2024 Feature Quilt: Tree


An image of quilt hanging outside in a garden with a fence behind it. The quilt is of a tree with a yellow and blue background.

Sara Cressman fell, literally, into quilting when she was two years old. She doesn’t remember this herself, but her mother has told the story. One evening, as young Sara was watching her mother and other ladies work on quilts at Nith Valley Mennonite Church, she couldn’t resist the inviting softness of the quilt stretched out like a trampoline on its frame. She leapt onto the quilt, bringing the frame and quilt down around her, much to the surprise of the quilters working on it.

Sara started creating her own quilts as a teenager under the guidance of her grandmother Gladys Cressman and soon after started creating and donating quilts to the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale. She is also deeply committed to MCC, serving in Serbia with her husband David Martin from 2004-2007, as well as on the board of MCC Ontario as treasurer. Over the last 20 years or more, Sara has donated at least one quilt per year to the relief sale in addition to organizing quilting events at Conrad Grebel University College, where she works, and at her current church Waterloo North Mennonite Church. “My day job is as an accountant, so quilting is my creative outlet,” she says with a laugh.

This year is her first feature quilt, called, simply, Tree. “When I was starting to think about this quilt, I knew I wanted to have a grief component to it,” reflects Sara, who lost her grandmother, aunt and father in the past five years. “But I also know that grief can lead to positive things, too… There are times when we dwell on sorrow, and other times when we dwell more on hope so I wanted the meaning to be in the eye of the beholder.”

Here from Sara is the artist’s statement accompanying the quilt, which she designed and created by herself using appliqué and hand-quilting techniques.

A woman with dark-rimmed glasses smiles at the camera with the background of a cityscape.


As each year passes, our lives are filled with more instances of both grief and joy and more beginnings and endings. This quilt was designed to represent those different parts of life simultaneously.

The tree has no leaves; it is bare. It may be a springtime tree about to burst with new life with buds ready to form. Or maybe it is an autumn tree that has dropped its leaves and is preparing for winter dormancy. Or a third possibility is that the tree has arrived at the end of its life.

The background changes from light to dark. It could be the sunrise at the start of a new day filled with potential or it could be the sunset closing the chapter on another day. 

The shape of the background pieces is reminiscent of cracked dry ground empty of life. That soil only needs water for the seeds contained within it to spring forth.