A Day at the Quilt Show

Mom and I went out for a lovely mother-daughter day at the Quilt Show last weekend, held at the Dulles Expo Center. I’d heard about it when I was looking into local quilt guilds (which I haven’t joined yet, but am pondering). It’s been a while since I’ve been to one and, frankly, I don’t remember the last one all that well, so we drove out after grabbing a small bite for breakfast at the house. The weather was lovely, though we didn’t get to see much of it past the drive out and back.

We were overwhelmed almost as soon as we got into the expo center…There were quilts and fabric and booths everywhere! Raffle quilts! Sample quilts! Quilt patterns! Quilts on exhibition! Where to begin?!

Mom and I decided we’d start on our left, and work our way around the edge of the building, and then on to the middle booths. I had a program with a map of the entire center in it, and we made notes as we walked around, so we would remember where we had seen certain things. We knew there were likely to be several booths selling roughly the same things, and we wanted to do a little comparison shopping.

t's star quiltWe had just entered the second booth of our journey – a friendly vendor selling the most BEAUTIFUL batik fabrics – when I spotted a few familiar faces. It was T and Mama Carter! T is a long-time friend of mine, from my days back in college. We were members of the Native student association together. Mama Carter is a staple at the annual Veterans powwow. You can’t leave powwow before giving her a hug.

I knew that T quilted – in fact, she’s had a few quilts on display at art galleries and in competitions – and I had wondered if I might see her at the show, but I hadn’t figured I might run into her. She had three different quilts on display at the show (only members of the QU quilt guilds could participate in the exhibition), and we made sure to look up where they would be.

Mom and I made our way through the vendor booths around the edge the best we could, and soon we came to the exhibition section. There were a number of quilts that I loved that had a “no photography” sign on it, but Mom and I managed to find plenty that we liked that we could take pictures of. We spotted T’s star quilt – a popular quilt design at powwows. It was the one she entered for the “True Blue” quilt challenge of the exhibition. The quilters had to use blue (they were allowed one other color) fabrics to create their challenge quilts. Being a fan of the color blue, I found a number of quilts that I wouldn’t mind displaying in my house.

Before long, we came to T’s pride and joy….her “Ojibwe Jingle” quilt.


I have no words. Absolutely no words.10365831_10101604198325647_8663811849197918787_n

10417446_10101604198620057_1518643406160059429_nThe fabric choice, the colors, the use of different mediums, the quilting itself, the beadwork. All of it, stunning. I told Mom that the most impressive thing about the beading on the quilt is that I know T hates doing that kind of beadwork. She does more loomwork than applique beading, and I knew how long it must have taken her to do all the details.

It was well worth the effort, though. Everyone who passed by while Mom and I were looking at it stopped to admire it. Every single person. My pictures of it do it absolutely no justice, but can give you a little bit of an idea of its beauty.

Of course, afterwards, I started comparing everything else I saw to it, which you just can’t do. Each quilt and design is unique and each person has their own approach to color theory and quilting and all that jazz. Eventually, I was able to remind myself that the point wasn’t to contrast and compare different quilting approaches. It was to admire the skill and the dedication on exhibit.

There were some wonderful unique approaches throughout the quilt exhibition. I particularly liked the piece that was made out of all of the little strips of selvedge from one quilter’s projects. I remember turning the corner and seeing it, and it took me a moment to figure out what I was looking at. After that, I was amused and amazed. I can definitely say that I don’t have the patience to put together something like that. I would have gone nuts, and things probably would have unraveled and I would have been too frustrated to finish the darn thing. The quilter made a very good choice to balance the selvedge piecing with a solid, heavier-weave linen fabric. It helped to give the quilt a little stability and structure, and off-set the different colors present in the many tiny pieces.

I’d love to see other people attempt similar things, with other items: dress, purse, jewelry, etc.

I must admit that I went through the exhibition section much the way that I go through exhibits in art galleries. I have a tendency to wander and take in everything in a sweeping glance, and then focus more closely on the places where my eye is drawn. Sometimes I’m pulled in by color. Sometimes by an intriguing pattern (I love how the “Storm at Sea” pattern evokes curved lines, while only using straight edges to do them). There were a number of quilts that caught my eye throughout the day, but I didn’t manage to get pictures of all of them. I’ve included a couple of the shots I did take, and hopefully will be able to add some more later, courtesy of my mother’s camera.

One of the quilts I fell in love with was titled “Compassed About with So Great a Cloud of Witnesses.” The design itself drew me to the quilt – loved the colors used, and the use of rosettes, and the arrangement of the rosettes in a shape that resembled a nautilus shell. What clinched my love of it, though, was the first half of the accompanying description card.

While we were there, I got to try my hand at one of those fancy all-the-bells-and-whistles free motion long-arm quilting machines – the Innova long arm, to be exact. It was terrifying and exhilarating and difficult and fun all at the same time. I wrote the word “mom” and made what sort of looked like a butterfly, if you squinted at it sideways. The lady assured me that the quilting gets better with practice, which I’m sure is true. However, the sad fact remains that a machine like that is far out of my price range, not to mention the other two major problems. 1.) I really have no space to set it up in the basement and 2.) (and most importantly) I have two rather inquisitive, ornery cats who have full run of the entire house. I can only imagine the amount of mischief they could get up to with a machine like that. I imagine Alvin turning it on and stitching Raven’s tail to a quilt, or Raven just deciding to take a ride on the warm, soft quilt while I try to work on it.

That is, by the way, a favorite place for both of them to hang out…snuggled up in the quilt while I work on it.

I also do really like hand-quilting my pieces. It takes longer, yes, but it also winds up having a different look and feel than quilts that are machine-quilted. Of course, I can’t get the really intricate quilting designs that I saw on the quilts at the show – like the repeated seashell quilting motif I saw on one, and the delicate snowflakes that T stitched into her star quilt. My hand quilting is nowhere near as densely packed, and sometimes I wish it was. But hand-quilting allows me to pay attention to conversations or music or movies playing on the television in the background. It gives me something to do with my hands on those evenings when I get a chance to just sit back and relax with family.

There were very few quilts at the show that were hand-quilted. Almost everything I saw was machine quilted. I guess that’s not so much a surprise, anymore, but I found myself staring at the hand quilted ones longer. There was one, in particular, that amazed me. The whole thing had been hand-pieced and hand-quilted by the main quilter and a friend of hers – a task, she noted, made more difficult by failing eyesight.

After we finished viewing the quilts in the exhibition section, Mom and I started visiting the vendor booths (taking a break, halfway through, to grab a pretzel). We took note of where we found different patterns, and who had what kind of fabric, and who sold perle cotton thread at the best price. We finished our canvassing of the vendor booths with little less than an hour to go back to do the actual shopping. Mom and I both wound up getting some patterns that combined embroidery and patchwork (oddly enough, they were all Christmas-themed). I also got a nice organic cotton canvas with a neat migrating bird silhouette print, a beautiful rayon batik with lovely drape, a leather thimble, some variegated embroidery thread, and an extremely wide piece of batik fabric that looks like wood grain, to go with the quilt I am planning for Jay and Robin.

Now, to finish the projects I’m already working on, so I can get started on that one!


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