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The 2023 Quilt-a-Fair Celebrates Quilting in Colorado

Entering the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, Colorado, palpable excitement fills the air for the Colorado Quilting Council’s (CQC) 42nd annual Quilt-a-Fair. Fifty-three vendors set up for the weekend of September 21st while four concurrent quilt exhibitions delight around 2,300 visitors. Admiring quilts, gathering inspiration, shopping for fabric and notions, and reconnecting with friends make for a quilter’s haven.

Hanging from above, the CQC member quilt exhibit showcases 57 works of art in a range of styles from charmingly traditional to fascinatingly improvisational. Along walls, the collection of quilts made for past CQC presidents, special exhibitor Vicki Conley’s art quilts, and a group of quilts made by kids are on parade.

The Quilt-a-Fair's featured artist, Vicki Conley, presenting 11 quilts "Inspired by the Parks," styled like the 1930s National Parks posters.
Event goers enjoying Vicki Conley's "Inspired by the Parks" collection.

Three quilts bear striking resemblance. “When I’m Sixty-Four” by Carol Cook of Peyton, Colorado; “Pioneer Christmas” by Mary Rush of Arvada, Colorado; and “Pineapple Illusion” by Laural Hoppes of Longmont, Colorado, are all foundation paper pieced from the Pioneer Pineapple pattern designed by Carolyn Cullinan McCormick. 

Lo and behold, the Colorado quilting community is a smaller world than one might expect. The aforementioned traditional, the red and green, and the blue and white takes on the same quilt pattern are connected by makers who started these projects in a CQC workshop.

“We had a quilt from the 1800s from the International Quilt Museum hanging in a show previously,” said Dawn Mills, a Quilt-a-Fair chairwoman. “We all fell in love with it, and we all wanted to make it. Our vendor and friend, Carolyn, designed a pattern and taught a class based on the quilt last fall.”

A selection of quilts from past presidents of the Colorado Quilting Council. Sandy Wheeler's "President's Quilt 2004" and Cathi Gerlach's "President's Quilt 2008."
"Pioneer Christmas" by Mary Rush.

Carolyn of CM Designs in Franktown, Colorado, has a 15-year or so tradition of running a booth at Quilt-a-Fair. She vends her foundation paper piecing patterns and books and sings the praises of Add-A-Quarter rulers, which she invented in 1997 to be useful in paper piecing, templates, fussy cuts, stitch and flip, and other techniques.

“I love it,” Carolyn said of seeing the Pioneer Pineapple quilts. “I like to take old patterns and bring them to life again. It really makes you feel good when you see a quilt that someone made using your pattern.”

Across from the CM Designs booth, volunteers in red vests tend to the CQC booth. Passersby learn about the myriad of committees that keeps the organization humming, ranging from quilt shows and exhibits to quilt documentation. In the CQC’s 45-year history, they’ve documented more than 17,000 quilts in Colorado.

Members of the Colorado Quilting Council in front of the Boulder County Fairgrounds Exhibit Building.

Shoppers swarm shelves of used books retired from the CQC’s library. Each title, from how-tos, to quilt histories and culture, to quilt-inspired murder mysteries, flies off the shelves for $1 a piece. We scored a vintage book about quilted vests co-authored by Marianne Fons, the Finishing School co-host, and featuring adorable children models, including former Quiltfolk editor Mary Fons and her sister.

Quilters, vendors, and visitors from all over Colorado and the US attended the Colorado Quilting Council’s 42nd Annual Quilt-a-Fair at the Boulder County Fairgrounds.

We chatted with Karen Barry, the owner of Quilt Passions quilt shop located in Kona, Hawaii, who sells fabric and patterns at her booth. Since Quiltfolk published her story in Issue 03: Hawaii, Karen and her husband opened Kona Hawaiian Quilt Museum and Gallery and a second store in Mission Viejo, California, to be close to their four young grandchildren.

“My granddaughter is turning six next February, and she’s getting a sewing machine for Christmas. We’re going to start making clothes for her dolls,” Karen said.

Cathi Gerlach, the current CQC president, said reaching the next generation of quilters is vital, so they’re expanding children’s programming, including a schedule of workshops and a show featuring kids’ handiwork.

The Magic of Pictures by Shepard Muzunik (Age 7). Shepard chose leftover pieces and background fabric from his Grandma’s stash, learned how to photocopy fabric, fuse it, and machine quilt.
My Rainbow Quilt (2023) by Maggie Johnson (Age 8). Maggie made this quilt with the help of her grandmother. She sewed the strips together on the sewing machine, and her grandmother added the borders and did the quilting.

“We’re really working hard on getting more kids involved because the CQC is made up of a lot of older people. It’s almost dying out,” Cathi said. “This year, we brought sewing machines; whereas before, it was all hand sewing.”

An ornament made to look like a sweet bear’s face and a book pillow prove to be the most popular projects, said Betty Andrews. She oversees the kids’ crafting section and tenderly teaches youngsters how to sew with a needle and thread.

In the kids’ quilting exhibit, projects from the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum Kids Kamp are displayed with pride and with help from Laural, the “Pineapple Illusion” quilter, and Maryann Ray, another involved CQC member. A 4’x4’ yellow quilt with a large grid of pink X’s and O’s catches our eye. Teagan Staer, age 10, is the maker. Her artist statement reads, “What does a hug and kiss mean to you? To me, it means someone loves you and comforts you. If I was sad, I would like a hug. That’s what it means to me.”

About the Author

Rebecca Bratburd joined the Quiltfolk team in 2023 as a contributing writer. She lives in Boulder, Colorado, where she’s a member of the Boulder Modern Quilt Guild. Rebecca loves attending quilt shows, meeting other quilters, collecting quilts and quilt books, and making modern traditional quilts.

About the Photographer

Matt Maenpaa is a photographer based in Longmont, Colorado. Check out his work on his website and his instagram.

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