Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A guide to "doing" the International Quilt Festival - Chicago

This was my second year at the Chicago International Quilt festival. I have learned a number of things:

1) Don't try to "do" the festival in one day - it is not possible. Take one day for shopping and another for viewing the quilts on display.

2) Carpool. Parking is $11 a day. Carpooling makes multiday visits more affordable and leaves more money for shopping.

3) Don't eat at the fast food kiosks that are available. Find the permanent cafeteria and eat there. I got a half roast chicken dinner with a giant scoop of mashed potatoes with gravy and steamed vegetables for only $9. At the kiosks they were charging $4.50 for a hotdog with no sides!

4) Bring a basic sewing kit. Scissors, needles (various), thimbles (one for piecing and applique and another for hand quilting), thread for sewing in various "neutral" colors (wind small amounts on bobbins)

5) Carry a backpack. Leave your purse at home - you don't need the extra baggage. Wheeled bags and carts are not allowed in the convention center. Tell the vendors you don't need a bag - shove it all in your backpack!

6) If you don't have an electronic navigator and have to print out driving directions online, don't forget to print out directions to get home!

7) If you are on a budget, bring cash and leave the credit cards at home.

8) Bring a water bottle

9) Don't arrive early. Get there about 30 minutes late. If you get there early, you will have to stand in line with no chairs. Early arrivals look like cattle being herded for slaughter.

10) If you will be there 3 days, buy the multiday pass - it is cheaper. If you will be there two days, buy all your tickets at once.

11) Take advantage of the student/senior ticket prices. You don't need to be a senior or student to purchase a senior/student ticket, only to use it.

12) Look up the websites of your favorite quilt artists, authors, and teachers. Find out if they will be there. If so, bring your copies of their books to get signed. If you have finished a small project from one of their workshops or books, bring it too! Teachers and mentors love to see the work of their pupils.

13) Bring a digital camera. Make sure you have lots of spare batteries. Make sure the memory card is clear before you leave. Watch for signs about items that cannot be photographed - there are some exhibits that do not allow photography and most vendors won't allow it. If in doubt, ask.

14) Sign up to become a quilt angel.

15) Avoid getting off the expressway right next to the convention center. You might get stuck on the off ramp for a significant amount of time (30 to 60 minutes). Take the expressway almost there and then use surface streets.

16) Pay for parking before entering the convention center. There will be a giant line at the kiosk to pay as you leave.

17) Leave your coat in the car. The walk from the parking lot to the convention center is by covered, and somewhat heated walkway.

18) Be aware that there is little room for wheelchairs or scooters in the vendor area.

19) Start your shopping in the MIDDLE of the vendor area - others tend to start at either end.

20) If you plan on buying a new machine, use one whole day to do some direct comparison test drives. Every one of the major machine manufacturers are at the show with machines for you to try out. Create a list of questions for the representatives and write down the features that you like for each machine. You will find the best deals on new machines at the show.

21) Look for the lecture and mini classroom areas. You can take free and low cost make and takes and you can sit in on lectures from world class teachers! They always post a schedule near the entrance to these areas.

What ever you do, go to the show and have a great time!


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a good time!

Jennie said...

One other piece of advice- skip Friday and Saturday. Go on Sunday! That's what I did this year. It was practically empty! You could bowl in the aisles. And a lot of the vendors had deals going on as well, since they didn't want to haul all the stuff back with them. None of the "famous" people were there, so I suppose that might be a downside to some. But I will never go any day but Sunday again!

Kay said...

I attended this cattle show this year for the fourth time, and unless I take Jennie's advice and go on Sunday, I'll never go again. (I've driven twice, and gone with a bus group twice.) You're much more upbeat about it, and I admire that, but not everyone has the option of attending multiple days, and for a one day person it's not a pleasant experience, at least after the first-time thrill is gone.


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