Marquette, Marquette County, Michigan
62” x 80”
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, all rights reserved Michigan
State University Museum
In the late 1960s a small group of Marquette women came
together to make quilts for the needy. Initially, they made about
25 a year. Today the Messiah Quilters ship about 700 quilts a year
by boxcar to the Lutheran World Relief distribution center and make
a number of quilts for local organizations, charities, and fundraisers.
As of October, 2003, they had completed 11,233 quilts.
Every Thursday sixteen to twenty-four individuals, mostly women
and some men, meet in Magnuson Hall at the Messiah Lutheran Church.
Some participate only in the morning or the afternoon but many stay
the entire day. Other members of the group work out of their homes.
Each focuses on a specific part of the process: preparing fabric
for use; cutting, laying out, or sewing squares; preparing the lining
and the back; tying the quilt together; binding edges. More than
half the fabric used in the quilt top is recycled cloth; quilts
also are often lined and backed with old blankets, flannel sheets,
and other large pieces of recycled fabric. The recycled cloth is
acquired by donations from members and the community at large or
purchased with monetary donations. When cleaning closets or downsizing,
for example, local residents bring discarded clothing, sheets, and
drapes. Other quilters, who have accumulated more material than
they will ever use, donate part of their treasured fabric stash.
Messiah Quilters purchase new fabric on-sale and used clothing and
fabrics by the bagful at St. Vincent DePaul and at 50% off at the
The choice of available materials, timeline, and destination of
the quilt are factors that determine its appearance and thickness.
When it is known that the quilts will be used on the ground, the
first concern is to make a sturdy, warm covering. When the quilts
are made for a silent auction to raise money, however, the quilts
tend to be larger and from new fabrics.
Making quilts is a work of generosity and goodwill for the Messiah
Quilters. It also is a social time where they exchange news and
develop friendships. Each afternoon, the quilters take time for
coffee and food they bring from their kitchens. The Messiah Quilters
are recognized with a 2004 Michigan Heritage Award for their decades
of quilt making to help the needy.
In 2004, the Messiah Quilters received a Michigan