Quilts have a way of bringing people, friends and families together. Quilting is a grand American tradition born out of practicality and women's need to gather together. As they sew the pieces into a whole, so they stitch themselves into the patchwork of a community.
Every quilt tells a story. Something touches us about an item that is handmade, in some cases, from bits of fabric from different times in our lives. Quilts can be used to honor individuals, groups or events, such as the traveling AIDS quilt. Some quilts are undeniably works of art, while others are simply designed to delight the eye in their practical use.
On Saturday, Sept. 22, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., St. John's Episcopal Church will honor quilters and quilts while celebrating its 30th annual St. John's Kula Festival.
One of the squares on the original quilt that was made as a going-away gift for Colonel Robert and Allie Doe depicts St. John’s Episcopal Church. Different people made each square representing something about the ministry of the Does when they moved to the Mainland.
"Since this is our 30th year, we reflected on how the idea for the festival started," said church member Marilyn Hirashima. "It all began in 1982 with a group of ladies who were members of St. John's Episcopal Church Women's organization," she said. It appears that the group wanted to raise money to donate to local nonprofit organizations because the church's regular budget was already stretched.
The year before, the women had gotten together and created a special quilt to present to a couple, Colonel Robert and Allie Doe, who had been very important in the life of the parish and were finding it necessary to move back to the Mainland. Different people made each square, which represented something about the ministry of the Does or about favorite things on Maui.
"Everyone was so impressed by the beauty of this quilt that they came up with the idea to make another one and auction it off to raise money," said Hirashima. To do that, they had to have an event to attract a good crowd, and so St. John's Kula Festival was born.
"It was such a success that quilts became a central feature of the festival for years," she said. Therefore, to celebrate this 30th anniversary the church decided to see if they could find that original quilt to honor the festival founders.
"Since the Doe's son, Harold Doe, and his family still live on Maui, we were able to locate that first quilt and will be displaying it along with others at the festival," said Hirashima, who will be displaying her own family heirloom as well.
"Back in the 1960s, my mother bought a quilt from a church auction very similar to St. John's," Hirashima said. Her mother understood the need to support the church community and was proud to display her new authentic bit of folk art.
Because Hirashima loved it, her Mom insisted she take it home with her while visiting one year. "My mother passed away 15 years ago and now I am happy to honor her by displaying the quilt at this year's St. John's Festival," she said.
St. John's member Monnie Gay will be present to talk story about how quilting has made a difference in her life. "When I was young, I hated quilting," said Gay. "However, little did I know the effects that quilting would have on my life for the next 50 years!"
When she was 19 years old, Gay fell in love. "Now I'm not sure that I was in love with the guy that I was to marry, but I sure fell in love with his grandparents."
They were up in age, 88 and 92, respectively, and Grandma Jackson was still quilting.
"Grandma made everyone a quilt top for their wedding, including one for me," said Gay.
"She collected fabric from clothes that had been made for me over the years by my Aunt Polly, who raised me, incorporating the fabric into the quilt pattern. With her gift, Grandma let us know that the quilt top was full of songs, prayers and praise," she said.
Grandma always spoke about the quilt top as if it were a wonderful friend to last through generations.
"This star pattern quilt is still in the family--with faded trim, some loose threads and many wonderful memories," said Gay, who intends to exhibit other memorable quilts along with this one.
"Be sure to come to the festival on the 22nd to see Aunt Polly's quilt displayed," she said. "My dear Aunt Polly passed away when she was 88 and I have the last quilt she made," said Gay. A star pattern with a twist, this exquisite quilt has a white background with the 24-point star pattern in beautiful teal, greens and blue.
Everyone is welcome to come view the quilts and share their stories as they enjoy the whole St. John's Festival Day. (For more information, read "St. John's 30th Annual Kula Festival" on page 9.)
The original purpose of raising funds for community outreach has been preserved as the proceeds are shared with different local nonprofits each year. This year, the funds will go to Neighbors Helping Neighbors and Friends of the Children's Justice Center.