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From left, Judy Mills and Barbra Orris check out a quilt at the Ortonville United Methodist Church. Photo by Patrick McAbee. (click for larger version)
May 09, 2012 - Ortonville- Ruth Ann Sheffield has a need to "fix things."

It was that trait that drove her to create a duplicate of an old family quilt.

"It's somebody's family and someone loved that quilt to death," said Sheffield, who was given the quilt by an antiques dealer several years ago. The original quilt had deteriorated too much to repair and earlier this year, she decided to replicate the quilt in the "Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Sam" pattern, complete with mutiple stitched names of people who may be long gone, and in any event are unknown to her.

The original, along with the copy she made, were displayed side by side on May 4-5 during the Ortonville United Methodist Women Quilt Show, in the sanctuary of the church located at 93 Church Street downtown. The show is held every other year and this year, about 200 quilts adorned the pews of the church and decorated the walls. Dozens of visitors to the exhibit gazed upon quilts that were recently finished, as well as ones that dated back to the 1800s, with a slip of paper accompanying each providing information such as the pattern, age, quilt maker, and comments.

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A 1908 "Crazy Quilt" was identified as being made by members of the Lennon Methodist Ladies Aid.

Madeline Brown, a quilter visiting the show from Clawson, shared some knowledge regarding "crazy quilts."

"In Victorian days, they used scraps of expensive fabric to make these— the point was to show their ability to do embroidery stitches," she explained. "The average woman was making quilts to keep her family warm, but crazy quilts were for display."

The crazy quilt was made with a variety of fabrics, pieces of all different shapes and colors stitched together, while other quilts showed elaborate detail to design— hand-pieced hexagons and other shapes with perfect symmetry. Some quilts displayed images— lighthouses, a tractor, flowers, animals. One quilt, a map of the United States, was made to be given to a child at camp this summer.

Many of the quilts appeared to be labors of love— notes attached designated they had been made for children, graduates, wedding gifts, even one for a grandson serving in Afghanistan.

Terrie McCullough, a Goodrich resident, used a long-arm quilter machine to finish many of the quilts on display at the show. Long-arm quilting has been a hobby of hers for the past 12 years.

"They sew the top together and I finish with stitching," she said. "I love seeing the talent and creativity of the women and I like adding the finishing touches. The piecing of a quilt is what most women prefer to do."

Sheffield began piecing quilts more than 30 years ago out of a desire to own one. Over the years, she has made more than 300 quilts, and showed 13 of them at the quilt show, including the replicate.

"Quilting keeps my hands busy," said Sheffield, who is a member of the Country Quilt Guild, which meets at 5:30 p.m. every Monday at the OUMC.

Marilyn Featherston started the quilt show in 1986 to display her mother and grandmother's quilts, but never quilted herself until after the first show. As a teenager, she said she didn't appreciate the artform, even though she was always warm.

After she started quilting, she discovered it was fun.

"It grows on you when you hold the fabric and feel it," she said. "It gets in your blood."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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