Besides her Sew Powerful CFO duties, Sue Kirby has taken on the role of Manager, National Shows and Events for 2022. In this episode, Sue announces the dates and places for upcoming quilt shows where Sew Powerful will exhibit. She also recaps the shows we have already complete. Along with host Jan Cancila, Sue shares experiences and tips for attending the shows. Finally, listen for a checklist of all the reasons you will want to participate in an upcoming quilt show with Sew Powerful. Scattered throughout are mentions of the many volunteers without whose help and dedication we could not participate in these shows.
Put These Quilt Shows on Your Calendar with Sue Kirby
IN THIS EPISODE
Quilt shows, booth, purses, Branson, festival, volunteers, Phoenix, classes, interested, fun, Long Beach, Birmingham England, Portland, Santa Clara, Houston
We are Sew Powerful, How a Global Community of Seamstresses Is Changing Zambia One Girl at A Time, 2nd edition. By Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, © 2016 & 2020 Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, all rights reserved.
Quilt Festival, Long Beach, CA: https://www.quilts.com/quilt-festival/quilt-festival-long-beach/
Festival of Quilts, NEC, Birmingham, England: https://www.thefestivalofquilts.co.uk/
Norwest Quilting Expo, Portland, OR: https://exhpo.com/usa/nw-quilting-expo/
Pacific International Quilting Expo, Santa Clara, CA: https://www.quiltfest.com/upcoming-shows-and-events/pacific-international-quilt-festival/
Quilt Festival Houston, Houston, TX: https://www.quilts.com/quilt-festival/quilt-festival-houston/
ABOUT THE SEW POWERFUL PODCAST
The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.
Host: Jan Cancila
Guest: Sue Kirby
Jan Cancila, Host 00:04
Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So, let's get started.
Hello Sew Powerful podcast listeners. Today we are going to be talking with Sue Kirby. You know, Sue, she's the CFO of Sew Powerful. And this year she is serving as the national show manager for quilt shows and events. And we have some really great new experiences this year and upcoming quilt shows that we're going to be talking about. So hello, Sue, how are you today?
Sue Kirby, Guest 00:47
Hi, Jan. I'm doing well today. Thank you.
Well, yes. So let's talk a little bit about quilt shows. In general, why does Sew Powerful participate in quilt shows?
This really was what I consider a genius idea by one of our early volunteers, Leslie Unruh, and there's a big quilt show up in Washington. And Leslie said, How about we go to this quilt show and see what people think. And what it turned out is it's really a perfect fit for telling the Sew Powerful story. It's very targeted to ladies who like to sew, people who have a compassionate heart, and really would like to know what they're doing can make a difference. That first quilt show, which I think was about five years ago now got us started. And we are able to pay the costs for these quilt shows through donations. So it's almost like acquiring new purse makers and purse donors for no cost, which any business would love to be able to acquire new customers for no cost. And what do we find at our quilt shows? Well, we find many passionate purse makers. They're passionate about sewing, they love to make purposeful products, many of them sewed for their own children or their grandchildren or Project Linus, any of those types of organizations. When we talk about Sew Powerful, and how these products can keep girls in schools, and how they provide local jobs for local impact, I think that it just touches the heartstrings of the people who are generally attending those quilt shows.
You know, and what I've discovered by doing a lot of these podcasts, when you ask people, How did you first hear about Sew Powerful, many people said, Oh, I saw you at XYZ Quilt Show. And sometimes that seed is planted, but nothing sprouts for a couple of years, you know. And the other thing that's happened a lot is an individual walks by our booth, hears about it, and might be attending the quilt show with a group. And suddenly an hour later she's back at our booth telling her friends the Sew Powerful story and getting them all enthused too. Yeah, it's always been a great experience.
Before COVID we attended, I think that last year before COVID, did we do 15? I can't remember because I know it almost drove me crazy being the manager of that many shows, but seven to ten a year was kind of what we were trying to do. And we just found interest everywhere we went.
So like you said during the last couple of years, the first year 2020, most of the shows were canceled. The second year there were a lot of restrictions and people weren't quite ready to come back. But in 2022, here we are. And this is early April. So far, we've done two this year. We did QuiltCon in Phoenix and the AQS show in Branson. Can you tell us a little bit about the Phoenix show, how that went, and who was there?
