QuiltCon 2024 - Join My Debrief!

Tim and I have just arrived home from two weeks in the United States for QuiltCon in Raleigh, NC, and a short holiday afterwards in New York City. It was such a whirlwind trip, and my heart and head are so full of encouragement and inspiration. But, I've still spent the last while wondering if I should therefore make this an annual pilgrimage, or it should stay as a wonderful one-off experience. Read through my debrief, and tell me what you think!

Jackie, Jodi, Joy and Lisa at QuiltCon 2024

Getting Ready for QuiltCon

On Saturday 17th February, we waved good-bye to my kids along with my very generous parents who had moved into our house to care for them. We then drove to Sydney, 3 1/2 hours away, to the airport hotel where we slept for a night before our morning flight via Auckland. I was quickly reminded of how much waiting and navigating new territory travel requires of you, all on limited sleep and changing time zones, and I was so glad that, while I wished the kids could have experienced the trip with us, there was just the two of us to look after. For 46 hours, we drove, hotelled, waited at the airport, flew, transferred, flew, Ubered, and then trained it to Baltimore where my dear friend, Lisa, and her husband, Matt, generously hosted us through our jet lag. All before then driving down to Raleigh for QuiltCon.

Behind the Scenes in Raleigh

I was quite taken with Raleigh, a pretty, tidy city of half a million. We stayed in an AirBNB house a couple of kilometres from the convention centre. It was the perfect distance to have our own space, a nice little yard for fresh air, and parks for walking. My friend, Jackie, joined us in Raleigh, and I was so grateful for my team. Tim cooked or bought all our meals, and brought us coffee mid-class, and Lisa looked after all the logistics of running the small shop in our class. Jackie brought her executive A-game, sparking conversations with vendors on the floor, taking all my photos so that I would actually have something to show for the weekend, and helping us chat over the experience during our stay. 

Lisa and Jackie also came to classes with me, and I really loved the camaraderie we shared as a group in the classes.

Jodi teaching in the Ice Cream Soda class
one of the Ice Cream Soda classes

Teaching at QuiltCon

I think I'm quite good at teaching! My students seemed to have a good time, and learn a lot. (Feel free to share your thoughts below!) Teaching reminded me of theatre performances in my university days. I followed a loose script, projected my voice, and expressed a side of me not often seen in my work-from-home life. It felt good to get it out again. Starting this small quilty business, with just a beginner's knowledge, trusting I'd figure it out as I went, took a chunk of confidence I didn't feel came naturally to me. Teaching at QuiltCon was an opportunity to distill 8 years of learning, and be affirmed as an expert, and that was really meaningful.

The Classes

My favourite classes were the three EPP design ones: two with the Hexie Shape Family, and one with 6pt diamonds. I'm not sure if it's because those classes were in much bigger spaces, and therefore felt more relaxed, or if it's because it's a class about play and possibilities. I got to spend time with each student because the room allowed me to walk around, and I always get so inspired by the new things students discover from playing with shapes in front of them. With room for the students to move around, more took the chance to look closely at my quilts on display, and I sold more kits in these classes.

My Ice Cream Soda classes were in much smaller rooms, with the students squeezed into rows so it was hard to meet them all individually. I spent some of the time worried that it was information overload. There's so much to cover: EPP basics, colour play, and fussy cutting, half of which I skipped in the design classes because the focus was on creating patterns. But, I was encouraged to see so many of the EPP beginners in my classes grow in confidence in our time together, as well as lots of people taking notes. I hope it was a great way to start a big, new EPP quilt. 

the Raleigh sign a the convention center
Jodi teaching in the Diamonds class

My QuiltCon Debrief

There is so much to process from our time at QuiltCon that I've broken it down into smaller categories. Part of a debrief is just getting everything out of your head into actual words. I'm not sure I've arrived at any conclusions, but these are some observations I made.

Meeting people and introducing them to my brand: I really enjoyed meeting the people in my classes. They were just so enthusiastic and encouraging. Several pulled me aside to say how much they appreciated my weekly newsletter. Others came to two or three of my classes!

