When someone tells you they are an avid quilter, you can generally assume the following:

  • They will drive over 100 miles to visit a quilt shop.
  • They don’t use inexpensive fabrics.
  • They know fabric manufacturers’ names as if they are close friends.
  • They own more than one sewing machine and have a sewing room.
  • They have more fabric than they can use in a lifetime but will happily buy more.
  • They know other quilters.

All of the above apply to me, and I’m proud of it. Every bed in my house has a quilt with window valences to match. The couch has a quilt, as does my chair. There are worn quilts in the basement and many quilt projects to finish in my studio. So why did I just go on a four-day bus trip to visit 12 quilt shops in three states? Because it was fun to get away with 41 other ladies, some I knew well, and others I got to know better and visit a different part of this big country.

We went on the Mystery Harvest Quilt Shop Hop from September 28 – October 1, 2022. When this hop started 16 years ago, there were clues to a mystery given at each store; now, the fabric panel they have made special for the occasion is the mystery because it’s not revealed ahead of time. The artwork in it is stunning, and I bought it at our first stop.

The organization is key to a good bus trip experience, and Jean L. is a master organizer. The planning, communication with stores, hotel reservations, and lunch orders were all done ahead of time by Jean and her helper, Wendy. I had never seen one person check in 42 people at a hotel so there was no waiting. It was an experience. It was also one of the highlights for me because we went full speed all day, and I was tired. 

On the bus trip down and back, Jean had us playing card bingo, doing word searches, listening to demonstrations, checking our raffle numbers for prizes, and doing fun exercises so we could get to know each other. Quilting magazines were passed around for reading material, and about every half hour someone came through the aisle with homemade cookies and fruit breads. We did not go hungry. Thank you to all the bakers. At one point, Jean was handing out apples. Someone asked, “What kind?” She looked in the bag and back at the person. “They were given to me; they’re apples!” After we got done laughing, we tasted them and decided they were Honey Crisp.

Jean sat behind the bus driver, John, so she could use the microphone to talk to all of us. She also helped wipe off the windshield that insisted on condensing over until the sunshine got warm enough to keep it dry. John called his headquarters, FitzGerald Brothers, and they told him to wash the inside windshield with shaving cream. That evening he asked for a can of shaving cream at the front desk, or maybe Jean did since John has a full beard. They cleaned the windshield in the morning and had no more trouble with it. Who knew? 

There was a “bathroom” on the bus, as small as an airplanes. I’m not fussy where I go, but this was a new experience. It was a chore to keep my balance trying to get my pants down or up as we rounded curves and hit bumps. The tiny room also seemed to have a heater stuck in the on position. John later explained the toilet was over the engine, and the fan was supposed to keep the exhaust at bay. I can attest it did that, but it also heated the seat up to a little more than comfortable. I should add we did make a potty stop on the way down. Can you guess how long it takes 42 women to accomplish that with getting off and back on the bus? At the PA Welcome Center, it was only 17 minutes total!

All the shops we visited had complimentary snacks and water, which we weren’t used to. Each shop also gave between 20 and 30% discount on most items. How can one not pick out an unneeded pretty fabric when it has such a reasonable price? Some may call it a “sickness” the way quilters buy fabric on speculation. I figure I’m buying for the future when my husband and I are on a fixed income.

Our first stop was at Neff’s Country Loft in Belpre, OH. We learned quickly that most of the stores had lots of Moda fabrics, a favorite of quilters. We were also in a historic area of the country, so there were plenty of what we call “Civil War prints.” Most quilt shops don’t have 40 shoppers at once, so they only have one or two cutting counters and one register. This slowed us down throughout the trip as only an hour at each stop was on the schedule. Everyone cooperating made it work. 

Our second stop was at Bolts and Quarters Quilt shop. Brian McCoy, who is called the Redneck Quilter, owns it. His staff is half men, and he can claim to be the largest shop in square feet west of the Mississippi. He also has an artificial leg because of cancer when he was six. I talked to him about it as I write a fiction serial about veterans, and my main character is an amputee. This shop was my favorite. We went back to visit it a second time on Friday evening. 

We went to Cracker Barrel for dinner. Again, Jean had called ahead, so they were expecting us. They split us into groups of 4, 6, and 10, so no one server was overwhelmed, and neither was the kitchen. It worked well. 

My roommate and friend, Nancy P., and I had expected to have some social time in the evenings with other ladies, but by the time we got to our room it was after 8:00 PM. We heard no noise in the hallways of the Comfort Inn in Mineral Wells, WV, and got a good night’s sleep.