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The Traveling Quilter: Paducah 2012

Holy fabric, Quiltman! Is Paducah becoming New Orleans?

Of course Paducah and New Orleans are both cities on big rivers, and both are proud of their artistic traditions and actively encourage and support them. Paducah has long prided itself on having "art, rhythm,and rivers,” but within the last year that branding has morphed to "distinctively Creative."

Now, it seems, Paducah is developing some “funk factor.” In this normally staid small town in a crook of the Ohio River, you can encounter a caped and masked crusader with a “Q” on his chest riding a Segway through the streets with great abandon. This is “Quiltman,” and he is said to have a sometimes sidekick named “Bobbin.” In his other life he is a mild-mannered singer in the choir of Grace Episcopal Church, but during Quilt Week he can be seen leading the kick-off parade of quilters and whizzing around between venues, including the annual Quilt Luncheon hosted by his home church. We saw him there as we munched on their delicious chicken salad sliders.

Another recent addition to the Paducah scene reminiscent of New Orleans is the mime angel who was posing, painted white and frozen on her pedestal, down at the riverfront. Rumor says she winged her way to Paducah when she closed her eyes and randomly plopped her finger on a map to choose a place to practice her craft. Merchants got into the costume act as well, with one store owner sporting a ruffled shirt and white tails, and another (sister of the owner) dressed to the nines in Derby-worthy attire (including a big hat), sitting on a bench out front munching on a turkey sandwich. (She put the sandwich down long enough for a photo op.) Unfortunately, the mule-drawn carriage rides of previous years seem to have disappeared.

In addition to getting into a more showmanly mood, the merchants this year also got organized, and put together a “shop hop” of sorts called “Piecing Together Paducah.” Twenty-one venues were on a roster, each offering a sticker to qualify you for a prize drawing for a gift basket if you completed the circuit. Many offered treats and special offers as well. This made the visiting of local merchants, which we seek out wherever we go, even more fun than usual.

We always enjoy our trips to Paducah, and look forward to all the familiar traditions of the AQS Show and Contest,  Hancock's of Paducah Fabrics, the awesome show quilts, fabulous vendors, Starne's BBQ, Troop 200 strawberry shortcake, and the Eleanor Burns Quilt in a Day show. This year the AQS show was back in its main venue, the city’s Convention Center, which, unlike last year, was not threatened by flood waters from the river. This is where the primary quilt exhibit of the juried winners resides, and the quilts did not disappoint. They were, as usual, mostly traditional in design, and the needlework (both hand and machine) was breathtakingly beautiful and precise. The overall “Janome Best of Show Winner,” is an Asian-themed beauty called “Harmony Within,” by Sue McCarty of Roy, Utah. There were many other stunning winners and runners-up as well, all of which can be viewed at the AQS website. A YouTube video collage of the quilts is at


There were also of course scores of vendors, from local quilt shops to purveyors of single quilt-related (and not so quilt-related) products, scattered throughout the Convention Center and overflowing into the giant inflatable building next door (The Bubble), which has replaced the now-demolished Executive Inn that used to dominate the riverfront. In an attempt to keep my stash manageable, I bought little fabric, limiting myself to some ghoulishly green felt I need for a Frankenstein doll I am working on (don’t ask). As always I found some intriguing new tools for making quilt blocks more easily, with more precise results, and I will be reviewing these separately soon.  I also bought some cool jewelry for myself and for gifts, and splurged on a scarf kit from Gita Maria. Since she sells only at shows and not on the web, it was one of those "if you don't buy it now, you will have to wait until Houston" moments, and I went ahead and bought it!

In a non-quilt-related moment, we also bought a nifty steam floor-cleaner that was being demonstrated in a Vaudevillian style by an engaging young couple.

Usually by Saturday afternoon, we are pretty well tuckered out. But this time DIL Sarah decided that she HAD to go see Eleanor Burns' show in Carson Park for two reasons: one, even as alifelong Paducan, she had never been to Eleanor's annual event;  two, she is a first lady fanatic and Eleanor's new quilt is Tales of the First Ladies. So, fueled by some Troop 200 strawberry shortcake, we decided to make it to the very last show at 4 pm. and the experience wound up being one of the highlights of the whole trip.

Sarah always likes to be in the thick of things, so we took seats up front. As I talked her throught a short history of Quilt in a Day and its role in my quilting life, someone in a QIAD apron came up and asked if we would be willing to help with the stage show. WOULD WE! Sarah is a natural born star and I try to be a good MIL.  Picked more for our ability to slither into small costumes than for our dramatic ability, it was awesome being that up close and personal to the famous Queen of Quilts herself. Sarah donned the personas of Martha Washington, Mary Todd Lincoln and Sam the Eagle-- I got to be Abe himself! Eleanor's show is always a blend of quilts and humor, so she was a great grand finale for the weekend. Plus, I think Sarah was inspired by her time-saving techniques. Seriously, is it legal to live in Paducah and not make quilts?


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