Thursday, November 18, 2010

A cotton-pickin good time

Where has the month gone! Oh my, I feel like I'm just coming up for breath.

So, did ya think the Quilt Rambler lost her voice? Actually I had a slight scare there for a's been a fabulous few weeks. Non stop quilting fun, and yes lots and lots of quilt talking! So much that my jaw hurts!

For several weeks I've been preparing for the Houston International Quilt Festival. It's my favorite time of the year, 10 days (counting the wholesale buying part called Market) of nothing but quilts, quilts, and more quilts. Anything you can think of concerning making, enjoying, loving quilts all under one roof - a giant roof spanning 9 football fields! As a "quilter for hire" (business) I attend 5 days of Market shopping for new items I can use in my business - fabrics, new patterns to teach, the latest in notions and techniques....very fun, very rewarding and very tiring (grin).

But its the Festival that really get me excited! Once again this year my participation in Festival was that of a vendor - one of over a thousand vendors in a crowd of over 56,000 attendees! So for weeks ahead of time I've been thinkin', collectin' and makin' STUFF to decorate the A1 Quilting Machine booth....Texas Style! By the way, for those unfamiliar - that's a bouquet of cotton picked from the side of the road around Katy Texas...

But back to my story...5 days at Market, then a day and a half preparing the booth prior to 4 1/2 days of Festival... being the proud Texan that I am I figured what better attraction that a quilted Texas flag - along with a split rail fence adorned by a Texas theme quilt, and a few Texas items...

And what Texas booth would be complete without our own Texas A1 Quilting cowgirl showing off her favorite quilting supplies - Legacy Pellon 80/20 batting and a bouquet of thread by Superior Threads and Fil Tec/Bobbin Central?

We even decorated the back of the back wall (grin) To the far right is the 2007 Award Winning Houston Rodeo quilt by Mainland Morning, and another Texas "map" quilt. Yep, comin' or goin' we wanted folks to see the A1 booth and stop by to visit.

And stop by they did! And not just quilters looking for longarms... Oh it's sew much fun to get hugs from your friends! This is one of my close quilting buddies Cindy. Even though she's just across H-town from me, we spend more time talking on the phone than actually quilting together. Gotta change that somehow!

And this is fellow blogger and longtime friend Elaine, she surprised me - hadn't seen her for several years. I met Elaine when we were working on the road as ice cream vendors. We hired her daughters to work in our Ben & Jerry's booth at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo around 2000 and have been friends ever since. Yep, the road is never long between emails!

Met up with several other gals I've known for years through longarm forums, blogs, etc. I wish I'd had photos of everyone - it's sooooo special to get a real hug and not just a cyper hug, and really special to have that face to face contact for the first time. Can't say enough about the joy brought to me when these special friends stopped by.

And here's to a couple of gentlemen in my quilting life. My "mentors" so to speak. Tom Russell, award winning quilter, who greatly encourages me to "develop my style" (and is helping me discover it!) and Jamie Wallen, national longarm teacher, who helped me discover the joy of quilting feathers. I'm truly blessed to have such talented friends, only wish a little more of their art/skills would rub off on me!

Of course Quilt Festival isn't just about vendors and meeting friends, it's about quilts! Oh my, there just wasn't enough time to view the quilts. I did take photos to enjoy later of all the inspiration and the award winners...but just wanted to share this next photo with you...a man on a hubby trying to locate the customer quilt of mine that was hanging in the Texas Guild Winners exhibit...Have to admit it was exciting to see my name on a quilt hanging in Houston! Of course, I do have several quilts hanging in my booth, but that's not the same (grin)

The weekend was full of reunions and special surprises - blasts from the past so to speak. Wow, I look up and who should be walking into my booth but long time East Tennessee friends who are now East Texans! Steve and Donna of Nevrdun fame (Donna is quite a gifted writer and has a e-zine called Nevrdun News - let me know if you want to connect to good wholesome inspiration). While living in Tennessee we shared homeschooling in common, and for the past 10 years (when we left TN for TX) have kept up through the internet. Now they are in the state and it was such a joy to see them after 10+ years. Nope, ya'll haven't changed a bit!

And then there's best friend from High School. We reconnected last year after 20+ years for a brief one day in person visit and have attempted to keep up via facebook .... I'm tearing up again Holly, just like I did when you and Ken surprised me in the booth! We really do need to spend more time together my friend!

Oh! and did I mention that it's all about the new longarm customers? Wow what a show! Pictured here is Carol from Midland, one of many proud new A1 owners and the winner of my Bodacious Gift Basket drawing... more on that in the future as I do want to properly thank and acknowledge all the generous sponsors! That good ole Texas wash tub is FULL of wonderful longarm supplies for this lucky Texas lady! Congratulations Carol, can't wait until your studio is finished and we can set up your new A1 Quilting Machine!

The booth wouldn't have been successful without the help of many people. This is my friend and fellow A1 dealer Brenda Janovy from Sturgis SD helping a future quilter try out a longarm quilting machine. Unfortunately I didn't get a group photo of the entire A1 team - thank you Stewart Plank for making such a fabulous longarm; for Justin Plank who sets them up, tears them down, and maintains the classroom machines during the 7 day class period; the A1 dealers Brenda, Jamie, and Rosanne and my side kick Trish for working with our customers demo-ing the machines, answering questions, and writing up orders. Ya'll are the best-est!
One of the hardest things for this Quilt Rambler is to remain silent (grin) but that was a requirement earlier this year as I was blessed to be asked to quilt for an upcoming book... couldn't share photos of the quilt until the book was published...well, its published and now I can share photos! RaNae Merrill's newest book, Magnificent Spiral Mandala Quilts, was released at the Houston Quilt's a photo of her booth at Festival...The quilt on the right is called That's the Way Love Is and is the one I quilted for her book.

