Quilters hit Houston

In November 2007 Jean Bartlett took a workshop during which she talked of her visit to Houston Quilt festival. After a few minutes Marlene Chaffey came up with the challenge of organising a group visit to the 2008 festival.

So… October 26th at 6.00am in pitch darkness we gathered at Exeter bus station. There were many mixed feelings, excitement, trepidation and worry as Barbara Janssen was unsure of going as she had severe back pain and was back on crutches. Never to be beaten we set off and eventually 12 of us flew into New York on a brilliantly sunny morning with views of the Empire State building and The Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately we now had 2 wheelchair passengers and had missed our connection to Houston! Not a good moment ! Eventually after a 24 hour journey we arrived at our hotel in the very smart modern business district of Houston amid sky scrapers and all spotlessly clean.

Monday morning arrived and by 8.00am we were all up and looking a great deal better and enthusiastically went off to complete our registration for the Festival at the enormous George G convention centre.

And so to the Festival ….. 0ur N.E.C. show is big-this is Gigantic. It is laid out spaciously, lit beautifully and quilts hung to enhance each other. The traders stalls, all 1000 of them, were stacked with every notion, embellishment, tool, or fabric imaginable.

There were about 900 workshops or lectures from which to choose, All highly organised and many of us learned new skills.

Then to the quilts. The overall winner was Sharon Schambers with “Spirit of Mother Earth” which looked like velvet in rich red and highly quilted. Philippa Naylor carried the flag for the U.K. by winning the Machine quilting section with “Flower Power”

There were too many to mention but it was fascinating to see how different nationalities were using different colours or techniques. The Japanese were using beautiful muted colours of grey blues or browns, the French were using fabric art and almost painting their work with quilting in sepias and black, the Americans used bright colours and a lot of machine quilting. After 3 days we were still finding quilts that we had not noticed before, they were beautiful.

Each of us had a variety of experiences as we visited the area, we visited Macey’s The Heritage Museum to see the old buildings and the antique quilts, the excellent fine art museum the Rothko Chapel the Menil collection, quilt shops with hot cookies and coffee to greet us, the San Jacinto Monument saw some of the devastation of Hurricane Ike, walked the tunnels with cafes and shops, walked the skywalk built between sky scrapers, visited a warehouse full of Halloween decorations(not to be repeated) and met up with The Cotton Picken quilt group for a Mexican supper. Someone took well over 600 photos and one person each day could be heard saying “it’s all so big!”

Finally a week later we checked out with bulging suitcases and lots of memories and returned having been inspired, overwhelmed, and very humbled as to our abilities.
Thank you Marlene for being crazy enough to organise the trip, it was great.

Helen Beardsall

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