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Number Twenty-Three * April 1, 1998
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QUILT SHOW REVIEW: Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival
By Carol Miller
Birthdays are nice, anniversaries are special and Christmas morning ranks first with the under-12 crowd. But for me, the last weekend in February, ah, that's the time I look forward to all year. That's when the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival is held in Williamsburg, VA - only a brief hour from my door to theirs.
There are actually 4 shows - quilts, wearable arts, vintage clothing and fiber arts. Each opens on a different day and is held in a different hotel. The quilt portion is in the Marriott near Kingsmill, a hotel with conference center facilities. Accompanying a show which displays about 250 quilts is the merchants mall and assorted classes taught by nationally known teachers. The mall actually fills the ballroom, the small auditorium and part of another quilt display room.
Quilts are, unfortunately, hung in all the merchant mall areas and the shopping crowds sometimes make it difficult to see the quilts, especially if you are a picture taker, as I am. This year my classes were on Friday and Saturday, so I was able to run around with my camera first thing and get the photos before the rooms filled up. By Friday afternoon, I could hear a lot of complaints from others with cameras that you couldn't back up and take a picture. Then again, with years of experience, I have learned to point and shoot - no wasted time focusing, since I am pretty sure the quilts won't move.
As always, I was amazed at the quilts. You would think that after 20 years of quilt shows, I would begin to get that feeling of "seen it all." But quilters are a really inventive bunch and there were fabulous new patterns plus terrific new colorations of old designs. The Best of Show, was an interpretive applique depicting Australian petroglyphs, the primitive cave paintings done by the Aboriginals. Constructed of hand-dyed black, brown and gray, I found it to be a striking and original work.
Traditionalists were not so pleased. There were also people who were unhappy to see a lot of machine quilting on prize- winning quilts. I always want to ask those people if they churn their own butter. Is it less butter because it was made by a machine? And is it not quilting because hands guided it under a machine instead of picking out each stitch?
Last year, Judi Warren pointed out that in a medium that boosts over 3500 pieced blocks, we should be used to change and growth - yet this renaissance of quilting seems to have spawned many people who only want to repeat what has come before and get fairly incensed if we don't do it the "right" way. In my humble opinion, that's a shame. Change and growth are what makes our art form - or any art - vital and alive. The quilts hanging in this show certainly reflected that spirit of growth and adventure.
The wearable arts section showcases clothing. Held at the Williamsburg Lodge, the room has a level that runs around the outside edge and then several steps down to a well area where there are more vendors. The balcony rail is hung with garments and there are more displayed on mannequins in the center of the well area. Outside in the hall there are additional garments and this year, as always, I felt sorry for the people whose work ended up in the hall - it is poorly lit and completely out of the main flow of traffic.
Mid-Atlantic is run by the Mancuso Brothers, who also host shows in Ft. Washington, PA, and California. They include the Hoffman challenge and the Fairfield Fashion Show as part of their shows. The Hoffman quilts and the dolls are displayed with the other quilts, usually in the main vendor hall. The fashion show is held at night. There are also previews of the two main shows, held the evening before they open, and lectures scheduled for evenings. I prefer to drive back and forth, rather than staying in the hotel, so I generally skip any night time events.
On Saturday evening, they hold the world's worst Show & Tell. I stayed for this on two separate occasions and was tremendously disappointed. They introduce each teacher and she asks all the people from her classes to stand up and show what they made. Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I don't usually finish much in my classes - and watching people hold up a block or two and line up across the room just doesn't do it for me. I would much rather see finished quilts brought in by people from home. Of course, these are allowed but they come after all the teachers - often as much as TWO HOURS into the program and by that time, I really don't care.
I should say at this point that I am lucky enough to be retired at the ripe old age of 49 and while my day starts early with a trip to the gym, my afternoon almost always includes a nap. So on a day that begins at 6 a.m. with a drive down the Interstate, I am pretty exhausted by 8 at night - the start time for Show & Tell. By 10, I would need someone else to drive me home.
I choose to drive back and forth because I would rather spend the room and meal money on fabric. And I will admit that I am a big baby and like to sleep in my own bed. I know there are lots of women who adore the dormitory atmosphere and share with 1-4 other people, but I really am pretty set in my ways and like having my own space. Knowing all this, I try not to complain about how tired I am from driving back and forth. In the last couple of years, a friend from New Jersey has come down and stayed at my house so I have company in the car.
Another thing I try not to complain about is how crowded the show has gotten. The Mancusos considered moving the show and we all prayed they wouldn't. It is so wonderful having it here in Virginia and people from out-of-state like being near Colonial Williamsburg and the Outlet Malls.
The merchant malls are packed and vendors tend to keep their space forever. Judging from the bulging bags under every arm you see, they must do a pretty good business.
I certainly do my best to support them. This year I got John Flynn's new multi-frame quilting system. You can use it with a regular sewing machine and it batts the quilt as you sew. This is a fabulous idea and after trying it in their booth, I was sold. I can't wait to pick a top and start quilting. Naturally, I also bought lots of fabric - you have to feed your stash or it gets grumpy. I prefer buying half yards, even in a regular store situation, and found that with the crowds, I didn't even bother looking at booths that had only bolts. It just wasn't worth standing in line waiting for things to be cut.
