We quilt this city…

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Everything you ever wanted to know about Paducah, Kentucky is summed up in this short phrase I saw on a t-shirt as my BFF Barb D. and I browsed the town’s historic riverfront district. Just to reassure you that the Queen of the Dirt has a little life outside the garden, come along with us as we take in American Quilter’s Society (AQS) 2018 Quilt Week in Quilt City USA.

Quilters, novice to professional all know the import of the phrase ‘going to Paducah’–the oldest of the major international juried and judged quilt shows held in the United States. This year’s show featured 405 quilts which were selected from entries received from 45 US states and 13 other countries. My entry, entitled A Lot to Crow About, is the first work I have had the honor to have accepted–requiring a cross country trip to see MY quilt hang in this prestigious show!

After flying into Nashville, making the scenic 2 hour drive north to Paducah and getting a good night’s rest; we stroll the riverfront and downtown in advance of most show goers.  The actual show runs from April 18-21 this year and is kicked off by the awards presentation tonight, giving us almost a full day to wander around town. Turning back  the clock a day or so our trouble free travel day from California had ended with a very persistent but failed upsell effort by the young man at the airport car rental counter. Our resistance to his belief that we needed ‘more amenities’ may well have resulted in the 4 word set of directions that should have led us to our non-upgraded vehicle but instead left us walking in circles in 30 degree weather. We were saved by a golf cart driver who took pity on us AND took us on a 6 or 7 minute Mr. Toad’s wild ride until we found our assigned vehicle in the netherlands of the parking structure. Everything that has gone even slightly awry since has led us to conclude that we should have gotten the upgrade! The single key lay loose on the floor without even a key ring for it–should have gotten the upgrade. Had to manually unlock the trunk–should have gotten the upgrade. USB port would not work unless the headlights were on–should have gotten the upgrade. Had a fellow quilter momentarily trapped in the back seat with the childproof locks–should have gotten the upgrade. An the worst indignity so far has been this…

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The only car in the entire public parking lot by the river that had been pooped on by what appears to have been a 400 pound seagull!

Getting back to our historic district tour…we are welcomed exuberantly.

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It’s possible that this banner is not meant specifically for us but for all of the approximately 30,000 visitors to the city for the show and other QuiltWeek events and activities–more than doubling the population of this small town for a few days!

Paducah, Kentucky lies at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers and played an important historical role in the transport of cargo and passengers. It also has a significant flood history and is now protected by a lengthy flood wall which has become the site of the Paducah “Wall to Wall” Murals. More than 50 life-sized murals and interpretive panels highlight Paducah’s creativity and heritage as depicted by the Dafford Murals team.

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For the week, many of the historic riverfront buildings and warehouses are turned into impromptu quilt shop spaces to house vendors and local business windows participate in a quilt themed decorating contest.


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There are also many nicely restored historic structures in a very easily walkable area with abundant free public parking.

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The Market House is home to the Market House Theatre, the William Clark Market House Museum and the Yeiser Art Center

For all you garden blog followers it is probably time for a spoiler alert–really no gardens to speak of here in this late spring! Paducah had snow flurries only a few hours before we arrived last night and this week’s predicted temps are all over the map. I diligently searched for garden snippets and vignettes throughout the day and managed only the pitiful few below.


Most of small public parking lots had median strips planted with this tulip combination.

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Jefferson Avenue had a lovely row of ornamental cherries in glorious bloom. I heard rumors of the dogwoods having just burst into flower but so far have not seen one, in bloom or not. No one would blame all you gardening guys and girls from clicking on close now because that’s just about that’s here for you.

Over our three days in Paducah we will attend not only the quilt show but quilt related events around the city. On to the show…

Because AQS QuiltWeek’s very specific photography rules prohibit attendees from posting entrant’s quilts to any website where the images might be copied for commercial use without the maker’s permission I took a few broad shots to give you the flavor of being surrounded by fabric works of art which represent hundreds of thousands of hours of creative labor.

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And here is my contribution to AQS 2018 QuiltWeek…entitled A Lot to Crow About.

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Where there are quilters, there must be shopping. Over 700 vendors, most within the convention center where the show is hung, come from all over the US with fabric, patterns, books, thread and all manner of equipment and supplies. This show has an additional huge tented dome like pavilion to house vendors and special exhibits.


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This display of wool thread is a piece of art in its own right!

AQS QuiltWeek has taken the standard fare of convention center concession food up a notch with a bevy of local offerings from service groups and churches plus a number of local food trucks. One of our lunches was devoted to classic southern pulled pork with all the fixins’ from none other than…

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We also sampled an iconic dessert called Sawdust pie made by Patti’s 1880’s Settlement in Grand Rivers. KY. This delightful pie is chock full of pecans and coconut and topped with whipped cream plus a banana slice. The restaurant, which is part of a restored log cabin village, was recently destroyed in a fire but that did not stop Patti’s people from packing up their offerings and setting up shop at the show.

