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QuiltCon 2023 Recap

Hi everyone! Cheryl here, Executive Assistant at the Longarm League (that's me kneeling down in the red Longarm League sweatshirt in the photo below). I'm taking over the blog today to recap my first trip to QuiltCon! Later in the post we're also highlighting several of our members' thoughts on the show. There's lots to dive into, so grab your favorite beverage (coffee anyone? 🙋🏻‍♀️) and settle in for a fun read.


Thoughts on My First QuiltCon

I’ve wanted to go to QuiltCon for years, but it was either not in the budget, wrong timing, you name it. So when Jess mentioned the idea of vending last summer and asked what I thought, I was 110% in!


Planning for QuiltCon

Months before heading to the show we started planning and working on all the backend stuff, like renting the booth and planning / designing how we’d set it up. In my past corporate life I used to manage the tradeshows my company vended at, so it was fun to revisit tasks like mocking up and designing a booth and planning for new banners and signs to use at the show. Not to mention figuring out how we could fit everything in our suitcases so we didn’t have to pay crazy shipping and receiving costs. :)


Expectations

We were so busy before the show I didn’t even look at the list of classes and lectures being offered. Instead I was most excited about:

  • getting to meet in person so many of the Rookie Season students and League members I’d been getting to know online over the last several months
  • working in the booth
  • getting to meet my favorite fabric designers in person
  • checking out the other vendors at the show


Vending

This might sound crazy, but I love working at tradeshow booths! I'm quite an introvert, but I also love helping people, so put me in a tradeshow booth where I'm talking about something I'm passionate about and believe in, and I'll happily chat with people all day. I loved getting to meet all the League members who stopped by and it was great to see how well the couches in the booth worked as a meeting and hangout spot. I also loved getting to talk to all the quilters who stopped by and hadn't heard of the League before.

 

A number of the people I talked to have longarms but didn't seem to be giving themselves enough credit for their skills and capabilities (some had friends along who confirmed this). I want us all to be able to celebrate and be proud of our own work, and doubting our abilities is all too common in our industry, so I loved being able to share with them the tools and resources we have to help people become more confident in their quilting and business skills.

My absolute favorite moments were when someone's face would light up as they got excited and realized they really could turn their dream of running a longarm business into a reality; it brought me back to the same things I felt when I was starting my own business.

Even with all the excitement and joy of working in the booth, it is also tiring talking all day, and I made a note to remember to drink more water next year, as my voice was still a little hoarse for several days after I got home. The other hard part was standing on concrete all day. We definitely made note of the flooring options other vendors had in their booths and were talking about plans for what we'd do differently next time.


Walking the Show

The booth was so busy that we didn't have a lot of time for walking the show, but there were a few times throughout the weekend I got to see parts of the show. One goal I made after arriving at the show was to try every brand of longarm that was there, and I did! As a hand-guided quilter it was fun to just get an idea of how all of them handled and do a little quilting.

I also got to meet several of my fav fabric designers, including Carolyn Friedlander, Violet Craft, and the Ruby Star gals. In fact we were super lucky to have a booth next to the Ruby Star. I may have kept a close eye on each new batch of merchandise they set out and popped over to make a few purchases, including one of Alexia's amazing tiger mugs. 😉 I loved getting to see Carolyn's work in person and was so excited when I saw she was vending for the first time this year.

I never made it up to the third floor to see the quilts on display, but I felt pretty good about what I did get to see and enjoyed talking with other shops and vendors.

 
 


Social time outside the show

After the show ended for the day, it was time for dinner with friends and League members. The social hour we sponsored was so much fun and it was amazing to see so many League members all together in one space chatting and laughing and having a great time.


Takeaways and Final Thoughts

Overall my first QuiltCon was amazing and I'm so grateful to have been able to go with Jess and Josh as part of the Longarm League team. It was really fun to get to work together in person instead of just over Zoom, and I'm so glad to be part of this amazing community. My only real regret was missing out on Melody Miller's lecture. Next year I'll be sure to look at the lecture list ahead of time! Meeting and connecting with everyone, and hanging out with other quilters in such an inspiring environment was pretty emotionally intense, but in a great way. I left already looking forward to next year!

 

Here's what other League members had to say about their experiences this year:


Ashley Perkins of Hen House Quilting

 

How many times have you been to QuiltCon? 2

Was anything new or different this year? What keeps you coming back?
This year was much larger than 2022. I loved getting to see so many familiar faces and meeting new ones.

