The quilts near the entrance of the McPherson Public Library are more than just a display.
For the makers, the works represent creativity, friendship and therapy. They speak of life and its pieces that are torn, mended and made into something more beautiful than before.
“I think people really appreciate the quilts,” Steve Read, library director, said. “It’s always a very popular exhibit. They’re not only art, but they keep you warm at night. The combination of those two things makes it very appealing for women and men. The artistry and the craftsmanship is just amazing to see.”
About 15 quilts on display represent the McPherson Quilt Guild, which vary in color, size and style. The group has shared their work with library visitors several times since their beginnings in 1987. Although there is no official theme, several selections feature sunflowers.
For the guild’s 30 members, age 30 to 80 plus, its appearance is just the tip of the iceberg. Although some members say their husbands joke they cut fabric just to piece it back together, they all realize it’s in many ways therapeutic.
“It’s a way of working through illness and death,” said member Karin O’Reilly. “It can be pretty deep. It’s something I don't even know how to put into words, but your processing those hard and happy moments in your life.”
Some members said their greatest works have come after the death of a loved one.
“On one level, quilts are something to look at, but on another level, quilting is how we process things in our lives,” O'Reilly said. “It has healing power.”
The Guild's work also provides healing for others in the community. The group has assembled quilts to accompany the annual food basket drive in December. They volunteer at Lindsborg’s Millfest, where they have children color blocks and then piece them together to give away. They also have taken the scraps donated by a former member and used them to make quilts for residents at Pine Village in Moundridge.
“It’s another way four us to share our talents with other people,” Sarah Burk, president, said.
This talent is expressed in many ways. A recent project challenged participants to trade their unwanted and ugly fabric with each other and make something new, such as hot pads and table runners.
Glenda Schmidt used the dark green fabric she obtained to make “Frog on Ice,” based on a scene she recently saw in nature, where a frog was lounging in the sun and hopped onto ice, thinking it was water. This miniature quilt is in the Library display.
Donna Burke is displaying “A Prairie Anniversary,” the largest in the collection, which features sunflowers. It took her more than a year to complete it.
“It’s fun to be able to share it,” she said. “It’s a big relief to get it done. It’s the satisfaction that you’ve done it all yourself.”
The McPherson Quilt Guild meets at 7 p.m. on the second Mondays of each month at the First Presbyterian Church of McPherson.
“Just being around people that are creating feeds your soul,” O’Reilly said. “When people come through (the gallery), hopefully it kind of reminds them to tap into that creative nature.”