Sunday, May 22, 2016

MQS 2016 - My first Quilt Show!

When I purchased my longarm quilting machine in the summer of 2015, I had been quilting for a few years on my domestic sewing machine. By that point, I had already fallen in love with the QUILTING part of the quilt-making process, and I knew I wanted to pursue that little sub-section of quilting more seriously (if you aren't sure what I mean about this sub-section, see my blog post: What Exactly Do you DO?). I knew that I wanted to expand my world of quilting possibilities and level of productivity, so Eric and I discussed and schemed and figured and saved, and I transitioned to a longarm quilting machine. And, BOY, have I loved it!

Part of my pursuit at being the best I can be is acquiring as much education and training as I can. I've taken several online classes, watched hours and hours of video on YouTube, and taken a few classes at quilt shops.

One of the big decisions that I (and Eric) made was for me to go to a national-level machine quilting show, a convention geared specifically toward people who do machine quilting like me. These shows feature an extensive lineup of teachers who are experienced in the field, classes and demonstrations for a huge variety of techniques, a product trade show with the latest gadgets and gizmos, and of course, a melting pot of quilters to visit and exchange secrets with.

There are a few machine quilting shows in the U.S., and based on scheduling and a few other factors, I decided to register for MQS (Machine Quilters' Showcase) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was a big expense to get me there, hire childcare during my absence, pay for classes and incidentals, etc. I did not make this decision lightly, but I finally convinced Eric this was a valuable experience for me to have.

My goals for the experience were:
1) I wanted to take as many classes as I could. To learn new techniques that will add to my repertoire (and appeal to clients) and to learn ways to be faster at techniques I already know (and increase productivity).
2) I wanted to see some products in person, which I'd been considering purchasing online but was wondering about whether they were what they seemed.
3) I wanted to peruse the quilt entries and be inspired, and enter a quilt myself to receive feedback by expert judges.

I packed my MQS schedule chock full of classes and was running from sun-up to past-sundown. With two toddlers at home, it's hard for me to get away, so I crammed as much I could into my time. I took classes with Claudia Pfeil (Germany), Krista Withers (Washington), Karen Farnsworth (Missouri), Sue Heinz (Minnesota), and Sue Patton (Ontario).

Premotion Pforals with Claudia Pfeil: This was a hands-on class where I got to watch the teacher draw, then watch her stitch, then stitch myself on a longarm machine provided by a show sponsor. This is Claudia's in-class piece - she was just doodling and demonstrating.

Examples that Claudia brought with her. So inspiring!

In class with Krista Withers (Compositional Quilting - The Path). Krista does a LOT of marking before she ever starts quilting. Taking the time to do a lot of marking is not one of my strengths, and it's something I need to be more disciplined about.

Examples that Krista brought with her. Proof that marking and planning can create stunning results. 

Krista doodling and demonstrating.

My newest celebrity quilter crush! Krista has such a neat spirit and soothing way about her. Neat lady!

This was a hands-on quilting class, and I got to share a longarm quilting machine with my new friend, Kerry Fisbeck from Oklahoma. She was so much fun!

And speaking of my new friend, Kerry, below is a snapshot from my class with Karen Farnsworth, a lecture-style class about whole cloth quilting. And it just so happened that one of the quilts that Karen showed us in our class was an entry at this very quilt show - from Kerry! Her ribbon-winning whole cloth quilt was so forward-thinking and funky. I wish I'd taken a good photo of it. It was amazing! 

I can't believe I didn't get a photo of my lecture/drawing class with Sue Heinz. Called "Flight School", the class was focused on the fundamentals and anatomy of feathers - really detailed and nit-picky (in a good way). One of the coolest things was watching her draw. I can't describe it. In fact, I was stopped in my tracks at the trade show when I came across her booth. She had big screen TVs showing her drawing some of her signature patterns, and it was absolutely mesmerizing. I seriously just stood there and watched, mouth agape. Forget quilting, this chick can DRAW! I really wish I had taken her "Featherworks" class, which taught her embellishments and adornment with feathers. Next time!

