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Tutwiler Quilters mark 16th year selling goods in Oxford

For 15 years, the women of the Tutwiler Quilters have traveled to Oxford to sell their creations.

The group returns for a 16th sale on Saturday at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

“When you walk in the parish hall it’s like Christmas,” event organizer Elizabeth Payne said. “Their work covers every available space and it is so vibrant and beautiful.”

The Tutwiler Quilters are known nationally for their quilts, potholders, placemats and purses, all created by hand by African-American women in the tiny Mississippi Delta town of Tutwiler, Miss.

Payne first encountered the women during the Chimneyville Crafts Festival in Jackson in the 1990s.

“I was blown away and I think I bought some placemats and pot holders and it was just so beautiful,” Payne said. “They had wood sculptures, furniture, rugs, and scarves. My husband and I would go back every Christmas to buy gifts.”

After years of attending the festival, a friend of Payne’s suggested that they organize an event for the women to sell their work in Oxford.

The first sale was held at St. Peter’s in 2002 and raised about $6,5000, with eighty percent of the money going directly to the quilters. The other twenty percent, Payne said, is used by the group to purchase supplies and material for their work.

“Over the years, (the Quilters) have gotten very artistically daring with their work, both in color and design,” Payne said.

The Oxford event is the largest generator of sales for the group each year, Payne said.

For Payne, this year will be a special experience, as her favorite Quilter, Janice Mitchell, will be attending for the first time.

“The thing I cherish most are the friendships formed over the years,” Payne said. “I’ve never met Janice in person, we’ve always emailed one another but I’m excited to see her.”

The sale will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. The sale accepts cash, check and credit card as payment.