On September 16, York Public Library (YPL) will unveil a quilt made by local quilters to commemorate the Library’s Centennial. The Library has already enjoyed several events to mark its 100th Anniversary, but this project will carry the celebration into the future with a permanent installation of the quilt above the Wheeler Room in the main lobby.
Library Board of Trustees member Julie Steedman conceived of the idea and brought her decades of experience as a needle woman to the planning and execution of the project.
The first step was to find a 7’x 8’ spot for the quilt’s installation. Next, local textile artist Sarah Haskell offered to articulate basic principles that the quilters should follow to produce a coherent design. Julie then contacted a dozen local people with experience in sewing and quilting to brainstorm plans for the designs. Finally, Betsey Telford-Goodwin of York’s Rocky Mountain Quilts donated printed fabrics from 100 years ago that the quilters could incorporate in their squares.
The quilters proposed making their squares to represent aspects of the Library—some captured how the library building looks, some portrayed library patrons, some celebrated library programs. Because of COVID limitations, Julie met with individuals one on one, by phone or email. Each quilter designed her own theme for a square, keeping within specified dimensions. As much as everyone wanted to meet as a group, the quilters all developed their squares separately.
Once COVID restrictions were eased, the quilters were finally able to meet. Completed squares were brought to the Library, where four large tables were set up to make a big surface, and the quilters played with changing arrangements until satisfied with the placement of each square within the whole. For the first time, we saw our work come together and could appreciate it as a complete composition! Betsey Telford-Goodwin donated the fabric to join the squares—called sashing—and another fabric for the backing. She arranged for the labor to do the final assembly, sewing together all the parts.
The centerpiece of the quilt is a portrait of the York Public Library. Designed by Nancy Morgan, it shows the front of the library in its landscaped setting as patrons approach the front door. Nancy, a fabric artist, is known for her realistic portrayals in fabric of local buildings, riverscapes and streetscapes. An echo of this one is the image of the old library building on York Street in a square by Susan Mancinelli. The Library’s setting is featured in Ellie Butler’s square, “Green Heron.” This beloved bird frequents the small pond behind the Library.
The top of the quilt is framed by Julie’s “Musical Notes” square. It represents the many concerts that have taken place over the years at the Library. At the bottom of the quilt is a row of books on a shelf. The artist, Sudie Blanchard, has twice retired from jobs at the York Library. The books she sewed into her border even have titles embroidered onto their spines.
Two of the quilt’s squares refer to geography—Maine’s and the World’s. “The Old Maine State Flag” was provided by Bethany Field of the Maine Flag Company. The continents of the world, in a square called “World Diversity, Celebrated,” were sewn by Rosalind Revilock-Frost. Rosalind calls our attention to the diversity of the peoples and the vibrant range of cultures on our earth.
Other squares present more abstract images that nonetheless capture notions of the Library’s purpose and mission. Katie Koeze’s traditional quilt motif, “The Mariner’s Compass,” reflects York’s maritime history and coastal location. Ellie Butler’s “Pineapple square” highlights the library’s history of welcome and hospitality. As the Library’s programs continue to broaden, deepen and diversify, our commitment to community building is stronger than ever.
Several quilt blocks represent our Library patrons. Windy Burns’ “Story Hour” shows a seated woman reading to two children and a dog. Diana Parton’s “The Book Borrower” remembers her son and all young children who love reading and who feed their curiosity at the library. Betsy Cromley’s “Woven Together” is formed of interleaved hands in five different skin colors. Its design features hand cutouts by a group of teens who often visit the Library after the school day is done.
The last group of squares convey the multiple facilities, programs, and tools that the library provides. “The Checkerboard,” by Mary-Anne Szeniawski (herself an avid game-player), stands for the numerous games and puzzles available to Library visitors. The Library’s 20-year history of showing art exhibits is commemorated in Betsy Cromley’s “Beach on an Easel.” “The Computer,” by Ellie Butler, represents the growing digital facilities that are available to Library patrons.
The Centennial Quilt project has given us a creative way to pay homage to the York Public Library in honor of its 100 years of service to this community. We have derived much pleasure in making it– and hope it brings you joy as well. We hope, too, that you will join us for a reception, refreshments, and the “unveiling” of the quilt on Friday, September 16th at 4:00 pm.
BY ELIZABETH CROMLEY
This article originally appeared on seacoastonline.com. Read it here.