Wednesday, 7 December 2011

...and November???

For the past eight years I have been extremely fortunate to be able to attend the Dear Jane Retreat in Shipshewana in north-east Indiana. The retreat was started about 10 years ago to bring together quilters from around the world with one common interest - reproducing the Jane Stickle quilt.

The Farmstead Inn, Shipshewana, Indiana
Where the Dear Jane Retreat is held

Whilst over the years most regular attenders have completed and even made one or two more Dear Jane reproductions (and in the case of one friend is it 5 or 6??!!), the retreat has become an amazing "hotbed" for inspiration and sharing, which for me as a lone quilter has both nourished, renewed and encouraged me to keep going. I have made some great friends over the years and whilst I have still to finish my first Dear Jane quilt (120 blocks, 20 triangles and 2 kites finished!) I come away enthused to get it out and keep going, but of course never get around to doing so. However, this year Brenda has challenged me to finish it for 2013 when it will be the 150th anniversary of the making of the quilt, with celebrations both in Europe and the USA being planned.

Of course, it is not all sewing. Shipshewana is the home of two quilt store's - Lolly's and Yoders, so much shopping and much eating especially of JoJo's pretzels, cream pies and in recent years cupcakes is an important part of the retreat! I wasn't very good at taking pictures this year so to see more pictures visit LuAnn's Loose Thread's blog, you'll find the link in the right hand column.

Yoder's Department Store, Shipshewana, Indiana
The Blue Gate Restaurant, Shipshewana, Indiana
The pop-corn chicken salad  and meatloaf are my favourites and I am slowly working my way through the list of pies!

I stay with a very good friend, Theresa, in Indianapolis, who drives me everywhere, so I can get my annual "fix" of fabrics and quilts. It was Theresa who persuaded me to come to the retreat and each year she has been very gracious to let me come back and stay, plus arrange some very special events for me - more about which in another post.

Fabric shopping!
I flew from London to Washington DC with a very heavy cold which made for an uncomfortable take-off and landing. Amazingly for mid- November I arrived at 8.05pm to temperatures in the mid-70's - I was not prepared as I waited at border control in a thick coat and scarf which soon had to be discarded! I stayed overnight in Arlington, Va close to National Airport as I had two flights to Indianapolis via Detroit the next morning.

On awaking I was greeted with this view of the late autumn tree colours:-

Autumn tree colours
Of course, I always travel with a shopping list much of which gets added to as I travel along as I get tempted by new fabrics which I have not espied on the internet.

So, as soon as I was off the 'plane in Indianapolis we were on our way to Backdoor Quilts in Greenwood on the southside of Indianapolis. We judged that we would have about an hour before the shop closed and arrived to discover that they didn't shut until 9.00pm - 5 whole hours to shop!! Now for some strange reason I don't have a photograph, so please follow the link. I always enjoy this shop it has a very good collection of reproduction fabrics plus batiks and they have some lovely displays of their patterns and kits which are always very tempting! Of course I had to buy fabric and my points (yes, I even have a store points card) are slowly on the increase - maybe in 5 or 6 years time I will have enough points for a free yard of fabric!!

The next day we journeyed to Shipshewana. On the way up, we usually drop off at a couple of quilty venues, including the Quilter's Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana, but this year it was not to be as they now only open Thursdays - Saturdays and we travel up on the Wednesday returning on the Sunday. This was disappointing as I always enjoy seeing the exhibition of quilts of the current inductee, but it is understandable given the current economic climate as it must cost to keep the house open, warm and lit.

So instead we went directly to Caroline's Cottage in Rome City.

Caroline's Cottage, Rome City, Indiana
The outside of the cottage belies the treats which lie inside! The cottage was built in the 1870's and each room carries a different theme with all the reproductions being in one of the bedrooms, wool, plaids and miscellaneous and a teaching room being in another bedroom attached to which is the original bathroom which is a mix of aquagreen bath and toilet with pine surrounds which always gives me a smile as I remember my grandparents bathroon back in the 1960's and then in the kitchen are all the 1930's, 40's and '50's fabrics with the original kitchen now refurbished - this has to be my favourite room. 
In the kitchen of Caroline's Cottage
Of course, we also have to eat and so we went to the Amish Diner at Emma and ate strombolis! A sort of rolled up pizza - too, too delicious.

