Organizing a Quilt Show

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These are some ideas for show organizers to consider to increase security at their shows.

Prepare the participants long before the show by giving them instructions in your quilt guild newsletter

Include instructions on:

  • how to attach a 4" wide hanging sleeve on the back
  • how to label quilts
  • how to take pictures of quilts
  • how to document their quilt

You may also want to include information on quilt show etiquette such as not handling the quilts, whether photographs are allowed, no smoking, etc.

Encourage participants to have their quilts appraised before the show

For valuable antique quilts, art quilts, and heirloom quality quilts, recommend that an appraisal be done before the show. Request copies of the appraisal for insurance purposes.

Encourage participants to take photographs of their quilts before the show

At a minimum they should have a photograph of the quilt and know its dimensions. Have a Polaroid camera or a digital camera at the drop off point and give the quilter a picture if necessary.

Make it a requirement that every quilt must be signed or labeled

Have a pigma pen on hand for the quilts that are not and have the quilter/owner sign their quilt before they leave it. It is preferred to have a label that is attached in a way that it can not be easily removed (either a label that is quilted through or a signature directly on the backing fabric).

Provide insurance for the quilts

Quilt guilds can purchase insurance for their shows from Christine Johnston. She also can provide insurance to quilters for their personal collection. For more information, contact Chris at 800-688-7472, extension 4282, or (I have no affiliation with Chris Johnston, I just think she offers a unique service for quilters.)

Blockade the display area during drop off and pick up times

Keep security tight and only allow a minimum number of people access to the quilts during these time periods. The drop off and pick up point must be a secure location, ideally with only one exit.

Lengthen the drop off times to avoid a rush

Make the drop off times and pick up times long enough that you won't have everybody there at once. Give yourself time to carefully check in or check out each quilt.

Keep the quilts for as short a time as possible

The longer you keep the quilts, the more your risk increases. Don’t collect quilts weeks before the show starts unless there is a very good reason. Don’t keep the quilts long after the show unless there is a very good reason. Remember, you are taking responsibility to protect these quilts until they are returned to their owners. Keep the quilts in a very safe and secure place before and after the show.

Ask each quilter to drop off their own quilts

Encourage them not to give that responsibility to a husband, son or daughter, friend, etc. That way they know it arrived safely. If possible, let the quilter see where the quilt is placed once it is received so they are assured that their quilt is taken care of.

Do not allow anyone to drop off quilts in opaque trash bags

Accept quilts only in clear plastic bags. You may want to have some clear bags on hand just in case someone comes without one. Quilts dropped off in opaque bags can easily be mistaken for trash. Also, it would also be easier to smuggle out a quilt in an opaque bag. Tape the clear plastic bags shut so quilts can not slip out onto dirty floors.

Give a receipt for each quilt that is dropped off

Two quilt show representatives should sign the receipt that the quilter keeps. The quilter should also sign a receipt that the guild keeps. Have a notebook to record each quilt when it is dropped off. Make note of the condition of the quilt when it is dropped off: pristine, used, worn, age stains, etc. Make note of who will be able to pick up the quilt.

Have tables available to place the quilts on as they are dropped off

Never stack the quilts on the floor. If you must stack quilts on top of each other, don't stack them too high and make sure the quilts are not folded too much, especially the ones near the bottom. You don't want folds to be crushed into the quilts.

Safety pin a card to each quilt with the name of the quilt and the quilter

Use a stiff paper such as an index card and make sure it is attached in a way that it will not be torn off accidentally. For small quilts and wearables, safety pin a bell to an inconspicuous corner. This will serve as an "alarm" if an item is removed from the display.

Recruit plenty of volunteers

Now is the time to get all of your members to participate. Sign up volunteers to walk around during show hours. Have them wear white cotton gloves. Give them identical t-shirts or name tags so they are easily recognizable. If possible, try to recruit one volunteer for each aisle. These "White Glove Ladies" need to prevent viewers from touching the quilts. They can also answer questions or show the reverse side of a quilt, but their main purpose is security.

Make sure all exits are closely monitored

At least one person should be at every entrance and exit. These people should be willing to search large bags, baby strollers, and other places that a quilt could be hidden.

Display quilts in a secure manner

Quilts should be hung in a way that would make it difficult for someone to remove. For instance, a quilt that has a hanging sleeve can be hung from a rod. The ends of the rod should be secured so they can not slip out of the stand easily. With this system, a person would not be able to pull a quilt down easily and walk away with it. On the other hand, quilts hung by straight pins or clips would be fairly easy to remove.

Have a barrier between the viewer and the quilt

Whenever possible, place a barrier between the crowds and the quilts. This might be as simple as a rope or a small fence. This makes it easier for the "White Glove Ladies" to see a person who is getting too close.

There should always be a minimum of two people protecting the quilts

Under NO circumstances should the show hall be left unattended and unlocked during off hours. It is a good idea to have a few people sleep overnight with the quilts. For larger shows, consider hiring a temporary security guard.

Require that the quilt be picked up only by a pre-designated person

A receipt should be required to pick up the quilt. If there are a lot of people that you would not know, consider asking for a photo ID. The person picking up the quilt should sign your registration notebook again indicating the quilt was picked up in the same condition it was dropped off in.


Organizing a Quilt Show — 1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the great suggestions. I’m going to forward this info to my quild president.