What were one or two highlights of this year's show for you?
My biggest highlights really were the people. Don’t get me wrong, the quilts are beautiful and inspiring, but the people are what will keep me coming back year after year. I loved hanging out in the Longarm League booth and chatting with other members.

Any takeaways from this year or things you're planning to do differently next time?
Perhaps plan to go to a lecture or two, but really I go for the networking so I love having an open schedule.

Do you have any recommendations for people considering going for the first time?
Don’t fill your days with classes and lectures, I think you’ll find that you like having some free time to hang out with people.


Emily Hoppe of So Sunny Quilts


Emily (left), with Graham and Mickie Gelling

How many times have you been to QuiltCon? 3

Was anything new or different this year? What keeps you coming back?
It is fun to see amazing quilts and see my quilting friends.

What were one or two highlights of this year's show for you?
Feeling like I have really become part of this amazing community. Over the last year I have made many friends over social media and to have the opportunity to meet them in person is so fun. I also loved having the Longarm League booth and happy hour it gave me a place to go if I needed down time or to meet up with others.

Any takeaways from this year or things you're planning to do differently next time?
In the past I have stayed in an Airbnb or with family, but this year I stayed at a hotel close to the conference and it was great to meet up with friends in the evening.

Do you have any recommendations for people considering going for the first time?
Not to over book yourself. Sign up for classes or lectures you are really excited about but don’t feel like you have to sign up for classes to keep busy there is a lot to do and lots of people to meet.


Mickie and Graham Gelling of Wander Stitch Company


How many times have you been to QuiltCon? 2

Was anything new or different this year? What keeps you coming back?
My first QuiltCon was the Virtual-Only year. So Atlanta 2023 was our first in-person QuiltCon.

There was larger inclusion/emphasis on quilters of color, and the identity of modern quilters throughout this QuiltCon, and I was THRILLED!!! The keynote was Chawne Kimber, a prominent quilter/activist, so the MQG was not shying away from the intersection of quilts and protest/self expression. I find embracing the multitudes of quilt styles to be a very refreshing point of view, especially welcomed by the MQG.

What were one or two highlights of this year's show for you?
Social inclusion!!! The Longarm League (LL) booth had couches and encouraged quilters of all stripes to breeze in and out, ask questions, and share time together. The Happy Hour LL sponsored was one of my highlights, since Jess and Josh invited EVERYBODY, it was a delightfully casual crowd of all manner of quilt enthusiasts. Wandering the show, and the vendor floors, there was an air of equality and approachability that was so inviting!!!

Any takeaways from this year or things you're planning to do differently next time?
1) Arrive 1-2 days early if I have ANY interest in seeing the city that's hosting!
2) Make stickers to trade!!! Business cards were totally fine, but the super fun folks had stickers printed.
3) Organize a few "unofficial" hangouts throughout the trip. Some of our best experiences were a Sticker Trade/Coffee Hour. The post LL Happy Hour pizza party was very similar. Just some inexpensive down time with new friends was such a gift!
4) I want the MQG quilt show to require written crediting of panto designers as well as longarmers/quilters, quilt sewists/designers, etc. These are each unique contributions, and equally important work.

Do you have any recommendations for people considering going for the first time?
Be prepared for overstimulation. Seriously. Take breaks, naps, walks, and/or bring earplugs or headphones. There are thousands of VERY EXCITED people, with a LOT of bright lighting and color. If you are sensory-sensitive, it's totally do-able, but BE PREPARED.

Embrace the mindset of introducing yourself to anybody that seems fun to chat with!!! You'll honestly get out of the social scene whatever you put into it. If you cross paths with a Quilty Celebrity, walk up and say hi. It was successfully 99.9% of the time, and Graham and I chatted with HUNDREDS of quilters, famous and not-yet famous. Just 20 seconds of bravery, and we met some of our art heroes!

COMFY SHOES. LAYERED CLOTHING.

If you ever feel weird, look up Graham and I. We're happy to talk!


Kristen Lee of Mashe Modern

 

How many times have you been to QuiltCon? 5

Was anything new or different this year? What keeps you coming back?
I keep coming back because it is the best show for modern quilts. It feels like the only the show that is my style of quilting. I didn't feel like there were any big changes from other years. I also keep going to meet people in person I know through instagram.

What were one or two highlights of this year's show for you?
The show was so bright and cheery and I just really loved the way the show was curated. I thought the quilts really embodied their categories and showed off amazing skills of their makers.

