Sunday, October 23, 2011

Almost Done. Hallelujah.

The past few months have been a total blur. Come to think of it, 2011 is pretty much a blur. I seem to recall a New Year's Resolution that included something about slowing down and cutting way back on my traveling schedule. Apparently I did not fulfull that resolution. :)

Since mid-September I've been working hard on getting ready for the grueling October show schedule. International Quilt Festival in Houston will be my tenth (and last) show of the year, and it requires a HUGE amount of prep work. I've got five classes, three of them hands-on. The hands-on classes will be held in the Handi Quilter room and each class will have 36 students and 18 quilting machines, with each machine shared by two students. Therefore, I ordered 172 yards of muslin and batting and turned it into 54 class samples, with each sample accommodating two students. See what I mean about prep work?

I also had to order supplies for the student handouts and package those supplies into kits. Each student will receive their paper handout, multiple coupons entitling them to discounts at various Festival vendor booths and web sites, a free Spiral Eye Needle (LOVE THOSE NEEDLES!!! Go check them out. They're so cool!) free samples of Fil-Tec thread, free fabric (and a generous 15% off discount couplon!) from Sew Batik, a free magazine sample from Machine Quilting Unlimited and their quilt sample. Oh, and I also have door prizes. If you're a student, you'll walk out of class with loot galore.

Festival requires that all of your stuff be shipped to them so that it arrives 10 days before Market begins. While this seemed like a big pain the first year I taught there, I quickly learned that it's the best idea ever. You send your stuff to them (8 giant boxes of stuff, in my case), they load it all on a truck, they drive the truck to the Convention Center, they unload the truck, they carry all of your giant heavy boxes up to the Teacher Ready Room which is conveniently located right down the hall from the classrooms, they stack it all in neat piles alphabetized by teacher name, and you just walk into the Ready Room, find your stack, grab your boxes, load them on one of the convenient little wagons that they provide for teacher use, and roll all of your stuff right to your classroom. Easy peasy pie. I wish every show did this.

So now all of my stuff has been shipped and is waiting for me in sunny Houston and all I have to do this week is write my magazine column, tweak my Powerpoint presentations a little, and get my hair done so that my students are not blinded by the sight of my shining gray roots. And, since all of my show work for 2011 is (finally!) finished all I have to do when I get back from Houston is quilt, quilt, quilt. Which will seem like Heaven, since it's been so long since I turned on my machine that I wonder if I'll even remember where the On/Off switch is located.

As we all know, machine quilting shows are popping up *everywhere* and a lot of people ask me which show they should attend. Let me describe for you a brand new one I just visited so you can see if it sounds like a good fit for you'

MQX West can be summed up in one word; Wow. However, since I am constitutionally incapable of stopping at one word, please allow me to expound on that wow.

Flying into Portland and taking the TriMet MAX light rail line from the airport to the show venue is a total piece of cake. I was a little nervous before the show and wasn't quite sure what to expect when trying to manhandle my luggage onto a train, but it proved to be so easy that anyone could do it. The Portland airport is super traveler friendly and you just get off the plane, go downstairs to get your bags, feed a couple of bucks into an automated ticket machine to get your MAX ticket, walk maybe 50 feet out of a door and roll yourself and your bags straight onto the Red Line train. No problem. The show's host hotel even covered the cost of the train tickets, so the train ride turned out to be not only very easy but free as well. Yay. The area around the show venue felt completely safe and secure even though it was in the heart of the city. I had no problem with walking back and forth between my hotel and the show, even at night. It's brightly lit, very clean, and there are no scary people at all.

The MAX, which has routes that run all over the city, takes you directly to the convention center in about 28 minutes and once you're in the downtown 'free ride' zone, you can hop on and off the train at will. There were people constantly coming and going from the show who had been visiting restaurants, museums, the Farmer's Market, even a bunch of girls who went out for tattoos on Thursday. Travel around Portland couldn't be easier. The only reason you'd need a car is if you wanted to do some sightseeing in the area surrounding Portland and if you don't want to sightsee, you can rely on the MAX to easily get you where you want to go.

Less than a five minute walk from the Convention Center is a Starbuck's, a Burgerville (loved it!) a Denny's and a Red Robin, so when it comes time for lunch all you have to do is basically walk across the street and decide which one sounds best or hop the MAX and head out for some ethnic food or some fresh seafood.

The show itself was unbelievably successful, especially considering the fact that it was the first year. The student counts were the highest of any show I've taught at this year and almost every other teacher I spoke to said the same thing. Those Pacific Northwest girls are totally stoked about having a machine quilting show in town and they came out of the woodwork to attend. All of the big name teachers were there and the local Gammill dealer had the biggest hands-on classroom I've ever seen set up for the hands-on classes. There must have been thirty machines in that room, so everyone got a machine to themselves. It was amazing.

The vendor mall had pretty much the same lineup you see at MQS and MQX East, with all of the machine companies, Superior Threads, YLI, Sew Batik, fabric vendors, gadget vendors, etc., etc., etc. Rumor has it that another show in the area actively discouraged vendors from signing up to do this show but those vendors that stayed away have already said they regret not being there and will show up in droves next year so I expect that the vendor mall will be packed to the rafters in 2012.

The quilts were stunning and there was a big variety of quilts done on both longarm and domestic machines. The Best of Show winner was done on a domestic and it was absolutely incredible. I have no idea how the quilter managed to shove that thing through her machine and still do such perfect quilting. She totally nailed that award.

If you're looking for a bigger show in a really fun city with a lot of cool stuff to do and see, check out MQX West. I will definitely go back in 2012!