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Market and Halloween are my two favorite things about October. Even when
the day we were to fly to Houston from Atlanta was super soggy, there
was nothing that could dampen my spirits. This included the irate man
who boarded the airport shuttle berating the driver because he believed
that she had deliberately driven past him, while he was standing sans
raingear in the downpour. After all, I had MY umbrella!
Houston itself was beautifully sunny. We spent some time having the
traditional post-flight lunch at Central Market, then poked around the
Heights area for a bit. A funky, re-gentrifying neighborhood, the
shopping district has such delights as the Yale Avenue Drugstore which
still supports a soda fountain and luncheonette in addition to housing
Purple Moon Emporium. Purple Moon mixes fun, new, girly stuff with
eclectic antiques all at sensible prices. We picked up a few Halloween
items at Grace Hart Antiques, and ended with a stop at
Casa Ramirez to peek at the altars
being prepared for
Dia de los
We made a quick stop by the Brown Convention Center to pick up our
credentials, then went to the hotel to rest up for Sample Spree that
night. The most notable event there was paying just 60 cents for parking
at a meter! We left just as a huge all-female crowd left the Toyota
Center where they had been attending an inspirational religious
Arriving back at the center a few hours later, we did give in and pay
$10 to park at the Toyota Center lot. But it was Friday night in
Houston, after all! We made a quick stop by the Bernina/Brewer
reception, just long enough to sample the mini chicken cordon bleu, beef
Wellington, and boursin-stuffed mushrooms, along with some bruchetta,
spinach-artichoke dip and chocolate dipped strawberries! Quite a nice
gathering, but we had Sample Spree ahead of us and didn’t allow
ourselves too much time to be sidetracked.
in the line at Sample Spree is something I look forward to. I always
meet super shop owners, and learn what the hot Schoolhouse sessions have
been. This year the line was shorter than usual, probably an indication
of some of the effects of the economy on Market. However, we ran into
Dianne Springer (of Quilt-in-a-Cup
fame) who helped us while away the time by talking of her art trips to
Bali. Folks seemed more polite this year, even when the doors were flung
open at the magic 9 o’clock hour for the traditional running of the
quilters. As has been the case for several years, Moda was the reigning
monarch of the Spree, with their adorable “Bake Shop” line totes in an
all-over light green cupcake print dominating the scene. Other standout
items that went quickly were Tammy Carlson’s adorable Santas and the
Fiber Goddess’ Diva Cordmaker and of course, anything fabric!
Opening day at Market dawned clear and sunny. The usual crowd was
assembled in front of the doors at the bottom of the escalator, many
rolling Tuttos. This year someone had
halted traffic down the escalator to ensure the safety of all until
after the group had passed through the main doors. Our plan was to head
to the far end of the hall and methodically work our way back. We did
allow ourselves a minute of diversion when we saw Fabri-Quilt’s great
jungle exhibit, which featured a jumbo stuffed elephant, giraffe and
zebra crafted from their featured fabric.
This year’s booths from the fabric vendors seemed somewhat subdued.
There were no life-sized King Kongs or princesses greeting us. The
celebrity factor was there, however: Marie Osmond was slated to appear
for her fabric line at Quilted Teasures and Jay McCarrell from Project
Runway was signing autographs as well. Snacks (it’s always about the
food!) were pretty much along the traditional trick or treat lines,
except for the ginger snaps at Moda’s “Bake Shop’, the Slim-Jims at
Fiber-Co and the Pez from Henry Glass. (Pez is one of their new fabric
that I’m complaining, of course. Cutest and cleverest giveaways were the
headbands with neon colored pigtails attached, which echoed the colors
of the “Komfycush” cushions themselves as well as the outfit of Kenzie
Liegh who was dressed as a little girl who then sat in a giant chair
like Lily Tomlin's Edith Ann. At Kenzie's request, Rob wore his bright
green pigtails all day, and talked to more women (and men) than he has
in the last five years. The faux orchid leis from Island Batiks were
another standout freebie.
As always, the displays are oh-so-artful. We were quite taken with
Alexander Henry’s white and neutrals displays of white pumpkins, pine
cones and white gourds at the end of one aisle. Bali’s artfully arranged
“Sushi Rolls” were a clever takeoff on the Jelly Roll craze. Timeless
Treasures dressed their chairs with fabric bows, while Windham Fabrics
went all-out with fully fluffed chairs sporting lovely fabric. Michael
Miller was arguably the most completely done with white carpeting,
hydrangeas, cherry blossoms and gossamer fairy wings on the backs of the
chairs. It was really a walk through spring.
Clothing was very evident at Market, as were new software items.
were completely captivated by the sweatshirt jacket designs of Londa
Rohlfing. She has cleverly captured her techniques for shaping the boxy
shirt to a more figure-flattering fit on an instructive DVD, then
embellished (pun intended) the information by adding the instructions on
how to add collars, cuff, trims and all sorts of divinely artistic
goodies to the basic design. The beauty of much of this is that a DVD is
much more efficiently stored than the huge paper volume that this prints
out to be, and has lots and lots of photos of every step of the process.
