The Traveling Quilter: Houston Quilt Market, 2011
By Lynn Holland
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This year, in our twelfth visit to Quilt Market in Houston, we did a departure from our usual drill. We arrived a day early in order to go on a Thursday bus tour of Texas quilt and other cultural attractions, which included the first official tour of the Texas Quilt Museum in LaGrange. We arrived at the George Brown convention center while it was still dark to be sure we could board the bus promptly at 7:45. Our tour guide had Starbucks coffee and kolaches on board, so we munched our way to the first stop at St. Ann’s Church, a painted church built in Praha, Texas in 1895 by Czech immigrants, about 100 miles west of Houston. The church visit wasn’t particularly quilt-related, but it was an exquisite Catholic church. It was undergoing a major renovation, including the installation of a copper roof.
From the church, it was on to the main event (in my mind at least), the Texas Quilt Museum (http://www.texasquiltmuseum.org/Texas_Quilt_Museum/home.html), where Karey Bresenhan, the founder and director of Quilt, Inc., the sponsor of Quilt Market and Festival, was there in person to greet us at the first official tour group.
The museum’s official opening was not scheduled until a couple of weeks later. Situated in a beautifully (and lovingly) restored old building in LaGrange, the museum has as much of the original structure as was salvageable, and its exposed brick walls make an authentic backdrop for the quilts they house. The floors are the original, and, in an effort to preserve them, there are no water fountains in the museum! However, bottled Quilter’s Water is available at the gift counter, which promises tinier stitches and improved creativity to the quilters who consume it! Souvenir items are all very in keeping with the museum’s Texas’s elegance, including a red white and blue signature scarf, tote, and throw along with some very classy t-shirts.
However, as lovely as the quilts were, I have to admit I was totally star-struck by Karey Bresenhan. More beautiful in person than in her photos, with movie star blue eyes and a gracious Texas drawl, she is fittingly the queen of all things quilt!
There were three shops on the tour, each with a distinctive personality. Directions to Gerline’s (http://www.gerlinesquiltshoppe.com/were “turn left at the vet sign and go down the road aways.” The shop, which is in Giddings, Texas, boasted three generations of the family to measure and cut fabric amid the fabric-crammed structure. Gerline’s had an impressively varied collection of batiks, reproductions and novelties, especially since it is situated in a small town. Outside was the Quilt Angels’ Playhouse, a classroom and gathering place for the local quilt guild, where homemade orange slice cookies awaited us. There was a giant “help yourself” bin of odd and ends of crochet, embroidery and linens, so I scored a fragment of tablecloth to wear as a funky scarf. We bought a raffle ticket from one of the attending angels.
One unexpected bonus was sitting near the proprietress of Snip & Stitch, a great shop in Nanaimo, BC that we had visited years ago.
The bus spent the day, until 6:30 p.m., wandering leisurely throughout central Texas. We visited two other quilt shops, the All Around the Block Quilt Shop, also in Giddings, and Stitch Haven in Brenham (http://www.stitchhaven.com/.) We were quite impressed that such small, remote Texas communities could and did support these robust and obviously thriving quilt stores. In Brenham, I got a great idea for a little girl’s paper-doll quilt, and encountered a special Texas-themed line of fabric designed by MODA especially for the last Texas quilt shop hop. I checked online, and it wasn’t available anywhere else, so we returned to Stitch Haven before leaving Texas to buy some half-yard cuts and a jelly roll.
On the bus ride, we stopped at Round Rock and several other artsy communities in the Austin area, including a visit to an exhibit of quilts by men (http://www.saqa.com/calendar-detail.php?ID=3076) at the Copper Shade Tree Gallery (http://www.coppershadetree.com/) in Round Top, Texas. At the end of the day we returned to Houston having covered some 250 miles.
The next day, Friday, was mainly free for us as the vendors were busy setting up their booths in the convention center. We occupied ourselves in Houston until Sample Spree, which began at 8 p.m. Dianne Springer, the inventor of Quilt-in-a-Cup and many other things with quilts in them, stood in line with us at Sample Spree, sporting pink hair from her three-day Walk for the Cure in Atlanta. Dianne has just gone through an ordeal of a different sort -- having her house reclaimed from significant water damage due to a burst water pipe! She and her daughter were their usual upbeat selves and were looking forward to the release of Dianne’s book later this year.
Sample Spree itself (the opportunity for vendors to get a jump start on the visibility of their products by distributing free or cheap samples) was typical. The fabric vendors were packed, aisles clogged with cotton-besotted shop owners joining the crush for the latest Moda bag. I bought a bloc-loc 6” square ruler and a 4x2 flying geese creating device for a quilt I am working on..
