Fair Game

Today is Opening Day at the 2009 Iowa State Fair. I’m not going to the fair today, I’ll be working a nine hour day. However, last night was a Special Preview of the Fabric and Threads Exhibits for anyone who entered a project and their guests. I went with the seven women who make up my new small group, Seams Sew Easy.

There was some beauty to behold. First the BLUE RIBBON ROOM (Hint: my bag and quilt were NOT displayed in here.)

This lovely pink applique quilt was made by a woman from our guild…lovely. And this fabulous Oriental & Indigo Quilt also was created by one of our guild members…


Upstairs, the rest of the quilts, knitting, tatting, embroidery, cross-stitch, garments, etc. are all displayed in one large room. Sadly, with most of the quilts, you only get to see a 2.5 foot by approx. 5 foot slice. It’s a form of torture for a quilt lover to not let them see the entire work of art.


If you look in the upper right hand corner of this photo (below) you will see my Purely Perennial quilt (at least a part of it!). It didn’t show well, at all, in this room, but what can you do? Hope for a better showing next year, I guess…

I also entered my Miranda Bag, shown at the bottom right, here…no ribbons, but I wasn’t expecting any…

My friend Veronica won a BLUE RIBBON on her retro apron (sorry, no photo!), and Beth received an Honorable Mention Pink Ribbon on her first quilt:

Here is Lisa’s cute little quilty…her son was asked to draw a Family Tree in school…this is what he drew, a Christmas tree with his Mom, Dad, brother, sister and himself flanking it. His clever mama turned it into a quilt:

Loved this strip pieced quilt in mostly Kaffe Fassett florals…it received a Second Place Red Ribbon:

Here ‘s a shot of (or, a portion of) our group’s charity Spools quilt…I didn’t have a hand in this one, they completed it earlier this year just before Veronica and I joined the group. Unfortunately, their lovely applique doesn’t show:

Anyone who knows “quilter” Doris, knows that I loathe Sunbonnet Sue quilts. (Seriously, it has it’s own website?!?) Sorry if you happen to be a fan, but I just don’t get the appeal. And, the Straw Hat Sam blocks? Even worse. Don’t get me started… But, even I have to agree that these little Geisha Girls are pretty darn cute:

Before we headed off for dinner, we had an official shot of our small group taken (I think it’s the first time all eight of us have actually been together!)


Dawn, Teresa, Lisa, Me, Beth
Emma, Veronica, Tricia

I was so inspired by the quilts…I went home and whipped this up for Alissa, my August block for the Sew Connected 2 Bee:

Alissa likes wonky, and asked for no triangles. Other than that we had free reign. So I went for an assymetrical block with curved piecing to accent it. Hope you like it, Alissa!

Gotta love those tadpoles…

A Fair to Remember

I promised to post some of the cultural goodies from the Iowa State Fair, so here goes. The Cultural Building is not air-conditioned, which was fine this year because of our mild weather this week, but I am determined if I ever win the lottery, to build a big cultural building at the fair that will be climate controlled and have the space to display the quilts in full. One day…

Anyway, the artist and former museum curator in me cringes to see the lovely works of art in a humid building with the windows open, but what can you do? No lottery monies yet…

I watched this fabulous potter for a long time. She visited with folks the entire time she was throwing, often maintaining eye contact during her conversations while continuing to throw without looking at her wheel. Amazing.

And if you read Part 1 of my fair post the other day, you saw the “Butter Cow” artist at work:

Near her, on display, was the gingerbread Terrace Hill (our beautiful Governor’s Mansion). The detail and scale on this thing was surprisingly accurate and exquisite:

I wish I had gotten a better photo, but I was snapping quickly in between people passing in front of me…

The wood creations in the Fine Arts display were astounding this year. I’m glad I didn’t have to be the one to judge this!


I love the junior art exhibit, featuring all of the school aged artists, from preschool through Grade 12. There’s always some serious talent in there, and always several pieces that just make me smile. My favorite was this little guy, a ceramic gnome titled “Unperfect Murphy”:

I really wanted to take him home. After all, aren’t we all “unperfect Murphy’s”? There were a few quilts in the Fine Arts exhibit, including this one:

It is titled “In Flanders Fields”. I love poppies and I love green, so this immediately drew me in. It has beaded embellishments and is just gorgeous.

Most of the quilts are housed in the Varied Industries Building, which is air-conditioned, but not nearly large enough to display the quilts they way they should be:


Most of them are folded and hung so you can only see a 18-24″ slice of them. Taunting for a quilt lover… Here is one of the Blue Ribbon quilts, which are hung in a separate room and displayed in full. This is hand appliqued and hand quilted:


A blue ribbon table runner:

I forgot to photograph the Best In Show, but you can see it here, and buy a raffle ticket to win it. The machine quilting is by Dawn Cavanaugh and is AMAZING.

