Fort Collins Trip 2014

Dave and I drove to Fort Collins last week ostensibly to attend his niece’s high school graduation. But we turned it into a much-needed mini vacation for us. We were there for almost three days and it went by so fast.

The first day I was so lucky that I got to go fabric shopping at Mama Said Sew. In fact, that just happened to be our first stop when we got into town. That store is fabulous. It’s the only store I’ve ever been to that has fabric by Suzuko Koseki. I’ve always had to order it online, so that was a rare treat. Angela, the owner was super nice. And when I told her I was meeting my online quilting pen pal for lunch for the first time (whom she happened to know because they’re in the local Modern Quilt Guild together), she recommended a couple places to meet for lunch.

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After fabric shopping I got to meet my pen pal Jennifer in person. We have been writing to each other for four years. We found each other through Jen at Indie Fixx back when she started the Pen Pal Project in 2010 and asked if people wanted pen pals. Jennifer and I had very similar interests, so we started writing each other. We did a doll quilt swap last year. I never thought we’d meet but when this trip came up, it just seemed fortuitous because she lives in Cheyenne which is only an hour away from Fort Collins.

Jennifer

It was so fun meeting Jennifer. She was just as I imagined she would be. She cracked me up with stories of her husband who is an air force colonel. She even kept Dave amused. It turns out her husband and Dave share an interest in watching TV shows about Sasquatch, flying planes and shooting guns. We were having such a great time talking and catching up that we stayed in the restaurant past closing time and they practically had to kick us out. It was really hard for us to say goodbye. I can’t wait to come back again soon so we can meet up again. Next time we’ll have to meet in Cheyenne.

We didn’t get to spend a lot of time doing as much stuff as we would have liked because we did come to Fort Collins for Dave’s niece’s graduation after all. We also had to go to the graduation party and spend time with Dave’s sister’s family. It was funny seeing his niece Ava all grown up and graduated, ready to go off to college. She was the cute, little flower girl at our wedding 10 years ago.

AvaAlexaDave’s nieces Alexa and Ava (the graduate)

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We did find time to take a tour at New Belgium Brewery which was great, and I’m not even a drinker. It’s definitely a fun place to work. I could tell everyone there really enjoys their jobs. When you work there for a year, you get a specially designed New Belgium bike. After five years, you get a free trip to Belgium. After ten years you get a month off from work, plus a share in the company. Dave was trying to figure out how he could get a job there. The tour was really interesting and they weren’t stingy with their beer samples, either. Dave got six good-sized samples of their different beers, plus a free can of Fat Tire beer for helping to pour beer during the tour.

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We also drove down to Denver our last day because I begged Dave, even though he didn’t want to do a lot of driving around during this trip. I really wanted to stop at Fancy Tiger Crafts. I’ve always wanted to shop here and never dreamed that I would, and we were so close. What’s an hour of driving time, right? I kept dangling the flagship REI store there to entice him. It was a win-win for both of us.

Fancy Tiger was great but I was hoping they would have more Japanese fabrics than what they had. An employee said they would be getting more soon. I did find a few cute Japanese prints I hadn’t seen before, so it was worth the trip. And they had more Liberty of London fabrics than I’ve ever seen at any other fabric store. The store was really cool and I liked the fun vibe of the store. If I lived in Denver, I’d love to work there. They also had lots of yarn and patterns. There seemed to be something for everyone.

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We liked Denver but we didn’t get to spend much time there. We only spent four-and-a-half hours there because we had to get back to Fort Collins to go to church and then go to the graduation ceremony. We’d like to come back again when we have more time to spend there. We’re thinking of coming back next summer when the USA Pro Cycling Challenge goes through there. The weather will be better then, too. It was a little rainy during our trip.

Colorado is still one of our favorite places to visit and if we could manage it, we’d move there in a heartbeat. Their winters are milder and there’s no humidity. After the long winter we had, I’m ready to move anywhere where there’s no winter or where it doesn’t drag on forever. And I’m kind of getting tired of our humid summers. But I’ll tell you one thing Des Moines has over Fort Collins: great Asian restaurants. We couldn’t find any good sushi or Chinese restaurants while we were there. The one Chinese restaurant we ate at had us sorely missing Cafe Su. Dave’s sister said we probably weren’t going to find anything like that there. I guess you have to go to Boulder or Denver for that.

It was still a fun trip, but next time we’ll go just for ourselves when we can just relax and travel at our own pace. It’s hard to enjoy yourself when you have to rush around and always have to be somewhere at a certain time.

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Welcome to Des Moines, Stitch!