I was struck by the number of people who hadn't used my shapes before. I think they were all converts by the end of class! That felt really worthwhile.

QuiltCon the Event: I was so incredibly impressed by the running of QuiltCon. I saw Organiser Extraordinaire Kelsey several times over the weekend because she came to check in with me, and she answered any questions or support requests promptly by text. She was always so cheerful, which amazed me!

It was great to see the enormity of the quilt show in person. I wish I could have spent more time down on the show floor. I would walk a few aisles after teaching and hit overload, and need to go home to rest. But, I found the quilts I saw so inspiring. A beautiful mix of meaningful stories told, confronting statements, and artful play. What an amazing bunch quilters are! If you don't go to QuiltCon for the classes, the quilt show alone is worth the trip.

Liberty flowers from the Duckadilly booth

Energy Levels: Speaking of overload, I was really disappointed in my energy levels over the weekend. The sleepless travel, the jet lag, getting my period on the Thursday of QuiltCon (sorry if that's TMI - but it was definitely part of the experience!), pulling a muscle in my back during the drive down on Wednesday (I'm guessing from sitting for so long on the plane), were all part of the difficulty of traveling across the world for such an event.

I was aware that I never once caught up with people I was hoping to, had dinner with new friends, or organised a meet up via the email list I had collected beforehand. I kind of needed a week afterwards to wind down from teaching, and, then, I could have focussed on socialising! 

Time Cost: I estimate the time I spent in the lead up to QuiltCon, preparing for classes and preparing for travel took approximately 2 weeks full time. This was mostly spread out throughout the year, with most of the week leading up to leaving focussed on it completely. I was away for 2 weeks total, which I would do again, because it was great to have a rest and be 'fed' by good art and walks for a few days before coming back home to normal life and responsibilities. At the time of writing this, I have been home for over a week, and have just started to feel normal energy levels return. That puts the time cost at 5-6 weeks.

Finally, finances! The trip cost the business around $12,000AUD (around $8000USD). This included parking in Sydney, flights for Tim and I, taxi and train to Baltimore, car hire and fuel, renting the Raleigh house for 5 nights, meals for the team, and EPP samples and kits which were shipped before QuiltCon to provide and sell in class.

QuiltCon covered my flight and a teaching fee per class, and that total covered about half the cost. I sold about half my stock during classes, and then lovely Justine from Great Heron Thread Co bought a bunch of kits wholesale after the last class, which was so helpful because I was wondering how the heck I was going to get everything home without spending a fortune. These sales covered the other half. The weekend did not make me any profit, or cover my pay during the time away or the time spent preparing.

Lisa, Jodi, and Jackie at the Moda booth after day 1
Ice Cream Soda class

Final Thoughts...

Approximately 75% of my customers live in the US, and this was such a great way to meet some of you in person. I truely valued that experience.

A big part of me in always drawn to improvement, so I've spent a lot of time over the past few weeks wondering if I should have a stall on the vending floor instead of teaching, so I can meet and sew with more people. Or, maybe I could go significantly smaller and book a smaller place for just Lisa and me stay, and then just teach, without stock for sale, only bringing class samples in my suitcase. When I run the numbers on each, going bigger carries significantly more risk and cost, with no promises of extra profit, and certainly no more profit than I can make from my home with a regular launch. Going smaller could cover costs with less outlay, both in money and time, which could make it more sustainable long term.

If I lived in the US, I don't think I'd even be asking these questions. It was just such a wonderful experience that I'd love to continue to attend while learning how to make the most of it for my own personal inspiration, as well as my business. But, the jet lag, the cost of flights, and the cost of shipping stock for sale seem to be the biggest prohibitors in making it obviously worthwhile.

I imagine you can see by now that I'm quite torn about making this an annual excursion or a more occasional one. What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear your feedback if you took my classes, or your own experience of travel and attending the event, or ideas you have. Comment below!


