Time and skill can transform fabric and thread into treasured heirloom pieces. More than a dozen coverlets and quilts are now on display at McPherson Museum’s “Quilts of McPherson” exhibit.
“We figured this time of year people have been to the state fair and may or may not have had an opportunity to see the quilts over there,” said McPherson Museum Director Anna Ruxlow. “This gives them another chance to get their quilt fix.”
The quilts displayed span nearly 150 years of history, though most were made prior to 1950.
The newest quilt is one made in honor of the 100th anniversary of All Schools Day by Laquita Geis, Karen O’Reily, Lisa Nelson, Janet Yowell and Wendy Paul. The quilt is sewn with a lucky star pattern depicting each of the event’s button logos from 1978 to 2013.
“I think we have a good selection of different kinds of quilts with different stories,” Ruxlow said.
Another modern-day quilt on display features dozens of chickens. The lap quilt, which is on loan from The Cedars, was made by Myrna Eis.
“We wanted to put on display that quilts that may have never been on display at the museum, those that are newly acquired or ones that are rarely seen and were on display years ago,” Ruxlow said.
The exhibit’s oldest quilt dates from around 1865 and was made by a Mrs. Rothrock — the great-grandmother of Loreen Cline Gayer — for one of her daughters to put in their hope chest.
“Now, we do them on machine, but most of these are hand-stitched and the stitches are just as perfect as if you’d done them on a machine,” Ruxlow said.
Some of the quilts were made in McPherson, while others made their way here by being passed down through relatives. One quilt in the display even came from another continent.
Carl and Lulu Ullom Coffman were missionaries who served in China in the 1920s. Lulu passed away while giving birth to her son and many Chinese articles were sent to her family in her remembrance, including an appliqued coverlet.
Made closer to McPherson, a Golden Dahlia quilt pieced by Maxine Will and her aunt, Eliza Miller Sheaks, was made near Garden City around 1933. The quilt is made of bright yellow, orange and cream fabric and sewn with pineapple and feather patterns.
Many of the quilts have names and other identifying wording embroidered on them — from the Sunbonnet Sue-patterned quilt with “Mt. Pleasant 1930-1931” sewn in the center to a block and patchwork friendship quilt made by friends of the Stockham family to a multi-colored embroidered throw with floral and butterfly designs made by members of the 1927 Busy Workers Club.
“They’re an enduring (moment) in time,” Ruxlow said. “It’s like a story being passed down from generation to generation and it is quite a craft to put quilts together.”
“Quilts of McPherson” is open now to the end of November at the McPherson Museum, 1111 E. Kansas Ave. For more information, visit http://www.mcphersonmuseum.com.
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.