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For centuries, quilts were an artistic outlet for women who did not have the time or opportunity to pursue careers in painting or sculpture. Quilts told stories, preserved patterns from previous generations and brought women together into collaborations both memorable and fun. In the past few decades, quilts have been recognized for the art form they are, and societies have sprung up to perpetuate this valued American tradition.

Here in the Triangle, the Durham-Orange Quilters Guild, which began as a small sewing circle in 1977, is putting on a biennial, juried show Sept. 23-24 at East Chapel Hill High School. Quilt Show 2000: A Stitch in Time features the work of over 200 quilters, and a special "Hosanna" raffle quilt (pictured) which was stitched by a number of guild members.

The stories of the quilters are as interesting as their beautiful and careful craft. This year, the group honors Chapel Hill resident Erma Kirkpatrick, a founding member, who made her first quilt at the age of 13. For many years, Kirkpatrick brought together in quilting "at homes" women from around the world who happened to be in Chapel Hill for their husbands' work. Many of these women were more skilled with their needles than they were in English, and a kind of cultural bridge was sewn together by the meetings, word by word, stitch by stitch.

An example of Kirkpatrick's work has been on display at the Horace Williams house for decades: In 1977 she and Marion Woods created a quilt for the landmark house that depicts 19th-century architectural styles found in Chapel Hill. It took nearly a year to complete and is a testament to the art and care taken by Kirkpatrick and other quilters in Quilt Show 2000.

The show runs Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 12-5 p.m. Admission is $3. For more details, call 933-1416.

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