ZenSuedling with Sue Patten - These are examples that Sue brought to show us. You guys - seriously - everything you see here is THREAD. The quilt was blank black fabric. NO KIDDING. We spent the whole time in this 4-hour class marking our own blank black pieces of fabric and came home ready to quilt them. Sue is such a little bundle of dynamite. What a trip!

One of the things I learned from my first Quilt Show experience was that I should have padded in more time for "nothing". I did not allow enough time to walk through the trade show and peruse all the new products and try everything out. One of the things I wanted to find was some sort of gadget to clamp the sides of my quilts, to pull more evenly than the two little clamps that came with my frame. I was particularly interested in Renee's Red Edges (below), but then I saw some wide clamps at Deloa Jones's booth that looked simpler and faster to use. 

But thanks to a recommendation from a classmate, I found my way to a booth for Fred's Creative Woodworking. This lovely old man is (presumably) the husband of a quilter. He actually brought a lathe with him from Pennsylvania and taught a class on woodturning for husbands who had come along with their quilting wives. He had the coolest and niftiest treasures for sale at his booth. Tools and gadgets that are totally innovative. Magnetic pin holders. Wooden bowls designs to hold a ball of yarn for knitters, so that the yarn doesn't roll all over the floor. A winder for quilt binding. Bobbin caddies. Just a ton of great stuff! Including these great side clamps. Long enough to span the whole edge of the quilt frame, they are easy to use, because they use very powerful magnets to clamp, along with a strip of emory paper. They were so popular that they sold out the first day, so I had to place my order to be mailed to me after he could get back home and make up some more!

And of course, I went to MQS seeking inspiration. Turns out, this was a double-edged sword. The amazing work on display was absolutely inspiring, but on the other hand, as I walked around looking at the RIDICULOUSLY amazing quilting, it was also depressing, in a way. To look at these pieces, and realize, "There's no way I'll EVER be at this level." Nor, actually, do I think I aspire to be, to tell you the truth. I mean, I get antsy to move on when I've spent 20 or 30 hours on a quilt. I started talking to ladies and learning that some of these quilts had HUNDREDS of hours in them - in the quilting alone. One lady said she spent 9 MONTHS on her quilt. I get frustrated after a week or two on  a single quilt. I just don't think I have it in me to make that kind of commitment to one piece. This was a new realization for me. A little disillusioning, but a valuable lesson to learn, as I figure out my identity as a longarm quilter.

But no matter what, you have to appreciate the beauty, the precision, the vision, the craft involved in the big award winners. These are FRIGGIN' AMAZING! I'm mad at myself that I didn't get better photos of the quilter info. These gals are so talented!
Best In Show - Bethanne Nemesh

First place in my category (updated custom). 

This one was SECOND place in my category. Honestly, how could I have ever thought I could compete?

Third Place in my category. Amazing!

I was very honored to bring home a ribbon myself. As I understand it, after the judges have gone through all the entries and awarded the overall awards and the category awards, then the teachers from the week are allowed to go through and award a "faculty ribbon" to a quilt that spoke to them. Thanks to Helen Baczynski for her recognition of my entry! 


  1. Congratulations! Funnily enough it was this quilt that led me to your blog just last week, as I have the same kit from Craftsy, yet to make up and I LOVE how you quilted it! I have thoroughly enjoyed reviewing your entire blog content, and will be an avid follower going forward. Thank you for sharing your quilting journey. I can totally relate to your inspiration vs. depressing affect the big quilt shows can have on a person! But it's so much fun to keep learning and trying to do more and better (when it isn't frustrating ;o))!

    1. Oh, Kathy! Have fun with your Dancing Quills kit! I have to say, all that bias piecing kept me on my toes! You're right, of course. No matter what, it's fun to keep learning and growing. Good luck!