Myriam Hege still has the comforter that her father received from MCC after World War II. His family fled fighting in France, crossing the border into Switzerland, and returned to a farm that had been emptied and lived in by soldiers.

Along with agricultural tools to help re-start the farm, the family received two comforters from MCC, one that Myriam still has today. “That blanket was some symbol of solidarity and that there were brothers and sisters thinking of them,” says Myriam. “It's really symbolic of a link between people.” 

Myriam Hege’s father received two comforters from MCC, one of which she still has today. MCC Photo/Nina Linton

When people have been displaced by conflict or disaster, MCC often sends comforters along with other relief supplies. The blankets keep people warm when living in temporary shelters, or through cold winters. But these handmade comforters are also a reminder that people on the other side of the world are thinking of you.

Last year, a group of Russian-German Mennonites held a retreat in Denmark to learn how to make comforters to donate to MCC. For those of you who didn’t grow up sewing or knotting comforters, follow along with Mari Friesen, one of the instructors, to see how it’s done.

Step 1 

Collect, sort and wash old fabrics. Men's shirts are great, almost anything cotton that is not a knit fabric will work. Though if a shirt is still whole and spotless, it shouldn’t get cut up when you can send it to the thrift store!

Step 2

Cut up all the old textiles. Cut them open along the seams, then cut off all seams and buttons.

Schloss-Holte Mennonite church (Bielefeld region) at their 2015 church retreat in Denmark.Photo by Matthias Hofer 


Step 3

Iron out all the pieces.

From left to right: Maria Wiebe, Maria Reimer, Mari Friesen, and Olga Janzen.Photo by Matthias Hofer 

Step 4

Cut the pieces into squares using a cutting mat and cutter. We do 11 x 11 cm, but some groups make them larger. (Our motto: If a fabric is still ugly, you didn't cut it small enough...)

By the way, the pieces that are too small for squares don't get thrown away. Out of these we make "garbage quilts" that are made up of many small pieces, and go like hot cakes when we have a sale!  

MCC Photo/ Nina Linton

Step 5

Arrange all the squares into rows to make a pattern. Have fun with the colours and textures to make a beautiful pattern. 

From left to right: Sylvia Isaak-Hofer, Adelina Janzen, Katharina Peters, Heinrich Peters, Katharina Janzen, Madlen Andres.Photo by Matthias Hofer 

Step 6

Sew the squares together into rows without cutting the thread in between (this is called chain piecing), then sew all the rows together.

Olga Janzen and Lydia Andres.Photo by Matthias Hofer 

Viktoria Pankratz with Sylvia Isaak-Hofer.Photo by Matthias Hofer 

Step 7

Iron some more!

Step 8

Pin the three layers (the top layer you’ve just made, batting and the backing) together. To be able to make the binding easier at the end, cut the bottom layer 5 cm larger than the other two layers all around.

Franz Janzen, Bernhard Janzen, Valentina Reimer and Harri Harder pin layers of a comforter together. Photo by Matthias Hofer 

Step 9

Tie the comforter. To do this you need to suspend all three layers of the quilt in a frame. Next you tie all the layers together by passing a needle and thread from the bottom to the top. Then you tie it in a knot on the top to finish.

Tying a comforter

Last year, a group of Russian-German Mennonites held a retreat in Denmark to learn how to make comforters to donate to MCC. Watch them tie the layers of the comforter together.
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Step 10

For the binding, fold the backing over twice toward the top (try to make a nice corner!) and then machine-sew all around.

Step 11

At the end and/or while you are working: think about and pray for the recipients and the MCC service workers distributing the blankets.

Remas, 5, and her family, who are refugees from Syria, received MCC comforters, a relief kit and school kits through MCC partner Caritas in Amman, Jordan. (Last names are withheld because of security concerns.)MCC Photo/Matthew Sawatzky