Pine River Quilters craft for community benefit

TUSTIN — Lots of laughter and fun surround the members of the Pine River Quilters, which include individuals of all skill levels and those who don't take themselves — or their hobby — too seriously.

The group began in 2013 when group members Ruth Cook, Denise Justus and other ladies at the Tustin Senior Center decided to raise money for the center as a way to give back.

"We decided we would make a quilt," Cook said. "It took us a year to make that quilt. None of us, except me, really knew how to quilt, but we persevered and raffled it off during Tustin Daze in 2014 and gave the proceeds to the Commission on Aging for the meals program."

The group began meeting each Thursday at the center, but their supplies and materials became too large for the space, so the women began meeting at Cook's home outside of the village. Through advertisements, the group increased its membership.

"We have a ball. We sit around, sew and gossip. It's so much fun to put these things together and laugh at each other because we've put the blocks together wrong and keep doing them wrong," Cook said with a laugh. "We began as a teaching group and continue as a teaching group. If you mess it up, it's part of life."

Justus agreed, smiling.

"I think we like the creative process, too," she added. "Quilting is relaxing, most times. I like the beauty of quilts, but I like the functionality. I love the idea of using quilts for warmth and for beauty."

The ladies simultaneously work on the same project, though also work on their own pieces. Currently they are sewing to complete the next quilt to be displayed and raffled off during this year's Tustin Daze, which takes place on Labor Day Weekend. All fabric, batting, thread and other supplies are funded and provided by group members, though they do take donations.

Though they come from all backgrounds, members of the Pine River Quilters usually have a similar experience to why they began quilting or how they started. Many became interested through family members. Some of the women have been quilting for decades, while for others it's only been a few years.

Mary Drouillard of Tustin is a new quilter, so the group provides her with guidance and a community of women with a similar interest.

"This is a learning experience," Drouillard said. "I've been a nurse for 29 years and I'm looking for something to do besides that, something to expand my horizons. I also have a mother-in-law who is a quilter, so it's something I can have in common with her.

"I can remember being in my 20s and I would look at quilts and patterns in books in the store and think how beautiful they were. I never thought I could create something like that."

The group hopes to be known for their generosity and also hopes to grow in membership so they can create quilts during the year.

"Hopefully in the future we'll be able to do a quilt for the fire department or Hospice of Michigan," Cook said. "The whole purpose of this guild is to give back to the community and to foster interest in quilting or sewing. We're not limiting ourselves to quilting and we want to give back to the community.

"Quilting should be fun. It's not a job, it's fun. It's when you get worked up over it or obsessed over it, it's not fun anymore, and that's the whole point — to have fun."

For more information about Pine River Quilters, contact Ruth Cook at (231) 942-8565 or Denise Justus at (231) 829-3728, or email