Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kalona, Iowa

This past weekend we drove to Iowa for a family wedding. We stayed at a small hotel in Kalona, Iowa.  This community includes many Amish and Mennonite families. The downtown is small but has a number of fun shops and eateries. Because of the wedding schedule and the shop hours, we didn’t have a lot of time to explore, but I still managed to visit two quilt shops and take a few photos on the Kalona Quilt Block Walking Tour.

Our two children, their spouses and our two grandchildren all went to breakfast at the Kalona Family Restaurant. The food was good and not very expensive. Best of all, there were two quilt shops within easy walking distance! My daughter-in-law and I took the youngest grandchild and headed for the shops while the others went off and explored outside of the downtown area.

Our first stop was just around the corner at the Willow Creek Quilting & Gifts. (I couldn’t find a website for them but they do have some basic info about the shop on Facebook.) Both of us thought this was a great shop! They have a lot of samples on display and featured not only quilting projects but embroidery and wool projects as well. I must say I succumbed and purchased a fun wool embroidery kit for six cute little Christmas mittens. They have a nice selection of reproduction fabrics- Civil War, Jo Morton, etc.- and a good variety of patterns, books and notions. There was a little room off to one side that was full of baby/child fabrics and projects. The front of the store had several nice displays of gift items, candles and the like.

The front of the store is very deceiving. Once inside you discover that shop is very long and deep, allowing plenty of room for many bolts of fabric. The ladies in the store were very pleasant and welcoming. They all stopped to see the baby and ooh and aah over him. Always a nice touch for any grandma! I think we could have spent a lot more time in this shop but we had one more stop to make before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding.

The next shop was about a block away and off the main street area. Stitch ‘n Sew Cottage was a very bright and roomy shop. They had a very large selection of quilt stencils which are becoming more difficult to find. I bought two but could have easily purchased several more. I also found a new fabric that I liked and picked up two yards to add to my stash. That said, we were both somewhat disappointed with this shop. The woman who checked us out was very nice, but not a single person approached us as we walked through the store to ask if we needed help. The samples on display were very limited, mostly panels that had been quickly assembled and hung on the wall. There was nothing that either one of us saw that made us say, “Oh, I need to make that!” Would I go back again? Probably. It is so close to the other Kalona shopping so to walk past it seems a little silly. Plus, I am always looking for new quilt stencils.

It has been a number of years since my last visit to Kalona and apparently they were in need of a refresh to their downtown area. Just a couple of months ago they finished up a revitalization program and, being the Quilting Capital of Iowa, used a quilting theme. Signage in town now features various quilt blocks and they have a Quilt Block Walking Tour, complete with its own brochure. 

The brochure features a photo and brief description of each block. After the wedding I drove the couple of blocks to the downtown area and did most of the walking tour. Local businesses sponsored the 42 blocks that grace the sidewalks. A couple of them are outside of the main shopping street, one being at the Historical Village where the Quilt and Textile Museum is located. I didn’t have time to visit the museum so that means at least one more trip to Kalona in the future!

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