Category Archives: Quilt Shows

What a difference a year makes!


As I write this, Quilt Market (the industry’s semi-annual trade show) has just completed and International Quilt Market is ready to start.

This marks my one-year anniversary of attending Quilt Market. My readers may recall that my trip was cut short by Hurricane Sandy. I had a harrowing trip home, which included renting a car and driving from the Baltimore airport to Long Island, all the time trying to stay ahead of the storm. Sadly, some residents of Long Island have not yet recovered from this storm, although everyone I know personally is now fine.

One of the highlights of the show was seeing Libby Lehman checking in at the judge’s table. She has always been one of my favorite teachers, due to both her skills and her sense of humor. I felt like I’d seen a rock star! This Spring, Libby suffered a brain aneurysm and has had a difficult and rocky few months. Her quilts were part of a special exhibit at this year’s show.

I had attended Quilt Market with the intention of building my longarm business. Six weeks later, I recognized that this was impossible, due to a neck injury, and closed down my business. My readers know that this was a tough, heart-wrenching decision. Almost a year later, I’m doing well with my new venture, a ghostwriting business, called Blog Buddy.

On a personal note, my family has changed too.  I’ve ended my homeschooling journey. My 16-year-old earned her GED in June and is taking classes at our local community college. My son is in his second year at a state university about 300 miles away.  I have also been taking better care of my own health, which has resulted in a weight loss of 120 pounds and feeling a whole lot better physically.

Yup. It’s been quite a year.

Quilts from a recent show


I am pleased to actually share some quilts with you, rather than my usual rambling and excuses about why I haven’t been quilting. These are the only two quilts that I’ve finished since January. They were completed for the Eastern Long Island Quilt Guild show in Riverhead, NY, which was held at the beginning of this month.

Remembrance II is the second in a series of black and white quilts that feature crosses. At this point, I’m not sure if I will continue the series or not. I do love working in black and white and have lots of scraps.  However it would have looked a lot better if I’d made the cross from a single piece of fabric, rather than piecing together white pieces. Oh well. Live and learn!

Taxi! was from a member challenge that asked us to make quilts using only two colors. I did not kill myself quilting this piece. I was trying to make the quilting quick and funky and fun. I also decided not to do the extra work of stitching around the fused pieces, despite the fact it would have looked a lot better if I did. After all, it was just for display. When I picked up my quilts, I was surprised to learn that the member challenge quilts had been judged. Of course the judge’s main criticism was that my fused pieces were not stitched down. At least, for once, I agreed with the judge!

As always, it is fun to see my quilts hanging in a show. I try to enjoy the experience and not compare myself to people who have been quilting longer than 4 years!

Remembrance II Quilt




Bye-Bye Portland


Spring Quilt Market (the quilt industry’s semi-annual trade show)  is over and early tomorrow morning I’m traveling cross-country from Oregon to Long Island, via Dallas Fort Worth. My last Quilt Market was interrupted by Hurricane Sandy.  I’m hoping I make it safely through Tornado Ally tomorrow!

Back to Quilt Market … once again I was overwhelmed by the talent and dedication of the (mostly) women in our business. This Market I had the opportunity to assist with Schoolhouse, which is an all-day series of 30 minute presentation about vendor products. I also helped a friend with her booth so that she could sign books and do some photography. Can I just be honest? This convention stuff is VERY hard work.

First of all there’s the stress of coming up with new products (gadgets, patterns or fabric) to launch. Then there’s the stress of making sure the products are manufactured and show up in time to sell. Plus there’s planning out the booth and getting promotional materials together.

These ladies arrive on Wednesday to set up their booths, which is a very physically strenuous job. On Thursday, many take a break or two to give  Schoolhouse presentations. Friday, Saturday and Sunday is booth duty, which is also not easy. I only stood for an hour or so … my back was already sore. Plus some of the vendors give “Make and Takes” — which are instructional classes throughout the day that teach shop owners how to use their products. Then there are early morning and evening lectures that many vendors attend. And of course there’s booth tear-down on Sunday night. Clearly the vendors have far more stamina than I do!

I didn’t see any amazing new trends. There was more garment sewing patterns, especially for 20-ish women and little girls. There also seemed to be more craft-oriented projects such as making stuffed animals. Wool was again very popular. The Amy Butler-style fabric was very evident, and there seems to be a definite movement to attract the younger sewist.  Handbags and tote bags are very popular. There were also lots of beautiful new patterns.

I’m guessing there were around 500 booths. It is overwhelming to see so many items available. I can’t imagine how shop owners navigate their way through and decide what to purchase.

As always, I met many cool people. One of my favorite parts is sitting in the lobby with a coffee, and chatting with the buyers, vendors and authors who come out for a break.

As someone who has been gluten-free for a dozen years (due to celiac disease), I have to say that Portland was a pleasure. All of the restaurants I went to had gluten-free bread, and the servers were extremely knowledgeable. The room service department at my hotel phoned me to offer me gluten-free choices, and to assure me that they would wear gloves and make sure my food was safe to eat. This made up for the rainy weather and made me seriously consider moving to Portland!

