As we were leaving Wadena in the morning, I pointed to a quilt shop. “Oh, look! There’s one,” I excitedly exclaimed. We had already visited Hometown Crafts & Fabrics the day before but the shop that we were driving past just then was not listed on our passports to visit and I’d never been in it either. “If it’s not on the hop, we don’t stop,” reminded my husband. That was our mantra the three previous years we hopped around the state on the Quilt Minnesota Shop Hop. We’d repeat it in unison as we passed by non-participating shops. Sigh, I guess this year was no exception. I think it’s now become our motto and we’re sticking to it.
Finding our way through lake country was very interesting. Google maps on my husband’s cell phone told us to turn right onto a gravel road so we could head to the next quilt shop on our list in Park Rapids.
I raised my eyebrows and humphed, “This could be interesting.” When the Google Map’s app said to turn left onto another gravel road which looked less traveled than the one we were one, I knew we would be in for an adventure. But that adventure didn’t happen as we met a highway that took us directly to Monika’s Quilt and Yarn Shop.
As I entered the shop, I couldn’t help but sense excitement building in the air. I noticed a grandmother helping her grandchildren pick out fabrics for a quilt project. I moved closer to listen to their conversation and soon I knew I’d found:
Today’s Top Shop on the Hop
As I roamed the store, I couldn’t help but notice a young man carrying bolts of fabric and talking to his grandmother about the colors. It was evident that this grandmother—Sue Harmon, a certified AQS quilt appraiser, teacher, lecturer, and a previous owner of a quilt shop in Illinois—has had years of experience in quilting and working with kids. She now lives in Park Rapids. Having started quilting in 1974, I suspect Sue is a master quilter who has sewn many quilts throughout the years. She shops at Monika’s frequently. Today, her two grandchildren had come along to pick out fabric. At first I thought Grandma Sue would be sewing the quilts for her grandchildren. My jaw dropped when I heard the truth; the kids would be sewing the quilts themselves. At a day and age when most young people are consumed with PS4s and texting friends, this was truly newsworthy.
Johnny Pfaff (no relation to the sewing machine empire although his mother wishes there was), age 12, lives in Illinois and was visiting his Grandma Sue in Park Rapids. Today, they’d come to Monika’s to buy fabric so he could sew up a generous size quilt to fit his twin bed at home. With his grandma’s help, he’d already sewn a smaller quilt which he called a bed topper. Since he’s a growing young man, he was in need of making a larger quilt; one that he wants to sew by himself.
He thought of the pattern and after looking through some quilt books, he set to drawing his design. He was very definite in the fabric colors he chose for the top. He picked blue to match his room but is still in the market for fabric with whales for the backing. Grandma Sue had to help him with his first quilt but he is determined to do this one completely by himself even though he knows it will be difficult. “Hopefully, I will get a little better,” he said. He’s already drawn the design and is prepared to start the cutting. This is one guy who knows what he wants and is determined to see it to completion. I have no doubt that it will be done with as little help as possible from Grandma Sue.
Quilting or quilt blocks are not new to Johnny. We talked about some different block patterns and he pointed to a quilt behind me. “…like that friendship star,” he said. I turned and looked and that was exactly what it was. Johnny says that his goal is to someday make (spoiler alert for mom) his mom a Siamese cat quilt for her birthday.
Johnny told me that he’s already sewn pillowcases with whales on the fabric to match his bed topper. I knew that Grandma Sue had already introduced many sewing skills to him and he would be doing fine on his new project. I suspect that Grandma Sue won’t be too far away while he works on his project lending a hand or giving a suggestion when needed.
I asked Johnny what prompted him to make a quilt for himself. “I saw my cousin quilting and wanted to make my own.” Johnny’s cousin, Julia Harmon, also age 12, lives nearby to Grandma Sue. She came along today to pick out some border fabric for the quilt she just finished piecing. She had left the shop for a few minutes while Johnny and I talked and returned with a couple of pillows, one of which she just “whipped up this morning.”
