I have attended the Houston International Quilt Festival for all but one of the past eight or nine years. This year was the first time I attended alone (I usually have my BQF Earleen Brister with me), and the first time I have taken the classes that are offered before and during the festival. I missed my friend terribly, but had little time for self-pity with my demanding schedule. I would like to first set the record straight on quilting and quilters. If you picture the Quilt festival as being a bunch of little gray-haired grannies in some sort of giant quilting bee, you would be dead wrong. Quilting is a $3.58 billion industry in the United States, according to the Quilting in America 2010 report. This report designates anyone who spends more than $600 per year on quilting a Dedicated Quilter. The average Dedicated Quilter is in the granny age range at 62 years old, however she will have a college education and will be very affluent. Of all the quilters I met last week, most were currently employed or retired professional women, and many were in highly technical fields. I have my own psychological and sociological assessments of “why” on that, but I will not bog you down with that now. Quilts are more and more being recognized as art, as they rightfully should. My class schedule last week was definitely “arty.” My first class was on the Japanese technique of shibori dyeing. We were using the traditional indigo dye so I left the class with blue hands despite wearing gloves. Watching the items emerge from the vat emerald green and then gradually turning that deep indigo blue was pure magic. The next class was on how to use Tsukineko inks. These Japanese inks can be used on a variety of materials including fabric, of course. My teacher was Judy Coates Perez, a brilliant textile artist. I shocked myself in this class with my ability to paint! Apparently I have an inner artist who has been in search of just the right medium. Another class was in Zentangles, a drawing technique. My daughter and another young woman I know from San Saba have done this type of drawing for years. Zentagles is the result of one couple organizing the drawing style into a trademarkable program. I took the class because I thought it would help me with free-motion quilting and I think it will. The next day I took a class in free-motion machine quilting and did quite well.Of course I also enjoyed the quilt display and the marketplace. I am proud to say that I purchased only one packet of fabric—a kit for a Hawaiian applique pillow. I have been reorganizing my sewing space lately and have realized that I have enough fabric to clothe an army, so I was determined not to bring home a sack or four of fabric! I did buy some indigo dye to use at home along with some other supplies enabling me to make use of what I already have. The quilts on display were, of course, magnificent! The winners of the top few prizes were quite traditional which is a shift in the trends. For several years the quilts that straddled the line between paintings and quilts were winning all the prizes. One of my favorite exhibits was a group of American historic designs made with reproductions of historic calico prints, but made by quilters in France. I always love the quilts done by Japanese women as their attention to detail is incredible and their color palettes are always so calm and restful. New this year was an exhibit of “Modern Quilts” which are generally made by women in their 20s and 30s. These quilts tend to be very boldly graphic and use predominately solid-colored fabrics. I love this style and I love that it is getting younger women into the craft.I am already over my limit on the length of this column so I had better wrap it up. If you want to look at some of the quilts, go to www.quilts.org/winners.html. All of the top winners are shown, but make sure you click on the small pictures so you can look at a larger picture. Let me know which one is your favorite: firstname.lastname@example.org.