Handmade: Island getaway will keep you in stitches

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

A grand time awaits needleart enthusiasts all across Michigan and beyond at the Grand Hotel Annual Spring Needle Art Seminar 2017 set for May 5-10 on Mackinac Island.

Mackinac Island's Grand Hotel is preparing for its 130th summer season with 450 workers and contractors Wedneday, April 27, 2016, sprucing up the huge wooden hotel. with opening for the season on May 6th, rapidly approaching.

Jackie Compton, a retired OB-GYN who lives in Kewadin, has facilitated and organized the “retreat style” event since its inception in 2009, when Kaffe Fassett, an internationally known multitalented fiber artist who lives in London, held a lecture and taught classes in needlepoint, patchwork, knitting and painting at the request of the hotel’s owners. That first event was a follow-up to Fassett’s 2007 appearance at an event hosted by a northern Michigan quilt guild.

In 2011, the seminar became an annual event, starting with two instructors (which has now more than doubled) along with a growing number of persons enrolled in classes each year. Last year, 200 attended the seminar, and although registration for this year’s event started just more than two weeks ago, there are already 172 people registered.

Compton said, “Classes vary from year to year, but always include some quilting with all its subsets, and intermittently, needlepoint, knitting and embroidery classes, (with all) being offered by teachers from Michigan, the U.S., Canada, England and Australia.” There’s a different group of instructors each year.

Seminar organizer Jackie Compton.

Compton, a knitter who refers to quilting as her “first love,” is a member of a couple quilt guilds, which helps her in selecting instructors. “You just sort of get a feel for what people want, and for which teachers are popular. I go on the internet, and I’ve taken classes from a lot of the teachers to get a feel for how they teach. Of the ones coming this year, three have done the seminar before. They were popular. I always wait a couple years between visits, and we’re always bringing in new teachers.

“The seminar has developed enough of a following that teachers now send their resumes to me. These teachers are professionals. We hire them. It’s a contractual relationship. We cover all their expenses, and they love coming to the Grand Hotel.” Each teacher will instruct 2-4 classes, and two are scheduled to do a lecture and trunk show – one on Friday and the other Saturday.

This year’s instructors will be Susan Carlson, who developed her own technique for fabric collage quilting; Laura Heine, an award-winning published quilter; Lisa Bongean from Primitive Gatherings Quilt Shop; Michele Mueller, a certified rug hooking teacher, and Susan K. Cleveland, a quilter, designer, teacher and inventor of the Groovin’ Piping Trimming Tool.

Guests at last year’s Grand Hotel Annual Spring Needle Art Seminar show off their “Grand Illusion” quilt, designed by Bonnie Hunter.

“Besides the five teachers, we bring in four vendors in the space we have, and there’s always at least one quilt shop, but a lot of times, teachers have others wares to sell.”

Compton said guests can bring their own sewing machine, which will be carefully handled by ferry boat and hotel staff, or they can rent one from one of the quilt shops, but arrangements need to be made prior to the event.

Assisting Compton in organizing the six-day seminar is Carmen Hartwig, who owns Cousin’s Quilt Shop in Bellaire. She also gets a helping hand from her husband, Jerry, whom she describes as a “jack of all trades.”

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island is pictured Tuesday, July 10, 2012. The historic hotel celebrated it's 125th anniversary Tuesday.

This event attracts husbands and wives (with some husbands taking classes), mothers and daughters, sisters, and, of course, needleart buddies. Compton said, “They love to enjoy their needleart passion in a beautiful surrounding, and they love the food!”

If this sounds like your kind of fun getaway, you can access the registration brochure online at Registration – either by phone, email or U.S. mail – will remain open up to two weeks before the event, as long as there are class openings and available rooms at the hotel. All class participants are required to stay at the Grand Hotel, where breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the packages. For more information, email Compton at

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or

Grand Hotel Annual Spring Needle Art Seminar

Date: May 5-10

Location: Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

Visit: for brochure