I can hear joyous voices raised in song when I see an old church. A well-proportioned steeple reaching to the heavens is pleasing. Stained glass windows are nice. But even without those finer details, old churches thrill my soul. I know there are stories within those walls. Stories of peace and solace received there, of friendship and loving support in hard times, of comfort in grief. There are stories of gossip and scandal and intrigue, too.
We often stop the car on our backroad jaunts to photograph an old church. But on a recent Saturday, we went on an expedition with a local camera club to photograph a select group of historic churches in a rural county nearby. My husband has recently joined this group; thus the title of my latest quilt, Old Churches, New Friends.
Jim’s photos are of the highest resolution, with crisp details. I often print his photos on silk fabric which conveys this sharpness. But I wanted these photos to reflect the historic quality of the adventure, so I printed them on pieces of a vintage linen tablecloth, most of them in black and white. I loved the result – the coarseness of the fabric conveyed a grainy effect on the photos. Perfect.
I continued the primitive look by hand stitching the photos to another old piece of linen. The rough weave of this background fabric did not allow me to write on it successfully, so I printed the names of the churches on commercially prepared cotton fabric, and stitched memorable words using free motion stitching on the sewing machine.
Providence Baptist in Shady Dale was founded in 1810 and included some Revolutionary War soldiers as some of the first members. As I walked through the cemetery, I found a very old section and one grave with a magnificent cedar tree growing at its head. My thought was, “when this soldier died, he became a tree.” So, that photo grew into a tree on my quilt.
Hopewell Baptist Church was covered with a tarp as it is awaiting a new roof. But the architecture of it was amazing; not because of towers and turrets, but because of its simple beauty. The windows and shutters spoke volumes to me and to the other Sandy along on the trip. She and I photographed them from every angle and I drew sketches of them as we stood there sharing our love of their structure. Then we noticed the shape of the vent in the front of the church. Not the square, rectangle, or rhombus that is often the case, but a kite. So, a geometry discussion was included in the day as well.
The block on the outside of the quilt is an appliquéd version of one of the windows of that church. I made another one of these replicas for that week’s block in my journal quilt for 2106, Fifty-Two Wednesdays. That image seems to symbolize the day to me.
Since beginning work on Fifty-Two Tuesdays, I’ve wanted to make other journal quilts, some which chronicled a single trip, or a single day. This example will just say to others, “nice. They photographed some old churches.” But to me and to Jim, when we see it, we will remember the friends, the back roads, Queen Anne’s Lace blooming all along the roadsides, and fried chicken.
Details of quilt: Finished measurements are 17” x 38”. Vintage linen, commercial quilting cotton fabrics. Label is made from a vintage woman’s handkerchief. Hand stitching, machine stitching, free-motion quilting.
Another note: There is a website with beautiful photos and stories related to this adventure, Historic Rural Churches of Georgia. I’ve found details about some of the ones we’ve visited, and added to our list of “want to visit”, too.