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Kemptville quilters' guild looking to document history of local quilts, new or old

A local quilters club has put a call out in eastern Ontario to dig up those old quilts lying around homes, all in an effort to preserve history and learn more about the quilters who made them.

Kemptville quilter Nancy Grundy is working on yet another quilting project in her basement sewing room, a hobby she returned to in 2000, after retiring in 1998.

"There's nothing like a warm quilt to cuddle up when you are watching TV or something," Grundy smiled.

Nancy Grundy standing beside a caricature wall hanger of herself that she made in her sewing room. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

A member of the Kemptville Quilters' Guild, the group has partnered with the North Grenville Historical Society and have put a call out to residents of eastern Ontario.

"Look in your cupboards, ask, don't be shy," Grundy said. "Every quilt is a precious item in your family and it should be documented."

"Maybe your grandmother made them. Our younger generation would say, 'yeah, I can't remember who made that' or, 'I think my mom told me somebody made it', well this way they will be documented," she added.

The Eastern Ontario Quilt Documentation Project (EOQDP) looks to learn the history of quilts from the region, like the vintage quilts Grundy documented at the Richmond Fair in 2018.

One, made by her great grandmother and mother back in 1914, aptly named a crazy quilt because of the uneven pieces of fabric.

Another unique one, made pieces of fabric leftover from suits.

"Made by my great grandmother and aunt, she was a seamstress and made men's suits in the local area in Grey County," Grundy said. "It's just a very versatile quilt that one would use on the bed. Again, what would you do with these bits and pieces? They recycled, they knew all about sustainability in those days."

Quilters' Guild president Teresa Harrison shows off another vintage piece made in 1967 to celebrate Canada's centennial she bought at auction.

Teresa Harrison showing off her 1967 Canadian Centennial quilt. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

"In 1978 I made my first quilt. My brother in law was getting married so I made a quilt," she recalled.

"A lot of times conversations will start about a quilt, if it was given for a wedding or something like that so it's nice to get the family history," Harrison said.

"We're hoping that we'll discover some quilts that were done by community groups in the area, for special occasions because that ties in with the history too," she added.

The group, helped by a grant from the Municipality of North Grenvillec, has set up two days on May 30 & 31 for people to register and have their quilts photographed and documented.

"It's just an opportunity to meet and discover quilts that are in the area and the history that's associated with it," Harrison said.

"Sometimes people get a beautiful quilt and they want to save it but it's much better to use it and enjoy it," she added. "The person who made that quilt is thinking of the person they were making it for and they want to know the person is going to enjoy it."

A quilt historian from Kingston will be on hand at the event, able to date older quilts and even figure out the kinds of fabric used.

The documented quilts will be uploaded into a database, with owners receiving a label to sew on the back of the quilt to say it is registered.

The label on Nancy Grundy's quilt after it was documented at the Richmond Fair in 2018. (Nate Vandermeer/CTV News Ottawa)

The Kemptville Quilters Guild has recently seen a spike in membership, with both older and newer generations getting into the hobby during the pandemic.

"Our membership is 102 right now, which is the highest I think we've ever had," said Harrison. "People were having trouble getting things, we went into our stash and we had a lot of projects to work at and it was great to see the revival in quilting and the interest it's brought."

Both women stress that no quilt is too old or too new to be documented for the project.

"Don't say, 'oh, it's old it doesn't matter,' it's really important to have it documented and really look at it. You'll look at it with a different view," noted Grundy.

"It is our intention, once we've got all of these photographs and all of this information, to create a book," added Harrison. "I look forward to seeing a book that will tell the history of North Grenville and area quilts."

The EOQDP is interested in all quilts, even they are from outside the region or even the province.

"Some people will say, 'Oh, I cam from the Maritimes or out west.' Well, that's important to them too, because then how did your family and the quilt get into this area?" Grundy said.

"Twenty years from now, you'll be able to go back and find out who actually made it, so the history of the make, the quilt itself, the fabric that was used and you're doing history of your family, which it important," she added.

Anyone with a quilt they would like to have added to project is asked to email the group to register at Top Stories

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