Quilts for Keweenaw kids

Local woman, quilters group make handmade items

Kathy Peters of Marquette Township, a member of the Marquette County Quilters Association, displays a quilt and sweater she made that will be used to wrap a teddy bear. Some custom-made bears crafted by association members have made their way to the Copper Country for youngsters impacted by the June flooding. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — A little comfort can go a long way for a child caught in the middle of a natural disaster.

Kathy Peters of Marquette Township, a member of the Marquette County Quilters Association, is using her skills as a knitter and quilter to make life a bit easier for youths living in the Copper Country, which was hit in mid-June with massive flooding, resulting in major infrastructure and residential damage.

Peters isn’t the only quilter helping out with this project, as well as similar endeavors for local kids. In fact, with the help of a grant from the Rotary Club of Marquette, the MCQA purchased 84 stuffed animals — 48 bears of various sizes, 12 dogs and 24 mermaids — with quilters knitting sweaters for the 36 bears that didn’t come with clothing. They also made small quilts for the other animals and mermaids.

Peters’ home along Brickyard Road is tidy, rustic and cozy, but a visitor can tell the owner is into sewing; a sewing machine bears a prominent place in one room, and swatches of fabric are common, not to mention other finished quilted items that adorn her house.

One of the items in her house is a small pile of very tiny sweaters — the teddy bear outfits.

Handmade teddy bear sweats and quilts were created by Peters. (Journal photo by Christy Bleck)

“You start with a little bit of leftover yarn and then you run out, and then you have to buy more,” Peters said.

However, the finished results were worth it, with the sweaters created in various colors and patterns.

Recently, some of the animals wrapped in small quilts were donated to children in the Houghton area who were impacted by the flood. The remaining animals and mermaids, also wrapped in quilts, will be given to local charities, including Goodwill and the St. Vincent de Paul Societies in Marquette, Ishpeming and Gwinn, for distribution to children in need during the holidays.

Also, the association is sewing 50 to 70 zippered cross-body purses for distribution at the same time.

In June 2017, the MCQA delivered 36 “nooker quilts” to Bay Cliff Health Camp.

Peters has been quilting for decades, so she’s mastered the craft, having made quilts for her 15 grandchildren, and each of the six families.

“I’ve always sewed, so you always have leftover fabric,” she said. “So, it’s a good excuse.”

It’s that not wanting to waste fabric that’s been so much a part of quilting history.

The teddy bear quilts are small, almost like crib quilts, except they are made to cradle the small stuffed animals that wear the hand-knit sweaters.

Talk about a custom-made item.

“With the kids up in the Keweenaw, we didn’t know,” Peters said. “Some of them might need a little extra comforting.”

That would be understandable, since images of the devastated landscape in the Copper Country are proof that some youngsters’ homes — their security home bases — have been damaged.

Peters also pointed out the project doesn’t necessarily involve the individual quilters having to meet as a group to create the items.

Whether they meet as a group, or knit or quilt individually, some skill is needed.

Making the tiny sweaters isn’t difficult but it’s not necessarily that easy either.

“You have to have the right size needles and you have to do it,” Peters said. “Then the next set of bears they got was a little smaller, so we had to adjust the size of the sweater.”

According to the MCQA’s website at marquettequilters.com, the Teddy Bear Project is an important part of the charity work done each year by MCQA.

“Each year the Guild purchases stuffed animals, which are then dressed and wrapped lovingly in a small quilt and/or sweater by guild members, wrapped in bags, tied with a Christmas ribbon and donated to local charities,” the website reads.

The website even includes instructions for making teddy bear hats and scarves for non-knitters.

Since she still has plenty of leftover fabric in her house, Peters plans to make more quilts.

“It’s basically a nice thing to do to get rid of some fabric that you don’t know what to do with,” Peters said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.