Pieces of tradition on display

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Perhaps nothing better tells the tale of the “Spirit of the West” better than the Quilt Show at First Presbyterian Church of Littleton, because each artifact has, at some point, embraced a little piece of the whole.

Quilts come through the ages as precious family heirlooms, symbols of warmth and comfort, intricate masterpieces of folk art. A bit of material pieced in might call up memories of a mother’s favorite Sunday dress or grandma’s baking apron, family gatherings or traditions.

“It’s amazing to me how I can be here for hours and hours and hours and then walk down an aisle and see something that I hadn’t seen before,” said Jenny Staritzky, who started the Western Welcome Week event 11 years ago. It’s grown to fill the church’s beautiful and historic sanctuary to overflowing with dozens of colorful quilts from generations young and old.

“Jesus said, ‘I will not leave you comfortless,” reminds Staritzky, and he certainly would find something to suit anyone in her show. From flowers to graphic patterns, children to kittens, antique cars to fishing, butterflies to giraffes, quilts reflect the personalities and the ages from whence they came.

One was made by Lakota Indians as a gift for a bereaved family. Many were made to welcome babies into the world, many to comfort the ailing or tragedy-stricken. One was made as a family tree, another incorporates a growing child’s infant attire. A brand-new one was on display in the church lobby, waiting as a surprise from a new mother-in-law to be discovered by the happy couple during their wedding rehearsal later that evening.

Staritzky says the show and its stories are truly a community event, with pieces on loan from individuals and quilting groups like Firehouse Quilts, which donates its work to comfort local children in crisis, and the church’s own Piecemakers.

“We just have a great time, getting a group of ladies together, talking and stitching,” said Blythe Lund. And it’s all for a good cause, as they auction the quilts to benefit various charities, she adds.

It’s not just ladies, either. A star of this year’s show was pieced by one very rugged-looking Jose Archuleta, notes Staritzky. And not all the ladies quilt – Staritzky herself only took one stab at it before deciding she was a better collector.

“If someone collects antique door stops, no one thinks they made them,” she laughs. “If someone collects art, no one asks if they painted it. If someone collects Corvettes, no one thinks they built them. I decided it’s OK to admire quilts, respect quilts and care for a collection.”

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