When asked how many quilts she’s made, she had no idea, “three or maybe 5 or 6 but this is the biggest one.” She says she started with a pattern and made some adjustments. Julia told me, “This is the first quilt I’ve pretty much done by myself.” At this point I was very impressed with her skills and abilities.
However, she continued. “I’m still thinking about the center (how to quilt it)”. That’s right! She doesn’t just piece the tops, she also quilts them. She’s planning on quilting around the star and adding some swirls in the black squares and some wavy lines using free-motion quilting. “I enjoy doing it. It’s time consuming.” Yes it is, but with Grandma Sue as a role model and with her encouragement, I have no doubt that Julia will finish this project and start more.
Now this story gets even better. Julia’s sister, Alessia Harmon, age 9, dropped by to see what all the excitement was about over at the quilt shop. Grandma Sue started teaching the kids to sew early by letting them sit on her lap and push the pedal. Alessia was about three when it was her turn to learn. She sews accessories such as sleeping bags for her American Girl Dolls. Alessia continued, “I’ve made pillows, too.” Her goal is to make quilts to give away. About 6 months ago, she made a quilt for her little cousin, Johnny’s brother. “He uses it all the time,” Johnny added.
These are well-balanced kids. They also are active in sports. Johnny plays baseball, basketball, and wants to start either football or wrestling or both in the fall. He sees himself continuing to quilt for the fun of it. “I like quilting. It’s fun to do.” He’s an artistic person and wants to take acting classes to become an actor.
Julia has lots of hobbies and is also active in sports. She plays basketball, softball and runs cross country track. Julia is artistic as well and plans to make her room into an art studio. She also wants to learn to knit. I’m sure Monika could get her started with all the yarn selection she has in her store.
I felt honored and privileged to talk with these three, fine, young, people whose Grandma Sue lovingly and patiently taught them the skills they needed to sew and quilt. Under her guidance, she’s instilled in them a love for quilting. Thanks, Grandma Sue, for blessing your grandchildren with a love for fabric and quilting! You’ve given your grandchildren not only the love for but also the desire to sew pillows and quilts for themselves and others. Grandma Sue, with some help from Monika’s Quilt and Yarn Shop, is really an example of establishing a legacy of quilting love.
Monika has owned her shop for 33 years. Originally, the shop started as an arts and crafts supply store offering framing services along with some gift items. It was housed in a building that once sold dresses.
As the business grew, Monika was able to purchase the adjacent bakery and renovate it to hold her expanding line of fabrics and yarns. “Best choice we ever made,” Monika remarked regarding her expansion and move towards selling only fabrics and yarns.
Monika had great advice for new quilters which was very beneficial as there were two young quilters listening near by. She said:
- Make sure you want to do it (quilting) because it becomes an addiction. It’s not a hobby, it’s a vocation.
- Don’t be discouraged when you have little flaws. They become your creative license.
- Interact with others to get the most satisfaction out of your work.
- Give away some of the things you make and keep on sewing.
That’s great advice, for quilters of any skill level. Thanks, Monika!
Monika has a staff of 6 full and part-time employees. Her daughter is taking over many of the main duties. “About all I do now is toilets and checks,” Monika joked. I hardly doubt that as I saw her arranging muffins and fruit on the tray for shop hoppers, helping at the counter, and preparing for a group to arrive today on her day off. I suspect she just might have the energy level of the Energizer bunny.
Check out Monika’s website here for more info about this shop and the classes they offer. You will also find her bio in the about us tab. She’s written her personal story about growing up in communist East Germany. I wished I had read this before visiting as I would loved to have talked to her more. I will just have to visit again and with a sister living not too far away, it just might happen.
You will feel the warmth of a Northwoods Welcome when you visit. Oh, and when you do, say Hi! to Monika and tell her that Tu-Na sent you.
As we were leaving Park Rapids, my husband reached up to the rear view mirror. “I have to adjust the mirror so I can see out the back over the top of all that fabric,” he joked. It’s really not that bad but when I looked behind me I had to admit, there sure were a lot of bags.
