Monday, November 14, 2016

Our Crazy trip to Houston

This years trip to Houston was one of the most challenging years of all......

My 60th birthday party was on Oct 17th and Randy surprised me with a party of family and friends. It was an amazing evening and I loved it! But, we think it was this outing that caused us all to come down with a really bad cold before we left. We could feel it coming on and with the crazy hours, lack of sleep, stress we knew we couldn't avoid this bullet! I got it first then Jennifer and finally Randy. The weather didn't help and right before our trip we were hit with a thunder storm that blew out our refrigerator in the garage. With a few days to go I now had to clean that out and try and save our food, but we were too late. We continued to push ourselves to finish in time but it was getting almost impossible to keep our eyes open at night. I was cutting fabric in the garage on my cutting table and noticed a stream of water coming from the water heater. I thought, OH NO!! What now! I originally thought it was a sign the water heater was going out but we came to find that we had developed an under the slab leak and the plumber suggested us rerouting our plumbing!!! WHAT?? NO, we are going to HOUSTON! So for the final few days before our trip we played the game of turning off and on our water as needed. We would deal with this when we got home I still had to sew! On the final day we started our day at 8am, packing, packaging, cleaning the pool, watering plants, shopping, washing clothes, sewing and finally finished at 1:30 am, Randy was still burning the last of the CD's at that time. We had packed the van that day, filling it to the brim with boxes and product. The roof was also loaded with tables and pattern racks. Finally at 2am we loaded up Jennifer, the dog and then packed in the last of the items all around Jennifer and began our crazy journey. As we rounded the corner we began our check list, did you turn off the water? Yes, "Did you turn on the lights?", Yes, " Did you remember the paperwork and our name tags? Yes.  Jenn did we get all your meds? Yes, Did someone bring phone chargers? I did! What about Chloe's costume? This constant stream of questioning continued for several minutes until I felt we had totally exhausted all the possibilities and that we had not forgotten anything. Anything we were supposed to bring, anything we were supposed to do to button up the house, people to call, etc. And so we settled in to our long drive. By this time I was really feeling terrible, the long hours and constant work had drained my system and now the cold was zapping the last bit of energy I had. The van was packed so tightly I felt like a sardine and I was surrounded by pillows and food and next to me was a stack of quilts that I was supposed to sew on my drive into Houston. I had brought everything I needed to sew on the binding and as I began the trip I didn't see how I could manage anything else. 

Chloe's little bit of space in the van as we traveled! She is such a good girl!

Miracles do happen! And Randy managed to drive all night and until about 2pm the next day so that we could reach our first destination in our trip. He had calculated out how many hours he needed to drive each day so that we would arrive on time. He had a schedule and he was going to make sure we made it. I slept, or tried to but there was no getting comfortable in that seat and Jennifer and I managed to sleep off and on until daylight. We needed to stop and rearrange boxes so we could tilt Jennifers wheelchair back so she could get some sleep, that helped and we were on the road again. Her chair has been broken for months and getting it fixed is another story but I managed to beg enough that they came out and replaced her battery so her chair would at least run. Thankful for that we felt we could handle the other issues until our return. That next morning as she awoke and we decided to make a stop at a rest stop for her and the dog we realized her chair was stuck in the reclining position! She couldn't get it to return to upright and we could not move her or get her out of the van. Randy managed to play with the cables and the connections until finally the chair squealed and returned to upright. Our new rule for the next few days was no reclining.

By the time we reached Houston we had a broken windshield and I had spilt coffee on my quilts sitting next to me waiting to be bound. Thank God one of my mug rugs had caught most of the coffee but I still spent a half an hour in a gas station restroom scrubbing the others. It was not an easy trip this year. The southern route we took which was shorter was also less populated and the rest stops didn't really have wheelchair accessible bathrooms if you can believe that. It added to our crazy story but we would lay in bed at night and share the positive and we were thankful for our trip!  
Arrived!! And the weather is great!! Last year we had a Hurricane hit! LOL

But something wonderful and crazy happens when you arrive, the building is filled with people all scrambling to set up and there is an energy and excitement that takes over. All those long hours filled with doubts of why are we doing this seem to fade away and we're filled with the anticipation of seeing friends, colleagues, shop owners, distributors and you, the end user, the quilter I design for. 
Jenn and Kristin of Fiber on a Whim have tons of fun hanging out at the show!

