In A League Of Their Own

Paducah League Of Extraordinary Quilters Photo

Extraordinary Determination It has often been said, that neither wind nor rain nor threat of flooding and tornadoes stays dedicated quilters from their appointed quilt shows.

This statement was never more true, as 17 members of The League of Extraordinary Quilters and many other dedicated quilters made their way to the 27th Annual AQS Quilt Show and Contest in Paducah. This particular AQS show is legendary in the quilting community. It is the grandmother of all quilt shows and calls to every fiber of a quilter’s being.

Extraordinary Journey As Red Bud and Dogwood trees begin to bloom, so starts the global migration of quilters to Paducah. Each Spring, like determined salmon swimming up-stream, thousands of dedicated quilters do whatever it takes to make their annual pilgrimage to this tiny town in Kentucky.

The annual Paducah migration, often compared to the Swallows returning to Capistrano, has been so extensively documented that I am sure it will be an upcoming segment on National Geographic Channel’s Great Migrations series.

The primal and instinctual need to be at the opening of this much-anticipated show is so strong that quilters world-wide are powerless to fight against it. This year, quilters conquered natural and unnatural obstacles to be a part of this amazing event. They battled heavy rain, tornadoes, flooding, husbands, family commitments and job responsibilities to make their annual trek to Paducah. This chromosome-level pull a quilter feels each Spring should not be taken lightly, so if you are dealing with a one during the last week in April—extreme caution is advised.

Extraordinary Precautions Quilters failing to get to the AQS show typically exhibit signs of distress, similar to a Wildebeest at the edge of a crocodile infested river. These frustrated quilters can often be seen pacing back and forth in their sewing rooms, pausing briefly every few minutes to sniff the air, in hopes of capturing a scent from the quilt show. Home-bound quilters instinctively know something is going on that they should be a part of. They appear anxious and are prone to last-minute quilt stop visits. These short excursions—full of binge shopping—do little to quell the physical ache within the quilter. Only an epic quilt show can satiate this primal quilting need.

Quilters unable to make the migration can also be very unpredictable and prone to attack. As a safety precaution, I recommend always carrying around a couple of pieces of dark chocolate, wrapped in a fat quarter—in case of an emergency. If you get the feeling that the quilter you are talking with is ready to attack, quickly toss the fat quarter up into the air to distract them, then make a hasty getaway. I can’t stress this enough . . . Run Forest, Run! Your life depends on it.

Extraordinary Representation In spite of the unpredictable weather conditions, League members from Arkansas, Louisiana and various parts of Texas made the arduous journey to be at the show. Yep, these talented and dedicated quilters were representin’.

After an exciting day of shopping, League members gathered at the Tribeca Mexican Restaurant for dinner, and to share tales of conquests and adventure. This was a delightful and entertaining event. At times there were so many different conversations going on, that I had a hard time figuring out which one I was a part of. The laughter and camaraderie the League shared with one another filled the restaurant with energy.

Members enthusiastically discussed the quilts they saw and gave vivid descriptions of the purchases they made. During this marvelous exchange, copious notes were taken about quilts and vendor booths to see. Shopping lists were revised and added to, as new strategies and destinations were discussed. Common passions really do make for the best conversations. This memorable evening ended with many heartfelt hugs and promises of future gatherings. I feel blessed to be a part of such a wonderful and dynamic group of people.

Extraordinary Talent I would be negligent in my reporting if I didn’t mention the talented League members who had quilts in the show. These quilts are as beautiful and inspiring as the quilters who made them. Let me introduce you to them and their work.

Founding League member, Dot Collins of Port Neches, TX created this lovely entry in the Bed Quilt category.

Angels by Dot Collins

Angels by Dot Collins and Jerry Kelly, quilted by Dot Collins.

Angel block and sashing detail

Close up of Angel block and sashing details.

Back of Angel quilt showcasing quilting

Back side of Angel quilt showcasing Dot's beautiful freemotion feathers.

New League member, Allen Jones of San Antonio, TX created this beauty, which appeared in the Small Wall Quilt category.

Double Pinwheels by Allen Jones

Double Pinwheels by Allen Jones, quilted by Dot Collins

Detail from Double Pinwheels by Allen Jones

Detail from Double Pinwheels.

