After our adventures earlier in the afternoon, we approached our final stop of the day with a bit of trepidation.
Peddler’s Way is a little alleyway just half a block off the main square in Washington IL. If you’re approaching from the north on Main Street, as we were, and miss it, just swing around the square and try again.
The shop is a little easier to see from the other end of the alley, with its welcoming front porch and period sign.
And inside is no less welcoming.
The staircase to the upper floor is decked with stunning sample quilts.
Gail, one of the shop owners, greeted us warmly and invited us into the shop’s bright classroom.
Gail almost can’t remember a time when she didn’t sew. When she was a girl, she made many of her own clothes and recalls adding rickrack to the hems so that when they were let down, the faded crease wouldn’t show. When she was going off to college, she decided to make a quilt out of the scraps from her years of sewing. She and her grandmother hand tied the quilt together and she treasures the long conversation that accompanied the project.
The shop was started over twenty years ago as Peg and Lil’s Needle Patch. Gail and her co-owners Linda and Debbie bought Peddler’s Way about nine years ago, and love the busy, happy atmosphere of the shop.
Peddler’s Way carries a wide variety of fabrics, just about anything your needle craves. But what drew me in was the rainbow of batiks that inhabits most of the upper floor of the shop.
Row after row of glowing batiks – richly colored and pastel, striking and deep, soft and subtle, warm hues, cool tones – it’s all there.
Did I mention that Peddler’s Way carries batiks?
They are also well stocked with threads and notions and the latest patterns, with a special corner dedicated to purses.
They carry yarn and knitting supplies, too.
Peddler’s Way is also a Pfaff dealer, with a range of machines available for any sewing or quilting need. Gail delights in finding neat new gadgets to offer their customers, like the Multi-Angle Wedge Ruler by Creative Curves she found at Paducah the week before and excitedly showed me. “I haven’t even shown it to Linda and Debbie yet,” she told me with a slightly conspiratorial tone. She can hardly wait to play with it and then teach their customers how to use it.
The well-equipped classroom is really the heart of Peddler’s Way. It’s almost always buzzing with activity. There are regular Cutting and Sewing Days for Project Linus. One of the most popular activities is Chocolate Days, when quilters come to munch and chat and sew together. One of Peddler’s Way’s instructors is Judy Niemeyer certified, which allows them to offer classes on Judy’s stunning paper-pieced designs. In fact, another popular gathering at Peddler’s Way is Paper Piecing Mondays, where quilters bring their individual projects and their lunches to spend the day, with help and encouragement available whenever they need it.
And care and encouragement are both hallmarks of Peddler’s Way, and not just for customers with challenging quilt projects. Gail is a colon cancer survivor. When she completed her treatment and returned to the shop, a longtime customer and friend asked her how she discovered her cancer. As she told of her experience and emphasized how a colonoscopy caught her disease, there was another customer nearby. Some time later, she received a phone call from that second customer. “I want to tell you that you saved my life,” said the customer, who had overheard Gail’s conversation and scheduled her own colonoscopy.
Gail went on to say how satisfying it is to be able to make a difference in other people’s lives, whether it’s encouraging a customer to try a new technique, reassuring another that her quilt will turn out beautifully, or providing the impetus for someone to take care of their health. “I go home very happy every night,” she said.
When you visit Peddler’s Way, you’ll go home happy, too.
What You Should Know About Peddler’s Way and Washington IL:
Facebook: Peddler’s Way Quilt Co.
What to see and do in Washington IL: Washington Square is a quaint town square just a few steps from Peddler’s Way, with restaurants and shops. Gail told us that Abraham Lincoln often rode through town during his circuit riding days. The courthouse in Metamora, just 7 miles north of Washington, was the site of one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The Washington IL Historical Society is located on Zinzer Place, just across Main Street from Peddler’s Way. Next door to the Hisorical Society is The Village Doctor’s Museum which gives visitors a peek into a doctor’s office as it was in the early 20th century.
Where to eat lunch: Gail recommends Madison’s on the Square (106 Walnut St), a tea room and bakery. They serve all sorts of soups, salads, and sandwiches plus delectable desserts. Denhart Baking Company and Restaurant (101 Washington Sq) is another great option with a menu of comfort food and scrumptious baked goods.