Don’t Judge Me!


I always have mixed feelings about entering a quilt show. If it’s a juried show, I’m honored to have my quilt selected. But I also know that my quilts are not contenders for ribbons.

I entered two quilts in a recent show and was surprised by the judge’s comments. They seemed inconsistent and harsh. I will share one of the quilts judging sheets.

This is a photo of “Elemental.” I know, it photographs terribly. Within each square it says air, fire, water and earth. The quilting to the right of each element is reflective of air, fire, etc.


Here are the judges’ comments on the quilt:

Positive attributes:

  • Good use of color
  • Quilting design complements the piecing
  • Binding is well-executed.

Areas for Improvement:

  • Weak Visual Impact
  • Lack of balance detracts from the design
  • Ineffective use of contrast/value
  • Fabric choices detract from the design.
  • Binding is poorly executed.

Additional Comments;

We liked the direction you headed in with this quilt. Felt the quilting on the border took away from the overall design and made it too busy. Love the “elemental” quilting in the middle.

I read the comments and wasn’t exactly sure how to feel. I didn’t feel the judges really understood the quilt, which was in a category that was supposed to have a lot of open spaces for quilting. I was also confused that the binding was both well-executed and needed improvement. And there seemed to be a contradiction as to whether or not they liked the design and color. I did not feel like I’d done a very good job with this quilt.

And I felt like I was done entering in shows.

Last week, I mentioned my experience to a good friend who also entered the same show and got equally baffling comments. She told me that the show had not used certified judges. Yes, there really are certified judges and they go through rigorous training. You can learn more about AQS Certified Judges here.

I try to learn from all of my quilt show experiences. This time I learned the importance of only entering shows that use certified judges.

My First Quilt Market: Part 6 — Sample Spree


Are you the kind of person that lines up at 2:00 AM on Black Friday to be first in line for holiday specials? If so, you would probably love Sample Spree at Quilt Market.

Sample Spree is held at Quilt Market, on Friday night at 8:00 PM.  At the sample spree last month, 142 companies – a lot of which are fabric manufacturers – sell samples of their goods. The purpose is to allow businesses to purchase samples for their displays and sample quilts. In reality, it is a free-for-all in which people line up for five hours prior to opening, just to get first dibs on the merchandise.

Until I got to Quilt Market, I was not even aware of sample free. I was given advice that ranged from “it’s totally fun” to “I never go near that place” to “make sure you wear closed-toed shoes becomes people will step on your feet.” There was a lot of discussion about how busy the Moda booth would be (and it was). People also share Sample Spree stories in the same way you’d share tales about your family … as in: “Remember the year the guy at the Moda booth wouldn’t reach down and grab the fat quarters I wanted?”

The advice I decided to follow was not to wait in line, but to have a nice dinner and show up around 8:30. This I did and it worked well. The vendors were busy, but the tables were well-staffed and vendors were willing to chat.

One of the busiest booths was Kaufmann. Since I’m making a lot of modern quilts, I couldn’t resist the wholesale prices on solid jelly rolls and fat quarter bundles. However I was very aware that I didn’t have a lot of extra room in my suitcase and that fabric is heavy. These items cease to be a bargain if you’re paying $35 for another bag of luggage or UPS shipping charges.

Overall, Sample Spree was fun. Nobody stepped on my toes and I got a few bargains. This is an experience I will definitely repeat.

The Crowds at Sample Spree

My purchases … jelly rolls from the Kauffman booth

A tote bag for my daughter, the shoe-lover. It cost $5!

My First Quilt Market: Part 5 — How Do You Quilt Those Samples?


One of my great pleasures at Quilt Market — the everything-you-could-ever-need-for-quilting trade show held in October in Houston — was looking at the sample quilts. Every booth that sold patterns had gorgeous sample quilts, because vendors know that buyers — just like regular customers in quilt shops — buy what they can see (and probably touch). I was expecting to see some amazing quilting on these samples. And I was surprised to find just the opposite!

I have to admit that 99 percent of the samples were quilted very simply, usually with just a large stipple. I talked to Laurie Tigner — a longarmer and amazing pattern designer — about the simplicity of the quilting. She told me that her customers want to see simple quilting — such as an easy allover meander — otherwise they feel that the patterns are too complicated for them. She actually re-quilted her samples using with easy stippling, just so customers would not feel intimidated!

You can see more of Laurie Tigner’s quilts at Laurie Tigner Designs.

Laurie Tigner shows her “Pumpkin Patch” pattern sample


My First Quilt Market: Part 4 — Setting Up a Booth


At the heart of Quilt Market, the large wholesale trade show that showcases all things quilting, are the 559 exhibitors and 1177.5 booths at the George R Brown convention center in Houston, Texas. Although I’ve been to many quilt shows, I’d never experienced what it was like to set up a booth. Until now. I was able to follow Morna McEver Golletz , president of the International Association of Professional Quilters, as she set up her booth.

