A History of Weaving In Canada

In celebration of Canada's 150th, the Friends of Wesleyville Village are hosting a quilt display entitled Weaving Through Time which showcases and displays some beautiful examples of the quilting tradition throughout Canada's history. The oldest quilt, a portion of which is pictured below, is from 1887. The collection also contains pieces from the early 1900s through to modern quilting practices.

An important tradition, quilting has a lengthy history in Canada. The arrival of settlers from Britain and the United States, in the late 18th century, brought quilt making to Canada. Materials would be imported from England as they were not yet produced in Canada. However these materials would often have been used for other purposes first such as clothing or blankets.

In the early 1800s, most quilts were made from material the wool of sheep kept by early settlers in Canada. Quilts, at this time, were considered to be part of the household duties of women. A few references have been found in diaries from women of this time period.

Early patterns included the framed medallion and whole cloth styles, which would be replaced by the simple 9 patch pattern (below). Some of the more well known patterns were developed later such as the Log Cabin (1900s) and the Dresden Plate (1930s), both featured in Weaving Through Time.

During the mid 1800's repeating block designs were popular motifs. In the last half of the 1800s more complicated patterns were developed and shared in magazines and newspapers. This was made possible due to improvements both in transportation and in communication. The importing of cotton from the United States also lowered costs of material as did the production of material at Canadian cotton mills.

Quilting had by this point become larger than the individual household. Often quilting activities would occur at Quilting Parties or at sewing clubs associated with local churches. Weaving Through Time continues another quilting tradition: exhibitions and fairs for quilts have been documented in Canada since 1863.

Trends in the 1930s include solid-coloured backgrounds often with prints of flowers, geometrics, polka dots and plaids. Popular patterns included the Grandmother's Flower Garden (below) or Dresden Plate (below). Patterns were often traded in sewing groups as well as found in magazines and newspapers. Sewing machines were widely used during this period. Though hand-stitching did persist. The depression of the early 1930s resulted in the mentality of utilizing leftovers from other sewing projects such as clothing. Often quilts were made of small scraps of fabrics from old clothes.

Weaving Through Time runs on Sundays through July and August through the Step Inside Sundays program, 12-4 pm. It is located at Wesleyville Church, and presented by the Friends of Wesleyville Village, a group dedicated to the preservation of Wesleyville: a nineteenth century historic village.