Easter week in Manchester, NH saw the latest installment of the Machine Quilters Exposition (a.k.a. MQX) at the Center of New Hampshire/Radisson Hotel. MQX’s first show took place in 2003 in the more remote conference center in Laconia, NH, but has since grown year by year in both size and reputation to become the premier exhibition for machine quilters in the United States. Show founders, Janet-Lee Santeusanio and Mary Schilke made their vision into reality to the delight of exhibitors and visitors alike. MQX is a full-featured show and contest, offering quilters opportunities to exhibit their quilts in a dozen categories, or to take any of over 200 classes and lectures from any of 56 teachers. In addition, every year, the show features special exhibits of related quilts and a charity challenge. This year, those included a 40 piece exhibit called Real Men Can Quilt, and another from a 33 member group from the Maine Machine Quilters and a collection by quilter Ronda Kae Beyer.
Aurifil’s Alex Veronelli and Stefano Pucci traveled to New Hampshire this year to see first-hand the events, activities and excitement surrounding the show. Though jet-lagged with a six hour time difference, Alex and Stefano kept a busy schedule and were on the list to attend the sold-out Banquet featuring speaker Mark Lipinski. They attended classes, met with Janet-Lee, and visited with Aurifil USA’s New England Distributor, Donna Morales-Oemig at her business’ booth, Follow That Thread.
Donna started her business also in 2003 not long after attending the first MQX show with friend and (then) new longarm quilter, Mary Walter. The first show had an impressive variety of classes and quality of workmanship in the quilts. A heavy March snowstorm did not deter many from joining in the fun that year. Since then, the weather has mostly been better and the quilts and classes have expanded to fill the much larger Center and Hotel in Manchester. Follow That Thread joined the show as a vendor in 2007. Donna is known locally as “The Thread Lady” by frequent quilt show visitors in the region since at most shows, she is the only vendor who specializes in thread. Much of her work at earlier shows was to educate quilters about the high quality of Aurifil thread and to provide a reliable source for it. Shop owners can usually only stock basic colors for their customers, but longarmers and enthusiastic individual quilters need access to more color variety than most shops are able to carry. As word continues to spread about the excellence of Aurifil thread, more people seek it out and choose to use only Aurifil threads in their work. This year at the Awards Breakfast, Jan Hutchison of Kansas was the winner in the Best Use of Thread category for her Woodland Tapestry quilt. Jan received, among other prizes, a box of 48 spools of Aurifil thread donated by Aurifil USA. The audience let out a distinctive “oooohhhh” in appreciation, and perhaps envy, of the prize.
Machine quilting has come a long way since the days of disdain and rejection by the general quilting community. Now, machine quilting is recognized as its own process with its own demands and qualities not achievable in hand quilting. Many of the crowd favorites and award winners appeal to hand quilting fans because the stitched details astound even excellent, experienced hand quilters. We are seeing images and textures and coloration never imagined before. Color changes throughout the quilt enhance the piece in most cases, and in this year’s Best of Show, Renae Haddadin’s Beauty from Within, takes these concepts beyond any seen before.
MQX has outgrown the venue in Manchester so next year, it will move to the Providence, Rhode Island Convention Center. Organizers will continue to exhibit the contest quilts and other special exhibits and provide vendor space for shopping as in years past in the larger combined space. Machine quilting is here to stay and the techniques and abilities of these quilters will continue to impress and guide the entire quilting world into new areas of stitching beauty. Aurifil threads will be a component part of many of these impressive quilts