SIOUX CITY | An intricately designed quilt can illustrate the life of a family while the process of combining layers of fabric together can create a one-of-a-kind tapestry.
That was the idea behind the quilt designed for the Morningside College Betty Ling Tsang Fine Arts Series production of "Quilters" -- a musical being presented Thursday through Feb. 19 and Feb. 25 - 26 at Klinger-Neal Theatre, 3700 Peters Ave.
For the past two weeks, members of the Siouxland Samplers Quilt Guild have volunteered their time to make 60, 2-foot-by-2-foot quilt blocks. When combined with a muslin backing, the individual pieces will become part of a giant 20-foot-by-15-foot quilt backdrop for this production of the 1984 Tony Award-nominated show written by Molly Newman and Barbara Damashek.
"The best way to describe ('Quilters') is that it's a play featuring music," Randy Peters, the show's producer and artistic director for the Betty Ling Tsang Fine Arts Series, explained. "While there will be a few hymns and folk songs performed, the play mostly revolved around a pioneer woman and her six daughters."
Presented as a series of short vignettes, the show uses the quilt blocks to signify a different aspect of frontier life. Illustrating girlhood, marriage, childbirth, spinsterhood, twisters, fire, illness and death, the patches will ultimately be pulled together to form one dramatic tableau.
According to Siouxland Samplers Quilt Guild's Jane Vereen, creating pioneer era art was challenging but she seldom says no to a quilting opportunity.
Employed as a quilting instructor at Heart & Hands Dry Goods, she originally took up quilting as it was making a comeback in the early 1980s.
"(Quilting) gave me a fun outlet when I needed one," Vereen said. "It also became a relaxing hobby when I was busy with work and school."
Zelma Abbott can identify with Vereen's story.
A fellow member of the guild, Abbott took up quilting in 1991.
"Quilting is my obsession but I've been sewing since I was 5 years old," the now 67-year-old Sioux Cityan said.
Seeing the quilt blocks for the first time, Peters was amazed at their intricacies.
"This is so pretty!" he said, sorting through the blocks. "Look at that color! It's going to look incredible on stage!"
"Quilters" director Taylor Clemens is also incredulous at the elaborate designs created on pieces of fabric.
"It really is an art form," Clemens, a Morningside assistant theater professor, said. "Prior to doing research for this show, I knew nothing about quilting. Now, I'm a big fan."
Would he ever take up the hobby himself?
"No way," Clemens said as Abbott, Vereen and other members of Siouxland Samplers arranged the quilt blocks. "I'll happily leave that up to the experts."