What have we here? Could it be? It is! A nearly insane quilt! With a second place ribbon on it:


It’s made of civil war reproduction fabric, not my personal taste, but a very impressive quilt! I would have loved to have seen it spread out!

This was a cool small quilt, made with batiks and very striking:

Some more beauties:

And the biggest one, I think it measured 110″ x 110″ and included old postcard photos of old Iowa train depots, with a railroad border complete with Iowa livestock along the rails. The center had train memorabilia printed on cloth such as tickets, train schedules, signs, etc. This was a tribute to the artist’s grandfather who was a railroad man. It didn’t win any ribbons, but it should have! What a labor of love:

This concludes our cultural tour of the fair…there was so much more I couldn’t include here. There is some seriously indisputable talent here in Iowa…

Meet me at the fair

Friday I went to the fair. I was going to see my niece participate in the State Spelling Bee. And to see the butter cow. And all the food-on-a-stick. And the quilts. And the people. It is, after all, one of the 1,000 Things to See Before You Die. I’m not kidding. It’s in there. Right along with the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Canyon and Machu Picchu.

So I took off early Friday afternoon and went to the fair. It was a beautiful day, a mild 81 degrees and relatively low humidity. I found a parking spot (shaded!) on the street a mere three blocks from the main gate.


Free parking is good. You see, starting about 5-6 blocks from the fair, you start to see signs like this one, usually accompanied by a homeowner and/or child and/or family friend beckoning people via their parking wand/stick/prod into their makeshift parking lot, i.e. “Their Lawn”.

Here we are at the front gate to the Iowa State Fair. I know, it looks locked. Don’t be alarmed, these days they use the turnstile entrance to the side of the front gate.

Our fairgrounds are impressive as far as the buildings, the relative cleanliness of the grounds, and the park like setting. I never went as a kid, but I’ve enjoyed going as an adult and always see something new. Here is the grandstand…I think it is a very impressive structure.

And the Administration Building…festively draped in bunting.

The Agriculture Building…


probably the most crowded building at any given time, and home to the infamous “butter cow”.

Here is the butter lady working on one of the butter sculptures:

This year we had the life-size butter Ayrshire (pretty sure that’s a breed of cow) which you can see the hindquarters of in that pic above. As well as butter portraits of four famous Iowans who contributed to innovation in agriculture…that’s George Washington Carver in frame #2

and of course, our very own butter Shawn Johnson. That’s right folks, she’s a home town girl in these parts. This is “Butter Shawn” holding her bouquet of roses on the medals stand. we can only presume the medal around her neck is gold. What other metal would it be?

This butter lady recently took over for the now retired original butter lady. She works in a refridgrated display case sculpting in butter for weeks leading up to and including the fair.

The Ag Building is also the place to see the judged crops:

Honestly, I looked closely at these ears of corn. For the life of me I could not figure out what made that one with the big blue ribbon any more special than the rest of them. But, I’m a city girl, what do I know?


Prized cucumbers, zucchinis, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes…. the list is endless.

That purple ribbon is a Best in Show. Again, I have no idea why. Maybe next year I will have to try and find out how these things are judged.

The Ag Building is also the place to see Iowa produced products such as emu meat, ostrich eggs, the Pork Producers booth, the Egg Council, and my favorite, the Iowa Honey Association. This is where I buy my annual glass of honey lemonade…Mmmmmm….

Outside the Ag Building are the garden displays…absolutely beautiful, and pleasant to stroll through in our unusually mild August weather this week.



I typically don’t make a special trip to see the livestock. A cow is a cow to me, just like an ear of corn is an ear of corn. But on my way to the Cattle Barn where the Spelling Bee would take place (makes sense, right?!) I had to pause for a cattle crossing. These future farmers and their prize cattle were being led by none other than the 2008 Iowa Ayrshire Queen. That’s her in the red pumps. It doesn’t get any better than this.

They are leaving the Livestock Pavilion, where they “show” their animals to return to the Cattle Barn where the animals live for the entire fair. That’s about all I know of it.

So we finally got to what I came for. Here is a very nervous Sparkles (lucky #7 there) before the start of the 5th-6th grade State Spelling Bee.

She told me I couldn’t take a picture, but she indulged me and smiled just the same… Here she is at the microphone spelling a no doubt challenging word. She did well, she made it through to round #6 before she misspelled the word “attorney”.

Sitting through an hour or so of spelling made me hungry, so I stopped by one of my favorite trailers for a peppermint bar… I should have taken a picture of that…more ice cream than you need in a week!

One final shot (I’ll posts photos later of the quilts and creative stuff I saw…):

This is the floating globe outside the Agricultural Building, installed to commemorate the 150th year of the State Fair in 2004. The granite globe rotates/floats on water…very impressive…

TTFN!