Monday, June 21, 2010

Averting disaster at a quilt show

One of the great benefits for those of us immersed in the quilt world is the exchange of knowledge, not only of patterns and techniques, but also of experiences. Quilter Mary Peterson recently shared with me her could-have-been catastrophic experience during a small quilt show in Shreveport, Louisiana.

“I was co-chair of a quilt show held in conjunction with the American Rose Society convention. My husband was hanging one of the quilts in the educational hall at the ARS headquarters when he encountered a small white plastic panel on the wall. (The quilt, entered by Bobbie Reed of Lawrenceville, Georgia, was created by a group of participants as a fund raiser for a future ARS event.) We asked staff what the panel was for and were told to ignore it.”

“Some hours later, a tree fell on nearby power lines and the center lost power. The mysterious plastic panel opened and two high-intensity emergency lights emerged, touching the back of Bobbie’s quilt hanging over them. In no time at all, one of the bulbs had burned completely through the quilt, leaving a charred 1-1/2" hole near the border (see photo below). Fortunately, the groundskeeper smelled smoke and pulled the quilt away from the panel before anymore damage was done. To say the least, we were devastated that one of the quilts given into our care had been damaged.”

Mary continues: “We tried to find some measure of good to come out of this, and decided that if Bobbie had used a different batting, the entire quilt may have caught fire along with the exhibition hall in which it was displayed.”

According to Mary, Bobbie was extremely generous and understanding when told about the mini-disaster. Reconstruction is already underway, and Bobbie plans to make a new label for the back of the quilt, relating the entire story. She said she thought she might rename the quilt The Phoenix, as it rose from the ashes.

Mary feels fortunate that Bobbie’s good humor carried the day and hopes by sharing this experience, other quilt show organizers can avert disaster. “Never hang a quilt over anything that might damage it, and never take ‘Don’t worry about it’ as the last word.”

Good advice, Mary! Do you have a quilt story to share?


  1. Thank Goodness all turned out fine!! BTW,what is the name of the batting she used??

  2. I'm glad the groundskeeper acted quickly or there could have been a much larger problem. It's wonderful that the quilter was good-nature about it, too.

  3. She most likely used a poly batting so the burn spot just melted. However if she would have used cotton, wool or silk (all natural) the quilt would have caught fire and would be a total loss.

  4. the same thing happened to me years ago, and it was the first time I earned money with a quilt through the double insurances from the city where the quilt was exposed and from the lady who made the show. Yes, it was difficult to repair the burning places, luckily I still have fabrics ; if nobody knows, nobody sees something.
    Friendly from france. Monique M.