Wednesday, October 4, 2023

150 Canadian Women Quilt Finish

I actually am quite filled up with emotion to share this finally finished quilt. But first, I want to acknowledge this beautiful land where I live.

I live on the traditional and ancestral lands of the Three Fires Confederacy: the Ojibwe, the Potawotamie, (also known as Nishnabek), the Odawa, and also Caldwell First Nation. I also acknowledge the Myaamia, First Peoples of my beloved Point Pelee and Pelee Island and surrounding waters. This is unceded territory, meaning it was stolen, and I respect and honour the First Peoples who have been on Turtle Island since time immemorial.

The quilt has been seven years in the making. I first heard of the quilt along in early December 2016. It had started in November, and over the course of the ensuing 52 weeks, the designer, Kat Tucker of Quiltnasium, released three 6" blocks, each representing a Canadian woman who had contributed to Canada in some way. Well, I was instantly IN. I love anything that empowers women. Since I'd read a fair amount of pioneer- and suffragette-themed books, I was intrigued and eager to learn more. And did I. Not only did Kat give the directions to make each block, she also included a few paragraphs telling each woman's story.

The stories evoked perseverance, suffering, joy, sadness, accomplishments and loss. Every one of them has added to the fabric of Canada's culture; many of them sent me to the internet, researching to learn more. This was before the discovery of unmarked graves in Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, before the long-asked-for facing our dark true history, that of the Residential Schools system, yet Kat included many stories of First Peoples women enriching the Canada we know today.

I kept up with the blocks, (here is my first post) rarely falling behind, but always catching back up, sharing a sentence or two that summarized what Kat wrote for each woman. Blog readers really enjoyed those snippets as well as the blocks. By December 18's post, Thursday Thoughts, I was up to speed with all 18 blocks.

By November 2017, I had all 150 blocks done. When I downloaded the finishing the quilt instructions, I found out there were six extra required for the 12 by 13 block layout. These were to be of our own choosing. Christmas came and went, so no progress on those last six blocks occurred until early January 2018.

I am so grateful for my blog, for the time I take to write down my thoughts and notes, and take photos, and provide links. I went back to find out who were the women I chose for these extra blocks? Well, in this post, I was reminded that I'd been reading a great book, a gift from my mum, Sisters in the Wilderness, by Charlotte Gray. It's about Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill, two Englishwomen who came to Canada as pioneers in southern-central Ontario in 1832. A log cabin for each woman was made. The third woman was Florence MacLeod Harper, an amazing Canadian journalist in 1916. I learned of her thanks to an article my mum had sent me. Her block is the middle one in the top row.

I am so incredibly touched and grateful that three of the last six blocks are thanks to my mum. She died suddenly in May of that year, but she knew that I'd made these blocks as she was an avid blog reader.

What did I do for the other three? The Woven Stars (just noticed only the 'v' keeps woven from becoming women) block, bottom row, middle, is for all pioneering women as well as the Me Too movement that was blossoming at that time. The two maples leaves are for Canada.

I'd found the perfect maple leaf fabric by Moda to use as cornerstones in the sashing. Those maple leaves were 1.5" unfinished on the fabric, so they would finish at the required 1"! The girl looked at me like I'd lost my mind when I told her what I'd do with the .5 metre she was about to cut. “You’re cutting this up into like almost 200 squares??!!”

Shortly after making the final six blocks, I started on the quilt centre, sewing the blocks, in order, into rows of 12. I worked on it off and on, and finally I had the centre done by December 2018. The quilt then sat for the longest, three years, until I finally, thanks to Leanne's #wipsbgone challenge, I tackled the massive piano key border and final border, and the top, now 94" x 104" was complete.

I'd run out of the Benartex Naturescapes fabric, so only used it for two of the four final borders. I found another in my stash that was very close in soft tones  to use for the other two sides. With the ribbon candy quilting over that entire final border, it isn't apparent that it isn't all the same fabric. Moreover, it is in keeping with the controlled scraps mood of the quilt!

It sat for another year and a half, until July 14, 2023, when I loaded it onto Avril. I knew it would take a long time, which is partly why I'd not loaded it beforehand. The other reason was figuring out a backing. The fall leaves print I'd bought wasn't sitting with me as well as when I'd first bought it, and I wanted to use some of the Canada Sesquicentennial fabric I'd collected in 2017/2018. It sat untouched on Avril for a good month while Brady was here and summertime called, but I finally pulled it off the frame on September 27, and got it bound this past weekend.

