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Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo of the Messiah Quilters sharing a meal
Photo by Christine Saari

Photo of the Messiah Quilters tying a quilt Photo by Christine Saari

Photo of the Messiah Quilters packing quilts Photo by Christine Saari

Photo of the Messiah Lutheran Church Photo by Christine Saari

Messiah Quilters
2004 awardee, Marquette (Marquette County), quilters

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 Goodwill Industries.

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.

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