Ian’s Tips for Visiting a Quilt Show
5th Apr 2022
Last month I talked about my experience at QuiltCon 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. If you missed that blog post, check it out here. I first got to attend QuiltCon in 2020 before the world shut down. I was not prepared for how overwhelming it would be. No one warned me for how overloaded my brain would feel just looking at quilts and vendor booths. Let’s me give you some tips I wish I had known that can help you when you visit any quilt show or event.
1. Take it slow! This might seem obvious, but once you make it through the door and see ALL the rows of quilts you might feel like you need to run and run and run to see everything in time. Take a breath and remember that you don’t have to see it all. Take time to admire and absorb what you are seeing. Let your brain process it all. If you are seeing everything at light speed, you won’t have a chance to really see everything.
2. Wear comfortable shoes. You are going to be on your feet all day more than likely, so it is best to treat your feet well and make them as comfortable as possible. During QuiltCon I ended up walking a total of 60,084 steps over the 4 day I attended. If I had not been wearing the right shoes I would have been in a lot of trouble.
3. Stay hydrated. Not always, but quite frequently we are attending quilt shows in other cities and sometimes even other states. Airplanes are a very low humidity environment and so when I landed in Phoenix I was already in need of water. Add on top of that the dry phoenix climate and I made sure that I was staying on top of my water intake. I always carry a reusable water bottle with me when I am traveling to make sure I stay hydrated. Collapsible bottles are super helpful when you are limited on packing space in suitcases or backpacks.
4. Take prepackaged snacks to keep in your bag or purse. During QuiltCon I never knew when I would be taking a break and for how long. A lot of times I would lose track of time and realized that I should have had lunch hours ago. Keeping a snack in your back can keep you out of trouble and allow you flexibility. Snack high in protein are way better than a sugary filled treat. Just remember most shows don’t allow food so you might have to exit the show or find a quiet corner to eat.
5. Take time to sit or even stretch. As I talked about above, I walked a lot during QuiltCon and honestly, I didn’t take time to just sit for a moment or two. When you are go, go, go it can be hard to remember to be good to your body and find that place to take a break and sit. Even better is if you can take some time to stretch. One of the offerings QuiltCon had in the mornings was yoga. Now I’m not saying you should bring your yoga mat and plop down in the middle of every quilt show and practice your downward dog. However, taking some time to touch your toes or other stretches can really help you feel better at the end of the day.
6. Allow for breaks both mental and visual. Your brain will get so overloaded with looking at so many different shapes, colors, textures, etc. Give your brain and body the time it needs to process and file away everything you are seeing. It is not uncommon to hit saturation overload where your brain just shuts down. Cognitive Load Theory says our brains possess a limited capacity for working memory and, if presented with information that exceeds this capacity, information overload occurs. Taking in so many different stimuli can be hard on our brains to process. Take some time to give your mind a break.
7. Lastly, admire but don’t compare. It might be hard, but you can’t compare your work to what you see in the show. Even I fall victim to this when visiting shows. You want to compare what you create to the amazing works on display. However, everyone is on their own quilting journey, and we are not all in the same place on that journey. Try to feel inspired by what you are seeing and not discouraged. I know, easier said than done but trust me. Your work is just as good as what you see in the show.
If you have never been to any kind of quilt show or event I highly recommend going. They are so much fun and can give so much inspiration. However, go in well prepared and be ready for a mind overload. They are also a great place to network. I have met some amazing friends just by starting a simple conversation while standing in front of a quilt. You never know, you might even bump into your favorite “sewlebrity” around the next corner while you are there.