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Patchworkers seek answers for mysterious ‘Red Top Quilt’

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Theresa Berry has a mystery to solve. As an established member of the Mille Lacs Patchworkers Quilt Club, she knows a thing or two about quilts. But the club has recently come into possession of a peculiar quilt. It is embroidered with names from dozens of local families. The only other clue to its origins are the words “Red Top, Minn. 1925” adjoining one of the names. The club has taken to calling this the “Red Top Quilt.” By displaying it at this year’s Isle Days quilt show, they hope they may uncover some answers on where the quilt originated.

Berry said she had received the quilt from Dorthea Embertson, a past club member, who brought its unfinished squares to the club several years ago. Not only did they need to be assembled into a full quilt, but several of the names signed on each square had not yet been embroidered. “We think that in 1925 they put these squares out for people to sign it,” Berry said, “but we have no clue what sort of organization did it.”

The club has collaborated on finishing the quilt. Berry herself did the work of finishing the quilt’s embroidery. “Kathy [Munkelwitz] did the design,” Berry elaborated. “Nancy Sammis quilted it. I put the binding on it.” The work of assembling the quilt had just been finished this spring.

When contacted about the quilt, local historian Gerald Wollum, who is knowledgeable about the region north of Isle formerly known as Red Top, stated that the embroidered names covered a wide range of local families, not just those from Red Top. He speculated it could be related to the Swedish Lutheran Church.

“We are just trying to figure out if anybody knows these names,” Berry said. At the Isle Days Quilt Show, held on Saturday, July 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Isle High School this year, the Mille Lacs Patchworkers will have the quilt on display, along with a full list of the embroidered names. After the show, the club plans to donate the quilt to the Mille Lacs History Museum. Those interested, especially those who think they may have answers to the quilt’s mysteries, are encouraged to come visit the Isle Days display as part of this year’s celebration.

Those with information on the quilt can reach out to Theresa Berry at (320) 676-8192.

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