Marcia Winfield grew up on a farm outside Dayton, Ohio, during World War II. The oldest of four girls, she milked the cows and helped her father with the chores. But, like most girls in those days, Marcia also learned to sew, and she and her sisters made all their own clothes.
Fifty years later, Marcia was the wife of an executive and living in New York City, where she was involved in a craft group at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. That group received a letter from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital asking if anyone would be interested in making quilts for St. Jude patients. Although she wasn’t a quilter, Marcia decided to give it a try. Twenty-five years later, she's still making quilts for the kids of St. Jude.
“I think it is because St. Jude cared enough to send a letter to Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church,” Marcia said. “I must’ve been looking for something but didn’t realize it. Once I did a quilt, then I got into it.”
Now 85, Marcia lives in a retirement community in Virginia and estimates she has completed nearly 700 quilts for St. Jude. For the last four years, she has turned out a quilt every week for St. Jude patients.
Marcia’s quilts are all done by hand and touched by a bit of family history as Marcia uses her mother’s thimble. “You can tell it has been used for almost 100 years,” she said. “It is very, very worn and very thin. I think it will last as long as I do.”
Marcia makes quilts using fabrics of all varieties and never quilts the same design more than once a year. “I love working with new material,” she said. Marcia sews around each subject on the quilts, which include designs ranging from race cars to a world map to cats on the beach. The quilts come in two sizes: a 45-inch square or a square of a yard-and-a-half.
Marcia is also careful to follow the guidelines for handmade items donated to St. Jude, out of concern for the compromised immune systems of St. Jude patients who are undergoing treatment for cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
- Items must be made of brand-new material.
- Items must be made in a smoke-free and pet-free environment.
- Items must be packed individually in plastic, zippered storage bags
A mother of five and grandmother of seven, Marcia only makes quilts for her family and for St. Jude patients. “I never had any desire to make a quilt for anyone else,” she said.
And she recently made a very special quilt with the help of children in a second-grade class at the nearby elementary school where she volunteers. Each child placed a hand into fabric paint and then pressed his hand onto the material. After the handprints had dried, each child wrote his first name next to his handprint. Marcia quilted around each handprint before sending the quilt to St. Jude. The project was so successful that she plans to repeat it every year.
“Whichever child gets this quilt will know that 20 little children someplace cared enough to make a quilt for them,” she said.