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Pittsburgh Quilt Show Report!

Heather Ross16 Comments

When I first heard that the 2009 Spring Quilt Show was going to be held in Pittsburgh, PA, I wasn't sure what to expect. Denyse and I decided right away that we had always wanted to road trip through Pennsylvania Dutch Country so we made the decision to drive there without so much as looking at a map. Heres the thing about Pennsylvania: its enormous. It is also, unfortunately for those of us who prefer to eat our way across a state, effectively closed for business on Sundays. Other than that? Its fabulous and wholly road trip worthy. Its back road route options are endless, its country-sides are filled with perfect farms small and large, and its cities seem to be remarkably preserved. And like so much of the Northeast, it is so rich with living history that it makes you want to read everything you were supposed to have read in college US History classes front to back. What really blew us away was how beautiful the convention center in Pittsburgh was, designed to stretch out over one of the cities two rivers with views of its many bridges and beautiful buildings. The whole show was filled with natural light instead of the expected flourescents (that alter color dramatically and make everyone look and feel tired by noon), which is every fabric designers dream. 

We arrived on Friday morning after spending the night on the road. A lack of planning (we have both been so solidly busy) resulted in our sleeping in what is perhaps Pennsylvania's only ugly small city and eating Skittles for dinner. The upside was that our only option was eating Dunkin Donuts for breakfast, without being forced to acknowledge the actual caloric content of every thing on the menu, which is the curse of every New Yorker since Mayor Bloomberg instituted strict disclosure rules on New York City restaurants. That Bloomberg. He is like that strict father of your best junior high school friend, the one who won't let you do ANYTHING fun. Still, I love him. Without him, I would not know that a Low Calorie Blueberry Muffin has 410 calories while an Old Fashioned has only 180. I KNOW.

Any-hoo, First stop was Kokka / Seven Islands, my new home in the world of fabric design and one of the prettiest booths at market. They had a gorgeous little booth-ette set up for me with sweet little clothing samples made up in my Far far Away line everywhere and a great Weekend Sewing display. I was on the schedule for three signings, all of which were so much fun. In betweens I dashed over to say hi to Jeffrey at Westminster and Amy Butler, who always has big news. She was showing her very cool new line of bags, designed for crafty girls and full of great details. Her new catalog included lots of news: a bedding line launching with Welspun, some really great rugs, and much much more. Anna Maria was missed, her booth is always full of good ideas and comfy chairs and that adorable doting husband of hers. Checking her blog daily for baby news....

One new and very exciting development was a Liberty of London booth! This cult status favorite has a new US distributor and BIG news: they are launching a lower priced cotton sheeting for the quilting market! I have had no qualms spending $40 +/- per wide yard season after season on their gorgeous printed "Tana" lawns, but am equally excited to see this stuff. I gushed to them about my wedding, which was a parade of Liberty right down to the ties that the guys wore, and was even wearing a Liberty of London shirt. It was very cool to see them there, and to know that more and more US stores will be able to carry their lines now.

Despite a minor setback (accidentally drinking decaf) we made it the show by the crack of eleven. We were just in time for my second book signing and to meet some online (TC calls them imaginary) bloggy friends in person, which is always lovely, and to sign a few more copies of Weekend Sewing. I also found myself explaining the theories and uses of Double Gauze, the fabric that Far Far Away is printed on. I love this stuff. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you have made and worn a blouse or dress made from the stuff, I promise you will be a convert. In fact, the dress I am wearing on Martha tomorrow is made from the same weight that Far Far Away is printed on. Its the Mendocino Sundress, still available as a free download on this blog. I live in this dress, I even wore it as a skirt at the show on Friday even though I had taken a four hour nap on the sofa the day before  in it and hadn't had time to wash it. Its really great stuff.


I spent the afternoon over at Oliver + S, now a neighbor of the famed and gorgeous Kokka booth, where Liesl and Todd were showing their extremely popular pattern lines and showing samples made up in the Far Far Away prints. I ate most of their jelly beans. Thanks guys. We all went for dinner at the odd but fascinating Church Brew Works brewery, which is housed in an old church, and drank beers and talked about how much we missed Brooke, who is usually at the show, and the ever changing retail landscape in this age of internet commerce. I love being around with Liesl and Todd, and look forward to watching their business grow. Oliver + S is still quite new but already setting a new standard for sewing patterns. I would like to be the first to go on the record by saying that their vision will shape this market dramatically and they are the ones to watch in the coming seasons.

Sunday was a long drive back to the city with much giggling and junk food. We managed to score some bonnets at a gas station to remember the countryside by, and wore them while driving through the Holland Tunnel. We took them off before emerging in Tribeca, where we knew they would be underappreciated. There is always that moment when a road trip ends. Its before you get home, I think. Its when you turn onto a street that is within your daily or weekly radius, at that specific intersection where crazy hats and junk food suddenly seem less appropriate.