Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2011 International Quilt Festival, Houston, TX

I can't believe that it's already been two weeks since Mr. Phone and I had some fun at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. Austin is just two and a half hours away, but I still had a hard time deciding to go. I found out about it in early September, but I didn't commit taking the vacation days until mid-October. (I'm stingy with my vacation days. Picture a squirrel with acorns.)

Seeing the quilts on display and visiting the thousands of vendor booths was a no-brainer, but I really wanted to get in on some classes as well. That's where signing up late really gets you. Apparently there's an early registration period, and it had ended September 30th, blah, blah, blah. 

Ultimately, I found myself cross-referencing the class descriptions with the list of classes that hadn't been filled by September 30th. I wrote down the ones that were available and ranked them in order of the ones I wanted to take the most if possible. It was very time consuming. I really wish they had a better online registration system.

Another downside to being left with onsite registration is that I had to reference a third document to find out what supplies I would need for ALL of the classes that I could possibly end up taking. That was a big pain.

I knew my first trip to festival in Houston would be a learning experience. Next year I'll definitely register in advance, not only to get the classes I want, but also so that I'll only have to bring the supplies I'll need for the classes I get into.

Lucky for me, onsite registration was pretty straightforward. We stayed in a hotel just outside Houston on Wednesday night and then drove down to the convention center on Thursday morning. It was a really early morning, we got up at about 6:30am. Traffic wasn't too bad, and we got downtown at 8:30 or so. I got all of my first choice classes, bid farewell to Mr. Phone, and went off to find my classroom.

I jumped right in with some longarm sewing, even though I'd never even seen a longarm sewing machine in person. Go big or go home I guess. We learned strategies for making all kinds of border designs, like feathers and leaves, and turning them into edge-to-edge quilting patterns. Then we hopped on the machines. We used some HQ18 Avantés for that class, I think. They were great. The stitch regulators were on, and that was fine by me. I'm sure it takes a lot of practice to make your movements steady enough that your stitch length is consistent. 

In another longarm class, the instructor showed a different method of making feathers, and we got to use some Gammil longarm machines. It was really interesting to see different approaches, though. Just like with learning any other workflow, it's great to see how other people do things so you can pick and choose what works for you. 

Mr. Phone was completely supportive of my aspiration to take five classes in two days. He was able to work remotely, and he even signed up to come to a class with me. Unfortunately, that class wasn't so hot, and we didn't get much out of it, but I was pleased with all of the other classes.

My only recommendation is to limit yourself to two three-hour classes a day. I took three three-hour classes on Friday, and I was exhausted by the time I got out of the last one. Because Mr. Phone and I had to be back in Austin early on Saturday, we hit the road right after that class. We were exhausted by the time we were back in Austin city limits. 

Definitely get yourself to a quilt festival if you can make it happen. It was totally worth it, and I can't wait to do early registration for classes in 2012. It was completely eye-opening to take classes on topics that interest me from folks who are passionate about their craft.

I really enjoyed taking notes in class with my iPad 2 and my handy ZAGGfolio bluetooth keyboard. It worked really well and was lighter to carry around than my 15" MacBook Pro. I like how a lot of the quilting community is in touch with technology. Though, I was disappointed to find that EQ7 is not Mac-compatible. Say what? That's a hot mess.

While the EQ booth lost me at "Windows-only," there were so many great vendors in Houston. I was pumped to see the folks from Craftsy there. Their online classes are the next best thing to taking a class in person. I also enjoyed seeing Mr. Phone's fascination with the longarms and embroidery machines on display. Plus we got to check out some great sewing room furniture from Koala, Arrow, etc. I'd love some Arrow furniture to accommodate a couple of domestic machines and a serger. We'll have to wait on that, though.

There's a big, enthusiastic community of quilters out there. Being at a festival or in a classroom in person is a great way to participate. Don't hesitate to take a class at a local quilt shop even if you can't make it to festival. The atmosphere and camaraderie will keep you coming back for more.

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