If you walk into the Alliant Energy Center’s Exhibition Hall this weekend, the room will be lined with hundreds of handmade quilts. Quilt Expo returns to Madison with its competition exhibit highlighting the work of local and national quilters — designs that display abstract shapes, traditional patterns and even entire scenes.

There also will be vendors selling crafting materials, workshops to help advise quilters and visits from Nancy Zieman, the host of Wisconsin Public Television’s show “Sewing With Nancy.” WPT sponsors the annual Quilt Expo, which runs through Saturday.

Despite being one of the top quilting events in the country, according to co-event manager Kristin Korevec, Quilt Expo is not just for experienced quilters, but for anyone who can appreciate the art.

“You don’t have to be a quilter to enjoy the event,” Korevec said, adding that she is not a quilter herself. “It’s just art. There are so many quilts on display and it’s so beautiful to see what people are able to do with their hands and their sewing machines.”

The largest draw to the expo is the quilt exhibit. Quilters enter their designs to compete for the title in 10 categories that vary depending on what they depict, whether they were made for a bed or to be a wall decoration, and also how they were made — stitched by hand or with a machine.

Aside from the competition quilts, the expo also will display special exhibits including Pieces of Poetry, April Showers and this year’s challenge of Black & White Plus One, with quilts featuring just three colors. In total, the exhibition will have about 350 handmade quilts on display throughout the weekend.

“One of the things I’m most excited for is that we have 350 quilts, that’s more than ever before,” Korevec said. “The work is really incredible this year and I’m excited about all of the education opportunities this year, and the vendor mall.”

The event is known for its shopping. With about 250 vendors, attendees wander through the shops hunting for the perfect sewing, quilting and crafting gear for their next designs.

“There are over 200 vendors from all over the country and even the world,” Korevec said, noting that vendors come from Canada, the Netherlands and France. “You can truly come and have an international shopping adventure, where all of these vendors are in one place.”

Between the nearly 200 lectures, stage presentations, sit-and-sew workshops and hands-on workshops, there will be opportunities for all attendees to learn more about the quilting art form. Workshops range from beginner levels — such as the “Newbies Unite Eliminating the Unknown” workshop teaching first-time quilters the basics for getting started — to more advanced levels that teach specialized skills such as embroidery.

“It’s kind of the ultimate quilting outing,” Korevec said.

There is a charity component to Quilt Expo as well. Quilt to Give will accept donations throughout the event for Enchanted Makeovers and Madison’s Domestic Abuse Intervention Services. People can donate twin-sized quilts, fabric for quilts, or time throughout the weekend to sew quilts, with donations benefiting these charities.

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