Handmade: Macomb County quilters stitch for charity

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

I'm convinced that all it takes is an idea for a crafting group, a big push for getting the word out, and a place to meet -- and you can bet your bottom (craft) dollar that an enthusiastic bunch of creative folks will show up eager to join.

Back row, from left, Macomb County Quilt Guild board members Peggy Lau of Marysville, Gina Kaszynski of Casco, Dan Markey of Burtchville, Patti Mitvowski of St. Clair Shores, Kathy Redmond-Stevens, Jill Stiger of Mount Clemens, Anita Groninger of Macomb Township and Sue Sharkey of Sterling Heights. Front row, from left, Sandi Miski of Mount Clemens, Cindy Todd of Sterling Heights, Colleen Belli of Washington Township, Linda Fenska of Sterling Heights. Photos taken at at the Macomb County Quilt Guild board meeting at the Mount Clemens Library in Mount Clemens, Mich. on June 18, 2018.

That's what happened nearly 17 years ago when two local women had a dream for starting a quilting guild in the Macomb County area.

'"The owner of (the now closed) Quilter's Corner quilt shop graciously let us use their shop for the first get-together to see if there was any interest," wrote Sue Sharkey of Sterling Heights in an email. "They thought maybe 20 ladies would show up; but to their surprise, there were 85 women. They set up a temporary board and scheduled their first meeting of the Macomb County Quilt Guild. It was held at Trinity Lutheran Church in (a) small meeting room on the 10th of Sept. 2001. To their surprise, 125 women showed up and all joined the guild." 

Today, there are 197 members, including one man, with about 130 of them attending the monthly meetings held, Sept. through Aug., inside the community center at Trinity Lutheran Church (38900 Harper) in Clinton Township from 7-9 p.m., with fellowship at 6 p.m.

The guild's mission is "to provide a forum for the exchange of quilting techniques, information and ideas; to sponsor educational and special events to stimulate an interest in quilting, and to coordinate programs and projects to serve the community." 

A tag that is placed in charity quilts made by the Macomb County Quilt Guild. Photos taken at at the Macomb County Quilt Guild board meeting at the Mount Clemens Library in Mount Clemens, Mich. on June 18, 2018.

Members range in skill level from beginner to advanced. Sharkey, who's been guild president for the past three years, said, "Our monthly meetings provide an opportunity for everybody to spend time with other quilters, listen to speakers, learn a new technique and have fun. Each meeting includes a 'show-and-tell' time where members and guests present their recent quilts."

Because of the time it takes to make a quilt, Sharkey said, "You have to love quilting (since) it takes hundreds of hours to make quilts. We make quilts and donate them to charities in our communities. This year, we chose four different charities -- Turning Point in Mt. Clemens, Webber Cancer Center St. John Macomb -- Oakland Hospital in Warren, Children's Hospital Foundation of Michigan, and the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, both in Detroit ."

Each donated quilt comes with a label attached with hand-stitching that reads: "Made especially for you by members of the Macomb County Quilt Guild." 

As a 501(c)(3) organization, Sharkey stated, "People can donate money or fabric to help us continue our charity efforts. This year, we've gotten a lot of fabric donations." Members prefer quilt shop fabric in 100 percent cotton because "the fabric last so much longer, and some of the quilts become heirlooms, and they could last 100 years." She adds, "We put a lot of work into our charity quilts, (and) we fill them with cotton batting."

Members hold a quilt show ever other year at the Roseville Recreation Center. "This past April, we hung over 200 quilts," said Sharkey. "It's a viewer's choice judging, and then they're awarded ribbons based on the most votes. There's a variety of categories -- traditional, modern, best hand-quilted, best appliqued, etc." 

Membership dues are $30 a year, which includes meetings, a bi-monthly newsletter, workshops, Sew Fests three times a year for a full-day of sewing and quilt-making, and Charity Cut and Sew Days, held twice a year for cutting fabrics and sewing quilts for charity groups.

Guests can attend a general meeting for $5, but if a nationally-known speaker is featured, then the fee is $10. Sharkey said, "If the guest decides to become a member at the meeting, she/he shall pay an additional $25 to equal membership dues for the year."    

The guild's next meeting will be held Sept. 10, at which time dues for the 2018-2019 year will be accepted.

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade. 

Contact the Macomb County Quilt Guild at macombcountyquiltguild.org, on Facebook, or by mail at: P.O. Box 180671, Utica MI 48318.