East Dakota Quilter


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QuiltCon Registration Tips

QuiltCon2015_Email

I registered for QuiltCon 2015 today! It will be my first-ever QuiltCon, and I am very excited. As a total newbie, I was unfamiliar with the registration process but now have a few observations and suggestions to share.

Expect delays. I expected the MQG server would be overwhelmed at the time of registration, so this wasn’t a total surprise to me. The fact that the site was already experiencing major delays more than a full hour in advance of registration worried me. At that point, I was able to connect to the site about 3 minutes after I clicked each link. By the time registration opened, there were delays around 10-20 minutes, depending on the computer, place in the queue, etc. It took me 30 minutes to complete my registration for all 4 sessions I wanted to attend, including 2 workshops and 2 lectures. I logged in at exactly the time registration opened. I type 115+ WPM. I copied the discount code in advance so all I’d have to do was paste it. I did everything right, and the fastest I could get through the server was still 30 minutes. (I saw the first Instagram tags about 10-15 minutes before mine.)

Use the email link. I thought I would be clever and link to the site directly, saving the link-from-email step. I got errors on both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox saying that my session had timed out and was never able to move past those errors to the website. When I clicked the email link, I still experienced a delay, but I was ultimately able to get through.

Use a computer instead of a mobile device. I saw this advice on the MQG website and Instagram, so I didn’t even attempt to use my phone for comparison purposes. But I figured I’d still pass along the advice.

Register in pieces. Prioritize the workshops you want to attend. If there’s a session you don’t want to miss, register for it first, then “modify” your registration to include additional sessions.  There’s a tutorial for doing that here. Each time I clicked a link (including the “Add to Agenda” link for each session), it took about 5-10 minutes. If you consider all the people who could add one session in the amount of time you’re setting up your full courseload, it’s not surprising you could end up with a waitlisted status.

MQG_modification

Prioritize workshops over lectures. Each time I added a session, I could still see the webpage listing all sessions while the request processed. I used that time to see which sessions were full already. Each session showed remaining seats available below the title. For perspective, about 20 minutes after registration opened, every lecture I saw still had 300+ spots available while at least 4 workshops were completely full (“Add to Agenda” changes to “Add to Waitlist”). Many more workshops had few seats remaining.

I was interested to see whether I could guess which workshops would fill up first. I did a pretty good job! Of course all this year’s speakers have impressive backgrounds. Some are always popular, like Anna Maria Horner, whose sessions filled immediately. Most quilters know who you mean if you simply write her initials: AMH. Similarly, Alison Glass and Lizzy House have great new fabric lines; their sessions were full in less than 30 minutes. And Lee Heinrich‘s popular book (she’s one of three authors) also meant her session filled quickly. If a designer or quilter is all over Instagram, (s)he is going to have full sessions. Duh.

I didn’t scroll through the whole list while I waited for my page to refresh–I only thought of it halfway through my registration–so I don’t have a comprehensive list of all the courses that were full; I did notice that the following sessions were full 20 minutes after registration, the absolute soonest I could complete my registration due to the crush of people on the MQG server:

  • The Meadow with Lizzy House (031)
  • Drive by Color with Anna Maria Horner (220)
  • Advanced Piecing with Lee Heinrich (715)
  • Creative Quilting with Your Walking Foot by Jacquie Gering (813)

By the time I got to my second run of registration (for the lectures) 10 minutes later–a total of 30 minutes after registration opened–I found the following additional sessions were full:

  • Modern Appliqué Overview by Alison Glass (120)
  • Composition in Modern Quilts by Bill Kerr (211)
  • Mod Corsage by Anna Maria Horner (230)
  • Intro to Embroidery by Alison Glass (420)
  • Basic Improv Quiltmaking with the Quilters of Gee’s Bend (515)
  • Little Changes, Big Variety by Angela Walters (812)

The courses above appear to be this year’s hot ticket items. If you got into these courses, congratulations!

Don’t “search” for courses. As noted above, each time the page refreshes (i.e. each time you click anything on the screen), you waste precious minutes. Running a search means that instead of scrolling down the page quickly, you have to wait for the page to respond to your search parameters and refresh. Instead, locate the course by scrolling down the page. Courses are listed numerically by course number, with the workshop section above the lecture section if you select the “All Registrations” option (versus only lectures or general admission).

