Happy New Year to all of our Cutting Edger’s! 2017 was a great year for the industry, but we know this year is going to be even better.
We have a lot in store for 2018 including numerous shows around the United States, new and improved products, and new and old friends to share with you.
As you know from the previous year, we decided to feature the finest of the industry with you each month in our newsletter. These individuals are near and dear to our hearts and our industry wouldn’t be what it is today without them.
So without further ado, we’d like to share with you about two wonderful women who have created an empire within the industry – the MQX Festival.
Founded by Janet-Lee Santeusanio and Mary Schilke, this annual quilt show and conference has become the largest convention of this type in the United States.
Mary, native of Vermont, is an award-winning longarm machine quilter and has owned and operated Catamount Machine Quilting Services since 1999 where she teaches freehand style of quilting.
Award-winning machine quilter, Janet-Lee, began in the industry in 1999. This New Hampshire native has held numerous jobs in various industries including legal, medical and computer, but it wasn’t until she met Mary when her career would change.
In 2000, Janet-Lee decided that she wanted to organize a meet-up in her home for quilters to come together and share their machine quilting experiences.
“Since being a machine quilter is often a solitary business, I thought that having a get together would be a good thing,” Janet-Lee said.
Her idea brought 40 women from all over New York and New England to share their experiences – one of whom was Mary. From there, a friendship was born and ultimately grew into a great partnership.
“Our first encounter was when Mary showed up late to the event I was hosting because she and some friends had been visiting some local quilt shops. She shoved a handful of fabric fat quarters in my hand, saying, ‘Hi, I'm Mary and sorry we're late,’” Janet-Lee said.
A year later, Mary had contacted Janet-Lee asking if she was going to hold another event -- known as a New England Longarm Quiltrs (NELQ) get together -- like the year previous, but because Janet-Lee’s children were young and her husband traveled, she didn’t think it was feasible.
Mary then decided to host her own in New Hampshire where Janet-Lee attended and “had a great time.” From there, Mary continued to host a New Hampshire event, but this next year Janet-Lee helped in the planning.
“We each taught a class, and then we brought in a teacher from the Midwest. A local longarm quilting machine dealer brought in a couple machines and it was fun. More than 150 showed up and we were shocked,” Janet-Lee said.
At the end of that show they had attendees ask if they would hold a quilt show with more teachers since there was nothing of the sort on the East Coast of the U.S. They even had attendees state that they’d help financially get it off the ground -- until it was time to actually pay for it and no one decided to give the donations they had previously stated. That said, Janet-Lee and Mary decided to pay for the entirety on their own, ultimately beginning the first real MQX in 2003.
“We rented a small exposition center, had vendors, a quilt show, and four teachers. To our utter shock, more than 1000 people showed up to see the quilt show and just shy of 200 students registered for classes.”
They repeated the same event in 2004, but because their attendance grew so quickly in one year, the facility they were using asked them not to return.
“We went looking for another facility and found The Center of New Hampshire in Manchester, New Hampshire. We’ve been there since 2005 with that show now registering 700-800 students and attracting an audience of 4,000-5,000.”
They were astonished that this was happening to them – let alone that it happened with just a tiny little get-together. Janet-Lee remembered in 2003 when she wasn’t sure if she could pay her bills, let alone take in a paycheck. The shows they hosted were Friday through Sunday and by Friday afternoon the two had a specific income number that they had to reach.
“We were sitting in the office, back to back, Mary was counting classroom fees and I was counting vendor fees and admission. We each wrote down on a piece of paper what our respective tallies were. We turned our chairs and met in the middle. At a quick glance, we realized that we had far exceeded the target and something happened that epitomizes our relationship,” Janet-Lee said. “You see, I'm the control freak, and thrive on the minutia. Mary is the wide-eyed artist that could sell an ice cube to an Eskimo and she tends to look at the bigger picture. So, when we each looked at those numbers, she laughed uncontrollably, and I sobbed. We had made it work and this is how we expressed our joy.”
Now, the two have some part-time administrative help for the shows and they handle everything else. The companies that support them, vendors, attendees, volunteers, etc., don’t just come to work the shows. They come with open arms to hug both Janet-Lee and Mary. The two have made extraordinary connections, which is actually one of their favorite parts about hosting the show.
The show in New Hampshire has a lot to show, but one special thing to Janet-Lee is an exhibit about Space.
She will have 100 of the 50th anniversary quilts that commemorate the moon landing, including but not limited to:
- “Fly Me to the Moon” by Sue Nickels
- "The Space Quilt" by Pat Holly, which will be on loan from the National Quilt Museum
- "Fly Me to the Moon" by Jerry Granata
- A stellar collection of star quilts by Betty Jo Hahn.
“Just this week, a gal that worked for the shuttle program for more than 33 years made a quilt with ALL the mission patches and she's bringing it to the show to hang behind Jean Wright when she speaks,” Janet-Lee said.
It’s definitely a show you won’t want to miss. We’re honored to be a vendor at this year’s show in New Hampshire and look forward to sharing the excitement with you.