Books are another priority for me and I hung out at Dover Street Booksellers and Dover Books, both of whom have terrific selections. Other booths have books as well and I did hear of some dealers marking books up for the show. I also noticed one notions vendor who had marked those quilting gloves up to $9.50!! I didn't buy anything at all from him and warned off other people. I think it's a shame when vendors try to take advantage of our "fever" at shows. A ribbon vendor had marked out the prices she charges at home and upped her $3 items to $5. I would think the lost sales would more than counteract the extra she got from the people who bought anyway.
People are a big part of the show. I found them mostly to be friendly and polite. I certainly know enough of them, being from the area and having attended this show for about 8 years. My friend, however, said she kept running into rude people who stopped to talk in the middle of crowded aisles or pushed in front of her like she wasn't there. She said she kept feeling like she had become invisible. I am a little astounded when I see women with strollers in shows like this - there really isn't room for them and certainly it is asking a lot of the baby.
I have to admit that as I get older my ability to hold onto names has almost disappeared. I am better with faces, but not by much. This leads to lots of confrontations where someone comes up to me, all smiles, calling me by name, and I have NO idea who they are. Anyone registered for a class has on a name tag, but day visitors don't, so about half the time, I smile and pretend and am just as much in the dark when they leave as when they came. My friend was with me at lunch on Thursday but soon went her own way - "You talk too much" she told me later. When I got home, I asked my husband if he had passed out flyers with my name and picture and the headline "Please speak to this lady. It makes her crazy." He denies it, but I am still not convinced.
Watching people and seeing all the great quilted clothing is great fun. The weather was unseasonably warm - in the high 60s and low 70s all four days - so we saw no coats this year. Vests were everywhere and you just wanted to run around taking pictures of people. The funniest ones were three women who dressed alike. In their mid-to-late 50s, they wore cowboy hats, fringed vests and cowboy boots the first time I saw them. Apparently they always go together and dress alike. I couldn't think of a nice way to ask "Why?"
I took two classes, tessellations with Christine Porter from England, and Threadplay with Libby Lehman from Texas. Both were terrific. In Libby's class, Bernina provided machines, a nice treat that keeps me from having to tote my machine. For Chris Porter's class, I took my old Singer, a machine I replaced two years ago with a Bernina. Now I remember why I bought a new machine. It may weigh less, but I spent too much time fiddling with the machine. I'm happy to report that I nearly finished both projects - a reflection on the teachers. Both projects were small and extremely well organized.
It's over now. I am finally beginning to decompress, catch up on my sleep and consider washing all that gorgeous new fabric. My film is ready to be processed and then I can drool anew on all the great quilts I saw. Best of all, it's only 360 more days before I get to go again.
Carol has been quilting since 1979, a real achievement since she hated calico fabrics but made several quilts from them anyway. Since then, she has happily collected fabrics, especially florals, abstracts, Modas and batiks, putting them into traditional quilts with a contemporary twist. Carol teaches and designed the Virginia Consortium of Quilters web page (http://www.vcq.org) which she hopes you will visit. She freely admits to a severe quilting addiction.
The MINI DUST-IT. Genuine sheepskin duster on a 6" stick that is perfect for picking up dust and lint from your sewing machine and serger. Soft, beautiful sheepskin won't scratch polished surfaces. Picks up the lint and tiny threads; doesn't spread them around. Prevents lint build-up. Inexpensive way to protect expensive sewing machines and sergers. Fun and handy to use. Also works great on the computer.
Price: $3.50 each including mailing.
To order send check to Silver Dollar Sheep Station, 5020 Winding Way, Sacramento, CA 95841. 800-887-8742. E-mail: Sheep50@aol.com.
SPECIAL LIMITED TIME OFFER: Because we manufacture the Mini Dust-it to a very high standard, we currently have a supply of slightly imperfects. They may be thinner and not as pretty or have some other defect, but they still work great! And best of all we offer these to you for just $1, including postage. You can order them at the address above and enjoy this wonderful product at a bargain price!
The BLOCK BOOK
Judy Martin's NEW book- April '98
mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org - ask for order information
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P. O. Box 273, Esperance NY 12066
ANTIQUE QUILT & TEXTILE CONVENTION. May 21-23, 1998. Held in Lowell, MA, the birthplace of the American Textile Revolution. Features private tours of museums and conservation centers as well as lectures by noted curators, authors, appraisers and conservationists. For more information, write Hickory Hill Antique Quilts, Box 273, Esperance NY 12066 or see http://www.HickoryHillQuilts.com/lowell.htm
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Perfect Square is growing up now and has gotten a job at a creative quilt pattern company and is doing quite well. In fact, patterns are being written exclusively for Perfect Square. See the Perfect Square web site at http://www.webworldinc.com/perfectsquare fore details.
ARTFABR!K now carries a Color Card for their extraordinary hand-dyed perle cotton threads available in sizes 3, 5, 8 and the finest, size 12. Please send $7 plus $1 for shipping to ARTFABR!K, Laura Wasilowski, 324 Vincent Place, Elgin, IL 60123. E-mail email@example.com.
Beautiful hand Dyed Fabric perfect for piecing, applique and pictorial quilts. Colors range from a sunrise spectrum of mauves, pinks, and golds to deep purples, blues and teals. Available in the following convenient packages:
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Send a self addressed, stamped envelope for free samples and full price list or to order send check or money order to:
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18640 South Lowrie Loop
Eagle River, Alaska 99577
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