Getting Ready for the Edmonton Festival of Quilts – Part One: Canada Block

What this Blog is about?

The last of the garden vegetables have been harvested, the golf clubs are packed away, my outdoor runs and bike rides have moved into the gym and the leaves have fallen off the trees — so my eco dye pot has returned to the garage. For some this might signal the 1st hint of winter, but for me it is the beginning of quilting season. This year is extra exciting as I start planning what I will be doing for our Festival of Quilts show in June 2017.

I have to admit that I would best describe myself as an art and improv quilter. My work often includes felting and other very non-traditional materials. I have admired traditional designs and the skill of precision piecing, but never seem to get to far down that road. I am embarrassed to say how many traditional blocks lie untouched after taking several precision piecing courses. Piecing 60 tiny pieces into a single 12” block is crazy work! But this year is Canada’s 150th birthday celebration, so I decided this year I would commit and finish a more traditional project in the spirit of the style around the time of confederation. My goal is to come up with a different recognized traditional block pattern for each province and territory. I could use a little help from my quilt friends.

Here is my plan so far. Having made this commitment and knowing nothing about the history of quilting or block designs, I decided to do a little research to get inspired. What I found was plenty of intrigue, politics, science and even geography that influenced how quilters were able to express themselves. I hope you will join me in my learning adventures. What I have decided to do with each blog post is to share a bit of history and unveil a new block I will be using in my project; you may or may not agree with my choices. I would love to see your ideas of traditional pieced patterns evident in the 1800’s, which you might use for a very Canadian quilting adventure.

Let’s get started…

Stitching layers together with some sort of fibre has likely been around as long as people needed to protect themselves from the elements. If these fibres had survived the ravages of decay, they could have reflected the history of human thought.

The work of sewing quilts, especially where old clothes are used to make something new and useful, has been associated by many quilters down through the ages as an act of starting over again. It was a symbolic act in which something dead, is reawakened to life. The pattern in which the pieces of cloth were sewn together also often had symbolic significance. This practice was especially important practice in the 1800’s in North America and at the time of the birth of Canada as an independent nation.

Migration, whether forced or voluntary, to Canada is part of the history of this country. Textiles and quilts brought with travellers served not only an essential survival need; they also served to teach and remember the past and preserve cultural traditions. While ability to read and write was often a limited skill in earlier history, especially for women, the combinations of colour, intersecting stitch patterns and forms contained data that could be shared by those who could “read” the message. Often over time the encoded cultural symbols and meanings were lost but they became part of the mosaic of patterns found in Canadian quilts.

As you may have guessed, my 1st pieced block selection to symbolize Canada is a maple leaf pattern. Adopted in 1964 the distinctive red maple leaf flag is known around the world. However the maple leaf also appeared in the 1st flag of Canada. Symbols of Ontario and Quebec on the original flag included both yellow (Ontario) and green (Quebec) maple leaves.


Maple leaves and Canadian flag

I came across many variations of pieced traditional maple leaves as they were popular in quilting. Thought I would start easy with the following design:


How to links for maple leaf:

how to make a maple leaf block

quilter cache maple leaf block pattern

You should see a new blog about every 5 days.


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