MQX at Providence, RI and travels in New England

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 The first thing we did after checking in at the Westin Inn was to find a liquor store to restock on Gin & Tonic. After the frenetic activity of New York City, we crashed out for a couple of hours, had quite a lot to drink then decided we had better go and get something to eat in order to soak up some alcohol. Some students recommended the Luxe Burger Bar but we couldn’t find it without asking for directions. We had to follow and keep up with a guy who was out on a power walk workout at a very fast pace. The build-your-own burgers were excellent and very good value and had the desired effect.

During the course of the next morning we started to meet members of the APQS Forum. I received a super Amish String Yurt panel from Connie which didn’t yet have a name. She told me the story of how she had the quilt hanging up outside in order to take a photo when her husband accidentally splashed it with the garden hose and a little of the navy blue fabric bled through to the bright orange back. She told me that she was not at all pleased with him – she almost said to him that she would have to go out and look for husband number 5 to replace him… so her panel is now known as “Looking 4 # 5”

We were disappointed to discover that all of the tickets were sold out for the first evening event, The Ice Cream Social so we volunteered to help out so that we could attend anyway. They put us in charge of Security and promised to let us have a bowl of ice cream with M&M’s if there was any left over. It was a low key event where the organisers performed a song, some of the teachers gave an outline of the classes on offer and door prizes were flung across the room. They were not impressed that we shouted out the answer to the question, “How many tickets were sold for the Ice Cream Social?” as we had counted them all up as we checked off the names from our list on the door. There was not a prize for using our initiative.

Despite feeling a bit jaded from all of the dashing about since we arrived in the USA, I still managed to read my book until after midnight and wake up full of energy before 6.00am so Tracy and I used the time to make up some British quilting trivia quiz questions so we could give out our “prizes” of goodies from the UK at the APQS supper on Thursday evening. By the time my class started at 8am in a chilly air conditioned room, I was almost dozing off due to a lack of caffeine. So far I have attended a most thorough class on APQS maintenance by Amy Anderson and an interesting class on what to quilt on customer quilts by Deloa Jones. It made me realise that what I quilt for customers is imaginative enough but far too detailed to be cost effective. I spent a few hours hanging around the coffee bar in the conference centre so that I could use the wifi and do some people watching. Someone who admired my boots asked if I was there for the Roller Derby where roller-bladers dress wackily and bump into each other just like stock car racing.

I decided that I needed to pluck up the courage to ask some of the quilting superstars if they will let me interview them for my new podcast. I made up some silly questions and pretended to interview someone to check that I could remember how to operate the tape recorder. I spotted Matt, the Man Quilter eating salad and got him to agree to an interview on Saturday while he had a mouthful of lettuce and couldn’t say “No”.

The only trouble with dashing around, drinking Coke and being in a foreign country is that I can’t seem to get more than 5 hours sleep. Every morning I wake up far too early, raring to go. By the time I get into an 8 o’clock class without coffee in an air conditioned room, I find it hard to stay awake and pay attention. Deloa Jones’ Challenge class was fascinating, with lots of ideas on how to do great looking customer quilts without spending days working on them. I had a long gap between classes which gave me time to relax, watch the people and think about blogging and interview questions. The evening class was with the legendary Karen McTavish. She is very entertaining and the class was a lot of fun. The purpose was to gain a teaching certificate for her McTavishing techniques. It was really good to see her show the flowing style on a machine and to have the opportunity to practise it. After 5 minutes on the machine I was offered the certificate and told that I could leave if I wanted to… I decided to stay, of course! Karen told me she had seen my work and thought it was pretty cool – I was thrilled to hear that from her.

On Thursday morning I whizzed around the vendors and just glimpsed the quilts but it seems to be a relatively small show and some of the vendors had not brought their full complement of stock. I bought thread and a couple of rulers but did not tick all of the must-have longarm gadgets off my list. It was fairly quiet so it was easy to chat to several quilting teachers if they were helping out on the booths. The big news of the day was that a volcanic eruption in Iceland had closed all of the European airports due to huge clouds of ash in the atmosphere. It was suggested that we should just stay in the USA and head on down to the AQS show in Paducah next week!

I took an intense class on advanced artistry with Linda Taylor. There was lots of drawing which I struggle with at speed but she just kept talking and drawing while the students all waited for their turn at the longarms. Each person had about 15 minutes of hands-on time which is a very short time on an unfamiliar machine and what I produce is not usually of a good standard. I spent the last hour of the show chatting to Heidi, Charlotte and Anne before meeting up with a crowd from the APQS Forum at “Fire & Ice”. This restaurant was a Mongolian barbecue – the diners fill a bowl with meat or fish, vegetables and sauces then it is cooked on a huge circular cooking plate manned by 3 guys with knives and spatulas while everyone observes their meal progressing clockwise until it is cooked. It was a bit like throwing all sorts of everything into a wok and just seeing what would happen at the end. We did “show & tell” with Anne and Sandra’s Yurt panels, did the British quiz where the prizes included tea, shortbread and Royal Navy hats, and took lots of pictures of the APQS crowd. It was really fun to put real faces to all of the chat room avatars.

