How Do You Make a Quilt Show Happen?

By Camie Roper

pipe and drape for quilt show

The 18th Biennial GAAQG quilt show “Celebrating Our Quilts” will happen on July 27-28 this year. The Greater Ann Arbor Quilt Guild will highlight quilts, art, and handmade items from guild members. What goes on behind the scenes to make this event happen?

Our 250 guild members get together every other month, January through November each year. They watch world-renowned teachers lecture, and participate in workshops presenting the newest techniques, designs, and products in the art world. Members participate in overnight retreats throughout the year, where they learn and share additional skills. These artists are continually learning, challenging each other, and sharpening their moxie and mettle. They enjoy being on the cutting edge of visual art.

As a natural consequence, GAAQG members produce amazing pieces, well-suited to public display.

With the quilts and organizational structure in place, next it takes a village of volunteers to make it happen. You need to secure a site for the show. You need a floor plan, and to figure out how best to make foot traffic flow. Where will each vendor be placed?

Advertising to the public is vital. You’ll need a poster, a bookmark, flyers, and a program. You’ll need people to put up (and take down) signs.

Chairpersons must be put into place: Admissions, Ambiance, Art, Check-in/Check-out, Blog Posts, Door Prizes, Food & Beverage, Gift Shop, Procurement, Publicity, Vendor Chair, Set-up/Take-down, Quilt Registration, Show Chair/Co-Chair/Chair 2026, SafeHouse Exhibits, Security, Show Program/Exhibit Cards, Show Program Advertising, Show Poster, Show Layout, Show Treasurer, Special Exhibit(s), Transportation Rental Van, Viewers’ Choice, Webmaster, and White Glove.

Ambiance means showcasing the quilts to engage the viewer. Color schemes are vital. Props – an unopened letter, button-front shoes from centuries ago, an old novel, or a tiny, shiny metallic robot — set the mood and draw in the viewer. A good quilt show does just this.

Fundraising is done throughout the year. Members sew, knit, crochet, paint, dye, embroider, cut with lasers, and use calligraphy to create lovely items to sell at the Quilt Show Gift Shop. Bags, fashion items, fancy pouches, hats, dolls and more magically take shape. One-of-a-kind greeting and holiday cards emerge. All proceeds from the Quilt Show Gift Shop defray the expenses of the show, such as the pipe and drape system where quilts hang during the show.

Lori Rhode, Quilt Show Chairperson in 2022, made sure there was plenty of comfy space for quilts, vendors and quilt show attendees.
Setting the ambiance
Enjoying the 2022 GAAQG Quilt Show
It takes the teamwork and camaraderie of volunteers and vendors to pull off a successful show. GAAQG member June Guthrie (left) and Ann Arbor Sewing Center owner and show vendor Doni Houghtaling welcomed quilt show visitors with a smile behind their masks at the 2022 show.
Picking up quilts after the show is over - volunteers helping folks pick up their quilts
An orderly, accountable drop-off and pick-up process ensures the safety and security of the quilts on display.

Onsite vendors sell the newest in fabrics, patterns and designs, software, and inspiring notions. These vendors are sought out before the show and contracted into participating.

Volunteers must be coordinated, and shifts planned for the show. Guild members volunteer a minimum two-hour shift for each quilt they enter in the show.

At the end of the two-day event, the quilts and props are dismantled and returned; quilt stands are taken apart and returned; ticket sales and Gift Shop revenue are finalized, and the bills for the show and venue are settled.

As you can see, a quilt show of this magnitude requires many volunteers who wear more than one hat: artists, yes, but they are also experts in administration, finances, the display of art, event planning and organization.

It takes a huge, collaborative effort to put on a successful quilt show. You’re all invited to attend the 18th Biennial GAAQG quilt show, “Celebrating Our Quilts.” Prepare for surprises and delightful eye candy!