Quilting has long been a staple of American crafting, and tonight’s documentary, Stitched–directed by Jenalia Moreno, produced by Nancy Sarnoff,  and shot by Tom Gandy all whom are joining us tonight– drops us right into the middle of the ultimate in competitive quilting: International Quilt Festival, the largest quilt show in the nation, held annually in Houston, TX and drawing over 50,000 quilters. (The event is the largest convention in the city, and during the Astros run for the  World Series, there was a lot of juggling that went on to insure the quilt convention would stay in place and on schedule.)

What makes a quilt the Best of Show? It’s a combination of visual impact and workmanship.  In Stitched, filmmakers follow three non-traditional–and controversial–quilters in the quest for Best of Show; for two of them, the chance to become the first-ever three time Best of Show winner:  Quilting legend Caryl Bryer Fallert, who hand paints and designs fabrics and uses digital manipulation to create her art quilts, she won the first-ever first prize for her machine quilted art quilt in the American Quilter’s Society show in Paducah, KY; and former Peace Corps worker Hollis Chatelain, mentored by Caryl, who hand paints her quilts created to highlight social issues–her 2004 win for a hand painted quilt raised hackles amongst traditional quilters, who questioned the appropriateness of painting images.

The controversy increases when Randall Cook, mentored by Hollis, featured his painted quilt of a nude man in Houston, with plans to submit another male nude for the 2010 competition. But as officials of International Quilt Association point out:

Quilts are art and art shouldn’t be censored.

As the deadline for the 2010 show nears, Hollis’ quilts focusing on social issues, including clean water and children at risk, are featured at the National Quilt Museum as an exhibit entitled “Imagine Hope,” designed to inspire awareness through art.

The quilters arrive at the 2010 Houston show, and we discover the gentle, fanatical world of quilting and the camaraderie and competition between the different schools of quilters, reflected in the winners of the 2010 show.

This is a sweet documentary which uncovers the modern side of of coverlets and delves into the progression of a traditional folk art into a modern art form, while exploring the economic and personal empowerment that quilting has given women–and, as Randall demonstrates, increasingly men.