Many quilt shows are presented on a local regional or national level. These shows are a great place to visit for inspiration and ideas, taking classes, meeting other quilters, seeing all the beautiful and artistic quilts made by other quilters, and shopping at vendors that are not usually available to your locality. It can be very affirming to see so many quilters in one place and know that even though a lot of your quilting is done in solitary, quilters are a force to be reckoned with.
Local quilt shows
The most likely show to be available in your area is the local quilt show. The local show is usually put on by a guild, a shop, or gallery. These shows feature the quilts made by local residents and members. Do not discount a local quilt show. These shows are many times very well organized and show many beautiful traditional and art quilts that would never be seen in any other venue.
You might be surprised to see a quilt at a local show that was photographed and featured in a national publication. Almost every large guild has two or three well known quilters in their membership. My local guild has several well known and published quilters including long arm quilting and wearable art. And while the quilts of the well known and published members are very striking there are also many very prolific quilters who make many beautiful and striking quilts displayed that have never been published.
Boutique -- Many local quilt shows have a boutique sales area. Unique quilt related items made by guild members are available for sale along with fabric, feed sacks, and used books. Be sure to check the boutique tables for great gifts and useful quilting items.
White gloves -- Some shows provide white gloves for you to wear so you can touch the quilts and others provide "white glove" personnel to assist you when you wish to view the back of a quilt. Do not touch quilts with your hands as natural oils are detrimental to quilt fabric.
Photos -- Most quilt shows allow you to take snapshots of the quilts for your personal use. Remember copyright laws and observe them accordingly. If taking photos is not allowed it will be stated in the brochure or show booklet.
Many vendors are available at local quilt shows. Several of them travel a distance to sell their products to you. Your trip to the show and your admission fee is a very inexpensive way to avail yourself to the many vendors that will be available even in a local show.
Regional quilt shows
Regional quilt shows have a larger venue with many quilts and many vendors. These shows are well worth your travel time and expense. If traveling distance isn't too far, simply travel early in the morning, stay the day, and travel home the same evening. Most areas of the United States will have a regional quilt show that is within a days travel distance.
Many regional shows will have a special "trunk show" of a specific challenge or contest such as a Hoffman Challenge. And if you are able to take a class or workshop you won't be disappointed. Don't miss these shows as you will find them very worthwhile.
The regional shows also have a wealth of vendors featuring different products that might not be available in your local area, especially if you live in a rural area or a smaller city with a very few available quilt shops.
National Quilt shows
American Quilter's Society Show in Paducah Kentucky is held annually. They also hold an annual show in Nashville and in 2008 will begin a new venue in Iowa.
Quilt City USA -- Paducah, Kentucky -- If you have the opportunity to go to an annual show in Paducah, remember that there is more to see than the show at the main convention center. There are independent shows in other areas of town, more vendors in the mall and other locations, and the store windows will feature quilts. If time permits you won't want to miss a trip to Hancock's of Paducah -- a very large fabric store - It is truly "Quilt City USA". Be sure to pick up a brochure and show booklet to find where additional quilt related shows are featured.
National Quilting Association holds an annual show in Columbus Ohio -- This show is a great show and while it is not as large as AQS or "Houston" it is well worth the travel time and expense.
Houston -- just say Houston to a quilter and she knows what you are referring to -- Quilt Market. Quilt Market is not open to the public. It is a trade show for professionals and shop owners. A few days at the end of Quilt Market they have International Quilt Festival and that is open to the public. A Quilt Festival for the public has been held in Chicago area each spring for the past few years and although is not as large as the festival in Houston, it is well worth the trip.
Reasons to go to a quilt show
1.Look at all the quilts -- be sure to check your program or brochure to be sure you aren't missing a special feature that might be located in another room away from the large convention center.
a.See new patterns
b.See new color combinations
c.See new quilting designs
d.See new edge treatments
2.Visit the vendors
a.Check out the new books and patterns
b.Check out new machines -- both domestic sewing machines and long arm models
c.Check out new fabric
d.Check out new techniques and tools demonstrated
3.Take advantage of show specials -- special shopping discounts to show attendant
When attending a large quilt show be sure to wear comfortable shoes -- you will be doing a lot of walking. Purchase a small back pack to carry your purchases and personal items such as a bottle of water and tissues. A "fanny pack" or "wallet on a string" type purse might be useful to save having to carry a heavy hand bag. Take your cash, credit card, and checkbook and pen, and your picture ID. You can have additional items in your car if you need them.
The size and amount of your purchases might mean you need to make an extra trip to the car. Stow purchased items in the trunk to discourage theft. If you purchase a rotary mat or something that should not be in a hot car, make arrangements to pick it up near the end of the day. Some venues will let you check your bags for a small fee.
Some shows do not allow strollers. Be sure to check if you need to take a child in a stroller. If you can find a sitter, leave your young children at home. Take a day and go to the quilt show for your vacation away from the children. Most small children would not enjoy an all day quilt show.
If you need to use a walker or wheelchair, check in advance as some shows have a special show time for those who are physically challenged. It can be very frustrating to try to maneuver a wheel chair in the heavy crowds at some shows. Check with show organizers, they might tell you a certain day or time the show is less crowded.