By Patricia Belyea
HOUSTON TX Being a solitary and plodding quilter, I loved Iron Quilter Challenge—a fast-paced spectator sport—on the Monday night of Quilt Festival. Six teams of five, led by a quilting celebrity, were given seven yards of fabric and two hours to complete a quilt top.
Due to a mix-up in timing, I arrived at the venue an hour early and was first in line. From my vantage point, I could watch a couple of lumbering flatbed dollies hauling Baby Lock machines into Ballroom A at the convention center.
Now, there are two important elements of this event—the quilters and the audience. If there is no audience, there is no excitement. Once the red doors opened, the audience-bait became apparent.
Across the front of the hall was an endless table loaded with neon yellow giveaway bags and one spanking-new Baby Lock sewing machine. The goody bags would be awarded to lucky winners throughout the evening, culminating with the grand prize of the Baby Lock. (The non-functioning, diamond-encrusted gold iron was the coveted trophy for the winning team.)
Most of the seating was oriented toward the stage where six oversized bulletin boards draped with 14 half-yards of fabric stood ready. Satellite groupings of chairs faced six workstations—with two long tables, two Baby Lock sewing machines, an iron and ironing board, and design wall.
Scattered throughout the hall were beautifully appointed buffet tables laden with jumbo bowls of corn chips, salsas, and the world’s best guacamole—all Texas-style bounty.
The fun event started with opening statements—bravado fighting words—from the contestants, ironically some of the gentlest women on the planet. As the team leaders carried their fabrics back to their work areas, the theme song of Rocky belted across the intercom system. Jokes, dancing music, and giveaways filled the two hours of mad cutting and sewing.
Here are the best photos I could get of the hustling team leaders during the competition: Charlotte Angotti (L) of Angotti Avengers and Marti Michell (R) of Marti and the Cut Ups,
Pam Holland (L) of Pam's Possums and Catherine Redford (R) of Redford Raiders, and
Gyleen Fitzgerald (L) of Gyleen’s Take Five and Karen K Stone (R) of Stone Cold Foxes.
Once the two-hour bell rang, the teams came up front to show the crowd their quilt designs.
Then everyone voted with marbles they’d received upon entry, and the winner was determined.
You can imagine, with a popular vote, a giraffe with glasses was pretty compelling. Sure enough, Pam Holland and her Possums won the 2017 Iron Quilt Challenge at Quilt Festival.
Really all of us won. We got entertained by our favorite activity, we made new friends, and some of us received prizes—big and small. The next day, the quilt tops from this Challenge and the Chicago Spring Quilt Festival 2017 Challenge were hanging downstairs in the exhibition hall. There they will be sold through a silent action to benefit the Texas Quilt Museum—another win!
IRON QUILTER CHALLENGE TIPS
If you want to attend next year, be sure to buy a ticket.
You don't need to come early (like me) to secure a good seat. You will keep moving around during the event and probably sit in many chairs.
The event runs from 6pm to 8:30pm. Plan accordingly as you will be eating your dinner early or late that night.