Michigan Heritage Awards
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Nomination Form (word)
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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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