Monday, October 22, 2012

Intentions & reality & quilt shops

Yeah, so, after all of the back-n-forthing over the Jacob's Ladder entry, I ultimately decided to drop that contest from my calendar in favor of other competitions scheduled farther 'out there' in the future. That decision would allow me enough time to plan, begin, and completely execute a quilt to enter - without needless rushing, agitation, pressure, and driving myself completely mad in the process!

Saves my kids' sanity (and the cats), too. ;)

Visited four more quilt shops in the immediate (depending upon your definition) area about two weeks ago. The locales literally drew a circumference around my town, but only two of them are worth the drive.

*Maybe "surrounding area" would be more appropriate.* 

Anyhow - Jean came down to visit after a day of x-ray schoolin', and we decided to shop hop the area, since there were enough in the (somewhat) immediate vicinity to hit before closing time.  We took off first, heading north to Ortonville, for a visit to Mabelena, and it was a delightful surprise for each of us. 

The store is a fairly large space (an old, converted PO) packed with a nice assortment of calico's and modern prints, and some repros from the '30s/'40s and Civil War era.  Not a lot of the latter, but if you're into that sort of colorization...there you go.  The layout and utilization of the space could be better, but overall, it was bright and inviting.  Lots more patterns and kits where there should be material, but overall, not a bad little shop in the middle of the sticks - and close enough to home for me if I ever get a 'jones' for something out of the realm of JAF (which is often). 

Jean called it "kitschy" with the wealth of non-quilting stuff hanging about and displayed on racks and across tables, I simply prefer a quilt shop to be a QUILT shop.  No dolls. No bags. No aprons or pinafores or pillowcase kits.  That stuff delves into crafting in my mind, and quilting is an ART FORM!

They also don't have a frequent-customer-type card or tracking system for discounts, but perhaps this will come over time.

From Ortonville we drove due west to Fenton, to the Quilters Garden (that's right, no apostrophe); a store I've visited on ocassion but never blogged about.

From the moment you walk through the door, their deep space is lined on one wall with a near-overwhelming selection of batiks.  Lately I have found a use for these beautiful fabrics as blenders and binding sources - and just plain works of art and color - so I have fun ogling and dreaming there! 

Not a tremendously overstocked store (for its size), but a nice selection of fabrics usually found online (without the added cost of shipping), and some stuff not seen elsewhere in the local quilt shop community.  Florals, chintzy types, tone-on-tones, mods and calicos, plus a delightful selection of clouds and blue sky materials all live here in Fenton, so take the drive and reward yourself.  Oh, and don't forget to look down around your knees.

"Why?", I hear you asking.

Well, because they have this really cool basket full of EOB and scrap pieces, loaded (stuffed, really) into bags that you can buy for $5 to $10 dollars (a few are less than $5)!  I have found a good number of stash-building baggies that were so worth my time to investigate and paw through (the basket, that is; the baggies are sealed).

Plus, Quilters Garden does have a rewards-type program...and you won't have to ask about it, either!

Our third stop was in Milford, the longest leg of our traipsing that afternoon. 

Once we found the poorly marked shop, we were somewhat disappointed with the effort.  Had it not been for the Thusday (ALL DAY) Farmer's Market in the downtown area, the trip south would have been a complete bust.

I love Milford, and was excited to think there was a quilt shop there (to give me yet another excuse to hop in my car and brave the tiny town congestion), but Google maps and directions have not been updated to the actual location of the shop as it now stands.  So, instead of referencing the addresses as we drove south along Milford Road, I relied on my knowledge of the downtown district (and the Google map reference) and parked us at a meter on the main street, eager to be close to the shop.  We walked two blocks in disbelief before finally asking a neighborhood barber about the elusive store.

Finally, we called the shop to ask "where are you!?" - but not before taking a stroll through the vendors at the Farmer's Market.  Thoroughly enjoyable!  Totally worth the hassle - even the nightmare traffic headache getting back out of town.

We eventually arrived at the quilt shop - Huron River Quilts - but found the shop did not live up to expectations.  At one time their website read they had the largest collection of Civil War era reproduction fabrics in the area...which we found just wasn't so (for that you need to head to Linda's, north of Davison).  Fortunately, we weren't in the market for repros, but we had hoped to find another worthy nearby fabric source. [sigh]  It wasn't meant to be.

If nothing else, Jean found a fun new town to put on her favorites list!

Our last destination found us driving back in the direction of home to a little out-of-the-way place you could literally miss if you blinked. 

A Little Quilt Shop is exactly that..."little." 

This tiny start-up shop has only been open since this summer, with not much to offer in the way of material.  There is a wall of do-dads and sewing aids if you're in a pickle one afternoon (and the nearby JAF can't accommodate your needs, for some strange reason), but the total material stock could fit into the back of my Scion!

The entryway and check-out counter take up more space than the selection of materials.  They have a purveyor of quilting touted to provide the finish stitching for your quilt projects - "reasonable and fast" - but the efforts on display were less than satisfying as evidenced by their technique and stitch repertoire.  Fortunately for me I can do my own quilting, and Jean is more of a quilt-as-you-go artist.

I wish this woman well in her shopkeeping future, but it's going to take a good deal of effort and material offerings to keep that little quilt shop afloat.

Apologies if the last two critiques offend anyone associated with those particular shops, but 'I calls it as I sees it,' folks, and for my (tight) money - and the cost of gas being what it is - my intent is to arm anyone interested in traveling to little out of the way shops with as much information as possible to help others make good choices.

Enjoy yourself!

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