Unionville Moravian draws community in to celebrate quiltmakers’ work

Members of Unionville Moravian Church in Unionville, Mich. discovered that a quilt show was a wonderful way to draw in a community and honor the women who made them.

Organizers chose the theme “A Celebration of Quilts and Their Makers” to commemorate the wonderful group of quilters from Unionville Moravian who had a long tradition of quilting, not only for themselves, but for the community.

Quilts transform sanctuary

The idea came to life at Unionville last October when the church sanctuary was transformed into a sea of beautiful color. Quilts old and new, gathered from family members, were draped over the pews, hung from the balcony and walls, adorned the lectern and altar, blanketed the grand piano and covered the plant stands.

On display were many family heirloom quilts; a 1902 fund-raising quilt with names of area residents; a 1905 Bear’s Paw; a 1917 Crazy Quilt in perfect condition; Log Cabin blocks more than a 100 years old; a king-sized quilt with a beautifully appliqued Moravian Seal; memory quilts made from T-shirts; children’s art work quilt; an Applique Basket Quilt made with 291 baskets; and many more.

The day of the quilt show was one of Michigan’s beautiful, cool, crisp autumn days. The sun was shining and the trees that lined the street to the church were bursting with yellows, reds and oranges.

God’s handiwork of color was found inside the church as well. Gentle music was playing in the background as quilters and non-quilters strolled through the sanctuary, reminiscing of times past and talking of today. Visitors were awed by the creations made by many skilled hands—the artful talents were evident everywhere one looked.

The highlight of the day was the “Show and Tell” as many people shared the stories behind the quilts. A grown woman told of how she had lost her father at a young age and was given his quilt. She shared how comforting it was to wrap herself in the quilt that her grandmother had made for him.

Another talked of the Lilac Quilt a daughter had made for her mother who was allergic to lilacs so that she could still enjoy them.

An enthusiastic quilter shared, “Sometimes making a quilt is so much fun, we make two – one in red and one in blue!”

Admiring our heritage

The quilt show provided a time to admire the work that was a part of our heritage. For many decades a dedicated group of women met weekly to enjoy a common interest in a skill that they had learned from their grandmothers, mothers or often from a quilting mentor in the congregation.

The quilts made by the women of the Unionville Moravian Church and the surrounding community are a tangible expression of artistry and love. Often they were made to celebrate a wedding, anniversary or birth. Quilting was a way for women to share their joy or to cope with their grief and loss. The quilts express a desire to comfort family and friends and to be remembered and somehow known by generations that are yet to be.

In recent years however, the number of quilters who participated dwindled, and what was the weekly meeting place became a storage area. In April 2015, the thought of not continuing the time-honored tradition motivated two friends and fellow-quilters Dawn Pawlak and Deb Trischler to restore the room into a beautiful, functional quilting room.

As a result of their efforts, once again women of the church and community are meeting at Unionville Moravian weekly to share their interest in embroidery, knitting, and crocheting as well as quilting. Participation has grown and so have friendships old and new. Laughter can be heard to the far end of the building and not infrequently even men stop by to see what is happening in “The Quilt Room” with a cup of coffee and a story to share about quilts they remembered from their childhood.

Sally Zimmer and Dawn Pawlak are members of Unionville Moravian Church in Unionville, Michigan.  

From the June 2016 Moravian Magazine