Greetings Loch Ness monsters! I know you’re all about your cold, deep waters in the Scottish highlands, but I thought you may be interested in visiting northern Minnesota this summer. There’s nice, big lakes for you to float around in and better yet, there’s an awesome quilt shop and bed breakfast just a splash away from the lake!
Over the weekend, the Bug-family made the long journey to the majestic Iron Range in Northeastern Minnesota. It actually is pretty majestic – all pine trees and rocks and deer and buttercups. The glaciers were sloppy houseguests and left that part of the state all craggy and cluttered and full of lakes. And swamps. I’ll spare you the geography details, but suffice to say grandma-bug lives in the ‘big’ town of Virginia (population 8,400). The wedding was a half an hour away in Cook, Minnesota (population 620). I grew up in a Soudan, Minnesota, which is a half an hour in the other direction (population 374) and we stayed at the Northern Comfort bed and breakfast in beautiful Embarrass, Minnesota. Population 691 (that’s the whole township, there really isn’t a ‘town’ persay.) But for the low number of year-round residents (there’s a lotta summer residents and campers, fishers, hunters, etc.) the area has one of the best fabric shops I’ve been in recently, North Country Quilts in Tower, Minnesota.
I have to admit to a prior acquaintance with this quilt shop, although it was in a different location when I knew it! North Country quilts has been open for about twelve years and waaaaayyyyy back in 2000/2001 I decided to try the life of a small town girl (again.) I moved back home, stayed for six months and fled back to the city. I missed Vietnamese food. Also, I was tired of people thinking I was a witch. Nevertheless, in my short time up north I learned to quilt at North Country Quilts. Back then, it was recently opened and in an old fire station – one of the few old, brick buildings in town. Nessie and friends, it was an AWESOME setup – on one side was the quilt shop with tables for sewing. On the other was a gift/coffee shop – the coffee shop was in the old jail cell! It was charming and the hangout for quite a few locals who would drop by for a sew and a chat. I’d heard that the quilt shop had moved down the street to a newer-not-so-charming venue a few years ago and was sad. Normally my visits up north are quick and at odd times and there hasn’t been a chance to check out the new digs until this trip – actually I didn’t expect to stop by, but Mr. Bug and I were driving around looking at the house where I grew up and when we drove past the quilt shop, look what I saw!!
Now, does that beat a sandwich board or what?? A front porch covered with quilts? I’m in. Even though quilting’s not my main thing, why on earth would I pass up a fabric shop? Quilt weight cotton’s the perfect summer dress weight, after all…
I was blown away by the shop. I didn’t take many photos, but suffice it to say this is a must-do stop if you’re up that way, EVEN if you aren’t a quilter! There’s a front room packed with all the cool designers (Anna Maria Horner, Amy Butler – I think I saw Alexander Henry.) There’s side rooms full of more cottons and a back room with some great knits, tons of minki and the coolest flannels I’ve ever seen – herringbone prints that faked me out so well, I still thought they were wool WHEN I WAS TOUCHING THEM!!
Seriously, you sneaky dinosaurs, if you live in Minnesota, this shop is worth the trip. I haven’t seen anything like it down in the Twin Cities (although, granted, I’m not super-familiar with the quilt shops down here!) AND, lucky for you, there’s an excellent place to stay just 15 miles down the road (that’s just a couple blocks after you make the city to country conversion…)
Approaching the B&B
Our room. There are a few rooms with their own powder rooms, but share the main shower. I think there are a couple of rooms that have no powder room at all, and then there is the suite where we stayed. There’s a full bathroom, a sitting room with a trundle bed and the bedroom.
The bed and breakfast is located on a beautiful old farm. In prior days, it was a private residence, a boarding house and who knows what. My stepfather, who is from Embarrass and 94 years old (my mom married up!) told us that the building used to be a rooming house for kids who lived out in the hinterlands and were attending the four-year high school in town.
New, since we last visited in October was the antique shop! The owners, Pam and Kathy, converted part of the barn to a sweet little antique shop. It smells nice. Partially because Kathy makes her own soap – there were little bars of it in the rooms!
The back of the barn is still in its original form, but overflow from the shop lives back there and we wandered in to take some pictures.
Kathy had a very nice selection of buttons in the shop and I think we all, mythical creatures and snug bugs alike, know how I feel about buttons. Here’s my haul. Check out those most excellent ones in the upper left! I (ok, Mr. Bug) paid $12 for three of them, but they were irresistible…
OK, we can’t leave off a post regarding a B&B without addressing the second B, now can we? I must admit that I consider the plethora of food-photos on Facebook an unfortunate side-effect of too much leisure time coupled with too many iPhones, but nevertheless, here’s our melon-with-crème-fraiche and German apple pancake.
I assure you, the nice ladies at North Country Quilts and Northern Comfort will do their very best to make you feel welcome. Just let them know you require absolute secrecy, a large body of fresh water around 800 feet deep and a steady diet of scuba divers and northern pike.
[a lazy resident of Embarrass, Minnesota]