The Quilters of Higgins Church

by Robin Warden


The legacy of the Ugly Quilt Group of Higgins United Memorial Methodist in Burnsville is far reaching.  These women have donated approximately 80 handmade quilts to members of our new Habitat for Humanity partner families in Mitchell and Yancey counties since 1992.  The group conservatively estimates that the 7,000+ quilts they have made can also be seen swaddling newborns at the Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, at our local Pregnancy Crisis Center and comforting infants at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya.   Each year baby quilts made by the group are delivered by local retired physicians, Drs. David and Carolyn Cort of Burnsville, to Kenya through the Samaritan Purse Program.  This program is an evangelical Christian humanitarian organization located in 20 counties across 5 continents and provides aid to people in physical need.

Higgins United Memorial Methodist Church Quilters Group

Mary Kay Huber of First Presbyterian Church in Burnsville initiated the group over 22 years ago. In 1992 Estelle Sheldon, extended the group to Higgins.  What began as an effort to make quilts for homeless individuals living in Asheville now also includes gifting quilts to hospice patients, the Reconciliation House, the Family Violence Center, the Memory Care Center, Group Homes, and dog bags to the Humane Society.  The group makes a special effort to provide baby and prayer gifts for the Higgins congregation as well as, memorial quilts for decreased members of their church.   Members over the years have included expert quilters, as well as, members who came to learn this craft.

Higgins quilts ready to be presented to new Habitat partner families

The quilt group membership now includes: Ethel Nash – Chairwoman, Karen Abernathy, Mary Tom Aldridge, Marilyn Gulesian, Helene Moore, Mary Nelson, Phyllis Patterson, Billie Marie Ray, Barbara Thornberry, and Nancy Williams.   They meet weekly at Higgins Church on Wednesdays from 10-2 and some members spend additional hours working at home.  Last year alone this group, with the help of a Monday Sewing Group at Higgins, made over 500 quilts.

Mother hold her new infant wrapped in a Higgins Quilt in Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya

Although they long ago named their work “Ugly Quilts”, their creations hardly fit this description.  Shelves filled with colorful fabrics and cabinets spilling over with soft, beautifully designed quilts awaiting their homes surround their workspace. Initially, they created their quilts by stripping the wiring from discarded electric blankets.  “Now all of our quilts are constructed with batting and A-1-A quality materials”, reports Ethel Nash.  The tops of each quilt are made with 100% cotton fabric pieces donated by the community.  Backing and batting is purchased through funding from Higgins Memorial Methodist Church and community donations.  All quilts are hand- tied.  No materials are ever wasted. “Every piece is a work of love”, shares Mary Nelson.

Child receives his quilt during a Habitat home dedication

A couple from Burnsville while visiting Asheville one day, saw a homeless man on a chilly morning walking out from under a bridge.  This area was a known dwelling for the homeless.  The man was wrapped in a quilt made from familiar fabric donated by the couple and made by the women. Upon being presented with a quilt for her newborn at the Blue Ridge Regional Hospital, a mother worriedly asked how much it would cost.  She was brought to tears when the two women presenting from the Higgins quilt group told her it was a gift for her baby.  A Hospice nurse during a visitation noticed the new grandbaby in the home was wrapped in a quilt made of fabric she had donated to the Higgins quilters.


Mitchell – Yancey Habitat thanks the women of the Higgins Quilting Group for helping our partner families feel the comforts of their loving work.