Because of its size and weight, (the flimsy weighed four pounds; the quilted quilt weighs eight!), it has been hard to photograph. My dowel is 6', but the quilt is an inch sort of eight. The first shot is at Leamington Marina, a restaurant they have that is elevated, so my husband could hold the quilt and let it drop over the side to try to get a full shot. The sun was coming from the side, so the quilting shows pretty nicely. 
The next day we took it to Jack Miner's Bird Sanctuary where there is an observation gazebo on a hill overlooking the fields and a pond where the Canada geese were enjoying a cooling swim. It's been a very hot week.

The quilt:

They weren't too pleased that we'd ruined their chi, and grumble-honked in protest as they slowly meandered off the pond and onto the grass.

It's not the greatest for photos because I am taking the shot looking up at the gazebo from the fairly steep side of the hill, but here is the back.

As I said, I used a bunch of my Canada fabric I'd collected. I decided to save myself a little piecing (lol) and use a piece of wide backing that has been in the wide backing vault for two or three years. It's a friends print, and May seem odd for a quilt I'm keeping myself, but I felt that these women were my friends, and that had I lived when they did, or had the chance to meet those who are alive (and there are many, some quite young) we'd be kindred spirits. I built the back on my design wall (see Instagram) and somewhere along the way, because of what I've learned through taking the University of Alberta's MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), Indigenous Canada, in summer of 2020, and the ongoing searching and finding of mass graves at residential 'schools', I wanted an orange heart worked into the back for the children.

A closer look of the labels:

I love this shot of the map fabric on the back as I was quilting it.

For the binding I used a beautiful vintage (wink) red from my stash called 'Nana's' by Balson Erlanger. It makes me think of ice-dyed fabric, but it's a cotton print. It took ten WOF strips, with exactly 9" to spare! It’s stitched down by machine to the front and then topstitched by machine on the back with two Aurifil threads: 2455, a deep fuchsia in the needle and 6724, a soft ivory in the bobbin.

I did a fancy feather around a Swirl Angela Walters design in each of the four corners. I oriented them so they spiral around the four corners of the quilt.
These shots give you some close-ups of some of the fabulous Canada fabrics on the back.

I used a few threads to quilt it. 

I posted photos of various blocks I'd quilted as I worked my way through the rows. Here are a dozen of 156! My friend Cathy in Port Perry ☺️  said that I should have a legend to go with this quilt that tells about the blocks. Well my blog is that legend! I think I might figure out a way to put my notes on all those blog posts over that year into one file. 

I love that it isn't just red and white, but has pinks sprinkled throughout. It gives it that extra je ne sais quoi.

I learned so much through making this quilt. Many of the blocks intrigued me in their design, and I'd put them in EQ8 and play with colour and rotation. That is how Beothuk Star was born, using the Baby Bud block which was for Shanawdithit, Block 13. I used the design for one of the Island Batik challenges in 2018, my first year as an ambassador for their fabrics.

Readers loved it, and it became my quilt along quilt in 2019. I worked in that Baby Bud block again in a quilt I designed for McCalls' Quilting July/August 2019. Two of the stars on the house blocks in Rainbow Neighbourhood are 6" blocks from this quilt. And I have plans for several more!

The early morning sun was in and out so I snapped a couple of shots to see the wonderful texture the wool batting and all the quilting gives. It’s still wonderfully soft and drapey though. 

Almost every single seam in all 156 blocks was ditch-stitched, and all the 1” maple leaves. The piano key border has every seam ditch-stitched, and another line of stitching through more or less the centre, sometimes two passes, depending on the width.

I also learned so much about Canada's history and the major part that women, unsung women, many of them, played in our history. I heard yesterday on CBC Music, a programme for our third annual Day of Truth and Reconciliation, that it's important that we know our country's history, the real history, both dark and good parts. I think this is the way to understanding and taking steps today to mend the wrongs. It will take years and constant work, but it is worth it; we'll have a solidarity in each other, and most importantly, in our lands. The land, as in the planet, is our mother.

I'll leave you with one more shot in the first location we tried, at the east end of the marina. Point Pelee is behind the quilt, sticking out south into Lake Erie. We are headed there now on this beautiful morning, taking the dogs for one last swim of the season and this time I have my bathing suit on, so I might take one too! Twitter is becoming more fall like as of tomorrow afternoon, so I will soak in these glorious days as much as I can, especially in my beloved Point Pelee.