Our booth is not complicated like some of the big companies. They have crews that actually come in and build their booths. You can hear the hum of drills, screw guns and fork lifts moving these large containers around the convention center. Its best that Jennifer stays out of this wild flurry of activity and vehicles by staying within the safety of our hotel room. Our booth consists of hanging quilts mainly, deciding where and how we want the booth to flow. This year we had decided to not only do Quilt Market which is the wholesale part of the show for the shop owners and distributors but to also stay to sell to the public at Festival. Our single booth for Market will be redesigned as we opened up to a double booth for the public. Its crazy and fun with a hum of activity as everyone is scrambling to set up before Quilt Markets opening day and Sample spree. 
Our Booth for Market. See our new Hedgehog Fabric line Quilt in the middle?
Our newest fabric line and Hedgehog Quilt pattern designed by Larene at The Quilted Button

Sample Spree is a 2 hour, pre-sale event where the shop owners can buy samples or sample packs of items that are normally sold in large quantities. For example, Moda Fabrics sell their new fabric lines in pre-cut bundles so shops can buy their favorite lines and take them back to the shop to create projects before the fabric actually arrives. Each vendor there has a special Sample Spree package. This is a very popular event and the women line up for hours ahead of time to assure that they get in and get what they are after first. Needless to say the popular fabric companies often sell out before Sample Spree is over. We have done this event for years and find it crazy fun. 
A small part of a very long line waiting to get into Sample Spree

We are all set up and ready for the lines of people, can you see the fabric stacked behind us! 

Before the show begins and while we have been busy in the vendors section setting up, a whole different crew has been hanging the show quilts in a large area next to us. This part of the show will not be viewed until Festival when the public arrives. It is a wonderful time for us as vendors to walk through these exhibits and look at them. I often have an art quilt in the show so its fun to get some pictures before the show begins and the crowds arrive. 

Quilting Treasures Booth and my new fabric line on display on the end cap! Buyers come in from all over to look at and purchase the fabric lines 

In Hoffman Fabrics booth Melissa Alverino's Quilt hung and it was impressive! 

The show is filled with meetings, orders, promoting, marketing along with trying to run around and shop and visit other booths. It starts early and ends late.and then we start the hunt for somewhere to eat and what to eat. To make things easy we could just eat in the hotel but the food is not great and its very expensive. We often opt to walk to another restaurant in the area if the weather allows. During the show was Halloween so many people were dressed up and we took this opportunity to let Chloe have some fun too! The people at the show look forward to seeing Chloe's Halloween costume for that year! She is often the subject of peoples photos and attention. But sometimes you meet the most unusual produce in the elevator!

Me and Cecile Whatman from Australia! We had dinner together a few nights which was wonderful

Me and Lisa Chin grabbing a selfie before the show ended.

The next few days are a blur and on Monday at 4pm Quilt Market 2016 is over. This is when many of the companies begin to tear their booths down and move out since they do not sell to the public. This is total chaos, organized chaos, but its still wild. People can tear down a booth much faster than setting one up. For the first time we aren't leaving and we settle back and just move our stuff to the center of our booth. As many move out the Exhibit Hall is redesigned for Festival, we now have a double booth to decorate and the layout is all different. We pull in our tables and wrap everything up and will wait until morning to begin the redesign. We will have Tuesday and part of Wednesday to set up for Festival before Preview night, Wednesday at 5pm.  
We are ready for Preview night and Festival to begin!
All done and ready to go!

You can see Jenn braced for the onslaught and Chloe has found a safe spot too!