Amish Diner in Emma, Indiana
 Yoders and Lolly's in Shipshewana were just as wonderful as usual with both having a wonderful collection of fabrics, with Yoders in the past year having extended the floor space to enable even more fabric to be put out on display. It is wonderful to return and be greeted by assistants who even remember my name!! Of course my credit card got well used in both stores! It was interesting to see how Kaffe Fassett's fabrics have become so popular in the USA with complete display areas showing off the ranges and in another post I will add some photographs from the retreat's show n'tell to see how they are being used. I smiled to myself watching everyone buy these fabrics as they are... British! Kim McLean, an Australian quilt designer is getting a huge following in the USA, and her designs lend themselves well to the Westminster/Rowan fabric ranges so brights are well and truly in!

After the retreat Theresa and I always make a visit to my absolutely favourite quilt store in the whole world - Quilts Plus in Indianapolis. Theresa lives just 10 minutes away - I am so green with envy! I wish I could pick up this store and put it in my back garden, there is so much fabric and inspiration in that shop with quilt samples, a wonderful range of all my favourite fabrics and little month by month projects which I so wish I could participate in.

Some years ago Theresa's daughter dropped me off at the shop with the plan that Theresa would come by after work to pick me up. After dropping me off she grew concerned about leaving me in the store for a couple of hours and 'phoned her mother to check that I would be okay in there - to me that store is like being a child in a sweetie shop - Theresa reassured her that 2 hours would most probably not be long enough for me and she was so right as the shop assistants were beginning to switch off the lights as we left!!
Quilts Plus in Indianapolis
This picture really does not do the shop justice!

There are many other quilt stores in the Indianapolis area which I have gradually over the years visited such as Quilts Quarters, but time always runs out but I always leave inspired,  with a full suitcase of fabric, renewed and an increased enthusiasm for my projects.

Charleston, South Carolina
Usually after the retreat I add on a visit to another town/city to see a quilt exhibition, but with all my searching I couldn't find anything that drew my attention so instead I decided just to head to another city for a bit of R & R and this year I decided to visit Charleston in South Carolina. I have never been so far south (Williamsburg, Va is the furthest south), so I was looking forward to a little bit of warmth, but was not prepared for the unseasonably warm weather that greeted me! Heat and humidity are not my favourite bed fellows I am afraid and on my first full day in Charleston as I was wondering aimlessly about, well in truth I got lost, my map reading skills were sorely wanting - guess what I found? Yes... another quilt store!!!! Now don't ask me how I do it, but I seem to be able to find myself near quilt stores - and this is the only one in Charleston!

Called People, Places and Quilts the proprietor was extremely welcoming offering me a drink (the effects of the heat were becoming all too apparent or maybe it was my age!) and facilities (now why don't we do that here in the UK?)

People, Places and Quilts, Charleston, SC

One of the displays showing Kaffe Fassett fabrics

Another interior view of the store
It was lovely and cool in the shop and I had a lovely time choosing some fabrics, reading quilt books and just taking my time; I left with some fabric for a sample quilt using blocks relating to Charleston and South Carolina including a border print with magnolia's printed on them which was to become quite apt as I planned to visit the Magnolia Gardens and Plantation a couple of days later, so I have some lovely fabric for a memory quilt.

South Carolina Sampler Quilt
The proprietor though was an ace at working out how much fabric I would need for the quilt, she amazingly was able to slash my bill in half by working out a different way of cutting the fabric for the borders etc. I just hope I can remember how I should cut the fabric when I finally come to use it!

Well, that's just about it for this post - in the next postings I will show some quilts from the show n'tell at Shipshewana and my visits to the North Stars quilt group, Charleston Museum to see a small exhibition of chintz quilts and the DAR Museum in Washington DC... oh and of course some pictures of my buys and stitching (yes, I did get some done!)

Thanks for reading my blog.


  1. Great to hear from you again. I missed you. I hope you got some great stuff for your beautiful quilt of the future. Debbie in Newcastle

  2. Fantastic Fiona, I really enjoyed reading about your travels. Very newsy and inspiring. Very timely too as I made my flight bookings yesterday :-) I'm hoping you might be able to squeeze in another trip across the pond next year and meet up on the east coast. i'll be in touch about that.
    The retreat sounds wonderful, isn't it great to get with a group of qulters and be encouraged and inspired by each other. It's my favourite thing about quilting...Love your photos and news about it all, I'm looking forward to seeing more.
    cheers, M