On Monday I did a little exploring around Des Moines on my own as I would be waiting until the afternoon for the Yurt to arrive from Wisconsin. I took the Skywalk downtown to see what little shops I could find. (It seems that the Skywalk was partly responsible for the downtown shops closing down as it meant that no-one had a reason to walk at street level any more.) I had coffee at Java Joes but did not see many interesting people downtown apart from office workers and a few stray hobos. Next I walked up to the East Village where there is a scattering of trendy boutiques and a couple of large thrift stores where I felt obliged to have a good rummage. I checked back at the convention centre where stallholders were beginning to unload and get set up for the show. There had been very heavy rain in the north so Norma did not make it down from Wisconsin until late in the afternoon but it was a great feeling to unload the USA yurt from her car at last and lay it down in the space where it would be displayed.
Arriving early on Tuesday morning, we were assigned two very helpful members of AQS staff, Melissa and Barry to help get the frame assembled. It was useful that they are both tall as this yurt frame is 2 feet higher than the original Scottish version. The new yurt frame also has a smaller diameter so the two lattices meet more tightly at the back. This took a little persuasion to get all lined up but in no time we had figured it all out and I was impressed at how easily it all went from there. Before long the hanging rope and wall skirts were on and finally the roof that I had made from a sketch diagram with Mo’s help. Thankfully and impressively it fitted perfectly! The wall panels all lined up nicely so there was plenty of time to add the pompom trim and bunting. The electricians agreed to run a cable under the carpet so that I could plug in the fairy lights and we still had time left to go on an expedition to see if we could find any interesting items to add to the yurt’s cosy atmosphere. Enthused by what might be uncovered in junk shops we set off for a good rake around some of the goodwill stores and Dollar Trees. I have never seen so many jeans all in one place amongst discarded Christmas decorations and novelty mugs. I managed to find a dangly plastic mobile that looked funky, a 1960’s style butterfly chair and an interesting wool blanket. Just for fun, I added a set of imitation antlers that were probably designed as a coat rack that would hang above the door. I was made very welcome at the evening Teacher meeting by Bonnie Browning and Andi Reynolds from AQS, before returning to my room to eat a leftover salad and a large G&T.
The show opened on Wednesday and the visitors were amazed and most complimentary when they saw the yurt in person, after having read about it in American Quilter magazine. There were many questions to answer about yurts, why I had decided to make a quilted version, and where I got my gold Doc Marten boots. It was great to have Norma Klimpke on hand to talk about the USA yurt frame from Yurts of America www.yurtsofamerica.com and the background of the Cedarburg, Wisconsin Museum of Fiberarts www.wiquiltmuseum.com I gave my first class that evening, “Bling My Quilt” and the students seemed to enjoy themselves despite everyone being tired after a long day at the show.
Thursday was a busier day at the show as we headed towards the weekend. I made a point of going to see all of the super show quilts and had a brief look at some of the vendor stalls. It was fun to spend time talking to the APQS team and their booth looked great set up with all of the machines in the range on show. I bought some thread, glittery spray and some stencils one just one trip back from the ladies’ loo. I met lots of people from the APQS forum and Facebook; it was lovely to meet the real people at last instead of their virtual personas. It seems that Norma and I are both curious people because we quizzed everybody about where they had travelled from and they in turn asked me about Yurts and Scotland. I was interviewed on video by Bonnie Browning of AQS and had fun pretending to be on the news. It was exciting to meet quilt teachers whom I had read about on the Internet; we had a great laugh with Ellen Anne Eddy over breakfast and supper a couple of times and Heather Thomas gave me some helpful book publishing information. I had a worthwhile meeting with AQS publishing editor, Andi Reynolds who encouraged me to look for an alternative publisher that would let me have free rein to put together a book about the yurt that goes beyond patterns and tells the richer story of the collaboration of women quilters who helped to create the Quilted Yurt. I appreciate her insight and this should give me a better sense of direction to the way I put the chapters together.
On Friday I gave my “Silent Movie Star” piecing class which went really well until we realised that I had missed out a crucial photo. Luckily, there were a couple of clever students who helped to find the missing piece of the puzzle and we soon put it all back on track. I promised that I would make the quilt again, photograph every stage and email new improved instructions once I get home. I should probably stick to teaching longarm quilting…! The afternoon lecture on the story of the Quilted Yurt went down very well. The audience listened attentively and laughed in all of the right places, apart from a couple of people who had forty winks because the quilt show had obviously worn them out. The talk ran to schedule then many members of the audience came back to look around the yurt again to examine the structure in more detail. Even vendors made a special point of coming to see what everyone was talking about and ask about the project. I am thrilled at how well received the yurt has been. People are also enquiring which longarm machine I would recommend and asking for more information about the WI Fiberarts Museum. I have certainly been made to feel most welcome in Des Moines!
The Saturday morning crazy notebook class was fun as it was relaxing and not at all complicated. Everyone had a good time but wished it was a couple of hours longer. I went back to the Yurt where Norma K (from the Wisconsin museum) reported that the morning had brought many excited visitors. So many people were amazed by the use of gold lame and fabric paint on many of the Yurt quilts. The time passed quickly, chatting to all of the crowds then I had a last look around the vendors, making the decision not to buy a couple of large and heavy items such as a metal barn quilt sign. Sadly, it was time to pack up and with the help of members of the AQS team, the whole Yurt was packed up and ready to load into the car in less than an hour. Norma and I had a very good burger with beer in the Raccoon River Brewing Co. where we had quite a laugh at some of the shiny, tight Homecoming frocks and high heels.
We will leave for Wisconsin in the morning and I hope to have the chance to take far more photos…