Quilt Craziness at the International Quilt Festival

Each year thousands of people gather together in Houston with one common love: Quilts! This weekend marked the annual International Quilt Festival. The Houston festival is the largest in the country, and last year's attendance broke records with more than 60,000 attendees.

This year's fest was nothing to shrug at. The George R. Brown was taken over with what felt like miles and miles of quilts. Much of the festival was vendors who came from all over the country to sell their quilt-related wares. Bolts of fabric, notions, buttons and all the latest quilt gadgets tantalized potential buyers.

Sewing machine company Bernina was on hand with its ten-foot sewers. The machines are computerized, which means you pick a design from the computer's collection of images and presto! The machine will stitch your quilt for you. When I was watching, the machine was making little Christmas trees like it was nothing.

Down the aisle from Bernina was another set of machines, by A-1 Quilting. These machines, while just as large, required you to take charge and sew yourself (oh, the horror). The ladies of A-1, Trish and Janice, had a lot to say about the newfangled computerized machines, noting, "It's like sending your quilt out to be sewn for you."

There was quite a bit of local flavor at the festival; High Fashion Fabrics had a table set up as did Quilts By the Bay from Friendswood. Brenda from Mama's Quilt Shop drove over from Independence, Louisiana. This was her fifth year at the festival and while she was pleased with the turnout, she felt that it was a bit slower than festivals past. Possibly the economy or the hurricane may have caused a lower attendance, in her opinion.

The festival is not just a big quilt sale; it is also a contest with big bucks for prizes. The Handi Quilter Best in Show went to Sherry Reynolds from Laramie, Wyoming. Her quilt "Let It Shine" featured 5,121 Swarovski crystals representing the words of the Constitution, Star Spangled Banner, Pledge of Allegiance and the age of the country. It was a sparkling red, white and blue masterpiece.

Other winners included Janneke De Vries-Bodzinga from the Netherlands for her piece "Hot Africa," which took home the prize for World of Beauty. The quilt is a stunning scene of African villagers staring into a gilded sun. It is as striking as it is difficult to believe that the whole thing is made from fabric.

As people collected in front of some of the more elaborate displayed quilts, I overheard someone say, "Can you believe how amazing this is and it's a quilt?" I couldn't have said it better myself.

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