Friday, August 8, 2014

First Foods

Some of my first memories are wrapped up in quilts. I remember them at my grandma's and my great-grandmother's houses. Sometimes we would get out the special ones just to look at and remember. My mother was not a quilter, but an avid sewer. She had inherited a velvet and corduroy Victorian crazy quilt
which hung on our recreation room wall for years, but it found a new home sometime while I was growing up. I remember the fan patterns, colors, and all the hand-stitched detail. I think that one quilt made a huge impression on my preference and taste for the eclectic.

I was raised in First Mennonite Church of Sugarcreek, but live about 30 miles away now. My folks still live there, and I keep in touch with the church. As the saying goes, "There is never a gathering of Mennonites without food" And I would venture to say "talk of quilting". The quilter's guild meets every Wednesday morning starting in the Chapel, and then settles in to hand quilt as a group. They break for a lunch out, reconvene, and have a cookie break sometime before the afternoon is out. I called one of the members the night before, and asked if I might pop in.

I remember this room as a child, and my grandmother in it. She quilted here often, and I came to see her here, I suppose. She has been gone many years now. The ladies today work on two large frames made by local Amish craftsmen in this same small, back room. There's space for a few more to sit and piece, hopefully using up some of the fabric donated and piling up on a shelf. The finished tops go one way to another group, Mennonite Central Committee, who will quilt them, and the quilts will be donated to the Ohio Mennonite Relief Sale in Kidron, Ohio, to be auctioned. I was told that a feed sack quilt they had made from a year before had brought over $4000!

This year's auction is just over, but mark your calendar for next year. If you want to view the quilts auctioned off this year, look under "Auctions" at the top left, and then again "Quilt Auction". Proceeds go toward world relief efforts. This is an inspiring event, and has been held annually since 1966.

The First Mennonite ladies were working on a Dresden Plate on one rack, and a feed sack quilt, pieced and appliqued, on the other. Lovely quilts, and devoted quilters.

We spent a lot of time talking while I was there, and we chatted about why they quilted. Most wanted to talk about when they started. A few had picked it up later in life, some had spent their whole lives involved with quilts, and some had even taught classes. They came every Wednesday unless there was snow or a funeral or sickness, but beyond the duty of finishing quilts to benefit the church, I asked them why would they give up an entire day a week? I cringed when I thought what an actual sacrifice that would be for me today, or for women during my grandmother's day when a farm and home took so many hours of work. Remember canning, sewing, rearing children, cloth diapers, etc.!

One woman leaned forward and cupped her hand to whisper loudly, "It's all social." Yes, a verbal confirmation. Quilting Guilds are social. They are the time to keep fingers busy, and talk about everything under the sun and moon. This is a group of women who escape the everyday sameness to have fellowship with their friends. I believe this to be another of the Secrets of quilting, and to this generation perhaps lost, but not without the chance of recovering. 

If you quilt, would you please reach out to a younger person who shows interest, and be the encouragement they need to get started? It's easy to preach to the choir, sisters, but you may be surprised at the young women who just need that little extra word from you to open up their world to something that brings you joy. Give them a taste of the Secret.

A sincere thank you to all the ladies at First Mennonite Church of Sugarcreek, Ohio, for sharing with me. Again.

The doxie girls and I need to get moving this morning before it gets too late. Prioritize, friends, and make time to quilt.


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