This past weekend, I had a house full of guests and several action-packed days surrounding the first occurrence of QuiltCon in Nashville. It’s an event I’ve wanted to attend for several years and never get to, but what could be more convenient than it happening in my own backyard?
QuiltCon is the quilting equivalent of a Stitches event for knitters, except in addition to the convention-center rooms full of classes, lectures and vendor booths, there are also over 500 modern quilts on display. It’s pretty dizzying. The marketplace area is fairly small compared to a Stitches event (though still plenty vast) but try to picture rows and rows of pipe-and-drape “walls” hung with that many quilts. It’s a lot to take in! And it took us two visits to see it all.
I snapped photos of all of my favorites (too many to share) and of those only Exit Wound by 17-year-old Audrey Bernier was one of the official prize winners. It was among the Youth quilts, an area that was robust with social-justice quilts done in conjunction with the Social Justice Sewing Academy. Exit Wound is a statement on gun violence in the US, and the design was inspired by the fact that the exit wound for an AR-15 is the size of an orange. It is a mix of strong concept and subtle details, and a collage of patchwork, appliqué, embroidery, hand- and machine-quilting. Truly powerful work.
If I could have brought any one of the quilts home with me, I would have chosen Peppermint Twist by Irene Roderick, pictured up top. There were lots of quilts in the show that used tiny little strips of fabric, which was mind-boggling to me, and this one just really struck me as both technically amazing and visually stunning.
Or maybe I would take the quilt called Six Pairs of Pants by Sherri Lynn Wood, who was the featured quilter for this year and had about three aisles of quilts on display. She previously did a residency at the dump in San Francisco and made art and quilts from some of the discards. This one is literally made from six pair of pants, which takes you a minute to realize. I also loved the dress shirt one, where she’d left the buttons intact.
Of course, the best part was seeing old friends and meeting several new ones. In particular, I was thrilled to find out Karyn Valino was in town for the event. When I first got back into garment making, Karyn (aka @make_something) was a huge inspiration — I basically just wanted to sew every pattern I saw her sewing, and still do. (I definitely quizzed her about every garment she had on and added a couple of things to my list.) So it was great to get to meet and spend some time with both her and the lovely Jaqueline of Soak, who she was here with.
And in the aisles at the show on Friday, a woman walked past me wearing a fantastic hand-quilted, shibori, haori-style jacket. When I said “I LOVE your jacket,” she spun around and showed us her hand-stitched jeans and bag as well, then quickly told us her name, what all and where all she teaches, and that we could follow her on Instagram at @sandrajohnsondesigns for more, which of course we promptly did! Sadly, we didn’t get to see her quilted pants in person.
That’s barely skimming the surface of the incredible display of talent that is QuiltCon. Photos don’t begin to do the quilts justice, and if you get a chance to see a future batch in person, I definitely recommend it. I believe next year’s QuiltCon is in Austin TX.
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