This past weekend, three of my friends from work and I went to the American Quilters Society show in Paducah, Kentucky. I’ve heard people talk about this event for almost the whole time I’ve been quilting, saying how big it was and how great the quilts were. I’ve never been to it, though, in part because another thing people always said about it was how hard it was to find a place to stay, with some hotels holding lotteries to award rooms and imposing 5-night minimum stays and such. When my friend Ona asked me back in January I’d like to go this year, I said “sure, if we can find a room”. She’s a new quilter and looked at me funny, not realizing how big a deal this was. Our other friend Laurie got on the phone and called her way down the list of all the AQS approved hotels and finally found space at the 27th place on the list (and they told her she got the last room available there).
The show runs for four days, but not all the ladies have as much vacation time as I do, so we planned to leave Thursday afternoon. I decided to take Thursday and Friday off, so I could sleep in a bit and pack and run necessary errands at my leisure before they came to pick me up. As it turned out, Ona and Laurie and our other friend Sarah didn’t leave the office as early as they’d hoped, so we got a rather later start than we’d planned. We drove as far as we could that night, which put us in Terre Haute, Indiana. We didn’t have a hotel reservation and were turned away from one place (a “no vacancy” sign sure would have come in handy) before finding rooms at the second hotel we tried. The desk clerk seemed a bit unfamiliar with the check in process and confused about why we were bothering him in the middle of the night but eventually we got keys and beds and slept for about five hours.
Friday morning we drove and it seemed like we might never get there but then we were only a few exits away and stopped for lunch because we knew we’d need the energy but wouldn’t want to stop to eat once we’d finally arrived. Then there we were in Paducah, driving past the Rotary Club and the Lumberteria to the Convention Center. We found parking on the street a couple blocks away and practically ran to the show. Because of where we parked, we ended up starting with the vendors at the far end of the hotel, so we didn’t actually see any of the quilts in the show until about 2:30. And what quilts they were. The program specifically says no pictures are to be posted online without the permission of the maker, so I can’t share any of the many, many photos I took. There are some photos on the main page of the AQS site (scroll down to the Catalogue of Show Quilts section) but those don’t really do the works justice. Often I go to shows and look at the quilts and think about most of them “I could make that, given the inclination and enough time and a fancy sewing machine”, but not here. Here I just mostly stood around with my mouth open in amazement at the precise piecing and elaborate quilting.
By the time the show closed for the day on Friday, we’d managed to see only about half of the quilts and maybe two-thirds of the on-site vendors. I’d signed up for a class Friday night, but it was canceled due to the instructor being ill. There wasn’t anything else available in that slot that really interested me so I sat and knit while my friends were in their classes. Laurie and Sarah left their class early so we walked across the street to the quilt shop that we’d seen earlier in the day. The banner outside said they were open until 9 and their ad said they had 6000 bolts of fabric, but when we got there a little before 8 the shop was mostly dark and there were nowhere near that many bolts inside. It was disappointing. (I went back the next day and found more bolts in rooms that we hadn’t gone in the night before because the lights were turned off but I still don’t think there were 6000–perhaps I missed an attic or basement or perhaps the quilters who’d gotten there earlier in the week had bought several thousand bolts off the porch.) I was amazingly restrained in my purchases (possibly because I knew I could come back the next day), getting only one half yard of a yummy iridescent fabric and two patterns. The patterns are from The Designer’s Workshop and I just had to have them–they’re called “Sox & Blox” and are knitted socks with coordinating miniature quilts. Never mind that I’ve yet to attempt either Fair Isle knitting or small-scale piecing–I’m sure I’ll be ready to try some day.
By the time Ona got out of her class, it was close to 9 and we headed off to find our hotel in Metropolis (which is not a big a place as the Superman comics led me to believe). I’d been navigating in the morning and had looked ahead on the directions to see where the hotel was, but Laurie, who’d made the reservation, decided she didn’t need to look at the directions and navigated to the hotel she thought was the right one. I was a bit concerned when we ended up somewhere other than the map to the hotel showed, but it turned out to be the correct hotel; evidently Laurie had given Ona the wrong address for the directions. I was relieved when we actually got checked in, as I wasn’t 100% sure we actually had a reservation, what with Laurie not having any sort of printed confirmation or anything to mollify the planner in me.
Saturday morning Laurie and Sarah and I attended the brunch with Ami Simms while Ona took a class from Jane Sassaman. For as many people as they had to get through the buffet line, it went pretty smoothly, though getting up for seconds was not really an option, which is sad because the potato casserole that looked rather grey and unappetizing turned out to be very tasty. Then it was on to see more quilts and vendors. We stopped mid-afternoon for a quick lunch and I had what had to be the largest corndog in the tri-state area. Good thing we still had a lot of walking around to do. The restraint I’d shown in the face of vendors loosened a bit that afternoon. Among other delights, I got fabric with a knitting and crochet motif and a funny comic strip print. The hardest booth in which to exercise control was Quilter’s Bundles; their fabrics were so luscious and their prices so good that I had to talk to myself sternly more than once. I didn’t leave empty-handed, of course, I’m not made of iron. Resistance in the face of a stack of batiks like this is futile.
On our way out of town on Friday, we stopped at Hancock’s of Paducah. Again, I’d heard a lot about the place but drooling over their catalog was no preparation for being there in person. Talk about overwhelming. We spent almost our whole time there in the back room, where they had huge tables piled with flat folds priced at $3.98 a yard. I usually avoid flat folds, because there’s often a good reason the fabric didn’t make it on a bolt, but these weren’t ordinary flat folds, these were the bolt ends from the mail order business, so it was good quality stuff, stuff I recognized. I dove in and accumulated a huge pile of Free Spirit and Lakehouse and other prints and then retreated to a corner to sort out what I was actually going to buy. Ona and Laurie were nearby doing the same thing and it was interesting to see how much overlap we had in our selections. Some of my rejects ended up in their buy pile and vice versa.
After sating ourselves at Hancock’s, we hit the road again, making it to Anderson, Indiana before collapsing in a Motel 6 around midnight. Sunday we had a leisurely breakfast and drove back to Michigan, skipping the stop at the quilt shop (a rare one that’s open on Sundays) we’d talked about on the way down because the consensus was we’d bought enough by then and just wanted to get home. We’re already talking about going next year, and for more time, because we didn’t get to any of the off-site vendors or into downtown or to the quilt show at the civic club or to Superman Square in Metropolis.
It was a good trip. The show was crowded and somewhat confusing, with vendors spread out in six or seven different places in the convention center/hotel complex and bathrooms that were the least conveniently located of any show I’ve been to, yet none of that bothered me. I was happy, and everyone else seemed pretty happy, too. I would have liked to get more sleep and had more time to do everything, but all in all it worked out really well.
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