Well, that Phoenix show is one that is really interesting to me, because it is called QuiltCon, because it's the modern quilt festival. So it's kind of a different group of quilters that are really interested in the modern quilt versus the traditional. Most of them are younger. So that helps us find a different demographic. We had Betty Johnson as our show manager and she is just so talented at telling this story and working with other folks that the booth was a huge success. Jason and Cinnamon were able to attend, which of course everybody loves if Jason and Cinnamon can come because they're kind of the stars of Sew Powerful. They don't always get to come. But in Phoenix they were there and able to meet with folks. From everything I've heard from Betty from Jason and Cinnamon, it was a real success. The booth was busy all day most days. And that's what we look for. When we set the booth up, we do a large display of our purses. And that is such a draw. People see all those colorful purses. And they come in and say, what's this about? It's our chance to say this is about helping keep girls in school.
You know, one of the other items that's new for us this year, are the quilted portraits that our friend Elizabeth Mittman made, and so appropriate at a quilt show. Could you maybe describe what those look like and what the reaction was there?
Oh, I think the one we've used both at Phoenix and at Branson is one that Elizabeth gifted to Cinnamon. It's from a photograph of Cinnamon with the girls when we were doing a purse distribution. And it is absolutely gorgeous. And right now that type of quilting, portrait quilting, is very popular. And so when people would see that they wanted to come in to see how did you do this? What type of thread work did you do here? What kind of fabric? What color, you know, oh, my goodness, you use purple in the hair? Would I have thought of that? You know. So it's it's very intriguing to quilters to be able to get up close and personal, and it draws them into the booth. The Sew Powerful logo was digitized again by Leslie and then I can't remember if the one in Phoenix is the one that Elizabeth made or the one that Leslie made. But we have a couple of those banners that are what I'd call mini quilts, which again, for the modern quilts is extremely popular to do mini quilts that you use as wallhangings. So people are interested to come in and say, Oh, you made a mini quilt out of your logo. Let me look at that. Let me think about that. It just draws people into the booth. It's a real advantage.
Yeah, I thought that was a clever addition to the booth to use marketing materials that had been quilted at a quilt show.
We have many ladies who are doing quilting for the flap now. They might use a quilt block, they might do crumb quilting and cut the flap. They might do embroidery. That's another thing that's very popular in quilting right now. So applique, embroidery, quilt blocks, that flap gives people so much opportunity to be creative. And ladies are looking for that.
Yeah, I think so too. And you know, one of the other things we do at Quilt shows is allow people to drop off their finished purses at the booth to save themselves the cost of shipping. Off the top of your head, do you know how many purses were brought into the Phoenix QuiltCon booth?
I think it was between 4 and 500 purses.
Yeah, it was a lot and we know that there's a lot of Phoenix purse makers and so they took full advantage of that. Let's talk a little bit about the Branson show.
Yeah, let's talk about that. Our show manager in Branson was Jan Paul. She's very gifted at being a show manager. And she's done a lot of shows on her own for her own crafts. But she also came to Houston and worked with us there and learned about Sew Powerful, and we appreciate her so much. But in Branson, this was a new show. It was new for AQS. It was of course new for us because that's the first time anybody'd been there. And I think the crowds were above everyone's expectation. Jan had the normal level of merchandise we usually have in the show, which we use as thank you gifts for donations. We use the pattern, we have a pack of three fat quarters with the pattern in it. We have ribbon and we have the strapping for the purse strap. You know most of that is donated merchandise, and then we can use it as a gift for the donations that are given at the show and that helps with the finances. But in Branson, Jan gave out more than 2000 fliers. So 2000 individual people that they got to tell the Sew Powerful story to. She was able to give all of the patterns that she had, and I believe she had over 100 of those and all but just very few of the fat quarters and the ribbon. So we had just a lot of people really interested in the booth and listening about Sew Powerful. And one of the comments that came from Branson and we do hear this often but it seemed to be more common in Branson. I'm going to take this back to my quilt guild. I'm going to take this to my sewing group to do as a service project. I think my Girl Scout girls would like to do this. So the service project aspect for people there in Branson seemed to really resonate. And yeah, that's gonna be great.
Well, and you know, Chris McMullen, who is the Service Projects Manager for Sew Powerful worked in the booth there, but she also spoke. And so certain people are asked to speak and Sew Powerful was invited to speak. So she had a 30 minute presentation where she talked about Sew Powerful, but also talked about how a Sew Powerful service project could be a fun activity for Quilt Guild. So yeah, so that was really cool. Now we have more quilt shows that we're going to be attending this year, don't we?
