First Baptist Church, Huntsville, AL
Monday, May 23, 2016
Unique 'Quilts' Help Celebrate 200 Years of Huntsville First Baptist
Unique 'Quilts Help Celebrate 200 Years of First Baptist Church
By Joe Jones (November 2008)
Combining skills common to frontier housewives with those of modern Huntsville technologists, a group of Huntsville First Baptist members, mostly women, created unique wall hangings for use as central decorations for the church's bicentennial celebration. They designed and fabricated huge "quilts" that were displayed on both sides of the tall organ pipes which adorn the front of the 65-foot -tall sanctuary during the bicentennial celebration. They aren't quilts in a conventional sense. Rather they are 12x 18-foot quilted hangings that mimic the rainbow in color and complement the bright colors of the 32-foot-high stained glass windows that line the sanctuary walls.
First Baptist was formed June 3, 1809, and is the oldest missionary Baptist body in Alabama, a decade older than the state. The theme of the year-long 200th birthday observance was "The Footprints Continue;' which was artistically depicted on the hangings as human footprints of increasing size from one quilt to the other. The theme wording, along with the biblical reference, appeared on banners apart from the quilted hangings. The idea of the quilts originated with Glenn Brown, a member of the bicentennial celebration committee who has a designer's eye. He presented his thought to Janis Warman, a church member who is known as an experienced quilter and who crafted banners for the church in the past. They devised a design that would complement the sanctuary and particularly the dominant colors. "Glenn designed this on his computer and selected the proper colors, then we measured the sanctuary spaces available and determined the appropriate sizes,” Mrs. Warman said.
With the help of her grandson, William Bugg, footprints were designed in proper prospective. "With Glenn's design I sat down with large graph paper and put the design into 12-inch squares, making the quilts 12 squares across and 18 squares vertically,' she said. Next she took the design to a professional machine quilter to assure that the unusual size could be accommodated. From past experience she knew that cotton fabric for the top and backing would be best, with batting in between. Volunteer workers were solicited, and many offered fabrics from their own collections, while other pieces were purchased.
A work space in the church's Christian Life Center was reserved for up to four weeks. Stitching began on October 13, 2008, and seventeen days later that important phase of the work was completed on the second and final quilt. The quilts were then taken to a professional machine quilter who created the design of the footprints on her computer and stitched them on the quilts. Seventeen First Baptist women participated in the project, accruing a total of twelve hundred hours of work in the process, which included the binding and the placement of sleeves on the backs for hanging purposes.
Principal workers on the project, in addition to Janis Warman, were Hannah Alderson, Janice Allison, Ann Bailey, Kay Warman Bugg, Denise Carter, Joyce Freisen, Carelese Hinton, Beth Hoffman, Deborah Mason, Hallie McDavid, Linda Nowlin, Mary Ann Prince, Bettye Pugh, Sara Stokes, Libby Whisenant, and Pat Williams. Others who helped with supplies and provided "wonderful goodies" were Ann Clinton, Amy Walker, and Mary Reeder.
For posterity's sake, a fabric label is located on the back of each quilt, briefly telling the story of the project and naming the participants.