GOSHEN — Frances Stauffer has been providing quilted pieces for the annual Michiana Mennonite Relief sale every single year since it began in 1967. This year, however, will be her final year sewing quilts.
“I just didn’t feel up to it anymore,” says Stauffer, who will be celebrating her 102nd birthday in November. Though she won’t be continuing her craft, Stauffer said, “I’ve always loved sewing.”
Stauffer began sewing at a very young age, and eventually worked as a dressmaker and seamstress in rural Indiana. She said she started making quilts when she moved into the Goshen city limits, at about the same time that Mennonite Central Committee had its first relief sale.
Stauffer saw her quilts as an opportunity to raise money for MCC, and her quilts have consistently brought in thousands of dollars at each sale. One of the more notable pieces entitled “New York at Night,” raised $12,000 alone for the relief sale in 2001, and was eventually passed on to New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.
“Since it’s going for a good cause,” Stauffer said about quilting, “it gives me a reason for making them.”
In the past 10 years, Stauffer’s quilts have raised well over $35,000 for MCC, which provides aid around the world through relief and development efforts.
Stauffer’s quilted wall hangings portray images of Native Americans working with pottery, a duck and her ducklings floating on a river, or a row of doves in front of a tree. “Birds are my favorite,” she said.
Some titles of Stauffer’s previously donated works include “Grandmas Flower Garden,” “Partridge in a Pear Tree,” and “Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Sam’s Wedding Day.”
Though she usually contributes multiple pieces to each relief sale, this year will see only one full-size quilt, which is of a dark red feathered star pattern on a white background.
When complimented about her work on the quilt, Stauffer replied with a smirk, “I sure like that one myself!”
Stauffer’s quilt will be sold at auction at the 46th annual Mennonite Relief Sale at the Elkhart County 4-H fairgrounds in Goshen Sept. 27, from 5 to 9 p.m., and all day Sept. 28. The quilt auction will begin Saturday at 8 a.m.