Hunting for Quilt Fabric Bargains – Tent Sale Tales

The annual Keepsake Quilting Tent Sale has become a tradition for quilters wanting great bargains on top-quality quilt fabric, kits, batting, patterns, and tools. Here’s the story of this year’s sale and how you can still participate–no matter where you are!

quilt fabric tent
The Tent is where shoppers can get bargains on quilt fabric yardage, kits, patterns and yarn.

They marked their calendars in February. They came from New York, Ohio, Quebec, North Carolina and all over New England. Some even camped out the night before to get a good place in line!

The Tent Sale opened at 8 a.m. Friday, June 3. But preparations began months before–both by the KQ staff and the quilters.

Quilters began asking us for the date on Facebook last February. Many of them build a whole weekend–or more–around the Sale. That makes sense, because not only do we bring out new merchandise each day of the weekend, but our location in Center Harbor, New Hampshire, Lake Region offers many vacation rentals in a beautiful setting. There’s a lot to explore.

nancy keepsake quilting tent sale
Nancy has been to the sale 4 out of the last 5 years. She comes all the way from North Carolina.

Also, with the great prices on yardage and scraps, the Tent sale is an economical way to build your stash.

“It’s the only place I plan on every year,” says Nancy of North Carolina, who’s been coming to the sale for five years–ever since she started quilting. Each year, she stocks up on fabric, batting and notions, and then sews whole month of June. This year, Nancy made three trips through the tent line and was one of the last through the checkout at the end of the day.

While quilters are booking their travel, saving up their money, and (many) making matching T-shirts for their group, the KQ Team is busy setting aside boxes of scraps and sale merchandise. Our store manager, Deb Comeau, does most of the prep work, but as the Tent Sale day nears, it’s all hands on deck for boxing, pricing, loading and displaying.

keepsake quilting tent sale staff
Check out our staff! At the far right is our fearless leader, manager Deb Comeau.

“The staff is super-nice,” says Ella, who comes with a group of friends from New York every year. “They have the best staff here.” She and her friends machine-embroidered their own T-shirts just for the Tent Sale. Last year, they could barely fit all their merchandise in the car for the ride back to New York.

keepsake quilting tent sale shoppers
Carol and Ella (right) come from New York with their friends and shop until they can’t fit any more into their car.

From Scrap Bag to Stash    
When the ‘doors’ open on Day 1, our staff is at the ready, checking in the shoppers and passing out name tags, shopping bags, and the 8″ x 10″ zipper bags they’ll use for collecting fabric scraps.

The line to get into the tent (where we have yardage, precuts and kits) snakes all the way around the store. Though everyone is excited to see what fabric finds await, the crowd is convivial.

waiting for quilt fabric
The line of shoppers runs all the way along our wrap-around porch.

While shoppers wait on the porch, we entertain them with door prizes and bring out boxes of fabric scraps all along the line. We have everything from batiks to solids, to prints to felted wool. You never know what will be inside the box–it’s like a treasure hunt!

quilt fabric scraps
Brown and red-toned quilt fabrics popped out of this box of scraps.

Shoppers can have all the scraps they can fit into a bag for $6.99–so long as the bag can close. Repeat customers have developed strategies for fitting all they can into a bag, including snipping a corner to let the air out, leaving the bags in the sun to warm and stretch, and folding technique that use space efficiently.  In fact, if they spot a scrap bag “virgin,” they’re quick to offer advice so she, too, can gets as many scraps packed into the bag as possible.

fabric scraps tent sale
It was worth a trip down from Quebec for this shopper, who loves solid quilt fabric scraps.

People also talk about what’ available up and down the line. So if someone is looking for batiks, they put out the word and someone else will tell them where to find some–if they’re still there!

Better Together    
There’s a sense of camaraderie as shoppers wait for their turn in the tent, sift through fabric scraps, listen for door prize giveaways, and stuff their bags. Let’s face it: everyone here has something in common–we love fabric!

Many shoppers make a girls’ weekend of the Tent Sale, arriving with their quilting friends to enjoy the trip and all the bargains together.

Others take the opportunity to introduce the love of fabric and quilting to the next generation.

next generation quilters
Hannah, center, with her mom (left) and grandma (right) enjoy passing on the quilting (and shopping) tradition.

Heather, from Rhode Island, brought her college age niece, Jocelyn, who knits, because our adjacent Patternworks store also participates in the sale with yarns and patterns. But it didn’t take long for the younger family member to start picking up fabric scraps and look around for ideas of what to make with them.

Deals Until You Drop    
Because we bring out new bargains all day, both days, most shoppers spend the whole weekend here, taking breaks to sort and stuff their scraps, stash shopping bags in the trunk of their cars, and of course take lunch breaks.

The main quilt store is open, as well as the Patternworks yarn store, so shoppers can browse there, too, while they’re paying for their Tent Sale finds.

first shopper tent sale
Sandra was first in line for the Tent Sale, and one of the last to leave. Here she’s flanked by two of our trusty staffers.

Our first shopper of the sale, Sandra, who was in line 24 hours before the sale opened, stayed until 3 p.m. Saturday before calling it a weekend. After watching the set-up on Thursday from her perch on the porch, she bought lunch for the entire staff.

“Keepsake Quilting is much more than a company, it’s a family!” she says.

keepsake quilting tent sale
With a seat on the Keepsake Quilting lawn, one shopper takes stock of her loot.

If you’ve never been to the Tent Sale, it can be hard to comprehend how much fun it is and how great the deals are.

“I went to the tent sale!” Chrissy Bennett, a first-timer, wrote on our blog this week. “Friends have told me about it but I never dreamed it would be so wonderful! My advice for next year is come early. I ran out of time to shop.”

If you live too far away or are kicking yourself for missing it this year, don’t despair. We’re running a Virtual Tent Sale this month online with bargains galore, while supplies last.

So start shopping!

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Cate Prato

About Cate Prato

Cate Coulacos Prato loves fabric, thread, and dabbles in all types of fabric art. As Senior Online Editor for Keepsake Quilting, she welcomes your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and discussion on quilts, quilting, fabric shopping, and the quilting community.

2 thoughts on “Hunting for Quilt Fabric Bargains – Tent Sale Tales

  1. Another FANTASTIC year at the tent sale! Staff is over the top wonderful and amazing, as always. So good to see so many friends we’ve made there 🙂 Can’t wait until next year. I’m stocked up for the year not only in fabric and notions, but in great memories that will carry me back to Keepsake Quilting next year for another ‘fill up’. Thanks to staff for ALL they do all year long preparing for, then setting up, then manning the event and then tearing down at the end. I can’t imagine the collective efforts made for all of us to enjoy such a great event. Nice to meet you Catherine!!!

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