On Friday morning I made myself look at the show quilts and take photos early before I got distracted by vendors and chatting to quilters. I was absolutely delighted when I spotted a teacher ribbon from Cathy Franks on LSD. I saw her to say thank you and she was really pleased that she had chosen my quilt – she said she loved it!! On the back of the rosette she wrote, “Cool, Cool, Cool!” I spent the rest of the day talking to vendors, quilters and doing some typing. I wondered if I should have booked some more classes and realised that the demo classes are probably more valuable than hands-on where time on a machine is really limited. Later on Deloa Jones kindly let me use her machine to work on the unquilted yurt panel that I had taken with me but since so many people were attending the Gala Dinner that we did not manage to get tickets for, the whole place felt deserted so after a while I decided to pack up. Deloa arrived and very kindly basted the panel for me so that it would be easy to reload at home. Tracy and I went out for supper with ex-pat Anne from Stowe and gave her taste of the UK. We had a good hearty bar supper which was most welcome after several days of living on sandwiches. I was told later that the Gala Dinner was not the most spectacular food so I reckon we had the better evening.

On Saturday morning we had another chase around the vendors getting product demos and trying to wheedle free samples. I had a nice chat with the Filtec Threads team and Jamie Wallen wanted to know all about the Yurt project. The interviewees that I had lined up were nowhere to be found so Cathy Franks and Deloa Jones very kindly agreed to be my guinea pig interviewees. I had jotted down some questions but mainly winged it without a rehearsal, being very conscious not to interrupt, sniff or mutter. Both interviews are 5 minutes long at the most but it is a start so I will need to work out how to edit and upload these with some other podcast content to make a real Episode One.

We helped to get the show quilt return bags ready and then waited to collect LSD before heading up to Albany with our next hostess, Bonnie Botts. After arriving back at her house fairly late, we had a very quick tour around her huge basement studio and settled in for the night with a cup of tea.

We got up early on Sunday to fetch Sarah the Dog from kennels, passing wild turkeys on the way. Apparently the tom turkeys can get as large as 70lbs but would be tough to eat. The day started properly after a splendid brunch at an original aluminium 1940’s Diner where I was able to order a fried egg, “Sunnyside Up!” with ham and home fries and plenty of coffee. We had a busy day on a quilt shop tour that took in Pumpkin Patch, Tala’s Quilt Shop and A Notion for Quilting – all of the owners were friendly and helpful and had lovely displays of fabric. I bought a couple of novelty pieces to turn into book covers or another laptop sleeve. After driving around for most of the day, we stopped off at the Yankee Candle Emporium and sniffed all of the delightful fragrances and eyed up the colourful Vera Bradley quilted bags. I was very tempted to buy a glass Christmas ornament of a dill pickle but thought that it might break in transit. We stopped off for delicious Chinese food on the way home but the portions were huge so we took a doggie bag home each in case we felt like a snack later on.

We had another early start on Monday to make a long road trip through Vermont and New Hampshire to Keepsake Quilting. The scenery was beautiful and we passed many beautiful clapboard houses and barns. Some were painted in soft Shaker colours with neat front yards while others were dilapidated and surrounded by broken down pickups. The towns were really quaint throughout historic New England and we passed the time talking about quilting, Bonnie’s childhood in Montana, life, the universe and everything. We saw eagles, mountains, forests, lakes, beaver dams, trucks, hillbilly trailers and white churches – it was the most beautiful trip. Keepsake Quilting was a very nice shop in a large white clapboard building with a huge range of fabrics, although not all of what is displayed on their website was available in the shop.  We decided that the staff could have been a bit more cheerful and obliging. We bought a couple of books and notions between us but were quite restrained.

When we finally got back to eat Bonnie’s marvellous meatloaf with mashed potato and gravy, we checked the news regarding the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud. Our Tuesday evening flight has been cancelled. Air travel worldwide has been severely disrupted and the volcano is still active. There are many rumours that the Royal Navy will rescue us but I suspect that we will have to make a convoluted journey back to the UK via France. We will find out in the morning and help Bonnie with some chores in her studio so we can try to earn our keep. She has been so kind, offering to let us stay on instead of camping at the airport like several hundred stranded passengers so we will do our best to be helpful guests after all of her marathon driving over the past couple of days.

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