The Quilt, Craft & Sewing Festival is a 3-day expo focused on quilting and textile arts. It takes place in several western U.S. cities throughout the year with local vendors in each location adding variation to the pattern.
With 350 booths, the Phoenix event is actually the largest of the Quilt, Craft & Sewing Festivals.
It’s held annually at the Arizona State Fairgrounds with 2 exhibition buildings bursting at the seams with booths and a third dedicated to seminars.
I went last week with veteran of the festival and quilter/sewer/fabric crafter Cyndee (a.k.a. my mom) as my guide.
We arrived well before the 10am opening time, and there were already lines at the entrances. That’s because this is a tenacious crowd, unafraid to fight for a giveaway or stake out seats at a seminar or interrupt a demo until their questions get answered.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that quilters are scrappy.
The show program is available online (as well as onsite), so you could piece together your schedule ahead of time or just improvise when you get there.
We blocked out time to attend a seminar and spent most of the rest of the day threading our way through the crowds in the exhibition halls.
The Top of the Class
Each day there are seminars on topics like quilt wall hanging, embellishment, and shortcuts, as well as some focused on specific products. They repeat at the same time each day of the festival, so you can catch everything you want to.
We went to a seminar called “Recycle It!” with Linda Winner of Winner Designs and sewing tool manufacturer Martelli Enterprises. She was a fun, engaging speaker, getting the class involved and moving quickly through a lot of projects.
She defined “recycling” really broadly to include using leftover fabric, and that’s what most of the seminar turned out to be about, but she did include some upcycling and repurposing tips too. The emphasis on using leftover fabric meant ample opportunity to plug her products. She’s designed some really useful-looking templates, but I just felt there was a bit more pitching than the topic warranted.
Again, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Someone whose job is selling tools for fabric is bound to have some bias.
Make and takes
Some exhibitors offer open make-and-take projects – needlepoint, Japanese braiding, a beaded fob to keep you from losing your scissors, etc. – with a small materials fee (usually $3-5). The one whose project we had planned to do had forgotten her materials, but we did see several other make-and-takes in progress. Since the exhibitor will probably be splitting time between instruction and running the booth, allow a little extra time for your project.
Food at all the festivals comes from the fairgrounds or venue where they’re located.
In Phoenix’s case, that’s C and C Concessions, which has permanent operations at the Fairgrounds. Offerings included pizza, baked potatoes, roasted almonds, and flame-grilled burgers. Also, the ice cream stand sells sandwiches (like chicken salad. Not like ice cream sandwiches. Or quilt sandwiches.), salads, and some really good pita chips with red pepper hummus.
There are lots of picnic tables, and you also have the option to bring your own lunch.
There were brands demonstrating sewing machines, longarm quilting machines, and furniture, as well as individual quilters and pattern makers selling their own work.
Of course, I’m always interested in the makers.
Many of the exhibitors we met not only had interesting work and a passion for what they do but were also friendly and happy to talk about it.
I shouldn’t be surprised when people surrounded by quilts are warm.
Lauretta Crites is a pattern-maker and one half of A Couple of Old Broads, the company she runs with her friend Cindy Meyers. She showed us her handy cross-body bags made with a pattern you can customize to fit your stuff.
the-sampler.com had a super colorful booth with fabrics, patterns, and quilt kits.
Joyce Teng of TSC Designs had stamps, ink, and lots of shades of glitter. I associate stamps with paper crafting, but we also saw quilts with stamped designs at the show.
Gale and Carl Carlson, the couple behind Stitch in Time has spent years building relationships as far away as Thailand and Bali, bringing back textiles like intricately folded Thai appliqué and beautiful sari silk, which Gale incorporates into jackets. You can also buy the textiles separately for your own projects.
Quilter Wayne Snyder of Bear Quilts does longarm quilting for Quilts of Valor, a volunteer organization that provides quilts for veterans. He also sells kits for quilters who want to piece together a quilt top that he can finish with the longarm.
Bob Miller makes custom beaded earrings with craft-themed charms (think tiny sewing machines or scissors) and steampunk jewelry.
Mary Fatula of Lumenaris designs tons of inventive felt kits for purses, pillows, coasters, cozies, decor, and perfectly adorable petit fours.
Pam and Tom Keenan of Pocket Change Fabric sell colorful handmade Mola shoes, Ghana baskets, quilts with bold designs, and fun fabrics.
The Splinters & Threads booth featured stacks of beautiful wooden printing blocks hand carved in India, as well as paints and quilting supplies.
This show is the only thing that Chuck and Karen Nolke will drive their RV out to Arizona for. He fires lightweight, one-of-a-kind porcelain pieces, and she makes them into jewelry.
Robin of Bird Brain Designs had a booth with full size and mini quilts with her funny “robinisms” expressions, lots of vintage sewing items, and even a purse made from a gourd. She just published Snow Happy: Whimsical Embroidery Designs to Mix and Match.
The Lacey Ladies of Arizona (chapter of the International Organization of Lace, Inc.) was there working on beautiful bobbin lacework. They hold regular meetings for lacemakers and will be celebrating Lace Day this November.
There are lots of great resources and inspiration at the festival for anyone who quilts or does any kind of fabric craft.
If you’re in Arizona and didn’t make the Phoenix show, the smaller, less-crowded Tucson show happens in November. Check quiltcraftsew.com for the full festival schedule.
We were guests of the Quilt, Craft & Sewing Festival.