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Quilters Form Bonds As They Stitch Their Stories

Now that winter has arrived in most parts of the United States, many beds are covered with quilts that help to keep people warm at night. Many quilts feature decorative stitching and some are so elaborately decorated that they are never used on beds, but are hung like paintings.

Last month, quilts like these drew thousands of fans from around the world.

Maria Teresa and Rocio came from Costa Rica especially for this show. "We have a quilt shop in Costa Rica, the very first, and we came here to buy fabrics," she said.

The quilts here were as varied as life itself, from traditional American quilts, to depictions of common items, like playing cards, to political statements, like this quilt supporting the cause of dissident Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei.

Many quilts fetch prices in the thousands of dollars, just like works of art.

Vicki Mangum, from Katy Texas, is an award-winning quilter. She helped to organize this event. “This is the quilt festival, this is the top of the heap. You cannot get any better than the International Quilt Festival," she said.

Mangum sometimes works with friends on a major project, but this quilt was all hers. “This particular quilt took me approximately two years to make from start to finish," she said.

Quilts like this one are made of panels and smaller sections, including some that are three dimensional. “The bird is stuff work, which means each section is stitched and then stuffed from behind with cotton," said Mangum.

Mangum and other master quilters show off their work at this festival.

But most of the time, Mangum is back home working with a group of friends in what's called a quilting bee.

The women often meet at a public library and the quilting bee provides friendship and more.
Joy Denk says it's a source of support. “Reinforcement. It is always nice to hear that other people think that what you did is a good idea. A little bit of gossip, yes, a little bit of that... and another person's input," she said.

Quilters also donate their pieces, like this so-called valor quilt that Denk assembled. “This will be sent to and given to a soldier who has returned from overseas with war injuries," she said.

Various parts of this quilt were donated by others. “There are ladies who assemble these stars and then they take them to quilt shows and let people sign them, so there are different names," she said.

Whether their work is displayed at a show or draped across a bed, quilters say the greatest satisfaction comes from making the quilts and sharing these moments.