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a great new fabric and yarn shop in Des Moines called Stitch. That’s very exciting news, my friends. Des Moines has been ripe for a modern fabric shop for a long time and I couldn’t be happier. It’s located in the East Village on East 5th Street. I think it’s the perfect location.

I stopped by over the weekend and fell in love with the store. The whole look and vibe of the store is very fun and modern. It carries such fabrics as Leah Duncan’s Tule line, Heather Ross’ Briar Rose and some lovely prints by Anna Maria Horner; all fabrics you’d otherwise have to purchase online. I’m so happy that I don’t have to drive all the way to Iowa City anymore to buy quality modern fabrics I love. (But you know me, I still will.)

092113_0007WI was delighted to discover that I had already met the one of the owners (Tami Stroh) and her daughter before. They had purchased a tissue cozy from me at an East Village crafts show a year or two ago. Tami shares my love of cute Japanese fabrics. She said she may be getting some Nani Iro fabric in the shop sometime. I can’t wait!

092113_0022WTami Stroh, one of the co-owners of Stitch

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Sewing machines that you can rent per hour for sewing projects

092113_0019WIn addition to fabric, Stitch also carries yarn, knitting needles, books and sewing patterns. I haven’t knitted in years, but with all the yummy yarns they have, I just may have to take it up again.

While I was there, Tami asked me if I would be interested in teaching sewing classes at the store. Of course I couldn’t say no. I was so flattered and happy that she asked me. Her store is so awesome. I think this could be Des Moines’ version of Purl Soho. I hope it’s a huge success. Please spread the word and tell everyone you know about it.

Retreat Recap

Every time I go to a quilting retreat, I always bring way more projects than I can possibly finish. And this past weekend in Indianola, at the DMAQG retreat, was no different. I always think I’m going to run out of stuff to work on, but that never happens. I didn’t get as much finished as I thought I would, but I was happy to be almost done with two quilt tops that I’ve been wanting to finish for a while.

If you remember my Flicker 3×6 Sampler Quilt from the last retreat, I thought it was finished. But it was still too narrow to fit a twin-size bed. So I added another vertical row to it. Now the top is finished and I just need to get it quilted and bound. I’m also almost finished with my Single Girl quilt top. I just need to add a side piece to the left and right sides and get it quilted and bound.

My 3×6 Sampler quilt top

My Single Girl quilt top almost completed

I also started piecing squares for a simple squares patchwork quilt using lovely floral prints from Liberty of London’s new line of craft fabric called Bloomsbury Gardens. I was inspired to make this quilt after seeing Ashley’s wonderful quilt made from Liberty lawn cottons. Ever since I learned to quilt and discovered Liberty’s fantastic (and expensive) lawn cotton fabric, I’ve been wanting to buy some of that gorgeous fabric. But at $37 a yard, I knew I could never afford to make a quilt using this fabric. So, when they came out with their new, more affordable line of craft cotton this year, I jumped at the chance to buy some and make a quilt with them. It’s going to be a very loud and bright quilt with all the bold, vivid colors and busy patterns. I think it will be very eye-catching.

I have two other quilts that I was hoping to get started on, but those will have to wait until after Thanksgiving. It seems that there are always projects waiting to be worked on, but at least I have two that are soon to be crossed off my to-do list.

Colorado Trip 2012

Dave and I just got home Sunday after spending five days in Colorado. We spent two days in Rocky Mountain National Park and three days in Boulder. I had never been to Colorado before, so it was a totally new experience for me being near the mountains. Immediately I noticed how much different the air was there. It was so crisp and cool and there wasn’t a trace of humidity. I could really get used to that. Dave has always been in love with the mountains and he’s been jonesing pretty badly to see them again since it’s been almost 20 years since he last saw them. He was all smiles the whole time we were there. He was even trying to think of a way that we could move there.

Driving up to Rocky Mountain National Park, I was truly amazed. I feel like there are no words to adequately describe the beauty and majesty of the mountains. To say that they are amazing doesn’t even seem to do them justice. I tried to get photos of them from the car, but none of them quite captured how beautiful they really were.

I’m not an outdoor person, so I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with Dave on the hikes up the mountain trails with the extremely high altitudes. On our first day in the mountains, it was very cold, gray and windy. It even started to rain and sleet a little. It was kind of miserable. I wasn’t enjoying it at all. I did get winded and a little lightheaded on some of the trails. My heart and lungs felt like they were going to explode at times. But I sucked it up and managed to hike on three short trails. I was proud of myself for sticking it out.

Our second day of hiking was much better. It was sunnier, warmer and didn’t rain until after we finished our hike. We hiked up to Bear Lake and went on four trails. The views were much better. Unfortunately, since the weather was better, there were a lot of people hiking, so we didn’t have the trails to ourselves. We vowed we would come earlier on our next visit to avoid the crowds.

