The Quilters of St. Mary's Church
Lake Leelanau, Leelanau County, Michigan
88” x 96”
Photo by KEVA, all rights reserved Michigan State
The Quilters of St. Mary's Church in Lake Leelanau have
worked as a group since the 1920s. Both quilting and church participation
were long-established practices in the county. Many area quilters
gathered neighbors to help them finish their quilts; they often
made two identical quilts, donating one to the church and keeping
the other for family use. Originally drawn together at these all-day
quilting bees, members of The Quilters of St. Mary's Church learned
piecing and quilting as young girls from mothers and grandmothers
who were among Leelanau County's first white settlers.
Organized as a quilting group around 1928, St. Mary's Quilters
met weekly in members' homes at first, later in the Lake Leelanau
school, then in the church basement. In the 1950s and 1960s, the
group numbered more than 40 active members, and their weekly meetings
frequently needed three quilting frames to accommodate all the workers.
An average quilting meeting took several hours and included a potluck
meal. Occasional card games served as respites from the painstaking,
precise needlework, and one member recounted that quiet afternoons
of quilting were highlighted when tiny, elderly Martha Plamondon
perched on a stool and sang Polish and American songs.
Members of St. Mary's Quilters estimate they have made more than
1,000 quilts for raffles or as door prizes for a variety of parish
functions in the last 60 years. Many of their quilts incorporate
appliqued designs featuring cherries, the major crop of the region.
Although age and the increase in the number of women who need to
work outside the home have diminished their number in recent years,
the quilters still actively pursue their quilting and provide a
source of income for parish and school. Their quilts are well known
in the county, and their familiar Cherry Quilts are available for
sale to the public every spring. Today as in the past, The Quilters
of St. Mary's Church concentrate their efforts on producing functional
quilts--warm washable bed covers intended for daily use.
In 1989, the Quilter's of St. Mary's Church received a Michigan