Prize Quilts

Top Prize Quilt $11,900

The Saturday quilt auction is one of the highlights of the Kansas Mennonite Relief Sale in Hutchinson. Held every April, the purpose is to raise funds for the disaster relief work of the Mennonite Central Committee.


License plates in the parking lot indicate people have come from all over Kansas. Other attendees come from further away. Michigan, Minnesota, and New Mexico plates were among those I spied.

Women at various Mennonite churches gather to quilt together. Some spend a year or more sewing. One or two women usually oversee the work. Often they pick the colors and the pattern. In some sewing circles, one woman pieces the quilt (sews the individual pieces together) then the ladies gather to hand quilt once a week. It is a social gathering with a purpose. They visit while sewing and in some churches the pastor joins them for lunch. However, some quilts or wall hangings are entirely made by one individual.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, the sale is a fun event for cousins to re-connect. For answers to my questions about the auction I turned to a friend who faithfully attends. On Friday evenings she and her cousins look through the displays. They enjoy the amazing detail work—new designs and colors every year.

Friday pre-view
Friday preview

Information attached to each quilt or wall hanging tells who pieced it, who quilted it and if it was hand or machine quilted. To quote my friend, “It doesn’t take a lot of visits to the sale before one knows the top quilt-makers in Kansas.”

The biggest excitement happens Saturday morning when bidding begins—when two people REALLY want the same quilt. Most of the higher priced quilts come down to two, sometimes three people bidding.

The Wedding Present, $4000

The crowd gets into the high bids—cheering and clapping after the bidding is complete. My friend said, “I’ve always taken this as a cheer for the willingness of the bidder to give so much to missions. I am glad for the final bidder, but sad for the lower bidder. This year an old acquaintance of mine managed to buy the quilt her church had made for the sale. I was so happy she was the final bidder.”

Generally speaking, the more beautiful the color combinations, the more intricate the handwork, the more uniform the hand stitches—the higher the bids. On the most sought after quilts and wall hangings, opening bids are higher. Sometimes if no one bids, they have to lower the starting price, but don’t count on it.


Only a few quilts are shown in this article. Final bids ranged from $50 for wall hangings to $11,900 for quilts.

Travel Tips
The quilt auction begins at 9:00 a.m. Saturday. However, if you’re interested in bidding you should plan to view the displays Friday evening. A nominal ticket price of $3.00 per person gains you entrance to the Saturday auction. A fee is charged to register if you plan to bid. It is wise to register and/or buy your ticket(s) on Friday.

Travel Light Humor
Last week I told you about the courtesy of the multitude at the sale. Most people said excuse me when they wanted to slip through the crowd. Most people politely moved when asked. Most people remembered their manners, but not everyone.

A man in his late seventies marched along with his cane. He had a slight limp, but that limp didn’t hinder his quick progress. He had his own way to part the Red Sea. Err, I mean crowds.

Once he’d chosen his path, he tramped steadily forward until he reached a roadblock. Without slowing, he stuck the long end of his cane in-between people. He tapped them on their calves. Most startled individuals stepped aside quickly. A few even jumped aside. Occasionally someone didn’t take his hint. Those people got an extra prod—waist-high if necessary.


His maneuvers gave me the impression he’d spent his life using that cane to make his way through the cattle herd and viewed the people herd much the same way.

Until next time…Travel Light,
© 2016 SuZan Klassen

10 thoughts on “Prize Quilts

  1. I love to look at quilts! A question for you: I’m most drawn to the blue and white quilt that went for $3600. Why was its price relatively low? Was it the lack of color variance, or irregular stitching? Or something else?

    1. First I should probably answer your unspoken question because that’s where part of the answer lies. There were several quilts that people had their eyes on. I didn’t post the photos of all the prize quilts. Several factors figure into the equation of which quilt is best (in whose opinion and if we equate highest dollars with best, that is). The top bid quilt/$11,900 was handmade by three people. One woman pieced it (she is the one given credit for making it), another quilted it and the third appliqued it. So they each brought their particular expertise to the effort. That means it could be considered the most well made by some individuals. Other than that it comes down to personal preference. Some people do like the striking contrast of dark backgrounds, too. While the $8000 prize quilt (see thumbnail of that on the blog) has a more modern style that reflects current trends. I put the blue and white quilt photo on my website because it’s my favorite. However, it has the country look which isn’t as in style or popular these days. It’s quite possible those high bidders already have one like it in their collection. It’s a classic pattern, though and will always have those of us who love it. Other factors: it was made by a group and it doesn’t have any applique.

      1. I don’t know that I have a favorite. Wedding ring, Dresden plate, drunkards path…I have a fan quilt that my grandmother started with fabric from her dresses and my mother finished with remnants from our dresses. My first day of kindergarten dress is in there. Can’t top that.

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