Where do you shop? Part 1: Local Quilt Shops

Where do you buy most of your quilting supplies? Do you have a favorite local quilt shop? Here’s my weird situation:

There were two choices for brick and mortar shops close to Stuttgart, the Arts & Crafts shop on the Army post, and a German shop in town. The Arts & Crafts shop isn’t mainly a quilt shop, so the selection is limited to whatever the current staff thinks needs to be there or whatever the current quilting teachers need for their classes.

In times past, there were dedicated quilters on staff and teaching classes (including myself, at times) at the Arts & Crafts, so the selection was fairly good at those times. Recently though, there haven’t been many (or any) quilters on staff, so the quilting department has gone back to basics. It is hard for people who don’t quilt to know what we quilters want. Even at the good times, there were still items they didn’t carry that I needed, the shop being as small and multi-faceted as it is.

Shopping for quilt supplies in German stores is typically more expensive, as many of the products and fabric come from the United States, and the current value of the Dollar against the Euro makes it even worse. Sometimes if I needed something right away, I would purchase it at the German store, or if I was buying something that was made here in Europe of course, since it would likely be cheaper to buy it here.

The story here in Heidelberg hasn’t changed much, though the Army Arts & Crafts shop has a better selection of quilting supplies here than the one in Stuttgart. The fabric selection is better here it seems, and the shop here has had more of what I’ve been looking for since we moved than the shop in Stuttgart has had over the course of the last couple of years. The shop in Heidelberg seems more like a real dedicated quilt shop, even though it caters to scrapbookers, framers, knitters, and other crafters as well as quilters.

As for knowledgeable staff, the Army shops are about the same; it’s the luck of the draw, and it depends on who is working there when you need help. Of the questions I ask these days, some get answered well, some don’t. I actually helped a beginner quilter in the shop myself one day, since the staff couldn’t. Most of the staff do try their best to be helpful though. In the German shop in Stuttgart, of course, the owner quilts and the staff all quilt, so you get a better pool of knowledge to begin with, and they’re always friendly and glad to see you.

Even with two shops when I was in Stuttgart, the American one and the German one, I still mail ordered something quilt related once every couple of weeks on average, just like I’m doing here now in Heidelberg. I’d love to be able to support the LQS’s, whether American or German, but if they don’t carry what I want, it’s just not possible. Even if the shop has the products I’m looking for, the other factor is the price of the goods.

The sad part is that for the American shops on the Army posts, shipping is a huge burden. The shops typically can’t sell goods at the suggested retail prices because they lose so much money on shipping costs to get the products here in the first place, and customers question the shop when their prices are slightly more than suggested retail, and say that they can get it online cheaper. I don’t because I know how it all works for the shop, but some do. Sure, if I’m going to order something online, I’ll pay shipping too to get it here, but if the order is big enough from just one online source, the products will still be cheaper, even taking shipping costs on the order into account.

There’s always the price of gas these days to consider as well. ITMan picks up our mail in the building right across from his office, so there’s no gas money being spent to shop online, even though the postman doesn’t bring the box to my door. The Army shop is about 20 miles from my house one way, so in my car it costs me nearly $8.00 for a round trip to and from the shop. (As an aside, that’s not a complaint about the price of gas, it’s just a fact to consider in the current discussion. I adore my car, and I knew what I was getting into when I ordered it.) On the other hand, if quilters and crafters don’t support the Army shop, it might not be there very long, and I know there are shops in the States having trouble, and even closing their doors.

Your Voice: Where do you purchase your quilting supplies? Do you have a fabulous local quilt shop? What’s the best thing about it? Are you lucky enough to have more than one LQS in your area? Are they having to cut back on stock in your area due to the present economy? Do you still have to mail order supplies? Next time: Online sources!

3 thoughts on “Where do you shop? Part 1: Local Quilt Shops

  1. I have a great LQS which I visit frequently and where they know me and my young children; for notions, anything I need NOW, or fabric I want to colour-match, or if I want lots of small amounts of different prints. There are also a few others not far away, including one I use if I need things at weekends. But with the strong Australian dollar, I can get about twice as much yardage for the same cost if I order online from the US – including postage. And there’s such choice at my fingertips online, especially in the wee hours when I’m free to sew and the shops are shut. So I have parcels arriving on an almost weekly basis, too. I try to balance supporting my LQS with being able to afford lots of stash enhancement.

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  2. We have several quilt shops on the central coast of California but none of them are very good, IMO. They are small and limited, and the fabrics look old-fashioned and are uninteresting to me. I work primarily with batiks, which is usually 10% or less of the fabric they carry, which limits me further. Also, I like Superior Threads, and often the stores carry Gutermann’s and Mettler, which are fine, but once you’ve used Bottom Line or King Tut it’s hard to go back. I live 20 miles from the two closest shops, and I drive a gas-guzzling SUV, so I won’t make a special trip if I need something. Hence, I do 90% of my shopping online. Red Rock Threads will deliver a package of thread for very little shipping (~$3) within three days, and they carry a huge line. I like the wide selection of batiks I can get from specialty shops online. The shipping costs are much less than it would cost me in gas to go far afield to a place that carries these things. I would like to support my LQS and I feel guilty that I don’t, but they have to have the goods I want to buy. It’s a real catch-22.

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  3. Emma, how lucky you are that your national currency is one of the strong ones right now! It sounds like you’re striking the right balance.

    I agree with you about the threads Rian, I’m not so keen on Mettler anymore, and I never was thrilled with Gutermann. The Arts & Crafts shop here carries Coats & Clark Star thread, which actually competes with Gutermann for the bottom of the barrel in quality, IMO. The shop does have many Superior Threads lines as well, including King Tut and MasterPiece but doesn’t always keep every color stocked, which can be frustrating when you’re looking for a certain thing.

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