I packed up the twin Lennis, all their attachments and half of my studio and optimistically went to fetch my hired van. Despite being only two years old it has obviously seen active service. Unfortunately, it was the only one available so I could not quibble. It had barely legal tyres, was full of pie crumbs and sawdust, many sticky areas, filthy seats, and the side door even had a large dent. I will demand some money back when I return it to the depot! It made me behave like a White Van driver. The gears are designed to be crunched with brute force and it made me swear constantly. I was not paying attention as I went through Glasgow's chaotic roadworks and missed the turning to go South towards England. After I realised I was hurtling towards the west coast of Scotland, I swore a lot more. I eventually crossed the Erskine Bridge, crawled through the city centre and found the correct road over an hour later, still cursing and crunching gears. The rest of my journey was uneventful except that the Van obviously was not used to highbrow BBC Radio 4 but I eventually found myself near to me destination. I got lost again and asked a traffic patrol car for help, thus getting a police escort to my hotel 10 hours after I left home.
On set up day I was met by Yvette and Alison who were my right hand women for the entire Festival. We unloaded and set up a very attractive looking mini longarm studio. Unable to face the budget option of instant Pot Noodle for a second night, we drove into Birmingham for a real curry where the locals were celebrating Ramadan.
Once the show opened the next few days were a blur of talking, demonstrating, explaining and meeting new and old quilting friends from Scotland and all over the world. I will not mention them all because I am bound to forget someone. It was lovely to catch up with everyone and meet some people for the first time with whom I have only previously communicated by email. My parents visited FOQ for the first time and were staggered at the size of the show. Somehow, there was never time for a proper lunch and much chocolate was eaten. The aisles were chock full of people, scooters and trolleys. The queue for the ladies was pretty long one day so I dashed into the men's. There wasn't a soul in there apart from a gentleman enjoying a bit of loud farting as he thought no-one was listening and the other foreign chap whom I met at the sink was worried that he had gone into the wrong bathroom.
There were some people doing serious longarm shopping research and they said that the APQS Lennis were their favourite machines at the show. There were also some odd questions and amazed visitors who had never seen a longarm before. Someone asked if I had to quilt halfway along my quilt and then swap to the second machine. One elderly lady asked for my business card then said "I won't ever use it, mind you." A Gammill owner came to ask me about thread tension after announcing that she was having awful trouble with her bottom. Many of the visitors did not speak any English so we talked by sign language and quilting. I was asked if I would consider going to Latvia, South Africa, Denmark and Dubai! I sold one lot of dyed fabrics to a friend and one packet of postcards so I won't bother to take them again but I was asked about thread constantly.
The Lenni twins behaved beautifully and sewed politely through several layers of glazed chintz backing fabric, second grade wadding and IKEA black calico. We had the brilliant idea of recycling the practice piece of the previous day as the wadding and just sewed on top with a new piece of black. Ferret and I even had a quilting race on video for P&Q Magazine. An over enthusiastic child derailed one of the Lennis by pulling down on the handles and quilting in a scribble at top speed as her father watched with pride. It was soon all sorted out and there were no other near dramas. Many people said they would never have anywhere enough space to put a longarm in their homes so I was glad that I had not brought my bigger Millennium as most of the visitors would have found the size of its frame intimidating. I really liked using the smaller machines - they were easy to set up and really responsive. As I always quilt freehand from the front I did not pay much attention to the handles at the back until an existing Lenni owner pointed out that they were actually the wrong way round.
I attended the International Evening Fashion Show with Ellen where the outfits made by teams of Russian and British quilters were absolutely stunning and Ferret's work was particularly impressive. However, the organisation and scoring of the event were painfully reminiscent of the worst aspects of the Eurovision Song Contest.
Every now and then people would glance at my gold Doc Martens and nudge their friends, maybe having read about their wearer in P&Q Magazine. As the week wore on it became increasingly difficult to look cool as I had stupidly worn fishnets with them on the first day of the show and got a nasty blister that made me hobble. I was really not pleased when I decided to walk to the NEC after being told that it was a mere 5 minutes away and 45 minutes later seemed to have taken the most circuitous route possible. I started to use White Van language again as I had planned to look at the show quilts in a leisurely manner before the show opened.
Once I eventually looked at the show quilts I decided that my taste has changed dramatically since I first attended. I was admiring more abstract pieces because of the quilting. I was asked why I had not entered the competions with any of the Yurt Panels or LSD and my pathetic excuse was that I had been a bit busy. This was the first year that I have felt that my work is now on a par with some of the good stuff so I really will have to make more effort to enter next year.
The show was great fun but exhausting. Whenever I am in Quilt Show mode I go to bed late and wake up around 5.30am. I have received invitations to go to shows in Europe if I can afford the time and expense. I will really need to see if the enthusiastic quilters from the show go ahead and place machine orders. The costs of attending events such as this are substantial and need to be profitable to make it all worthwhile. My stand was very well received and many people complained bitterly that the Yurt was absent from the show. This makes me even more determined to take one to America AND exhibit one in Europe. I can see a busy spell coming up after I get back home on Monday night!