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The Mary Schafer Collection: A Legacy of Quilt History

Mary Shafer's First Pieced Quilt

Inspiration appears in many forms; in 1956 Mary Schafer found hers while cleaning out the trunk of her car. Her son had recently returned from military service, and the homecoming was celebrated with a beach party. Picking up after the event, Mary discovered a wet and dirty unclaimed quilt that had been used as a beach blanket. Wanting to honor the quiltmaker, Mary washed and repaired the quilt in attempt to restore the piece to its glory days.
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Linden Mill



She then created a classic red and white reproduction featuring an original border and quilting designs—elements that became Mary’s trademarks. This was Mary’s first pieced quilt.
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Mary's Linden Mill
As Mary researched to find the name of the pattern, she became a subscriber to Aunt Kate’s Quilting Bee and began to amass every reference to quilting she could find. Unable to find the pattern’s name and because the design reminded her of a mill wheel, Mary named it “Linden Mill” after the only nationally registered historical site in her home of Genesee County at the time.


Through quilting magazines, Mary discovered “round robins,” the practice of swapping patterns through the mail. Subsequently, Mary participated in numerous round robins, often becoming involved in as many as five at one time. Through these exchanges of letters, patterns, and blocks, important friendships were formed and Mary became a part of an active network of quilters. Among Mary’s correspondents were Joy Craddock of Denison, Texas, publisher of the 4 J’s; Glenna Boyd, publisher of Aunt Kate’s Quilting Bee; Delores Hinson, one of the founders of the National Quilt Association; and National Quilter’s Hall of Fame Inductee Cuesta Benberry.

These quilt blocks are of patterns typically exchanged through round robins. Round robins often had a theme, for instance, participants only exchanged Kansas City Star blocks. Women quite often belonged to several circles simultaneously.

Letters and patterns such as these circulated among round robin members. The letters served as vehicles for quilters to share information not only about quilts but about many aspects of their daily lives.

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