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L.A. Beat

Galt Museum answers quilt queries with Alberta Quilt Project

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There is a lot more to quilting than one might think — they provide a peek into the past. So the Galt Museum has been presenting a special series geared towards quilting aficionados, or to satiate curiosity about quilting for those new to it.

The last presentation of the series is May 17 at the Galt Museum featuring  Lucie Heins, assistant  CuratDawn Hunt shows several different quilts. Photo by Richard Ameryor of the Royal Alberta  Museum. She  will be bringing the Alberta Quilt project to Lethbridge, which  examines heritage quilts made in Alberta or brought to the province by immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and examines quilting in the twenty-first century.
The project began by documenting contemporary quilters to capture the current trends in quilting and surveyed Alberta quilting guilds, groups and individuals. The project, presented with the Lethbridge Centennial Quilters Guild, takes place May 17 at 7 p.m. at the Galt Museum.

“I’m here to unravel some of the mysteries of the quilt world,” said Dawn Hunt, who hosted the first two seminars. The first one covered the overall history of quilting, the second, CSI Quilt, went into more depth about how quilts can be a conduit into history over two sessions, April 5 and April 7.

“Women weren’t allowed to take classes or go to school, so quilting was how they expressed themselves,” she said.
“‘Some are passed down from daughter to daughter,” she said.
 She said you can tell a lot about history by examining quilts. Popular patterns, stitching techniques and even the type of dye used can tell a lot about  the era where the quilt came from.

Salesman’s fabric swatches  from the day also tell a lot about a quilt as they often reflect the popular styles of the day.
Sometimes they get lucky and find a date on the quilt, either on the back, or worked into the quilt itself.
“ We do a lot of research so the quilt can tell us the story,” she said.
 Sometime the quilt itself  tells  a story, reflecting the life of it’s creator and their family as they are often passed down through generations

 Hunt, who spent most of her career as an engineer in the Canadian Armed Forces — one of the first all women engineering corps — convinced the other members to design a pattern about themselves for her to embroider into the quilt.

 She retired in 2005 to pursue her true passion — quilts. She is well known as a quilting historian and appraiser. She is one of five certified quilt appraisers in Canada and the only one  west of Burlington, Ontario.

 Quilts are surprisingly durable, as she said they are mostly decorative rather than utilitarian. She noted there are many from the 1800s, plenty from the 1900s and even a few remaining from the 1600s. She noted there are three dating all the way back  to 1395.

“They are cherished memories,” she said. They reflect family history.

“I saw two different quilts from two branches of the same family. One from Ontario and one from Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan  family had connections to  Louis Riel and the other one was connected to the McIntosh Apple family. The Saskatchewan quilt was a log cabin quilt and you could tell the Ontario one was from the city, ” she said.

“Hopefully by looking at these quilts, we can ensure these stories are not lost,” she continued.”

 Like art, quilts have different movements and styles through the ages, which reflect the times they were created.
“During the depression, they made quilts out of potato sacks.”

 — By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
 A version of this story appears in the May/June 2012 edition of Bridge Magazine
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