Antique, handmade quilts will be on display in the New Canaan Historical Society's new exhibit, "Quilts: A Labor of Love," which opens Wednesday, Feb. 12.

"These gorgeous hand-crafted quilts are both true works of art, as well as a reminder of how ordinary things can be made into something extraordinary," Janet Lindstrom, executive director, said. "We hope everyone will come out to celebrate our new exhibit and join us for some sandwiches and sweets."

Quilt-making in New England was common from the early 1600s through the early 1900s. Earlier New England quilts, made between 1620 and 1680, were sturdy, warm, simple, and rich. Once trade was established, finish printed fabrics from Europe became more available and quilts became more elaborate.

Quilts were brought to America by both Dutch and English settlers. Quilting -- prompted by the necessity for warmth -- made it a social outlet and an art form. A ragbag became a part of every household and every piece of fabric was precious. It was said that girls tried to have a baker's dozen of quilts put aside for their betrothal.

The quilts in the society's exhibit feature Victorian-era quilts. Silks and velvets predominate, and often came from silk ties and cravats. These were more decorative quilts, and were thrown over pianos, chairs and chaises and were found more often in the parlor than in the bedroom.

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The exhibit opens during the society's annual Valentine's Day tea, which will take place from noon to 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers.

The historical society, 13 Oenoke Ridge, is open Tuesday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For information, call 203-966-1776 or visit