CORNELIUS — St. Alexander Parish here unveiled a new art fixture — a quilted tapestry — to adorn the church’s back wall. The art was about a year in the making, begun after the parish’s design committee wanted to purchase a large tapestry for the space but soon discovered the cost was far more than the parish could afford. That’s where Mary Kline came in. Kline liked to sew and was asked to create the wall hanging. Emily Lux, a local artist who also painted the large mural outside the Cornelius church, was asked to create the design. Kline then took that design and put it to fabric, estimating that hundreds of hours were spent bringing the idea from paper to cloth.

“I have never done a project of this scale and was not certain how the colors and fabric designs would work up high on the wall,” said Kline. The project was so large that Kline had to rent a commercial quilting machine for the project.

The tapestry hangs in three panels, two side panels measuring 10-by-3 feet and one central panel measuring 10-by-12. It features Jesus with his arms reaching out to a crowd of varying ages and skin tone.

“We wanted the quilt to represent our entire parish,” said Kline, pointing out that the parish is much more than just Anglo and Hispanic. And so parishioners were invited to donate fabric or garments representing their family or cultural backgrounds. And they did. Fabric came in from or as a representation of Peru, Holland, India, the Navajo nation, Mexico, Scotland, the Philippines, Hungary, Tanzania, Ecuador, the Jewish faith and a piece of fabric that looked exactly like the same plaid shirt a parishioner’s father wore every day.

“Fabric included new yardage, scraps from old sewing projects, blouses, skirts, a Mexican cowboy shirt, shawls, serviette, purse, pillow case, a bolt of muslin for the backing donated by a friend whose beloved mother loved to quilt, a man’s vest from Mexico and yardage a visiting mom purchased for the project in Mexico,” said Kline.

If a piece of donated fabric couldn’t be used to create the figures or background of the tapestry, it was incorporated into the panels’ colorful borders.

The pieces were all put to good use, some even being donated in seemingly divine ways. Kline recounted one tale of having all of the pieces chosen for the figures and colors, except one. She auditioned many pieces for the spot, but nothing was right. So Kline wrote up a shopping list to purchase the color she needed.

“The list was actually in my hand when the phone rang,” she remembered. It was the parish office, saying a new piece of fabric was just dropped off for the quilt. Kline drove straight to the office. The donated fabric was a scarf made from the exact color she was wanting. Kline credits the Holy Spirit for the donation.

“The folk art quilt is a good representation of our parish family.  We are not fancy. We are humble, hardworking people,” Kline concluded.

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org