QC Blog: November 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fabric- aholic

Mark and I had a wonderful trip, having a 4 day respite from the hustle and bustle of normal life is very therapeutic. The Adamstown Inn Bed and Breakfast was terrific and romantic. I've been to Lancaster twice before, with quilting friends. It was fun to see it from Mark's point of view. Of course on our first day there, we did fabric shopping. We went to Intercourse (yes, that's a town) and visited Zooks. I found out that Zooks and Sauders (our destination for later in the day) are connected and they had a pretty good map to get there. In town, there is a street filled with wood shops and candle shops, and a little village where they have a leather shop and a jam store, and a book store, with books on the Amish, and an art store, with only art about the Amish, and the Village Quilt shop, where they sell Amish/Mennonite quilts. It's so interesting how the entire tourist industry is dependent on these handcrafts, and it's good to see they place a high value on them as well.

Mark was more interested in the Woolrich store, and used most of my fabric shopping time to keep walking through the town and just get some exercise. We then drove through Bird-In-Hand, and went back on Rt. 30 through downtown Lancaster. As we were driving back to our B&B that day, I yelled "Stop, I need to take a picture of that." It was a huge pumpkin patch. I told Mark I could email my son Zachary and tell him I found a sincere pumpkin patch (aka Linus). We then headed to Sauders, a huge store located in the basement of someone's home. On one side of the store is fabric, and on the other side is bulk foods. So when you walk in, the store smells of spices, unlike most fabric stores. When I've been in this store in the past, it was during the big quilt show in Lancaster in May. There were wall to wall people in the store and those women can cut fabric faster than anyone I've ever seen. The store has 5 or 6 aisles of fabric, ceiling to floor - it's like a library of colors (I love libraries too).

On our second day we decided to visit one of the outlet malls and do the covered bridge tour of Reading, on our way to Egypt, PA for our genealogy trip. Time became a factor and we only did 3 of the 5 bridges (I don't think it was any great loss). It turned out that the Troxell-Steckel house was closed when we got there (off season hours), but it was still a most impressive and inspiring trip. I tried to get directions to the 1744 house my 6-ggrandfather built, but at 3:30 on a Saturday, wasn't able to find it. The Troxell-Steckel house was built by my 6-ggranduncle and is all built of stone and mortar. It's two stories high. There is a huge barn on the land and a spring house built of stone also. It's built near a riverbed - the Coplay Creek -and has tons of farmland behind the barn. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I could just see why they chose this particular piece of farmland to settle on when they came to the Jordan Valley. We walked around and took photos and just kept looking at the house. It was inspiring. There was a moment when I did go and touch the stone just to feel the history in the rock there. In the 1700's people who are related to me, built this house. Wow. This stone is part of the house on the front.( you can click on the house picture to enlarge). At this time the Indian wars were beginning. It means "God protect this house from all danger. Lead our souls to heaven." Then it is marked with Peter Troxell's name and his wife's name and the date the house was completed. We also found the historical marker for the house, which, according to one book, is considered the primary historical structure in the township. I'm going to have to go back now and see the 1744 house. It's a private home and not open to the public, but I just want to see it. I felt that I truly had roots there. I had known about the house from my genealogy cousin, but seeing it was so much more moving than I expected it to be.

The next day was Sunday and we planned to go back to Intercourse because I knew I had missed the Old Country Store and they sell fabric there. We were going to go and visit some of the out of the way quilt shops too. We drove down a beautiful country road where farmland surrounds you as far as the eye can see. An occasional pumpkin patch or gourd patch breaks up the farmland. And there are clothes hanging on the line, all in hues of blue or purple and then black long johns. When we arrived in town, we discovered all the stores were closed on Sunday. The whole town was like a ghost town, but somehow it was reassuring that these people still hold their beliefs more important than making a buck. We didn't waste the trip though - it was back to Rt. 30 and the other two outlet malls in Lancaster. We visited Lennox, and Oneida, and Borders and did manage to find the Hex sign store open also.