We do. And that is an exciting list of events. We're taking a few months off, which is more really industry driven, because the major shows start up again in August. So we will be at the Quilt Festival in Long Beach, which is sponsored by the same organization who does the Houston Quilt Festival. And they, they just do a great job of organizing events so if you're in the Long Beach area, please come by. There'll be great exhibits for you to look at. Got a lot of great purses coming in. Torey Elwell is our show manager. And if you'd like to volunteer, or if you have questions about dropping off your purses, email ToreyE, so TOREYE@sewpowerful.org. She can get you all the information. Jan has also posted the jobs on our jobs site. So you can go to sewpowerful.org and look at jobs and you can volunteer to be in the booth there. But we're really excited about it. In the summer in LA, it ought to be a party, right?
Absolutely. So that show is August 4th through 6th. And again, if you're in the LA area, you could drop off your purses. You know, we also have a donor dinner associated with each of these shows. And it's you know, it's for people who work in the booth, but it's also for people who live locally, just to get to know each other. And it's a really great time. And in fact, I do want to just sort of give a shout out to Mary Furness in Phoenix who hosted the donor dinner there in her home, and several people who were not able to work in the booth, but are purse makers in the Phoenix area came. And you know, it's so cool to get to meet people. You see each other's purses on Facebook; you might chat with them, or whatever, but it's so nice to meet them. And then in Branson, Jan Paul hosted the dinner and in fact, she cooked the dinner and you know, people had a good time there. So it's just sort of nice for people to get to know each other on a one on one basis. Yeah, like Sue said, and so if you go to the website and look under Volunteer Opportunities, we have all the booth volunteer jobs listed by location by date, so you can find them all right there. Okay, so that's early August, what's happening in mid August?
Well, August 18 - 22, is the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England. So that so far is our only international show. But Jason and Cinnamon were able to go would that be three years ago now? And it's a great show. They have a big turnout. A lot of ladies come from all over the UK, but really all over Europe. And we get to tell them about the Sew Powerful story. Our country purse collector there, Sandy Simm, is generally very involved with managing that show and setting it up and working with volunteers. So again, if you're interested in more information, Sandy's email is SandyS@sewpowerful.org. And we'll have the applications on the website. But, you know, if you're interested in a little look at the crown jewels or the Tower of London, Birmingham, I think is about two hours north. It's a fun train ride down to London and you can take in a show but come to the Quilt Festival.
And what I understand is it's like the largest one in Europe. I mean, it's it's a big deal.
It is a very big deal. It's one of the biggest shows in Europe. Yes.
Okay, so let's go to September 22nd through 24th. Where will we be then?
Well, we'll be in my backyard. Well, 300 miles from my backyard, but still in my home state, oh it's in Portland. I'm going to be working to organize that. And I'm hoping Kathy Simonsen may help me, but I'm speaking a little out of turn because I haven't contacted her yet. She was going to help us with that last year. And she's just been a very gracious volunteer. So we hope to do that. I'm Sue@sewpowerful.org if you want to email me. Now, this is a bit smaller show, but it's still very fun. They have great classes, they have great exhibits, beautiful quilts, and parking is easy. So you know, that's one of the advantages. I would say that Long Beach, NEC, you're talking about attendees in the 5,000 to 10,000 range, you know, of people who come to those shows. Portland, you're talking about 1000 to 2000, maybe 3000 come to that show. But again, you know, it's just fun. It to see a lot of things you see a lot of people you might have met previously.
You've been a show manager for the Northwest Quilting Expo in Portland before, right?
I have. Yeah. Yeah. One of the little tidbits if you're listening to this podcast, we think we're going to have four of our board members come and work in the booth in Portland. So you'd get to meet some of the folks that help with the decision making of Sew Powerful.
Okay, well, very cool. All right. So we're continuing on the West Coast, October 13th through 16th Santa Clara, the Pacific International Quilt Festival. What can you tell us about that?
We've been to this quilt festival for three previous years. You know, of course we miss 2020 and 2021. But prior to that we had been there. It's a very well organized show. Beautiful quilts, a lot of landscape quilts and portrait quilts and art quilts are displayed at the show. Torey's again, going to be our show manager so it's very gracious of her to do two shows in one year. But it's a fun show. You'll get to meet a lot of fun folks. But also think about classes. It's one of the shows that brings in very talented teachers. So if you're interested, look now because the classes booked up quickly, and I believe they're open. I know I was just able to register our vendor booth last week. And I think I saw that classes were open as well. So.
Well, and you know, that advice probably pertains to all of these shows. We're giving the dates of the shows, but sometimes the classes start a few days early. Isn't that true?