We have never done Festival before and although we have heard about it we underestimated how many people would attend. We thought we had brought enough patterns to get us through the show but ran out of 6 of our patterns fairly early in the show. We also ran out of flyers and business cards which put us at a disadvantage. I had no idea the size of this show and will plan for that next year! It was amazing to see the streams of people that first night over take our booth and fill it to capacity. It was exciting and scary at the same time. Jennifer was parked right outside our booth, next to an small wall to protect her and Chloe from the herds of people running through the show that first night, trying to buy up the things that they felt would be gone by Saturday. I had no idea!! They said over 55,000 people had pre-bought tickets and that didn't take into account how many people just come and buy their tickets at the door. I don't have the total numbers but I am anxious to find out. 
A photo from above only shows a small part of an expansive set up and show floor. Everyone is set up and ready
And so it begins

Festival is the biggest Quilt show in the country and I can say that I live through it!! We started every morning at 9:30 and it was over at 7:00pm. The constant stream of people made it almost impossible to leave the booth for lunch or to even go to the bathroom. One day during a slow down I ran to the bathroom and when I returned Randy was buried in people! He had texted my phone the word "HELP" but with all the noise I didn't hear it and was only gone a few minutes. Jennifer even ended up buying us lunch a few days and carefully transporting it back to our booth. One day we had to go look for her and found her on the second floor, trapped since no one would hold the elevator for her. By the end of the day we were often tired and hungry and came to find out early that all these extra people that come for Festival meant that the local restaurants were very busy and to eat, even in the Hotel, was often a 2 hour wait. Some vendors don't stay local and must then drive to there lodging and find or make their dinners.  We waited that first night to eat but figured out a plan of leaving a bit early to put our name in before the show let out. It worked and we managed to stay fed for the next few days. 
Everywhere we go Chloe seems to be the center of attention and the sign on her back that says service dog, please ask to pet me, is hard to enforce all the time. Some times you just need to let the love happen!
Love Happens

Jennifer and I managed to see Susan Carlson's exhibit and giant Alligator quilt before the show closed! Impressive!!

BYE HOUSTON until next year!! 

The Sam Houston statue on our drive out.

Our trip home was filled with crazy weather, challenging road conditions and long days of driving. Jennifer always chooses a book for us to listen to on our trip and we get very engrossed in those but this year we were streaming the election results on our drive home. I won't comment either way but it was historic and kept us all awake and alert as we made our way to our final hotel stay. We knew when we had hit Flagstaff we were almost home. One more day of driving and we would be pulling into our driveway and sleeping in our bed!! That is an awesome thought. 
Much of Texas is flat and involves weather. Texans are a hardy bunch!

This is just our story, one small story in a maze of stories. During this show we heard of vendors in car accidents, one of the vendors had his trailer and all his product stolen, family deaths while they were away and more. We feel blessed to have been able to attend the show with only minor issues and lots of rewards. We made new friends, visited old friends, met up with cross country friends and across the world friends. We even snuck in a family dinner at our favorite restaurant, Guadalajara's in downtown. 
My cousin and his wife who live in Houston

This is just one of the crazy, untold stories of traveling to work these shows. I can say it was amazing, exhausting, a lot of hard work yet fun, exciting and full of energy. I came away motivated and encouraged that the stress of adding machine embroidery to our line was well worth the effort. As we were breaking down our booth that last night I remember feeling so satisfied, like I had run a marathon and come out a winner! That we had done it and done it well. The feed back from the quilters at Festival was so wonderful and I loved hearing how much they loved my designs and quilt patterns. I never really hear much of that at Market so that part was so encouraging. That is really why we do what we do, we love creating and we love creating for you. Hearing your feed back fills our hearts and inspires us even more. It feels the same when I teach, that reward of sharing something with others is just so special.  Randy and I continued to discuss the work that needed to be done when we got home with a new tone in our voice. It was that feeling of doing it again and the excitement about moving on to our next designs. 

We are home, dealing with the things that need to be taken care of now, filling orders, shipping, following up on leads and contacts. Its not over, its just a flow, from one show to the next one in January. We don't really do a lot of trade shows and have a appreciation for those who do. Its hard work, long hours, its so much more than a few days at the show. 

So with all that said, I hope you enjoyed taking our trip with us. Sharing the ups and downs of this creative life we share. I hope the next time you attend a quilt show you will have a better understanding of what goes into making it all come together for you to have fun buying patterns and fabrics, nick nacks and new tools to use in your sewing rooms. The work involved to haul all the sewing machines and tables for you to try. Its all about getting us all together, in one place where we can admire, learn from, buy from and share our love for this industry! Its about sharing this love of Quilting with each other!! 

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