Monday, May 27, 2013

Those lil' expeditions

I hinted at this particular entry in my other blog - - sharing that Jean and I had driven to a handful of quilt shops on Friday, and that I hoped to be able to elaborate with our assessments of each of these new material destinations in short order.

So, I am about 12 hours later than I wanted to be, but who cares - right?

I understand all-too-well that small business owners spend their every waking moment either being at their place of business or thinking about something regarding the business.  Proprietors are never off duty. Never!  I know this because I once owned and operated a children's bookshop, and it was heaven fringed in hell.

I didn't hate any of it...not a bit, and I thought it only fringed at one end.  However, I did completely abhor the time it took away from my sons (at their young-ish ages).  That was my own ONLY personal, less-than-bright-spot of business ownership.

At any rate, I brought up that little crumb to illustrate my total understanding of the time-sucking aspects of business owning and operation.  And yet, I don't get why most quilt shops are not open past four or five in the afternoon!  It's confounding, since I would think many of their would-be consumers are at work during the same hours of operation, making it impossible to spend time shopping as they would like.

That all being said, we found ourselves visiting only five shops Friday, from the opening bell to the closing gong.  We had only originally planned to see three shops, the farthest flung being in Bay City, but ended up adding two additional names to the list - one of which came to us from the sales staff at The Fabric Fair.

"Ooo-o-o-o-h-h-h-h-h," I hear you MI quilters sighing with envy.  "The Fabric Fair."  [heads nodding with approval]

That is where we began our shop hop, and boy, what a gem!  It was like waking up in Oz. 

From the large basket of find-it-yourself scrap grab to the rooms and aisles of material [squeals of delight].  They live in a lovely old store (two, really, because they went through a wall into an adjoining business) with LOTS of fabulous daylight streaming in the large front windows.  Glorious shopping environment!

We arrived bright and early and began ooo-ing and aww-ing over the collection of mini-bolts nearest the door (their layout needs a bit of retooling to make it more shopper-friendly), until we encountered the basket of scrap goodies laying in wait at the end of a cutting counter.  Holy gobstopper!  Must have spent half an hour just sorting through each and every piece in it making three piles - "yours, mine and no thank you."  We divided and conquered a monstrous mound and left there with a sack each of exciting possibilities.

Personally, I walked away from The Fabric Fair with a lovely assortment of (mostly) large-ish scraps and about eleven eighth yard cuts in new colors for the current project.  Out of the heavy bag of scraps I've identified thirty-nine (yes! 39), new colors to use in my insane project alone!  AND, we found enough strips of other groups of colors to make an entire laprobe - at least!

Definitely a destination store to re-visit.  Jean and I agreed that TFF in Bay City is nearly equal to the wonderfully stuffed CQK in Brighton.  You just can't have a limited budget when you visit either one because there aren't many/any discounts or frequent buyer cards/clubs to make multiple full-priced purchases at either one a commonplace event.

From there we hit Bittersweet Quilt Shop in Pinconning.  It's a sweet old church across the street from a local school, and it was unassuming as we drove past it.  An innocuous sign pointed to the building, but left us quite confused as to whether the actual perish building was the quilt shop or if it was around the back.  We ended up driving around the block and coming up alongside the parking area, finally convincing ourselves we needed to enter the old church itself. 

Once inside, we were charmed with the decor - but not with the overall lighting.  I took issue with the stained glass (lovely as it is) casting a very heavy yellow pallor over the material.  Spotty indirect incandescents were of little help with all of the dark corners, shadow-heavy shelving, and low shelves, so I fixated on the interruptions and additions of all of the antique-y and crafty 'stuff' sprinkled everywhere throughout the space. 

Their website photos of the "retreat" space downstairs give the impression that the lighting may be better there, but I like to see my material in a more natural (and well lit) way before I make a purchase.

Cute idea, but the material selection was pretty well a copy of everything seen everywhere else, with the exception of a few more children-oriented prints in a couple of collections I have seen in other locales. 

However, I do have to admit to being pleased with the selection of white-on-whites I'd not encountered anywhere else, and had I the capital I would have purchased a bit of each.  Otherwise, no big shakes - but a lot of wit and charm....just not a quilt shop per se'.  If you're in the area, check them out.

Stop number three found us at one of the three originally scheduled destinations: Quilted Cottage in Saginaw.  It was neither a "cottage" nor very 'quilty.'  A very dated strip mall and tacky window display signalled what was to meet our eyes on the other side of the door.

Very little to offer in the way of fabric, and the selection is dated for the most part.  Lots of space at the front of the store for a haphazard notions area with [eh] patterns thrown in for good measure.  To the rear of the store (which equalled more than half of the depth) there were more tables and ironing boards filled with very opinionated women bitching (rarely stitching) than bolts of material, and apparently more time put into Christmas decorations on a shelf containing a scant seasonal selection.

Not worth the drive.  NOT worth the drive.  NOT.

The Front Porch Quilt Shop was another adorable, older Victorian-style building (a brick home), and this one is located in Frankenmuth.  One or two blocks off the main drag of that delightful town, it was the last of the 'planned' shops for our Friday hop.  This little shop was stuffed nearly full and had fresh arrivals piled around the door!  A fun little local haunt for those who don't drive too far from home, I suspect.

The layout leaves a lot to be desired, since walking space is at a premium - especially when more than three shoppers are in the store at one time.  Their working sewing table should be up near the register, in the dead space there.  HINT: Leave the floor space (where the sewing table currently resides) available for more display; better organization.  Too much wanna-be-cutesy-like-other-quaint-shops-and-use-cupboards-and-the-like-to-display-sh*t takes up space better used for getting bolts up off the limited floor space and for ease of shopping.

If I can't get next to the shelves and really look at a bolt, I won't bother.  I don't like leaning over leaning bolts, stacked on the floor, to get close to something that intrigues me. 

Another downer is that I never checked my receipt before walking out - DARN IT ALL!!!  I was overcharged a dollar for a clearly marked scrap bag.  Not cool, since the overcharge takes away from the "sale" price given for the pre-cut FQs they were offering for the holiday shopping.  Could have simply been an error on the part of the woman ringing things/cutting things (since she was a bit flustered with the growing line, and since she was the only person there in the store to service customers). 

Just be diligent at the point of sale, that's all I'm saying - everywhere.  Even in the excitement of the moment - CHECK YOUR RECEIPTS!!!

Otherwise, this shop had some neat offerings - materials I haven't seen elsewhere, or have only found online.  It was nice to have a fresh assortment of fabric candy to fondle and drool over.

Our last shop stop was also in Frankenmuth, in fact, at the Woolen Mill.  It lists itself as a quilt shop, and so we eagerly traversed the store until Jean happened upon the actual selection.

Oh, well.

While they do have the least expensive selection of FQs we've ever found, the whole assortment of cottons they offer for sale could fit inside a small walk-in closet.  Not really a go-to location if you are on a time budget, so no recommendation for this so-called quilt shop, either.

So, there you have it.  My (our) reviews of Friday's efforts.  I hope they are of some help in one way or another.  Have fun out there, and let me know if you have any shop recommendations or comments you'd like to add pertaining to these shops, or any others written in the past.

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