by Suzanne Labry
San Antonio’s Tricentennial Celebrated with Special Quilt
San Antonio, Texas is among the oldest continually inhabited cities in the United States, and in 2018, the “Villa de Béxar” (as the founding Spanish explorers called it), celebrated its 300th birthday.
Originally settled as a religious and colonial outpost, today the city is known for its many historic sights, including the Alamo and other missions, its diverse culture, its vibrant arts scene, and its innovative cuisine. Numerous activities marked the tricentennial, and one of those was the creation of a commemorative quilt.
At the beginning of the year, Jennifer “Jen” Nicolella and her staff at Abby’s Attic Sewing and Craft Studio began inviting the public to participate in making the six-foot high by ten-foot wide quilt that celebrates San Antonio’s history as well as its present. Sarah Hood, an artist who teaches at the studio, came up with the quilt’s design, which features the city’s skyline and several of its iconic landmarks silhouetted against a Texas sunset. “Sarah is a magician with color and design,” Jennifer says. “The quilt really captures the city in a unique way.”
For construction, the quilt was divided into columns made up of 5½-inch square blocks. People from throughout the community came to Abby’s Attic to learn about the project and contribute a block. Those participating were given a block on which to embroider whatever they wanted that described something about what San Antonio meant to them—from family names, to notable city sights such the rose window in one of the local missions, to state symbols such as the bluebonnet. The finished quilt had 416 blocks. “Our only restriction was that anything stitched on a block had to be G-rated,” Jen laughs.
Most of the fabric for the quilt was donated and blocks and supplies were provided to participants for free. Stitching was done in the same color as the fabric of the block, so that the overall effect is a tone-on-tone texturing of the surface of the finished quilt. Participants came from all over the city and represented all different ages and ethnic groups. “We had a real span of generations,” Jen continues. “People from as young as six to as old as 80 all contributed a block.”
When asked what prompted her to start such a large public undertaking, Jen was quick to reply. “When I started my business, I was hoping that it would become a place where people would come in, hang out, and get to know their neighbors. The tricentennial quilt has really been a fulfillment of that desire. It was so wonderful when people came in, sat down, and started working on a block. They put their phones away and started talking to one another. They really got absorbed in what they were doing. Before they knew it, two or three hours had passed and they only intended to stay for a few minutes. Handwork can bring people together and it was just fully satisfying to me when I saw the community being tied together through something like this quilt.”
On December 6, 2018, the San Antonio Tricentennial Quilt was presented to Mayor Ron Nirenberg at City Hall in front of the entire City Council and a large assembly of spectators. Following the presentation, the mayor thanked Jennifer and her staff for their effort in making the quilt, and indicated that he would find a home for it on the walls of the City Council Chambers.
Jennifer Nicolella, the owner of Abby’s Attic Sewing and Craft Studio, presented the San Antonio Tricentennial Quilt to Mayor Ron Nirenberg on December 6, 2018.
Abby’s Attic staffers Miranda Harris and Emily Bruno displayed the San Antonio Tricentennial Quilt at City Council Chambers during the formal presentation to the city.