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Quilt stitched from pants Mormon women wore to church

First Published      Last Updated Oct 23 2013 12:45 pm

On Dec. 16, 2012, hundreds of Mormon women strolled into their weekly LDS services wearing trousers instead of the typical skirts, and now 81 pairs of those pants — plus 53 purple ties, shirts or other items men and children wore in support of the women — have been made into a quilt.

And that quilt might end up in the Smithsonian.

The symbolic effort, known as "Wear Pants to Church Day," was the brainchild of Utahn Stephanie Lauritzen, who said at the time she "wanted to do something that would be a sign of solidarity and visibility for those Mormon women who don't feel included or accepted in the church."

It would, she said, "show other women that Mormon feminists are here [at services]."

The simple gesture garnered national headlines, including in The New York Times, and prompted an American historian to suggest that the Smithsonian might want to memorialize the feminist effort by showcasing Lauritzen's pants.

Instead, the group sent out a call for participants to send the clothes they wore that day to Nikki Hunter, who would use them to make a quilt.

Hunter, a longtime quilter in Emmett, Idaho, originally thought she would make a more traditional patchwork quilt, with squares and triangles of the fabrics. But she quickly realized she would get a lot of black, gray, tan and purple — women were, after all, wearing dress slacks — and that wouldn't be a very colorful showpiece.

One Sunday night — after receiving all the clothes from 21 states, two Canadian provinces, England and Australia — she saw in a dream a sunrise coming through the trees.

"When I woke up, I knew what it needed to look like," Hunter said Tuesday. "I made the whole thing as an appliqué, which I had never done before. It came together without a lot of tears and mistakes; I really felt kind of guided."

The quilt, titled "Sunday Morning," depicts a group of dark-hued trees, growing beside a road and hills, set against a purple sky and rising sun.

"The symbol of a grove of trees — as both very Mormon and mythically and biblically tied to the divine feminine — was very apparent to me," Hunter said, "as was the idea of 'standing together' in the strong vertical lines of the trees."

She worked with various shades of purple, from lavender to eggplant to mauve, to create a harmonious image.

"This reminded me of the purpose of Pants Day — conceived not as a protest but as an outreach toward those who felt marginalized or misfit — showing that the differences between us don't have to be distracting or discarded," Hunter said. "The beauty and strength of the church is that everyone can have a place and make the whole more vibrant."

The sun, she said, came from a little girl's dress, symbolizing the involvement of whole families — and the next generation.

It took more than 150 hours to complete the 91-by-63-inch quilt, she said. It has now been shown in several venues.

No word yet on whether the showcase Washington, D.C., museum is interested.

Peggy Fletcher Stack