Quilter museums: Cedarburg, Paducah, Ky.

If you are a quilter, you know why Paducah is special. The western Kentucky river city is home to the Museum of the American Quilter’s Society.

Wisconsin has a strong presence there, but our quilters also want a home of their own. So work has begun to create just that, the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Textiles.

Enthusiasts have secured a place: 2.1 acres in Cedarburg, a former farmstead whose buildings already show off quilts during the community’s biggest celebrations.

Now there is an incentive to raise money for renovation, too. The Jeffris Family Foundation, Janesville, will donate about $801,000 if about $1.6 million is raised by March 2007.

“It is a matter of saving the stories as well as promotion and education,” says Maribeth Schmit, volunteer coordinator, who happened to be in the interim museum (farmhouse) when I called recently. “We’d like to preserve several types of textiles,” hooked rugs and weavings as well as quilts.

The annual Spring Fling Tea and Bed Turning will be 1-3 p.m. May 21. Bed turning? Schmit says about three dozen quilts will be stacked on one of three propped up beds in the farm’s 1850s barn. One at a time, the quilts are folded back, to reveal the one underneath it.

“We’ll talk about how old it is, the fabrics and pattern used, the story behind it,” Schmit says.

Such documentation began in 1987, and the results were the basis for the 2001 book “Wisconsin Quilts: Stories in the Stitches,” by former state poet laureate Ellen Kort of Appleton.

Grand opening of the interim quilt museum will be 5-8 p.m. June 4. Quilt and rug hooking documentation will be done during the Strawberry Festival, June 24-25, and basket quilts will be on display.

For more about the project, go to www.wiquiltmuseum.org or call (262) 546-0300.

Almost 300 quilts – deemed to be the world’s best – are in Paducah, with around 50 on display at any given time. There are the wildly bright colors of a Saudi Arabian’s work, the airplane motif that was sewn by a guy, soft whites and pastels from the Philippines, bold and tulip-like shades that blossomed in Holland.

A few of these quilts tell family stories, teach about branches of government, provide an outlet for haiku. There are social statements to be made, too, like an intensive care nurse’s observations in fabric.

It all is a stunning tribute to the stitchers and stitches – by hand or machine – that preserve the history, ethnicity, artistry and craftsmanship of everyday and gifted people. These works are both exact and creative.

“This is the zenith of the art,” says Judy Schwender, curator of collections. “The people who end up here are in command of their materials and their art.”

The collection grows each year, after the spring American Quilter’s Society competition. Among this year’s winners was Ann Fahl of Racine, whose “George’s Garden” earned a machine workmanship award.

Diane Gaudynski of Pewaukee is a self-taught quilter whose work began in 1980. At least four of her quilts are in the museum’s permanent collection, from the intricate “Butternut Summer” (made in her father’s memory) to the earthy tones of “Kettle Moraine Star” (paying homage to the Wisconsin state forest).

This year, Gaudynski gave out a Judges Choice Award in her name, and she will be back in Paducah in September, to conduct quilting workshops at the quilt museum.

Go to www.americanquilter.com or (270) 898-7903 to learn more. Or visit the quilter’s website at www.dianegaudynski.net; she also will conduct a lecture in Sheboygan and workshop in Brookfield this year.

Wisconsin Public Television and “Sewing with Nancy” are co-sponsoring their first Quilt Expo, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 15-17 at the Alliant Energy Center, Madison. There will be juried and judged quilt contests, workshops, lectures, drawings and vendors.

The event is billed as a national quilting forum. Featured speakers will include Nancy Zieman of “Sewing with Nancy,” the longest-airing sewing program on public television.

For more, see www.nancysnotions.com or call (920) 887-0391.

“Quilts in Bloom,” dozens of quilts with fall colors and a botanical composition, will be Sept. 17 to Oct. 2 at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison. For more, see www.olbrich.org or call (608) 246-4551.

The Lighthouse Quilters Guild presents its Lighthouse Legacies Quilt Show Oct. 1-2 in Racine. The honored quilter will be Ann Fahl. For more, see www.lighthousequiltersguild.org or write to PO Box 372, Racine, WI 53401.

Retreats for quilters are plentiful, but we know of no Internet site that compiles this information in Wisconsin. We do know that quilting retreats tend to fill quickly, sometimes months before they are held.

For more about Christian-based gatherings, go to www.campluther.com or call (877) 264-CAMP; the Three Lakes camp called Camp Luther hosts a quilting retreat Oct. 7-9.

Quilting retreats at the Chalet Landhaus, New Glarus, will be Oct. 14-16 and Nov. 11-13. To learn more, go to www.loisjarvisquilts.com.