Pennington Quilt Works (PQW) was easily the most recommended New Jersey quilt shop by our Quiltfolk readers, and I can understand why. I visited the store several years ago and, on another occasion, purchased items after chatting over the phone with their super helpful staff. Jan Crane, the owner and a New Jersey native, has been running this popular shop for the last 27 years.
Jan Crane, owner of Pennington Quilt Works. Photos by Lily Pannella.
In 1996, when the youngest of her two sons started school full time, Jan contemplated what she wanted to do. Ultimately, she admitted that she wanted to open a quilt store. She recalled that she and her friends used to talk about “what we would do (different or better) if we had a quilt store.” Jan previously used her home economics degree in a variety of ways including as a teacher and in the buying department of a retail store, so she felt she had both the interest and retail experience to open and run a successful quilt shop. “I felt everything would mesh together nicely,” Jan recalled.
Inside Pennington Quilt Works. Photos by Azuree Holloway.
Her favorite aspects of PQW are brainstorming ideas and collaborating with the staff to develop the various programs. “I love the customers and teaching, but I feel I excel behind the scenes in the actual running of the business,” Jan shared. She is also immensely proud of the Quilts for Kids program that meets monthly at the shop. As of October 2023, the quilters have contributed 4,999 quilts!
She started with a small space and after several years expanded. Then in 2006, she moved a couple of miles away to her current location, growing again in January 2023.
The amazing staff of Pennington Quilt Works. Photos by Lily Pannella.
In the summer of 2022, she considered retiring and selling the shop. She had several particularly good offers, but they fell through. Her next thought was to sell out and close the store, but in the end, she realized she just wasn’t ready to do that. Toward the end of 2022, the property owner asked what her future intentions were. Jan pointed to the business space adjacent to hers and said, “I’d like that space.” On December 4, 2022, the business occupying that space moved out, and by January 14, 2023, Jan moved her Bernina showroom and classrooms into that new area. “You know the saying ‘Go big, or go home.’ I decided to go big!” Jan said.
Exterior of Pennington Quilt Works. Photos by Azuree Holloway.
What’s in store for the future? Jan admits she doesn’t have a burning desire to retire any time soon. She is diligently working to create 2024’s comprehensive, first-quarter class lineup. She also has a Bernina educator and several other vendors scheduled for 2024 events. Of course, she will continue teaching the extremely popular Saturday Sampler program (similar to a Block of the Month) offered in multiple colorways, making it appealing to quilters of varying interests.
She believes that New Jersey quilters like PQW because they always have new items and continue to feature a wide variety of current fabrics. They also do a superb job of rotating quilt samples for endless inspiration. The shop itself is incredibly attractive and fun to poke around in with the various displays and fun items. Jan credits her knowledgeable staff and their high level of professionalism and customer-care standards for much of her success.
Jan feels New Jersey gets a bad rap from TV news and gangster shows, and pointed out, “It really is a beautiful state and a wonderful place to visit. There are many rural and lovely wooded areas.” So, if you find yourself in the Princeton or Pennington, New Jersey, area, you should stop by and experience PQW for yourself.
About the Author
Diane L. Murtha is an award-winning quilter, fiber artist, author, international lecturer, and instructor. Quilting for over 30 years, she gravitated to art quilts and discovered she loves challenges. Her quilts and articles are included in books, 30+ magazines, multiple juried exhibits, and international shows. Diane published her first book, Artful Insights in Fiber: Quilted Bits of Wit & Wisdom in March 2023. She currently resides in Iowa. Learn more on her website and follow on Instagram.