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14 Keys to Planning a Great Quilt Show

Summary

Planning a quilt show can seem daunting, but it is well worth it. I share with you 14 keys to planning a great quilt show.

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14 Keys to Planning a Great Quilt Show

Your quilt guild or quilt store has always wanted to hold a quilt show, but the idea of where to get started has always seemed a little daunting. Holding a quilt show is not only a great way to get the word out about your quilt store, or your guild, but it's great for your community too. I'm going to break down the beginning steps of holding a quilt show, and also give you some ideas for making your quilt show memorable.

14 Keys to Planning a Great Quilt Show

 

1. Picking A Date

Sounds easy. It kind of really is, but one thing I want to point out is to consider holding your quilt show during an annual town festival, fair, or carnival. Doing this helps to bring your students, customers, and the community together. You will receive a lot more foot traffic, and those showing their quilts love to bring family to the show while spending the day in town.

If holding a quilt show during a big town festivity isn't possible, then you may want to advertise your show using a "seasonal" theme. Ex: Our Spring Quilt Show! Use the theme throughout the whole quilt show - décor, awards, raffle quilt, etc.

quilt show

 

2. Time and Days

Make sure that the hours of your quilt show allow for everyone within daytime working hours to attend. Opening at nine or ten in the morning and closing at seven or seven-thirty in the evening usually covers the issue.

Whether you hold a quilt show for one, two, or three days is something to carefully consider. Usually three day shows are held over a Friday through Sunday weekend. The problems with a three day show is the facility that you may want to hold the show may not be open on Sundays. Also, the final day of a three day show tends to slow down in a big way.

A one-day show will bring in the attendees in droves over several hours, but it can be difficult to book vendors as they often don't want to spend the time setting up and taking down their booths for short shows.

Quilt guilds and quilt stores may find that a two-day quilt show is the best way to start out. I find that most of these shows are held over a Friday and Saturday due to lack of available Sunday facilities, and also lack of interest from vendors and attendees when it comes to family time.

calendar

 

3. Facility

Put the word out that you are looking for a gymnasium size facility to hold a quilt show! Friends or family may pop up with an idea you may not have considered. Make sure the facility is smoke free and does not allow food to be brought in around the quilts being displayed during the show.

It doesn't hurt to ask the owner of the facility for free use, or reduced cost of rental, for free advertising. The facility name should be attached to every piece of advertising! Some guild chapters have used churches to hold their shows and drape the quilts over the church pews. Vendors line the church hallways! It's surprising how creative quilters can be when it comes to displaying their ware!

gym

 

4. Advertising

This aspect of a quilt show is important. Make sure your event is on QuiltingHub's events calendar to get travelers (see how to add an event). Take advantage of local newspapers to get local people. Ask the paper's editor if they would be willing to do a write-up on your quilt show for free. Again, it never hurts to ask! Also, the best place to advertise is your state's "Country Register" to get statewide people. This paper is the crafter's bible! It is well worth the cost!

Create 8½ x 11" posters with all the information of your quilt show as possible without being too wordy. Ask to put a poster in every store in your town. Give posters to family and friends and have them post them at their place of work. Place a poster inside other quilt shops in your area. Who doesn"t love a quilt show?!

Don't forget road-side quilt show signs to be put out on the day of the show!! They need to be bold, but brief. "Quilt Show, Place, Times" and an arrow!! Put at the four corners around the show facility, intersections, those business in town that will allow signs, and at the exit ramps of the highways.

Now you're thinking, "okay, we're spending money to hold a quilt show. How do we make it back?". Here are some ideas:

Advertise

 

5. Raffle Quilt

Create a queen-size quilt and sell raffle tickets! This isn't difficult for a quilt guild to do when you can have members create individual squares to be made into the end quilt. A quilt store owner could ask for students and customers to participate in making blocks for the raffle quilt. Most quilters just love having their work (even if it's only one square) displayed! Think about having your quilt run with the theme of your show.

Depending on your city and state, you may need to apply for a license to sell raffle tickets. Plan ahead as this may take a couple of weeks to process. Ask the local print shop how much the cost would be for having tickets made. Have the quilt made in plenty of time to display at not only the hosting quilt store, but also a few local town businesses. Ask the local library, banks, and even the grocery store to have raffle tickets on hand for customers who want to buy some. Usually the tickets are sold as $1 each, or 6 tickets for $5.

Display and sell tickets well before hand and during your quilt show. Draw the winning ticket during the last half-hour of the show!

GPQ Block of the Month

 

6. Vendors

Sell booth space! Figure out how many vendor spaces you could get into your quilt show area (10' x 10' for $???). Offer one table and two chairs at a set price of your choice. Allow the vendor to bring more tables of their own. Ask for a $25 show gift from each vendor that will be used for giveaways during the show. Ask if the vendor needs electricity. Also, ask the facility owner if Wi-Fi is available. Some vendors use their smart phones for their sales.

Send out vendor invitations with rules and information (set up and take down times, etc.) about six months ahead of time. Then send out reminder emails a couple more times after that. Make sure they get a thank-you card the day of the show.

vendors wanted

 

7. Quilts

Charge an entry fee per quilt to be shown. Don't bog yourself down with a different fee for each different quilt size. Just choose one cost per quilt, or offer something like "$10 for first quilt, and $5 each quilt thereafter". You may need to limit how many quilts can be entered per person if the show becomes too large as time goes on. Categories can be of your choice. King, queen, lap, crib, table runners and totes, accessories (jackets, etc.). Consider displaying antiques! Everyone loves the antiques.

