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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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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Greenish-yellow might be my favorite section so far, just because of the cheery parrot in the middle.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 🦜⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #rainbowsunpattern #rainbowsunquilt #improvpiecing #fabricscraps #thequiltersnegativespacehandbook #patchwork #quilting #improvisationalpiecing #quiltsofinstagram #quiltcontogether #quiltcon ...

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Day 5: I love having a portable project I can take with me or do some mindless stitching in the evenings. I’ve taken Trippy Triangles with me (this version and other color ways) with me to Nashville and Port Aransas and on the road for other shorter trips (and it went to Colorado without me to be in the #quiltcon magazine 🏔). It’s a fun way to still be productive while I’m away from my sewing room 🧵❤️. What’s your favorite portable project? . . #igquiltfest #igquiltfest2020 #igquiltfest2020day5 #trippytriangles #kustomkwiltspatterns #epp #englishpaperpiecing #handsewing #slowsewing #konacotton #solidsandstripes #quilting #modernquilting #modernquilt #geometricquilt ...

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Discover Carolina’s Online quilting classes and get started learning how to quilt or expand your existing skills at your own pace! 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. . ...

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Did you make a pillow? It is so much fun to do and will transform your favorites couch. 🥰 laundrybasketquilts #quilty #quiltcon #quiltingclass #quiltingtreasures #quiltmarket #quiltblock #barnquilt #quiltedbag #quiltasyougo #quilttop #quiltersofinstagram #quiltedmaple ...

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Day two Pam met some QuiltCon fashion plates! benmillett tigheflanagan were looking sharp! ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ #quiltcon #pmqg #mqg #keepaustinquilty #modernquiltguild #quiltersofinstagram #PMQGPAM #firstquiltcon #thosejackets ...

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The Forest Life collection from nadysbBasos_art is now available for sale! So sweet, this collection has elements of hedgehogs, forest critters, forest foliage and all in a delicate palette of teals, greens, browns and peach. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ To see the full collection of 9 designs, please visit www.dandelionfabricandco.com/forest-life-collection ...

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Last throwback to QuiltCons past with my other quilt “Otherwise/Autrement” that got in to the 2018 show. I was also fortunate to have it be chosen to be in themqg ‘s book Modern Quilting: Designs For A New Century. ✨ Just had a chance today to go look at all of this years amazing quilts (as well as do a FaceTime walkthrough of some quilts with the 11yo - so much fun). Though you’ve seen many already I’m sure, still going to post my favorites. ✨ I feared this year I would feel what many people describe when they come to QuiltCon, being surrounded by so many great quilts...I feared I’d feel bad about my own lack of (personal project) output, or feeling like I don’t measure up. I didn’t enter anything for this year’s show. And didn’t work on nearly as many (practically none) personal projects as I’d hoped. But I found this to be my most relaxed QuiltCon ever. Perhaps because it was my 4th time attending? Or maybe because seeing trends shift exposes the fact that there are ebbs and flows with what (and who) is popular or in the spotlight. The laidback feeling this year was nice. It leaves me feeling open to ideas and creativity and making space and time for personal projects. Hope you all have felt the same way too (weather you attended or were doing #quiltconfromhome this year).❤️ #quiltcon #quiltcon2020 #lookingback #lookingforward ...

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Just finished making my curvy quilt practice into a cushion cover.😍 I have hand quilted the front and backed the cover in a gorgeous natural colored linen. Very happy with how this turned out.😃 ...

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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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