So, what happens when a couple of quilters need to get away from it all?
Thanks to 2020 and life in general, I hadn’t left town for almost two years. My long-time bestie and quilting “partner in crime” needed a getaway as well. So, we decided to hit the road, visiting quilt shops and sewing along the way!
We consulted a map, got some shop recommendations, and the Needle Travel 2020 guidebook. We decided to stay fairly close to home and explore some of western and central Iowa.
Ready to GO!
One quilter, packed for four days and three nights.
Two quilters, packed and ready to roll!
Besides researching some destinations, we had made hotel reservations, dinner plans for one night with a friend, and (most importantly) had cut out project to take along to sew!
Even when not traveling, I like to cut my projects out and organize them into “kits.” For this adventure, I had cut out a mini pumpkin wall hanging using my GO! Qube Mix & Match 4” Block and GO! Strip Cutter-1 ½" (1" Finished) 5 Strips Die.
My second project was a fall quilt. I “tweaked” the pattern slightly and cut 5” finished Ohio Star blocks using my GO! Qube Specialty Set-Serendipity by Edyta Sitar instead of using the star blocks in the pattern.
The balance of that project was cut with my strip dies, including the GO! Strip Cutter-5 ½" (5" Finished) Die. I like to organize the pieces for each project into small plastic bags, then place all of those along with the pattern in a gallon-sized bag.
Because I was feeling really ambitious, I made a last-minute decision to bring a long-term UFO for a Christmas Countdown quilt. The blocks are all made, but I have yards of sashing to sew onto them, all cut with my GO! Strip Cutter-3" (2 1/2" Finished) Die earlier this year!
(Spoiler alert, I never got this far on the trip or since I got home.)
We were ready to hit the road - and quilt shops! Both of us had patterns and fabrics in mind that we were looking for, but we were open for whatever quilting inspiration came our way.
Our first stop was in Walnut, IA, which is known for its antique stores. About an hour from home, it was the perfect spot to stretch our legs and get our “shopping mojo” started.
After that, we were off the interstate and enjoying driving through the farmland to visit a variety of quilt shops. We visited Wise Monkey Quilting, in Denison, IA, where there is an AccuQuilt Retailer with beautiful samples and displays, scraps by the ounce, and some fabric that had been on our shopping list!
I found all kinds of goodies at The Stitch in Jefferson, our next stop. They had a huge variety, including fabric with golf carts that will be the perfect pillowcase for my grandson!
Our last stop of the day was a bit of a stretch time-wise, and we called ahead to confirm they were open until 6 PM. Fortified by root beer floats, we hit the road to Mended Hearts Quilting & Boutique in Ellsworth, which proved to be a true gem of a store.
Located on a farm in the country, in a big red “barn,” this shop was full of lovely samples and a wide variety of fabrics. It was well laid out, and the owner could not have been nicer. There was a lot to tempt us here, and a new pattern purchased here started a whole new project for one of us…
Our first fun, and relaxing, day closed out with a delicious dinner at an Irish pub just a mile from our hotel in Ames. We were too tired to sew, so we sorted our purchases from the day and collapsed – tired, but happy in our quilting hearts!
Rested and ready for more retail therapy, we headed out to see what Ames had to offer. Quilting Connection proved to be a wonderful shop with a wide variety of fabrics and a very friendly staff.
As we headed into Des Moines, we visited Quilter’s Cupboard in Ankeny. The shop is housed in an adorable blue cottage, and they had the perfect Halloween fabric for a new project I had cooked up overnight.
Be sure to visit the Trailside Tap right next door for their homemade oatmeal cookie sandwich (and get extras to go!).
We wandered east to Bondurant, IA and Off the Rails Quilting. This fun little shop’s much larger than it looks, and was full of great modern fabrics and colorful batiks. The fun and helpful team here helped us pull just the right fabric goodies for Judy’s new project.
We hit one last store in the Des Moines area before meeting a friend for pizza, finding our hotel, and collapsing into bed yet again with quilty visions dancing in our heads.
Time to sew! We set up our machines and got to work. I had brought along three projects to work on (spoiler alert – I didn’t get to all of them).
Mid-day we headed off to the Valley Junction area in West Des Moines, a fun area that’s like a small town in the middle of a big city. Here, we found fabric, lunch, and the most delicious cookies and Dutch letter pastries!
With rain coming in, we hit the road to visit Winterset, home of the Iowa Quilt Museum. All in one block, you can visit the museum, Piece Works Quilt Shop, and the Ben Franklin with its own fabric department. We finished off the day watching movies and sewing, sewing, sewing!
After a morning of sewing, it was time to head home.
Along the way, we visited Dexter, home of Drew’s Quality Chocolates, because a) quilters run on chocolate and b) I grew up visiting this darling shop every summer on the way to my aunt’s house.
Just six miles off the interstate, this tiny shop in the basement of a red house serves up truly delicious treats.
Our next stop was Elk Horn, home to Log Cabin Quilting. This large shop and quilt retreat is full of beautiful fabrics and is run by a delightful couple – we’ll be back!
Be sure to stop and visit the authentic windmill from Denmark that was built in 1848 and transported to the town in 1975 before you leave.
What We Learned Along the Way
- Check store websites and social media before your visit.
- Organize your sewing projects to take ahead of time. We both die-cut our projects ahead of time so that we could focus on sewing during the trip.
- Call ahead to confirm hours. We arrived at one shop only to discover it was closed for vacation!
- Bring along any patterns you might just want to find fabric for.
- Bring the equipment you need, like a small folding table and a power strip!
- Ask for suggestions! We got great tips on other stores and restaurants to visit from the shops we visited.
- Don’t judge a quilt shop by its size or façade.
- Look for areas that will provide lots of shops. We never drove over an hour at a time, and that was perfect.
- Set up a home-base. It was really nice to spend two nights in one hotel so that we didn’t have to pack up our sewing.
- Be flexible enough to change your plans along the way because you just never know what you’ll find.
We thoroughly enjoyed our little shop hop and quilt retreat, and plan to make this an annual event. So, where should we go next?