The following day before heading home, we traveled back to the small towns of the Amish, traveling the same road as the day before and stopping at a small quilt store, called Whitmer's Quilts on Rt. 23. A wonderful artist of a woman, Emma Whitmer, showed us her quilts that were piled high on the bed in her showroom. There must have been 70 quilts on that bed. She told us stories of the quilts and of the quilters who made them. She designed the colors and the patterns for most of them. They were unbelievably gorgeous. Emma had Mark on the other side of the bed helping her to flip quilts as she displayed quilt after quilt, waiting for one to catch our eye, to be "the one." We made it all the way through the 70 or so quilts, and then worked our way backwards. It really hadn't been our intention to buy a quilt, but there were several that were tempting enough to make us pause to consider it. One in particular, called Sunny Day, was just astonishing. Emma designed it herself and the circular panel of Flying Geese had about 2,163 pieces of fabric in it. Emma knew every name and price and quilter and fabric and filling. There was a story behind every quilt. She had a thick Amish/Mennonite accent and it was just a delight listening to her speak. We only went through the bed with the geometric quilts on it. There was an additional bed in that showroom with another stack of floral quilts on it. I understand she also has 2 more showrooms in the house, even though we didn't see them. What a contrast to the stores on Rt. 30 who sold quilts as well, and had a "don't touch" sign at the door where you entered. If I were buying an Amish quilt - Whitmer's is the place to look for one. All were reasonably priced - between about $450.00-$700.00. Others that were larger or had more pieces or more hand quilting were in the $1000.00- $2000.00 range. Every quilt was gorgeous. They were machine bound, she called it, and hand quilted. Another person did the cutting and Emma did the designing. She said she throws a bunch of fabrics together and if one says "aughhh!" to her, she throws it out of the mix.

We finally made it to The Old Country Store and I found a ton of fabrics I love. Did I buy them? Of course I did. Did you know that those books - "Fix it and Forget it" are written by someone from Lancaster County? The store was filled with her books and advertised a new one coming out soon called "Fix it and Forget it - Healthy Food." They have a beautiful selection of fabric at all three stores, but this trip, I think The Old Country Store was the best. And guess what - they are now online at www.theoldcountrystore.com. When we finished we headed home to Pittsburgh. It was interesting, when I laid out my fabrics from the three different stores, they all go together. Some of them are even the exact same colors, even though they are not the same fabrics. There are shades of fuchsia (my favorite color), yellows, and oranges. I must be totally attracted to the same colors, even though I wasn't aware of it at the time.

It's a wonderful slice of life in Lancaster county - beautiful, handcrafted goods for sale at reasonable prices. A place that values the handcraft of Quilting and the artistry of the Amish people.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

And we're off!

I only have a minute here. Mark and I are off to Adamstown tonight. In addition to fabric shopping, I'm trying to fit in a little genealogy trip too. Allentown is the location of a house that my 6G Grandfather built in 1744, and there is a second house that his brother built, which is tourable through the Lehigh Historical Society. I'm low on details today, but will update on Tuesday when we come back.

Till then.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Back to Real Life

Hard to believe, three weeks ago, I was standing on a Glacier. How can it all be such a distant memory?

Ah, well, it's been an exciting week. I have to say, I'm relieved to not hear the hate messages on TV everyday. I'm glad the election is over for that reason alone. Obama has been elected and I'm filled with hope for the future. I was overcome with pride for the country on Tuesday night. I cried when he gave his speech and marveled that I was living History at this moment in time. It was sort of surreal.

Our Quilt Circle raffle quilt was won by a woman who lives in Freedom PA. Ironic on election night, eh? She came to claim it the next day and seemed very thrilled about winning it.

My husband and I are going away for a 4 day weekend in the heart of Adamstown's Antique District and Lancaster's Pennsylvania Dutch Country next weekend. We're driving (about 4.5 hours away) and staying at a Bed and Breakfast - Adamstown Inn and Cottages. I've never stayed at a B&B before. It ought to be very relaxing. Too bad it rained this weekend so the leaves will probably be gone from the trees - no great photos there.

