BulgingButtons

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Quilt Show, Here I Come!

It’s been ages since I’ve been to a quilt show, which is entirely my fault.

I’m lucky to live in a state where quilt makers are doing exciting work, and quilt shows, large and small, are held regularly. The largest of these is the show put on by the state quilter’s guild, of which I used to be an active member. In fact, that guild brought me my first friends in my adopted home state.19676732-5056-a36a-09e605c3f52c90e2_0eef4bd5-5056-a36a-0955fa3b9f7b852c.jpg

Quilt groups vary in size, focus, and time commitment. I think there’s a group for everyone, from the most traditional hand piecer and quilter to the digital age modern quilter who does things without regard for “traditional” techniques or “rules.” There are those who get together for the dedicated purpose of producing quilts to be donated to charities, and there are those who are committed to recreating quilts from particular eras. Most groups, however, are simply gatherings of people who share a love of quilting and enjoy one another’s company.

I was lucky to find a group like that in the early 1990’s when I moved out west with no job and no friends. Quilting was my creative outlet, and the quilt group I found was full of interesting and innovative women, who welcomed me into their circle. It was a branch of the state guild, and through that I started traveling to other groups to teach classes. I loved it!

The more active I was with the guild and our chapter, the more fun I had. I volunteered to head up a statewide charity small quilt auction one year that raised several thousand dollars, and I spent another year as our group’s chapter chairperson. Both of these experiences were positive and rewarding, mostly because of the wonderful people I was able to work with along the way.

Time marches on, though, and motherhood took more of my psychic energy than I could have imagined. I still quilted from time to time, but scrapbooking our lives became my main creative outlet, and I let my guild membership lapse, mainly from a lack of time for meetings. Add to that some of my closest quilting buddies moving away, and, well, you know…

The good news it that they didn’t all move, and then Facebook was invented. Through it I keep in touch with some of my quilty friends, and when I needed some professional quilting done on a top I made long ago, I knew just who to call. Well, that lovely lady did the job expertly, and we had a fantastic time reconnecting in the process. We made a date for the quilt show, and here it is, quilt show day!

I’m excited to see my friend, I’m excited to see the quilts and vendors, and mostly I’m excited to go back to the show. The show where I once earned an honorable mention ribbon for a quilt that I now cherish as a memory of my dad. The show that celebrates every corner of my beautiful state and every type of creative expression that could be classified as a quilt. The show that takes me back decades, but will no doubt fire a creative spark for the future.

 


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Going to the Show – The Quilt Show, That Is

When I first moved out west I was working as a substitute teacher. I moved from school to school, grade to grade. I was seldom in the same school twice in a month. This type of existence didn’t allow me to make connections with others. I was a nomad. The only person I knew was my then-fiance, now former husband. I felt rootless, and it made me a little uncomfortable.

I had left behind my family and lifelong friends, and now there was just the two of us. We were more or less broke, so we weren’t exactly living the high life, but that was ok. What wasn’t ok was the sense of isolation that was starting to creep in. In those days the internet was in its infancy, and we certainly didn’t have it. Long distance phone calls cost a mint, and nobody had heard of texting. We were on our own.

I had always liked creating, and had taken an introductory quilt class from the adult ed department of a school district in my hometown. We did everything the old fashioned way, by hand, and I learned a lot. I decided that I would expand my horizons and head out to the local quilt shop in my new town. suzyLittle did I know that I had moved into a quilting mecca of sorts.

I walked in the shop and was awed. The bolts of fabric were proudly displayed around the perimeter of the store. There was display table after display table piled high with fat quarter bundles and baskets of goodies. Stunning quilts lined the walls and hung from the ceiling. I loved it. I was home.

I spent a long time going through that shop. I fondled the fabric, and browsed the books. I examined the samples and ogled the threads. I had been a sewer for a long time, and had all the basics, including a sewing machine, but I didn’t have a scrap of fabric.

Not my actual quilt, but very similar.

Not my actual quilt, but very similar.

As I said, we were on a budget, so I carefully weighed my options and eventually purchased a package of precut squares. They were a nice variety of prints and tone on tone fabrics. I also purchased a small amount of unbleached muslin to patch them together. I was delighted with my choices.

I went home and played around with those pieces until I was happy with their arrangement. I sewed them together with my sewing machine, then headed to the fabric store to find material for the outside border and back, plus some batting for the inside of the quilt. I purchased a deep green tone on tone print that I love to this day.

I quilted that first little quilt by hand, then bound it. I was hooked. I went back to the quilt shop and signed up for a class. It was incredible. My horizons expanded greatly. Then I learned that there were quilt groups that meet all over the state as part of a state wide quilt guild. I looked up my local chapter, took a deep breath, and walked in the door.

At that first meeting I was immediately greeted and warmly welcomed to the group. I jumped in with both feet, joining swaps, signing up for secret sisters, participating in workshops, and eventually becoming the chapter chairperson. I volunteered to serve as a traveling teacher, visiting chapters all over the state to teach them I project I had designed. I also joined the board of the state guild. It was busy and fun and I made so many friends. I also made a connection that led me to a full time position at our local university, which I held for seven years before returning to teaching.

Quilting saved me. It provided me with an incredibly fun and creative outlet, while also furnishing a way for me to connect to many other people. I formed lifelong friends, I took on challenges of organization and leadership that helped me to grow individually, and I made a heck of a lot of really nice quilts.

After my son was born, I had less time for these activities. I was a full time working mother, and I spent more time at home. I also returned to life in the classroom. I did still make quilts on my own, but I drifted away from the busy life of the quilt guild. From time to time I visited, and I was always warmly welcomed. Many of the same friends remained, but many others had moved on, and new friends awaited.

That’s one of the remarkable things about the quilting world. It doesn’t seem to matter where we’ve come from, or what our current situation is, when we get together we have a common love of quilting that bridges any divides between us. We come from all cultures, all different backgrounds, all educational levels. We are young and old and everything in between. We are wild independent spirits or traditional matriarchs. We are a cross section of people, primarily women still, at our best. We are creative, warm, open to learning, and generous with our talents. I am proud to be a part of that community, and today I look forward to walking amongst my fellow quilters, admiring their work.