Getting Ready for the Edmonton Festival of Quilts – Part 2: Symbolism in Textiles and Quilts and Nunavut Block

In Part 1 I discussed quilt blocks and designs as being symbols of repurpose, rebirth, preserving memories and recording a life. Patterns and meaning in textile and quilted items go far back in human history. I wouldn’t be surprised that the same depictions on cave walls also used these symbols on skin cloth and fibre textiles to protect the wearer.

In Afghanistan, symbolic patterns were believed to keep evil spirits away. Yellow repelled ghosts, white opposed the evil eye; green was the sacred colour of nature, while red was dedicated to Mohammed.  Turks used the triangle as a protective sign, and an 8 pointed star represented the prophet Solomon. Five squares combined in a pointed symbol cursed anyone that would harm a nomad woman, while five also acted as a talisman to guard against the evil eye.

The ancient blue and white Nazar boncuğu symbol, a stylised eye thought to avert the evil eye, appears on this Turkish Airlines airplane.


Patchwork itself had symbolic power. It was used as an outward sign of vows of poverty by Buddhist, Muslims, Monks, Fakirs and Dervishes. The Dervishes described Mohammed as a man who always wore patched clothing. Quilted patchwork was also used for more common purposes, including armour for men and horses. The crusaders were thought to be responsible for introducing patchwork and applique techniques into Europe. The Tristan Quilt, (1395), is one of the earliest surviving quilts in the world.


Nunavut Block

So what symbol will I use for my second block for Nunavut.



My second pieced block selection is for Canada’s newest territory, Nunavut.  When I think back to my years of travel through this part of Canada my 1st choice for a block would be the inuksuk; However, I had no luck finding a traditional block pattern that comes close to representing this iconic image. I liked the idea of a bear claw block in white for the polar bear. Most of my trips north were during the darkest time of the year; If it was not too cold to be outside and you were not in ice fog, I would see amazing dark skies filled with endless stars. Surely I thought they were also important to the Inuit for traveling on the land.

Surprisingly, stars were not an important means of navigation to the Inuit as one might think. During the summer months there is very little or no darkness….no stars!  In the coldest, darkest months of the year travel was not typically undertaken.  However, the North Star, Polaris, or in Inuit astronomy Niqirtsuituq, certainly has been used by many travellers to determine the location of true north. The magnetic north pole is located in Nunavut and as of 2013 Canada also has laid claim to the true “north pole”. Therefore it is not surprising to find this star symbol depicted on the flag and coat of arms of Nunavut.








I have chosen the traditional friendship star.

Nunavut Block (Friendship Star)


How to Do – Free pattern



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