Art scene

Sharing a common thread


Quilt show embraces meaning, history of quilts.

Peg Humbracht, left, and Donna Tremain, right, were co-chairs of the Common Threads Quilt Show. Pictured in the middle is Cheri Pickett, an American Quilter’s Society certified quilt appraiser. Pickett presented a trunk show at a special Quilters’ Tea on the day after the main event. You can have your quilt appraised by Pickett by emailing her at

By John Hummer

They have a common thread. And it’s not just the “threads” they use to make quilts. Quilters go much deeper than that. It’s their way of sharing ideas with one another and caring about people with their quilt making, especially those in need, that make them special.

That was evident over the past weekend as quilters throughout the area brought in over 90 quilts to the first Common Threads Quilt Show in Grass Lake. The show was one of the special events this year to help celebrate the Village of Grass Lake’s sesquicentennial. It was co-chaired by Grass Lake’s Donna Tremain and Peg Humbracht.

Picture above: This quilt was a project of quilters from the Chelsea Senior Center, titled “Quilting Together While We Stay at Home”. They each contributed a piece of it while working on it during the heart of the “stay-at-home” COVID-19 period in 2020. “When I saw it, it brought tears to my eyes,” said Donna Tremain, quilt show co-chair.

American Quilter’s Society certified quilt appraiser Cheri Pickett was on hand at the Common Threads Quilt Show in Grass Lake to provide her expert knowledge on the many quilts displayed at the show. This quilt features dogwood blossoms, made in the 1940s, Pickett said. It also features a wavy, ruffled edging.

“We thought if we got 50 it would be fantastic – we got 90 quilts!” Tremain exclaimed. “People really got excited about it,” she continued. “It has been a very successful event for the sesquicentennial.”

Nancy Scott from Chelsea was one of those excited quilt show visitors. “It’s an awesome display – people put a lot of work into these things, and they should be appreciated well beyond just looking at them one day a year,” she said. “They are fabulous!”

Tremain was pleased to see beginner quilters mixing with experienced quilters to learn the art of quilting. “It’s like a quilting bee – we all get to ‘bee’ together,” she noted. “We consider ourselves to be a sisterhood. We help one another with everything.” (More below)

Jan Varady and Nancy Scott of Chelsea are happy to have had the chance to visit the Common Threads Quilt Show in Grass Lake.

The show, held at the beautiful Federated Church of Grass Lake (a portion of the show’s $5 entry fee was donated back to the church), was followed by a special Quilter’s Tea on Sunday in which American Quilters Society certified quilt appraiser Cheri Pickett presented a trunk show. Carol Metz of Jackson’s Pieces and Patches Quilt Guild was also a guest speaker. A “Viewer’s Choice” award was given at the tea from the quilt show.

“Quilting is still very popular,” said Tremain. “It’s not just little old ladies making patchwork quilts anymore.” She indicated that quilting is an art that uses all modern techniques and machinery.

This quilt, titled “Alaska” has a main feature of a black bear, front and center. The quilt – made, owned and displayed by Charlotte Wyche of Chelsea – was made based on a trip she took to Alaska. All the fabrics used to make the quilt were also bought in Alaska. The fabrics used are called “batiks”, meaning they have tighter, denser weaves to them. Each bolt of cloth is unique. The smaller picture of the bear, lower left, and the eagle, lower right, were actually taken by Wyche in Alaska and transferred onto the fabric.

The quilters in the greater Grass Lake area today share a common thread with their quilting sisterhood from 1871 when the village was established. “We’re still doing it,” she said. “We still share that commonality. Our love and passion for this art is still the same.”

Tremain notes that there are many reasons to make a quilt: a birth, for people fighting an illness, and many celebratory events like special anniversaries and birthdays. “We cherish that common ground we share of giving of ourselves,” she says. “We want to give what we know how to do best. That’s the common thread that we have – to make a difference in a little way in somebody’s life that might be in need or celebrating – those kinds of things.” (More below)

Each quilt entered in the show received this beautiful tag as a remembrance of the event.

Kay Rice of Napoleon stopped to take in the quilt show Saturday. She makes quilts for premature-born (preemie) babies. Rice is a member of Preemie Pals in Saline, a nonprofit organization that donates quilts to hospitals to use in their neo-natal units to cover incubators. “Every baby goes home with their quilt,” she noted. The group’s quilts go to Mott Children’s Hospital, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, and Henry Ford Allegiance Health, adding that Preemie Pals has donated over 1,000 quilts already this year.

Tremain is also part of a small quilting group called Farm Girl Friday. During the heart of COVID, they kept track of each other’s quilting works via a Facebook page; now they are meeting in person at Country Stitches – a sewing and fabric shop in Jackson. Sometimes they meet at someone’s home.

Tremain has worked for Napoleon Schools for over 30 years. Her love of sewing and quilting even spilled over to some high school girls whom she got interested in quilting. “It was a great time to mentor kids who really wanted to learn how to sew,” she said. “I absolutely loved doing that. This was the best time of my life because they just loved learning. They loved the camaraderie that a lot of quilters have – they felt that.”

Above: Animals are often featured in quilts, such as this rhino quilt displayed at the Common Threads Quilt Show.

So, will there be another Common Threads Quilt Show in Grass Lake? “We’d like to do another one,” Tremain stated. “We’ve worked out a lot of bugs.” In the meantime, Tremain has started a new quilting group at her church – Grass Lake Baptist Church – for anyone interested. “We will all be using that as a sewing circle.”


Sara Faye Dorr of Grass Lake who visited the quilt show said this large quilt was put together for her grandparents, George and Pat Dorr, for their 50th wedding anniversary in 1985. Their daughter, Joyce Hubbard, was the main quilter. Each of their other children, as well as grandchildren, also had a hand in putting the various blocks of the quilt together. All of their names and birthdays are stitched around the outside of the quilt as a family remembrance.



Ninety quilts were on display at the Common Threads Quilt Show held at the Federated Church of Grass Lake over the weekend. Suffice to say the show was a quilter’s dream.

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