Saturday, September 17, 2011

Quilt Across Texas - Statewide Shop Hop

I participated in the Quilt Across Texas Shop Hop in September 2011. I visited a lot of quilt shops. I’m documenting which ones I really liked. Now I’m sure you know, everyone has different tastes and what appeals to some doesn’t appeal to others. So as you read these, take into account that this is my personal review (also validated by my car mate and fellow shop hopper), but it may be totally different from what you would think if you went to the very same shop. Interestingly enough, strangers I’ve met at the shops who are also on the hop tended to agree with my 5-star recommendations and gave me some additional 5-star shops to try. Not sure I’ll make it during the hop, but I’ll check them out too.

I have seen some excellent shops and some beautiful fabric and met some wonderful people. Unfortunately after a while everything runs together so I tried to keep notes. The amount / diversity of fabrics and different ways they have been used is unbelievable. The variety of layouts at the shops is cool. The hundreds of quilt samples I've seen have been inspiring. Plus I've received a free 6" block from each of those shops and some gave away additional free blocks or patterns or fabric, and some are giving pewter charms. It has been tons of fun!

I really feel like I have contributed to the American economy. I have spent more in one month than I would normally spend in 5 years. But I probably visited more shops in this one month than I would in 5 years.

Here are the shops I’ve visited and rated. The 4 and 5 star ones we said we'd go back to regardless of the distance. It’s hard for the small shops to compete with the big for selection and space, but we tried to be fair. There are probably more small shops than big ones on my list because a well-organized/well-managed small shop appeals to me more than a well-done large shop with lots of staff and lots of space and a corporate feel. So the big shops really had to go the extra mile to impress me – I expect them to be better – they’re bigger, have more inventory, more selections and typically an internet business to supplement their profits.

I’m also putting down my not so favorite – just so I can remember which ones I went to. My car-mate said I had to be nice, but I also have to be honest. Just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean you won’t. And just because I thought the people were rude doesn’t mean it was a normal occurrence – maybe they were having a bad day. Most times the rude person was the owner. If it says not memorable – it is just that. By the time I got to the next shop I couldn’t remember anything special about those shops marked not memorable. The shops marked wouldn’t go back fall into two categories. Some I wouldn’t go back because I wasn’t impressed by their inventory or ability to meet my needs. Some might have had tons of batiks – I don’t use batiks much or they might have had tons of civil war or 30s fabric – I don’t use them either. Sometimes it’s because I didn’t like the people. I’m sorry but no matter how good your inventory, when your people are rude, I’m not coming back.

5 Stars (in no particular order)

Giddings (All Around the Block) – Awesome shop. Pretty small shop in the middle of nowhere, but tons and tons of fabric. Big selection, lots of novelty prints, old/outdated fabric here looking like new, helpful and friendly staff, lots of embroidery patterns, big sale room, lots of batiks, tons of great panels, nice people working and shopping there.

Paris (Sew Much More) – Huge store, huge selection, bright good displays, nice and helpful people, lots of good samples. Spent a ton of money here and didn’t get a charm. My car-mate spent a little and did get a charm. I felt a little cheated, but that didn’t affect their rating. They were pretty busy but took time with every shopper – individual attention is nice. Very customer-focused but some of their workers are a bit scatter-brained. Of course so am I so I fit right in here. Update: They called me about a pattern I asked about and when they send it to me they’ll include a charm for me. That’s another reason I like this shop – they go the extra mile.

Quitman (Stitchin Heaven) – Huge store, huge selection, helpful and friendly staff, lots of staff, very little wait if any, carts to carry your bolts (loved that), lots of display area used well, variety of projects for everyone’s tastes, huge meeting area, tons going on. Lots of novelty, sports fabrics, lots of batiks, well ran shop, lots of opportunities for discounts. I did love this place but it’s like a big church. It’s busy, there’s a lot going on, and unless you find your niche and feel like you fit in, it doesn’t have a homey atmosphere like some of the others. However, lots of niches for you to find. I frequent their internet business and will continue to do so. I also love their trips/cruises and I’m considering a retreat.

Carthage (The Whistlin Chicken) – Excellent small shop, unique fabric, lots of Marti & Me rulers/gadgets. Have some really neat quilt-related prints and a framing shop. Folk-art themed fabric – one of my personal favorites. Could have spent a lot more money if I had more time, but I was on a mission. I will definitely go back again and again. People were great.

Salado (A Sewing Basket) – Nice mid-size shop. Good selection, tons of western themed fabric, lots of fun whimsical novelty fabric, lots of paper pieced patterns, great samples, great classes and classroom

Buda (B&B Quilting) – Love this small shop. Not sure why. I stayed a long time just wandering around. Felt very at home. Wish I lived closer, although I’d end up signing away my paycheck.

Lewisville (Quilt Country) – Excellent store – big and bright. Lots of help. Big selection of fabrics/patterns/books. Good activities, nice gadgets, beautiful quilt painting

McKinney (Quilt Asylum) – Great fabric selection, lots of gifts, wooden signs, big place, lots of fabric, nice helpful people, lots of staff, colors kept together

Houston (Tea Time Quilting) – Nice shop. Lots of Mary Engelbright fabrics, lots of panels. Lots of great fabric in a little place. Nice people. Looks scary from the outside – merged with Flower/Plant Shop but inside it is wonderful. Treasure trove. Priced like some of the bigger stores though.

Richmond (Quilters Cottage) – My all time favorite. Absolutely loved this shop. Huge store with a small store feel. Wonderful people. Huge selection and variety of everything (fabric, patterns, books, craft supplies). Doesn’t matter what your technique, hand or machine embroidery, hand or machine appliqué, traditional piecing, paper piecing, templates or rulers, whatever you want they have it. Great prices. Lots of sale fabrics. Lots of space for lots of people at once. Well organized – easy to find things – but takes a while to get through this store. I could spend a day here, easily. My new favorite store of any I’ve been to ever.

