Quilts from College Mennonite Church

     These are not “your grandmother’s quilts”—although they belong in the long tradition of quilting culture at College Mennonite Church (CMC), founded in 1903.

     The first record of “The Sewing Circle” dates from 1909, although the sisters in the church must have been quilting before then. By 1925 the group had formed committees, one named the “Quilt and Comforter” committee, which made quilts for missionaries and missions, as well as bedding for Goshen College dormitories. During World War 2 quilts went to foreign relief efforts, which continued postwar with the Mennonite Central Committee. Since 1968, CMC’s Mennonite Women group also make quilts that they donate to the Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale.

     Some of the quilters in this exhibit also help with the communal quilt-making by Mennonite Women, for charity. However, the quilts shown here (including three by men) reflect more individualistic interests, the effects of marketing quilts to the public, and innovations in quilting made possible by new technologies.

  • The Mennonite Relief Sale quilt auctions, and others, encourage the making of quilts that “sell” to a public audience.

  • The recent popularity of quilted “wall hangings” puts quilting on the walls, for adornment, rather than on the beds, for use.

  • Quilting machines now make possible innovative, perfectly executed designs that save tedious hand labor and also displace the communal aspect of “quilting parties.”

  • The development of a commercial quilt industry provides ever-more new, creative quilting designs (replacing traditional ones) and unusual fabric designs.

  • Formal classroom instruction, by expert quilt-makers, replaces informal tutoring by friends and relatives.

    The resulting quilts approximate the characteristics of “art,” more so than of the “folk art” that we find—in materials, designs and communal experience—in most quilt-making in 1909 or 1925.

    We thank the quilters represented here for loaning their quilts and cooperating with this project.