Monday, 11 January 2016

Alberta Quilt Study Society Documentation Day

The Alberta Quilt Study Society (ABQSS)  first came to my attention when one of the executive contacted me about making a presentation to the Calgary Longarm Quilters.  We arranged that for last May, and it was such an interesting presentation,  I knew I wanted to have some quilts documented.  I was able to do that in November.

The ABQSS documents quilts, to help preserve the history of the quilts and their makers.    You can read up on their website for more details. 

So, first, I borrowed some quilts from my Grandma and Aunt.

 This quilt is a polyester double-knit quilt.  Pieced by my great Grandma, Belle Greenman, and tied by my Grandma Fern Tolonen and by my aunt Linda Frey.  Quilt is owned by my aunt Paula Hagan.  Belle had a lot of Grandchildren.  If my remembery is correct, it was 49 --or maybe 52.  Not sure if the 49 is my Mom's cousins, in which case we'd have to add her and her sisters to make it 52.  In either case, a LOT of Grandchildren.  And, she made tops for all of them. 
These quilts are neat, because they truly are scraps from the sewing--so my Aunts and their cousins recognize certain fabrics as Grandma's dress and Grandpa's shirt.  I'm sure I've got photos of my Great -Grandpa wearing those blue fabrics just above. 

The next quilt that I borrowed is this one.
This is the story of the quilt as told to me by my Grandma, Fern.  The Country Ladies Aid near Eckville Alberta  made charity quilts, and decided, at some point, that they should order fabric and make blocks so they could each have their own quilt as well.  These blocks were Mrs Effie Cates, they were made by hand, and the signatures penciled on (and then embroidered).   She gave them to her daughter Madeline.  When Madeline passed, they went to her sister Rena.  One day, Rena decided to give them to her friend Fern (we think sometime in the 90's).  Fern sewed them all together.  They were dirty and stained after 60 years in boxes, so Fern washed them, and they all fell apart.  So, Fern sewed it all back together, and again it sat for years until Linda (Fern's daughter) finished it with handquilting.  1939-2009.
This photo is Rena and Fern in 2009, when Linda had just completed the top. Rena and Fern have been friends since they were very very young.  It's pretty cool to have friends like that.

Linda photoshopped the 16 signatures together.  Belle Greenman is my great-grandmother, Lucille and Myrtle my Great-Aunts, and Fern my Grandmother.  
The ABQSS photographs each quilt, and takes the oral history of the maker and quilter, and the owner (where they have lived, where they learned to quilt, any guilds or groups they quilted with), and what oral history of the quilt is available.    Then, they examine the quilt closely, looking for any details they can find, and fill out about an 8 page questionnaire about the quilts construction, fibers and stitching. 

Here's a photo of two of the volunteers examining the coverlet I had brought in, which was embroidered by my Grandmother, Helen Leroy Speer.  We think this must have been when she was around 12-14 years old, based on what her sister remembers.

I love this coverlet.  I knew Grandma Helen to be a very accomplished sewer (some of the dresses she made are in the collection at the University of Alberta), and knitter, but never saw her do this type of work.  The size of the stitches on the back of the piece is just amazing.  So tiny. 

Below is an example of the labels the ABQSS gives you to put on your quilt, along with copies of all the recorded documentation, to keep with the quilt.  The number on the label can be used to find the quilt on the web, once they are loaded.  I haven't checked to see yet, if mine have been.  In this way, the history of the quilt or coverlet can be found and passed down to future generations.
 This quilt is liquid embroidery (anyone remember that from the 70's?), made by my Mom, Elaine Speer, for me.  It's machine pieced and hand quilted.  I only recall her making 3 quilts, this one of mine, and one very similar for my sister, and a handpieced and hand quilted log cabin for my parents bed, which has not survived.

And I was going to document my Lugnuts Quilt, but it was still hanging on the wall at Chinook Fabrics, so I took in my Chopsticks instead.  

It was a neat day, very interesting.  I was volunteering, as well as bringing in my own quilts, so got to see a real variety of antique quilts (some in shreds, some in good condition) and new quilts.  Large quilts and wall hangings.  The ABQSS aren't too picky about what they'll document.    I encourage you, if you're an Alberta quilter, or have a family heirloom, to have at least one quilt documented.    I look forward to having the chance to volunteer with them again, on another Discovery Day.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this is so fascinating to me. I loved reading the story of the longtime friends.