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Preston's Stitches in Time

Charlotte Crow on the creation of a patchwork history of the women of Preston.

A patchwork history of the women of Preston is quite literally being quilted and sewn up in an arts project called 'Pieces of History', launched last year during the 1992 Preston Guild, and which celebrates its halfway mark on International Women's Day on March 8th with a special Stitch-In at the town's Miller Arcade.

Conceived to raise consciousness about the lives of yesterday's ordinary women and as a project to involve the townswomen of today, 'Pieces of History' celebrates Preston women, past and present, through a series of commemorative quilts, a wall-hanging and a banner. All local women have been invited to take up the threads – so to speak – carrying out their needlework in groups under the expert guidance of members of the Preston Patchworkers' and Quilters' Guild.

The Stitch-In will centre around the 'Women of Today' quilt which takes the form of a series of appliquéd shoes – from slippers to stilettos – to represent its title. In exchange for a small donation, passers-by (men included) will be invited to put a few stitches into the shoe of their choice and to sign The History Book that accompanies the quilt, to record all its makers.

Fine art students at the University of Central Lancashire and a local illustrator have designed the various quilts, each reflecting a different aspect of Preston women's history. Homage is paid to the Dick, Kerrs Ladies Football Team, for example, which began in 1915 from women who worked at the Dick, Kerrs munitions factory. The team raised large sums of money towards the war effort, playing to huge crowds (including one of 55,000 in Goodison Park in 1920), and touring abroad. They even took up the odd challenge against teams of men.

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