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!
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!
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!
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!
I love shopping like that! Surrounding yourself with things you love you almost inhale the atmosphere and enjoy it to the fullest.
Yep! It has to last me for a whole year!
I love that Hmong bag! Missed it this year. I get back home in a week or so. I like your approach for visiting the booths you want. It is rather mind-boggling! Perhaps next year we can get together??
That would be so great! We can do a mini meet-up!
I hope your trip home is safe!
I really love the Hmong bag as well, beautiful. I can relate to your approach to this kind of event. I have become rather careful about going with others- unless my companions have similar styles I would rather go on my own to look and purchase at my pace. Sounds like a great time.
Yes, even though you automatically go at a slower pace with a companion, I can still enjoy that – it was just that this person had no interest in any hobbies, but went anyway. She didn’t want to look, and didn’t want to sit alone anywhere either. Since I only go one day, my time is limited and I have to make the most of it!
I admire your sensible shopping approach! 🙂 And those Thai fabrics are just beautiful, I definitely would have been tempted by them too.
The only thing that saved me from buying more was that the others weren’t in the color scheme I have in my house! 🙂
The bag is just plain wonderful. I love the colour and pattern. It would be a wonderful inspiration for a quilt.
You’re right! I have a couple of bags in similar colors and style, that my thoughtful sister-in-law brought me from Peru. I could use those panels along with this one, and then place other fabrics around them. It would be a very cheerful wall quilt!
On Thursday 3/26/15 I’ll meet my sister at the Chicago show. We do have somewhat different styles for … everything! And I really do prefer shopping by myself. But as long as we can separate for part of the time, I think we’ll have a lot of fun. She’s a quilter, too.
As for what I’ll shop for, I don’t need anything right now. No notions, no thread… I’m finishing two projects and have the next two lined up. I have at least enough fabric to make a good running start on both of them. So I’ll need to fall in love. And yes, ethnic textiles could well do it for me. Best quilt show purchase I ever made was at the African vendor’s booth in Des Moines a few years ago. Other than that, I often can be tempted by a book or two. But even with that, it would probably need to be a) really cheap or b) on historical quilts, really well done. I have Shaw’s book and Colby’s book, as well as a couple of other good ones. It would be hard to top them.
Have fun! I look forward to hearing about whether anything strikes your fancy!