The Be My Neighbor quilt-along is in full swing and we noticed a shop that’s deserves the “Good Neighbor” award for giving it their all and getting lots of quilters excited in the process.
Every week, Rocking Chair Quilts in Grant Park, Illinois, (described by the shop owner Carol Detloff as a small rural farm town about an hour south of Chicago) encourages quilters to share their finished blocks with the shop. Carol posts a gallery of the blocks on her shop blog and highlights them as they come in on the Rocking Chair Quilts Facebook page. “It’s so fun to see the variety of fabrics people use for each block,” she says. (If you didn’t read Carrie’s post about the Be My Neighbor quilt-along, click here.)
Carol’s participated in quilt-alongs before, but says that Be My Neighbor has really struck a chord—she’ll notice that hundreds of people are downloading the block and some weeks she’s gotten more than 40 completed blocks sent to her from both local customers and those farther afield (Rocking Chair Quilts has an active online business, so customers come from all over the U.S. and abroad). One reason for the strong numbers might be the yummy giveaways participating quilters can win.
Carol is headlining her blog posts “16 Blueprints, 16 Weeks, 16 Prizes” and those prizes are pretty cool: a Frivols tin and finishing kit of Brenda Riddle’s Lakeland fabrics, a Bonnie and Camille Hello Darling jelly roll and yardage, and a fat quarter bundle of Basic Grey’s Grunge. “People are eligible for the prize based just on sharing their photo, not on how their block looks,” says Carol. “I wrote in one post that we’re a friendly neighborhood, and the quilt police don’t come down our street. Some of those sharing photos are first time quilters and their blocks are just lovely.”
But Carol feels that it’s more than prizes that are inspiring entries. “The patterns are well-done, accurate, are easy-to follow and even include pressing instructions, and this large size block appeals to many,” she says. Carol also finds the sharing that via social media, where people can see the blocks others are creating, encourages quilters to join in. “It’s like Moda said—we’re a community of quilters and sharing on social media enhances that.”
Carol’s interest in social media stems in part from the fact that Rocking Chair Quilts started as an online shop in 2012. Though she didn’t meet her customers face-to-face, she strove to offer them the best possible service (along with great products) and has an efficient and easy-to-use website. Carol saw selling fabric as the perfect accompaniment to her longarm quilting business, but over time the bolts of fabric started overflowing from every room in the house. Carol’s husband Ben was getting ready to retire from his construction career and they decided to add on a shop to the back of their big Victorian home. Carol credits her Moda rep, Brian Wheeler, with helping her during the shop’s early days. “I was terrified and Brian is so experienced and has good insights,” she says. “He was encouraging and supportive and helped put me at ease.”
The brick-and-mortar portion of Rocking Chair Quilts opened in 2014. Carol says when they made the decision to open the shop Ben said “It’ll be an adventure,” and that’s exactly how it’s turned out. Ben has gone from building bridges to helping customers pull fabrics for quilts and has even learned to sew. “Last week I was out of the shop and he showed a new quilter how to wind a bobbin!” says Carol. “It’s not like we’re bungee jumping, but it’s so much fun. We feel like our little quilt shop is steering us and we’re along for the ride.”
Because they do so much online business, Carol has become adept at using social media to share new products and news with customers. She recommends shop owners set aside a specific time each week to write and schedule posts for Facebook and Instagram and tweets for Twitter. Carol finds that each media platform appeals to different types of quilters, helping her connect with quilters of all ages and in all parts of the country (and around the world). “The online aspect gives you another way to market things besides having a pretty shop—it opens the globe to us and shows people the fun things we have to buy,” she says.
Rocking Chair Quilts may be high tech, but Carol stresses old-fashioned customer service, both in person and online. Orders are shipped promptly and online customers often find an extra treat tucked into their boxes. Because the brick-and-mortar shop is attached to their Victorian house, Carol says when customers come in they’re treated like visitors to her home. Some don’t have computers, so Carol is printing the instructions of the Be My Neighbor blocks for them so they can participate, and will take photos of the completed blocks people bring into the shop.
For Carol, owning Rocking Chair Quilts and events like the Be My Neighbor quilt-along make everyday fun. “It gives me a huge purpose in life, it’s never a feeling of the ‘same old, same old,’” she says. “It’s not like the grocery store, where you have to go. People who are buying fabric are adding to the joyful part of their lives and it’s fun to work with them. I look forward to every day.”
To find quilt shops participating in Be My Neighbor, check the hashtag #modabemyneighbor on Instagram and Facebook or check Moda’s Facebook page.