The next day, Saturday, was the start of the actual market, and we were there early to begin our somewhat systematic stroll (trek? Slog?) up and down the aisles of the convention center. Market is less frenetic and crowded than Quilt Festival, which takes place the following week, but there was a significant crowd and a vibrant atmosphere. We were scouting for new (or new to us) products which we could test and, if they passed muster, put up in our online store. While there were no blockbuster new game-changing products in evidence, there were a number of excellent new inventions which we are in the process of testing. We’ll be posting our reviews soon. These include the Bloc_Loc half-square triangle tool, the Cutting Edge blade-sharpening ruler, Retro Clean antique textiles soak, the Pilot Frixion erasable gel pens, a new, larger size Supreme Slider, and Thera-Gloves to provide support hand support during stitching and fine needlework.
The fabric booths, though no longer prone to the excess that was seen in our early days at Market, were still memorable. Moda had “mini-villages” that set fabric lines apart, unified by tape measure chair covers and quilt template designs table cloths. Alexander Henry had a classic “La Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) booth. Shannon Fabrics was celebrating the impending release of “The Cat in the Hat” in their Cuddle line, complete with hatted reps and a larger than life Cat in the Hat himself. EZ Fabrics was handing out BOXES of Girl Scout cookies(!), while Michael Miller reps and clients sat at red-checked tablecloths in their faux diner, sipping from go-cups bearing the MM logo. Michael Miller is always over the top! I also became mesmerized by Anthology Fabric’s video of how their batik process, and kept finding myself circling back around see more of it and listen to the hypnotic music.
Celebrities were at Market, too. Ty Pennington was posing for pictures, Kaffe Fassett was spotted in the aisles. Tina Givens was displaying her bags and glorious fabrics at her own booth. There was an elinore peace bailey sighting, as well as Eleanor Burns, and I enjoyed seeing Philly of Aunt Philly find yet another use for her rug-making tool as she used it to eat her birthday cupcake in lieu of a fork. The best part was that it was still threaded with her current project!
As a result no doubt of the current mini-baby-boom, and the rise of the mommy-blogger, there were lots of children’s fashions. I was taken by Olive Ann Designs, which boasts some dresses that take just a couple of hours to sew. That way, I could finish something before the kid grew to the next size. I fell in love with the darling designs from Penguin and Fish, which you can check out, too at www.penguinandfish.com.
Tutto still reigns as the rolling bag of choice, as we saw literally dozens of them being dragged behind quilters. We rolled by the Tutto booth with our tote that had suddenly developed a squeaky wheel, and a smiling young man who was a Tutto rep came out with an oil can to silence it! We did inspect the other available machine carrier options being offered at market, but based on our experience, observation and dollar to value calculations, we remain firm supporters of Tutto as makers of the best and most maneuverable machine luggage. We’re such Tutto fans that even the general travel luggage we took to Houston is made by Tutto.
As you know, I am all about the creative snacks that folks offer. Amid this year’s sudden sea of salt-water taffy and Halloween Twix, there were a few standouts. Top honors go to Lisa Tuellar, who hauled her yummy candy-corn topped cookies all the way from Utah and frosted them in her hotel room! First runner up was Cindy Oates of TaylorMade who celebrated her 26 years of great designs by offering hand-wrapped , handmade chocolate-dipped sea salt caramels. Honorable mention goes to Valori Wells, for assorted Lindor truffles. Suffice it to say that we did not go hungry and consumed our share of Twizzlers, gingersnaps, pretzels, and Japanese rice snacks.
Last but not least, the quilts and dolls on display at this year's show were just mind-blowing. The range of styles runs from the very traditional to the bleeding-edge contemporary, but the style and workmanship are always enough to take your breath away. As always, we loved seeing the cloth dolls made for a variety of challenges. The one that took our imagination this year was "Black and White and Read All Over, sponsored by the Material Girls Doll Club of Houston, inspired by P&B Fabrics.
With the 175th Anniversary of Texas statehood, and the opening of the Texas Quilt Museum, there was also a large exhibit of Texas-themed quilts. Unfortunately no photography of this collection was allowed, but they have published a large full-color volume of photos of these quilts for purchase. One of our favorite quilts that we could photograph, is "Hippo Love" by Janet Fogg of Milwaukee, Oregon (seen below).
All in all this year’s trip to Houston was satisfying and productive, with the added bonus of seeing the new Texas Quilt Museum and the quilt shops and art galleries of central Texas. After leaving Houston we had a nice Halloween visit with our granddaughters (and their parents) in Austin, and returned home to await all the new products we had ordered.
To see more photos from Quilt Market, go to our gallery!
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