Zelma Dorris


  Detroit, Michigan, United States    

Michigan African American Quilt Project

Zelma Dorris is featured in the exhibit: Quilting Sisters: African-American Quiltmaking in Michigan.
Zelma Dorris was raised in McCormick, South Carolina, where quilting was popular because there were no blankets or funds for manufactured goods. Among Dorris' maternal relatives were weavers and quilters; by the time she was five, she was threading needles and listening to her grandmother tell spellbinding stories about how quilts were used during slavery. The hems of quilts, she was told, were hiding places for important messages from slave to slave.

A wife and mother who formerly served as a clerical worker, Dorris spends all of her spare time visiting quilt shows, talking with quilters or actually quilting herself. Following her mother's footsteps, Dorris has won gold ribbons and honorable mentions in numerous quilt exhibits and quilting competitions. The 50 quilts she has completed are of varying fabrics, patterns and colors - reflective of Dorris' eclectic taste as well as her family history. Shoo Fly, for example, is her favorite pattern because it is the one she can remember her grandmother using.

Was the maker a woman, man or a group?


When was the quiltmaker born?


If the quiltmaker was married, what was the wedding date.

Ethnic background/tribal affiliation:

African American

Educational background:

High School Graduate

Religious affiliation:


Occupation (if retired, former occupation):

Clerical worker

Where was the quiltmaker born?

McCormick, South Carolina (SC), United States

Quiltmaker's maiden name:


Father's Name:

Charlie Laster

Father's ethnic/tribal background:


Mother's Name:

Minnie Lee Robinson

Spouse's/Spouses' name(s):

Harold E. Dorris

Number of female children:


Number of male children:


How did the quiltmaker learn to quilt?

From Relative

When did the quiltmaker learn to quilt?

Under 10 years of age

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