My name is Charlotte, sometimes known as Ms Lottie, occasionally as The Slightly Mad Quilt Lady. This is my blog, where you'll find me writing a lot about my quilting and textile arts and a little about my family's life in a small seaside town in New Zealand. Haere mai!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tips and advice for attending a New Zealand Quilt Symposium

So I'm back from the wonderful world that is Quilt Symposium, New Zealand style.  Five days of total quilt immersion, if you choose it that way.  This is my fourth symposium and I'm getting better at organising my time to get the most out of the week.

My first attendance saw me squeeze in a class everyday, lots of lunchtime and evening lectures, the opening, the finale - just about everything that was available.  Unfortunately, I discovered this leaves little time for viewing the exhibitions, sightseeing or shopping the merchants mall.

All the tutors being introduced on Opening Night.  What a selection!
This year I had originally planned to stick to a three day class and only a couple of lectures.  However I had a chance to enrol in a special 'masterclass' of four days with Sue Benner, and I took the opportunity.  So I chose only two lunchtime lectures, and I thought I would still have plenty of time for everything else, but even so I only just squeezed in the half dozen exhibitions, the meetings of various groups, attending a floor talk, the various social functions, a few interviews for the podcast and (of course) a bit of shopping.

That's me joining in Brenda Gael Smith's floor talk about the Living Colour! exhibition.  Thanks to Brenda for inviting me and for the picture.
I'm not complaining.  Symposium is like one huge adrenaline rush for the dedicated quilter - no matter what genre of quilts interests you.  So many awesome people to talk to, stimulating lectures, challenging and fun classes, inspiring exhibitions - but five days is enough.

Attending four symposiums doesn't quite make me an expert (they've been running in NZ since 1984, so I'm sure there are people who have attended plenty more) but it has given me some insight, and so I thought I'd write down some of my 'top tips'.  At the very least, I can use them to remind myself before I attend the next one in Christchurch, October 2017.

The raffle quilt, a group quilt, quilted by Paula Shailer.  Unfortunately I didn't win it!

  • Register early.  If you think you may like to attend the next one, go ahead and register now.  The earlier you register, the lower your registration number and the more likely you are to get your choice of classes.  And attending a class that you really wanted to makes the whole thing more fun.
  • Plan carefully and leave a day or two free in your schedule.  If you completely fill up your time with classes there is no time to see exhibitions, go shopping or even just wiggle room to have an afternoon hiding in your room if you get overwhelmed.  And the more classes you take, the more and varied your luggage will be.  Think about whether you're a night owl and will enjoy evening lectures or whether you need those evenings to recover and stick to lunchtime lectures.
  • Write down your schedule and use those blank spaces from your planning to pencil in the things you want to see and do so that you don't miss out.
  • Go for wheels.  Find yourself some sort of wheeled trolley or suitcase to transport your class needs.  Your arms and shoulders will thank you.
  • Be prepared.  Comfy shoes, band aids, headache tablets, water bottle, ear plugs and glasses.  Five days is a long time and you'll want to be in good shape to make the most of it.
  • Everything is better with a friend.  If you can find a friend to go with you then do it and enjoy the symposium together.  If not - exercise your social skills.  Introduce yourself to people, get talking to your neighbour in the coffee queue, make new contacts because the chances are you'll see them again and again.  I got talking to a group at the exhibition at my second symposium.  They realised I was there on my own so they sort of adopted me .  I went to lunch with them once and now I spend time with them at every symposium.  New friends!
    Silly selfie with Lynda, one of the group who has 'adopted' me.

  • Accommodation.  Book it early and go for close proximity.  Use google maps or something similar to figure distance.  And consider what facilities you really need.  You won't be spending hours in your room so it doesn't need to be luxurious.  But you will probably be too busy and/or pooped to want to go out and eat every night - so some basic cooking facilities are handy.
  • Consider being a volunteer.  The whole thing is run by volunteers who have put hours and hours into making it a success.  So be kind to the organisers, and consider lightening their load by offering to help as a class angel, an exhibition white glove lady or any other position they are asking for help with.  It's another opportunity to meet people and learn something new.
  • Above all else, enjoy yourself!  You're there to have fun!

I'm still buzzing with all the ideas and inspiration I gained from attending symposium.  If you've never been, you don't know what you're missing, so go ahead and register for Christchurch!  And I hope some of these tips will help you get the most out of your experience.


  1. I think I got more out of being a quilt angel than I did from the one class that I took (not my choice of class but a spare from a friend).

    I do hope to make the next one :)


  2. Sounds like you had a magic time! All pretty good advice, should i ever go.

  3. Don't you look all arty doing your exhibition talk... oh, to have been a fly on the wall :o)

  4. Great post, Charlotte, and all good advice :-)

  5. Hi Charlotte thanks for your overview and hints. I thought Symposium was just the best. I came over from Brisbane to attend and catch up with friends (I lived in NZ for nearly 7 years). Loved my workshops.

  6. I have attended a few symposiums and was involved with the running of the 2007 symposium in Palmerston North. The wealth of information & knowledge gained from coming to symposium is immense!! As you say enjoy and plan your time, socialise & make friends and everyone sharing this great passion makes it the most amazing time of your life...and you will make a load of new friends along with the journey of your stitching.

  7. Great advice and I like this woman's title. I live in Houston and attend International Quilt Festival. It is the ultimate sensory overload. But in a good way. I invite the Aussies and Kiwis to come to Houston !!


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