Heritage shared through quilts

Quilt show helps auxiliary raise money for Menno Haven Retirement Communities

Quilt show helps auxiliary raise money for Menno Haven Retirement Communities

November 10, 2007|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Every quilt has a story to tell.

Karen Martin wanted to provide the quilts with an audience, so to speak, while raising some money to benefit Menno Haven Retirement Communities in Chambersburg.

Martin, president of the Menno Haven Auxiliary, worked with the auxiliary to organize the Quilt Show and Sale Friday and Saturday at Chambersburg Mennonite Church. The show featured more than 80 pieces. Two quilt appraisers were on hand to provide appraisals for a fee.

"I am fascinated by quilts. I thought people would like to show (their quilts) to more than just family in their own homes. This event gave them a venue to do that," Martin said.


Quilter Whrelda Pittman, 79, who lives at Menno Haven, showed her knotted coverlet Historical Happenings. The evening news inspired Pittman to begin the piece in 1961. Pittman said she held her daughter Alice as she watched coverage of the Algerian riots.

"I saw a mother holding her child on her hip, racing across the street. You could hear gunfire and there were dead bodies on the street. I thought about how safe we were, me and Alice, and I took it from there," she said.

Pittman said she likes history and she had an abundance of "impractical material" for quilting, including silk, corduroy, knits, flannel and velvet.

"I decided to make a 'crazy quilt' of everything that interested me. I skipped a lot of things," Pittman said.

Embroidered patches on the coverlet document events spanning from 1961 to 1976, and include President John F. Kennedy's inauguration and assassination, the marriage of Princess Ann and Mark Phillips, and the first Apollo flight.

Appraiser Dawn Heefner of the Philadelphia area called the piece a "fabulous historical textile" and noted that the backing of the blocks was crafted mostly using Pittman's daughter Alice's diapers. Heefner estimated the value of the coverlet at $1,800.

Heefner said a number of the quilts she appraised at the event were antiques.

"In a lot of cases, people wanted help finding out thing they didn't know about their quilts. They wanted to learn the value of them, to learn how to take care of them. We gave advice on what to do with them," she said.

Heefner said Pennsylvania has "probably the richest quilting heritage in the entire country." She noted that the Franklin County area is set apart in quilting for its quilters' abilities to use rudimentary materials to create beautiful pieces.

"They are very skilled at making 'quilts of necessity,' at making amazing things out of bits and pieces," Heefner said.

Chambersburg residents Joan Smith, 75, and her daughter-in-law Carol Smith, 39, attended the show. Carol Smith said she particularly liked "Dahlia," a cream-and-rose-colored hand-quilted and machine-pieced quilt submitted by Vesta Martin.

Joan Smith said she preferred pieces that were embroidered and appliqud.

"I appreciate the hard work," she said. "Some of these are absolutely gorgeous."

Auxiliary member Laurie Mason of Chambersburg purchased a 108-inch-by-98-inch white quilt top hand-appliqud with a purple and green heart of roses.

"I chose it because of the pattern and the colors," Mason said. "Someone from Menno Haven will quilt it."

Laurie Mason's husband, Rod Mason, president and chief executive officer of Menno Haven, said the event was a "phenomenal success." Nearly 300 people attended the show and Martin said the group raised "several thousand" dollars.

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