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Have Quilts, Will Travel

Have Quilts, Will Travel

Written by: 
Linzee McCray

The glamour, the adoring crowds, seeing new sights, (the gas station coffee; getting lost; forgetting your computer adapter)…it’s all in a day for Moda designers on the road.


The Gems of the Prairie Guild from Peoria, Illinois

Many Moda designers have been at this a long time—follow Debbie Maddy on Instagram you’ll be amazed at how much she travels, posting selfies as she heads out on her next adventure and road signs as she crosses state lines. Pat Sloan’s another designer who seems always to be en route to someplace else. Though I’m one of Moda’s newer designers, I’ve been giving talks about my books for a few years, so Carrie asked me to share a behind-the-scenes look at “business travel.” Here’s a peek at last week, when I had two gigs.


Car loaded with samples and books and ready to roll

The events were two days apart, in Peoria, Illinois, about 2.5 hours east of my home and in Winterset, Iowa, about 2.5 hours west. I’m always grateful to have a traveling companion and this time my husband Paul took time off from work to travel with me and be my “merch guy”—more on that later. We loaded the car with copies of my books and samples of vintage feed sacks and feed sack quilts, along with things I’ve made from Feed Sacks: True Blue: quilts, a jelly roll rug, Wiksten baby bloomers, and some precuts and fat quarters. All work and no play isn’t good for anyone, so we stopped in Wilton, Iowa, for ice cream treats to spice up our picnic lunch at the Wilton Candy Kitchen (in business since 1910).


We supplemented our picnic lunch with goodies from the Wilton Candy Kitchen, in business since 1910.

The weather was perfect, flowers colored small-town gardens, and the fields and woods were lush and green—my favorite time of year in the Midwest. 

We arrived in Peoria with time to zip downtown for my co-pilot’s favorite reward: coffee. We took photos of a dramatic Civil War monument and sat street-side as we caffeinated.


My co-pilot in his happy place—a downtown Peoria coffee shop where they roast their own


Civil War monument in downtown Peoria

Then it was off to the church where the Gems of the Prairie meet. And what a group they are—the church basement was bustling with members setting up tables to display committee news and to sell their wares. (They’re hosting a quilt show on August 25 and 26. Paul and I hauled in our bags and boxes and I set up a table on the stage with items to display during my talk and another in the back for sales, while Paul dealt with the projector, calmly trouble-shooting the last-minute realization that my adaptor didn’t work with my new computer. Phew!

I spoke at the beginning of the meeting and it was a great group, more than 100 strong and they were full of questions. While I love telling the story of feed sacks, it’s the personal experiences and quilts that people share that I especially enjoy. In Peoria, a woman brought a grandmother’s flower garden quilt that her mother had given her, and another attendee told of the challenge in her childhood of finding two sacks with the same pattern, so that her mother had enough fabric to sew her a dress. Several audience members were taught to sew using feed sack fabric.


My "merch table" at the Gems of the Prairie meeting

The stories continued as guild members came by our table to fondle the fabric—Paul, the “merch guy” handled sales while I signed books and chatted. It was after 9 p.m. when the group broke up, but we decided to hit the road rather than stay in a motel. Accompanied by lots of dramatic lightening, but thankfully no rain, we pulled into our driveway at midnight.

After a day to catch up we hit the road again, this time driving west. We stopped in Des Moines at a favorite lunch spot and then drove on to Piece Works Quilt Shop where I was doing a trunk show from 1 to 4 p.m. Owner, Joyce Franklin, and manager, Tony Jacobsen greeted me and helped carry in bags and boxes, then Joyce headed to a nearby town where she was running a retreat for 50 quilters.


A variety of feed sacks at Piece Works— two on the upper left that were the inspiration for Feed Sacks: True Blue

Piece Works is a lovely shop—one of Quilt Sampler’s Top Ten shops. Once again Paul and I set up feed sacks, quilt tops, and Feed Sacks: True Blue items and I waited for visitors to arrive. Soon some of the retreaters came by, along with folks visiting the Iowa Quilt Museum, the John Wayne Museum, and the lovely shops and restaurants in Winterset. I talked with folks from Minnesota, Illinois, California, and Texas and heard wonderful stories from an Iowan whose family raised 1,000 chickens, providing lots feed sacks for the family’s clothing. When I asked her whether she minded wearing feed sack dresses, she said, “It’s all we knew!” It’s a response I’ve heard repeatedly—most people didn’t mind wearing feed sack clothing because all their friends were doing the same.

Around 4 p.m. we packed up (I may or may not have purchased some fabric first) and headed home. But not before Paul showed me Winterset’s verdant City Park, which features a covered bridge, a tower, and a monument to the introduction of the first Delicious apple. In cities large and small, I never fail to learn something new and I never fail to meet people who teach me new things—quilting tips, feed sack facts—there’s an instant connection with fellow fabric lovers that makes conversation flow. While I might have been kidding about the glamour of travel, meeting quilt lovers on trips around the country and the world is a marvelous perk of Moda designer-hood. I’m grateful for every opportunity.

Do you attend guild meetings and/or trunk shows? What do you enjoy about it?

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