Highlights From AQS Quilt Week in Paducah

The end of April brings thousands of quilters together in the city of Paducah, Kentucky, to celebrate some of the best in current quilting. The American Quilters’ Society (AQS) QuiltWeek show includes a range of aesthetics from Traditional to Modern and Art Quilts. When walking through the show, you may recognize some of the designs, but many quilts are original works of art.

AQS operates many Quilt Week events each year, but the show in Paducah is the original location and by far the largest show. I have been attending the show since I was a teenager in the 90s, and I can’t wait to share some highlights from my week in Paducah- at the show and beyond!

Best of Show at AQS QuiltWeek 2023 in Paducah

It always feels cruel to make you wait for the Best of Show Reveal, so let’s start with it here! Margaret Solomon Gunn created the top quilt this year with a design incorporating eight lace motifs radiating from the central point of the quilt. 
AQS Paduach Best of Show 2023 Margaret Solomon Gunn

Below you can see a detailed view of how Gunn incorporated the lace over the blue petal-like shapes along the left side and bottom of the image. The feathered quilting within the lace helps it to meld seamlessly with the rest of the design.

AQS Paducah Best of Show 2023 detail Margaret Solomon Gunn

When I think of Margaret Solomon Gunn’s work, meticulous machine quilting immediately comes to mind, and nowhere is it more clearly visible than on the back of the quilt.AQS Paducah Best of Show 2023 quilt back Margaret Solomon Gunn

In this detailed view, you can see how the quilted motifs surrounding the lace motifs are mirrored on the back of the quilt.AQS Paducah Best of Show 2023 back view Margaret Solomon Gunn

Attending the AQS QuiltWeek Show in Paducah

Quilt Week in Paducah is an immersive event, with much of the city welcoming quilters into town. The main show is definitely the biggest draw, but there are a couple of other quilty highlights I’ll share with you in a bit.

AQS Paducah Quilt Week Awards Ceremony 2023

On the evening before the show officially opens, there is an awards ceremony that all entrants are invited to and anyone can purchase a ticket to attend. I love seeing the reactions of the award recipients and hearing a little about the winning quilts. The AQS Paducah awards ceremony also includes a brief personal presentation by the MC for the evening, which for 2023 was Kathy McNeil. She is both an award-winning quilter and one of the three judges for this year’s show.AQS Paducah 2023 Awards Ceremony

Shortly after the awards ceremony, most people head over to Preview Night to get a sneak peek of all of the quilts!

Opening Day of QuiltWeek

Do you hear that? The local marching band kicks off the opening of Quilt Week for the crowds you see below. This photo was taken outside of the main show floor right before the doors opened for the first day. I’m not a big fan of crowds, so I head to one of the other show areas (there are three total) first thing.

AQS Paducah 1st Day Show Opening 2023

The winner’s circle is always a popular spot, especially when the award-winning artists are with their quilts. They are happy to tell you about their work and answer questions, so it’s always fun to stop by if you see them there.

AQS Paducah Winners Circle 2023 busy

However, If you really want to get up close to the quilts, going to the show late in the day means much lower crowds. The last hour of each show day is a terrific time to closely examine the quilts and capture some photographs.

AQS Paducah 2023 Winners Circle

Beyond Best of Show: More Top Winners from AQS Paducah Quilt Week

BERNINA of America Best Stationary Machine Workmanship Award

Joyful Japan by Pat Holly received the top award for Best Stationary Machine Workmanship. When you use a stationary machine, you move the fabric under the machine needle to create the quilting motifs. Domestic machines and sit-down longarms are stationary machines.

AQS Paducah Best Stationary Machine Workmanship Pat Holly

In this detailed view, you can see how meticulously both the appliqué and quilting are executed in this quilt.

AQS Paducah Best Stationary Machine Workmanship detail Pat Holly

Best Movable Machine Workmanship Award

Harlequinade by Beckey Prior received the Best Movable Machine Workmanship Award. A movable machine has you mount the quilt to a frame. You then move the machine across the quilt to develop the quilting design.

AQS Paducah Best Movable Machine Workmanship Beckey Prior

This mixed technique piece includes dense quilting. Notice how the background of the pictorial piece is created with quilting stitches!

AQS Paducah Best Movable Machine Workmanship detail Becky Prior

The Modern Category

As a Mostly-Modern Quilter, I always love to see Modern Quilts at any show. The AQS Paducah Quilt Week show includes a Modern category, but there are also modern quilts mixed into a lot of other categories as well.

