Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Houston 2017 -- Classes Part 1

Hi all -

It's that time of year again -- time to write about my trip to the Houston International Quilt Festival! As usual, the trip was spectacular and I took literally 1000's of pictures. I have all of the pictures downloaded and organized, so now it's time to share the trip with you.

As usual, I filled all of my time while I was there. I flew out on Sunday before the first day of classes and stayed until the Monday after the show was over, so I didn't have to miss a minute with travel worries. I took seven different classes, but was still able to leave all day Thursday and Friday and also Sunday afternoon to shop and look at the quilts. And I still got to spend some quality time with special friends. A great time all around!! This year I did things a little bit differently and drove to Kansas City to drop my dog off with my sister, then flew to Houston from there. It was a lot of driving, but it was so nice to see the family and Lance had a great time playing with my sister's dogs, so I think it was well worth the effort! But we're both happy to be home and sleeping in our own beds again.

In this post, I'll describe some of the classes that I took.

Monday 9-12, Template Based Machine Quilting with Debby Brown

My first class was a class about quilting with rulers on a sit-down machine. I've had several classes with Debby Brown and all of them have been enjoyable. Debby is very funny and keeps the class interesting. Her Houston classes are usually (always?) on the HQ Sweet Sixteen sit-down machines. It's fun to have a chance to play with these machines periodically.

Debby always provides all of the materials for her classes, which is really nice when you're rushing around before your trip trying to gather all of your supplies. She said that she always says that we have to bring a pair of thread snips so she doesn't get a bunch of emails telling her that she forgot to specify her supply list, but she provides the snips, too. For this class, she also brought along a huge supplies of quilting rulers for us to try.

Debby started by talking about how to use the rulers in general and then showed some designs that can be done with straight-edge rulers. She showed us a sample that she did with straight-edge rulers and some registration marks:

I just love that quilting! Then she talked about what you can do with different types of curved rulers and which rulers she would recommend. Even though I'd already done some quilting with rulers, it was still good information for me. Here is what I was able to do in class:

And probably the most useful thing I learned in class was that HandiQuilter makes a really great gripper tape to put on the back of the rulers to keep them from slipping. My biggest problem with ruler work was always trying to keep the rulers from slipping. I did recently hear about a great solution for that -- bathtub tape -- and that worked great, but the HandiQuilter tape seemed to work even better for me. The bathtub tape is probably better because it's cheaper, but I was on vacation so I splurged for some of the HandiQuilter tape to play with, too.

Monday 2-5, Lines + Triangles = Squares with Maria Shell

For Monday afternoon, I originally tried to sign up for another quilting with rulers class, this time by Sue Nickels. That class ended up being full so I had to find something else to fill the time since this is before the actual show opens up. So I signed up for an improvisational piecing class. I have to be honest that I'm not that interested in improvisational piecing and wasn't sure what to expect in this class. And when I walked into the classroom, I was even more unsure of what to expect. The supply list had included rotary cutter/ruler/mat, a set of Tri-Recs rulers and 24 fat quarters or larger of a variety of solid fabrics (an awful lot to carry in my suitcase!), but we were in a room with no sewing machines. What???? Here is the big pile of fabrics that I carried around:

It turns out that this is regularly a 2-day class, but Houston made Maria reduce it to a 3-hour class. So there wasn't any time to do any cutting or sewing. I have to admit that I was very frustrated to have carried all of those supplies without using them! We did use the fabric a little when she talked about color (we organized our colors and pulled a sample of what would be good in a quilt), but it seems like we could have done that with little squares of fabric instead.

If we ignore the class materials problem, however, it ended up being an interesting class. Maria went around the class and talked to us individually about our fabrics, which she would choose to use together in a quilt and why.

Then she did a trunk show and talked about what techniques she used for each of her quilts. Here is a chevron quilt that I really like:

Monday 6-9, Heirloom Textures for Modern Quilters with Cheryl Sleboda

To finish out the day on Monday, I took a class about putting heirloom textures into a quilt. I've been an admirer of Cheryl's quilts for quite a while, but this was the first time I'd gotten to meet her. She is a very sweet and extremely talented artist! This was another one of those classes where she supplied all of the materials for us, but that was a much easier job for this class than it had been for Debby's class!

This was a very fun class. We started by learning to do smocking by hand. Her technique was very easy and satisfying. Then we did some ruching and played with some circle techniques.

Cheryl also had some really cool samples of quilts that she used these techniques in:

Here's how far I got in class:

Now I just have to figure out how/where to use this!

Tuesday 9-5, Abstracting From Nature with Jane Sassaman

I was really excited to get into this class! I've been a huge fan of Jane's work for a long time! But I was also a bit apprehensive about this class because it's a drawing class and I'm a terrible drawer. But it was a wonderful class. The drawing part was very uncomfortable, but Jane did a very good job of describing how she breaks down the parts of a plant, simplifying it to its simplest components, then building it back up again by emphasizing the different parts.

And the afternoon was even more information because she stepped us through how she builds up and puts together the different components in her quilts.

I loved this part of the class! And Jane brought lots of different examples of her work.

I'm embarrassed to share my drawings, but here's a little of what I did in class:

And this is the picture I was working from:

We were really supposed to have a bunch of different pictures of the same plant from different angles, but I misunderstood and brought a bunch of different plant pictures, but it still worked for me.

Tuesday night was the awards ceremony and I was very excited to see my friend, Janet Stone, win Best of Show! And another friend, Donna James, won the Pfaff Master Award for Machine Artistry. You can't beat a night like that!! I didn't take any pictures at the ceremony, but will have pictures of these quilts, and many more, in future blog posts.


(PS - The hotel reservations for next year opened up on Tuesday morning, so I'm all set to stay in the Hilton again next year. Yea!!)


  1. Hi Nancy. This is Beth/soccertxi from MQR. I met you last yr in Houston. I loved seeing your class pictures. I get to take a class with Jane Sassaman next March. I can't wait!

    1. Hi Beth! I enjoyed meeting you last year! I think you'll love Jane. She's a complete sweetheart!

  2. Wow Nancy what a great time you had. Someone said to me yesterday that having sewn for years she struggles to find something new to learn. I'm going to send her a link to your blog.
    Looking forward to seeing your masterpieces develop, especially the Jane Sassaman one. You can use those lovely plains!!

    1. Hi Wendy! I've taken a million classes, but I figure there's always something new out there to learn. And even if I don't learn much in a class, I usually get some inspiration or motivation from having taken the class. The hard part about Houston classes is that I have to concentrate on Christmas presents when I get home, so I can't follow through on the inspiration when I get home, so the projects tend to linger. I hope your friend can find something new that inspires her!

  3. What a great range of classes. Sounds like you made the best of each one!

  4. Thanks! They were a lot of fun!