Now, as a quilter, you know what being near Lancaster means, right? FABRIC!! At great prices. I have visited Lancaster twice before for the big quilt show they have and the prices of fabric are around $4.00/yard, unlike the $8.00-$9.00/yard we pay at our retail quilt stores. There are a few stores in particular I want to visit, like Sauders, and The Old Country Store. I can't imagine how the Amish make money if that's what the wholesale costs of the fabric is. It must be such a small mark up that they make money from the quantity of fabric they sell. There are antique stores and gift shops there as well, and I'm looking forward to the trip.

Till later.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Iceland, The Final Chapter

Well, here it is Election Day, finally, and I'm still writing about Iceland. It's the far calmer subject for me to write about, so I continue to relive the memories, while they're fresh.

On our final day, Sunday, Chrissie and I opted not to go whale watching and to spend some free time (which they don't give you enough of) doing some shopping in Reykjavik. I got up early anyway to take a chance that the morning sky at the Harbor (about a half block away) would be pretty for pictures. The sky was unremarkable, but I did see Patty take off in her whale watching boat. I then returned to the town, which does look just like a Christmas village. The Restaurant Reykjavik (yellow bldg) is where we had our opening and closing night dinners and was off to the left of our hotel view. I passed by the tourist office next to our hotel and went back to meet Chrissie. The air was brisk and cool today. We went to the biggest store that has souvenirs and I managed to find a T-shirt that was an XL. Believe it or not, they're very hard to find there. They could make a ton of money on U.S. tourists if they a greater number of larger sizes in shirts, which, come to think about it, is a sad commentary on what U.S. Tourists look like, compared to the average Icelander, who is trim, thin, and incredibly fit. We passed lots of baby buggies with covers to protect the babies (we saw few strollers there) and little hanging toys at the opening. I bought magnets and t-towels and a pretty glass Christmas ornament shaped like an Angel. We paid in US dollars and got Krona in change. Chrissie at this point, is trying to get rid of all her Krona, and after buying 3 different things at different times in the same store, finally says to the guy, "you can keep the change," like it's his tip. She makes me laugh. This is a view of the square in front of our hotel.

We walked by the hot dog stand where they sell Lamb hot dogs with the works (Patty and Chrissie had already tried these the first day when I took my hour nap), that include crunchy onions, where President Clinton has eaten. They told me they were delicious. We met Patty after her trip (she did see a whale) and then went to the Lobster soup shack. Literally, it was a tiny little place with shish-ke-babs of whale meat in the cooler, and the woman was like the Seinfeld Soup guy. When we walked in, she said, "We have Lobster soup." Since that was all we wanted, we ordered some - and, wow, it was great.

Chrissie then went to rest and I took Patty to the souvenir shop. The older lady in our group fell in front of the hotel and her daughter and Chrissie were there to help her out. They had to call an ambulance and she let those "good looking guys" help her up. She had dislocated her shoulder but was back with us for our farewell dinner that night. After dinner, the restaurant brought out a beautiful chocolate cake with Happy Birthday Mary Jane on it, and everyone sang Happy Birthday to me. I got to celebrate my 52nd birthday in Iceland. My sisters gave me a little Russian doll we had seen in a shop that was the size and color of the one my mom had (some of you may be familiar with it).This is our Hotel from the square.

Our final day dawned with snow flurries in the air and about 30 degrees. Typical Pittsburgh winter weather. Our driver Mikko came back to take us to the airport. This was our tour bus throughout the trip. All in all it was a wonderful trip. There's so much more to see there, I'd love to go back someday. For now, I have a few t-shirts to wear to remind me of the trip and memories of course, and lots of gorgeous pictures. But I feel like my world view has expanded the same way I felt after going out west in 1999. It's not just me in this world - there are so many people out there who have better and worse situations than I do. And it's a joy to discover them all.

Next up: Back to real life, sigh!

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