Great-Great-Great Grandmother’s Quilt circa 1860-75 found to contain 30,850 hand quilted pieces!
submitted by Alison Tranter
TTo say the Richmond200th Anniversay Quilt Documentation Project was a great success would be an understatement. The event took place in Richmond on April 18th,19th and 20th sponsored by the Richmond200 Committee, Goulbourn Historical Society, Richmond Area Quilters Guild and the ladies at St. Andrew’s Church.
By close of day Friday, April 20th, 29 quilts were documented! Since then 8 more from the village have been done and plans are already being considered for a repeat event, possibly for next spring.
The event began with a presentation to 80 members and guests at Richmond Guild on Wednesday evening by Bethany Garner a quilt fibre artist and expert from Kingston.
Bethany, a quilt historian and restoration consultant who specializes in the conservation of heritage textiles is a documenter for the Eastern Ontario Quilt Documentation Project (EOQDP). She lends her skills as a Certified Quilt Judge to organizations in Canada and the US and brought expert knowledge to this project. Her knowledge of fabric history and quilt design is vast.
The next day, Bethany led a training session for 10 people who learned the process of documenting quilts in preparation for documentation day Friday April 20th. Several examples of old quilts from Bethany’s collection were displayed while explaining the importance of preserving and documenting family quilts. In short, they tell important stories of the lives of the people who lived here. There is much to learn from dating fabrics and pattern designs which help approximate when a quilt was made and where the fabric might have been sourced.
Friday was documentation day. Bethany was at St. Andrews Hall as photographer and advisor as the 29 quilts brought in by their owners on that day were documented. They came in response to posters, contact with community churches, local organizations, Facebook and word of mouth throughout the village. People were invited to contact organizers ahead of time to make an appointment to bring in their family quilts and tell their stories.
There is so much information to collect owners were sent forms to complete ahead of time. The forms used to document the quilts are lengthy, about 12 pages in total. Having captured as much detail as possible the work continues to transcribe the details into stories for easy reading! Alison Trantor, one of the organizers of the project is exploring the possibility of producing a booklet to display each quilt and tell its story.
Upon arrival the quilts were laid out on a big table and the details of size, colours, pattern, fabric, condition and quilting designs were determined. The owners were all fascinated by what they were learning about the “blankets” that had been in their cupboards and bedrooms for as long as they could remember. Many people were able to bring in pictures of the ancestors who had made the quilts and tell stories of family history. The documentation forms are a very necessary and helpful part of the process, getting as much detail as possible about the owner, the quilt maker and the quilt itself.
One of the owners was shocked and overwhelmed to discover that her great-great-great Grandmother’s quilt must have been made in 1860-1875. It contained 30,850 5/8th inch half-triangle squares. Bethany was so excited to see it she said it was of museum quality and should definitely be preserved. She suggested the ROM! It was all hand pieced and quilted… what patience that must have taken!
The many quilts that were presented were wonderful to see. The owners bringing them in were fascinated and so happy to share their stories and show us pictures. Many folks stayed for hours. One lady said her mother was enjoying herself so much telling about her quilts and her quilting history they stayed for hours!
Bethany began the Eastern Ontario Quilt Documentation project in 2005 summed up the event very well: “A wonderful three days … an exciting few days of discovery – of the commitment you brought to the project coordination and arrangements… of your Guild friends and community partners who helped along the way. What a busy day and an honestly QUILT COMMITTED and eventful day Friday – so many quilts came in that made the day special and educational!”
With a new appreciation and excitement for the old quilts in the community Bethany predicted that new Guild members and friends may come along. They will want to know more about the quilts they have and perhaps lean toward trying to make some themselves.
Alison Tranter, a key organizer of the project is confident there are many more quilts in the village (some in the Churches and one at the arena… are there more? … perhaps hiding in the attics, cedar chests and maybe even the barns in the area!). The information collected will be entered into the EOQDP for future reference, to compile the information for the owners and to perhaps compile a booklet of Richmond quilts. It is hoped to continue the process so if anyone is interested in sharing their quilt and the story Alison invites them to contact her at [email protected]