Since finding and paying for a qualified quilt expert/judge is difficult, think about holding a "Viewer's Choice" quilt show. Give every attendee a ticket to write down the number of their favorite quilt in each category. Give the winning quilt owners blue ribbons to take home, or ask quilt stores for gift certificates as the winning gifts.

You will need to decide how to display the quilts. Twelve foot wood 4x4's inserted into "X" bases have been found to be the most stable. Narrow metal rods, narrow PVC pipes, or heavy rope strung between the posts will be needed. Hang the quilts by clothespins on the rope, or use men's pant hangers if using the pipes.

Label each quilt with a number that coordinates with a recipe card that has the owner's name, address, and phone number on it. You will need to decide how and when to receive the quilts for the show. You can designate a drop-off and pick-up site.

GPQ Block of the Month

 

8. Visitors

Don't forget to charge an entrance fee to quilt show visitors. Usually around $2 per person. Even children! The children get to vote too-maybe Kindergarten age and up.

As you can see - you will quickly receive a return on your investment. You will also make a profit on your quilt show. You will most likely find that if you choose to hold your quilt show on an annual basis that your quilt show will grow. Think about using the extra funds on the fabric for next year's raffle quilt and for advertising. You may also want to offer more elite quilt gifts for the quilt show winners - fat quarter bundles, quilt kits, etc.

Here are a few ideas for making your quilt show even more exciting to attend. You want those quilters to keep coming back year after year!

visitor

 

9. Trunk Show

Do you, or your quilt guild, have a favorite quilt pattern designer? Hold a trunk show for that designer during the quilt show. The designer may, or may not, ask for a fee to be at your show. Or, if the designer doesn't actually need to physically be at the show, work with the designer and offer to host a booth of her designs during the entire show. She will receive her usual wholesale price for those pattern that sell, and you (or your group) will receive the remaining funds. All unsold pattern will be returned to the designer at the end of the show. Let the designer know that you will be advertising her trunk show whenever you advertise for the show.

trunk

 

10. Silent Auction

Put together eight to twelve baskets/packages/kits of quilt products for a silent auction. These can be unused, unopened product from your quilt shop, or donated items from members of a quilt guild. Always begin the auction bid paper with a minimum bid. If this is something that you plan to do year after year, hold some of your excess funds aside for the next year to purchase several quality quilting items at wholesale prices for the silent auction. You will make more in sales on the auction items if the items up for bid are not marred, opened, used, terribly outdated, etc. You want the attendees to come back every year to see what neat items they can bid on!

auction

 

11. Edibles

Is there a corner of the facility that you could offer coffee and donuts? Cupcakes? Sell coffee and a couple different confections! Find a baker that could make some adorable treats. Have a couple of tables with chairs right next to the food area. Important - put a sign up letting attendees know that food cannot be brought out into the quilt show.

Cupcakes

 

12. Speakers

Is there a quilt guild member, or store customer, who is wildly talented in one specific aspect of quilting? Paper-piecing, hand quilting, needle-turn appliqué, etc.? Set up a small area of chairs in the corner of your quilt show, or possible in a small room in the facility of your choice, and advertise a one-hour demonstration by this talented person for a $2 extra charge. Split the fee with the speaker and the show's host. You can offer the demonstration once each day. Make sure the speaker shows hands-on work. Have lots for the viewers to see. Try to make this speaker area secluded enough so that unpaid attendees of the quilt show cannot stand around and see the speaker's show.

speakers

 

13. Classes

If the facility of your choice allows - hold a special class for an extra fee. Hold the class only on one day to make it more enticing! Consider: 8" wooden barn signs, needle-turn appliqué, fabric-folded ornaments, etc. Advertise this offering, and have a supply list ready! I hope this article has given you lots of encouragement to hold your first quilt show, and the excitement to envision many more quilt shows to come!

class room

 

14. Sponsors

Often local guilds, shops, and businesses can be asked to sponsor in trade for their name being mentioned in signs and speaking engagements. YOu can also check with other quilting industry professionals and businesses. You can search QuiltingHub to get ideas. They may even sponsor and or provide the snacks.

sponsors

 

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Glossary

Appliqué
Attaching individual pieces of fabric to a background to form a design.

Same As: Applique
Drape
How stiff or soft the fabric or quilt is.

Same As: Drapability
Fat Quarter
Pre-cut piece of fabric which is made by cutting a half yard in half again vertically. The piece is therefore approximately 18" x 22". This allows for cutting larger blocks than a standard quarter yard which is 9" x 44".
Foot
Accessories that are available for sewing machines and are especially made for quilting.
Hand Quilting
A running stitch that is made through all three layers of a quilt to hold them together.
Label
Information some people attach to a quilt that may contain the your name, name of the quilt, town, year and pattern used.
Posts
Smaller blocks, often colored fabric, which are used to join the pieces of sashing together.
Raffle Quilt
A term used by Quilt Guilds and other groups to describe a quilt which is raffled off at a show or event.

Same As: Opportunity Quilt
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Quilting Contessa
Quilting Contessa is a collection of various authors around the world that have submitted articles for the QuiltingHub 'How To' quilt wiki.  These are authors that do not write enough to have their own authorship, yet provide valuable content for the site.  If you wish to submit an article, contact us on QuiltingHub.
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