I AM A MENNONITE WOMAN
The idea for making a Mennonite Woman t-shirt quilt began after an MW USA board meeting about a year ago as we discussed the question of “What does a Mennonite woman look like?” As I collected t-shirts from family, friends, and local thrift stores for other quilts, I realized the potential for many different themes, especially with the plethora of shirts with Bible verses on them. Last spring, I attended a Sister Care Seminar in Goshen, IN, discussed the MW USA booth for the MC USA Convention, and kept looking at an MW USA Christmas card with images of women above my computer. Slowly, the vision of a t-shirt quilt came together, using images of women from all over the world, doing all kinds of work.
I invited church women, friends, family, and the MW USA board and staff to look for t-shirts with primarily Christian images of women and girls of all ages and generations from many countries doing whatever their “work” may be, including praying, cooking, preaching, sports, laughing, doing sign language. The images could be drawings, paintings, or photos including vine and leaves like MW USA logo or other vine/branches/fruit. I hoped for a world map and to be inclusive of all abilities, including handicapped persons.
In addition to images I was interested in words and Bible verses such as John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Other appropriate slogans, such as “I am a Mennonite Woman…” and words such as friendship, love, peace, and the names of countries where Mennonite women live were also important.
My friends offered shirts and I visited thrift stores, checking all the t-shirts for images or words. At the 2013 MW Spring board meeting, I received a few more shirts, including two from Africa and one printed up for MW staff that said “I am a Mennonite Woman watch me__________.” This latter was an excellent addition. Carol Epp at MC USA graciously sent me a purple convention shirt for volunteers.
A few weeks later, I visited Fanni Birky in Goshen to see her quilting and help her get started on her granddaughter’s t-shirt quilt. I explained the need for backing fabric, so she checked her supplies and donated an entire bolt of fabric that matched perfectly with the Sister Care images of the t-shirt!
Slowly themes, images, colors, and prayers started emerging from the design. “To the Glory of God” was perfect for the top. For visual movement in the design, I placed 12”x12” squares diagonally from bottom to top, balancing the colors. The SC shirt is central due to the images and colors. I placed small squares of color around it to add more visual, circular movement. I purposefully placed together many other images and words with a variety of messages, but I would like for you, the viewer of the quilt, to find your own Mennonite women stories.
The backing also has a story to tell. I pieced together the purple sections to show an image of a woman praying or praising God, or perhaps an angel, inspired by my mother-in-law, Linea Reimer Geiser, who loved angels. When she died in 2010 of cancer, she was looking forward to “being with the angels”. (Linea was a very close friend of Fanni Birky who donated the backing as well.) What images do you see in the backing?
Cathy Franks from Carmel, IN, used a long arm machine quilter to quilt each t-shirt block and outline the images, adding unique designs inspired by the t-shirts. The choice of multi-colored green thread creates delightful designs to view from the back as well.
As I looked over the remaining t-shirts, the duplicate image of “One Body, Many Parts” from I Corinthians 12:12, with three overlapping hands of different skin tones covering the world became potent. This image seemed essential for the pillow case, with smaller squares and rectangles of corresponding colors from the quilt surrounding it. I chose the binding to connect the many colors, especially the different greens. It became another circular image connecting Mennonite women from around the world.
I loved designing the quilt. When I laid it out on my bed to view, I realized I would have a hard time letting go of this particular quilt. With my signature on the back of the quilt, I also mentioned the support and encouragement from my Women’s Bible Study at First Mennonite Church. I pray that the person receiving this quilt will feel the love, prayers, and connections to other Mennonite women around the world. Sister Care is alive and well!