In 1996, Molinda Lauxmiller, of Dayton, Ohio, attended her first QuiltWeek in Paducah. And, like most people who attend a fun, cultural event, she took home a commemorative T-shirt.
Twenty-three years and 25 T-shirts later, Lauxmiller has made her love of Paducah's QuiltWeek into a literal work of art -- in the form of a quilt featuring every shirt she's acquired at Paducah's spring QuiltWeek.
According to Bonnie Browning, American Quilter's Society executive show director, the quilt -- titled "Paducah Memories" -- will be on display at the Dome Pavilion during Paducah's Fall QuiltWeek, Sept. 11-14, as part of the American Quilter's Society's 35th anniversary celebration.
"I just enjoy coming to Paducah every spring," Lauxmiller said, "and seeing how wonderful the community is and how exciting it is to see all the quilters and all the wonderful quilts. So it's brought me back for 23 years in a row -- which I am so happy about, because it's a gift to me to come back every year."
Lauxmiller began working on "Paducah Memories" in summer 2018 and used an iquilt video by the American Quilter's Society to find the right style for her quilt. She said the project took about three months -- which includes the time it took for her to find fabric to put alongside the shirts, piece together the quilt, and use a longarm sewing machine to create the actual quilt.
The quilt contains 25 shirts from 22 spring QuiltWeeks; there was one year Lauxmiller didn't get a shirt and other years where she got more than one. However, the shirts are not organized in chronological order, as one might expect. Instead, Lauxmiller took on the challenging task of arranging the shirts based on their colors and designs in order to create a more pleasing aesthetic.
"Paducah Memories" isn't the only T-shirt quilt Lauxmiller's created; she's also made T-shirt quilts for two of her granddaughters. She told The Sun that it's become a tradition to give a quilt to each of her 18 grandchildren upon their high school graduations, and joked that "all those shirts from school activities begged to be in quilts."
Lauxmiller is a retired social worker who still works part-time, going into the office a few hours to a day each week. She's also a member of the Miami Valley Art Quilt Network.
"Quilting is really my passion," she said. "And I've been very fortunate that I have a lot of support from my spouse and family, and I've been able to really put a lot of resources into this passion. So I have a big fabric stash and lots of great machines."
Lauxmiller said her favorite thing about quilting is "the textile experience of working with fabric." It doesn't matter if the work is done by hand or using a machine; she finds it satisfying either way.
While Lauxmiller will not be able to attend Paducah's Fall QuiltWeek, she plans to be at the spring show.
"I think it's extraordinary and really wonderful that Paducah, as a community, supports quilting the way it does and that the quilters and all the members of AQS and the museum have worked so hard for so many years to bring this together," Lauxmiller said. "It's internationally important ... I think Paducah's the perfect setting for this community of quilters that comes together."