Aunt Betsy said it was exactly the right set of colors for the most part - yea! - always a plus. We did the initial shopping together, but I ended up having to fill in with more when I found myself 'shy' while piecing the central portion of the top. Clever Aunt B also managed to finagle the young couples' favorite Bible verse from the bride (months ago) in such a way that the newlyweds will be surprised to find it pieced and stitched within the quilt border. Brilliant Aunt B!

While I had fun making that quilt....creating an alphabet and sewing words together for the first time - experimenting the whole while - and then the creative free-form quilting around the border (very mod and 60s-70s-ish 'flower power'), I am glad to have it done and in the hands of the owner(s). The weather was horrid and humid for easily the last month and a half, making it impossible some days to move the quilt on the machine bed in order to stitch. It put me days behind and was quite frustrating.

But now that it's all said and done, I am happy it's going home and I can move on to new (and older) projects. Phwew!

As for the pleasure portion of our day, well....

Jean mapped out a driving curriculum for us to follow which included four new quilt shops! OK, new to us, but well-established and known to others.

And while we were only able to make it in to three of the four, we do know that our new favorite shop is only a stone's thrown from the last little gem yet to explore. So, on to the reviews:

Our first stop was in Howell, MI, at a store right on Grand River Avenue called The Stitchery. Bright and roomy, and stocked with more modern and less homespun (or calico-y) materials to browse through and take home - and that is not a complaint! The space was overwhelming, and it seems to have been two different storefronts at one time which are now connected by a wide doorway created through the adjoining wall between, with a step or two down. The extra space is classroom/showroom (for the machines they deal in and some sewing gadgets and needful items). There is an additional enclosed classroom in the back of the original shop which is also quite roomy.

In addition to their 'modest' fabric stock, there's a nice selection of quilting books to purchase as well, and they managed to introduce me to a new marking tool I will be trying out in the near future.

The staff was friendly, but not overly attentive, and I was encouraged to join them at the next GAAQG meeting later this month. That was cool.

Oh, and before I forget, they also have "20% off Tuesdays" applicable to their wonderful selection of fat quarters! That will get me in the door again s-o-m-e-d-a-y, after I have a job and some extra cash to spend.

Jennifer's Quilt Shop in Pinckney was our next stop. It is a deceptively quaint little house re-worked to serve as a charming, kitschy little quilt nook. They've crammed a good deal of material into several rows of floor-to-ceiling shelves, and they carry a nice selection of quality fabrics; but it is a small shop, so be prepared to rub albows, shoulders, and hips with your fellow quilters as you look high and low to scout out some new prints you haven't found anywhere online.

Yes, the selection is limited, but the shop thinks BIG, so you hardly notice you're through looking a little more quickly than you'd like to be.

The staff has fun with their customers, and Jean and I were laughing and kibbutzing the entire time. If you're a regular they greet you by name, and then the conversations veer into what's new, what's up with your kids, and "how'd that *thing* with the *thing* end?" Always nice to be recognized and treated like a friend!

There's a 'freebie' basket if you're willing to get down and dirty to paw through the goods (I was, and always will be, one of those shmoes on the floor).

My favorite finds, though, were a selection of FQ black-n-white prints of materials I had seen online but never purchased - and there they were in Pinckney! We were even directed to a healthy selection of discounted (A.K.A. "sale") FQs towards the back of the store, so there are plenty of reasons to get yourself in to Jennifer's and say "hello" before the end of the month. Why wait?

It's a charming little shop with a big heart, and you won't be sorry you made the country drive to their door!

Our last destination proved to be the best discovery of the bunch. It's safe to say we will be heading back more often than once to Creative Quilt Kits (formerly All Ways Unique) in Brighton, MI - and it won't take much for me to make that drive!

Holy cow, what a store!

They have everything, and I mean EVERYTHING you've ever found online and wanted to see in person before buying. It's like going to Hancock's of Paducah without the drive (or the hotel bill)! It's Quilt Mecca for Michigan, and so much more.

Several large rooms of fabric greet you the moment you step through the door, and that was after perusing the offerings of EOBs outside on their doorstep! I found two I brought home. And the happiness didn't stop there.

One of their showrooms was nothing but Kona solids - in fact, MOST of the Kona line lives there, and by the time I got that far into the store, it was time to leave! But, that's OK, because I will be back. They have my newest love - In the Beginning fabrics - and have also begun to carry those lovely linen-esque Japanese materials, too.

That's not all; their materials are sorted by manufacturer in some cases, but more often than not you will find all of your cowboys and wild west together; everything Christmas, juveniles and unique beauties in delicious groupings or rooms of their own; Eric Carle prints, and impossibly hard to choose from dragons and princess goods grouped together near animal prints and butterflies. Good luck trying to take it all in without gathering armfuls of bolts to carry around!

The only thing that could improve the experience at Creative Quilt Kits is if they would have mini shopping carts to use for moving through the store with all of the fun things there are to grab.

OK, carts and getting there hours before would have been good, too. But that last one is totally on me.

If you can't get to Brighton to visit this shop, do yourself a huge favor and shop with them online. But you're doing yourself no favors by not walking through their door, trust me. This place is worth the drive!

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