Each April (pandemic years excluded) Paducah, Kentucky is filled by quilters from around the world to celebrate the art of quilting. While most quilt shows are contained mostly or entirely to a central venue, Paducah has quilt related exhibits, shopping, and events around town. This makes for an immersive experience, but it also means that planning ahead can help you make the most of your Quilt Week experience.
The AQS QuiltWeek Paducah Show
The American Quilter’s Society’s QuiltWeek is the main attraction for the week. AQS is based in Paducah and this is the show that started it all. They also run QuiltWeek shows in several other cities across the country throughout the year.
You can find information about the 2022 AQS Paducah QuiltWeek on their website. I strongly suggest downloading the show book ahead of time to help with planning. It includes maps of the venues and part of the town, parking and shuttle information, and lists of vendors and participating quilts.
I download the show book to my phone too, so I don’t have to carry the paper copy with me each day. The tags on the show quilts don’t give the technique information, so I like to be able to look that up as I move through the show.
The main portion of the QuiltWeek show is held in the Schroeder Expo Center. The show is divided into four main parts
The Main Show Floor
The main show floor includes all of the quilts in categories 1-9. These are the large quilts in the show that includes the specialty categories of Modern (category 9) and Group Quilts (Category 5).
Many vendors are also located on the main show floor, including the vendors who are also sponsors of the event. The contest quilts are centered on the show floor and vendors are in aisles along either side and along the back of the floor.
The main show floor is the most crowded in the morning, especially if you are there the first full day of the show. If you would prefer a less crowded experience, I suggest starting in one of the other spaces first, and experiencing the main show floor after lunch.
In the center of the main show floor you will find the gallery of major award winners including Best of Show. These quilts are typically displayed so you can see both their front and back. Within each category the first, second, and third place winners are displayed together.
In the shows I have attended in 2015-2019 (I don’t know for sure what 2022 will look like until I’m there) the quilts are displayed in groups of three with two sides and one quilt flat to the back and a chain in front to prevent people from getting too close. This does mean that quilts on the sides are challenging to photograph and the quilt in the back is hard to see up close. If there is something I can’t see well, I will often take a photo of the back quilt and then zoom in on the photo to get a better look.
Also know that this show does not have white-glove volunteers to help you see the backs of the quilts.
The Second Floor
Quilt show categories 10-16 are in the second floor room along with two sets of special exhibit quilts, and many more vendors.
When you enter the space, the show quilts are to your left and vendors are to your right. The quilts displayed in the upstairs room are smaller quilts that are all less than 60″ wide. Specialty categories in this space include Pictorial Quilts (category 14) and Miniature Quilts (category 16).
Along the wall furthest to your left is the special exhibit of the Diana Cherrywood Challenge. The other special exhibit in this space is along the back wall of the vendor area. This exhibit is New Quilts From an Old Favorite: Wheel of Fortune. For many years the National Quilt Museum sponsored a challenge to reinterpret a selected traditional block into a new format. These challenges were typically on display at the museum during Quilt Week, but we didn’t get to see this particular challenge due to the pandemic. I am thrilled that it will be on display at the show. This is a definite must-see for me!
The First Floor
This space is also referred to as the basement. If you ever attended the Paducah quilt show in the “old days” this room was called the basement because it was, shockingly, in the basement. When the expo center was added and the hotel was torn down, the configuration of the building shifted so that this area is now on the main floor of the convention center.
In past years this room hosted special exhibits and vendors. Since the last live quilt show, this area has been altered, and it will host Quilt Luminarium with Ricky Tims.
The Paducah Dome Pavilion
Because this show is so big it can’t be contained in the main convention center, a temporary dome/inflatable bubble/marshmallow is put up for even more vendors and exhibits. This space is huge! It is a short walk from the main convention center, or you can take a shuttle between the two spaces.
A lot of people miss this part of the show, but you definitely want to make the effort to go to this area!
The AQS learning center is in this space and offers free presentations throughout each show day. It’s a fun way to take a break and sit down for a few minutes. The schedule of presentation is available on page 49 of the Show Book.
There are several special exhibits in this space for 2022:
- SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates): Wide Horizons VII
- The Ties That Bind, curated by Wendy Brackman
- Specimens by Susan Carlson
- Antique Red and Green Quilts, Collection of Sue Reich
- The Night Before Christmas, curated by Sue Reich
The descriptions of all special exhibits are available on pages 52-56 of the Show Book.
