QuiltCon 2019: Trip Report

I’m still getting back into a routine after returning from QuiltCon 2019 last week (in Nashville). It was an overwhelming, positive, and overwhelmingly positive experience, but I needed a few days to process and summarize.

The quilts were great to see, and I enjoyed the one class I took! I really enjoyed the special exhibits in the quilt show. And the vendors were a small subset of what I understand to be available at other larger quilt shows, but I thought there was a nice variety of shops and manufacturers. Because I didn’t attend any lectures this year, I can’t say much about them, but I only heard good things. I don’t think I got out of the routine of hotel and convention center time to enjoy Nashville, but that was more due to my travel companion.

It was my first time participating in the MQG mini swap, and that was fun (although quick!) – see below for photos. My favorite thing was connecting with friends IRL that I’ve been interacting with for a while now.

As usual, I have a lot to say. I’ve divided my thoughts into a few sections in case you want to completely ignore one or more or all of them and close your tab now and I’ll catch you later 🙂 🙂 🙂 .

The Quilts

Here are the quilty photos I took while I walked through several of the mornings:

Wandering around #QuiltCon with my mini me! Quilt by Kim @lelandavestudios. It’s bigger than I expected 😁😁😁 #quilt #quilting #makersgonnamake #modernquilt #modernquilting #modernquilts #quiltcon2019 #stephskardalquiltcon2019 ...

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She asked what it said. I said: Brave, Brilliant, Beautiful, “Awesome!” And then we moved along so she couldn’t catch my white lie. 😁😁😁😁 Edit: Not that I have any problem with the word badass, but I’m not quite at the point where I want to spoil the innocence of my first born, and a kindergartner. Quilt by @happysewlucky! #momlife #quilting #quiltcon #quilt2019 #makersgonnamake #creativelifehappylife #sewing #showusyourmqg #stephskardalquiltcon2019 ...

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Astrid’s favorites quilts of #QuiltCon, from the @sherrilynnwood exhibit, and then she even got to meet her and get a special shiny demo. Fun! #quiltcon2019 #nashville #sewing #makersgonnamake #creativelifehappylife #stephskardalquiltcon2019 ...

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Falling a little bit in love with the modern quilting seen as quiltcon (yep that's a thing)! Photo courtesy stephskardal and quilt by littlepincushion #quiltcon #quiltcon2019 #stephskardalquiltcon2019 ...

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And here is a much larger set of quilt photos from the IG tag #quiltcon:

This year at #quiltcon I had the honor of three quilts hanging. What makes me so happy is they all build upon each other and are completely connected. Finding Flow is the beginning. Directions pulling Discombobulates my mind Deep Breathe find the flow Finding Flow came during a drought of inspiration and and epic journey into the desert with violetcraft. The quilting by ccpquilt reflects how my insides felt when feeling the flow. #quiltcon #findingflow #iamanartist #makeitcurvy #sewallthecurves ...

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We're thrilled to be bringing #QuiltCon to Phoenix for the first time in 2022! Details coming soon... ...

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I was both relieved and excited that QuiltCon is going to be virtual in 2021. The catalog is out today (go visit themqg for links). I’m going to be teaching some new classes that I’m super looking forward to because they are all about process and being your awesome unique self. In Quilt With a Cue (say it out loud if you didn’t find the pun), we’ll see how many amazing things can come from the same prompt. I’m also co-teaching a class for the first time with rock star artist/academic playcrafts , where we’re going to explore story-based improv in Adventures in Improv Design (this will be extra fun for people who liked my Character Improv exercise back in April). I was going to say that you get two improvisers under one roof, but we’ll all be in our own homes. 😂 Registration starts on July 15. #quiltcon #quiltcontogether ...

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Kinda makes me hungry because this shot and work by karen.bolan just looks pretty delicious if you know what I mean?? ✅ 😍 ✅🐶💓 🌸 Tag & Share with your Friends⤵ ➖ 🎬Directed by builtaquilt #quiltlife #quiltingtutorial #quiltasyougo #quiltdesign #quiltcon #quilting #quiltersofinstagram #patchworkquilt #quiltshow #quiltvillemystery #igquiltfest #quiltblock #artquilt ...

