While we each react differently to tragedy, after Sept. 11 an unrelated army of passionate quilters focused their emotions on what they do best. They began making quilts.
They expressed their shock, their horror, their grief, their hope and their love for this country in pieces of cloth. They stitched their personal interpretations of the Stars and Stripes, the American eagle, the Statue of Liberty, even the collapsing World Trade Center towers.
Within a few days after the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., Houston quilting impresario Karey Bresenhan was online encouraging quilters wanting to piece together a response to the tragedy. Bresenhan promised a special exhibit of the works at the upcoming International Quilt Festival.
A new exhibit called America: From the Heart was quickly organized for the already jam-packed quilt festival that opens Wednesday night at George R. Brown Convention Center.
Bresenhan, who is president of Quilts Inc. and director of the festival -- which she originated in her Great Expectations Quilt Shop in the 1970s -- expected about 100 quilts to be submitted for the spontaneous exhibit. That was early October.
"We have more than 250 quilts that will make a wall of images and messages down the middle of the show, from one end of George R. Brown to the other. They have come from all kinds of people, from well-known artists to a fourth-grade class. It's going to be a very therapeutic exhibit," Bresenhan said.
"These quilters have poured out their feelings in these pieces," Ritter said, explaining that when setting up the display , earlier this week, "it was hard to keep from crying as we opened up each quilt."
"But," she added, "many express so much hope. Quilters tend to be very hopeful. Women have always used needles and cloth to express themselves." Ritter's quilt, New Tears, will be shown.
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