It’s like going to a class and then bringing home photo notes!
Londa also has individual patterns that sort of “snap on” to the basic
program and book to help you become an instant art wear designer. The
part I like is that by starting with the basic garment constructed, you
spend your valuable time doing the fun stuff much sooner!
We chatted with Barbara Groves and Mary Jacobson of Me and My Sister,
and thanked them for developing that wonderful gizmo, the
Sidewinder. So many bad words have gone
unsaid because of them! Me and My Sister had a lot of new patterns this
Fabric Studio, a clever new piece of computer software, lets you make
custom fabric in a flash. You design fabric using already loaded motifs
or your own photos or whatever and then hit print to go to a printer
loaded with fabric. Magic! The motifs can be tiled, swirled, and
otherwise manipulated and personalized items can be cranked out with no
trouble. The Fabric Studio booth had several quilts that mixed
commercial and quilter-designed fabrics, and you couldn't tell the
One of the most inventive and easiest new products was the Diva Custom
Cord Maker. The brain child of Fiber Goddess Connie James, this simple
device makes artistic looking cords out of any seven (or more) fibers
you chose. The most difficult part is winding the fiber on the flexible
spools and then counting to three! The cording works up quickly, but be
warned—doing this can be both soothing and addictive! Quilters were
introduced to this invention via the April issue of McCall’s Quilt
magazine where inch-wide fabric was made into a custom corded tote-bag
handle. You can see
our video demonstration of the product on YouTube.
For all you Featherweight fanatics out there, a company called
Featherweight Rx introduced a
comprehensive 3-1/2 hour
video of how to maintain your treasured machine without putting it
in the hands of strangers. There is also a made -to-match seam guide
that mimics the black and gold hallmark finish of the Featherweight, so
your baby will not only feel good but look good, too! A companion book
on Featherweight maintenance is also offered.
We noticed that bias binding was on many items this year, as the look of
the 40’s and 50’s is still strong in clothing. We have also noticed that
few people truly enjoy cutting bias binding, nor is the ready-made stuff
always available in exactly the fabric you need for custom work. ( And
it’s sort of pricey, too.) A new specially designed ruler called “the
bias tool" helps you make quick work of this least favorite chore. Just
match its edges with those of a half yard or fat quarter, and cut away.
For the most frequently used 2.5 inch binding, just cut along both
edges. Or if you need it slimmer, there are marks at each quarter inch
to guide your positioning on the cut edge.
Another product that wowed us was the
“Honey Guy” Waterblocker hand cream. Made from the wax of bees that
reside on the family farm in Texas, this hand cream is all natural,
greaseless and waterproofs your hands for the whole day. It won’t leave
a reside on fabric, but soothes dry hands despite frequent washings.
It's also great for corns and calluses, diaper rash, chapped lips,
burns, and raw skin from blowing your nose too much. Now that cold and
flu season is upon us, this product will get a lot of use from me.
across the aisle from Honey Guy was the
Tutto sewing machine luggage booth, and they were doing a brisk
business. We placed a big order for Christmas, and got a look a their
new products, which included two new colors of the machine-on-wheels
carrier, turquoise and chocolate brown. Unfortunately these new colors
won't be available until mid-December.
We did take an hour or so to commune with the quilts, which is why there
is Market in the first place! There was a nice mix of traditional and
contemporary styles. The traditional selection was highlighted by a
selection from the DAR Museum collection of early American quilts. Rural
American was another theme, with a collection of quilts sponsored by
Country Living Magazine. And appropriate to a historic election year,
the Political Patchwork exhibit drew much attention, particularly the
quilts designed by Ed Larson, a folk artist in New Mexico, and executed
by Fran Soika of Novelty, Ohio. These mural-like quilts skewer
politicians on both sides of the spectrum with commentary on
controversial issues that have emerged in the current events of the last
decade or so. The
Houston Chronicle even carried an article on these particular quilts.
Other politically inspired quilts featured interesting portraits of the
including an impressionistic rendering of Barack Obama using Tami
Bowser's Quilted Photo Deluxe software. The Hoffman challenge fabric
this year was a peacock pattern, so the dolls and quilts from this were
quite colorful and imaginative.
Just a quick note on food: The convention center offered its usual $3
bottled water and other standard large exhibit goodies, of couse. We
ventured out to our favorite Mediterranean bistro Chatters on Saturday night and
were not disappointed. We also had a great tamale courtesy of the
opening of the Dia de los Muertos altars at Casa Ramirez. We
rediscovered cheddar, jalepeno and sausage kolaches at the Kolache
Factory. So, all in all, it was good eating.
Registrations at Quilt Market this year were down from earlier boom
years, but the fervent buying activity by the eager quilt shop owners
and staff members who were there was encouraging. Despite the stock
market and the news media, quilters will find a way.