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A big box of quilts arrived today and passed a very thorough sniff test from dog number two. It’s always a relief when they make it home safe and sound! Anyone else running out of wall space for their quilts?! Cheers! 🥃 • Thank you themqg for securely packaging the quilts for shipping! And wow - the ribbons made by modernhandcraft are incredible! ❤️ • #quiltcon2020 #quiltcon #modernquilter #modernquilting #quiltylove ...

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Already back in São Paulo!! Let me give you a brief introduction of who I am, since there are many new faces after #quiltcon. I am a Chilean quilter who lives in Brazil . 💕 I am the mother of 3 wonderful human beings and I am married to the love of my life. . ✂ I discovered quilting when I lived in Buenos Aires in 2012 and since then I have never stopped. 📈 I am engineer by profession . 🌿My sources of inspiration are music, nature, science and mathematics. . ✨ I love to teach, learn and create quilts. . My westy is called “Rocky Raccoon” like The Beatles song . . . . . #quiltcon2021 #quiltcon #chileanquilter #modernquilter #showmeyourmqg #helloquiltcon #quilter #quilt #quiltera ...

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Congratulations to patticoppock the maker of the #QuiltCon 2020 People’s Choice award winner, sponsored by pineapplefabrics . This is Bob, a quilt inspired by one of Patti’s grandsons, and it just radiates joy! ...

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A question within myself. What is the difference between Quilting and Sashiko? Toward #QuiltCon2020, I am spending as much time as possible learning the Quilting. ☆ Quilting and Sashiko have a lot of similarities. “How to enjoy fabric” is a universal language in between Quilting & Sashiko. One (possible) significant difference will be that quilters have a specific design as their blueprint. They have a destination when they start the project - very beautiful design and theme. They cut fabric nicely and beautifully, then stitch together. (Forgive me if my understanding of quilting is incorrect.) ☆ Sashiko also requires a process of cutting fabric, of course. However, including myself, many Sashiko artisans prefer, “Not-cutting-the-fabric” process. If there is a choice, I prefer using the fabric as is. Some of the Boro we make, we try to use the fabric as is - with less cutting the fabric. It is difficult to explain logically, it is more like a feeling. Again, it is not about good or bad. The quilting I find is so beautiful, and I will enjoy the Quiltcon. I am excited to learn more, and happy to share my culture in a festival of quilting. ☆ *The Photo is part of Boro Jacket by #KeikoFutatsuya ☆ - - - ☆ 今週末のイベントに向けて、少しでも(付け焼き刃とは承知しつつ)キルティングの知識を学ぼうとしています。機能性と装飾性。刺し子とキルティング。キルト芯を入れる等、違いはあるけれど、決して相敵対するものではないと思っています。「キルティング」と検索すると、「キルティング加工された商品」が出てきて、「キルト」と検索すると、僕がイメージしているキルト作品が出てきます。 ☆ 似ているキルトと刺し子ではありますが、違いもあるような気がします。其の一つに「布を切る」という作業。キルトは完成図(デザイン)に合わせて、布を切る作業がとても大切だと感じました。刺し子はどうか……。確かに現代において布を切ることは大切で、僕達も切るには切るのですが、正直「あまり切りたくない」というのが本心です。布、切るんですよ。でも、切らなくて良いのであれば切らないという選択肢を選びたい。昔から「切りたくない」と言っていた職人さんの言葉を聞いてきたからなのか、はたまた……。なので、僕らが作る襤褸も、それほど完成図があるわけじゃないんです。この違いは、興味深い話として伝えられるかなぁと思っています。どちらも素晴らしい文化です。 ☆ #Sashiko #JapaneseSashiko #HandStitching #QuiltCon #MQG #VisibleMending #InvisibleMending #SashikoStitching #JapaneseBoro #BoroJacket #Boro #刺し子 #日本の刺し子 #素敵なオン刺し #刺し子の再定義 #襤褸 #襤褸ジャケット #キルティング ...