Since RaNae and I had only corresponded through the mail and over the phone concerning her quilt, it was a real pleasure to get to meet her and have her autograph my copy of the book!

I truly enjoyed this year's Market and Festival. It was a lot of fun planning my "Texas" booth and working with future quilters. So many folks are in the market for longarms, doing their research and test driving all the manufactures - it's a big decision! One thing I hoped to convey to my future customers is that we become a family - I was so pleased that so many of my existing A1 customers came and hung out in the booth - loved it that Vonnie & Ellen were there to welcome a new A1 family members. I truly have the best customers! And they are all so smart - they chose the best longarm!

Festival was "over" Sunday night 11/7 at 5 PM, tear down and loading up took about 2 hours, then there's the 45 minute drive home...but! we didn't go home - we went to Trish's, my "side kick" who helps me at shows to deliver her A1! Yep! Trish went home with one of the show table/machines and by midnight we had welcomed a new member to the A1 family!

The next morning we headed out to the Fort Worth area to set up and train Kathy, another new A1 Elite owner. I wish I'd of taken a photo of Kathy's babies - two beautiful Airedales!

Home again for a day or two and it's time for the Bayshore Longarm Quilter's quarterly gathering...We love show and tell, and so does Pixxie, my professional quilt model. Everyone got a chuckle out of her immediately getting on Robin's quilt to "pose" for a photo (and earn a treat!)

Cindy shared a beautiful quilt that she actually gets to keep for herself as a "shop sample" - love those feathers girlfriend!

Ellen is new A1 family member, having her machine since mid June of this year - she had several quilts for show and tell. Great job Ellen!

As if Market, Festival, two set ups, and a longarm gathering weren't enough for a couple of non stop weeks....on Sunday 11/14 I picked up another A1 dealer, Megan Best from Washington (state) to join me on a combined A1 Horizon and CompuQuilter (CQ) set up and training. Road trip! Shiner....population 2070... where we found ourselves without cell service - which meant no phone, no text-ing, and no internet for 3 days! Talk about withdraws!! Didn't realize how much of a city girl I was until I went to the country without my gadgets (grin) - but we lived to tell about it. Here' our quaint accommodations...

And yes, I travel with my own quilt (grin).

Megan is what I call a double dealer (grin) she not only sales and services A1 quilting machines in the west coast but also represents CompuQuilter (CQ) a computerized addition to longarms that allows the quilter to program a design and the computer implement it. We call it quilting with no hands. And it's sooo cool to watch that big ole machine quilt beautiful designs!

Carol has been quilting on an A1 Elite for over 12 years...she began before the days of stitch regulators and all the bells and whistles we have today... it was very intriguing to me to see the forerunner of the machine I run today...the handlebars are different, the "speed dial" on the side is foreign to me, and there's only one "button" on the handle bar that turns it either on or off - no single stitch button for basting...lots of changes in 12 years! The wonderful thing about an A1 is the casting is the same and throughout the years ANY upgrades could have been added to keep this machine 'current'. Carol's idea was "if it ain't broke don't fix it" - she's run a very successful quilting business without the desire to update her machine. Until she's so successful that she's purchased a second machine...this little workhorse is still gainfully employed!

And now Carol has the newest A1, the Horizon, a big 31 inch throat space with all the bells and whistles PLUS the CQ computerized quilting. In other words, she just got a new employee! She'll continue to free hand on the A1 Elite while the CQ is running the A1 Horizon - doesn't she look pleased! Can't really say welcome to the A1 family as she's already family, but congratulations on growing the family Carol!

Yep, it's been a whirlwind of a month. Now it's time to get back to work on customer quilts - before we know it Christmas will be here! But in the meantime, I do want to slow down enough to take time to be thankful - Thanksgiving is less than a week away but I don't have to wait! I am thankful for the opportunity to have sew much fun in this quilting world, I'm thankful to have so many friends - both the ones that I can physically hug and the ones that I keep up with over the internet through emails, blogs, and online forums with cyper hugs. I am truly blessed.

So if you've hung with me through this long-winded Texas tale (grin) you now know why the Quilt Rambler has been silent, I haven't been AWOL or MIA, just two steppin' across Texas having a cotton pickin good time!


Trudi said...

Phew! I'm shattered reading all that and traveling along with yo! LOL Nice work!

Kathy said...

I am exhausted, and the only thing I did was read. I obviously could not keep up with Karen.
Karen and Johnny did a wonderful job setting up my new machine. I love it.
I am only sorry, too, that Karen didn't post a picture of my fur kids rather than one of me.

Muddling Through said...

Karen, it was so good to see you after all this time. Didn't feel that long though, did it? We keep up pretty well - one way and another!

Denise in PA said...

Great report Karen! What a whirlwind - but what FUN!!!

Holly H. Ellis said...

It was so much fun surprising you at the show! As much fun as I know all the bustle and excitement of the market and the the show is for you, I'm sure you're happy to be back in "ordinary" time. I love how we can always pick up right where we left off!

Holly said...

Well I clearly am still tired from my busy weekend. I see that i missed the fact that autofill put my entire name in the blank when I only meant to write my first name. Ah well. At least I am among friends!

Sandra said...

I was one of your readers from the Quiltropolis forum who stopped by the A1 booth to say "hi" to you at Houston. You are truly a very lovely person; it was a pleasure to meet you in person. I also enjoyed trying out the wonderful machines.

So, here's wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas.

Sandra Darlington, Philadelphia, PA