Wild colors, traditional patterns, whimsical fabrics -- anything goes when it comes to quilts. Stitched works of all sizes and styles will be on display in Centereach this weekend, with 200 samples representing traditional techniques as well as bolder contemporary designs.

Those who think of quilt designs as triangles and squares in calico prints will be surprised at the variety -- some look more like abstract paintings. Modern designs marry colors, shapes and patterns in unpredictable ways.

"Some of the oldest [quilters] are the most avant-garde," says East Northport resident Judy Wilhelm, 62, a member of the Smithtown Stitchers Quilt Guild, which is putting on the show. "We have an older Russian lady who brings in the most amazing quilts you have ever seen."

The quilts will be displayed around the gymnasium at Dawnwood Middle School. Half have already been judged based on overall look, design or the stitching itself. The other 100 quilts are there for patrons' viewing pleasure.

The show's theme, "Garden of Quilts," highlights the guild's President's Challenge, in which quiltmakers were each asked to incorporate the same design -- in this case the shape of a picket fence -- into their work. The finished quilts will be hung together for one continuous view.

Those who practice the craft say making one quilt can take at least 20 hours.

"It involves a fair amount of passion," says Frances McGuire, 71, of Ronkonkoma, a member of the quilt club. "People have acquired niches for themselves, especially with certain techniques."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Quilters will set up in classrooms to demonstrate the process' different steps, from choosing patterns and colors to measuring, cutting, piecing and assembling in the traditional three layers. Vendors will bring along items for sale, such as quilts and quilted purses, and food can be purchased. A quilt made by members of the Smithtown Stitchers Quilt Guild will be raffled Sunday.

DISTINCT STYLES

Patterns and designs are as unique as the quilter, but often they fall into two categories:

Traditional quilts are usually based on reproductions of 1800s patterns and fabrics, and often are hand-quilted, although outsourcing the final stitching process after piecing the fabric together is more common these days.

Whether hand-quilted or not, putting together the different fabric pieces in a particular pattern is the most appreciated part of the art.

Sign up for Newsday's Entertainment newsletter

Get the latest on celebs, TV and more.

"It's challenging," says McGuire, "although it doesn't look particularly hard for the uninitiated."

Abstract quilts. A new movement began decades ago, when the traditional triangles or squares in symmetrical patterns gave way to a more abstract look.

The National Quilting Association defines modern quilting as having some of these features, McGuire says: high contrasting colors, minimalistic look, improvised piecing, expansive negative space and nontraditional layouts. Adds Dragone: "There's a lot of free form. It's a more free and open thing."

Smithtown Stitchers Quilt Guild Show

WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday; Dawnwood Middle School, 10 43rd St., Centereach.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

INFO smithtownstitchers.com

COST $10 (free younger than 12)

QUILTING CLASSES

If you're inspired by the show, consider beginner quilting classes. Free sessions are offered at several libraries, and fabric shops host general quilting and project-oriented workshops. Here is a sampling:

Introduction to Quilting

advertisement | advertise on newsday

WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-noon April 18, West Islip Library (631-661-7080, westisliplibrary.org) and 10 a.m.- noon the first Saturday of each month, Deer Park Library (631-586-3000, deerparklibrary.org

Come to the first class without supplies to learn about the craft, Subsequent classes teach different methods. Instruction is free.

Sew What's New

WHEN l WHERE 400 Main St., Islip

INFO 631-277-4215, sewwhatsnew.com

Block of the Month club on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. For $15, you get a fabric kit and instructions. If you finish before the next class, the next lesson and kit are free.

Gone Sewin

161-D Levittown Pkwy., Hicksville

INFO 516-342-1127, gonesewin.com

Private instruction by appointment costs $32 for two hours for a basic beginner quilting project. Four-hour open sewing and quilting sessions cost $20. Long-arm quilting machine available for lessons and rental, $20 an hour.

Patchworks

299 Raft Ave., Sayville

INFO 631-589-4187, patchworks.com

Four-session classes run 12:30-3 p.m. Mondays each month; $128 includes pattern and fabric for quilt top.

Pieceful Quilting

WHEN | WHERE 4468 Middle Country Rd., Calverton (631-727-5909) and 3027 Jericho Tpke., East Northport (631-670-6254, piecefulquilting.com)

Class 101 runs five sessions for $115 and leads to making a small quilt. Class 102 includes four classes for $95, making a bed runner.

Beyond the Thimble

1597 Rte. 112, Port Jefferson Station

INFO 631-737-3944, beyondthethimble.com

Four-week afternoon and evening sessions begin April 14 ($75). Students should already know quilting basics.