On the way home from Niagara Falls

Memories of Niagara Falls, Canada and a beach in Bournemouth, UK are roused by the cherries in this quilt!

When I first moved to Toronto, Canada way back in 1969 the first place we had to visit was Niagara Falls. Back then it wasn’t a glitzy trap for tourists and you could approach the guard post that separated the USA and Canada. The first highlight of the day was when my Dad let me, with an encouraging smile from the border guard, straddle my feet across the line between the two countries. Wow, we’d just moved to Canada and I’d even visited the United States all in one week!

What does this have to do with this quilt you ask? The second highlight of the day was when we stopped at a roadside fruit stand on the way home and my Mum bought a giant basket of cherries that we devoured on the spot. I have NEVER had such a delicious fruit treat in my life – the simplicity of the wooden basket and the deep red of the ripe, sweet cherries was sublime.

Another memory of cherries happened two and a half decades later. My family had just moved back to England and, while my husband was away, I decided to take my two young daughters for a weekend to the beach in Bournemouth. After spending the morning on the beach we walked around a bit to find some lunch and then bought some cherries at a fruit stand. We took the fruit back to the beach and sitting in our bathing suits, on a scratchy plaid picnic blanket, we “hoovered” (no better word) down the cherries – they were so good!

This quilt top is another project finished during the coronavirus lockdown period but I had finished all the elements of the squares beforehand. The cherry blocks were hand embroidered, the baskets were hand pieced and the nine patch blocks had been machined pieced. I trimmed everything to 61/2 inches and laid out the blocks in two stages as the quilt top was pieced in a diagonal set. It took quite a while, but where else was I going with lockdown restrictions in place? I love the result and once it is quilted I’ll call it “On the way home from Niagara Falls”.

Texas Quilt Museum

On the days off between Quilt Market and Quilt Festival we took a drive out to La Grange, home of the Texas Quilt Museum.  It’s about an hour west of Houston, and quite a small town, but it was chosen as the site of the TQM because it is situated equidistant between Houston, San Antonio and Austen, Texas.

Coincidentally, because of the Sapphire theme at Quilt Festival the TQM also had a display of historical blue and white quilts which form part of a collection of a local Texas quilter.  Next door to the TQM is a knitting/quilting shop called the Quilted Skein which was fun to browse around (although I was glad that I’m not a knitter because I might have done even more financial damage).  Outside of La Grange is a shop called the Texas Quilt Barn which also added to my baggage going home.

Quilt Festival, Oct/Nov 2019

As part of our trip to Houston, Texas I got to spend a day and a half at Quilt Festival which is open to the general public.  The huge halls of the conference were packed with enthusiastic quilters and it took a long time to get a coffee or lunch.  The vendors were doing a roaring trade but with having to pack any purchases  in a suitcase I spent most of my time looking at the quilts – so beautiful and so much talent!

The year 2019 was the 45th anniversary of Quilt Festival.  The theme was Sapphire and featured a display of blue and white quilts.  Rising high into the rafters and on BOTH sides of the display I got a crick in my neck from just looking and looking at the quilts occasionally feeling dizzy spinning around trying to see every detail.

Here are a few of my favourite quilts of the 1700+ in the show:

How was the Threads of Success conference?

Schoolhouse Series

The opening day of Quilt Market features the Schoolhouse Series and TOS attendees had the opportunity (for a small extra fee) to join the quilt retailers.  Tula Pink was the keynote speaker and she introduced her latest Homesewn fabric line which wouldn’t be in the shops until April 2020. 

Of the 280 available sessions my favourites were the ones with the well-known names in the quilting industry – Lynette Anderson, Kathy Schmitz, Lisa Bongean and Marti Michell.  Without attending the TOS conference, a non-existent (for now) quilting business like mine would not have been able to soak up the entrepreneurial expertise offered in the Schoolhouse series.

Threads of Success Conference

TOS officially opened with a drinks and nibbles networking event on the first evening of Quilt Market which takes over the entire facilities of the George R. Bush Conference Centre in downtown Houston.  A chatty, business card swapping melee predominately attended by US quilters, three Canadian provinces were also represented at the conference along with a lone international delegate – me from the UK. 

Breakfast the next morning was accompanied by a motivational keynote address with Ricky Brooks of RNK Distributing.  His theme of “Turning Dreams into Success Stories One Stitch at a Time” was repeated over and over at the conference with inspiring presentations from the likes of Alex Anderson and Kimberley Einmo, both of whom are incredibly successful.

In the breakout sessions I learned about pattern writing, packaging for customers, photographing quilts and answering the question “Are you ready for a booth?”  The Chief Visionary Officer from Martingale, Jennifer Keltner, outlined the procedure for approaching publishers in “Is writing a book right for you?” while Ebony Love gave the lowdown on independent publishing and distribution.

Creating a social media strategy, building a personal brand and developing a professional media kit were underlying suggestions for all delegates to consider before they should approach a publisher with a book idea, send art designs to fabric companies, launch online classes on YouTube or book on as a teacher at a quilt guild meeting. 

On the fourth day of the conference TOS delegates met with a mentor who talked them through what they could expect on the Quilt Market floor.  I was lucky enough to be paired with Tula Pink who showed her small group around her Homesewn booth.

Personal attention

As we handed out business cards and swapped quilting histories it became obvious to me that practically every person at the conference had a book idea, pattern design, fabric artwork or new template buried away in their bag that they wanted to share with someone firmly ensconced in the quilting industry.  I know I did and if I could have had five minutes of Jennifer Keltner’s time she might have been able to give my book idea a little professional looksee and a few words of editorial advice that I could have used to improve my proposal.  With 100 delegates I know this kind of personal contact is probably impossible.

Friend from Williamsburg

Heading out for a two day overnight trip to see some friends, including an American friend who has come over from Germany, and to visit a quilt store. After being at home for five weeks recuperating from my hip replacement surgery I feel disproportionately excited as I slowly get my freedom back!

Such fun working with this historic quilt

A post on Facebook from my friend Wendy:

“My Gramma Nagle made me a twin sized quilt back when I was a teen. The passing decades took its toll on it and even though it became somewhat tattered I did not have the heart to part with it. So a very special thank you to my dear friend Tricia Wilson in Britain who graciously offered her time to rebuild this old quilt and give it new life!   “


Quilting Milestone – 200th Project

On the eve of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation I reached a milestone of my own! I logged my 200th quilting project since 1982 which includes 51 full-size quilts, 37 small quilts, 38 quilted tote bags and 14 baby quilts as well as table runners, clothing and Christmas stuff. It doesn’t include innumerable unfinished projects including the quilt I started in my first class. I’ve chosen a few favourites for you to view (if you’ll indulge me with a little bragging for a minute or so).