I am only attending QuiltCon over the weekend since I have to save as many vacation days as possible for my wedding this year. I got into all four sessions that I prioritized!

QuiltCon_Confirmation

I am nervous since I won’t know a soul at the conference center. If you’ll be there–and especially if you’ll be in one of my sessions–please let me know! I am most looking forward to making some real life connections.

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The Big Move… and a New Sewing Room!

I loved living in Chicago; however, I am settling happily into my new place in the Washington D.C. Metro Area. The proximity to other destinations along the east coast is really exciting. Perhaps best of all? My new sewing room!

My boyfriend built a pegboard for my sewing supplies, and I finally have someplace to hang the only oil painting I’ve ever made so Myrna Loy is not smirking at you while you watch TV, use the restroom, etc.

EastDakotaQuilter_sewing_room

Here’s a close-up of some of the things I keep on my pegboard:

EastDakotaQuilter_sewing_room

 I have a place to spread out my Marcelle Medallion while I’m working on it so it doesn’t get crushed:

EastDakotaQuilter_marcelle_medallion

The room is doubling for now as a guest room, and there is some spillover with extra books. (*cough cough* The dresser might be full of fabric, though. And all the plastic tubs and blue crates, too.)

EastDakotaQuilter_sewing_room

Here’s my sewing machine. She’s on her last leg, but goodness, I love her!

EastDakotaQuilter_sewing_view

I even have room for some family heirlooms!

EastDakotaQuilter_iron_heirloom

 

I still have a lot of unpacking and organizing to do (and wall space to fill – yay!), but I love that I have a dedicated creative space. I hope to get back on track with this blog and begin to post more projects in the next few weeks.


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New [Photo] Perspectives… Coming Soon

True to spring, the April weather has been unpredictable, but the fluctuations became even more drastic when I traveled for work the past few weeks. I went from a partly cloudy 88 degrees in Dallas one day to 22 inches of snow in Minnesota the next!

ice possible warning

Ever since I saw this post by Dana of Dana Made It, I’ve been wanting to see the Mustangs of Las Colinas (a fountain), which I discovered is just minutes from my company’s Dallas office. Who knew?! I went one day over lunch:

mustangs of las colinas

mustangs of las colinas

My photos don’t do it justice. You can walk right up to some of the horses, which are bigger than life-size, and you can cross the water in a few places, too. When you step back, you notice that the little fonts by the horses’ hooves make it look like they are splashing through the water. I loved it. I will say I had a little trouble finding it because I didn’t expect it to be in an office park!

Because of all the travel and a nasty bout of the Plague, I didn’t get much done on the creative front, so I photographed some works in progress instead. First up are the two embroidered quilt blocks I finished for my barn quilt:

barn quilt blocks

tractor block

barn block

Ultimately, the quilt should look something like this:

barn quilt template

The images on the quilt include those places that are dearest to me: my grandparents’ house, my childhood home, my grandpa’s tractor, etc.

The on-point setting made the quilt blocks awkward to photograph, however. So did being in public. Do other bloggers live in more rural areas [than Chicago], or do they just have a ton more confidence when taking photos? People walked by me every 5 seconds or so, and several had comments, which ranged from “That’s cool!” to the incoherent and/or hostile. (I live in an “interesting” neighborhood.) Still, I saw two really amazing places I wanted to use as backgrounds but just didn’t have the guts. I was really glad I skipped one of the two since a guy who glared at me walked past me into the building a second before I’d planned to photograph it with my quilt blocks. Eek!

I complained a few weeks ago that most of my poor photos are due to getting home too late to catch the natural light. For the photos above, I did at least have the last shreds of light for the day. I think the photos are still mediocre at best, so… I think I’m taking my first-ever photography course! A community college near where I work offers it as continuing education. The course is on Mondays, which would leave the rest of the week free for work travel, and it’s late enough in the day that it shouldn’t conflict with most of my meetings. I am really excited.

