The last week and a half have been absolutely jam packed, and sadly very little sewing.  (Although I did manage to squeeze in a bridesmaid dress alteration for a friend, taking in a pair of my own pants, and made a new pair testing out a pattern.)  I did attend some very special events that got my wheels turning and completely rejuvenated my creativity.

 The Wisconsin Quilt Expo is in its eleventh year, and always blows me away.  I seriously look forward to it like a kid on Christmas morning.  I knew Gumball baby would have to come with me this year, so I didn’t sign up for any of the three days of lectures and classes offered.  My mom came with me, as she had never been, and I think she may have been a bit overwhelmed by the size and scope of this event.

 Held at the Alliant Energy Center, this thing is huge.  Like 85,000 square feet of vendors huge.  Plus a showcase featuring all the winners and honorable mentions of the annual quilt contest in the center.  I saw so many signs in the vendor booths that said “photos not allowed,” which I know is to protect the intellectual property of the patternmakers, but it makes it hard to share everything that makes this event so special.  You can visit the website linked above to see their official photos and get a sense of what I mean.

The grand prize winning quilt.

I always love the exhibit of competition quilts.  The amount of time devoted to these masterpieces astounds me.  I go to the expo thinking that I do decent work, and then leave feeling like a complete novice just stabbing at fabric.  The vintage inspired and wholecloth quilts always get me with their precision and detail, and commitment to a project.  I don’t know if the day will ever come that I can completely hand quilt something bed size, and I love to look at the craftsmanship of those that have done it.

Some of my favorites this year. The precision of piecing and applique was breathtaking, and the use of color in the double wedding ring was brilliant.

There are also a fair amount of pictorals and niche quilts, which usually aren’t my thing.  But this year.  Whoa.

Aptly titled, Holy Sh*t Sherlock, pieced and quilted by Kristy Daum of St. Louis, MO.

Someone is more nerdy than I am, and quilted their love of PBS.  Seriously.

The booths weren’t calling to me as much as usual, maybe because I have been going on quilt store sprees lately and don’t need much right now.  But here’s the loot I did pick up: IMG_8518

Stencils and marking tools to try my hand at some fancier quilting than I normally do for the pinwheel top.  A new layer cake of kids fabric, called Hello, Friend, because I just couldn’t resist.  Another Slice and Cutting Cake, two books on layer cake chopping and slicing that are written so well, it makes me want all the layer cakes.  They’re written more in the “teach a man to fish” school of thought, and show how simple changes in cuts can result in completely different quilts.  Brilliant.  Check out their work here at Creek Side Stitches.  A 1/4″ piecing foot and more bobbins for my Bernina, the newest gal in my fleet of machines.  And a zigzag attachment and cams for my featherweight.

 Every year I go to the quilt show, I spend extra time in the Liberty Homestead booth and drool.  They hand dye muslins to look vintage and have such special embroidery patterns.  One of the owners is a featherweight fanatic, and buys all kinds of the old attachments wherever he can find them and fixes them up.  I eye up this zigzag attachment every year and never splurge.  But loving all things oldey timey as I do, and Gumball’s upcoming quilt being vintage inspired, I decided this was the year.  I’ll probably do some of the stitches in the borders for extra embellishment. It was a good year at the Quilt Expo.

 Then last week, I went to the Downton Abbey costume exhibit at the Paine Art Center and Gardens in Oshkosh.  The exhibit has been there for months and I just managed to squeeze in a visit before it left.  If it’s coming near you soon, I highly recommend going!  I love going to see costume exhibits because you can see so much more detail up close than you can on film.  The stitching, the closures, the fabrics used, plus descriptors about what the designers were thinking.  I also just love seeing them in full scale and really getting the picture of the size of the actors wearing them.  Menswear is always stately in person and has such a presence of its own, and the womens’ evening wear was so tiny, its hard to imagine that living breathing humans are that small.

 No photos were allowed again, so you’ll have to look up other pictures available online.  But the vintage beadwork was particularly stunning.  And for some reason, I really loved the simplicity and fabrication of the riding and country outfits.  I say simplicity because next to the evening wear, it was.  But the detail present in the cuts, the trims, and the stitching was marvelous to see.  Bound buttonholes.  Self covered buttons.  Welting everywhere, no seam left plain.  Custom tailoring is incredible to see up close and makes our off the rack suits look so misshapen and like a ghost of what tailoring used to mean.  Edith’s bicycle outfit of perfectly pressed stone colored linen and velvet for mucking out the stalls in particular left me awestruck.  All in all, just an incredible peek at what goes into costumes for period costumes, and detail inspirations to bring home to the clothes I’m working on.

Love from Wisco,