Monday, October 19, 2009

Butterflies, finally . . . and Quilt Festival review

Yippee! Finally some butterflies to show you. I only have 4 left to do and then it's on to the center of the quilt. I'm still not sure what I'm going to do with it, I guess we'll all be surprised.

This weekend I went to the Pacific International Quilt Festival in Santa Clara. I'd love to show you the photos I took but it was really dark in there and all of my pictures came out yucky. I guess I'm no camera whizz, but I did think it was really dark in there . . . did anyone else think so? Oh well, it could just be me, wouldn't be the first time . . .

Anyway, the show was huge, 300 merchants and over 800 quilts. I was going to drive over to Santa Clara myself, (it's about 60 miles from here), but my husband volunteered to drive me and when we realized that the Great America amusement park was down the street, we decided to make a family day of it. Fortunately, they were having a $25 ticket special, so the cost wasn't prohibitive.

A quick digression here. Does anyone else out there think that amusement parks are crazy expensive? It's not even a matter of whether or not we can afford it, it's more like are they crazy to charge $3.50 for a bottle of water, or are there enough crazy people out there willing to pay it? I don't consider myself a cheapskate, but sometimes it's a bit hard to swallow. We go to Disneyland every few years and every time my "I'm getting ripped off " meter goes wild. Maybe it's because I'm getting older and the constant "ca-ching" of the cash registers gives me a headache. Frankly, I don't know how big families do it, but as I said, I digress!

OK, getting back to the subject at hand, I went to the Pacific International Quilt Festival this weekend. Because my husband and son were at Great America, I had tons of time to check out everything and I did a pretty thorough job of it.

Granted, this is the first big quilt show I've been to since 1999. I haven't gone before now because it just never worked out. We always seemed to have other plans when the shows were happening. So, I was glad to have the opportunity.

I don't really know what I was expecting, but as usual my cranky meter kicked in. Part of it had to do with being on my feet for about 4 hours, (with a couple of breaks thrown in, those massage pillows are great!).

I remember when I first started going to quilt shows in the early 80s. It was such a thrill to have all of the vendors there, and to get to see things you'd never have the chance to see. The vendors all had fabric lines and products I couldn't get locally, and the quilts were so inspiring!

Now, with the Internet making everything so easily available the merchants weren't as appealing. Most of them were selling kits and bundles, and what's with all the half yards? There were some selling fat quarters, but most had packaged half and full yards for sale. The prices weren't crazy high, but most of the stuff I could get for the same price locally, or online for a lot less.

I also didn't see any new products I found particularly appealing. There were some cutting systems that looked interesting, but I'm not sure how much time they'd save me. I already have more rulers than I can use, and I don't use patterns, so my options were limited.

The one major thing I noticed is the preponderance of long arm quilting machines and supplies. Frankly, the first thing you saw when you walked in the door was the Bernina booth with all kinds of beautiful machines, all well beyond my price range. There were multiple long arm manufacturers represented and their booths were getting a lot of attention. I know that a lot of quilters are using the long arms to make money, but sometimes it felt more like a trade show than a quilt show, which was disappointing.

I spent the first couple of hours looking at all of the quilts on display. As usual, they were at all different skill levels. I'm always more fascinated by the way people use color, and interesting patchwork combinations. The trend towards almost all machine work seems to be in full swing. I saw very few pieces with hand quilting, and that really made me sad.

I've mentioned before that I've been sewing most of my life. The overwhelming evidence that handwork is on the way out really devastated me. I saw so little of it, and most, if not all of the winners were machine work, (at least at this show they had a category for hand quilting). I know that it takes skill to work a sewing machine, but to me it just isn't the same.

So many of the quilts I saw were beautiful, and you know it took so much time and skill to do them but to me the thought of doing something like that made me feel claustrophobic. I know that sounds weird, but it feels really confining to me. And frankly, the thought of having to thread and rethread a machine, not to mention winding all those bobbins . . . yikes! I would have to jump out of the window, and fast!

I stopped by the Janome booth and watched them demonstrate a $1400 machine. It was amazing and there was a part of my brain that was thinking about pulling out my credit card . . . but then, I checked myself. Did I want this machine because it was cool and everyone else was using them or did I want it because it was something I could really use?

I walked away confused, bought an iced coffee and went outside to think about it. When I thought about all of the neat stipple stitching, and the applique possibilities, and how easy it would make so many things for me, I was almost convinced. And then I thought about all of the quilts I'd seen and how few I actually remembered, and it occured to me that I really didn't like the way the machine quilting made the quilts look. There was a sameness to them that disturbed, and in a way intimidated me.

I realized that I was once again feeling like I had to change who I was to "fit in" and was able to laugh at myself. I know who I am and what I do and for now I'm going to stick with it. I may not be "with it" but at least I'll still be me, and be true to myself.

I'm not judging those of you who do a lot of machine quilting. This isn't that old battle of "hand versus machine" it's more a realization that we're all different. I know many machine quilters who look at my work and scratch their heads. They think I'm crazy! They might be right . . .

Hey, isn't that an old Billy Joel song?

Oh well, I'm glad I went. I still want to go to Chicago or Houston, and maybe Long Beach next year. It's still fun to see everything, and mainly to see the quilting world so healthy and vibrant.

I'm signing off to work on some piecing, I guess I was a little inspired after all . . .

Happy Stitching!



Four O'Clock Quilt Company said...

Oh, let me be the first to congratulate you on saying what I've been thinking for years!
Back when machine quilting, mostly stippling, started showing up at shows, I was dismayed at how it overwhelmed the patchwork, whereas hand quilting complemented the patchwork. Now, I have seen some heirloom machine quilting that is fabulous, but it's not the norm. I machine quilt some, but usually only stitch in the ditch, and very little stippling because I'm not good at it. I love a hand quilted quilt. However, I can't spend all that time handquilting and hope to have any sort of profit if I sell it. It's a dilema! I read somewhere that machine quilting is the new hand quilting with an electric needle. There is no way I could begin to afford one of those machines, even if I had the talent to run it. I guess I'll just be stuck in my time warp and be true to me, too. But somehow I always feel left behind by the world. I shouldn't feel that way, I should just enjoy what I do.

Maddie Can Fly said...

I'm with you on the machine quilting. It has it's place -- sometimes -- but will never touch the beauty of handwork. I only machine quilt my charity and kid quilts. If you'd like to visit my blog, I'm working on something that is all done by hand. While not a "regular" quilt (it's a crazy quilt), it is all hand done.