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Welcome home, #sonderquilt! Just in time to go back on the wall because #cottonblossomquilt is heading to a show in Germany in a few weeks. The pattern for Cotton Blossom is available on my website. Link in profile! 🌈 🧵 #modernquilting #quiltpattern #quiltersofinstagram #modernquilt #quiltdesign #quiltcon #quiltlove #fabric #quilttherainbow #rainbow #quilt #quilting #sewtherainbow #curves #quiltallthethings ...

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The quilts were awesome. They didn’t disappoint. I loved the tiny piecing and color in so many of the quilts. When I see my own quilts together, my color palette is pretty obvious, but seeing all the other quilts with a variety of color palettes is super-duper inspiring.

Don’t forget to scroll back up to visit the other tabs.

The Swap

I barely shared photos on social media with my mini swap experience because it was such a quick exchange, but I was happy to participate. My swap partner and I chatted a bit before QuiltCon and that was nice to connect. My partner even made a cool quilt featuring inset seams, which I must try out! And an amazing label! Here are two great photos of that swap:

Don’t forget to scroll back up to visit the other tabs.

On Bringing a Kid

This marks my third time at QuiltCon with a kid (and I plan to take a break from that next year). Sorry if I talked to you and told you that detail 400 times.

Why would I bring a kid? The short answer is mom guilt, but the long answer is that leaving husband at home with three little kids would be a handful. My husband will say he can handle it (he can!) and he tends to get less stressed out than I do, but bringing a kid for one-on-one time was a good compromise. Here are notes on my three experiences with a kid at the past three QuiltCons:

QuiltCon 2017 (Savannah, GA): With 3 year old Astrid

We stayed in Savannah for 2 nights and drove (~5 hours). We stayed at an unsponsored hotel close to downtown and had a short walk to the shuttle pick up, which brought us across the bridge daily. We were very excited to ride the ferry across the river, but it was broken at the time – bummer!

3 year olds are barely interested in quilts, so we ran through the show and she was over it in about 2 minutes. I have a couple terrible pictures of us in front of my two quilts in the show. She was more interested in riding the bus back and forth across the bridge (no car seat!) and visiting the candy store. And of course, 3 year olds are notoriously impatient, so any food or potty needs were immediate. There were meltdowns at night because a 3 year old does not yet have the self awareness to know how tired they might be.

QuiltCon 2018 (Pasadena, CA): With 10 month old Ingrid

We stayed for three nights at the host hotel. This was a different situation because I was invited to come, because of the circumstances. We flew into LAX during rush hour (my bad!) and had to take a long taxi ride to Pasadena, but the MQG folks were kind enough to book a taxi service with a car seat to accommodate Ingrid and me. Our walk to and from the convention center was only a couple blocks, which was nice.

The nice thing about bringing a 10 month old is that they take naps and are generally happy and easy if well fed or held. I let her crawl around at the back of some of the lectures, and she was happy about that adventure. I was able to visit many of the quilts and meet a lot of people, but it was a quick 2-day trip and a 3 hour time change, so I still felt like it was very quick.

QuiltCon 2019 (Nashville, TN): With a 5 year old Astrid.

Astrid and I flew out and back on early flights and stayed for 4 nights in Nashville at the non-host hotel and shared a room with local friends. She was a great traveler, and remained excited and patient. She was especially excited to look out the window during the flights and when she saw the blue WiFi light up on the airplane. The tricky thing with our hotel choice was it was about a 10 minute walk (downhill out, uphill back) and that was a lot of walking for little legs.

At almost 6 years old, her patience was much better than at 3 and we were able to wander around the quilt show and vendors quite a bit. If I made a game of things (e.g. collecting 100 treasures), it was a success! But as soon as the objective of the game was over, she wanted to go back to the hotel room. She had the self awareness to tell me when she was tired and napped a couple of times, and went to bed easily at night.

