Hey Kids—Let’s Put On a (Quilt) Show!

Quilters love to see what other quilters are up to…hence the popularity of quilt exhibits at events like QuiltCon and Quilt Festival. But quilts don’t have to win blue ribbons or be created by masters to be of interest—it’s inspirational to see what’s being stitched in your state or hometown. That’s where local and regional quilt shows come in.

My guild (Old Capitol Quilter’s Guild) has held four shows in the eleven years I’ve been a member and one was just last weekend. In lieu of a more traditional show, where quilts are mounted on upright racks, we held a “church pew quilt show.” More than 250 quilts were draped on pews and hung from the balcony, along with several, smaller displays throughout the sanctuary. The “WOW!” factor was undeniable and several volunteers commented that the most fun assignment was to be at the entrance to the church where they could hear the comments of visitors as they came through the door.  I’m going to share a brief look at our show and would love to hear pointers from those of you who have organized shows.

Our decision to hold our first church pew show came after mounting shows at more traditional venues. While there were advantages to some of these—plenty of foot traffic at the local mall, for example—the set-up and take-down was no easy task and the guild had to rent and put together racks for displaying quilts. While draping quilts over pews isn’t easy, especially when dealing with queen- and king-sized quilts, but it’s much quicker than hanging them on racks…and deconstructing the show is a snap. Though we knew how many quilts we had coming in, there was plenty of arranging and re-arranging as quilts came in during the 7:30 to 9 a.m. set-up time and we saw what we needed to display.

The church at 7 a.m. Friday morning.

There was no formal plan for arranging the quilts—they were distributed as they came in, with some rearranging for space as more quilts arrived. Each quilt had a paper label pinned to the front with the quilter’s name and the name of the quilt. Quilts also had to have a label sewn on the back.

All quilts made by guild members since the previous show were eligible to be exhibited. Each member could enter up to five quilts.

Lots of volunteers made the set-up morning run smoothly—one crew stood on the curb in front of the church, making for it easy for members to drop quilts off on their way to work or if they couldn’t find a parking space. Several other volunteers were “runners” and brought the quilts inside. Each quilt was pre-designated, based on size, as large, wall, or small—small quilts and runners were draped over the front pews, while wall quilts hung from the balcony.

Small quilts and runners were draped over the front pews, where they were easy to see.

Quilts hung from the balcony rail via plastic skirt hangers—inexpensive and easy to clip on.

Red and white quilts, which had been our 2015 guild challenge, were displayed near the altar.

And quilts made by two guild members who had passed away were displayed in their honor in separate corners of the church—these were set up the night before. 

In the church entrance was an area for free-will donations and everyone who donated was eligible for a door prize. They were also eligible to win one of the gift baskets donated by shops and manufacturers. Information on local shops, area attractions, and joining the guild was on hand, too.

As visitors came into the main part of the church they were able to see examples of items made as part of the guild’s service component, as well as a display on “What is a quilt?” We hoped to get in a little education along with the visual delights.

The back of the church was designated for children’s activities, as well as for a silent auction that proved to be the best money-generator for the guild—members donated so many quilts, runners, bags, and more that we had to ask them to stop! (Unfortunately I don’t have any photos.)

Even the back of the pews provided a beautiful view.

When the two-day exhibit ended (we were open from 1 to 8 p.m. on Friday, in conjunction with a downtown gallery walk and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, during our community’s Arts Fest) volunteers dropped the quilts from the balcony into waiting arms and guild members picked up their quilts and signed for their release. While easier than a typical show the event still required many, many hours of planning and work. But Vicki Walch, one of our two fearless quilt show leaders, put it best when she noted that while our efforts had generated some money for future guild projects “we did as well in ‘friend-raising’ as we did in fundraising.” And that, after all, is what it’s all about.

This quilt by quilt-show organizer Pam Ehrhardt, along with signs announcing the exhibit, alerted passersby to the show.

If you’d like more information about this show, click here.

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21 comments on “Hey Kids—Let’s Put On a (Quilt) Show!

  1. Cynthia Brown says:

    I made the Red Bird wallhanging and presented it to my brother & his significant other. Their church has an annual pew quilt show. She insisted I go, and I came to a dead stop, speechless, to see the wallhanging in the place of honor on the pulpit! That will be a highlight forever!

  2. Becky says:

    We are a smaller church and are planning a quilt and handwork crafts exhibit in August. Any tips would be appreciated. We will not be able to exhibit on the pews but have a fellowship hall that we will use. Any tips? Congratulations on your success.

    • Linzee McCray says:

      Hi Becky: I don’t have any real tips about the type of show you’re planning, I’m afraid. If you Gooogle “Planning a quilt show” there are a lot of tips from various organizations you might find useful. Hope it’s a great show!

  3. Susan says:

    Really is spectacular! The church is beautiful and all the quilts are gorgeous too! Too bad, it’s so far away – I’m sure it would be great to see in person!

  4. Patricia says:

    How awesome to walk in a church and see all those beautiful quilts

  5. One of our local churches did the same several years ago. It was magnificent. Your guild’s show was magnificent!

  6. modalissa says:

    What a great story. I love the friend-raising.

  7. Carrie — I truly believe this is going to be the format for the local guild show. Time/age of guild members/cost all play a huge factor in making these shows happen. And WHO wants to be the coordinator??? No one. I would love to chat with your coordinator if that’s possible so I could ask a few questions. We can’t get anyone to come forward in our guild and now it’s three years since we’ve had a show. I would volunteer (as if I have time!) but would like a few tips. elainetheriault@gmail.com

  8. lepowell says:

    Breathtaking to see all those very worthy quilts touching and loving each other!!! I would love to roam around a show like that!!!! Thank you for sharing this!!

  9. denice says:

    I coordinated a quilt show like this last year in our little country church. I was new to the parish and knew we had the perfect church for something like this. Not as large as your church, but it was the perfect venue. I thought we would have about 75 quilts and we ended up with 105! Enough for three quilts per pew and it filled our church. It was stunning and I’m doing it again in a couple of weeks. The exhibit is for one day, one afternoon, from noon till 5 p.m.so it’s good that we just drape them over the pews. You are right, set up and take down is a lot easier than hanging and you are also right that the looks on the people’s faces (especially the older men) when they walked in was priceless. For setup I have the help of 4 friends and the people who brought their quilts directly to the church stayed to help, too.

  10. MariLynn Bergmark says:

    Breathtaking!

  11. Linda P says:

    A few years ago we did a church show.. it was all antique quilts, we solicited quilts from friends, families, church members and the community. It was beautiful.. we also had a few vendors in our fellowship hall.

  12. Tracey says:

    Thanks for sharing! Gorgeous!!

  13. Barbara Esposito, The Quilted B says:

    What a beautiful and fun way to display the quilts. So much to see! Thank you for the ideas and for the wonderful look at so much quilted eye candy!

  14. Quilting Tangent says:

    WONDERFUL! Thank you for sharing your beautiful show. Wish I lived closer so I could have seen it in person.

  15. Kathy Schwartz says:

    Most interesting. Beautiful quilts. Well displayed. Thanks you for sharing all the great info.

  16. Donna Lee says:

    What a spectacular show! Thanks SO MUCH for sharing!

  17. Kathleen says:

    I really enjoyed this post. So much beauty in an equally beautiful church.

  18. Spectacular! A great community building adventure!
    Kuddos to everyone who made that beautiful event a reality!
    Quilters rock!

  19. Paulette says:

    How beautiful. Sometimes we look at the expert quilts and forget those many by our friends. My church makes quilts for cancer patients and one time we had quilts draped all ver. It was beautiful.

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