Well it’s quilt show and festival time around the world it seems, and here is the USA it’s no different. I work part-time as an educator for one of the largest sewing machine dealerships on the east coast and get to attend a few and help man (or woman) the stand. It is a lot of work, blood, sweat and occasionally tears, and I thought you might find it kind of fun to see what goes on before the doors ever open to the public.  


Hampton Convention Center

OK, so day one for us is usually at least a day and a half before the show starts. That means the warehouse guys, office staff and store managers have been busy already. Ordering, gathering and transferring inventory to set up the stand. Our priority is to get everything to the venue in one piece, so a couple of large trucks are duly loaded up with machines, thread, stabilizers, tables, gantry and in our case even flooring!

Flooring and gantry almost done!

Imagine large industrial rolls of shrink wrap, aka mega cling film, and lots of machine boxes, where it’s like an episode of the Krypton Factor just trying to get all the parts and pieces of display machines back in the boxes where they belong.  Eventually we all merge on the venue, in this instance, the Hampton Convention Center, Virginia. It’s all comfy shoes and layered clothing because there’s a lot of walking backwards and forwards to the trucks, and at this time of year it can be like Winter is Coming in the a.m., and High Noon in the p.m. This venue does very limited catering until the show opens, so it’s also a bit Kumbaya with coolers, brown paper sandwich bags and lots and lots of shared chocolate snacks.  Sadly if it’s a really busy show I might not even get much opportunity to visit either the quilts or other vendors, so whilst unloading the trucks I try to take a different route each time and maximize what I can see.


Boxes, boxes and more boxes.  Some pretty quilts starting to appear too.

First thing to go down is the flooring. We’re on concrete and so the modular foam flooring is a necessity. There are many booths who don’t have it and I don’t know how they stand all day. Despite the flooring and comfy shoes at a certain age we feel the wear and tear on our backs and hips!  Next up is the gantry which is in pieces and must be screwed together bit by bit.  This takes at least six or eight people to get it up in the air and has our store logos and banners on it. As one of the show sponsors we have one main large booth and then several smaller booths with things like Floriani, Accuquilt and Bloc Loc.


These big spaces won’t be empty for long.

Next we begin to bring in the cabinets and tables. Everything has been mapped out by our Sewing/Education Director in advance but of course is somewhat flexible, so after adjusting and measuring to make sure we are not outside our allocated booth space, we place tablecloths on tables to make it all look pretty and professional. OK so basics are done and now comes the job of basically setting up a large store, all is an 6-hour period.    So, machines, notions, and all other inventory is brought in and allocated its rightful place. This takes quite a while and is somewhat of a skill …. You’ve heard the saying fitting a gallon in to a pint pot? Yeah, it’s like that with a few little heated moments and occasionally frayed tempers and nerves, but we get it done. 



Little machines, big machines and of course lots and lots of fabric.

Finally, we are ready for the power cords to be run. We have multiple cash register points with network and WIFI to organize too, so lots of extension cords, cables are necessary quickly followed by a bucket load of masking tape to ensure no customers trip on trailing leads. When leads are done we turn on all the machines, cross fingers, toes and everything else and make sure we don’t short circuit the whole building or our machines.  Finally we check the bobbins and threading, hoop up fabric and stabilizers and make sure all is ready for demonstrating our first customers.  Hopefully by this point all our boxes and packing are all cleared away and back on the truck.


Our booth just about complete.

By 5pm we are all exhausted, a little grubby and in need of sustenance. In my case this will usually entail a large glass of wine, a hot bath with the jets on full blast and hopefully a good nights sleep, for tomorrow ………. the doors open, the crowd rushes in and…………..IT’S SHOWTIME!  If you’d like to see some of the actual quilts on display, check out my photo album on the UKQU Facebook pages.



Waiting for the doors to open.                                                       Places to go, quilts to see.