ART : Quilt Exhibit Stitches Tale of Craft's Survival

Rose Apodaca is a free-lance writer who occasionally contributes to The Times Orange County Edition.

Modern Americans are more likely to keep their hands busy with a TV remote control than with a needle and thread. But a small but growing number of American women and men have kept a significant part of the nation's heritage alive, taking time to rediscover and reinvent the craft of quilting.

Their enthusiasm is borne out by the hundreds of books and videos on the market and an increasing number of quilting associations and guilds.

"A Quilted Journey," on exhibit through April 12 at the Golden West College Fine Arts Gallery, chronicles the survival and evolution of quilting with the display of 33 antique and contemporary quilts from the last two centuries.

The exhibit, the first of its kind at the college, was the idea of gallery curator Anita Williams and her campus-based quilters club, Hens and Chickens. (The name was borrowed from an old quilt pattern.)

The group formed two years ago, when Williams was teaching quilting classes through the college's community services branch. Hens and Chickens is an auxiliary to the Golden West College Foundation and raises money for the gallery and scholarships by selling quilts that members make.

Williams said she wants to broaden awareness of early and modern quilting with the journey motif and hopes to make the show "historical, informational and educational."

The oldest work is a linsey-woolsey baby-buggy quilt dating to early 19th-Century Pennsylvania. Linsey-woolsey refers to the cotton, linen and wool materials that were homespun and dyed.

The collection includes traditional pre-Civil War quilts with familiar patterns and heavy use of calico prints. Not so typical is a Victorian throw quilt made of rich velvets and brocades and stitched together with golden yellow embroidery thread.

In addition to antique quilts, the exhibit showcases recent works by nationally known and locally unknown quilters, plus examples of unconventional quilting. Machine-sewn quilts have become increasingly acceptable in recent years.

Modern quilters are also using non-traditional design materials, which have actually been used by adventurous quilters throughout the last 200 years, such as rubber stamps, decorative buttons and rhinestones and cyanotype--a technique for transferring photographic images onto fabric.

And new forms using quilting techniques are being tested. On display is an example of "wearable art," a colorful quilted jacket; and "quilt sculpture," a four-sided gold lame pyramid with images of King Tut and Egyptian symbols outlined in gold thread.

What: "A Quilted Journey."

When: Through Friday, April 12. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 6 to 9 p.m.

Where: Golden West College Fine Arts Gallery, 15744 Golden West St., Huntington Beach.

Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to the Beach Boulevard exit. Go south to Center Street and enter the college at the Gothard Street entrance.

Wherewithal: Admission is free.

Where to Call: (714) 895-8783.

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