Yesterday, I had to work. But this morning I was up bright and early, hoping to be at the show as soon as the doors opened. Unfortunately, I was halfway there before I realized that I'd left the house without my multi-day pass which I'd bought at a local quilt store weeks earlier. So I had to turn around and go home for it. But even so, I was able to pull into the extra parking lot on Guasti at around 9:30, just in time to board the shuttle to the Ontario Convention Center. (Yeah, I could have walked there, but I prefer to do my power walking in air conditioned comfort. I am so not into sweating!)
First I looked at all the quilts in both halls. I'll be talking more about those later, after I've had my second look on Sunday.
Then I hit the vendors. I'd decided that this was the year in which I'd buy a SewEzi table for my sewing machine. The Costco banquet table I currently use is too long, too high, and vibrates when I sew fast. I'd also decided to investigate long arm quilting machines. Maybe this is just an unrealistic dream. Maybe I'm too old or too weak to handle one of these. (I had back problems this past year.) But what the hey -- looking is free. Right?
I was rather intrigued by the Innova Quilting System. It seemed very smooth and easy to move. I liked that the handles, both in front and in back, were adjustable which I think would help the individual user to avoid strain. The delivery and set-up comes with some preliminary training, but the sales price includes three days of intensive training which seems to cover just about anything you'd need to know. (The downside is that the training is in Utah, so that "free" training would really cost you in travel and lodging expenses.) But they also have 24/7 customer phone support and claim that they can talk you through most problems. And I appreciated the extra info they included with their brochures showing how much room space you need to set up their various sized models and how large a quilt you could do on each one.
I spent some time looking at the Handi Quilter. They also have a sit down model, the HQ Sweet Sixteen, which has no stitch regulator but which takes up a whole lot less space than a long arm frame. You face the head of the machine and move the quilt with your hands just as you would with a domestic sewing machine. But the throat is much larger, and it has very good lighting in the stitch area. The table is only 30" by 36", but you can expand it with optional 18" extensions, and it's also height adjustable. I liked it better than I expected. The down side is that you're expected to take the head in every couple of years for servicing. I can't imagine lifting it.
I tried the Tin Lizzie, but I really wasn't sure about that wooden frame and the comfort of the handles.
I also tried the Nolting Fun Quilter which did not seem quite as easy to move about as the Innova. I think they have one of these at one of the local quilt stores. You can rent time on it, and that would probably be the best way for me to learn its pros and cons.
I skipped the really huge professional machines (with price tags to match) and didn't bother to pick up brochures for anything that made my back feel strained. I look forward to sitting down and looking up the websites for the various models, but I can tell that if I ever do purchase one of these it will only be after a whole lot of research. One of the dealers suggested I look at mqresource.com and the ABM longarmer's group on Yahoo.
I didn't buy anything except the SewEzi, but I enjoyed window shopping at all the booths. Rainbow Resource had a lot of fabrics with interesting motifs printed on various colored or batiked backgrounds. I really liked their dragon flies. One little bin of fat quarters had a small sign on it saying that sales of this particular fabric would be donated to prostate cancer research. But I couldn't figure out what the print was supposed to represent. I guess it's really hard to recognize something that you're not expecting to see. Then, suddenly, something clicked, and I realized that it was a scattered pattern of little, um . . . yes . . . that's what it was. Had I been a couple of decades younger, I would have been very embarrassed. But being a widow, and late middle aged, I was merely, "Eeeeeuw! Not a fabric I'd want." I suppose the designer meant well.
It was also at that booth that I heard about a run which the proprietor had with a customer on a motorized scooter. Although strollers and wheeled carts were not allowed, there were lots of scooters for attendees who were either disabled or just not up to a lot of walking. But one of the ladies lost control of her scooter and rammed into the side of the booth, first bringing down the overhead display onto the proprietor's head and then knocking over a pile of bolts onto the poor woman. Who knew that vending could be so hazardous?
At around 4:30 I slipped upstairs to the classroom where Bonnie Hunter was teaching. The class had just ended, and as I peeked inside I saw Bonnie who graciously invited me into the classroom to see a design wall where one of the students had been arranging her blocks. I introduced my self and, pointing to my homemade name tag which featured the Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll logo, told her that I was working on her current mystery quilt and that I would have loved to have signed up for one of her classes had they not been already full by the time I found out that she was teaching at Road. (I really wish I'd been able to attend her Scrap Saver's lecture the night before, but I had the late shift at the library on Thursday and could not have gotten there on time.) Bonnie recognized my screen name, and even remembered that C.B. stands for Catholic Bibliophagist. So did the person who was with her (whose name I did not catch), and who even admitted to having read my blog. So I suppose I've had my 15 seconds of fame.
I'm looking forward to going back to the show on Sunday when I'll have my mother in tow. Road to California has become our yearly mother-daughter ritual. Although she's not a quilter, she loves seeing the amazing quilts on display -- though she marvels how anyone could possibly have the patience to finish a quilt. (I notice that the most common question non-quilters ask is "How long did it take you to make that?") I can hardly wait to show her Bonnie's quilt in the faculty exhibit. "Rectangle Wrangle" is sort of a bargello quilt made with rectangles -- mainly plaids of course -- with strong diagonals in black. I love its border of stars. My mom will faint when she sees all those tiny pieces!