Quilt Shop Hopping
Make new friends and buy more fabric at these quilt 'shop hop' stops across the country
Last September, when Betsy Green walked into Karen's Quilting Corner in Williamstown, Massachusetts and proudly displayed her "All New England Quilt Shop Hop" magazine filled with stamps, I was gobsmacked.
In just two weeks, Green had visited 56 of the 58 quilt shops participating in the event and had the stamps to prove it. Only two more shops remained in her quest, and she completed those soon after we met.
She had traveled from her home base in Manchester, New Hampshire to all around the Granite State, as well as Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. It was something of a full-time job, involving two hotel stays and many miles, but Green was game.
"I had just retired from my job as a school bus driver, so I didn't mind driving, and I thought it would be a nice way to transition into retirement and get some projects to work on over the winter," she explains.
"It was like going back to my childhood."
This was the first year of the All New England Quilt Shop Hop, a two-month event designed to boost sales for brick-and-mortar quilt shops while offering the thrill of the chase, not to mention prizes, to shoppers. The shop hop was also a fun way for quilters, of which there are approximately 10 million in the United States, to connect, something we all need in these days when loneliness is epidemic.
"I really enjoyed talking to the shop owners and customers, and since I've lived in every state in New England, it was fun to visit all five of them again," says Green. "It was like going back to my childhood."
So What Is a Shop Hop?
If you've never heard of a shop hop before, just think about marketing events in other industries, like pub crawls and antique road shows, where customers visit different venues to collect stamps or stickers, sample the wares and have the chance to win prizes.
"Shop hops are unique because businesses work together to support and promote each other," says Koleene Herlocker, executive director of Shop Hop Inc. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which organized the New England event and runs several others during the year. Each shop pays a registration fee to participate, but Shop Hop Inc. handles the marketing, advertising and prize drawings and distribution.
"Shop hopping exposes customers to stores they may not know existed, and it's a way for stores to showcase their unique offerings and talents to new and returning customers," Herlocker says.
The shop hops also have a positive economic impact on the towns and cities where quilt stores are located, boosting income at hotels, restaurants and other stores — in the range of $4.5 to $7.5 million, estimates Herlocker, per region or state.
Do You Have to Go to All the Shops?
Thankfully, no — and that's not really the goal anyway. "Only a small percentage of shoppers complete the entire hop," says Herlocker, and, in fact, about half of shoppers never even mail in their collection of stamps to enter the prize drawings.
A more manageable approach for most participants is to look at the hops as finding expeditions. You can choose to do a few stores during the contest period and keep the magazine to visit other stores later in the year, Herlocker says, adding, "We don't want people to just rush in and out of the stores. The purpose of the hop is to introduce quilters to new shops to keep them in business."
I took on the All New England Shop Hop knowing I wouldn't be able to keep my job or my sanity by doing all 58 stores in the two months allotted. Luckily, the Shop Hop Inc. team had broken the hop into five regions of about a dozen shops each. I chose to do the shops in my home state of Connecticut, which also included outliers in Vermont and Massachusetts.
I was delighted to find many of the shops had distinct personalities — some were traditional, others vintage and still others modern — and carried different lines of fabric than I had seen before. And though I've been an avid quilter for 30 years, I discovered several quilt stores nearby that weren't on my radar before.
Like the other shop hoppers, I received a stamp for the "passport" page in my magazine at each shop and a unique-to-that-store printed quilt block that I could use in a project. The fabric company Benartex had also created a coordinating series of fabrics for the event that could be purchased to make a unique quilt.
After completing the regions, we hoppers were instructed to mail in our completed passports to be entered into drawings for prizes like sewing machines, cutting tools, thread, fabric and furniture. Some individual stores also ran their own prize drawings. (Sadly, I was not a winner of any prizes big or small.)
A major part of the fun was posting on the Shop Hop's Facebook page and seeing what other quilters were up to — the fabric they bought, the stores they visited, the routes they took and where they stayed or ate.
"Hoppers are very goal-oriented," says Herlocker. "They love a reason to quilt and to shop. They love going on an adventure and a road trip to discover new stores, and they love sharing their hobby with others."
Where Can I Find a Shop Hop Near Me?
If you're a quilter or sewer, or you just like going on fun road trips with a purpose, you can find quilt shop hops running almost year-round, though most hops are scheduled for Spring to Fall. For instance, Shop Hop Inc. is hosting 12 events across the US in 2024:
- March and April: All Florida Shop Hop, All Texas Shop Hop
- April and May: All Minnesota Shop Hop, All Kansas Nebraska Shop Hop
- June and July: All Iowa Shop Hop, All Michigan Shop Hop
- July and August: All Mid-Atlantic Shop Hop
- August and September: All Illinois Shop Hop, All Ohio Shop Hop
- September and October: All Missouri Shop Hop, All Carolinas Shop Hop, All New England Shop Hop
Many quilt store groups run their own smaller hops, too. I was first introduced to the shop hop concept in 2022 when my home shop, Yankee Quilter in Seymour, Connecticut, participated in one. (Another hop, called Quilt Across Connecticut, with five stores is scheduled to run in April 2024.)
The website Quilting Hub has compiled a directory of shop hops or you can Google "Quilt shop hops" and you'll easily find events to help you join in the fun and start hopping – and shopping — yourself.