Sunday, April 17, 2011

Quilting: Pieces of my Grand-mère traveling across Canada

Our wedding quilt on our queen size bed.
I grew up with quilts on each bed. With extras for snuggling up with when we were cold. I remember as a child walking into my grand-mère's upstairs large room overlooking the shed, field and finally the harbour, and seeing her four quilting posts set up. A few times she would have an unfinished quilt attached to the four corners and we would crawl around underneath like it was a fort.

That was when we were really little.

Grand-mère hasn't been quilting for decades.

check out the stitching- hand done all perfectly straight and even.
My mom tells me the ladies in the community would all gather around the quilting posts, gossip and quilt for entire afternoons. Once the ladies left, often grand-mère would go behind them, undo their stitches and re-quilt... she was ridiculously particular about needing the most perfect, tiny and even stitch. Because of her perfectionism and constant re-stitching, mom says she just gave up learning how to quilt. Who has time for hours of sewing these days?

It really wasn't until I met Andrew that I truly understood that I took my beloved 'grand-mère quilts' for granted. He grew up with synthetic, fuzzy blankets and never had quilts on the bed.
Fisherman's quilt and another grand-mère quilt we have stored in our vintage blue trunk

Growing up I inherited the most wonderful quilt of all: grand-mère's 'Fisherman's quilt'. I received this ugly mishmash of colours with the most soft flannel backing in high school. Out of all the quilts, the fisherman's quilts are the ugliest. Made from any old scrap fabric the ladies had lying around, they were stitched together in practical squares with extra stuffing and a flannel backing. They weren't supposed to be pretty, but were meant to keep the men warm while out fishing; in doreys or sword fishing like my grand-père used to do.
the soft back flannel part! fraying now at the edges... :(
Fisherman's quilt... my favourite
I adore that quilt. It has followed me through my undergrad, crossing the Bay of Fundy for four years on the stinky Digby Ferry; comforting while I was homesick and having my heart broken for the very first time. I dragged it to Montreal for two years where it witnessed the roller-coaster ride of my life there and was volunteered as my first 'yoga mat' (umm not really ideal). I even rolled up my grand-mère's quilt, tied with some nylon twine (dad's lobster fishing neon orange!) on top of my luggage and lived for two years with us in the Okanagan valley.

It has been a part of my life for over fourteen years now. Even though grand-mère and grand-père never had a driver's license or traveled much after their wedding anniversary, a little piece of them made it across the country and back with me.

Before she stopped quilting, grand-mère had quilted each of the grandchildren a wedding quilt. They were all tucked away in trunks, waiting for us to each get married.

Unfortunately, we all waited a bit too long. Grand-mère was recently diagnosed with dementia of the Alzheimer's type. As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I know exactly what that means, and have been seeing the signs of her crumbling memory for years now. By the time my cousin and I got married, she no longer remembered that she had lovingly stitched those quilts for us to have at our wedding. She wasn't able to attend Andrew and my wedding last fall as she was too fragile to travel the three hours to Oceanstone. I'm still sad to this day that she missed such a special part in my life.

Now when I look at the quilts, especially the fisherman's quilt, they are so precious. That pink square is fabric from grand-mère's old pajamas I remember her wearing as a child, the orange squares are from her old blouse, some of the blue squares are from grand-père's old shirts and trousers. Grand-père passed into the afterlife two years ago.

These quilts have truly come to represent the fading craft that we used to take in creating gifts and objects with meaning. Of frugality and care. Of community and love.

We've become so busy in our lives trying to make money, fit in 'date night' or 'family time' that we've forgotten what it's like to just BE.

I wish my grand-mère's quilts could last forever, keeping her memory with me through all the steps life and the Goddess will offer me.

Blessings and Happy Full Moon!

article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. This post is lovely. There's so much value and history in owning things that belonged to grandparents. Especially if they are hand-made things.

    You are indeed, very lucky to have such tangible and love-filled history in your possession - as things you can also use, too!

  2. Such a tribute to your grandmother and to her creative spirit through her art---for truly quilting is now an art. Such a patient skill it takes and you are so fortunate to have so many examples of her perfection and dedication. What great items to keep you warm! So have you taken up the needle? ;) My grandma via mom's side was a big far I've only accomplished one baby quilt but it wasn't too long as I wasn't striving for perfectionism! Give it a try if you haven't already! ;)

  3. What a touching post. And remarkable quilts. I'm not from a quilting family and don't know much about quilting. But, I'm learning a bit. A good friend wrote this book: about the history of Montana quilting. It is amazing. Lovely post.

  4. I too grew up sleeping under quilts lovingly quilted by my Gram and my Grandma (greatgrandma and grandma). I didn't realize how lucky I was until I got married either. I dragged my bright pink little girl with umbrella quilt (I can't remember the real quilt name) with me to university and it was on my daughter's bed when she was little. My mom has carried on the tradition, and all of the grandchildren have crib quilts, and she's started big quilts for each one. My Around the World quilt mom made for me is almost worn out, I guess I'll have to put Lonestar back on my bed. Thanks for sharing!

  5. My grandma owned her own fabric store and was a seamstress for a living. When she retired she had tons of fabric left over and took on the daunting task of making a quilt for each one of her grandchildren. I don't know how she found the time but she did it.

    Like you said, the quilts are not always pretty since they are made up of leftover fabrics (and in this case much of the fabric was left over from the "polyester" years) but it doesn't matter. They are beautiful mementos of my grandmother. When I see her quilts, it helps me remember her now that she is gone.

  6. Such loving post! You are lucky to have spent time and create memories with your grandparents. It isn't the same for me because my grandparents except for my paternal grandmother died even before I was born.

    By the way, you are invited to join UnitedYogis. It is an online yoga community in which you can post blogs, photos and videos. You can also make friends with other yogis and post comments to their posts. Signing up is free! :)


I love hearing from you! So I don't miss a comment, I like "pre-approving" them :)
I ask only that we stay respectful.
Also, please note that this is a personal blog and not a space for advertising your company. I reserve the right to delete "advertising" comments.

**NB: The ANONYMOUS option is the BEST way to comment if you don't have a blogger or established google/gmail account.