TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fabric: The Search for the Perfect Piece Transforms Paducah During the AQS Show

Beautiful Batiks from Indonesia, A Favorite Among Quilters

If you are a quilter, you most probably have a stash of fabric that's taking over part of your house and your life. Quilters need a selection to pick from and that elusive perfect color or design ever calls us to adding to our stash, "just in case"... For some, it can actually become a disease, an urge to have and collect more than could ever possibly be used in a lifetime. Most artists struggle with this need to have supplies on hand, "Oh, I will use it someday..." which competes with the reality of storage demands and the ever-present war against clutter.

Rolls of complimenting colors allow a quilter
to have a nice selection without purchasing too much fabric.

At almost $10 a yard in most specialty stores, purchasing fabric can be a serious financial investment. So, a quilter will go glassy eyed when they see fabric on sale. And, when you have a large gathering of quilters such as the AQS Show in Paducah, a whole city will transform itself to try to meet this need and reinvent itself in fabric opportunities. Paducah is known as "Quilt City, USA" and local businesses join in the fun, hoping to attract visiting quilters in for their non-fabric wares.

"How about a coffee and cookie, dear Quilter?"

The show itself is hosted in the Convention Center which is located right on the river, downtown, within walking distance from the Quilt Museum and the downtown businesses. Half of the space at the Convention Center is dedicated to vendors who come with their wares from all over the world. Then, AQS sponsors other sites around town for satellite vendors.

The Finkel's Building downtown on Kentucky Avenue,
normally empty, becomes a satellite space for AQS during the Quilt Show.

Non-AQS businesses and groups also set up vending opportunities. The Rotary Club of Paducah/McCracken County hosts an annual show of antique quilts and also rents vendor spaces.

The guys at the door collect $5 per visitor, money that is used to fund educational and scholarship programs.

Inside, quilters become inspired by the quilts they see.

Inspiration leads to temptation.... "Hmmm.... I think I need some more fabric for my stash..." Vendors are there to supply the need. "What to get? What to get? ..."

Fabric makes the quilting world go around.

And, for those who don't want to go to the trouble of making it, there are plenty of lovely finished quilts available...

Oh, and quilters also need their tools: scissors, thimbles, thread, templates, batting, rulers, glues, special paint sticks, and on and on. Every year there are new inventions that help expand the quilter's universe of possibilities.

Quilting templates, a coveted accessory for some.

Many of these things are not easily accessible in most towns or cities. You can find almost everything online, but that's never the same as seeing something right in front of your face where you can size it and touch it. And, of course, there are all those one of a kind pieces that you will not see on the internet, things that can be incorporated into a quilt, or that you just have to have.

Vintage lace and doilies.

Informal vendors also have wares to sell. The streets are filled with tents and people trying to get in on the action.

When else will Paducah fill up with 30,000 women or more, all with big bags they just might fill?

Charter buses take the quilters to the different points in the city that have vendors or exhibited quilts. Parking, of course, becomes difficult downtown. A couple of fun modes of transport include the trolley or you can go by horse and buggy!

Paducah's trolley.

Horse and buggy, a fun way to see Paducah's downtown.

Others just enjoy being outside and seeing the city come alive. I ran into my friend, Stefanie Graves of Cowango, working on a watercolor down by the gazebo.

Stefanie Graves talking to a visiting quilter.

One of the best things about this invasion of quilters and vendors in Paducah is that most of the people that come are really, really nice. (Note emphasis on Most...) This kind visitor took a photo of Stefanie and me. She modelled Stefanie's hat...

Me with Stefanie Graves.

Well, I had done my rounds and it was time to get back to work. Yep. I'm a vendor, too, hoping like everyone else that some green dollars will make there way into my grubby hands... My niche is a small but special one in the quilting world. I sell ethnic textiles online and in my permanent booth at English's Antiques at 212 Broadway, downtown Paducah.

Rachel Biel Taibi of Rayela Art

You can find the links to my stores on the third column of this blog. Rayela Art has stores on Etsy, eBay and 1,000 Markets. They are a bit depleted right now as I pulled a lot out for the show, but will be restocking soon.

I find it fascinating to see what people do with their hoards of fabric. I have my own stash that keeps growing and am committed to also using it up, making new pieces as time goes on. I always push myself to learn something new, to push the boundaries of what I have seen and translate it into something that becomes mine. Sometimes it works and sometimes it's an "Now what have I done?" experience. I am definitely inspired by cultural textiles, but also by contemporary fiber artists. The possibilites seem limitless...

Today is the last day of the show here in Paducah. Life will resume its normal pace and we will all play with our new fabric and supplies. We are all grateful for those of you who have been here and hope to see you again next year. And, for those of you who have not been to Paducah, do visit us sometime! It's a great community with wonderful galleries and year round, we are

"Quilt City, USA"!!!



  1. I hope your grubby hands are full of money! I haven't been to Paducah but do hope to go someday.

  2. Rachel, sorry I missed you Thursday. I was hoping to meet you when I came down to meet up with a fellow artist. I've been following the blog and enjoying it, so I stopped by your booth, bought some textile stamps, a little bag of fabric, and the little brown Afghani dress for my little niece. You have a very nice selection of items and I'll be back to get more! Thanks again and hope you did well during the show.

  3. Hi,
    just found your blog and wanted to tell you that I find it very entertaining and informative!
    Great work especially those articles about ethnic textiles which do fascinate me a lot.
    I am sure I will visit often.
    Best regards,


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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