In Boulder, we hiked one of the trails at the base of the Flatirons. It was a lot different than the trails at Rocky Mountain National Park. For one, it was right in the city, and it was much hotter. I think I like the cooler mountain air at RMNP better. Plus, it wasn’t as scenic. But it was nice to be able to go not too far in the city to hike on some trails if you wanted to. And we discovered there are cottages you can rent by the night not too far from the Flatirons. We’re planning on doing that on our next trip to Boulder.

And what trip would be complete without a visit to fabric shop? You didn’t think I’d forget about that, did you? Of course not! I was pretty disappointed with the number of fabric/quilt shops in the Boulder area. I only found one good one worth mentioning called Fabricate. It’s definitely my type of fabric shop. It’s small but has lots of cute patterns, books, ribbons and hard-to-find fabrics. They have classes and the owner was super friendly. I think living in the Midwest, I’m really spoiled because we have a lot of great quilt shops here, that I just expect the same wherever I go.

We also planned our visit to coincide with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge going on in Colorado last week. We wanted to catch stage 6 going through Boulder on Saturday. Dave is an extreme biking enthusiast, so he was really excited to see the professional cyclists and all the bike manufacturers and vendors selling their products. It was a lot of fun and I’m not even into biking. It was also thrilling to see the cyclists racing through town. These are the same guys who raced in the Tour de France. They rode by so fast, though, so it was hard to make out their faces as they sped by.

It was a fun trip, but it’s good to be home. Dave is ready to move to Boulder, but I think I’ll stay in Des Moines. It has everything I want and need. Boulder has awesome weather and the biking culture that Dave loves and craves, but I’m a Midwestern girl. There’s something so familiar about the Midwest to me. I’m sure if I moved to Boulder, I would get used to it eventually, but the Midwest will always feel like home.

My Fabric Shop Fantasy

I always tell my husband that if we won a ton of money in the lottery (I’m talking set-for-life kind of money here), I would open up a modern fabric shop. I’d carry the latest trendy, modern fabrics by the most popular designers. Denyse Schmidt, Anna Maria Horner, Liberty of London, Kokka, Lecien and Echino are just a small sampling of the designer fabrics I would carry. These are all fabrics that can’t be found here in Des Moines, where I live. *Sigh.* I end up buying a lot of fabrics online because I can’t find them locally.

Flea Market Fancy from Denyse Schmidt Quilts

I wouldn’t carry any of the typical quilting fabrics that you could find at most quilt shops because people could buy those at the other two quilts shops in town. I wouldn’t want to take away any of their business. I think there’s plenty of business in this town to go around. My shop would definitely be a fun fabrics shop. I would model it after some of my favorites: Home Ec. Workshop, Bon Bon Atelier, Crafty Planet, Stitch Lab and Quiltology.

I would also offer fantastic sewing, quilting and embroidery classes—catered toward younger sewers—that taught the latest modern sewing and quilting techniques. There would be finished samples galore hanging throughout the store to give customers ideas and inspiration. And, of course, I’d have to have all of those cool sewing patterns by Sew Liberated, Heather Bailey, Denyse Schmidt and Penguin & Fish that I seem to only be able to find online or in other shops when I travel to larger cities.

Some of my favorite sewing patterns

I wouldn’t open this store expecting to make a lot of money; although it would be great if it did end up being very profitable. I know that owning a business is a lot of hard work. And most new businesses don’t see any real profit during the first few years. It can be tough to keep a small business going, especially in this current economy. Which is why I would only do this if I never had to worry about money again. Having this shop would just be my fun dream job. A place where I could go to escape the daily stress of life and sew or quilt all day long. And be around other fabric addicts lovers. I mean, what’s more fun than being in a fabulous fabric store? I can’t think of anything better. You know what I’m talking about, right? I know you do.

I can see it all very clearly. I’d have a large room in the back for classes, retreats and sew-ins. I’d even invite our Des Moines Modern Quilt Guild to have its monthly meetings here. It would be sew much fun (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!). I even know where I would open the shop. Close to Des Moines, in a very small suburb called Windsor Heights, there’s a newish building on University Avenue that’s for lease and doesn’t have any shops in it yet. It’s been vacant for a while. Every time I drive by it, I can’t help but think, “That would be an awesome location for a fabric shop!” There are lots of floor-to-ceiling windows and ample parking. It’s even close to Interstate 235, so travelers from other cities could get to it easily. See, I’ve thought of everything.

Gosh, I guess I’d better go buy a lottery ticket, huh? Is there some type of venture, creative or otherwise, that you would pursue if money were no object? Tell me, I’d love to know.