Quilt Stats:
Pattern: 150 Canadian Women by Kat Tucker
Size: 95" x 103" after quilting
Fabric: scraps and stash
Batting: Quilters Dream 100% wool batting
Backing: Friendship 108 wideback by ?; Moda 'With Glowing Hearts', Northcott 'Canadian Sesquitcentennial
Quilted: on Avril: 390 281 stitches
Threads: pieced with various; quilted with Superior So Fine 100% polyester, Aurifil 50 wt 100% cotton, Coats & Clark 100% cotton (red variegated), and Connecting Threads Essential 100% cotton; Bottom Line in the bobbin

Linking up


  1. Your quilt is a testimony to the Women of Canada, then and now, the quilting is beautiful, those deep reds are glorious, and the settings are a delight to see for my southern eyes. I hope this will be on display or on the bed.

  2. This is such an amazing quilt, Sandra! There are really no words to describe my thinking as I read your post. Such a wonderful accomplishment, full of emotion and learning. Bravo!

  3. What a magnificent quilt, Sandra, commemorating the lives of those wonderful Canadian women who contributed to your country. How wonderful that your Mother had in input into the last few blocks too. You can be justly proud of your wonderful creation.

  4. My two heroes are in there: Alice Wilson and Elsie Gregory McGill. Lovely job.

  5. ABSOLUTELY AWESOME..............well done on one massive achievement. I'm still gobsmacked some hours later and do hope I can get this comment to take. Ooh, just thought of a great place to take a photo, if you were in Oz.(giggle). Thanks for sharing, take care & hugs.

  6. A beautiful finish, Sandra and such a learning experience for you and your readers! Thank you for sharing it with your readers. Enjoy these glorious days, especially in Point Pelee.....I look forward to going back there someday and will contact you before hand so we can meet up along the shore! Carol @

  7. Wow! Totally stunning. Congratulations on the finish Sandra. That took some doing.

  8. An awesome quilt commemorating Canadian women who have made Canada what it is today. The photos and the quilting are gorgeous! Well done my friend!

  9. Simply amazing. Have a lovely weekend.

  10. Such a beautiful quilt with a very interesting story. Your fabric selections were right on and each block is such a beautiful homage to the woman it represents. Your quest for more information helped all of us learn more about the history of the tribes and their treatment at the hands of white peoples not only in Canada but in the US as well. Your quilting is so good. The time and thoughtfulness you devoted to this piece is a testament to your love for the women who played important roles in the settling of Canada.

  11. What a magnificent quilt. It is so full of energy - women's energy from Canada. I loved watching this from the beginning and to now see it finished is amazing. Since this is such a great project, I might collect the information into a pdf...and maybe put together a booklet on it, as it is such a treasure of information!

  12. Oh dear looks like I'm having the same issue as Quilting Jetgirl - I hate updates :-( Anyway the quilt is absolutely stunning - I have loved watching you make this one and the wait to see it quilted as been worthwhile. I have also learnt a lot of Canadian history - not just because of this quilt but just through reading your blog. I hope that you enjoy using this quilt for a long time to come. Great that it also has a reminder of your mum too. MichelleinScotland.

  13. What a beautiful quilt and a fantastic story behind the making of it!

  14. I am behind on reading posts, but this one was such an interesting read! I know you have put so much into the making of this quilt, and it has had such an impact on you. I'm so glad you saw it through to the end, learned so much about your country, and still find satisfaction in the making of this quilt. It is stunning.

  15. Congratulations on finishing such a spectacular and meaningful quilt, Sandra. I hope it takes pride of place somewhere where you can see it often.

  16. Phenomena, Sandra!!! I enjoyed the story of your quilt. And those 1" maple leaves--so good!!!

  17. I sure would be doing a "happy dance" if I had a quilt such as this completed. It's gorgeous!

  18. Hi Sandra, what an amazing quilt and post. I think that a page dedicated to your quilt on your blog would be a great idea! In 2013 I started a quilt based on Grandmother’s Choice: Women’s Rights and Issues. I was never going to make all the blocks, but I've been wanting to finish it with a centre medallion of my favourite "Famous 5" ladies having tea! Your finish is truly inspiring. I hope to get to this quilt next year! Thanks for linking up to Free Motion Mavericks!