Quilt Festival Treats

One of the great benefits of living near Houston, Texas, is that going to the International Quilt Festival takes just a short car trip.  Since I don’t have to plan and pay for a plane ticket and hotel room in order to attend, I go almost every year.  I soak up lots of inspiring ideas (more on that in a later post), and I accumulate enough quilting supplies to get me through the whole year, until next Quilt Festival.

With over 500 vendors, you have to have a strategy.  I set a “shopping intention” and spend more time at booths with those objects.  One year I bought novelty fabrics, last year I bought lots of batting from different manufacturers, and this year, I was scouting for thread.  (One horrible year I went with a non-quilter, who wanted to stop at every ruler demonstration and long-arm machine trial, just so she could sit down.  I had no intention of buying those products so it was a wasted day for me.  Now I go alone.)

I skip the booths with kits and patterns, and anything with those brown-tinged reproductions, because they’re not my thing.  I also skip the jewelry, stained glass, photography, massage chairs, etc. That means I’m down to only 400 or so vendors to visit!

I do hit the booths of the big national suppliers in case they have any great show specials.    I really love the booths of ethnic textiles, but I have learned that when I see them, I better get what I like, because they rarely return the next year.  So that leads to some interesting purchases I made this year!

Hmong bag

Hmong bag

I bought this from a booth of Hmong textiles. I love the coins sewn on, the beaded fringe, and the color combination.  (And, I think this bag will be safe from purse-snatchers – it is too easily identifiable!  Would you feel like a cool guy if you were holding a purse with pink beads?)  This vendor did not gave me a card or a web address, but I looked them up on the list of vendors, and then searched on-line, and came up with this website –  Hmong Pa Ndau Needlework.  I am pretty sure this is the right place, just in case you are looking for Hmong needlework!

Thai cotton handwoven textiles

Handwoven cotton textiles from Thailand.  The greens are a little less olive-y in real life.

I couldn’t stop buying these handwoven textiles!  The three on the left were individual remnant pieces, and then the three on the right came together as a set.  There were many more combinations, always with two regular flat cotton textiles, and then one “art” fabric, that was crinkled or slubby – it was so hard to choose!  They have gorgeous hand and drape.  They just feel like cloth ought to feel.  And they were only $11 a yard!  That’s what I would have to pay for commercial fabric.  I think I will put them together into some sort of Christmas table topper.  They would look great on throw pillows too.

I got them from Stitch in Time – they have a website where they sell the cottons.  At the Festival they had all kinds of changeable silks, pin-tucked silks, and batiks.  Those, as it turns out, are not on their website, so I wish I had bought those while I was down at the George R, Brown!

thread needles cloth

A close-up of the handwoven cloth, with recycled thread and self-threading needles.

This shows the most “weaverly” of the handwoven cloths – a collapsed fabric with supplementary wefts.  And on top – Gütermann is now making polyester thread out of recycled water bottles! One bottle makes ten spools of thread. Even the spools are made from recycled plastic.  I also bought these “self-threading” needles.  They have a little spring on top, so you just push the thread into them, instead of having to get the thread through the eye.  I learned about these in Leah Day’s Craftsy class, where she showed how to use these “cheater needles” to quickly work thread ends into quilts.

The coolest things I saw that I didn’t buy, were antique sample books of Japanese stenciled indigo kimono fabric.  I love things like that – the paraphernalia associated with the textile trades.  One book had over 100 samples in it.  Unfortunately, it was $950, which was a little over my textile budget – for the year. The same vendor had some of the old stencil papers – all hand-cut! – that were used for the fabrics too.  Just amazing.

Considering the time constraints of Quilt Festival, you would think that each and every vendor there would be prepared to extend customer contact. They have to know that the customers aren’t getting enough time to browse and might like to do more business with them at a later date.  But there is a huge disparity in the way that the vendors reach out for future business – the ladies at Gütermann gave me a brochure and let me know that I can always call the company with questions, and the same with Jenny Haskins and Aurifil.  But many of the vendors I purchased from didn’t even give me a web address.  I looked up Stitch in Time on the web, and the only way I was able to pick it off a search engine page from the other 17 or so US businesses named Stitch in Time, was by matching the phone number on their fabric label.

However, even though some of them could use a little marketing help, at the Festival all the vendors are unfailingly helpful and courteous, no matter how busy they are.  I also love to watch the security guards and convention center employees during the Festival – they enjoy how peaceful the event is, how the participants actually put their trash in a trash can, and how people tell them that they appreciate their hard work.   It is a wonderful event, and I hope you get to go sometime!