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story.lead_photo.caption Courtesy Photo Quilters at Son's Chapel east of Fayetteville designed and created these "barn quilts" -- quilt blocks on wood -- to let passersby know what happens inside the historic 1930s church.

"The thing we hear most frequently is 'I've driven past for years and never knew what was inside,'" says Mary Scott, one of the quilters who gather weekly at Son's Chapel east of Fayetteville. "We're trying to show them what we do."

This weekend marks the official debut of a set of eight "barn quilts" displayed outside the 1930s stone church on Arkansas 45. Like the church itself, they are the creation of the women of the community.


Christmas Sing-Along

WHEN — 2-4 p.m. Sunday

WHERE — Son’s Chapel, 5480 E. Mission Boulevard in Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — Email

BONUS — Son’s Chapel will also collect non-perishable food items Sunday for the Cooperative Emergency Outreach pantry.

Son's Chapel gets its name not from Christ but from the Son family, who in 1852 sold for $2 "two acres and 117 poles for use of the Methodist Protestant Church ... for the benefit of said church forever," a history published in 1937 reads. On that property was built a log chapel, which the community eventually outgrew, Son's Chapel historian Trisha Beland explained in a 2016 interview.

"Women of the community got together and decided they would form a club to raise money to build a bigger nondenominational chapel and community building," she said. "They had pie sales and contracted to provide lunches at cattle sales, made quilts, so it took a long time. As they had the money, they'd do a little bit more. Mostly it was the husbands and a few hired people who actually built the chapel." And that explains the "giving credit to 'God and our husbands' on a plaque at the back of building."

Over the years, the women of the Rural Builders club have continued to be the ones to keep the building -- and the community -- solid. Every Tuesday, rain or shine, about three dozen women meet. Their stated purpose is to quilt -- and they do. But "it's the camaraderie and the friendships you form while you're sitting there and visiting over the quilt frame" that keeps many of them, including Scott, coming back. Raised in Kansas, but with a family connection to Iowa, she knew about barn quilts and suggested making some.

According to another quilter, Rita Zelei, barn quilts -- quilt block designs painted on barns and other outbuildings -- date back to the mid-1800s, "originating among the German and Swiss who settled in the Pennsylvania Dutch region."

"They painted symbols on barns to celebrate their heritage, using simple patterns and traditional folk art," she says. "Credit for the [modern] concept and popularity of 'barn quilts' is given to Donna Sue Groves, who in 2001 painted a quilt on their family's barn in Adams County, Ohio. She wanted to honor her mother, Maxine, and their Appalachian heritage, as well as beautify the plainness of the barn's exterior." And a trend was born, inspiring "quilt trails" throughout Middle America.

Scott, artist Laurie Foster and other quilters designed the Son's Chapel blocks, which are free-standing, then Scott cut and primed the wood, and together they painted the designs using exterior house paint. She expects them to last for quite some time, based on a set she created for her home in Colorado, where they've been displayed for over three years and "show no signs of wear or tear."

"We might change the designs as time goes by," she says.

NAN Religion on 12/01/2018

Print Headline: 'What we do'

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