And last—but definitely not least—new League member, Geannine Ott of Jacksonville, AR created this stunning little number in the Small Wall Quilt category. This beautiful quilt is Geaninne’s first entry into the Paducah show. As if getting into the show weren’t enough reason to celebrate, this quilt also won a ribbon. Four & Twenty Blackbirds won 2nd place in the Small Wall Quilts/Longarm/Midarm Machine category. I am SO PROUD of Geannine and her accomplishment. You Go, Girl!!!!

Four & Twenty Blackbirds by Geannine Ott

Four & Twenty Blackbirds by Geannine Ott, quilted by Marcella Pickett.

Four & Twenty Blackbirds Close up

Details from Four & Twenty Blackbirds by Geannine Ott

When you know someone who has a quilt in a show like this, it makes traveling to these events even more special. There is a special joy in knowing that you have friends who have achieved what many only dream of doing. Getting into a show of this caliber is no small feat, and each and every quilter attending the show knows this. I am so proud of my friends and all the others who made it into the show. Congratulations to all, on a job well done.

As I said, I feel truly blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful and talented quilters. These amazing and exceptionally gifted people fill my world with laughter and inspiration, so when I say I am a member of The League of Extraordinary Quilters—I mean it.

Well, that’s the end of my first post and I hope you enjoyed it. I have lots more to share, so come back again soon.

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12 Responses to “In A League Of Their Own”

  1. Jim Gatling Says:

    I LOVE Geanine’s quilt! One of my all time fovorites!!!!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hey there, Yes, Geannine’s quilt is a beauty. I can’t wait to see what she does next—and you too for that matter.

      Is scrap quilt number 28 in the works?

  2. kathydrew Says:

    I have been waiting for your post. Beautiful quilts. You keep me begging for more.

  3. Carol Ann Wilbourn Says:

    Tom, so proud to be included in the ‘League’! It was wonderful to see you and spend time with you in Paducah and meet all your wonderful friends.
    Thanks for sharing the Quilt photos. We’re all proud of the entrants!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Carol Ann, of course you are in the League! It wouldn’t be a League of Extraordinary Quilters without you. Your work is extraordinary by anyone’s definition. NOW, get that show quilt finished!

      It was great to see you and the rest of the group from Arkansas. Our evening together was really special and I feel blessed that you were a part of it. I know the Texas and Louisiana League members enjoyed meeting you.

      Every League member is looking forward to our next opportunity to share such a wonderful dinner and lively conversation. Hopefully the opportunity will be sooner, rather than later.

  4. deniece Says:

    So much written about and so much more that happened. What a great time !!!

  5. jayardi Says:

    • • • Oh my, what beautiful quilts and you KNOW them. WOW! Dot’s quilting is amazing! I am going to have to keep my eye on her this year.

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Yes, I know the people who made these beauties. I sometimes have to pinch myself when I realize that these talented people are my friends. I am a VERY LUCKY man.

      Yes, Dot’s work is beautiful—without question. She is such a talented, funny and gifted quilter. She is also very giving. She shares everything she knows. I am in awe of her work and feel lucky to be considered a friend. This quilt is only a small example of what she can do. I have a lot to learn from her.

      Yes, she is definitely someone to keep an eye on.

  6. Kim Says:

    After being without a computer (and internet) for a while, it’s been so fun to start going back and catching up. LOVED all your photos, and appreciate your dedication above and beyond the call of duty to continue with your cell phone after your camera died.

    This post had me laughing out loud! So true! So true! I haven’t been able to get to Paducah in years and I act exactly like you described 🙂 One of these years I’m determined to make it back to the U.S. in time!!! This year I missed it by less than two weeks 😦

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Hi Kim, I’m glad you’re back in the cyber world. I can’t imagine how tough it must be to go without a computer and the internet. I’d be lost without them. We were without cable for two days and I thought I’d go stir crazy. I didn’t realize how much a part of my daily life these things were, until they were gone.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed my post. I hoped it captured the moment. There is really nothing like this type of sharing. I can still hear the laughter from that evening. It was such a memorable experience. I hope when you make it to Paducah, you have such a group to go with.

      It’s great to hear from you again!

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