Did you know that you can tell a quilter from their reaction to the words, “I am going to Houston”? Throw the sentence into a group, and watch the facial features of the quilter change, light up and blossom with excitement (and sometimes envy!) I didn't go last year due to the frightful fall in our dollar however this year is quite a different story. Preparing for the trip starts early. You need to book your hotel by at least May to get a good price. All other preparation falls into scheduling the business and catalogue preparation, getting tickets to the events and tours in Houston, and of course 'what to wear'!! The internet can indeed be a most wonderful tool and knowing what the weather will be like is an advantage. It is normally quite warm and humid at this time of year so to maximise space in my suitcase for samples and other goodies, I pack one dress for each day (they take up less room) leaving at least 15kgs of space for all the good stuff! Flat shoes and a wheelie bag are essential tools for this epic journey. With 22 isles of booths to visit, I know I will be on my feet all day dragging purchases behind me.
This year I was thrilled when the organisers of International Quilt Market emailed back to report that I had a ticket to the “Cowboys and Quilts Tour”. The rest of the Craft Mailbox were ecstatic when I got entry to the “Sample Spree”, and started planning my exercise regime and stretch routine so that I could get the most out of it (for them)!!
Texting smiley faces (two - I was so pleased) to the girls after boarding the plane let them know which part I got upgraded to was fun...it made the trip all the more special to start off in style – and to catch up on sleep which was a non event in the last few days prior to leaving as I frantically prepared at work. I hit the ground running in Los Angeles to catch the connecting 3 hour flight to Houston (flying over the Grand Canyon is always a treat). My hotel is part of the convention therefore vitally close to the ‘George R Brown Convention Center’ and the large central core bar area is always kept busy with Australian shop owners and wholesalers.
To give an idea of the magnitude of this event; Houston is the 4th biggest city in the USA, and the combined Quilt Market/Festival is the biggest annual event in Houston! This is huge. Can you imagine 50,000 quilters over two weeks? The convention halls are enormous, and it takes up the whole centre...you do not wear fashion footwear to this show! There are hundreds of exhibitors, a whole floor of classes, and it is a bit weird to run into so many friends in the aisles and on the stands!
My first day here was spent touring outside the city – in a fit of indulgence I went on “Cowboys and Quilts” I even admit to a little bit of quilt shop envy! We visited three stores (image left is a quilt from The Quilters Cottage in Richmond made from 1895 Bali Watercolour fabrics) plus a 22,000 acre working ranch complete with oil wells (as it is in Texas), gas outlets, long horn cattle, cotton and corn fields and a historical village of homes and how life used to be (image right is an early 1900's home - magnificent).
The Sample Spree is a highlight for many in the business of Quilt Market. Definitely a lace up shoe event, ticket holders line up outside the closed doors waiting to bolt in to snap up fabric samples and deals! Companies have samples ready of all their new products, and this is a crazy two hours of snatch and grab.... and buy. I had to try hard to not get caught up in the spending euphoria and fabric fantasies as women carry in as many bags as possible, buy frantcially (often at retail prices) and then drag above their weight, bags of the latest fabric samples back to their rooms. It is a mesmerising scene.