My first experience with the International Quilt Market was as a buyer at the International Quilt Market – Spring Edition – in Kansas City (2019). Due the pandemic, the Market took a break and then in 2022, I worked with Magic Quilting and Crafting Spray, helping introduce their products and make valuable industry connections. This year, I’ve advanced from a qualified attendee/contractor to an exhibitor, showcasing Sew Much Moore’s growth in the industry.
Attending as an Exhibitor
This year, 2023, marked a pivotal chapter in my International Quilt Market story. Transitioning from an attendee/contractor to an exhibitor was a change in status. It was also a bold statement of Sew Much Moore’s growth and ambition.
This leap, albeit a substantial financial investment, was a strategic move to catapult our brand into a wider arena. Exhibiting offered us a unique platform for direct engagement. We hoped to meet with potential partners. We also wanted a chance to showcase our innovative quilt pattern designs to a targeted audience.
Transportation and Helpers
Our expedition to the International Quilt Market 2023 was a well-coordinated blend of business, family, and strategic stops. Starting in Central Kansas, our first task was to pick up my mom. She was instrumental as a helper for the trip. We loaded my pickup truck to the brim! It was fully loaded with booth materials, quilt patterns, and four large IKEA bags. I used the bags and filled them with quilts, we set off on our journey.
Our first major stop was in Denton, Texas, where we had an overnight stay. We also had a heartwarming visit with my cousin (Happy Birthday dinner for Heather!). This break, facilitated by using my IHG points, offered us a moment of rest and family connection.
So much still to do!
The next leg of our trip took us to San Antonio, Texas. Staying with my sister there, we focused on the final preparations for the market. This included bagging the printed pattern. I also needed help attaching QR Code stickers (that I made with these LABELS from Amazon).
Throughout our journey, we made several meaningful stops at quilt shops in Wellington, KS, Oklahoma City, OK, Austin, TX and San Antonio, TX as well. These visits were opportunities to introduce Sew Much Moore’s quilt patterns to the local shop owners. Each stop was a chance to engage with the quilting community. We were able to spread the word about our products and building anticipation for our market presence.
Finally, we arrived in Houston, Texas, the venue for the International Quilt Market.
Each stop along the way, from the heart of Kansas to the busy highways of Houston, was carefully chosen to maximize our reach and prepare us for a successful showcase at the market. Let’s not even talk about the traffic we encountered coming into Houston on the first day! (this picture, above, was taken traveling from our hotel – nice and light).
I always try to stay at IHG hotels. I like this chain for more than one reason. My connection with IHG goes back to my early career days. I started in the Food & Beverage Department and eventually became a Sales Manager for Events and Meeting Spaces. However, the accumulation of IHG points, which proved invaluable for this trip, comes from a different aspect of my life. Over the years, I’ve been collecting these points through frequent travels with Juki and my son’s baseball team trips. These points allowed us to secure an Executive Suite with a separate living space and kitchenette at the hotel.
Located on the east side of Houston, the hotel provided a strategic advantage in terms of travel logistics. This offered us smoother in-and-out access to the city. The absence of major sports events, like the Astros not reaching the finals, further eased our movement around the city.
The hotel holds a special place in my heart. Not just for its professional relevance but also as the place where my husband and I first met. Over 25 years ago, we crossed paths while I was managing a restaurant at a Holiday Inn property. He was working part-time during his college break. This long-standing connection with IHG added a layer of nostalgia and comfort to our stay. This made the intense days at the market more manageable and providing a peaceful retreat to relax and recharge.
Food and Meals
Opting for a hotel with a kitchen was a strategic and comforting choice during our Quilt Market trip. My mother’s culinary care was a highlight, as she diligently prepared most of our breakfasts each morning. Additionally, she made daily sandwiches. This became more than just a meal – they were a convenient and essential part of our busy schedule.
Eating at the booth was an exercise in timing and efficiency. We often found ourselves grabbing quick bites of our sandwiches during lulls in booth traffic. Some days were so hectic that we barely had time for these bites, let alone a proper break for lunch. The constant buzz and engagement with attendees meant that even finding a moment for a bathroom break was a challenge!
Despite these constraints, the home-cooked meals provided a comforting touch amidst the whirlwind of activities. While we occasionally treated ourselves to restaurant meals, our focus remained on being economy-minded, using our groceries to sustain us through the long and busy days.
This approach to meals – balancing the convenience of sandwiches with the occasional restaurant indulgence – became a crucial part of navigating our demanding schedule at the market. It was a testament to the importance of planning and the value of homemade care in ensuring our well-being during such an intense professional event.
In addition to exhibiting, I hosted a Schoolhouse session at Quilt Market, an opportunity that comes with an extra day and fee but offers immense value.
This session was dedicated to showcasing my quilt patterns and the variety my brand, Sew Much Moore, offers. The turnout exceeded my expectations! The attendance so high that I ran out of coupons for follow-up visits to my booth. The success of the Schoolhouse wouldn’t have been possible without the invaluable help from my mom and friends! They assisted in presenting all of my quilts effectively.
In Booth Sales
At the International Quilt Market, our booth featured 14 different quilt patterns, including the popular ‘Friendly Phantoms’, well-timed for Halloween. We provided various wholesale options to meet the needs of our customers, from small to large retailers. Recognizing the challenge of transporting purchases, we offered shipping services, which were well-received by the buyers.
After the event, it was clear that our stock was nearly depleted due to high demand. Once back from Houston, I immediately placed an additional order with our local printer to replenish our pattern inventory. This step was essential to fulfill all the orders we received at the market, including both immediate sales and a significant order from a large distributor.
Big Stretch Goals
Our focus at Quilt Market 2023 was on building connections with quilt shops and key distributors like Checker, United Notions, Brewer, and EE Schenck. We provided flexibility for quilt shops to order directly from us or through their preferred distributors. Before the market, our partnership with Checker, marked by a booth sign, helped build trust with shop owners.
In addition to in-person networking, we updated our Shopify shop before the market to handle wholesale orders. Quilt shops can apply for wholesale pricing through an application process on our site. This ensures a streamlined and efficient ordering system.
Currently, I’m working through the administrative setup with distributors like EE Schenck, handling tasks like spreadsheets and imagery sharing. These efforts are crucial for expanding our reach, including into international markets like Canada.
At Quilt Market 2023, several fabric houses showed interest in collaborating with Sew Much Moore. They plan to use our quilt patterns with their fabric lines, indicating exciting future partnerships.
Already, Michael Miller and Benartex have confirmed they’ll feature my designs in their upcoming lookbooks. Other companies like Free Spirit, Timeless Treasures, Andover Fabrics, and many others are in the initial stages of collaboration. These developments are a clear sign of our growing impact in the quilting community.
It’s All About the Friends
The camaraderie extended to Laura Piland, a fellow exhibitor and a great support.
Quilt Market 2023 was more than a business event; it was a reunion of passions and friendships. For those in the quilt industry, a visit to International Quilt Market is a must – and I’ll certainly be there, ready for another round of stitching success.