When I attended Quilt Market in Houston, TX this past weekend, I quickly discovered there is a learning curve for the best way to approach the event. It's almost like Christmas, with so much anticipation and so many enticing possibilities for fun, memory-making, and planning for the future. This makes it difficult to squeeze it all into a weekend, while still managing to sleep and eat every once in a while. In case you didn't make it, but may in the future, I thought I'd give you the scoop I wish someone had offered me before I arrived, dazed and confused.
- The Real Dates - What IQA neglects to mention, is that Quilt Market really starts the day before their website would lead you to believe. If you don't arrive soon enough to be there by 9 am the morning before Market officially opens, you will be missing out on Schoolhouse and possibly Sample Spree. Schoolhouse is a series of free classes that introduce new fabric lines, patterns, notions and books. Sample Spree is Black Friday on quilting steroids. For Smaple Spree budgeting, evaluate how much money you think you are going to spend, quadruple it, and bring that amount in cash.
- Accommodations - Cha-ching! Expect to pay a premium for proximity. Staying within walking distance is ideal. Google maps makes hotels look deceptively close, but it isn't advisable to have a ten minute jaunt during the late-at-night-praying-not-to-be-abducted hours. Host hotels have a free shuttle, but you are going to have to wait a bit longer if you come and go at the same time as the throng, and you will also have to stop at other host hotels en-route. I recommend staying at the Holiday Inn Express Downtown Convention Center, because it has a tasty free breakfast, complimentary parking, an indoor pool, cookies at night, and is less walking distance to the convention center than it is from one of the convention center to the other. Otherwise, be prepared to be denied continental breakfast and pay about $30 per night in valet parking fees. Speaking of....
- Parking - It can be tricky to find reasonably priced parking near the convention center, as many of the parking garages aren't for the public, meters are for short-term parking, and some lots have difficult to ascertain rates. The best bet I found was underneath Discovery Green. To get there, drive right in front of the convention center, and when you are at the stoplight that is about equidistant from both ends of the convention center, turn toward the park to enter the garage. Do not get distracted with intense road construction, the absence of anything above ground level that resembles a parking garage, or the people trying to cross the street without being run over. Otherwise, you will be subjected to frivolous cruising along multiple one-way streets and increased frustration.
- Snacks - Strolling along the vendor booths has a trick or treating vibe given the amount of candy-laden bowls heaped to the brim with naughty delectables. However, food is technically not allowed in the exhibit hall, so malnutrition is a very real possibility given the pricey, lack-luster cafeteria options that would require you to seclude yourself in the dining hall at the far end of the convention center. Bringing something purse-packable to eat on the run will keep you from passing out in the aisles.
- Book Signings - Book signing typically means you get a free autographed copy of a barely-released book. Drop by each publisher's booth and ask for a schedule as soon as Market opens. Come 30 minutes prior to the time listed on the schedule, as quantities are limited. Unlike the other publishers, Martingale does their sign-ups before Market begins, so if you don't receive their e-mails, you'll be put on a waiting list from the get-go.
- Business Cards - Market has a BYORT (Bring Your Own Raffle Ticket) policy. Many booths and Schoolhouse sessions have drawings, and your business card serves as your entry. Quilt Market is a great opportunity to connect with talented people you've previously only seen on their "About Me" blog page. As far as marketing goes, business cards are your insta-resume, so make a generous amount of customized, beautiful ones.
So you think you will ever attend Quilt Market? If you've already been, what important advice have I missed?