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The quilt as artifact

Musée Héritage Museum dusts off significant bed coverings

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014 06:00 am

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  • QUILT EXHIBIT – Curator Joanne White prepares a quilt for display as part of the Piece Makers exhibit.
    QUILT EXHIBIT – Curator Joanne White prepares a quilt for display as part of the Piece Makers exhibit.
    CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette
  • WALL DISPLAY – Registrar Kathleen Haggarty hangs a quilt for display.
    WALL DISPLAY – Registrar Kathleen Haggarty hangs a quilt for display.

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Piece Makers: How Our Grandmothers Recycled
On now until Sunday, March 23
Opening reception tomorrow evening at 7 p.m.
Musée Héritage Museum
5 St. Anne St. (in St. Albert Place)
Call 780-459-1528 or visit for more information.

Back in the day, there wasn’t a department store around the corner for people to buy new clothes or bedding when the old ones got worn out. Frequently, they would take used up old textile items and turn them into quilts. This timeworn tradition is now the subject of a new exhibit that just opened at the Musée Héritage Museum.

Piece Makers is a showcase of work from the local archives. According to curator Joanne White, it’s like an early look at recycling but with more purpose.

“It’s about reusing fabrics and pieces of clothing, various bits and pieces, to make quilts,” she said.

“We have a number of quilts that have been around for quite awhile. Some of them are a little more recent, but by more recent I mean 1968!” she laughed. “I think that’s our latest one.”

The museum has a small collection of its own historic or culturally-significant quilts. While many such quilts were started out of necessity, they also resulted in significant heirlooms to many families, White said. There hasn’t been a quilt show in town for quite a while and so the time had come to return to the topic, she said.

“Some of ours are slightly more utilitarian than some of the fancy art quilts. They don’t always get the attention that they deserve. That was the idea behind it: to bring them out of storage so people can see them.”

There are also a number of objects borrowed from the Royal Alberta Museum, providing a variety of pieces for the public to enjoy.

One of the museum’s pieces is a patchwork quilt made out of men’s coat and suit fabrics. Another, by Justine Bellerose, was made with grey flannel sheets and old dresses using the courthouse steps pattern. White added that Bellerose also created a tongue twisting “crazy quilt cushion cover,” referring to the style of patchwork quilting that has no set pattern.

“We’ve had that out before from time to time. It’s a small piece made out of the fine fabrics and with the embroidery and things that were typical of crazy quilts.”

Special event

In conjunction with the exhibit, the museum will be hosting the Alberta Quilt Project on the Saturday of the Family Day Weekend in February. It’s a longstanding project of the Royal Alberta Museum and Lucy Hines, the assistant curator of Western Canadian history.

“She started this project,” White said. “She’s been going around the province documenting quilts. They photograph them, measure them, and make notes about the kinds of stitches that were used, the histories of the family or the quilter, that sort of thing. They’re creating this database of Alberta’s quilt history.”


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