Any takeaways from this year or things you're planning to do differently next time?
I'd love to get my husband to come. I may volunteer more instead of taking classes.

Do you have any recommendations for people considering going for the first time?
There is enough to fill two days of walking the show and vendors without any classes, lectures or volunteering. If you want to do any of those you need more days!


Stacey Gilfillan of Little Gilly Quilts

         

How many times have you been to QuiltCon? 2

Was anything new or different this year? What keeps you coming back?
I absolutely love the vibe and enthusiasm at QuiltCon, which seems (to me) to tilt a bit younger and fresher, with more openness to diversity/inclusion/equity within our quilting community. Add to that, It simply FEELS GOOD to be amongst so many creatives and makers. Everyone I encountered or engaged with was kind and cheerful and excited to be there! And that's really why I keep coming back.

I've been to the International Quilt Fest in Houston 5 times, and while it's truly fabulous, it can also be a bit overwhelming. I feel like QuiltCon is just the right size for me, and these QuiltCon peeps are definitely my peeps!

What was different this year was there were no LAQ Classes. ZERO. Nadda. I was initially disappointed about that, especially since I'm a new longarmer with only one year under my belt. Then I chatted with one of my Texas guild friends (and my former longarmer) who had also been on the QuiltCon LAQ class faculty in recent years. She described a whole host of "issues" and other frustrations that negatively affected her LAQ classes at the Phoenix venue last year. She was not happy, her class participants also felt very short-changed, and they (faculty and participants) ALL shared their displeasure with the organizers.

Since there were no LAQ classes offered for 2023, I decided to buy the 4-Day Lecture Pass instead--and that was a great (and stress-free) decision! All those lectures were simply FANTASTIC, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of them. Yes, there were plenty of awesome classes that did appeal to me--especially the Improv selections. But I honestly didn't feel like I needed to start yet another project right now...Or shlep necessary supplies to/from class(es).

I was VERY happy to just bring a small hand-sewing project with me to each of the lectures. I got that 3-year WIP FINISHED while enjoying each and every lecture I attended! A true Win-Win 😊.

What were one or two highlights of this year's show for you?
Chawne Kimber's lecture and quilts, of course! I'm also newly relocated back to my home state of Massachusetts, and I recently joined the Northampton Modern Quilt Guild. It turns out that one of our members won an award at this year's QC: Carson Converse (Shelburne Falls, MA). Another NMQG member, Timna Tarr, had 3 quilts accepted into the show. So that's pretty cool :-)

Any takeaways from this year or things you're planning to do differently next time?
If there aren't any LAQ classes again in 2024, I will buy the 4-Day Lecture Pass again...and likely be working on another hand-sewing project. Feeding my head and heart with all that I learn and see during those lectures is food for the quilter's soul. Highly recommend 🙌🏻

Do you have any recommendations for people considering going for the first time?
Prepare to feel a little overwhelmed--but in a good way. Maybe sign up for only one class, or none like me. I truly enjoy attending the lectures and making time each day to visit the Quilt Exhibit.

Re: the Quilt Exhibit--Make a plan to walk through a few rows or 1-2 categories each day. It's nearly impossible to see all the quilts while you're at QC--especially if you are also trying to take a class or two and catch a few lectures...and visit the magnificent Vendors! So go easy on yourself and manage your expectations. I always order the book that will showcase ALL of the quilts that were juried into the exhibit that year--something I can review at my leisure and treasure forever.

I DO try to look at the list of quilts accepted to see if a). I know any of the quilters (or if they are from my state or guild), and b). if there are any artists I'm following on SM or otherwise intrigued with that particular year. You can search the artists by name on the QuiltCon app, see a great photo of their quilt(s), and learn about the artist, so be sure to download that QC app as it's a terrific resource.

Re: the Vendor Hall--After 30+ years of making quilts, there's precious little that I truly *need*...but maybe a few things I might really want. And when I'm at QuiltCon or Quilt Festival in Houston, I only buy fabric that I think is very UNIQUE and I couldn't likely get elsewhere else. So I make it a point to look at the list of Vendors ahead of time and I circle maybe 5 or 6 that I really truly want to visit during QuiltCon.

For example, my current quilty crush is Carolyn Friedlander. I've been buying her patterns and notions for years, and I made it a point to go and visit her booth in Atlanta and spend some money on her yummy fabrics. The added bonus was that It was so lovely to finally meet her!

 

And, that's a wrap! Thanks so much to our members who contributed to this post. We hope you enjoyed reading more about the show!

 

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