We have quite a few quilter fans along the West Coast, from California up to Washington. We like to think it harks back to the westward trails that have their origins here in Kansas City … the Santa Fe, the California and the Oregon trails, to be precise.
There’s a well-known stopping point for those trails – well-known at least in these parts – called the Shawnee Indian Mission. The brick compound, nestled in the small suburb of Fairway, Kansas, used to be a school for children from the Shawnee and Delaware Indian nations, from 1839 to 1854.
Though a school, the spot also was a supply point for travelers headed west on the trails.
The area holds a spot in my heart because I once lived nearby and often took my dog for walks along the stream that curves through the grounds. I used to imagine pioneer wagons rolling through the slight hills, before trees were felled and houses built. I also imagined Indian children, forced to conform to the white man’s ways.
Today, the site has been well maintained – a bit of “country” in the metro.
Normally tranquil, the mission this last weekend was bustling with its annual fall festival.
And there, in the North Building, were quilts – and plenty of them.
The Starlight Quilters Guild has camped out at the fall festival for close to 20 years, according to its members. The guild, which meets at nearby Countryside Christian Church, uses the festival to show off its members’ talents. And its quilts were in full force. Dozens upon dozens were on display, and the crowds were thick.
What struck me were the ages of the visitors. Sure, there were veteran quilters moving through the building, voting on their favorites. But I also saw many younger folks there as well, impressed with the designs and talking up the workmanship.
It made me wonder: Do kids get tired of the fast pace of their lives — electronic multi-tasking and all – and, when given the opportunity, find refuge in the art of the past?
I think so, for some. Everyone needs variety. Luckily, here, that’s how knowledge lives on.
And in this case it was doubly heartening. Ever since we published Barbara Brackman’s “Prairie Flower” in 2000, we’ve recognized that part of the soul of Kansas City Star Quilts is tied to the westward expansion of the nation — an expansion along the trails that reached to Santa Fe, New Mexico; to the gold fields of California; and to Oregon City, Oregon, just south of Portland.
It’s possible these young folks have, right now, little appreciation for the history of quilting along these trails. But that’s OK. I’m guessing the bug caught a few of them, and from that will come a desire to learn – and future quilters.
Until then, we have the Starlight Quilters Guild to thank for their efforts … to keep the flame alive.
Doug Weaver is the publisher of Kansas City Star Quilts.