Albert County Historical Society’s Annual Quilt Show and Sale- July, 2010

The colorful patchwork bedding made of scraps of material, that we call a ‘quilt’,  is an art form that falls somewhere between a craft and fine art. Some people put them on their beds, some store them carefully as family heirlooms, and others hang them on the wall like a painting.

The artists that create these beautiful quilts are plentiful in the Maritimes, and not surprisingly, modest about their talent. In a summer ritual that draws many American tourists and Canadians from all over, quilt ‘shows’ spring up like fields of wild flowers, with walls of community centers and school gymnasiums festooned with colorful quilts of every style and color imaginable.

If you missed viewing the array of quilts at Port Elgin’s Lupin Quilt and Craft Fair in early July, there is another chance to view and purchase quilts at the Albert County Historical Society’s Annual Quilt Show and Sale from July 6 – 9th. .

Organizer Dawn Kinnie says that the quilt show has been  a tradition in the area  for at least twenty five years. The money raised from the two dollar entrance ticket, and the 15% commission the Historical Society gets from quilt sales, goes entirely to museum maintenance. 

Kinnie says that due to their limited space in the community hall, the quilt show limits their wares to quilts, baby quilts and needle work, with no other crafts or food.  “It is a different style than the Lupin Fair” says Kinnie, “ because the Lupin has different crafts and food and things like that, but our space limits us to one hundred quilts”.

The quilts come from “anywhere from Shediac, to Sussex and down in Albert County” and are of a very high quality. Collectors come from the United States because of the relatively good prices for such expert handiwork.  “We sell to a lot of tourists going towards the Park or the Rock. We sell locally too, to people who need wedding presents, but we sell a lot to the tourists”, says Dawn.

Dawna Crew,  a long time quilter who shows her work at the show, says that the quilts are priced very reasonably, “ It is like everything else in the Maritimes, we are reasonable, and we don’t want to be greedy”. But Crew says that there are many costs to quilting, “It is the cost of the material, the backing and the batting, it is not just the top of the quilt”.

You could never be paid for the endless hours of ‘piecing’, (cutting out squares and triangles and sewing them together) that is part of the work, says Crew, “Even a baby quilt will take you a week to make, with doing other things in between, of course. It is a long process, but so enjoyable. You have to really love it, to do it”.

Kinnie believes that quilting began with the pioneers, who when they found they were running out of bedding, “and their clothes were thin, torn and tattered, took the remnants to make new blankets”. Quilts that have been passed down from one generation to another carry family history in an artifact that is useful, beautiful, and full of memories.

There is history in the fabric, says Kinnie, using her own family as an example. “I know my mother- in- law made quilts that my kids can look at and say ‘I remember Grammy wearing that dress’”.

Today’s quilts are still sometimes made from old materials. Crew knows of a quilter that finds beautiful  fabric that is no longer produced, from old coats and dresses in second hand shops. Says Crew, “If you are a quilter, you are a fabric-oholic. You can’t go buy a piece of fabric you don’t feel. I sometimes keep fabric for years before I know how I will use  it. My house looks like a fabric store”.

All the traditional patterns that the quilters use have names, such as the ‘pinwheel’ or ‘log cabin’, but there are  ”more and more quilters coming out with new names and new styles because they get the patterns on the internet and from other countries”, says Kinnie,  “so there is more variety than there used to be as far as patterns go” .

Kinnie says that the Albert County Museum has quilts that are like a homemade census. As a Church fund raiser the local “ladies got together and made a quilt, and the pieces were sold for a quarter or a dollar, and  (the local people) wrote their name on them and then the quilts were put together. You can see quilts at the museum with signatures from the community all over it”.

But quilt making is not just a woman’s pursuit anymore, says Kinnie,  a few men contribute their quilts to the show every year. “We have two or three men that submit quilts”, says Kinnie, “and most of them are really excellent  quilters”. Crew agrees “Men are good, they are very good when they get into it”.

Although some quilters may be religious about hand sewing the entire quilt, Kinnie says that it is the colors and designs that strike the eye and draw the buyer.  Each quilt is a work of art, which can make selling the quilt difficult. “Because it takes a lot, you really put everything into it, it is part of you”, says Crew, “and when you sell or give away a quilt it is just like, ‘that’s my baby’”!

As to whether you chose to put your work of art on your bed, Kinnie says she  does,  “Myself, I have used them, quilts are washable!” She adds that her son has one “that his grandmother, who is deceased now, gave him years ago , and he has it his on the wall and has for years”. She says that she treasures the quilts her grandmother gave her for her wedding, and hopes that they will continue to be valued as family heirlooms in her family.

Will quilt making continue into the future? Crew is not sure, “Young women don’t really have the time now,  most young people don’t have time to stop and smell the roses anymore. But there are some  young women that get addicted to it”, says Crew, and that could be enough to continue the tradition.

When : July 6th to 9th 2010,

The hours of the quilt show correspond with the Albert County’s Museum’s hours:9:30 am to 5:30.

What: Albert County Historical Society’s Quilt Show and Sale

Where: Hopewell Cape Community Hall – Part of the Albert County Museum Complex)

Route 114, Hopewell Cape 

How Much: Two dollar entrance fee, children 12 and under are free

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