A Canadian Victory Quilt comes home…

by | Sep 21, 2023 | History

Quilts tell stories.

Quilt tell stories about who made them. The designs, the colours, the materials used, the patterns in the fabric, the quality of the construction and stitching, all tell us something about the person or group who made it.

Quilts from wartime also provide clues. And sometimes they provide puzzles, or mysteries, or intriguing challenges to the viewer.

This quilt was sold to an individual near Oxford, England this year, from the estate of a collector of textiles and interesting artifacts. So it is likely that the collector bought it  – that they were not the original recipient of this quilt – but we may never know for certain.

There is not the typical Canadian Red Cross label that is on many Canadian wartime quilts, but there is something even better — more specific. Like the Winona Circle Quilt from Gananoque, the identifier is even more informative than the Red Cross label. There is embroidery on this quilt in the top right corner that reads: “The Ladies’ Guild, St. Davids Church, London, Ontario, Canada”

In addition, there are 389 names embroidered on it – I know because I have transcribed them all into a spreadsheet!

There are also messages: “Thumbs Up” and “Grace & Don” embroidered in a heart.

And after several names, there are initials indicating military involvement: R.C.A and R.C.A.F.

Who are these people – are they all members of the church? Why are their names on this quilt? Who initiated this project? Who gathered the names? Did more than one person do the embroidery? What year was it made? Was it initiated to raise funds for the war? Who sent it to England? – the fundraising quilts such as this one very often were not sent overseas.

This quilt is in excellent condition for an 80-year-old quilt. The 30 quilt blocks appear to be sewn together by machine, but the victory symbol ‘V’s are all appliqued on by hand, the extensive quilting is done by hand, and all the embroidery of the names is also by hand and in most cases still intact. I believe it has hardly been used and rarely washed, though the blue fabric of the ‘V’s and on the backing is certainly faded.

Over the coming weeks and months, as I research this quilt and invite assistance from people in London, Ontario, I will add information to this blog about the people whose names are written here. These stitches are a record of a time, a place, a church, families, a community, two countries and a war.