Again we passed another quilt shop that wasn’t on the hop. That motto still held and we repeated the mantra, “If it’s not on the hop, we don’t stop.”
The next stop was Country Fabrics & Quilting in Brainerd. Chris Rosinger, a volunteer for the hop and a representative of the local Quilts of Valor group, stamped our passports and explained the quilt shop’s block program. For just a $2.00 donation, I could receive a kit to make the shop’s block. The shop let’s the Quilts of Valor group keep the money so they can purchase fabric and needed items to make quilts to present to service men and women. We felt that this was a worthy cause so Tu-Na Helper ran to the car to get some cash and I got two kits. You can read more about this national program here and find a local group if you would like to become involved. You could also stop by Country Fabrics & Quilting in Brainerd and leave a donation. They will be there through Sunday, August 13th.
While in the store, Linda, a follower of Tu-Na Quilts, Travels, and Eats, caught up with me. While her sister was away looking at fabric, we snapped a pic together to make sister, Judy, jealous.
Last year, Judy convinced her sister, Linda, to come along even though she didn’t even quilt. Linda is from Indiana and traveled up to join her sister to drive to many shops. Well, she must have been bit by the quilting bug, too, as she started quilting in October and has already finished 7 quilts plus 2 baby quilts. What’s also impressive is that she’s back making her rounds to quilt shops and enjoying the shop hop with her sister, again. I guess she’s been bit quite badly as she has plans to convince her husband to come along next year and travel the whole state for the shop hop. I hope we meet again, next year.
At our last shop of the day, Colorz Quilt Shop in Baxter, we again caught up with Linda and Judy. This time I took a pic with Judy, while her sister, Linda was busy. After all, I don’t want to be the source of a sisterly spat.
We also ran into some other followers of mine at the shop. Half the fun of the hop is meeting and talking with fellow shop hoppers and learning where they are from and how many shops they are planning to visit. Someone asked if we drive a motor home. I answered, “No, we drive a Prius. Do you know how much fabric a Prius holds?” “Too much,” replied my husband.
I planned to sew tonight. After we checked into our hotel in Brainerd, my husband asked, “Do you want fast food, which will give you more time to sew, or a sit-down restaurant leaving less time.” My choice was to eat at a local restaurant called The Northern Cowboy located beside a lake just outside of Brainerd. The view was gorgeous and the food was delicious.
I still sewed a couple of blocks and cut out another one. Somehow, I figured I’d have more time to sew on this trip around the state. Maybe I should have investigated plugging my machine into the car, after all.
Block of the Day:
Today just seemed like a two block day.
What I Learned Today:
- There is no hope of changing our motto: If it’s not on the hop, we don’t stop.
- I am very good at eavesdropping. Had I not been, I would have totally missed this wonderful story about Grandma Sue and how she’s sharing her love and knowledge of quilting and sewing with her grandchildren.
- Quilting will continue with the next generation.
- From the look of the inside of our car, I am a very determined quilter with a fabric addiction.
- Now I have a phrase for my mistakes: my creative license. Thanks, Monika!
- Hotel rooms have poor lighting for sewing. I need to bring a sewing light along next time.
Question: Who quilts in your family? I come from a long line of quilters. My maternal as well as my paternal grandmothers, my mom, my mother-in-law, and now my daughter quilt.
I read and appreciate every comment I receive. I’ve either been busy writing posts or shopping so I haven’t had time to reply but do plan to when I am home and recovered from the trip. Thank you for all your kind words and encouragement.
Thanks for stopping by and do come again.
Karen, Tu-Na Quilts
See my other posts about the 2017 Quilt Minnesota Shop Hop:
All the links to my posts for last year’s Quilt MN Shop Hop can be found at the top of this blog under the Tu-Na Quilts, Travels, and Eats title. Click on the Shop Hop tab; in the drop down menu, click on 2016 Quilt MN Shop Hop Posts.
At this time, I have no affiliation with any of the shops, products, companies, or services that I mention here on Tu-Na Quilts, Travels, and Eats.
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