With that bit of info, perhaps you can excuse the poor lighting of the following late-night shots. Since I’m sewing a million little blocks together, I’ve been doing them in strands, and they make the cutest banners:

lotta jansdotter banner

I like looking at the colors in even the unfinished state of the quilt:

scraps

When I was designing the quilt, I was on a lunch break and couldn’t actually touch the fabric. I made this little doodle while I daydreamed about the colors:

journal doodle

With any luck, the blog will soon go from shady instagram sketches to magazine-quality photos!


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Exploring Quilt Shops Near Madison, Wisconsin

I had a fantastic weekend. My boyfriend and I decided to get out of the city. Since we didn’t want to spend the whole weekend driving, we settled on nearby Madison, Wisconsin. Most of our weekend activities don’t really relate to this blog: we ate at cute restaurants, went to a museum, walked through the capitol building and the university arboretum, etc. But I did squeeze in a few minutes at two of Madison’s fabric stores: the Sewcial Lounge and Mill House Quilts.

Madison_Medley by EastDakotaQuilter

I regularly check the blog In Color Order. The blog’s author teaches classes at the Sewcial Lounge, which is how I heard of the store. I was excited to visit a store specializing in modern fabrics. In fact, the shop doesn’t bother with any non-modern prints! It was nice not to sort through “filler fabrics.” I expected the store to contain a lot of fabrics with a small sewing space, but quite a large portion of the space was a dedicated sewing area/lounge. The small shop was bustling when I went in, so it seems I was not the only one who appreciated the fun colors! I especially liked a print with small houses and cats (which I thought they were foxes at first). I’m kicking myself for not getting at least a small piece since it’s not on their website and I haven’t been able to identify the fabric with Google since returning home. This might warrant a phone call at some point…

Comparatively, Mill House Quilts is enormous. I don’t know why I don’t remember seeing them at the Quilt Expo last September. Maybe their booth was so full of people that I decided not to stop, or maybe the fabric selection was so wide that I felt overwhelmed. Maybe I got distracted by coffee… In any case, I see the sign every time I drive from Chicago to visit my parents in South Dakota, only I don’t want to make the ten-and-a-half hour drive take longer than necessary. I was glad for a chance to stop without cutting into family time.

mill house snowman

The store was frankly even better than I’d expected. Again, I was expecting some kind of megastore the size of a warehouse. It wasn’t that. But it was still the biggest fabric store I’ve seen that wasn’t a Joann’s, and I would have been happy to receive as a gift almost any fabric in that store. There were dedicated areas for civil war prints, modern fabrics, batiks, etc. There was a whole room full of sale fabrics. I think the best part, though, was the variety of quilts hanging from the rafters of the store. There were many styles, many colors, and it SO made me want to go home and start a new project! I took a brochure with me and was a little awed by the large number of classes. I only wish I lived closer (and didn’t spend 3 hours a day in commuter traffic already) so I could attend some of them!

DMC floss at MillHouseQuilts by EastDakotaQuilter

modern brights at MillHouseQuilts by EastDakotaQuilter

MillHouseQuilts sample by EastDakotaQuilter

MillHouseQuilts civil war section by EastDakotaQuilter

EastDakotaQuilter purchases at MillHouseQuilts

Okay, so I broke down and bought a few red and white fabrics for an idea that’s been percolating–even though I’m not finished with the myriad other projects I’ve started. That’s me standing outside the store with my purchases!


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Mardi Gras Quiet Book

In a recent post, I mentioned I was working on a project with a palette too specific to share without giving away the intended recipient. Today is the big reveal!

mardi gras quiet book cover by EastDakotaQuilter

A dear friend of mine moved to Illinois from New Orleans several years ago to be nearer her husband’s family. She enjoys visiting her hometown several times per year but sometimes receives negative comments related to Mardi Gras. I’m not sure Midwesterners (which I am) tend to understand that Mardi Gras can be so much more than just the Girls Gone Wild fodder of Bourbon Street. The last two years, she has posted this article about the fun things she’ll be doing with family. I wanted to help her celebrate her hometown and teach others about the nicer traditions by making her kids a Quiet Book with a Mardi Gras theme.

