Sunday, November 06, 2016


Houston is a wild and crazy place.  It is like the annual mecca for quilters of all ages.  Some go for classes.  Some go because they teach, or vend.  Others go because they have quilts in the show.  But many, many - on the order of nearly 100,000 go to see the massive number of quilt exhibits and the acres of vendors.

Me...I went because the IQA paid for my trip.  Like, seriously, was I going to pass up on this once in a lifetime opportunity?...Heck no!  

I entered 2 quilts, and both of them received awards.  I was notified in September that one of my quilts was getting a top-8 award.  They would not tell me what it was though.  They do like to keep suspense.

I flew to Texas early on Tuesday, hoping like crazy to make all my connections.  The awards was that evening.  It's a big affair, with many of quilting's known faces attending.  The 1st place winners in every category, as well as the top 8 winners are hanging in the ballroom.  As each award is announced, a black drape is revealed, showing the quilt.  If you kind of know where they tend to hang the particular categories, you can assess whether you think your's is hanging :-)  When they did the Merit Machine Quilting category, though, I saw the drape, and whispered to a gal beside me "this is your's...mine is too large for that space".  But to my surprise, I was wrong!  My wholecloth actually won the 1st.  It's pretty exciting when both of your quilts are hanging at the awards!

Thanks to having been to the awards previously, I also believed that the $5000 top awards were all to the right of the stage.  It was clear none of those drapes could cover my 80" quilt.  I was pretty excited.  By the same token, I knew the BOS drape was too small.  That narrowed it down!  

My Bouquet Royale won the World of Beauty.  It is an awesome award, and hangs on one side of the BOS quilt in the show.  I could hardly be more delighted to have won this.
 This was taken at the awards.  My new silk scarf was a perfect match to the quilt!
 Here's From the Bride's Trousseau...flatter than ever.  It is really nice how Houston cares for the quilts.  I blocked it just prior to shipping, and specifically asked that it not be folded.  It has clearly not been folded.  It should return home in pristine condition to send to Road to California.
 Here's a glimpse of a few of the quilts hanging in the awards.  I did not take any other photos.  Usually there are too many people blocking them.
 The top winners hang in the show with lovely signage, a chair to rest your weary self on, as well as the largest coordinating bouquets you have ever seen.  These arrangements are all different too, and they match the quilts.  The flowers beside the best of show were in shades of blue and white, and had the most fragrant lilies.
Here is the signage about my quilt.  
And my flowers...  I would have loved to have taken these with me.  It is bigger than most arrangements you see at weddings.
 They don't let you roam around the show incognito either.  I had that lavender rosette (which matched my lavender ribbon) signifying I was a top winner.  You can't even go into a bathroom in secret!  It really is a big deal, and they do treat their quilters with lots of appreciation.
One last shot... (look, no pins in quilts either!)

On Wednesday, there is a winners luncheon.  It is free to all ribbon winners, and us top 8 get to have to make a short speech.  It is hauntingly nerve-wracking, but fortunately we all know about this in advance and can somewhat prepare if we want.  I just remember my knees knocking, and thinking how thankful I was that I was not first, nor was I hungover.  It's cool to see these quilts hanging there above us, as we ate spaghetti noodles, on display for the 200+ guests!  I hope we were neater eaters than watching my 14-yr old gobble down spaghetti.  Digressing...

So if you were not present at the luncheon to hear my knees knock, here is a transcript of my speech. We all spoke of different things.  Believe me, I had serious envy over the Korean and Japanese ladies whose English was limited.  It seemed like a great advantage if you were nervous.  Life goes on...

I am so blessed to be here with all of you, and to share my passion for quilts with you.  Thank you.

Three years ago, I made my first trip to Houston.  As a seasoned traveler, let me say that this   trip was quite typical for me.   I missed a connecting flight and spent the night at the Newark airport.  With all of my sharpest sarcasm aside, this was a pivotal night for the inception of this quilt.  I had recently discovered the elongated hexagons or Patchwork of the Crosses that Lucy Boston popularized over 40 years ago.  Despite thinking I hated English paper piecing and the oh-too-traditional grandmother’s flower garden designs, I found myself in that airport with a sewing box full of fussy-cut hexies, and absolutely nowhere to go.  Using my former-engineer ingenuity, I devised a way to piece the hexies without the nagging papers.  By dawn, I had several blocks hand pieced and was finally boarding my flight to Houston!  The beginning phase of this quilt did more than piece a few hexagons together.  It kindled a full-fledged love of hand piecing which continues to this day.  I am somewhat unique in that my profession is to quilt by machine, yet my choice is to stitch the top by hand.

After completing 25 of the hexagon blocks, the wild garden of blooming color and prints needed a serious taming.  Otherwise, it was going to take a far better quilter than myself to make any quilting visible. It dawned on me that my love affair with silk was possibly going to save this quilt.   I made a renegade choice to marry the bold cotton hexagons with a satiny silk background - something I had never seen done in competition.  I had no idea what judges might think of my unusual choice.   The silk would supply the perfect place to show-off detailed machine quilting, an absolute must for any quilt I would later show.    Thirteen shows later, I know that being unique and unorthodox has paid off.

