Mormon women share stories on communal quilt

Carol Davis points out the different squares on a quilt made by the stake Relief Society during the group’s Covenants and Quilts gathering recently, at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2542 G Road. The quilt bears hundreds of signatures of area Relief Society members.

Stories aren’t always told with words. Sometimes they’re told in tiny, even stitches, in scraps of fabric assembled into vivid patterns, in the evidence of the hands that did the stitching and assembling.

Women have long written the stories of their lives and families, their joys, their sorrows and their faith in the quilts they piece together, creating a tangible record of the lives they lived.

“Very few histories are of women,” said Kay O’Dwyer. “Histories are written by men.”

O’Dwyer was one of the organizers of “Covenants and Quilts,” a months-long project by women in the Grand Junction West Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Through the project, women created a communal quilt with applique squares representing charity, motherhood, provident living, homemaking, literacy and other tenets of the Relief Society, the LDS Church’s women’s organization. The quilt also includes squares on which more than 715 women signed their names. It will be displayed in the LDS Church building at 2542 G Road.

Karen Holt assembled and quilted the quilt, which was unveiled at a June 18 event in which women from the Grand Junction West Stake’s 10 wards (a ward is a group of LDS Church members, determined by geographical area; a stake is a group of wards) shared their own quilts and the stories behind them.

“The tradition of quilting really permeates our nation’s psyche,” said Sherida Warner, The Daily Sentinel’s quilting columnist who spoke at the event. “There’s a reverence for quilts and the stories quilts tell. Quilts truly are the fabric of our lives.”

O’Dwyer said she was inspired by Carol Nielson’s published account of the album quilt made in 1857 by women of the 14th Ward in Salt Lake City. The blocks, on which the women embroidered their names, speak to the struggles of LDS pioneers and settlers in the Salt Lake Valley, to their faith in God and the small joys of their lives.

Likewise, the quilts that women in the Grand Junction West Stake shared through “Covenants and Quilts” told variegated stories:

Chele Hawks shared a quilt of colored blocks that was made and signed by members of her ward’s Relief Society group when she was sick with Guillian Barre Syndrome.

Tiffanie Hatch offered a blue quilt with a vivid flower petal pattern that she had signed when she was a student at Shelledy Elementary School. Years later, Hatch’s sister-in-law found the quilt at a Fruita thrift shop and bought it for her.

Ruth Sines presented a pink satin quilt painted with pansies that her parents, Reba and Harry Sellers, made in 1954 when the family lived in Rock Springs, Wyo. Her father even managed to find a thimble big enough for his fingers.

Julie Gates displayed one of the eight colorful patchworks she and her sister made from their mother’s clothes. Gates’ mother died when Gates was 14, so the quilts are a treasured keepsake for her, her father and her six siblings.

The stories of the quilts spoke of lives and memories, and the assurance that they’ll be remembered.


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