They start a few days early, but they do fill up very early a few months early.
Right, right, right. Okay, well, now let's talk about one that's in my backyard. And not 300 miles away, probably it's 30 miles away, I guess from my backyard, is the Quilt Festival in Houston. And this year, they've moved it to early November. It's November 3rd through 6th. And like the other shows, there's classes, there's actually a market for wholesale purchases that happens a few days before the actual festival. I'm going to be the show manager for this one. Any comments on that?
I'm so happy about that.
Yeah, I told my husband and I'm not sure he was as happy as you. Yeah, well and that's the other thing. A big shout out to all the spouses who helped with with the booth setup and teardown and transporting all the goods there. But the Houston Quilt Festival is really amazing. It's in the George R Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. And the quilt festival takes up a million square feet. There are so many quilts on display. There was one huge quilt that I remember from a couple of years ago when we were there and I think it was like 60 feet long. It was just a monster and little bitty quilts to the big cute quilts, all kinds of talented people the portrait quilting, I remember being really outstanding there. But then of course our booth and hoping that we'll have a really great location. Sometimes being near another well known popular vendor like a sewing machine dealer or some other nationally known supplier is beneficial to us because people come to that area to go to that booth and then they they stumble on us if they don't know about us. You know when I first started doing these shows and explaining that we were making purses and that we were hiring seamstresses to make reusable feminine hygiene pads, it was shocking so many people. They didn't realize that disposable hygiene supplies were not the norm everywhere. But as time goes on, I think more and more people are aware of it. And even in the United States as part of a green movement, people are trying to get away from disposables, too. So our organization, a few others, I think, have done a really good job of educating people to the issue about the girls needing these pads to go to school. So it's educational, too besides just learning about Sew Powerful, learning about what life is like in the developing world, so it's always very gratifying. And whether you live in town, whether you're going to match it up with some vacation time, for any of these upcoming quilt shows, we'd love to have you help us out. You will have so much fun working in the booth. It's really a blast.
That's probably what I'd like to wrap up with Jan. I was thinking about, okay, you've listened to this, but what's in it for you? What's in it for the person who attends or the person who volunteers? Well, one, you meet others passionate about Sew Powerful. And it's really fun to be able to share our passion with other people. You talk to a lot of people. Their responses will bless you. I mean, we've had ladies crying in the booths because this is something that gives them a mission and a meaning and a use for their stash. And it's exactly what they're looking for. You see great booths by other vendors. I mean, who doesn't like to go look at pretty fabric and see a lot of notions and demonstrations. And maybe carrying cash instead, your credit card is a tip, because when you run out, you're out. When you have your credit card, you might get home and have spent more than you thought you wanted. But anyway, it's just beautiful to go by and see some of the other vendors, to see the quilts. Like Jan said, hanging at the Houston Quilt Festival, you cannot walk through the quilts in one day. It will take you a couple days of going through just to admire the beautiful work that's there. Take some classes to learn something new; great instructors at these places. And they really work hard to have quality classes. Machines are usually provided so you don't have to lug your sewing machine in. You might get to try one that you'd later like to buy. So it's a great time for that. And then you can bring your purses. Bring your purses by and you don't have to mail them. And if we can, we'll just hang some of them on the wall for the next day of the show. So just so many advantages. If you can come we'd love to see you at any of these shows.
Absolutely. Well, so it's been great talking to you about quilt shows. It's so exciting that we're back. Such a fun way to meet new people and reconnect with people that you might only know, I'm doing air quotes, on Facebook and just somebody will walk up and their name and you'll recognize them and it's like meeting an old friend even though you've never met in person. And then just like you said, the opportunity to share the mission of Sew Powerful with new people. And you know, it just always sticks. And I just want to say one more thing that we have some training. We give you some guidelines about what to say. You know, we have materials that you hand out. It's not difficult. Nobody is asking challenging hard questions. And if you're relatively new to Sew Powerful we'll pair you in the booth with somebody who has a little bit more experience that could answer some of the more difficult questions. So all in all, it's just a really great way to spend a couple of days working for Sew Powerful and expanding our ministry. So anyway, it's been fun conversation. Thank you for your time.
Thank you, Jan, talk soon.
All right. Bye-bye.
If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference,I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at www.sewpowerful.org That's SEWPOWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's where you can download the free purse patterns or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.
ABOUT THE HOST
Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, as the Region 8 Chapter Manger. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter in law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Examiner.com. Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at email@example.com