Hat on Top, Coat Below


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June 28, 2004

I got back yesterday from Peoria, the site of this year’s NQA show. This was the 13th year in a row that my mom and I have gone to the show together, which makes it one of the longest running traditions our family has. The details vary each year, of course, but there’s always the show itself and meals at which diets will be discussed but not likely followed and lots of time spent together.

This year’s edition of the tradition started last Wednesday morning when I left my house for the oil change place and got properly lubricated before making the drive to Chicagoland. Just before I got to the spot in Indiana where I have to decide whether to go through Chicago or around it on the way to Mom’s, there were big signs saying “Construction Ahead on 80/94; Expect Long Delays; Seek Alt Route”. They should have added: “Alt Route Also Under Construction; You’re Hosed”. By the time I crept along the down-to-one-lane section of the Indiana Toll Road and then followed a well-marked but still challenging detour around the Skyway construction, traffic volumes were starting to build toward rush hour in the city proper. Oh, goody, brake lights in the express lanes; it’s my lucky day. I finally got to Mom’s an hour late. Fortunately, the drive from her house to the motel in Peoria was pretty low stress, at least once we got out of the suburban sprawl. I was reassured to see that there are still places where the corn and soybean fields have not been covered with strip malls and mini-mansions, and I was fascinated by the wind farm we drove by, which just plain looked cool. I would have stopped to take pictures or even a short movie of the turbines except it was raining, the only bad weather we had all weekend. We had a little bit of trouble finding the hotel, which was neither visible from the road nor actually on the street in its address, because that page of the directions had fallen under Mom’s seat without our realizing it. Still, we pulled in to the parking lot only a little later than the MapQuest estimated travel time would have predicted even though we’d been delayed by the aftermath of a head-on collision a few miles down the road. It was a bit disconcerting to see that the fire-damaged remains of the hotel next door, half its roof gone and chairs still sitting on balconies that led to blackened rooms. We did manage to finish the day without seeing any more post-tragedy scenes, for which I am grateful.

Thursday we hit the show. It was laid out really well, with nice wide aisles in both the quilt and vendor sections. As often happens, my favorite quilts were not the best of show winners, probably because the judges have to look at details that don’t concern me at all when I’m deciding if I like a quilt or not. Are the stitches uneven? Do the points not match exactly? I don’t care! One of the highlights of the show for me was a white-on-white quilt that I actually liked. I can always appreciate the work that goes into them, but most white-on-whites look like glorified mattress pads to me, all symmetrical and not overly interesting. This one, though, was like an illustration from a story book, with horses and riders and dogs and a picket fence and a weeping willow tree. It held my attention without having any color to it at all, which is amazing since I come from the “the more fabrics the better” school of quilting. The most offensive thing we saw was in the vendor mall, in a booth that had packets of fabrics made up to honor various First Ladies. Lady Bird Johnson’s packet had a sixties-style print and wildflowers, for instance. The one that made my mom and me stop and gape was Betty Ford’s: the feature fabric had cocktails and beer cans as the major parts of its motif. Tacky, tacky, tacky.

Friday we took a tour of local quilt shops around Peoria. They’d helpfully gotten together and printed up a map with all their locations on a flyer they were distributing at the show. Unfortunately, the map didn’t include the key piece of information that one of the roads was closed for bridge work, so we found ourselves making up our own detour which took us down some gravel farm roads before we were reunited with the blacktop. “When in doubt, head toward the water tower” is my new navigational motto. The culinary highlight of the trip came at lunch, when I had a piece of coconut pie that I wished I could go on eating forever. It was warm and sweet and had coconut distributed throughout the custardy filling, not just sprinkled on top. All other forms of saturated fatty goodness pale in comparison to this pie.

We filled the rest of the weekend with shopping and eating and reading and a quick return visit to the quilt show and watching tv an going to see movies (yet somehow never managed to set foot in the mall we had to drive through the parking lot of to get to our hotel). The closest theater to the hotel was about a block away as the crow flies but what seemed like several miles to drive to. Most of Peoria appeared to be laid out on a reasonable grid system, but not this part of town, with its unserviceable service drives and roads that meet at odd angles and then head off in unexpected directions. Leaving dinner after the movie, I found that making three right turns to avoid a left onto a busy street was not a wise move, as it lead to an unexpected scenic drive. Not Scenic Drive, which is the road that runs by the McDonald’s, the mall, and Red Lobster, but an actual scenic drive, with winding roads and trees and hills and cornfields–at least it was pretty.

The worst part of the weekend (well, other than Mom having a cold that sapped her energy and eventually found its way to me, too) were the rumors we heard about the show being changed to always be in one location. Despite researching this all weekend, including talking to women at the official NQA booth, we weren’t able to get confirmation. I hope it’s not true. It’s bad enough that it’s going to be in Columbus next year. It was just there last year. I liked it fine, but not so much I want to go back this soon, much less every year. The mix of quilts and vendors changes depending on where the show is, and I don’t want to lose seeing that variety. I like exploring different parts of the country every year, too, getting to visit local quilt shops I’d otherwise never get to see. I guess the tradition will just have to change if the NQA show goes immobile. There are lots of guilds that have shows. They’re not as big as NQA, certainly, and wouldn’t have as many vendors, but now that there’s the IQF show in Chicago each spring which is mostly vendors I can tire myself out shopping there instead. It’ll be harder to plan the trip if I’ve got to find a different show every year, but I’m resourceful; I can do it.


Last year at this time, I was on between entries.

Two years ago, I’d just gotten back from the NQA show in Charlotte.

T is for Tradition

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