  • Laura Baltatzis

    I was in your last class of QuiltCon (I’m the one from Baltimore who got to connect with Lisa, which was a lovely bonus!). I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you and your husband just a little bit and am grateful that I was able to take your class. I fell on the stairs of our Airbnb and injured my back pretty badly on Friday morning and by Sunday morning I was really running on almost nothing. So your class was a lovely oasis of rest and kindness for me to end my QuiltCon time.

    A few thoughts:
    1. I was wondering if it financially had made sense for you to come to QC. Even just the plane tickets must have been so expensive! Sounds like at least you didn’t lose money on the trip, which also included some sightseeing. So that’s good! I took another class and we had to pay for our supplies kit. So although it was lovely of you to have provided the papers for free, I don’t think anyone would have blinked an eye at being asked to pay a supplies fee for the class (I think this is really common for QC classes). So that could have been another (although perhaps small) source of income for you?
    2. Could you talk to another designer about the financial specifics of having a booth at QC? I’m assuming it’s probably quite expensive to pay for a booth and then of course you would have to deal with the cost and logistics of designing and shipping both the booth and what you would sell to the states. I know Carolyn Friedlander has had a booth at QC the past two years (23 and 24). She’s a lovely person and I bet she’d be willing to share her experience with you as to what makes it work for her especially in regards to how much profit results from it?

    3. I agree that the classes where the students were in rows feel so cramped! When I saw the pictures, I winced and was really grateful that our class had more space in it with room to move around – much more hospitable for student/teacher interaction. I would certainly think you could request a certain kind of classroom space for your classes if/when you decided to teach again. And I bet going smaller could still work out in terms of getting to know your customers, finding new customers, and making the whole process a little less overwhelming. On the flip side, there really is no way to make jet lag no big deal, other than coming a week early so at least you have a few days to get rested before you have to be “on”. I’m looking forward to seeing what you end up deciding to do!

  • Cyndee

    I took your Ice Cream Soda class at QuiltCon and learned a lot. I had done a bit of EPP but had not used glue. Instead I had basted them. Will definitely use the glue method in the future. It made me excited to continue finishing my block and eventually the quilt. You did a great job teaching.
    As to vending at a show like this, I don’t know if it would be financially feasible for you. By the time you sent your stock, setup, manned the booth, etc., I don’t believe that you would be money ahead. I agree that developing a relationship with some US based business might help, but even then, not sure as there are other EPP based US businesses. (for example, Paper Pieces). Maybe you want to work on increasing your social media presence more. I happened upon Jackie’s work on Instagram and from there found you. Maybe more along that line. And of course, the other problem is the international shipping. That may deter some. Just food for thought.
    But again, I am happy that I was able to meet you and take your class. It made me rediscover my love of handwork!! I wish you much success in growing your business.

  • Mary

    Stay with teaching, having kits to sell and sharing your expertise with EPP in a more modern way is your passion. You are on the forefront of this new trend. Definitely partner with a US business wherever Quiltcon is next to have your stock available for sale partnership.
    Your HexiHarvest quilt along introduced me to EPP which has become one of my passions. Am finishing up that one to start my Lucy Terrace. Thank you. May you have the energy for your passion which brings you so much joy. Take care of yourself!!

  • Michelle

    So glad you finally got to experience Quiltcon! I’ve been twice with my sister and it was always an enjoyable time, doing classes and meeting people! Maybe every two years would work for you? Michelle xx

  • Claudia

    I have nver been to Quiltcon but I can imagine what it is like. Reading your debrief I kept thinking, you loved it so much and had such an interesting time I am sure next time will be less stressful for you because you will get used to it and adapt more quickly to the circumstances. This time everything was completely new to you. You have received many good and interesting suggestions by your readers and I too think that a different organization before leaving for the States could make a big difference. And then the finances: there is one aspect you haven’t considered and which you can’t count yet because it lies in the future and that is your buyers. So many people will have seen you for the first time, have met you and had a look around in your shop. You may have many more buyers in the future, you just don’t know about them yet. I wish you lots of luck and I love reading your newletters. Thanks so much for all your input!

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