Paducah 2017

The annual quilt contest of the American Quilters’ Society in Paducah, KY, was held last week and I was there. Two of my quilts were there, too. Jim and I drove up for a couple of days at the show.  As usual for us, the journey was as important as the destination, so back roads and side trips were a big part of the week’s adventure.

As wonderful as the show was, and always is, highlights of the trip included an overnight stop in Desoto Falls State Park, AL and a two-hour visit to Bell Buckle, TN.  In Kentucky, we spent time at Land Between the Lakes, then driving through stunningly beautiful scenery of green hills and blue barns as we headed east toward Berea.  We stopped for a visit to the city voted “the most beautiful small town in the US,”  Bardstown, then retraced steps from a trip 25 years ago, spending a night at the Boone Tavern Inn and visiting craftsmen and women in Berea.  Heading east to Waynesville, NC, we explored Cumberland Gap National Park. Our last night on the road was spent at a favorite B & B.

All these adventures held conversations with interesting people, photo opportunities that beg to become quilts, and stories to be told.  Later posts will detail some of that. But, for now, my impressions of the quilt show.

This year’s show included 404 quilts from 44 US states and from 14 other countries competing in 16 categories.  Prize money totaled $125,000 and more than 30,000 people attended.  More than 300 vendors were on hand to help me find supplies to make my next project.

I’ve attended this show at least six times, sometimes with friends, and staying four or five days.  But when Jim and I go, I can see it all in two days. This time, I saw all the quilts twice, took lots of photos, and visited the vendors I wanted to see on Tuesday evening and Wednesday afternoon.

The winners this year were stunning, as always.  Photos of the top winners are here.  All of the quilts are inspirational, and I walk around taking photos and making voice notes on my phone of details I want to study later.

Many of my notes this year were about Japanese quilts.  That’s not unusual.  I love the Japanese sense of color, their attention to detail, and the embroidery that often accompanies their appliqué.  This year, all three place winners in the hand quilting category were Japanese.  There were other categories where the Japanese aesthetic was notable, too.  I realized that  several of the Japanese quiltmakers (winners and non-winners) used a background fabric that was gradated.  They cut it and assembled it so that the center was dark, graduated out to lighter, then back again to darker.  You would be right to imagine that I headed to the vendor’s booths to see if I could find some of that.  I did!

I was pleased that most of the winning quilts have elements of traditional quiltmaking.  In recent years, some have been so densely embroidered by machine, or so encrusted by crystals, that it was hard to see evidence of human hands at work.

One of the features I’m always examining closely is the quilting, especially the machine quilting, since that’s what I enjoy most.  I expected this year to be full of ruler-guided quilting.  There was some, especially in the modern quilt category, but not as much as I would have predicted.  One phrase I did hear a lot at the awards ceremony was matchstick quilting.  This term refers to closely spaced parallel lines.

There was a lot of English paper piecing, and what seemed like more of the Baltimore Album style quilts than usual.

The quilts in the vendors’ booths are always inspirational, too.  New patterns, new fabrics, new tools have the cash registers singing.  My favorites include Wendy Richardson’s hand-dyed fabrics, seen in the photo above (with her permission).  Wendy dyes yardage of solid fabric with beautiful blends of many colors.  She also overdyes vintage linens and commercial fabrics in unexpected ways.  I always make my way to her booth on Tuesday evening to get first choice!

Other favorite booths for me include Primitive Gatherings, Front Porch Quilts, Fabric  Peddlers, Cherrywood and Liberty Homestead.  I saw a few other booths with intriguing merchandise, but I didn’t give a second glance to batiks or commercial fabrics. I have plenty of both of those categories.  The booths that caught my eye had interesting selections of unusual fabrics.  I did come home with some Japanese woven fabrics, some shot cottons, and some sueded hand-dyed cottons.

All my purchases have now been pre-washed and ironed and I’m ready to cut it up and sew it back together!  I have many ideas for new projects, and one of them includes a journal quilt commemorating this trip.

Photo details: You can click on any photo and it will open in another window with more detail.  You can zoom in even more in that view.  The featured photo (you don’t see this one if you read the email version, it’s on Facebook and on the website) is of the booth for The Sampler, which sells Kaffe Fassett fabrics exclusively.

The first photo (featuring leaves) is a closeup of Autumn’s Master Painter, by Anna Reich, Lewisville, NC.

The one with the ribbon is Karen K. Stone’s Wonderful World. Next is a closeup of A Time of the Madder Red, by Toyoko Nakajima of Kirya, Gunma, Japan; then My Baltimore Journey by Darlene Donohue, Hilton Head, SC.  The one with all the hexagons is Cache of Carats, by Gail Stepanek and Jan Hutchison of New Lenox, IL.   Later you see Cherrywood’s booth with all the solids and a couple of photos show some of my purchases.  Below are photos of my two quilts, Mom and Apple Pie, and Walker’s Pasture.  I’ve blogged about Walker’s Pasture before (here).  I need to tell the Mom and Apple Pie story, I guess.  Soon.

Author: Sandy Gilreath

I've stitched my way through life. Early skills in utilitarian and decorative sewing have merged with art in the world of quiltmaking. My love of journaling has now crossed into the cloth world, too. I love old songs, old souls, old words; my collections attest to my fascination with memories.

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