The American Quilter’s Society (AQS) QuiltWeek has many quilting classes featuring instructors from around the world. One of those instructors has made Quilt City USA her home.
Cheryl Sleboda (pronounced “sle-BOH-da”) moved to Paducah from Chicago last July and opened her quilting and sewing shop, Muppin’s, at the end of February.
“I came here for QuiltWeek last April, and I decided to see if I was going to vend at the show,” she said. “I drove down the street and left the town with a building instead!”
Before coming to Paducah, Sleboda had a mail-order business and would travel the country providing instruction at quilt shows. She said she looked for a building to open a business in other places, but didn’t like the way things looked.
“We had been looking at some other buildings in Illinois for doing something very similar to (the Paducah business), and those cities — we felt like they were on the decline. There was no revitalization happening,” she said. “When I started to really get interested in buying a building, that’s when we realized that there was no foot traffic in those towns, but here, we could see all the revitalization that was happening.
“Also, the fact that Paducah really has an investment in its downtown zone. It really has a lot of grants available, other small business owners who care about this, and we try to work together. I also like being close to the quilt museum because my mail-order business wasn’t going to be enough. We needed more things, but we also needed some other attraction nearby.”
Her business at 117 N. Fourth St. is called “Muppin’s,” a word taken from the 1976 movie “Jaws.”
“It started as a joke,” Sleboda said. “I was trying to find an (America On Line) handle that wasn’t taken, and I didn’t want to just add “12345” at the end of my name. So, I was watching the movie ‘Jaws,’ and the little kid on the beach is singing ‘Here I am, the Muppin Man’ — he mispronounces it — so I put in ‘Muppin,’ and it wasn’t taken, so I used it.
“Then when I went to ‘go pro,’ as it were, cherylsleboda.com was already taken; there is another Cheryl Sleboda in the world, so I just chose muppin.com and went from there. When you meet people in person from online and you have a handle, they say, ‘Oh, aren’t you Muppin?’ and I say, ‘Yeah, I guess I am.’ So, if you call me Muppin or you call me Cheryl, it doesn’t matter.”
Sleboda began quilting in 1997 after moving to Baltimore.
“I didn’t know anyone, didn’t have any connections,” she said. “I started a new job. I brought my sewing machine with me, and I decided that I would start learning how to quilt.
“I found a quilt package in a big box store and decided to just start. As soon as I made that quilt, I moved on to designing my own quilts, and that’s where I really took off.”
Sleboda had a quilting blog that had several followers. That led her to appearances on quilting TV shows, showcasing her quilts in shows like QuiltWeek and writing a book about quilting as well as quilting magazine articles.
“I had a career (in comic book distribution),” she said. “I never expected that I would be doing this full-time. I was doing it alongside my day job, and then the quilting side of my side hustle just got bigger and bigger until it just took over and left my job in the comic book industry to do this full-time.”
Sleboda will be instructing two classes at this year’s QuiltWeek in Paducah — to be held April 26-29 — both of which are sold out. On April 26, she will teach “Fun Fabulous Fabric Manipulation,” and on April 27, she will teach “Pleats to Meet You Table Runner.” (Sleboda is a fan of puns.)
“This is my first time teaching for AQS,” she said. “So, I’m pretty excited about that, and I’m excited that my classes are already sold out. I like full classes, and I’m sure they’re very happy that the quilters are coming back to the shows. They seem pretty excited.”
Sleboda said that Paducah is her hometown now.
“I’m trying to really immerse myself in everything Paducah,” she said. “I like to say that I’m part of the fabric of the community now.”
Information about Paducah QuiltWeek can be found at americanquilter.com by clicking on the “Shows and Festivals” link, then clicking on “Paducah 2023.” Information about Sleboda and other instructors and can be found by clicking on “Instructors.”