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.

Houston bound!

Well, I am off to Houston, Texas to perhaps the biggest and best quilt show in the world!  I’ll only get to attend the Houston Quilt Festival for a day or two but I will get to spend four days immersed in the quilting world as I attend the inaugural Threads of Success conference being held in conjunction with Houston’s Quilt Market which is not open to the general public.

Along with two full days of lectures I will also go to the Schoolhouse Series which I have heard is exciting, scary and fun all at the same time!  Hundreds of lectures, demos, workshops and samples will be delivered all day, rotating every 20 minutes!!  For this usually peace-seeking person I am sure I will be blown away by the experience.

To top it all I am also taking a book proposal with me that features eight of my own projects as well as three of the quilt tops.  I hope to get some ideas about how I can take the book to publication or perhaps someone might be interested in one of my quilts for a quilt pattern or magazine pattern?

Here’s hoping!  Wish me luck!

Five days of Creativity

A recent trip to Scotland provided lots of inspiration for quilts and embroidery projects.  Ranging from May Morris’ beautiful work in Wightwick Manor, Wolverhampton to the amazing Quaker Tapestry in Kendel in the Lake District I was amazed at the artistry and skill of the creators.

One of the Quaker Tapestry pieces summed it up for me perfectly:

…in their handiwork is their prayer.  Ecclesiastes

See for yourself!

Short trip to Scotland

Last week Steve and I took our wee dog up to Scotland to visit my cousin who used to dog sit for Pepper when we lived in Aberdeen. In order to be fair to our 14 1/2 year old pooch we decided to break up the journey and have a bit of a holiday on the way north. We visited Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton and Blackwell Arts & Crafts House, The Quaker Tapestry and Wray Castle in the Lake District. During our stay in Scotland we went to see the Queensferry Bridge, Dumfries House (which is a renovation project of Prince Charles), the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies. It was a great trip made even better spending time with my cousin Aileen and her dog Reno!

Chania’s Folklore Museum

When I travel I love to visit museums that feature local handicrafts and costumes. I found a little gem of a museum in the back streets of Chania’s old town on the island of Crete. It was developed by Irini Koumandraki who displays historic pieces of embroidery, applique and lace in vignettes alongside old irons, farm utensils and crockery. It’s charming and protected by Irini’s ten year old dog who likes to check out any visitors.

Best of all was talking to Irini about her own work (see the first five photos) which she makes entirely by machine with silk threads (see the photo of her thread stash). “It is all just in my head,” she said, “I don’t have a pattern!” I bought the olive tree piece for my own collection and in driving around Crete I realised that Irini has got the tree just right with it’s numerous scraggy trunks and the purple hued leaves.

Santorini, Greece

What can I say Santorini, Greece is as beautiful as they say with the white and blue buildings radiating light as they bask in the hot sun. The town of Oia is where you’ll find the quintessential blue domed buildings; Fira has white/cream domes but it’s where you’ll see the donkey steps and the huge cruise ships moored out in the bay.

The most excitement of the day was taking the two hour ferry ride from Rethymno, Crete (near where we were staying) to Santorini Island. The ferry had more passengers than cars so the vehicle decks were used to sort out the hundreds of people as they quickly got on and off the boat. And I mean QUICKLY – the ferry docked with its bay doors open and the passengers got off while others got on (see photo). This all took minutes and then the ferry left as the bay doors were raised!

Then we were collected by buses and had to drive up the cliff face on a twisty road full of other traffic – a bit scary if you were on the seaward side of the bus!

Fabulous time in Crete

At the end of August, my husband, our girls and our sons-in-law spent a week in Crete, Greece. We don’t often travel together but this year it was a perfect mix of beaches, hikes (the kids!), good food, archaeological sites and a visit to the very, very over populated Santorini (see next blog post). Never thought Crete would be so mountainous (it made for some very interesting drives) and I absolutely loved the pink sand at Elafonisi Beach.

Wish I could afford a pen!

As part of my Alpine Experience embroidery retreat (see last blog post) we had a day trip to Chamonix. The saner part of the group decided to go shopping which included a lovely outdoor market. The more adventurous spirits, myself included, decided to take a two part gondola ride to get close to the top of Mont Blanc. It was breathtaking and bloody cold at the summit but worth the long queues and the scary gondola ride that took us, at one point, about six feet (2 m) from a rock face.

Bliss in the French Alps

In August I had the good fortune to attend embroidery classes with Nicola Jarvis in Les Carroz, France. It wasn’t just any old class. The Alpine Experience classes are a cut above with magnificent accommodations and fabulous meals offered in the setting of two chalets high up in the French Alps. The week starts and ends with transport from Geneva airport so that, from beginning to end, there is nothing to think about but embroidery! Thanks to Nadine and Mark for a wonderful week!

Nicola Jarvis is a superb teacher – she lets the students work at their own pace and on their own projects which incorporate her designs, of course. She gives a short stitch lesson to one or two students, then offers thread colour choices to another but still has time for a heartwarming chat or a personalised art lesson. Her kits are beautifully designed and screen printed making it easy to follow the various elements.