|The Houston International Quilt Festival at the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB) is going on right now, through Sunday, October 30. Yesterday was the first full day. Wednesday night was Preview Night (and the Astros' World Series AND a Rockets basketball game --all within spitting distances of each other). Parking was a nightmare ($50-$60 for spots normally charging $7-$10), so most of us natives stayed away. Those lucky enough to be brave and determined or out-of-towners staying in downtown hotels -- especially the Hilton Americas with 2nd and 3rd floor walkways connecting to the George R. Brown Convention Center -- were able to enjoy "first pick" of the goodies.
This year there are 20 shopping aisles, (not counting the quilt display areas!) with over 1,000 booths to spend money. My friend and I thought it was a little bit smaller than previous years. They also brought back the Victorian and Embellishment sections. The embellishment section was very popular, especially the bead booths.
I do not have any affiliation with the following companies, but wanted to point them out. Your mileage will vary, of course! Our American Sewing Guild Neighborhood Group even has a special meeting (next week in fact), wherein we bring our Quilt Festival "finds" for show and tell. I am always amazed that we were all at the same place and we all found different treasures!
If you are a Sewing Workshop pattern fan, you'll be able to try on the inspiring model garments, snatch their newest patterns, most of their others and Linda Lee's books at a savings. (They are in the 1600 aisle). If you have missed "Lee Ann's Batiks," which was later sold and became "Island Batiks" (they are only doing wholesale now and are no longer at Festival), she's back with a new company, "Batik Textiles." She's only going to be at Festival this year, so if you need a great batik fix, get it now. Her big bargain - 500 4"x4" squares of her current fabric line for $24. Taller than a Big Mac! Another very popular booth at the front towards the left side - Hmong Pandau - they had zippered purses in various sizes and fabrics that were just flying out of there starting at $6. I did some easy Christmas shopping there, and kept one for myself! At the back end of row 1800, there's a jewelry booth with incredible "art jewelry". I believe her company starts with a "C," I don't have her card in front of me right now. My friend bought a necklace (I got the matching bracelet) and I lost track of how many compliments we received.
There are free 30 minute lectures with famous teachers and authors all day near the quilt displays. You'll also find free embroidery thread samples. Generously-sized batting pieces - 50c to $1. Need a 75 foot roll of embroidery stabilizer?! Looking for back issues of favorite specialty magazines? Primedia has a large booth area, along with another company that publishes "Cloth Paper Scissors" The company that imports "Australian Stitches" has a booth, too. There are so many notions and fabric booths, your head will spin!
What can I possibly say about the quilt exhibits? What I can say is that I plan to go back this weekend just to look and apprecicate them. I don't know how the judges can determine the ribbon winners, they are all fantastic and jaw-dropping. Try to find That Patchwork Place's lucky $10,000 winner quilt! The "I remember Mama" exhibit will make you teary-eyed. There's even a table piled with a sampling of the quilts collected for the Hurricane victims. (No, I didn't even bother to look if mine was there!) :)
Ticket prices are the same as last year - $10/day. Parking - wasn't a problem even at 9 AM on a weekday. You'll be able to find $10 parking as close as 1-2 blocks away. In fact, if you look and luck out - a $7 lot right next to the GRB! Metro Park & Ride and the hotels have bus shuttles, and that probably helped eleviate a lot of the congestion. I heard the buses were very-well organized this year, too.
Huge area to eat if you brown-bag, with plenty of food kiosks on the main floor, so you can get right back to shopping. Great people-watching and "where did you get that?" opportunity, too! Level 2 has a full-service Starbucks and more eating areas. Level 3 also has some refreshment areas. FYI - The Hilton has a "grab and go" area on the ground floor, kitty-corner from the check in area - breakfast baked goodies, coffee, drinks, etc. We went over there before the Bernina Fashion Show last night and were surprised to discover a turkey and tomato wrap in a spinach tortilla and drink for $7-$8; and it was good!
Even taking food and water breaks for energy, you can't "do" the Festival in one day. We gave it a good try, though! :)
I hope you get a chance to go, too!