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Quilting communities in North Carolina stitch together support

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Installation view of Love & Anarchy, June 22, 2023 – Feb. 18, 2024. Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Photo by Brian Quinby.

North Carolina quilt creators support communities all over the world with thousands of blanket donations, according to MaryAnn Bufalini, one of the about 200 members of the Durham-Orange Quilters Guild.

She said quilters show their support through hours of cutting, sewing and thinking of those in need, such as those affected by tragic events like the attacks on 9/11 and the nuclear accident in Fukushima.

"There are unspoken people in the communities all around you whose heart and soul are with you, even though you might not know it," she said.

Bufalini has been quilting since she was 12-years-old. What started out as a hobby snowballed into a side business that allowed her to show off her creativity. 

She has found community in the Durham-Orange Quilters Guild ever since.

"I hadn't missed a meeting, probably not more than two or three in 16 years," she said. "It just is in my heart and soul."

She found her niche creating memory quilts, which are made from collections of old baby clothing or t-shirts. Along with making several quilts for her grandchildren, Bufalini commissions them for customers who hear about her through word of mouth.

Patty Dudek, the treasurer of the Triangle chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild, said there is a lot of thoughtfulness that goes into creating a quilt.

"If anybody gives you a quilt as a gift, you should feel like you're getting a hug from them because they spent an enormous amount of hours sewing that quilt," Dudek said.

Bufalini happily advised people to be best friends with quilters because they often give away most of their creations. 

According to Bufalini, the Durham-Orange Quilters Guild donates at least 1000 quilts a year to local organizations such as UNC Children’s Hospital, Pregnancy Support Services and Durham Rescue Mission. 

Donations to those in need are not uncommon among quilting groups. Dudek said the Triangle Modern Quilt Guild has made several quilts together and donated them to children in the Durham County foster care system.

"Quilters are very warm people," Bufalini said. "Quilters are ones who care."

As a quilter for over 20 years, Dudek believes the most important thing about quilts is that they are meant to be used, washed and loved. 

According to Kimberley Pierce Cartwright, a member of the African American Quilt Circle of Durham, quilting guilds are open to all levels and types of quilters.

Cartwright currently has her work displayed in the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. She considers the other members of African American Quilt Circle her extended family.

At each meeting, the African American Quilt Circle has a show and tell portion where members share the quilts they've been working on.

"The beautiful thing about show and tell is that it doesn't matter what the quilt consists of or whether it's a traditional quilt or an art quilt or you’re a beginning quilter," Cartwright said. "We all celebrate who's ever work it is a lot of times with thunderous applause because we want to first of all, encourage and secondly, appreciate the handwork that we have accomplished."

According to Dudek, Triangle Modern Quilt Guild meetings are focused on encouragement and education. 

She appreciates the ability to connect with quilters from all over the world at events such as the annual Modern Quilt Guild "QuiltCon," which consists of several workshops and contests. It will be held in Raleigh in February 2024. 

To Cartwright, quilting is a voice of the present day experience to posterity, serving as a snapshot in time of the 21st century.

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"I can take whatever I have in my head and put it out into my artwork," she said. "It means fulfilling dreams for me."


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