Note: This structure has some sort of pressurization that helps it stay standing. I have found opening my mouth while going through the revolving door eases the transition between indoors and outdoors.
The Dome Pavilion is not included in Preview night, but I have found that it has the lowest crowds if you go first thing in the morning on Wednesday, the first day of the show.
National Quilt Museum
I think the National Quilt Museum should be on every quilters bucket list, and what better time to visit than during QuiltWeek! The museum has three main galleries as well as smaller spaces for specialized exhibits.
- The QuiltWeek Best of Show prize is a purchase award with the winning quilt going into the permanent collection of the National Quilt Museum. Many of these award winners are usually on display during the show, and it is a lot of fun to see the highlights and trends these quilts feature.
- Oh Wow! is an exhibit of outstanding miniature quilts, and yes, just about everyone says “Wow!” when walking into this space.
- The Corner Gallery highlights contemporary quilt artists, and I am excited to see the work of Sheila Frampton Cooper in the gallery this year.
- New Quilts from an Old Favorite is taking a fresh approach. Instead of inspiring participants with a traditional block, this exhibit is inspired by Shakespeare. As someone who worked at a Shakespeare festival for ten years, I am very excited to see this exhibit!
- Australia Wide Seven is an exhibit of 16″ square quilts made by members of the Ozquilt Network.
More information about the current exhibits can be found here.
Hancocks of Paducah
And, no, this is not the Hancocks that used to be in your hometown. The history of Hancocks can give you way more information than I can provide here.
Hancocks is one of the largest fabric shops in the world, and they have something for everyone, but it’s a good idea to think about what you may want before you go inside!
I usually get some ideas for new quilt designs when I’m at the show, so I will shop for those while I’m in town. I don’t know what that will cause me to add to my list, but here is a start to my current list:
- Widebacks for several quilt tops
- Some Shot Cottons
- Stripes for binding
This year, they have provided a super helpful map of the store to help you know where to go! Batik fabrics are to your left when you enter the store. Further left are widbacks and solids. Prints make up the majority of the rest of the store and are organized by manufacturer. An adjoining area to the far right of the store is filled with pre-cuts and kits.
Hancocks is busy pretty much all of the time during QuiltWeek, but they tend to be well staffed, so it doesn’t usually take too long to get fabric cut or to check out.
Special Events, Lectures, and Classes
There are way too many events to list here, so make sure you check out the Show Book! My favorite special events occur before the show even opens!
The Awards Ceremony
There is very little information about each quilt on the tags and in the show book, but during the awards ceremony, you get to hear a bit more about the process and inspiration behind each winning quilt.
This is your chance to see the show with fewer crowds! If I had to choose just one special event to attend, I would pick this one. Hint: If you want even fewer crowds start with the exhibits upstairs and move downstairs towards the end of the night.
Classes and Lectures
Classes are divided into workshops, lectures, and special events. It looks like most of the hands-on workshops are filling up, but don’t be afraid to get on a waitlist if there is something you would like to do. Lots of lectures are still available, and they are often my favorites!
Other Off Site Exhibits, Events, and Shopping
The Hotel Metropolitan is a historic site that was a hotel hosting African American guests. During QuiltWeek they are hosting a lecture by Lorretta Pettway Bennett. She is associated with the quilt makers of Gee’s Bend.
Paper Pieces is having a Pop Up Shop at 533 N 5th Street. This is THE place for all of your FPP needs (and wants)!
Working around the crowds
- If you want to avoid crowds, consider visiting the main show floor mostly in the afternoons
- All show areas are less crowded in the afternoon, so that tends to be a good time to take quilt photos
- The Dome Pavilion is practically deserted the first morning of the show, so that’s a great time to shop and see the special exhibits
Parking and Traffic
- I almost always park on the streets near the convention center.
- There are a few paid lots near the convention center and free lots closer to downtown.
- There are several one way streets around the convention center- pay close attention to where you are going
- It looks like traffic patterns have been changed to access the parking lots so look at the Show Book before you go
- There are shuttles and trolleys that go around town, including the museum, downtown, Hancock’s, and many local hotels. Routes are available in the Show Book.
- There are food tents and trucks in front of the convention center. As a vegetarian, I rarely find much to eat there, so I typically go off site for lunch.
- If you eat at the convention center, try to eat at an off time to find seating. Otherwise, be prepared to stand or sit on a curb.
- There are several awesome restaurants downtown if you are looking for a good sit down lunch