Recently I visited the Quilts: Past and Present display at the Buhler Gallery at the St. Boniface Hospital here in Winnipeg. My favorite quilt was called a crazy quilt, made by a young woman named Sarah Hamm in 1882. A crazy quilt has many, many different pieces of all shapes and sizes stitched together in a sort of random way. Sarah’s crazy quilt had velvet,silk, cotton and wool pieces. It was like a beautiful piece of abstract art.
Most of the quilts in the display were by a woman named Heather Lair from Gimli, Manitoba. Gimli is on Lake Winnipeg and some of Heather’s quilts show scenes from the area around her home.
Heather is not a traditional patchwork quilter, some of her quilts are more like fabric paintings.
One of her quilts called Silk Road Treasures won a prize at the 2011 Canadian Quilting Exhibition.
This quilt is on display in Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach which was my home congregation for more than 40 years. Recently the church celebrated its 50th anniversary and Linda Klassen a talented quilter from Grace Mennonite unveiled this quilt at the anniversary. She spent two and a half years designing and creating this quilt about our church. She has included things in her design that represent the different buildings where the congregation has met, the activities, people and mission of the church, and the things and ideas the congregation values. This quilt tells a story.
I saw this quilt at my friend Kelly’s when I visited her in Chicago last week. An aunt of hers had this quilt made for her. It was pieced together with old T-shirts of Kelly’s. Each T-shirt square represents a place she has studied or lived, a destination she has traveled to, groups she has belonged to, or a camp or conference she has attended. This quilt is a memory keeper and a history of Kelly’s life.
My mother-in-law Anne was a quilter, although she was forced to give up the art in the last two decades of her life because of her severe arthritis. She made quilts for my sons’ cribs and beds and a wedding quilt for us when we got married. Once when she came to visit us in Manitoba from her home in Ontario I was just about to begin doing a series of workshops in Manitoba churches called Parenting for Peace and Justice. I explained what I would be talking about to Mom and she designed a quilt that was a visual representation of my message.
My son Joel and his friend Jon Peters are holding the finished quilt. It’s message was that ‘when the home, church and school work together they can reach out and change the world.’ I received so much positive feedback about the quilt when I displayed it at my workshops. This quilt sent an important message.
Quilts can be pieces of art. They can be landscape paintings. They can be history or memory keepers. They can tell a story. They can send a message. And besides all of that they can keep you warm at night.