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Friday, March 4, 2011

Quilts Fill Church Spaces, Delight Visitors

Quilts Fill Church Spaces, 
Delight Visitors:
Southport Congregational 
hosts quilt show Mar. 4 & 5
(Posted to March 4)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – On its own, the historic church with its tall spire and soaring ceilings is an impressive sight. Dress it up with scores of colorful quilts and you’ve really got something to behold.

On Friday March 4, Southport Congregational Church at 524 Pequot Ave. hosted the opening day of a two-day quilt exhibit called “Fabrics and Fabrications”. The ninth annual show features more than 150 quilts, a special exhibit of quilted apparel and a boutique offering small quilted items and accessories.

All proceeds of the event, which returns Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., will be donated to three deserving local non-profit organizations, which include the Make-A-Wish Foundation of CT, Emerge Inc. and Project Learn. Previous exhibits have generated over $200,000 to benefit area children, women and their families through these organizations.

Representatives from the non-profits thanked event supporters at an opening reception held the previous evening. This included Donna Jackson, co-founder of Emerge, which provides transitional housing for survivors of domestic violence. “The quilt show is a lifeline for Emerge,” said Jackson, “helping us subsidize our income amid funding cuts. Their hard work and commitment is just phenomenal.”

Kim Smith, Development Director at Make-A-Wish, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions, was present as well. “We can’t do what we do without special friends like the quilt committee. The doctors provide the medicine and we provide the magic for our Wish kids through our generous supporters.”

Joining Smith was the Patrick family of Darien, who are past beneficiaries of Make-A-Wish. Their son Jay, now 15 and doing well, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005. Make-A-Wish fulfilled his dream of experiencing Yankees spring training in Florida. “In the middle of a difficult health battle, Make-A-Wish enabled us to enjoy ourselves as a family. It was a great relief,” said Jay’s mother, Elsie.

The exhibit itself attracted a steady flow of enthusiasts, who were met by church staff, but also by some of the quilters. Virginia Avery was one of these craftsmen, on hand to speak about her quilted apparel, of which 10 one-of-a-kind examples were shown.

“I’ve been doing this for about 40 years,” Avery said. “I happen to be a jazz musician and that inspired my piece ‘Don’t Shoot the Piano Player’, which features outlines of my hands and an authentic sized keyboard stitched onto the garment. Other pieces have been inspired by famous designers, like Koos Van Denaaker, who have techniques that I’ve incorporated into my work. All of my garments have appeared in international fashion shows and follow various themes.”

Event co-founder Judy Reynolds spoke about the event’s inception. “Ten years ago, I exhibited in a quilt show at a congregational church in Cohasset, MA. Cecily Zerega joined me and we were both so inspired by the event that we wanted to bring something similar to our community. Our first event, held in 2003, featured 150 quilts, which became the standard in terms of the number displayed. Quilts are never shown twice here, so over time over 1,000 unique quilts have been exhibited.”

Browsing quilts displayed in the church’s Chapel, Susan Slater of Woodbridge, with her Milford friend Wilma Sielert, said, “We’ve both been quilting for over 20 years. It’s enjoyable to see the quilts people create, their use of color and design. Quilting is very uplifting. It gives you a lot of joy. One of the best things about it is the people you meet – you develop lifelong friendships.”

Eyeing quilts draped over benches in the Sanctuary, Marcy Clair of Shelton said, “I’ve been quilting for eight years. I still consider myself a beginner. I love to see the old quilts, get inspired and see the various handwork. A lot of these took years to make.”

Standing nearby, Westporter Lisa Krosse, with friend Michelle Lieberson, said, ‘I work at a textile conservation workshop in South Salem, so I’m around a lot of old quilts. They are my favorites. These here are in beautiful shape and involve so much intricate and precise handwork. They’re very impressive, especially given the limited resources the quilters had.”

Manning the boutique set-up with Joan Huntington, Susan Kunkel said, “The boutique is a popular part of the exhibit. We’ve been blessed with 15 women volunteers who have contributed their handwork including children’s backpacks, knitted baby items, mini quilts, knitted hats, potholders and even iPad and cellphone covers.”

Reflecting on the exhibit, event co-founder Zerega said, “It’s truly amazing to see all this come together, and gratifying to see so many people really appreciating what we have here.”

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