This is my “design wall” to show how the fabrics coordinate (definitely a cohesive palette!). My design wall was created by sticking fabric to the wall with washi tape–hardly high-tech.

design wall for mardigrasbook by EastDakotaQuilter

Below are photos/descriptions of my quiet book pages.

history of mardi gras by EastDakotaQuilter

I wanted to start the book with the history of Mardi Gras. Even though my friend’s not Catholic, religious influences played a big part in forming the holiday.

hold_hands by EastDakotaQuilter

The objective of this page is to have the boy hold his mother’s hand and move to the sidewalk.

club nola

 

This page represents the musical influence of New Orleans. It was intended to look like one of New Orleans’ distinctive buildings with large, shuttered windows, plantation-style white doors, and European details. I decided to skip the shutters and doors at the last minute because they would have hidden the band members. I decided I liked the balcony appearance without them.

jazz band finger puppets

The band members are also finger puppets!

make king cake by EastDakotaQuilter

The pages above relate to baking a king cake. The spoon and whisk pull out of an elastic holder and are connected with a strand of embroidery floss. The refrigerator doors and cupboards on the opposite page open to reveal the ingredients for king cake. The refrigerator has detachable magnets with photos of the kids and their parents(redacted to protect their identity).

I wasn’t sure whether I could make the magnets stick to fabric or felt, so I had to find a way to sew them on. I repurposed a piece of plastic packaging to achieve this. I heated a pin until it was red-hot and pushed it through the squares of plastic I had cut and marked. I melted a set of holes in each corner. Then I attached once piece of plastic to each magnet, two per photo (one for the fridge, one for the photo itself), by sewing it to the fabric/felt. It worked pretty well!

mardi gras quiet book by EastDakotaQuilter

Once the king cake is mixed on the previous pages, it’s time to bake and serve the cake. The oven comes with an oven mitt. (See the discussion about my Pinterest board below for sources.) The finished cake is a puzzle, and there is a detachable knife and felt numbers to count the pieces.

mardi gras masks by EastDakotaQuilter

On this page, the kids can select a mask for the little girl.

fright night image by EastDakotaQuilter

fright night boy by EastDakotaQuilter

fright night girl by EastDakotaQuilter

Some suburbs celebrate “Fright Night,” which is very similar to Halloween in that kids dress up in costumes. For this set of pages, there are several costume options for the boy and girl.

mardi gras parade by EastDakotaQuilter

mardi gras parade loot by EastDakotaQuilter

Toys from the page on the left can be detached and put into the bag on the right, which mirrors the catching of “loot” during the many parades of Mardi Gras. I also embroidered a ladder, which is how young children are able to see the parade over the heads of adults. My friend pointed out that if she has trouble keeping track of any of the pieces, she can put them into the bag on this page – it’s huge!

mardi gras krewe by EastDakotaQuilter

There are numerous “krewes” at Mardi Gras, including the Mardi Gras Indians and Bacchus. On these pages, the kids are asked to look at the characters on the left to determine which of them belongs to the krewe on the right.

mail a letter by EastDakotaQuilter

felt mail by EastDakotaQuilter

On these pages, the kids can select one of the polaroid photos I took of them (and their favorite stuffed animals) this weekend, put them into a buttoned envelope, and mail them home to friends to share the Mardi Gras experience.

Processes:

I used the thickest Pellon interfacing I could find to stiffen my pages (interior design strength!). I thought it would be easier than quilting each page with batting in the middle and mostly liked the result. Unfortunately, the Pellon was not like the sticky-on-both-sides interfacing I’ve used before, so I wonder if I shouldn’t have sewn pages together in the middle in addition to the sides.

I elected not to use metal clips to hold the book together because I feared it would turn into a Noisy Book! I also opted against sewing the thick pages into a binder-type binding because I was lazy and it sounded hard. In the end, I used a hybrid of the most common forms of quiet book binding to make my binding with eyelets and ribbon.

I pinned lots of inspirational photos/graphics of Mardi Gras and New Orleans to a Pinterest board. It was secret so my friend wouldn’t know about my project, but I have since made it public. You can check it out here.

I made my book 8 1/2 x 11″ so I could use a standard-sized sheet of paper when designing and sizing my images. It also made it easy for me to test out different options in MS Word.

