In 1983 Meredith and Bill Schroeder, already avid collectors and publishers of books for collectors, headed south to Bell Buckle, Tennessee, barely a dot on the map, for a national quilt show. Though over 400 quilts were hung for the show, they didn't expect the thousands of people who poured into the exhibit. It was a groundswell of enthusiasm unlike anything Bill and Meredith had seen in all their years of collecting. The moment was not lost on the Schroeders.
Within a year, Meredith announced the formation of the American Quilter's Society. Her goal was to develop a group that "gave national recognition to the quilters and their work" and "to set the standard in the industry." In the first year, 1,500 quilters became charter members.
In April of 1985, the American Quilter's Society held its first quilt show and contest in Paducah, Kentucky. Five thousand people showed up. The Schroeders underwrote the first-ever quilt show with cash prizes, offering $10,000 for the Best of Show award. This was the beginning.
Expanding on that success, the society held the AQS Quilt Exposition in Nashville, Tennessee, for eight years ending in 2008. Over 160,000 attendees viewed more than 3,000 quilts at the Nashville shows.
In 2005, AQS took another bold step with the production of the American Quilter television series. This creative, lifestyle show is now available on DVD. Another first for AQS that year was the development of a college program enabling quiltmakers to earn college credit by taking classes at AQS shows. This program is in cooperation with West Kentucky Community & Technical College located in Paducah, Kentucky.
Continuing its effort to promote quiltmakers and their work, AQS added the first Quilt Expo and Contest in Des Moines, Iowa, in 2008. This event welcomed over 24,000 visitors, awarded $42,000 in cash awards, displayed more than 800 quilts, and housed over 350 vendor booths for shopping.
AQS marked its 25th anniversary with the Paducah event in April 2009. The AQS Quilt Show & Contest is considered the premier international quilting event. Each year's show brings more than $20 million in economic impact to the area and at least 37,000 attendees. Quilters and quilts are everywher—even the gas stations hang quilts. More than 10,000 quilts have been displayed in Paducah and more than $2.5 million in cash prizes have been awarded.
In addition, the Schroeders created and endowed a museum in Paducah, Kentucky, dedicated to today's quiltmakers and their contemporary quilts. The museum opened in 1991 and houses a collection of more than 200 quilts including top winners in the AQS quilt shows. The U.S. Congress designated the museum as The National Quilt Museum of the United States in 2008.
Beyond the 34 quilting events produced by AQS, this highly successful membership organization also publishes and distributes quilt books, publishes a quilting magazine, creates a bi-monthly eNews newsletter and has set the standard of excellence through the Appraiser Certification Program.
AQS is a membership organization for quilters, quilt collectors, and those who appreciate quilts. Members enjoy:
- Six issues of American Quilter magazine each year
- Exclusive savings at AQS QuiltWeek (admission, contest, classes, and more)
- 20% off at AmericanQuilter.com including iquilt online classes
- 20% off at ElectricQuilt.com
- 10% off at ConnectingThreads.com
- Special gifts and savings at participating quilt museums
- Thousands of discounts at other popular retailers