AQS Paducah Winning Modern Quilts

The top quilts in each category are typically displayed with a wide spread between the walls to allow visitors to get closer to each quilt. The first place is in the back, second to the left and third to the right. Have you noticed the ribbons? Each ribbon is topped with a Dogwood blossom representing the trees that bloom near or during QuiltWeek in Paducah each year.

AQS Paducah Modern Quilts

The aisles of the quilt show tend to clear out near the end of the day. Above are a few of the quilts in the Modern Category.

Checking Out the Vendors at AQS Paducah QuiltWeek 2023

Sometimes it’s hard to decide if we are more excited about the quilts or the vendors! Are you feeling inspired after seeing all those great quilts? There are tons of terrific vendors who will help you get ready for your next project.

AQS Paducah Vendors Main Show Floor

The BERNINA booth is always a fun stop. The next time you are at a quilt show, I hope you’ll stop by to try out a longarm machine. I can’t walk by without playing for a minute (or five)!BERNINA Longarms at AQS Paducah 2023

There are so many vendors, they don’t all fit into the main building. QuiltWeek uses a temporary building known as the Dome Pavillion (or the Bubble, Marshmallow, etc.) is set up to accommodate more vendors and special exhibits. If you go to the show, make sure you head over there at least once!

AQS Paducah Vendors in the Pavillion 2023

Special Exhibits at AQS Paducah QuiltWeek 2023

Most of the quilts at AQS QuiltWeek in Paducah are contest quilts which means the makers have entered their individual quilts. The submitted quilts are then juried to see which ones are accepted.

The quilts at QuiltWeek that are not part of the contest are considered special exhibits. These are curated collections of quilts with a strong theme that are displayed during the show.

AQS Paducah Applique Piecing Special Exhibit 2023

Traditional quilt designs received a contemporary spin with this exhibit featuring piecing and appliqué.

AQS Paducah SAQA Special Exhibit 2023

The Studio Art Quilt Association (SAQA) exhibit entitled Light the World was displayed during the show. Artists create work embracing the theme using a wide range of textile techniques.

Beyond the Quilt Show

The National Quilt Museum

The National Quilt Museum is a must-do whenever I am in Paducah. The exhibits change regularly, so you will never see the exact same thing twice. A selfie wall was added to the museum lobby. I was shocked and thrilled to see that it was my quilt! The quilt they chose is a mini quilt, so it was also fun to see it much larger than life.

National Quilt Museum Oh Wow Miniature Gallery

The National Quilt Museum primarily showed special exhibits during this QuiltWeek. The highlight for me was a quilt by Bisa Butler.

National Quilt Museum Bisa Butler

Bisa Butler is an artist who uses fabric (no paint here!) in layers to create remarkable portraits. She then quilts and embellishes these highly textured pieces.

National Quilt Museum Bisa Butler detail 2

No fabric type is off-limits for these designs! Notice how Butler creates shadows within the composition.

National Quilt Museum Bisa Butler Detail 1

A few museum classics were out along with the special exhibits. I was happy to see one of my favorites- The Beatles Quilt! Pat Holly and Sue Nickels won Best of Show with this quilt during one of my first trips to Paducah!

National Quilt Museum Beatles Quilt

Oh Wow! is a corner of the main gallery exhibiting the museum’s extensive collection of miniature quilts.

National Quilt Museum Oh Wow Miniature Gallery

Many of the quilts were shown in small groups this year, which I loved.

National Quilt Museum Miniatures

Converging Curves, the quilt depicted on the selfie wall, was on display!National Quilt Museum Converging Curves

The Fantastic Fibers Exhibit at the Yeiser Arts Center in Paducah, Kentucky

Also in downtown Paducah is the Yeiser Arts Center. Textiles take center stage near QuiltWeek with the Fantastic Fibers Exhibit. This display of contemporary fiber-based art is a delightful juxtaposition to the Quilt Week show. There are quilts made using methods, but also many other techniques that encourage us to think beyond the standard quilt when approaching fiber and textiles.

Yeiser Arts Center Fantastic Fibers 2023 Paducah

Planning a Future Trip to QuiltWeek in Paducah?

Is QuiltWeek in Paducah on your quilting bucket list? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Plan early in order to get a hotel room. (Or try close to the show in case someone cancels!)
  • The Show Book, with maps, lists of exhibits, etc., is available in digital form a few weeks before the show. Download it ahead of time to help you schedule your time and know where to go.
  • Give yourself enough time to enjoy the show, but also try to explore the town for other quilty fun!

I wrote a Quilt Week Planning post and a post covering Other Quilting Fun in Paducah if you want more tips for getting the most out of your trip!

Print this page

What you might also like

Leave a Reply