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In many communities, quilts served to offer warmth, protection and comfort from the cold but what many may not realize is that closely guarded secrets were often hidden in the patchwork pieces that made up the whole.

In the early African American tradition, quilts sometimes served to provide a hidden road map for slaves seeking freedom through the Underground Railroad.

And often, the practice of gathering to stitch together pieces of fabric served to create a community where people, often women, would join each other to talk, share ideas and seek comfort, said Lori Barcliff Baptista, director of the African-American Cultural Center at UIC.

Read more: Crafting a Community