Setting up the booth is the last stage of a long process. First there is the paperwork — registering for the booth and then completing a half-dozen rounds of paperwork (all with different deadlines) for your booth’s electricity, piping for the draperies, and contents rental. I learned that everything has a price! Even the flooring is not free, and carpet for a 10  ft by 10 ft booth can cost $300.  Lighting is also expensive. Vendors have the choice of bringing their own booth construction materials or renting them.

There is also a great deal of planning that goes into a booth. The booth has to be designed to allow customers (including those in wheelchairs and on scooters) in and out of your space. You need to decide a theme and color scheme. You need to have good signage. And you need to plan what you will sell, what you will demonstrate, and how your inventory will be displayed. Most vendors will pre-construct their booths before the show to make sure that they didn’t forget anything.

Getting your booth contents to the convention center is a big deal. Larger vendors, or vendors living close to Houston, may opt to drive a truck to the show. Smaller vendors often ship the contents of their booth.  (Beware, I also learned that hotels and convention centers generally charge $1.00 per pound to receive these goods.)I also learned, from talking to other vendors, that there was no air conditioning in the convention center on setup day. Given that the temperature in Houston was 80% with about the same amount of humidity, this experience had to be horrible for vendors with a lot of setup.

We began our booth setup journey in the shipping room at our hotel. This room was piled with boxes that had been sent by guests.

Package room at our hotel.

Once we found our boxes, they were put on a hand truck to be carried to the convention center.

A hotel employee pulled our booth contents (as well as packages for other people) across the street to the convention center. He waited at the door while Morna pulled her belongings to the booth. When we got there, I saw that she’d already done some setup.

The basics of the booth.

The next step was unpacking her trunk so that she could hang curtains and display her materials.

Morna hanging curtains.

That was as far as I got. When I came back to the booth for the show, Morna had finished the set up. Posters and signage were up. The light pole (on left) had been disguised with fabric. Tables were covered and her magazines were artfully displayed. Doesn’t the booth look wonderful?

Finished booth!

To learn more about how to set up trade shows, I attended a 2 hour presentation by Shelly Stokes. Shelly, owner of Cedar Canyon Textiles, is a trade show veteran. I have pages of notes from her lecture, and I must say that trade show vending was far more complicated (and expensive) than I’d envisioned. Shelly offers trade show coaching for people who want to reduce their trade show trauma and learn how to have more effective booths. I have to say that, based on her lecture, this would be an amazing opportunity for new vendors.

I really enjoyed my behind-the-scenes look at trade show setup. My thanks to Morna McEver Golletz for allowing me to tag along.

My First Quilt Market: Part 3 — Buying Fabric


Quilt Market, the big quilting trade show held in Houston last month, is where many quilt shop owners buy their fabrics. Because (I believe) all of the major  fabric companies were vendors at Quilt Market, it is one-stop shopping for seeing new fabric lines and making purchases.  Throughout the show floor, I saw innovative booths with long rows of tables, where buyers intently looked at the new fabric. Quite honestly, the whole scenario was very overwhelming and I was glad not to be charged with buying any fabric for anybody.

The experience did, however, make me curious as to how fabric is selected. Regina Storms, a salesperson with Marcus Fabrics, was kind enough to explain the process to me: A few weeks before Quilt Market, Marcus Fabrics sends an email blast to their customers. This email describes the new collections that will be available at Quilt Market, and invites them to make an appointment.  Once a customer arrives at the booth, they sit down in front of a sales associate and look at large fabric swatches that are glued onto sheets of cardboard. Each sheet of cardboard shows all (or part) of a coordinating line.  It is interesting that these “swatches” may fabric, if the sample fabric has arrived in time. Otherwise they are printed images of the fabric (ie paper). The customer then chooses the fabrics that are appropriate for their store.

I did talk to several quilt shop owners. Some of them purchased all of their fabric at Quilt Market. Others purchased none, but viewed it as a time to see the new collections and gather information. They then purchased fabric at a later date, from their sales rep, at their store.

Regina Storms, a sales associate with Marcus Fabrics, describes how to purchase fabric.

View of the Moda Booth

View of Michael Miller Booth

Buyer looks at new fabric lines.

International Quilt Association Winners Announced


Life on Long Island right now is pretty miserable. We have many communities that were ruined by Hurricane Sandy. Much of Long Island is still without electricity. And now most gas stations are totally sold out. The few stations with fuel have long lineups. It is difficult to travel and those unfortunate folks who’ve been relying on generators are soon going to be in the dark. Tempers are flaring. I am grateful that my family survived with only 24 hours without power and two big trees falling down — but many of my friends and neighbors have not been nearly as lucky.

So I thought I’d pass on some good news. The winners from the International Quilt Show in Houston are now online. Have a peek and add a bit of beauty into your day. I was fortunate to see many of these quilts in person last week in Houston.

Click here to see the International Quilt Show Winners