Mennonite Women USA banner for KC2019 CONVENTION, Kansas City, MO

In the fall of 2018, Cyneatha Millsaps, the new executive director of Mennonite Women USA, wanted to have several quilts made to raffle off at the MC USA summer convention, MennoCon19, in Kansas City, MO.  Of course, I said yes! I love quilting!

Fall turned to winter and I was really struggling to figure out what quilt to make, how big, when, and how.  Would I do a collaborative quilt like the year before? Would I do a wall hanging? Or maybe something smaller, a table runner.

By January, I had several designs and ideas, but had a difficult time pinning down the specifics.  Finally, with a rough drawing of the MW USA logo, vine and branches, and the John 15:5 verse, I focused on making a small wall hanging using modern, improv technique of random placement of fabric.  Nothing was planned out in advance. The small wall hanging kept getting bigger and bigger as I added more bunches of grapes and more vines and leaves to make a large banner.

I wanted to illustrate the deep roots and support of the past 100 years of Mennonite Women USA, the fruit that was produced and the leaves, fruit and vines that are growing because of our deep roots.  I wanted to “honor our past” so we could “live into the future”. I did not want the banner to illustrate “withering and dying or ceasing to exist”, but a “vibrant, dynamic, and relevant organization” growing into the future.

I wanted to illustrate the deep roots and support of the past 100 years of Mennonite Women USA, the fruit that was produced and the leaves and vines that are growing because of our deep roots.  I wanted to “honor our past” so we could “live into the future”. I did not want the banner to illustrate “withering and dying or ceasing to exist”, but a “vibrant, dynamic, and relevant organization” growing into the future.

This can be illustrated in many different ways, but I find “vines” deeply rooted, growing, being pruned, and producing beautiful, delicious “fruit”. Green and purple are two of my favorite colors, and if you look in my garden right now you will find purple flowers, especially irises, of various sizes, shapes, and hues on deep green stems and leaves.

The greens and purples are big and small pieces of fabric I have collected in the past 8 years since I began my journey of quilting. Some of the fabric comes from quilts I made, fabric donated to me, or fabric purchased from other quilters. They have many stories to tell, only some of which I know. The background of the banner is made up of a variety of “white on white” patterns sewn together in random order depending on how the grapes and leaves are forming.  This creates multi-faceted background fabric interest with different quilting designs for a moving, breathing, dynamic banner as the light shines on the fabric from different angles. 

The improv technique of sewing random pieces of fabric together, trimming the pieces, adding another piece of fabric, trimming, and building on the design reminds me of past quilts sewed together in random fashion, perhaps like a “crazy quilt” using up scraps of fabric. I trimmed or “pruned” many pieces, taking apart seams to keep the sections that worked and redoing the parts that didn’t fit. That what organizations are always doing…examining, pruning, and growing.

The banner is also interactive, just like fabric quilts and clothes have been for many years, made to be used, looked at, washed, fixed, upcycled. I wanted to continue “building” and “growing” and “producing” fruit, by first having MW USA board members and staff sign the fabric.  I wanted names of current board members, the women and sisters who have supported them, gone before them, mothers, daughters, mentors, mentees,… I had my mother sign the banner.  She’s been a longtime supporter of MW USA. I had women at my church sign the banner in the main section, but also as “new” vines and fruit growing and building Mennonite Women. 

My hope is that the banner will be signed by many, many people with the names of women – past, present, and future. I hope curly vines, new leaves, and fresh bunches of grape flowers begin appearing on the banner to be “pollinated” and supported by the many Mennonite women.

How many other ways can we produce growth in Mennonite Women? Where is our Christian faith growing and producing fruit?

Where are we able to support our “sisters” on their journeys? Where are we crossing the boundaries to find new “sisters” with women who are different from us?

Blessings.

Made and designed by Marie Harnish, secretary of MW USA

Design, pieced, and line quilting by Marie Harnish, secretary of MW USA, Indianapolis, IN (on Pfaff sewing machine originally owned by Luanne Fast, longtime quilter, who died of cancer in 2011 and bequeathed the sewing machine to my daughter, Hannah Geiser Godshalk)

Circles, Vines, and Grapes quilted by Cathy Franks, Carmel, IN

Embroidery by Margaret Miller, longtime quilter at First Mennonite Church, Indianapolis, IN

Donated to Mennonite Women USA

May 2019