Annual Quilting Bee for the Homeless

By Regina Villiers. Originally published March 22, 1995 in The Suburban Life, added October 2022.

( from left) Ruth Kannenberg, Shirley Burse and Masako Tamaki, part of the groupthat works year-round on the quilting project, show one of the scrap quilts.

“It was really heart-warming that so many made the effort to come and work.” – Marie Tscalis

Even trained meteorologists don’t predict the weather more than a few days in advance, and then we sometimes get a foot of snow when they predict an all-day rain.

So when Marie Tscalis picked the last Saturday in January this year for her annual quilting bee for the homeless she had no way of knowing that it would be the worst day of the winter with freezing rain and six inches of snow. But it was.

Still, women showed up that day to quilt. Lots of them. Marie thinks about 50 came, which was about half of those who had signed up to work.

“One women even drove down from Dayton,” Marie said. “Some went home early. Some arrived late. But it was really heart-warming that so many made the effort to come and work.”

And many of the women took quilts home to sew and kept coming back to the shop to pick up extra quilts to finish. Lisa Gallenstein alone must have made half a dozen quilts.

This is the third year for the project. Marie, who owns the Creative Cottage in Madeira, began the quiltings for the homeless in January 1993 to make quilts to be donated to area homeless shelters. Her hope was to make the world a bit warmer for people who, for whatever reason, are without homes or warm beds:

So she recruited volunteers to work on a Saturday in January when not much is going on. To her surprise, over 200 people showed up. They cut, sewed, pressed, and chatted, as women have done at quilting bees since Colonial days. They had a wonderful time.

That year, Marie and her group made 115 quilts in the Log Cabin pattern and donated them to homeless shelters.

Last year, the group needed more space so they set up at two spots, the Madeira Presbyterian Church and a location in Indian Hill.

The groups had even more success. They made 143 quilts from scraps sewed to background squares forming a God’s-Eye pattern.

The quilts turned out beautifully, with no two remotely resembling each other. The 143 quilts were donated to five area homeless shelters.

This year, the group mostly sewed the Windy City pattern, though a few God’s-Eye and Log

Cabin quilts were made.

The goal this year is 200 quilts. Marie thinks they’ll make it, for many workers are still busily working in the shop’s workrooms as well as picking up quilts to sew at home.

The project goes on at the Creative Cottage all year. Shirley Burse is Marie’s right hand and has taken over the needles and bolts part of the operation. Shirley and her crew are working all year long on next year’s quilts after they finish the quilts for current season.

Shirley, along with Bonnie Maples, another lieutenant in the project, meet at the shop the third Wednesday of every month to work with whoever shows up. They work during the day and then come back for a Wednesday evening session.  

They cut and package quilts into kits. Each kit contains enough cut pieces to make a quilt. At the quilting bee, each worker receives a kit to sew. Some of the more experienced and serious quilters take kits home to sew into quilts, and many work along with Shirley and Bonnie all year long.

Many of the women who come to quilt are experienced quilters and belong to quilters’ guilds. Others who show up have never quilted before in their lives. But all are welcome, because cutters, pressers, and all kinds of workers are needed. A few husbands, like Ernest Maples, even show up to help.

Last year, the Maples’ granddaughter, Jamie Hopkins, came and stayed at a sewing machine all day. At 13, she was the youngest quilter.

This year, now 14, Jamie came again, and Bonnie also brought her grandson to help out.

There are many mother and daughter duos who work in the project and have become hooked on quilting. Lisa Gallenstein and daughter Julie Potluri are mainstays in the group. And Dorothy Hand and her daughter; Barb ·

Rahschulte, come from Indiana to help.

Being around this group is addictive, and Marie Tscalis has hooked us all. I, too, have fallen in like a rock in quicksand. I am now a quilter. Next year, I hope to report that I have finished two quilts, one for each of my sons.

Better make that two years from now.

Or three …

If you too would like to become addicted to quilting, call the Creative Cottage at 271-2028 and come any third Wednesday.

Regina Villiers is a longtime resident of Madeira. She writes a column twice · monthly for Suburban Life.