There were just two of us for Sunday school so we didn’t have class at my little church this past Sunday, but I learned a lesson anyway: (K)not all sermons come from the pulpit. When I got to church on Sunday morning and it became apparent only one other of the usual five or six women in our class was going to show, I contemplated going home for more coffee and Sunday New York Times. But before I could head for the door, our minister asked the two of us (our church is small so there’s no place to hide!) to finish a prayer quilt from the women’s group. The quilt is for a church member who’s fighting cancer, and our minister wanted to bless it at the service and deliver it that afternoon. My brain said, “But I have no crafting skill whatsoever and besides, I want Sunday Styles and another cappuccino,” but my mouth said, “Sure! Of course! Love to!” That happens a lot at church. But I was so glad — this time, at least — that my mouth paid no attention to my brain. Turned out all the quilt needed was tying some knots, and I’m very good at tangling things up. Our church women’s group makes these prayer quilts for people who are sick and in need — when you tie one of knots you say a prayer for the intended recipient, who then gets to wrap up in cozy warmth and love. As we tied and talked, I suddenly sort of time-traveled back to old-fashioned quilting bees, where women gathered to care for each other through fabric and friendship, and I finally understood the timeless power of needle and thread. To make it even better, this quilt was for the husband of a friend of mine. I sat beside her during the church service. When our pastor blessed the quilt and announced it was for her husband, I got to hand her a tissue and give her a hug. Definitely worth the loss of a second cappuccino.
Some of the best art comes from needle, thread and fabric. Prime example? The annual Quilt Challenge from the Shoals Piecemakers Quilt Guild. It’s on display now at Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts in Florence, Alabama, and it’s a definite must-see. Every year, guild members challenge themselves to create quilts using a different theme. This year’s is “My Quilting Inspiration.” Each quilt must portray the theme and use at least one traditional quilt block. Guild members choose best of show, best use of theme and other awards, but visitors to the exhibit choose the winner of the People’s Choice Award by voting for their favorite quilt. And it’s a tough choice this year. The walls of the Kennedy-Douglass gallery practically glow with these warm and intrically quilted pieces. Every year I’m amazed at the talent and skill of these quilters who create out of their imaginations and bits of cloth. How do they do that? I can barely figure out how to hem a pair of pants. And here’s the other thing. When you first meet some of these quilters, you might make the mistake of thinking they are your typical small-town, down-home, Southern moms and grandmas — and you would be wrong. These women are fierce and feisty artists who stitch their hopes and dreams and memories and stories into works the rest of us can only admire. We’re just lucky they’re willing to share with us. The exhibit is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays through Dec. 18. Admission is free. Call 256.760.6379 or visit http://www.kennedydouglasscenter.org/ for details. And while you’re in downtown Florence, don’t forget to wander around. Go visit the two lion mascots on the campus of the University of North Alabama. Grab some coffee, lunch and sweet treats at McGraw’s, Rivertown and Coffee-ol-ogy coffee shops. Dip bread in oil and herbs at Ricatoni’s or chips in salsa at Rosie’s. Have a Chicago-style hot dog or a thick and juicy steak. Shop for clothes, gifts, wine, furniture, jewelry and antiques. Meet artists and fashion designers. Check out Florence landmarks such as the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library and Pope’s Tavern Museum. Stroll down historic Wood Avenue and Walnut Street. And go see the quilts.