Wednesday 12 August 2015

Festival of Quilts 2015

Well, that's the Festival of Quilts over for another year, and I'm devastated to say I only managed to take one quilt picture, this beauty by Philippa Naylor. I've been to one of her talks at Leominster Quilters before, so recognise her work instantly. She's also very entertaining, if you get a chance I recommend going to see her talk about her life and her stunning quilts.
I didn't even get a chance to see the quilt category winners this year, so really don't have much to report. Hence I thought I would write a bit about what goes into doing a show like this from the perspective of one of the many businesses there. I wasn't working as Sewmotion, (maybe next year) but instead I did my yearly stint for Doughty's, possibly the one company there with the most stalls... Five in all! We had the Colourwall, the Clearance, Batik & Riley Blake, Wadding and the Cut Pieces stands, some customers commented that our section should be called Doughty Village!
Preparations start much earlier in the year with cutting and folding half metres and fat quarters. As Doughty's now have a fabulous new warehouse open to the public, this is actually a daily routine now, which lessens the pressure a lot. There are then many discussions of what to take, what to leave behind, what to put on each stand, what would look good together, what would attract people to the stands, and so on, and this is all before a van is loaded!
This year we took up seven loaded vans in all. As Doughty's are based in Hereford, we're able to drive back and forth to the NEC everyday, I wouldn't want to think how we would manage with that amount of stock if we couldn't come back of a night! Setup starts Tuesday morning, when we arrive the electricians and exhibition fitters are already there building the stands, painting the walls, laying new carpet and setting up lighting fixtures. We begin by building all the shelving for each stand, something we've all got faster at over the years. Then it's time to unload the first couple of vans of fabric, sort it into colour and stock up the shelves. By Tuesday evening our awesome team of eight has got all the stands built, and about two and a half stocked. Off home to load three more vans and to bed.
Wednesday is a mad day as every other stand holder is in the hall, it's lovely to see some familiar faces, and to catch up. As I don't work for Doughty's anymore, I only see some of these people once a year now. By the end of Wednesday all five stands are stocked, tweaked and titivated to look amazing for tomorrow.
After a good night's sleep, we're up early and rearing to go. There's Mrs D finishing off some pricing. It takes on average 19 people on each of the four days to staff the stands - as well as current employees, there are a few ex-staff like myself, then there are family friends and quilting friends who come and join the fun, we have a great team, and the morale was spot on, it's great when you can have a good laugh and enjoy what you do! I miss this sometimes working on my own at home.
The stream of customers was quite steady over the four days, though to me Friday and Saturday seemed a little quieter than normal - you can always tell when you can get to and back from the loo in five minutes! Having said that, Sunday was a lot busier than past years, so maybe people were staggering their visits.
On Sunday I did get a chance to have a quick rush around stalls I had spotted, one of which was of course lovely Aurifil, where I treated myself to this lush box of threads, I also met the handsome Alex Veronelli with his beaming smile! Talking of quilt celebs... I was over the moon to meet one of my idols from QuiltCon, the very talented and very sweet Angela Walters. She was there holding classes for Cotton Patch's Sweet Sixteen quilting machine, and I managed to catch her in a break. We had a great chat about Austin and Texas and also how much I love her quilting mantra, "finished is better than perfect" - she gave me one of her wrist bands! I then got really cheesy and took a rare selfie... :)
The last thing on my to do list was to get the amazing Millefiori book that everyone is raving about, and I came across Lina Patchwork, not only do they have every die-cut paper shape known to man, but also sell the books, so I bought the papers too, can't wait to get stuck into some fussy cutting and hand sewing.
I obviously couldn't work for Doughty's without buying some fabric, so my last treat of the week were these cute Riley Blake prints and a couple others I thought would make great make-up pouches.
5pm, Sunday afternoon, and the Festival of Quilts is over, the halls now become a building site once again, on come the hi-viz tops, and the madness begins. Here's the long queue of vans waiting to get loaded.
It does amaze me that it takes two whole days to set up, and four and half hours to break down! Again, we were joined by a couple of extra helpers/drivers, including my husband :) to load up six vans this time. We are usually the last to leave the NEC, and travel in a Doughty convoy back to Hereford, to then unload the three hire vans, and finally get back to a cold beer around 12.30am to celebrate the end of a very long week!
So if you were one our lovely customers who were empathising at how shattered I looked, now you know why! :) It is a great event and good fun with the Doughty's, but boy, is my body hurting now! We're now off for a couple weeks driving around Europe to see friends, and hopefully to sit and relax in the sunshine.

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