ALPENA — Friendship ties us together. Sew, why not celebrate it with a day of quilting and fun during National Sewing Month?
Gone to Pieces Quilt Guild is hosting Friendship Day on Sept. 25, open to quilters and anyone interested in the craft, from beginners to experts and everyone in between.
“It’s going to be a fun event,” said Denise Tobias, Friendship Day organizer.
Sewing the Seeds of Friendship is this year’s theme. The event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hope Lutheran Church, 5462 Nicholson Hill Road, Hubbard Lake. Guest speaker will be Susan Shantz, coordinator for Timberland Quilt Trail in Oscoda County. A catered lunch by Chef Reid Krebs will be served at noon. A quilt raffle will be held, as well as a chance auction, demonstrations, door prizes, vendors, and a large quilt display.
“The one-day raffle quilt for the 2021 Friendship Day began with a quilt top from Charter Member Ruthelma Smith, who just passed away in March 2021. She contributed so much over the years to the guild,” Tobias stated. “We just thought how fitting it would be to include something on this day from her. It was finished by member Bobbi Cornell.”
Born May 21, 1923, Smith passed away at the age of 97 on March 2, 2021. She became an accomplished seamstress and eventually graduated to quilting, which she enjoyed doing with her nieces, Sharon, Joni, Cindy, Lisa, and Beth. She often said, “she who dies with the most fabric, wins,” and she did win.
The guild holds a Friendship Day every four or five years. The last Friendship Day was held in May 2016, drawing 210 attendees. More than 100 quilters, all women, belong to Gone to Pieces Quilt Guild, which meets on the first Thursday of the month. Small groups meet periodically for quilting sessions as well, and for Fun Saturdays.
At the event, Shantz will be talking about both quilting and the Timberland Quilt Trail, which features over 36 barn blocks, which are large wooden painted squares that are often mounted on the side of a home, barn, or other building. Shantz started the Timberland Quilt Trail in 2012.
“I started the quilt trail, and people where pretty flummoxed,” said Shantz, who lives in Comins. “It’s called agritourism, and The University of Ohio did a study on how agritourism impacts a county, and it has a real benefit to counties, especially rural counties.”
She said hers was the fourth in Michigan. The first one in the state started in 2008 in Alcona County.
Shantz, a lifelong quilter, is a founding member of Quilt Trails of Michigan.
“Over 30 counties have quilt trails in them,” she said.
What Shantz likes best about quilting is “the connection to the past.”
Her great-grandmother and grandmother, Mennonites, quilted all the time.
“I love the feeling I get,” she added. “If I’m not creating, I’m not happy.”
Gone to Pieces Quilt Guild Member Pennie Morrison has been quilting for over 40 years. She will be teaching a string-piecing class on Oct. 23.
She said there’s a quilt for every occasion, from baby showers, to graduations, to weddings, to anniversaries. She has no idea how many quilts she’s made over the years, but it’s a big number.
“It’s enjoyable,” she said. “We’re hooked. We go to fabric stores, and we just look at fabric like they’re little puppies. We feel it and we smell it…”
“And then we get it home, and think, ‘It’s too pretty to cut!’” her friend Maureen Stevens said.
Stevens got into quilting about 10 years ago, when she joined the guild.
“I like the design process of it,” Stevens said. “I like the design and picking the colors. That’s my favorite part of it.”
“I see something that I like, and it kind of just becomes a goal,” Morrison said. “It gives you a purpose.”
“There is the gratification, too, that you do get when it’s all finished and you give it to somebody,” Stevens added. “It does the soul good.”
Out of the 28 original charter members, eight remain on the roster today. Original organizers included Pat Yantamasi, Chantel Nevoret, Linda O’Neil, and Sally Oliver. They invited Sandy Theiner from Hillman to talk about how to get it started, because she was a member of the Michigan Quilt Network as well as the guild in Hillman. Twenty ladies came to the first meeting, including Kay Zinsli, Susi Shiemke, Ruthelma Smith, Helen Miller, and Judy Barber. Joanna Gould was the first president of the guild, which held its first meeting at Besser Museum on Jan. 21, 1993.
“The friendships that have developed because of the love of quilting have sustained this group and allowed it to grow to the size it is now,” Stevens wrote in a recent newsletter.
While no men are currently in the guild, they are welcome, if interested.
In addition to the “sisterhood” and fellowship that comes with belonging to the guild, charity work is a big part of the group’s mission.
Over the years, the group has provided about 200 placemats per year to the Alpena Senior Citizens Center Meals on Wheels program, pillow cases to the Salvation Army, wheelchair quilts to veterans at DJ Jacobetti in Marquette, baby quilts for the Alpena Baby Pantry, and preemie quilts partnering with the Kiwanis Club for Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan Brandon Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Mott Children’s Hospital, made dog and cat beds with fabric scraps and donated them to the Huron Humane Society, donated over 500 TLC Baby Quilts to District Health Dept. No. 4 for distribution to low-income mothers of young children, provided quilts and goody bags for MediLodge residents, Quilts of Valor to service members and veterans, duffel bags full of essentials for at-risk teen students, and provided quilts to raffle and raise funds for Log Cabin Days at Besser Museum, NEMI Coalition for the Prevention of Homelessness, the Friendship Room, Habitat for Humanity, and more.
Tickets to Friendship Day are $10, available by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope and check made out to Gone to Pieces Quilt Guild, to Denise Tobias, 1005 S. 1st Ave., Alpena MI 49707. No tickets will be sold by mail after Sept. 17. If available, tickets will be sold at the door. For more information, call Tobias at 989-884-2880.
“I don’t think these women eat, or clean, or sleep,” Tobias said. “They just quilt.”
She gets going, too.
“There have been times when I’ve sewn 16 hours a day on a quilt because I just was on a mission,” said Tobias, who has been quilting for 25 years.
“I like to make quilts and give them away to people,” Tobias said.
She said it just relaxes her while her creativity flows.
“I’m just in a different place when I sew,” she said.
Like many quilters, Tobias has them over every piece of furniture, hanging on the walls, stored in quilt holders, and anywhere you look.
“To me, you can’t have too many,” Tobias said.