By Laura Latzko
Quilters, crafters and sewers are similar in many ways to car club members, in that they spend hours working on projects, take pride in their finished work, enjoy getting together with like-minded individuals and love to share pictures of their progress.
The Quilt, Craft and Sewing Festival at WestWorld of Scottsdale September 2 to September 4 caters to enthusiasts at different skill levels with classes, demos, make-and-take activities and specialty vendors.
Each day before doors open, attendees will have a chance to win anywhere from $10 to $100 in cash or gift certificates.
Show Sponsor Mulqueen Sewing and Fabric Centers, a local company with four sewing and fabric centers in the Phoenix area, will also be giving away a $1,000 sewing machine and a $25,000 sewing room setup.
The event is put on by Rusty Barn Promotion Group Inc., which holds two festivals each year in Phoenix. The company started doing festivals in Phoenix 27 years ago.
Chris Butler, co-owner of Rusty Barn, says the festivals draw around 10,000 people annually and bring in people from other states, including California.
Butler says the show is designed to get more people interested in quilting, sewing and crafting as well as helping local fabric stores to connect with new customers.
“They’ve told us that after a show, they will have people coming in, looking for what they might have missed to finish their product, one, two and three months later,” Butler says. “It really does help them not just at the show, but it helps them after in making sales.”
The festival offers an opportunity for attendees to ask questions and have one-on-one conversations with the vendors, especially if they are new to hobbies.
“The vendors are very patient, very full of information. They know not everyone is a pro, and they know that’s our job, to educate the next generation,” Butler says.
Guests can peruse 300 vendor booths, many of which have the newest and hottest machines, notions, patterns and techniques on the market.
Many of the vendors are national brands while some are locally-owned, including longtime exhibitor Quilters Haven of Fort Mohave.
A number of vendors have been attending Rusty Barn shows since the beginning.
The exhibitors cater to people with different interests, with products such as sewing and quilting machines, embellishments, cutting systems, yarns, knitting tools, doll-making and needle-art supplies, fabrics, quilting kits and patterns, applique patterns and stenciling and embossing tools.
Local quilt guilds will also be out at the show to share information on their offerings. Rusty Barn splits a portion of its proceeds with the guilds, which help to promote the show.
The guilds are also able to provide information on local resources for quilters, sewers and crafters in the Phoenix area.
Butler says recently certain hobbies such as longarm quilting, diamond beading and chalk couture have become popular.
Classes and demos are geared towards beginners to more advanced enthusiasts. Many vendors will also demonstrate their products inside of their booths.
Butler says that seeing finished projects at vendor booths, doing make-and-take activities or watching demos can give newbies ideas on how to get started or what to tackle for their next project.
“Beginners who just bought that machine during COVID get excited to take the next step up and learn how to create a garment or start quilting. They see what can be done and watch some of these demos, and it really gets them excited,” Butler says.
Many of the longtime vendors have been in business for 20 years or more. Raylene Salazar of Quilters Haven, quiltershaven.net, has owned her company for 38 years and taken part in Rusty Barn festivals since the beginning.
Salazar is continuing the work of her mother, who started the business and developed the company’s Less than Traditional technique.
“She came up with a quick, easy way of making circle quilts that even a beginner can do. In the past, you had to be more advanced in skill level to do it accurately and make it look good. She came up with a technique that even a beginner, even as a very first quilt project, can do a circle quilt,” Salazar says.
Along with Less than Traditional supplies, Quilters Haven sells different sewing and quilting notions, including trendy items such as cutting tools used in chain quilting.
“A lot of times, the customers are seeing these things in magazine ads. The shows give them an opportunity to see them in person before they buy them so they know if it’s something they can use… Maybe they don’t need it, but they don’t like to not have something that everybody else has,” Salazar says.
Salazar adds that at the festival visitors can look for harder-to-find items that may not be available in stores or online.
“They’re always going to see stuff at the show that they wouldn’t see other places, plus vendors will have a lot of show specials going too,” Salazar says. “A lot of the vendors will be doing make-and-takes in their booths, where they can sit down and learn a technique from a vendor right there at the show. They just charge them a little fee for the supplies. It could be $3 or $5…There are a lot of opportunities to learn things from vendors that they wouldn’t see otherwise.”
Each day of the festival, Salazar will lead classes in which she demonstrates the Less than Traditional technique to others.
Salazar says that through classes and demos, newbies start to feel like quilting projects aren’t out of their reach.
“It’s always fun to work with people and show them they can do it,” Salazar says.
Recently, Salazar has noticed an influx of people wanting to start quilting and sewing.
She also has regular customers who come to her every year for different supplies.
“If they buy from you one time, they are going to be your friend for life, and they are going to seek you out at every show,” Salazar says.
“We have some customers that we have watched their little kids grow up, and their little kids are now coming with kids of their own.”
The festival’s vendors, including Salazar, are able to educate the public in different ways about sewing, quilting and crafting trends and products.
Salazar co-hosts the weekly Wild Wednesday Live show on Facebook, in which vendors from Rusty Barn’s virtual vendor marketplace, quiltcraftsewmall.com, demo their products.
This show started during the height of COVID, about nine months ago, and has found a following. The weekly shows will often will get thousands of views.
“We found a real need, especially with our older customers. They needed some kind of connection,” Salazar says. “We started it as an extra way to connect when we weren’t doing shows, and it’s really evolved and taken off…. Most of the locations, we are only there once a year. That gives people a way to keep us fresh in their minds in between shows.”