I signed up for one class and was prepared with snacks and movies on the tablet to keep her busy, but about halfway through the class she realized we were using glue sticks and wanted to “help”. I could have maybe made it through one more class with her, but that would have been our max. And no full day classes for us!

Don’t forget to scroll back up to visit the other tabs.

On Judging and Subjectivity

I was very excited to have 5 quilts juried into the show, back when we found out in December. I was less excited to miss out on a ribbon, though. I shared that disappointment with a few friends, who I was surprised to hear did not receive recognition. On the flip side, I was so very happy to share the excitement with a couple of friends who did receive ribbons, especially because I saw those quilts come together before submission.

My disappointment quickly disappeared once I walked the show and saw the vast amount of creativity represented. There is so much variety and interpretation in how we express our creativity. Technical critiques aside, I saw some generalizations of what I think the judges subjectively preferred (i.e. more organic, improv, color saturation) with outliers, but then I remind myself that I don’t make quilts for judges and it’s not a good use of time to try to predict judge behavior and dynamics.

And a couple more thoughts: While I think there are some trends in what the judges preferred, there are definitely outliers in my generalizations. Also, I think it’s completely impossible to predict how activism quilts might be judged against other quilts when they are in the same category – is the message being judged or the quilt design? Or is the effectiveness in communicating the message being judged?

What is interesting to me is how each category is represented in the show. Below is the breakdown (quadrouple counted from the eventScribe app). The numbers reported by the MQG were that 1,736 quilts were entered and of those, 23% were accepted. I don’t believe the MQG publishes what the submission counts are for each category, and one of my quilty friends pointed out that it would be interesting to see that funnel (yes, it would!).

If you happen to have any resources on past QuiltCon numbers, feel free to share and I will link them up here, or I’ll add them when I get a chance to research!


Outside of enjoying socialization with other quilters the most, what I did walk away with was admiration of those that do some amazing things with collaborative projects, hand quilting, improv, tiny piecing, and color. I can’t say that social justice drives my own quilt aesthetic, but I appreciate those that channel their experiences into quilts. I’d like to challenge myself to get outside of my comfort zone of 1″ strip piecing and color palette moving forward. I already had a few ideas for my next quilts going into QuiltCon, and the energy and quilts there only added fuel to the inspiration fire, which I’m happy to come away with.

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  • Reply
    March 23, 2019 at 4:11 am

    I enjoyed this trip report — and it was really great to meet you in person! Next year will probably be my first QuiltCon with kids — since it’ll only be a 2.5 hour drive for me, we’ve already talked about potentially making it a family trip. There will be pros and cons to that for sure.

    I’m really intrigued by the breakdown of categories. I’m 2-for-2 in having entries juried into the MM fabric challenge category, and I have told many people outright that I suspect it is probably one of the “easier” categories to get something into, because there are probably fewer entries in that particular category. I could be totally wrong, so it would be really interesting to know the breakdown of entries vs acceptances, like you mentioned.

    • Reply
      April 17, 2019 at 2:16 am

      Apparently I’m terrible at approving comments (or skipping emails), because I just approved this now. Hahaha – kids next year for you. Not for me!

  • Reply
    Tara Glastonbury
    April 17, 2019 at 12:39 am

    Hi Steph, would you mind if I referenced and linked to this post on my blog? I’m finally getting around to writing a bit about Quiltcon – better late, than never!

    • Reply
      April 17, 2019 at 2:14 am

      Hi Tara, Yes – feel free!!!

  • Reply
    May 31, 2019 at 8:41 am

    Hi! Great review of the show. I’m trying to sign up to follow your blog by email, I dont do Instagram and avoid fb unless absolutely necessary. Could you please let me know how I can sign up? Thank you!

    • Reply
      July 3, 2019 at 1:59 am

      Hi Jane, I don’t have a newsletter, so you can’t sign up to follow a newsletter without that. Maybe eventually I’ll get one 🙂

  • Reply
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