I understand that stores come and go, that the popularity of online fabric sites has changed the game for those brick-and-mortar retailers, but I love the quilt shops in my area. I need them to stick around! I thought it would be interesting to have a conversation about what we look for in a local quilt shop (LQS).
Big, old disclaimer: I am not an industry expert. I have never worked in retail of any kind, let alone a quilt shop. I’m just a customer who enjoys buying fabric and has a vested interest in keeping the lights on and employees paid at my LQSs. I suspect you’re in the same camp. I’m not sure what this post can accomplish, but it’s a dialogue worth having.
(BTW: The accompanying pictures are from my Park Bench quilt, which was designed by Jaybird Quilts and features Carolyn Friedlander’s Botanics line. It was a block of the month from 2014 that I revisited with vigor at a recent quilting retreat.)
|These hexagons measure in at 16 inches. I love making them!|
I’ve confessed in the past that I have a weakness for old stock, and I like knowing that there are places locally where I can purchase out-of-production fabrics. In general, though, I am looking for the newest and coolest fabric. If I saw a particular bolt three years ago when it was initially released and chose not to buy it, I likely don’t want to buy it now, either.
|And look at these awesome points. More on how I achieve them in a future post. : )|
A store an hour or so north of me—Quilted Threads, in Henniker, NH—does a great job of moving stock. I can always count on them to have new lines from Moda, Cotton and Steel, Free Spirit, and others. It’s not unusual to find fairly new bolts in their sale room, too, because they need to make room on the main shelves for incoming stock.
Another shop—Pintuck and Purl, in Exeter, NH—has a fraction of the floor space that Quilted Threads has, but I’m drawn to it just the same. Every bolt in that store—and the proprietor stocks quilting cottons as well as fabrics for garment making—was chosen with great care. I appreciate the options at Pintuck and Purl, all of it super new and fresh; I feel as if I’m perusing a curated collection and not simply a bit of everything.
Lots of Solids and Blenders
I do buy some of my fabric online, especially when I want a collection or colorway that no one stocks locally, but to buy those solids and blenders that flesh out a fabric pull, I go to an actual store. I want to be able to take a bolt into the natural light and compare it to the fabrics I’m working with.
Hands down, Quilter’s Way, in Acton, MA, has the best solids and near-solids selection. I can find tons of Kona Cotton, Michael Miller Cotton Couture, and Free Spirit Designer Solids there. Their selection is so superior to that of other stores that it isn’t worth my time looking elsewhere for these basics.
|Here is some more hexie goodness.|
The great thing about my LQSs is that they’re all different, and even the ones with a more traditional bent merit an occasional visit from me.
One shop that has a niche like no one else is Cobblestone Quilts, in Townsend, MA. If I’m in the market for fabrics with a thirties flare, I go to Cobblestone. Sure, the proprietor stocks other stuff I love—Lizzy House, V and Co., Bonnie and Camille, etc.—but it’s her thirties stock that sets her apart. I’m a big Denyse Schmidt fan, and those thirties fabrics tend to play well with Denyse’s modern-traditional aesthetic.
The Big Guns
I’m a self-taught sewer and quilter, and I’ve been honing my skills at the sewing machine for a solid 13 or 14 years. I have much more to learn, but it’s unlikely that I’ll take a class unless it focuses on something that’s truly novel to me (like garment sewing) or it’s taught by a well-known instructor. (This is different from what compels me to take classes through my guild. I’ll take anything my guild offers because I get to spend the day sewing with ladies I love.)
|And did you see these points?!|
Paying for a big name has got to be difficult for a small quilt shop. I know of one local shop—Daley by the Yard, in Acton, MA—that doesn’t have the space to hold a big event. So when it came to booking Vanessa Christenson, they rented out a ballroom at a nearby hotel. I’m sure the bigger space allowed them to bring in the necessary funds to secure such a popular teacher. (BTW: I was sorry to learn about this event after it had happened—boo!)
All the Other Stuff
Then there’s all the other stuff, the attributes I often take for granted—excellent customer service, knowledgeable staff, evening hours, an array of sewing and quilting notions, etc. Those qualities factor into my shopping decisions, too.
|I think this block is my favorite. I love the combination of green, gray, and yellow.|
I also like a good gimmick! I can’t be bothered with some trends like a Row by Row Experience or a loyalty program. They’re just not me and don’t make me want to visit a shop more or affect my spending.
The gimmicks I do like are the ones that involve a little chance! If a shop puts my name into a monthly drawing for finishing a bolt, you know that I’m going to buy an extra yard or so just to finish off that bolt and try my luck. And if a shop puts my name into a drawing for using cash instead of credit, I’ll be sure to hit the ATM before swinging by. Ridiculous? Yes. But if the closest I come to having a gambling problem is for gambling for fabric—well, I could have much worse vices!
Notice that I don’t mention price in this discussion. I expect to pay $10 to $12 a yard for new, quilt-shop-quality fabric. (The fact that fabric is comparably priced at big-box stores like Joann’s is ridiculous because the quality is clearly inferior. I am sick of the coupon game, of stores overpricing because they expect customers to use coupons.) That said, I do appreciate a clearance section—25% is enough for me—that keeps me in less expensive backings.
OK, now it’s your turn. What about your LQS makes your heart sing? I need to know!