Timely stitches of master quilters produce Centennial quilt

Martha Hershberger and Faith Penner stitch on the Hesston College centennial quilt

Martha (Buckwalter) ’48, Hershberger, of Hesston, and her daughter, Faith (Hershberger) ’74, Penner, of Harper, Kan., drew their inspiration from the Kansas prairie and from Hesston College graphic designer Nancy Miller’s design for the college’s centennial theme, “Living the Vision” as they worked together to create a commissioned centennial quilt.

The result, a triptych—three panels representing the past, present, and future of Hesston College—is a vibrant piece of art, featuring the brilliant colors of the sunrise and sunset, golden heads of wheat, and green and brown-patterned appliquéd representations of the fertile prairie soil against a black background which is quilted with bronze thread. The triptych, which is about 150 inches wide, will be unveiled Homecoming Weekend.

Hershberger and Penner have contributed many quilted works of art to the Pleasant Valley Mennonite Church in Harper. “(Quilting) is something we really enjoy. It’s special to do this together,” Penner said.

Gloria (Bontrager) ’56 Hostetler, of Harper, helped with the quilting. The women did lap quilting on different panels of the triptych in their own homes; nevertheless, their quilting stitches look identical.

For the centennial quilt, the mother-daughter team created their own freehand quilting pattern, which includes swirls in the body of the quilt to represent the swirling Kansas wind.

Penner said it’s hard to think about Kansas without thinking of the sky and the prairie with its wheat and grasses. “We really wanted to capture that in the quilt,” she said.

The college is a living, changing organism, not any more static than the prairie, Hershberger said.

The college seal, with an open Bible and the motto, “The truth shall make you free” is embroidered on the center of the third panel.

“The seal centers the institution,” Hershberger said, noting that Bible-centered truth is not only the foundation, but is also fundamental for the present and future of Hesston College.