Getting Ready for the Festival Of Quilts

Part 6 : Social Class , Quilting Styles and the Manitoba block

Quilts whether essential for warmth or more decorative purposes were part of an English marriage tradition. Eligible girls had to have 12 quilts in their dowry with the 13th quilt made after she was married. Superstition also demanded it was important that there were no breaks in the edging, as this could foreshadow unhappiness and a broken marriage.

At your quilting, maids don’t dally

Quilt quick if you would marry

A maid who is quilt-less at twenty one

Never shall greet her bridal sun.

So it should not be surprising quilting skills reached the new world especially from 1800 to 1840 when patchwork and applique quilting were at the height of popularity in England.

Differences however were evident in the quilt styles between social classes. This was not only because of access to textiles but also ethnicity, environment and isolation considerations. Rural patterns tended to be more traditional and permanent and less likely to be influenced by whimsical fashions.

This discussion of influence of social class has taken me to the province of Manitoba,  the 5th province to join confederation in 1870. From my history lessons I recall around confederation the 1st nations and Metis peoples living in Rupert’s Land and HBO territory were on a collision course with the new Canada in the east.

My impressions of Manitoba are also of two different worlds. I recall walking at the edge of the treeline at Churchill and being in awe of the polar bears waiting to return to the sea ice. A short time later I was at the convergence of the  Red and Assiniboine Rivers in  Winnipeg with temperatures an unbelievable 30 degrees warmer!!!


Red River Carts


I finally decided since Manitoba is also the centre of Canada (at least from a trans-Canada highway perspective) and or course Red River carts brought settlers to the region a wagon wheel or wagon track type block  seems appropriate. My other thought was to consider the significance of the 1st railway crossing the Red River Crossing in 1881. Settlers and manufactures goods could now more easily move west to the prairies and likewise agricultural products could be transported east. I was in fact surprised to learn that the construction of railways that eventually linked sea to sea  was condition for 3 or 4 provinces entering confederation.

polar-bears-churchillThere are a lot of traditional pattern options  to chose from. For example the popular Jacob’s Ladder also was known as Wagon Wheels, The Trail of the Covered Wagon and even  The Railroad according to The Quilters Album of Patchwork Patterns (Jinny Beyer).

Below is my choice…

Manitoba Block  (variation of Broken Wheel  – EQ5 reference book)



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