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Can’t see much except the whipped cream here but it was yummy!

Each year the show has several special exhibits in addition to the quilts entered in the competition. Included this year was a traveling collection of 55 art quilts from the US and Brazil and a group of quilts from which authors had developed books–the authors offered short talks on design and technique relating to the published quilts.

Quilter Ricky Tims, recently named as one the “Thirty Most Distinguished Quilters in the World” and one of three judges for this year’s competition, was featured with a small sampling of the quilts he has created in his 27 year career. The exhibit included his very first quilt–which looked very much like mine and many other quilters’–a simple sampler with sashing and a border.

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The artwork seen at the top of the exhibit signage is of one of his contemporary quilts included in the exhibit–a far cry from that simple sampler. Ricky is also pianist, composer and performing artist. Unfortunately, his live performance at QuiltWeek was scheduled for the day after we were leaving. If you would like to know more about Ricky Tims check out his website http://www.rickytims.com or just google him for multiple hits on both his quilts and his music.

The 2018 Van Gogh Cherrywood Challenge was also on display. This third quilt challenge by Cherrywood Hand Dyed Fabrics produced an amazing array of 20″ X 20″ quilts which have been divided into two traveling exhibits: The French Gallery and The Dutch Gallery.

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The French Gallery at AQS QuiltWeek

Participants used 4 colors (3 blues + black) of Cherrywood fabric for the major portions of their pieces which had to be of original design. Additional Cherrywood colors could added if desired. Previous challenge themes included The Lion King and Wicked. I can’t wait to see what the 2019 Challenge produces–the theme is Prince and the fabrics are 3 gorgeous purple shades plus black.

The Rotary Club of Paducah has been presenting its Rotary Quilt Show almost as long as the AQS show and is one of the AQS sanctioned events held in conjunction with QuiltWeek. This year’s theme was Southern Splendor, a showcase of antique quilts curated by Mary Kerr. Two quilts were standouts for me:

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Coxcomb and Currants c. 1860 Made by Mrs. M. E. Payner of Paducah   from the collection of  Bill Volkening
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Crown of Thorns  (small section) c. 1870 made by Sarah Redmond   from the collection of Bill Volkening

Most modern quilters are in awe of what our sewing sisters produced from precious pieces of fabric with rudimentary tools in very poor light–I am no exception. We all need to be wearing a button that says NO WHINING when we sit down to sew on our high tech machines in our well stocked sewing rooms!

The Rotary show also featured a Small Gallery Exhibit which was for me one of the highlights of the entire trip.

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A collection of original art quilts which depict the widely varying landscapes, flora and fauna of the 59 National Parks has been published in a book entitled Inspired by the National Parks: Their Landscape and Wildlife in Fabric Perspectives by Donna Marcinkowski DeSoto. Here are a few of my favorites from the traveling exhibit–of course, I gravitated toward the flowers!


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I am interested to know how these quilts were collected–was it a challenge publicized to quilt guild or state quilt organization to create the themed quilts or did the author assemble a group of existing quilts? The book was sold out but it’s on my Amazon list as soon as I get home.

One of our last stops was to the National Quilt Museum. The goal of this 27,000 square foot structure located in downtown Paducah is to present the art of quilting to new audiences worldwide. There are three state of the art galleries built to highlight the museum’s 500 piece contemporary collection of award-winning quilts and constantly changing themed exhibitions that celebrate the talent and diversity of the global quilting community. Among the collection are most of the AQS QuiltWeek Best of Show winners from previous years. At present there is also a fabulous exhibit of pieces made by contemporary Japanese quilters and the quilts from this year’s New Quilts from an Old Favorite: Bowtie Challenge. Sorry, there is absolutely no photography in the museum–you must go to see the quilts yourself. If you want to know more about the museum’s collection or programs go to http://www.quiltmuseum.org

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I hope you have a gotten a little flavor of AQS Quilt Week. Check out http://www.americanquilter.com for more information about the American Quilter’s Society and its shows, events and publications.

The residents of Paducah really roll out the red carpet for the quilting community–offering true Southern hospitality at every turn. Thank you!

P.S. We finally did see some dogwoods! Spring comes to Paducah just in time!

7 thoughts on “We quilt this city…

    1. There’s always next year! My friend Barb who traveled with me has dipped her toes a little bit into quilting and really enjoyed not only seeing the quilts but spending time meeting quilters from all over the US. Since shopping is not really a priority for me anymore we had time to see some of Paducah’s history and residential neighborhoods.


  1. I absolutely adored this post!!
    The heritage is so interesting, and the quilts are gorgeous!!
    The food made me hunger especially that scrumptious pie!!!
    And what a hoot with the rental car!!
    Sounds like you had a great time!


    1. We did have a wonderful time! Sort of a bucket list item for me to have a quilt juried into this international show and now I can check it off. I had been to the show before as a viewer but it was kind of a kick seeing all the awards presented and having people from all over want to take my photo in front of my quilt.


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