With a legacy of nine quilts fetching more than $130,000 for Mennonite Central Committee since 2000, an Ontario quilter is taking a break from being the most decorated quilter at the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale.
The latest quilt by Renske Helmuth of Moorefield, Ont., will be auctioned off May 28 at the New Hamburg Fairgrounds and Arena.
It’s been seven years since her quilt, “Threads of Africa,” sold for $42,000 at the 2015 sale. Another brought $44,000 in 2003. This year’s quilt, “Glimpses of Nepal,” started in the same way — with an MCC learning tour abroad. This time, she traveled to Nepal in 2016 to learn about MCC’s work there and to bring back fabric from a marketplace in Kathmandu.
Helmuth was initially stumped on what to do with more than 17 meters of Nepali fabric she brought home. But she had an idea when her friend and fellow quilter Emily Hunsberger gave her some batik panels depicting images of daily life in Nepal, such as a man carrying a load on his shoulders and women hoeing in a field.
“This is my last quilt,” she said. “It’s the thinking part [that’s challenging], not the doing part.”
In addition to the creativity and logistics of traveling around the world for traditional fabrics, Renske’s quilts are also demanding of her many collaborators, mostly quilters from the Waterloo County Quilters’ Guild.
For many of her past feature quilts, Renske provided her quilting team of as many as 100 women with the fabric, color palette and general direction. She then pieced together a coherent design with the blocks brought back to her.
However, for “Glimpses of Nepal,” thanks to inspiration from the batik panels and photos from her trip, she had a clearer intention for a collage of life in Nepal. She selected a group of women who could pull off the quilt’s technical demands. Contributors were Ilene Atkins, Bonnie Murdoch, Tamara Gilhuly, Dorothy Holdenmeyer, Nancy Winn and Judy Pearce. The blocks were assembled by Renske and machine-quilted by Ruth Kennedy.
As she reflects on the legacy of her quilts, Renske is grateful.
“It has been good. It was fun,” she said, noting the quilts helped MCC financially but also helped her learn skills and meet people. “I started to teach. It’s brought me places where I never would’ve been before. I gave, but I received, too.”