Traveling the state for patterns

When asked how she spent her last summer vacation, Bonnie McHugh has a more interesting tale to tell than most folks. A year ago, the Elkader woman devoted two weeks to crisscrossing the state collecting quilt patterns. Her journey was part of the 2012 All-Iowa Shop Hop, an event that included 90 quilt shops located in just about as many counties.

“I made it to all of them except one in West De Moines—there were two there so I had to choose—and one in Jefferson that I didn’t realize wasn’t opened on Sunday, which is when I stopped,” Bonnie said.

The 2012 event ran only two weeks. Bonnie ended her odyssey on the last day of the statewide shop hop at 9 p.m. in Burlington.

Throughout her travels, her companion and primary cheerleader was her husband, Bill, a retired Central elementary principal. The couple was based in Ankeny, where their daughter lives. They chose her home because it’s more centrally located than their Elkader residence.

“Bill really got me through this,” Bonnie said. “There were times when I was tired and he’d say ‘Come on. We can get to one more shop’ I’m not sure I would’ve made it to so many places if it hadn’t been for him.”

Bonnie tracked her progress on a map designed especially for the event. At each stop, she noted the day she was there and where the shop fell on her journey, using a two-digit numbering system that she developed. For example, the very first stop is designated “1-1”. She made it to The Backstitch in downtown Elkader on the 11th day of the shop hop; it was her 75th stop. So that store is circled on her map with the notation “11-75.”

You might think that visiting 90 stores in such a short period of time would make the adventure a long two-week blur. But certain shops stick out clearly in Bonnie’s mind. She’s partial to the hometown favorite, The Backstitch, but Lee’s Quilt Shop in Jolley and Barefoot Quilting in Albia impressed her. Bill was treated to cookies and iced water at Lee’s; the husband of Barefoot Quilting coaxed Bill out of the car and onto a porch swing where the two struck up a spirited conversation.

Using the patterns she collected over her two-week trip, Bonnie made a cozy queen-sized quilt in earth tones with splashes of muted red and gold. The quilt is currently on display at The Backstitch.

Quilting has been Bonnie’s passion for nearly 25 years. A self-taught quilter, she estimated that she’s started 50 or 60 projects; “more than a few” have yet to be finished.

 “A quilt is like a puzzle to me,” she said. “I like figuring out whether I can do a particular pattern. That’s probably why I have so many that are unfinished—I lose interest when I figure things out and move on to the next one.” 

The 2013 All Iowa Shop Hop is underway and continues through June 20. About 80 shops are participating. The event will draw lots of quilters but Bonnie won’t be one of them. She’s on a cruise where, undoubtedly, she’s talking patterns with other passengers.

By Pam Reinig, Register Editor

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