Quilters group marks 35 years

Pictured is the 1982 WLUC-TV6 “Someplace Special” quilt winning blocks made by Emma Johnson, Emma Koski, Mabel Patz, Alma Swanson, Edith Washburn, Carol Bruce, Jayne Hiebel, Teri Hyrkus, Jan Koski, Carole Prisk, JoAnn Shelby and Marcia Waara. Bruce, Hiebel, Hyrkus, Koski, Prisk, Shelby and Waara were members of the Marquette County Quilters Association. (Photo courtesy of the Marquette Regional History Center)

October 2017 is a very special month for the Marquette County Quilters’ Association! Guild members have been busy preparing for this year’s Autumn Comforts Quilt Show which will be held Oct. 21 and 22 in the Great Lakes Rooms at Northern Michigan University.

Quilts made by talented artists from all over the Upper Peninsula will be on display including two very important quilts that celebrate the guilds 35-year history of quilting in Marquette County.

The early history of the Marquette quilt guild begins in 1978 when six Silver Creek School mothers met to make a puff quilt for a young student burn victim. Raffle tickets were sold and the proceeds donated to the family. A second quilt was made to raise money for a young child with cancer. The women enjoyed their time together talking, sharing and quilting and decided to formally organize a group. The founding members knew from the start that they wanted it to be county-wide and envisioned smaller, local groups that would meet and then come together on a monthly basis.

Twenty enthusiastic members attended that first meeting. There were no officers, no by-laws and no Roberts Rules of Order. The short, informal meetings were followed by show & tell, where ideas, help and resources were freely exchanged.

The first MCQA newsletter is dated July 5, 1979 and the membership roster from 1979-1980 reflects 39 founding members. Plans began for their first quilt show which was held in 1980 at the Marquette High School. It featured many quilts and demonstrations and a newspaper article states it was a three-day show.

By 1982, guild membership had grown to an enthusiastic 78 members and wow, what a productive group they were! Several talented members wrote articles that were featured in many national magazines and were in demand for classes, workshops, lectures and demonstrations. Splinter friendship groups did a wide variety of charity work for hospitals, fundraisers and needy families. Detailed minutes from monthly meetings and newsletters were now routine and give us a clear picture of the excitment of members in each project and event.

Planning for the 1982 quilt show began in January 1981. Gretchen Tatge, then-guild president, suggested naming the show “Autumn Comforts.” Over 1,000 people attended the two-day show held at the Holiday Inn which featured over 200 quilts plus many smaller items, demos and a large fashion show around the pool featuring members modeling quilted clothing. An article about the show was written by Carole Prisk and published in the Fall 1983 Quilt World Omnibook magazine. Shortly after the show, members voted to retain the Autumn Comforts name for future shows. 35 years later, we will celebrate the 2017 Autumn Comforts Show with two amazing quilts from the 1982 quilt show.

Founding MCQA member Ruth ‘Taffy’ Meyers generously donated her beautiful Dresden plate quilt top for the 1982 raffle quilt. At the time, the guild had so many other projects that hand quilting the raffle quilt was out of the question. After seeing an ad in a quilting magazine, the group decided to send the quilt to a business called Quality Quilting in Stover, MO. There it was quilted by longarm machine, something relatively new in the quilting world.

Over 1,000 raffle tickets were sold and the proud winner and current owner of this quilt is Sue Hefke of Marquette who has graciously loaned us the quilt to share with visitors at the 2017 show. After the show, it will be documented and donated to the Marquette Regional History Museum where it will be preserved in their quilt collection.

In February 1982, MCQA partnered with WLUC-TV6 to sponsor a quilt block contest based around the station’s slogan of Someplace Special. Advertising about the contest was done in several national magazines.

Quilters were asked to make a 12-inch block using any technique which best expressed what the maker felt was special about the U.P. The entries were judged by a panel made up of representatives from TV6 as well as the guild. Entries came in from across the U.S. and the 12 winning blocks were chosen.

The blocks were assembled and hand quilted by MCQA members. The finished quilt was shown at the 1982 Autumn Comforts Quilt Show and then presented to WLUC-TV 6 where it has been continuously displayed since 1982. Many thanks to TV 6 for allowing us to exhibit the quilt at our show.

Thirty-five years later, Marquette County Quilters Association continues the mission of its founders by fostering the appreciation of art of quilting, educating the public on the significance and history of quilting and serving the community through charitable quilting activities.

Please join us at the 2017 “Autumn Comforts Quilt Show” where we will celebrate quilters from the past and present with over 350 quilts amazing quilts on display!