Houston Quilt Market 2023 – Part 1

– Trip Report by Marcus for Creekside Quilts

Quilt Market is an annual trade-show for the quilting industry held at the George R Brown Convention Center in Houston during the Fall one week before the open-to-the-public International Quilt Festival which is one of the largest quilting conventions in the world. 

Quilt Market Exhibitor Show Floor 1
Quilt Market Exhibitor Show Floor 2

This year was my 3rd trip to Quilt Market after our first trip in 2019 which April blogged about here. The COVID pandemic sadly put a halt to the show in 2020-21 and many are hopeful that the show will see continued recovery and growth after the two-year hiatus. From what I was able to see this year while attending, I am cautiously optimistic that things are recovering. While I don’t have any official attendance numbers, from my personal observation it feels like there were more people attending this year than last year. For the opening session of Schoolhouse on Friday, last year we were in a small auditorium room on the 3rd floor while this year we took up a good portion of the Grand Ballroom. 

Also, I talked to several pattern designers who were attending their first Quilt Market ever or coming back for the first time since the pandemic. These are positive signs for the future. Although our industry has been forced to pivot more toward online sales, there is always a need for in-person gathering events like this to see and share new ideas, get inspired, and perhaps most importantly to connect with people. Isn’t that really what makes our Quilting hobby worthwhile and fulfilling?

Fall 2023 Quilt Market Show Floor

Friday: Schoolhouse

Although the first day of Quilt Market starts on Friday, the exhibit hall doesn’t open until Saturday. All day Friday is an event called Schoolhouse which are a series of short 30 minute blocks of back-to-back classes/presentations held by the vendors to promote their products, announce new releases, or educate shop-owners on sales and marketing strategies to grow their business. 

It is a whirlwind of information and a huge number of classes from 10am to 6pm with no break in between. Since each time-block has up to 14 different classes running concurrently – and none of them are repeated – it is impossible to attend everything desired and some difficult choices have to be made to miss one class for another when two are scheduled in the same time-slot. 

Since we opened our store in 2019, we have been blessed with great customers and support, so April was again unable to join me at Market because she has to stay at home minding the shop. This year, my co-worker and friend Kevin attended Market with me. So, after we checked-in and picked up our attendee badges and received the Schoolhouse schedule, we grabbed a shot of caffeine from Starbucks and sat down at one of the many tables in the hall to study the schedule for the next 30 minutes to plan our class attendance strategy for the rest of the day. It is like going back to college again but fortunately registration for each class is not required so you are free to change your mind throughout the day on which classes to attend or skip. Some classes were standing room only – those were usually the ones giving out free gifts!

Overall there is a good variety of classes for all interests and types of people. If you are more focused on how to improve your business, there were many classes on how to use social media and online tips/tricks to grow your audience. For those more eager to see eye-candy, there were new fabric collections being displayed, new tools/rulers and notions demoed and many quilt designers eager to share their latest creative ideas and patterns.


Studying & planning the day's class schedule
A sample of the Schoolhouse schedule grid
Premiere Opening Event featuring Tilda Fabrics

At 10am we were off to the Grand Ballroom along with everyone to attend the Premiere Opening Event which featured a few opening remarks from Karey Bresenhan, the founder and director of Quilt Market and Quilt Festival. Next year 2024 will mark the 45th anniversary of Market and the 50th anniversary of Quilt Festival! While the pandemic disrupted things for a few years, everyone is hopeful to see these shows continue for another 50 years – I certainly am.

From my recollection, compared to the premiere event last year, it seemed like there were more people attending this year than last – which is a good sign that things are improving. Another anecdote for the greater attendance is that each premiere event gives out a free large “goody bag” to the first 200-300 people that show up. Last year I showed up half an hour early and got my goody bag no problem. This year we showed up a whole hour early and were told over 300 people had already came in, so we missed out on our Tilda Fabrics gift bag this year. We were a little disappointed we didn’t get a goody bag, but encouraged to see more people attend.

Having another person along was helpful so they could attend classes that I was unable to go to because of time conflicts. The pictures below were taken at various class sessions throughout the day. I won’t go into detail on each one because there was so much to learn and absorb. Hopefully this gives you a taste of what it is like to attend Schoolhouse. By 4pm after *eleven* straight sessions with no break for lunch and only 5 minutes to walk/run to your next class and with still three more sessions to go until the end at 5:45pm, I was tired! 

Classroom full of Handi-Quilter Amara longarms. These will be used the following week for Quilt Festival longarm classes. There are several other classrooms similar to this one filled with longarms from other manufacturers like Bernina & Innova to be used in classes. Now also imagine other classrooms like this filled with 15-20 tabletop sewing machines from major manufacturers like Bernina, Janome, Pfaff, Baby Lock, Brother, and you will get the idea of how big Quilt Festival is!

Brand new patterns just released byAnnie:

Ditty Bags 2.0
Out to Lunch 2.0
Sew Simple Wallet

Deb Tucker of Studio 180 showing her "North Star" quilt using the Island Batik Chromatic fabric collection

Father and son team of Jeff Tucker and Toby(?) holding up the Snowdrops quilt re-done in the new Island Batik Squiggles Dots & Lines fabric collection available in March of ’24. (Deb made this quilt just one week before market so these are the first pictures of Snowdrops with new colors)

C&T Publishing demo'ing their new color card deck - I'm interested in this.
Riley Blake showing the new Floral Gardens collection from the British Horticultural Society

Friday Evening: Sample Spree

After the last class ended at 5:45pm, we took a short breather before the main-event of the evening. Kevin kindly offered to start queueing up in line at 6pm, an hour before the doors opened because there was already a line forming and we know from past experience that it will quickly grow to considerable length. I went back to our BnB about 3/4 mile away to drop off the day’s haul of goodies and swag from Schoolhouse and take a small rest before returning to the (in)famous event that is the Quilt Market Sample Spree!

The Sample Spree line already forming at 4pm - three hours before opening.
Sample Spree queue 10 minutes before opening.
T-minus 5 minutes - "locked and loaded" in front of the doors.
5..4..3...2...1....Here we go!
The Moda Fabrics booth - a few minutes after opening.
Precuts are flying!
Same booth....20 minutes later

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