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Canadian Wartime Quilt

One of the hundreds of thousands of quilts made by Canadian women during World War II and sent to Britain as civilian relief. The collection and shipping were organized by the Canadian Red Cross, and each quilt originally had a small woven or printed label saying ‘Gift of Canadian Red Cross’. The quilts were distributed in Britain to people who had lost their possessions in bombing raids, to evacuees, Women’s Land Army workers, hospitals, convalescent homes and children’s nurseries. Most of them have not survived but of those which have, many are treasured by the families who own them, evidence of the kindness of strangers in a difficult time. The Quilters’ Guild has a number of examples.

This example, a simple fourpatch design, shows many of the most common elements of these quilts. It is machine pieced and hand quilted. The backing is striped winceyette, and the edge is finished by bringing this backing to the front and hemstitching it down. The quilting design is what is sometimes called Baptist’s Fan in this country, a design which Canadians know as Rainbow. It is a design which lends itself to being done by a group of  women, and is very common in Canadian quilts. The thread used is white cotton. The fabrics of the top are dress cottons, possibly manufacturers’ samples. The same fabric appears in different colourways. The size of each square, approximately 6 in., also bears out this presumption.

 Until recently, these quilts attracted little attention in the quilting world, but there is now a research group actively documenting them and stories from recipients. Information on the whereabouts of examples or of accounts of receiving them can be sent to Maxine March on