El Campo (Cedar Chest Quilt Shoppe) – Great new store. Lots of variety. Wonderful people, new pretty place. Nicely organized. Lots of room, lots to see, nice kits. For only being here a year they’ve done a great job.

4 Stars (in no particular order)

Dripping Springs (Valli & Kim) – Good selection, great location, great organization, well managed, wish the people were friendlier. My carmate gave this one a 5 star.
Canton (Sew n Sew) – If you want solids and/or like embroidery, this is the place for you. The woman who runs this shop( and has for many years in different locations) has forgotten more about quilting than I’ll ever know. She is a fount of information and I would love to just sit down in that shop every day with a cup of tea and listen to her stories and advice on how to do things. She had a lot of fabric but it’s like a treasure hunt to find what you want. It’s probably there though. If I wasn’t on a shop hop and we hadn’t arrived 5 minutes before closing we would have stayed a lot longer than the half hour we kept her over. Two of the nicest people we met.

Pantego (Peggy’s) - Great shop, not too/big not to small, nicely organized, only 2 years old, good fabric, friendly helpful, nice sitting area with rockers, great hanging strategy for samples (only saw in one other store and that was one of the biggies), well thought out business as a small classroom and separate small long arm room, small eating area as well. Loved this one.

Nacogdoches (French Knot Quilt Shop)– Loved this store – almost gave it 5 stars – not sure why. Not too big, not too small, pretty fabric, wide variety of styles, young and old equally happy here.

Athens (The Needle Niche) – Great selection, not well organized. Good displays, not with patterns though. Variety of techniques, variety of fabrics. Lines kept together but also colors are together. Good novelty fabric. Cheap sale fabric and nice selection of sale fabric. With a little help this would be a 5 star shop.

McKinney (Happiness is Quilting) – Nice little store. Great samples. Great kids stuff. Play area for kids Lots of appliqué. Nice sitting area

Crossroads (Minding my Ps & Qs) – New store, pleasant staff. Efficiently run, great selection. Nice classroom. Well organized. Lines of fabric kept together.
Not quite 4 stars, but still good shops – if I was in the area I would stop, but I wouldn’t make a special trip.

Bryan (Lone Star Quilts) – Good layout, bright store, roomy, lots of sports fabrics, good selection, displayed well, lots of wide backing fabric and a man cave for hubbies (great idea). But it just wasn’t warm. I’d go back but if it was much farther I probably wouldn’t.

Tyler (Sharman Sewing Center) – Lots of notions, word panels, fabric not memorable, nice older ladies, seemed very tired but pleasant, customer-focused, looks like a good place to buy a sewing machine, I bet you get great service.

Waco (Tomorrow’s Quilts) – Nice store, nice people

Wylie (Blue Ribbon Quilt Shop) – Nice shop, good selection, nice panels, great themed fabric.

3 stars or less – but worth the stop

Longview (Sharmans Sewing Center) – Lots of words and phrases/sayings fabric – good selection of other fabric – roomy place, great parking – good place to buy a machine. Lots of sewing stuff – not all quilt-related. Listed on the passport as being in Amarillo. Oops.

Jasper (Lake Area Quilts) – Very unique, smallest shop I visited. Not much selection of patterns or fabric but I still found some I loved. This is a great place to get things quilted. She has two Statler Stitchers constantly going. Her and her husband keep very busy. It’s actually crammed into two 20 ft square storage units. Hard to imagine but it’s not too crowded – somehow. I loved it. So unique, nicest people, and lots of knowledge. The local shoppers treated me like a local even though I wasn’t. Even suggested some other shops to try not on the shop hop.

Weatherford (Peachtree Quilts) – Old building, lots of samples, unique fabric, unique patterns, owner is great designer. Could use better organization. Great couple, customer-focused. Heard that another employee will talk your ear off – beware if you’re in a hurry.

Tomball (Quilters Crossing) – New shop, tons of bright and fun fabric, small store. Tons of cute patterns. If I was in the area I would go back but I wouldn’t make a special trip for this one.

Spring (Hen House) – Quilting is a sideline – the main focus is knitting and other yarn-related crafts. However it is a huge place with lots of fabric. Lots of primitive and dark fabrics but variety as well. If I was in the area I would go back but I wouldn’t make a special trip for this one.

Not memorable – Brenham (Stitch Haven), Hemphill (Cedar Tree Nest Quilts), Arlington (Quilt Among Friends), Arlington (Magnolia Quilt House), Denton (Material Girl Quilt Shop)

Wouldn’t go back – Lockhart (Simple Sewing Solutions), Tyler (A Nimble Thimble), Fort Worth (Cabbage Rose), Clifton (Quilting Cousins), Fredericksburg (Pocketful of Poseys), Cedar Park (Ready to Sew Bernina), Round Rock (Austin Sewing Machines), Cypress (Quiltworks)

If I ever retire from government service and decide to start my own quilt shop I know exactly what I would and wouldn't do. It's been quite educational and a wonderful experience talking with some of the shop owners and seeing up close and personal a well run shop and the other side of the coin.

Next year I hope to hit the ones I missed this year, plus go back to my favorites.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September Mini - Right on Time!

This is another Cindy Edgerton Little Bit pattern that I bought years ago. The Halloween one went together so quickly I decided to make the September pattern, which features things related to school. I got it partially quilted and decided to post a picture. It still needs the little tires and the binding. I love it and can't wait to put it up in my cube. I'm hoping to finish it up on Sunday.