kids had security blankets for a reason. There is a secure feeling that comes from being wrapped up and swaddled by a home made quilt. I work with quilts all day, yet I come home, cuddle up with a quilt and work on my hand applique. So I get it, I really do.
The “Donʼt touch the quilts” mantra that is the standard for all Quilt Shows is one I
always struggled with. Yes, I get that we donʼt want dirty hands potentially staining our hard work. But look at all that quilting.....how could we not reach out and touch that?!
That is how I felt until I was recruited to be the *Chief/Queen/Lead Chair Person of our local Quilt Show, held annually during the Pioneer Picnic. Before the show I was
friendly to the non quilters. After the show I was given medication and put in a Support
Group for those who have done time at their local quilt show. Let me give a quick shout out to my Quilt Militia Sisters....I stand in solidarity with ya now, Babes.
Sure, we all start off with the best of intentions. We start by putting up the cute signs on the quilt reminding viewers not to touch. We post signs at the door stating no drinks, no food, no pets. We smile and nod, answer questions, and when we see some one reaching for the quilt we gently remind them not to touch, stating, “Itʼs so hard. I know.” We are so nice about it.
For ten minutes. Then reality hits.
The mom with three strollers, eight kids and ten sippy cups. She is going to drive me
flat insane. Look......the eight years old is playing hide and seek UNDER THE QUILTS
with the five year old. The three year old is vigorously shaking (shaking!) the red koolaid
in his sippy cup while he tries to unscrew the top. Sheʼs chattering with her friend
that only has five children, oblivious to the upcoming Kool Aid baptism her toddler is about to grace the 120 year old quilt with.
“Maʼam.....Iʼll hold on to your childʼs sippy cup for you until you leave. And please remind your oldest not to touch the quilt”. We are answered with a withering stare and the statement that they are just being kids. It was at this point a tic developed in my eye that stayed for the remainder of the show.
There is the cute old man with a twinkle in his eye. Heʼs so adorable and he knows it.
He beams and tips his hat. We melt. Then he reaches for the quilt and the temperature
cools to below freezing. Our breaths hang in the air and icicles form around our words.
Volunteer: “We are asking people not to touch the quilts.”
Formally Cute Old Man: “Iʼm just looking at the stitching.”
Volunteer: “We will be happy to put on gloves and show you the stitching.”
Formally Cute Old Man: “Iʼm not hurting anything.”
“But” my volunteer informed him in an even, low voice. ” We will hurt you if you donʼt Put. The. Quilt . Down. Now.” (I will just say she had been on Quilt Guard Duty for four hours straight, intercepted five hairy dogs, and it was 101 degrees out. Sheʼs a nice lady. Really. )
And of course the critics! How could any quilt show survive without the critics!!!!
“I really wish you would not allow machine quilted quilts to be displayed.....itʼs cheating,
itʼs not really quilting” said the non quilter/former friend. I was quickly removed from her presence before I stroked out, with my friend Sandy Sayer (former quilt show militia leader) reminding me to breathe into the paper bag.
“This are nothing compared to the quilts my Grandma used to make” said the crabby
man in a dismissive tone as he looked at the intricate King sized lone star with the
Baltimore Album Style Applique border, hand quilted every half inch.
“That must have been what killed her then” I flippantly remarked. That time I was
removed from the building for half an hour and given a diet pepsi. I was hoping they
would fire me. Instead they gave me a life time appointment. I really should learn to
keep my mouth shut.
Thereʼs the guy who thinks the show should be judged by professional judges. The
woman who thinks the “made by Youth” entries should not be allowed to have the “Best in Show” ribbon because everyone will come in and vote just because they are a kid. The leader of a quilt guild in another state who wishes we would have a juried show instead of letting anyone enter. The local woman who wishes we could the show open for more hours, but does not want to volunteer for a shift. Blah Blah Blah, yada yada yada. After a while itʼs just a blur.
But, for every crabby, un quilt educated critical viewer, there are at-least two wonderful people who value, respect, and love quilting. They admire the “Made by Youth” section and seek out the young stitchers out to give them a word of encouragement. They tell loving, wonderful stories about how they were blessed by a quilt made for them by a dear friend.
Then there are the parents who troop in to look at the quilt made by the local pre-school co-op. The blocks feature thier childʼs hand print. We look the other way when the parent reaches out and softly stroke thier childʼs hand print. We know how short a time we have to hold our babies hands.
The young lady with Downs who worked on a quilt with her Grandma. They pose for a picture on each side of the quilt, and she proudly displays her red ribbon. We all clap.
The ten year old girl who proudly made a blanket for her baby sister. The eighty year old man who embroiders the state flower quilt blocks for local ladies because, “he just canʼt stand sitting around and doing nothing.” The quilt made for a loved one dying of cancer, completed two weeks before they died.
These are the moments that make us come back year after year, in spite of the “no machine quilted quilts” and the Kool Aid. Itʼs coming together with pride in our
community and honoring the hard work of our friends and neighbors, with no
criticism...the way it should be.
Just donʼt touch the quilts. Please. My doctor has stated the medication will only helpso far. . .