Making a book for kids when you can’t remember the skill levels at each age is kind of difficult, but I had fun using different claps, closures, and notions. I didn’t really think this would become as time-consuming as it did. I somehow thought I could do the whole book in just a few hours after I did the planning. HA! I can only laugh at myself in hindsight. I could probably have made a whole quilt in the time it took me to complete this project. You might be able to tell which pages I worked on at the beginning versus which ones I had to rush to be done before I went to visit my friend this weekend! But I’m not complaining about the time spent; it was mostly relaxing (when I wasn’t sewing pages together backward).


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[Needle]working Through Grief

I didn’t post last week because I was home for my grandma’s funeral. Although I am still grieving, it was nice to see family, and I was so glad I worked on putting photos into albums the week before. My grandma’s next-oldest sister was able to identify most of the people in the hundreds of photos, including some from the early 1900s! Having the photos on pages we could flip through made for quick work, and I’m sure it meant getting through photos we wouldn’t have had time for otherwise.

double wedding 1924

war era grandparents

This past weekend, I really craved quiet time, but I didn’t want to sit around my apartment and dwell on things. My boyfriend suggested we go to his former professor’s second home in South Haven, Michigan. It was perfect. I worked on embroidering the first block of my barn quilt while it snowed Saturday morning. We also visited the town’s lighthouse and kitschy/antique shops.

embroidering in South Haven

lighthouse

After I dropped Johann at his dad’s house Sunday evening, I went home and worked on two new blocks for my sampler quilt. I hurried home after work again yesterday to add four more. (Note the ironing board cover has been updated since the Sunday Brunch Jacket.)

6 new blocks

Looking back over the past two weeks of projects, the embroidery especially was therapeutic at a difficult time. As an added bonus, some of the photos I shared at my grandma’s funeral are ideal candidates for my barn quilt, now that I know what they depict.


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Quilt Expo – Madison, Wisconsin

A month or so ago, I received a spam message in my work inbox that was forwarded from a legal organization I belong to. The solicitation related to a quilt expo in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s probably the only spam message I’ve ever appreciated.

I thought about the message for a long time. Given how short a time I’ve been making quilts and the limit of my skill so far, it seemed like a bit of a stretch that I’d need to attend a quilt expo to get ideas. Not to mention the fact that I just started a project that could easily take me 10 years to complete. I discarded all these arguments because Madison sounded like a really nice city to visit for a quick overnight trip. Entrance wasn’t expensive, and since I work in the suburbs an hour and a half from my Chicago apartment, I reasoned I’d already be almost halfway if I left from the office Friday afternoon. I really just wanted to see what colors and patterns other people use–beyond an internet search, which has been my only experience so far–and this seemed like a fun opportunity to do so.

I felt a little out of sorts when I arrived. Everyone else came with at least one other person. I didn’t know where to begin, and I didn’t have an expert with me to consult (or even someone whose presence would force me to pretend I knew what I was doing). Luckily, the quilt contest exhibit was right by the front entrance. I decided to start there.

WOW! I saw hand quilting, machine quilting, appliqué–you name it! And these weren’t lazy quilters like I am. My favorite was a quilt that won third place in its category, Dreaming in Color by Dorinda Evans of Madison, Wisconsin:

I also loved this border on a quilt called Tangerine Rose by Lynn Droege of Overland Park, Kansas:

This quilt (Geisha Fans by Barbara Fuller of Baraboo, Wisconsin) mixed quarter Dresden blocks with normal, square blocks, which I thought was interesting:

This quilt, Chicken Soup by Sheila Hixon of Lakewood, Wisconsin, made me laugh more loudly than was appropriate at the expo:

Another of my favorites was an embroidered-block quilt called Barns of Wisconsin by Sue Brooks of North Freedom, Wisconsin:

Here are some close-ups of the detail in her quilt:

I bought some embroidery patterns from a vendor that are in a similar style. My plan is to review the templates and use them as a stylistic framework to create my own patterns of barns and farmhouses that were part of my childhood. This was based on the success of my first-ever embroidery project, which I began in my hotel room the night before the expo. When could someone ever be more excited about quilting than the night before a quilt expo?! But I didn’t want to lug my sewing machine with me, so I needed a more mobile project that would expend my extra creative energy. There’s a block of my newest quilt that had a letter “B” on the layout I drew. I figured if I gave the quilt as a gift, that would be a great place to embroider the couple’s name, and since my boyfriend’s last name starts with B and most of his siblings are unmarried, they seemed like likely candidates. Then I got more realistic and thought how hard it would be to part with a quilt after making dozens of personalized blocks. So I picked a pattern I liked for myself instead, Sarah Jane Studio‘s October–which matches the autumn theme of my quilt colors.

