Houston Quilt Festival

Disclaimer: I have never made a quilt, nor am I ever likely to.  (Unless you count the blanket I made a few years ago out of denim squares cut from old jeans.)  But thanks to the wonderful folks at Quilting Arts/Cloth Paper Scissors, Quilt Fest is so much more than just quilts!  They feature an ATC trade, lots of fun mixed-media classes (that you can only get into via lottery) and various artists working right there on the show floor so you can watch them do their artful magic. 

As this was the festival’s 35th year, we were encouraged to make 35 ATCs.  I went back to the “ATC wall” several times throughout my four-day stay, often running into the same people over and over again.  I “explained” ATCs to at least 30 curious people in the process, and many of them expressed interest in trying them and excitement at the idea of trading.  Maybe we’ll see some of those “converts” at next year’s show.  🙂

atc wall

This is a view of downtown Houston from inside the convention center.  The weather was beautiful, and a nice breeze made the city, state and country flags look their best.

view outside

The first class I took was making an embellished tote bag with elinor peace bailey.  You’ve probably seen some of her work in various magazines; she is a wonderfully gifted and prolific artist.   The first thing I saw when I arrived in her classroom was an array of colorful dolls and bags.  This particular one I think conveys all the excitement of being at Quilt Fest!

thrilled doll

And these could represent the happy students in her class:

happy dolls

elinor herself is as colorful and interesting as her dolls.  She is also one of the kindest and most patient teachers you will ever meet.  She started the class with an inspiring speech about taking risks in our art and not worrying about what others think.  I adored her!


The length of embellished fabric she’s holding will soon be turned into a bag.  She described the bag construction as a simple no-brainer, what we were to concentrate on was creating a beautiful piece by drawing, painting, embellishing and combining fabrics.  She demonstrated drawing a face and many people did faces, but she said it didn’t matter what we drew.  I decided to draw a bird.  I thought it looked too much like a chicken, so I wasn’t that pleased with it, but I knew a face wouldn’t turn out that much better, so I went with it.  I got to try watercolor pastels for the first time and just loved them.  (Guess what my next Michael’s coupon will be used for!)  I used the pastels to color my bird and outlined his features with a Sharpie.  I had a little trouble constructing the bag, as the sewing machine didn’t like the many layers I was trying to force through it, but I plowed on and was able to finish in the class.

bird bag


bird bag back


In another class, we made “no ordinary journal” with Madeline Arendt.  We covered a comp book with fabric and used various embellishments to decorate it.  My favorite bit is the vintage spool of thread acting as a closure.

fabric comp

The two other  formal classes I took were “Mixed Media Miscellany” 1 and 2, in which approximately 15-20 teachers sat in a large room demonstrating different techniques and/or projects, and you walked around at will, sitting in on whichever you found interesting.  Each participant got a thick hand-out with each technique being explained on a page or two for future reference. 

And then there were the “lottery” classes in the “Make It University” area sponsored by Quilting Arts/Cloth Paper Scissors.  Up to 15 minutes before each class started, you could put your name in a jar and if your name was drawn, you got into the class.  I got into all six of the classes I tried for, which was fabulous!  The very best one was the last, “Surviving the Runway.”  I won’t go into too many details, but it involved making an “outlandish couture item” representing either the 70s, 80s, 90s or 2000s, using the materials provided.  (Unfortunately the materials provided were really awful, tacky things like Fun Foam, pom-poms, chenille stems, feathers and colored duct tape.)  You could “earn” extra materials by doing embarrassing things such as singing the Brady Bunch theme song or moonwalking.  I made a pair of gi-normous earrings representing the 80s; one says “radical” and the other says “just say no.”  (I made liberal use of pom-poms and the ric-rac I earned by singing the theme song to the Flintstones.) The event culminated with approximately 20 women dressed in Fun Foam gyrating to Van Halen’s Dancing in the Street in front of approximately seven thousand complete strangers.  Yes, I was one of them, and yes, it was super fun.  Even more fun than shopping!

Did I mention they had shopping?  Only over 1,000 vendors!  Here’s a look at a tiny portion of them from an upper floor:


I did quite well when it came to the shopping; I had budgeted $300, but ended up only spending $110, and $40 of that was for a lovely tapestry purse.  (I can’t resist buying purses!)  I think I just became overwhelmed by all the possibilities and worried that I’d overspend.  And while I was excited by a lot of the new techniques I’d learned in classes, I kept thinking I could buy most of the materials at Michael’s, Jo-Ann or Hobby Lobby when I got home and save $$ with a coupon!

There were many beautiful and unique quilts at the show, of course, and I’ll share my favorites in a future post.  In the meantime, here’s a photo (borrowed from another site) of the Best in Show winner, Caryl Bryer Fallert.  Her quilt is called On the Wings of a Dream.  If you look closely, you can see the faint outline of a flying bird (possibly a heron?).  It was an honor to see this quilt in person; it’s so beautiful it actually brought a tear to my eye!  One can only imagine the hours of work that go into creating something so special.  As I said, I’ll never be a quilter, but I can certainly appreciate those who are and who do such amazing work.



3 Responses to “Houston Quilt Festival”

  1. Terri Says:

    WOW! I feel better just looking at Elinor and artwork! She is a lovely piece of artwork herself, isn’t she? Your bag is WoNdErFuL, Lisa! So colorful and vibrant, can’t wait to see it in person.

    A beautiful post, chickie. I so love quilts, but like you don’t think I’ll ever actually make one. I’m not that patient with long term projects. I love looking at them, though.

    Glad you had a great trip and made it home safe and sound.

  2. trisha too Says:

    Lucky, lucky me! i now have the lovely journal you made–thank you for sharing! (i FINALLY got a blog post going, it’s short but sweet, but you are linked!)
    thank you again!

  3. Lisa Says:

    Oh. my. gosh. You made some incredible things! Did you actually make that bag on the spot? I see sewing machines in the background. All the classes sounded like great fun. I hope you will tell us more about it.

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