If Bouquet Royale never made it to the Houston stage, I would still be overwhelmingly proud of her successes.  The reality is that Houston is one of this quilt’s last shows.  So, as the journey of this quilt comes full circle back to the trip that inspired its first stitches, I look back proudly.  The journey wasn’t without bumps in the road, but it was a passionate endeavor I hope all quilters may experience.  I challenge each of you to dare to be different.   Do a few of those things that the so-called quilt police tell you not to do.  Your quilt; your rules.  Invent a better process rather than using one you already know, just because you know it.  Do a new technique or use an unlikely fabric because you can.   Use colors that simply make your heart sing - like orange.    Who knows, three years later you might find yourself here at this podium.

As I conclude, let me say a personal thank you to the judges who found my quilting special and unique.  This is the type of feedback that keeps me coming back to this job which I love day after day.   Thank you Brenda and Handi Quilter for giving me the best long arm with which to create my quilts.  Allowing me to grace the side of one of your trucks is an added perk too.   Thank you Vicki and Meander Publishing for giving me a great magazine to write for, and share my quilting experiences with other aspiring artists.  Six and a half years ago, a fellow quilter suggested I enter a quilt in a show.   I had no idea the creative fire that would unleash within me as a result.    My journey has been like a Cinderella story.  Don’t be afraid to Dream Big -- You never really know where those dreams may take you. 

 Back to the real show...How about some quilts?!...

This is the winner from S. Korea and Cynthia England, standing with her BOS.  It is all machine pieced.
My photo probably has better zooming, but I liked the photo with them in it too.  I think Cynthia said it has 4800 pieces.  That's a whole-lotta pieces.

This is Mickjung Jang's quilt that won Best Thread Artestry.  The entire design is stitched in thread. She and Bethanne Nemesh were originally in the Merit Machine Quilting category, before being bumped to the top awards.  I definitely capitalized on their success too (or else my wholecloth would have taken 3rd!).
 Melissa Sobotka's very real replication of pillows from Istanbul.  Her quilt is called Silk Road Sampler.  Much can be done with fusible and batiks if you know how!  This is not a photograph.
 One other quilt, which happened to get the Best Contemporary Artestry award is simply amazing.  This is Unknown Man by a pair from Brazil.   He is hauntingly gorgeous.  So is the quilt.

Here is my little silent auction piece.  The auction does not close until today.  When I left yesterday, an Aussie quilter and Handi Quilter were in a bidding war.  We'll see where it goes (both told me that they really want it !).
 I took a few pictures of the thousands that were hanging.  It can be inundating looking at the many special categories of quilts.  There are about 10 times as many "other" quilts as there are competition quilts, and many are just as good.

by Barbara Lies - gorgeous color and the black you see is her signature cutaway technique.
 This is from a special exhibit - love all the critters.
 From Susan Carlson's special exhibit.  This quilt is at least 20 feet long and so cool.
 Here is a closeup of the gator...a photo really does not do it justice.
 Many Dear Janes were on display.  Naturally green and purple caught my fancy.
 And a new quilt by Gail Stepanek and Jan Hutchison - seriously, this will win big in the coming years.  It has subtle beauty in the piecing and Jan's signature amazing quilting.

I loved getting to stand by my quilt and talk to many, many interested quilters about my quilt and my processes.  There are the probing questions which I love, as well as the 4000 times I am asked "how long did that quilt take to make?".  I met several of my long-distance clients and many bloggers or facebook friends.  The community is connected in so many ways.  Yesterday, still, I had to say goodbye to the warm 80's of Houston to fly home to Maine, where winter is approaching.  It was indeed sad!  I had these gorgeous flowers in my hotel all week that I got at the awards.  I hated to leave them - seriously, how often does a girl get a dozen roses and then some?!...I snagged a bunch of the mini yellow roses, and headed for the airport.  When I awoke this morning, I discovered my family had gotten me an arrangement of red and yellow roses too.  What a home-coming.


regan said...

Wow! Wow! Wow! How fantastic! Congrats on your ribbons and what a wonderful speech you gave! Well deserved recognition! Your work is amazing!

Jan Hutchison said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence Margaret and congratulations again on your awards in Houston!

Brenda said...


kupton52 said...

Congratulations! The judges "got it right" this time! The quilt is beyond beautiful, as is all your work. I am truly envious of your talent and creativity. Just coming up with the design is awe-inspiring, but to craft it and execute that design as perfectly as you do...well....I'm just speechless. "Congratulations" just isn't a big enough word.

Susan Lawson said...

What a wonderful week! Congratulations!

Vicki W said...

I'm so happy for you!

Sewing Up A Storm said...

All your quilts were stunning. I saw your little one in the auction as well. It was really fun to chat with you for a few minutes.........of course after I walked away I thought of all the questions I had about your quilt. I was telling my friend who went to the show with me that the people that win the prizes have to sit with their quilts and not get to walk around the show, guess it must be worth it though. Hopefully they let you walk around to see the other things.

Susan A said...

First off a tremendous congratulations!,,,,
And thanks so much for sharing your talk at the awards are truly inspiring
I'm sorry I didn't get to Houston this year and see the quilt in person ...but I've truly enjoyed following the progress on your blog
Again congratulations for a well deserved win

Sharon said...

Congratulations on your win! I've followed your progress on this quilt and it is fun to see it do so well.

Becky (My Fabric Obsession) said...

Congratulations to you! Well deserved after all your hard work. Such gorgeous quiltS!