After I finished looking at the contest exhibit, I had just enough time for coffee before I went to Nancy Zieman’s class: Nancy’s 30 Favorite Sewing & Quilting Techniques. My mom learned how to sew by watching PBS’s Sewing with Nancy, so I had all the giddiness of someone about to meet a favorite celebrity.

And she was funny! Some of my favorite moments:

Nancy commented on the course title. She said, “Some of these tips are better than others. With 30, they won’t all be winners!”

Nancy said her favorite method of organizing projects is to roll the pieces of fabric into a large towel so they don’t get crease marks. An audience member jokingly asked, “How many towels do you have, Nancy?” Nancy responded, “Only *I* know that!”

At the end of the presentation, I even helped take down the quilt that was a backdrop for her presentation! That’s right: I touched a quilt Nancy sewed! Haha. She was gracious enough to take a photo with me before I left, too.

After class, I walked up and down the rows of stalls. I saw lots of cool things and eavesdropped on more than a handful of conversations. I overheard one lady say to her friend, “There’s a light-up quilt. I guess that’s the new thing this year.” I thought to myself, “Yikes! I don’t even know what the old thing is!”

I need to learn how to use wool and felted wool. There was lots of it, and it was so pretty!

My favorite booth was for a store called Primitive Gatherings. They had such a fantastically gorgeous selection of fabrics. When I walked past on the way to Nancy’s class, I stopped a few seconds to grab a business card (well, slip of paper) and drink in the colors. Afterward, I was surprised there was a line just to get into the booth! A lady walking by said, “That makes sense. It’s all in the name.” Apparently, this place is famous. I bought a bunch of fabrics for the back side of my Dear Jane quilt. Since I’m thinking of doing quilt-as-you-go, I could make each square a different fabric. They’re so pretty, maybe I’ll even use that side as the front!

I was disappointed when the $60 I spent didn’t get me one of their printed bags. This is actually very stupid. I mean, I have a ton of printed bags. I usually avoid getting more because I don’t want to store them. But the salesperson told another woman she had to carry the bag with the logo out, and then I unconsciously waited for him to tell me the same thing when I made my purchase. (I was browsing when the other woman checked out.) No luck! Like I said, I shouldn’t have been disappointed because I don’t really need another bag. And with as popular as they are, it would’ve been impractical for them to print bags for every customer, regardless how little each spent. I get it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the booth itself. I asked if I could take a photo and was told I couldn’t. But it was the absolute nicest way to be turned down. The salesguy looked a little uncomfortable when I asked, frowned a little. “It’s okay if I can’t,” I said. “I understand you’d want to protect your brand image.” He looked relieved. “Sorry,” he said. “Boss’ orders.” He could’ve just said no. Instead, he looked like he wanted to say yes and was struggling because he couldn’t. I don’t care if he was the boss and it was his own decision, it was nice of him to humor me like that! And I really can’t fault anyone for wanting to control their own branding. What I do have a photo of is the fabric I purchased from them:

Shopped out, I went to the extension part of the quilt exhibit to look around. Again, the quilts were a lot more elaborate than anything I could (or would choose to) make with my old, very plain sewing machine. Here were some highlights:

Not A Farmer’s Wife by Carolyn Vogel

Goodnight Sweetheart by Jean Lohmar

I left fairly early. I was glad not to have to wait around for an expo partner and congratulated myself for having decided to go alone, after all.

The weather was fantastic. I thought about driving straight home, but I didn’t want to waste such beautiful daylight hours. Instead, I drove to the capitol building in Madison and sat outside on a bench, working at my embroidery piece:

I had a great day and am glad I went to the expo. In the end, I think the target audience is people who are much more into quilting and batik fabrics than I am, but it was still a nice way to see a wide variety of fabrics all at once. Would I consider going again? I really don’t know. But I couldn’t have asked for a better first quilt expo experience!