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WI quilt ‘A Story in Patchwork’

About 120 delegates recently visited Winnipeg to attend the Federated Women’s Institute of Canada convention

Listowel, Ontario Women’s Institute member and quilt maker Donna Henderson created ‘A Story in Patchwork’ sold by raffle during the recent Federated Women’s Institute of Canada convention in Winnipeg.

A brightly coloured quilt dubbed ‘A Story in Patchwork’ on display in Winnipeg this past weekend vividly symbolizes the group that helped piece it together, says its maker.

Donna Henderson of Listowel, Ontario was in Manitoba last week to attend the Federated Women’s Institute of Canada’s (FWIC) convention, bringing with her a quilt she constructed from over 100 fabric samples provided by Women’s Institute members Canada-wide.

“When I think about the way it came together and the way the Women’s Institute comes together it’s all about the caring and sharing of women,” said Henderson who has been a WI member herself since 1979.

She has been making quilts for the WI since the early 2000s after the national organization held a quilt block competition and she offered to piece all the entries together afterward.

‘A Story in Patchwork’ is now part of a series of quilts that also includes ‘For Home and Country,’‘My Canada’ and ‘Bush Walk.’ In total the quilts have helped the FWIC fundraise around $10,000.

Every swatch in this latest quilt tells a woman’s story from somewhere in Canada, says Henderson.

She was inspired to create a quilt made of contributed fabric samples from WI members while visiting friend and Manitoba WI member Marion McNabb a few years ago. Henderson had another quilt on the go at the time, when her friend handed her a piece of fabric urging her to “work this in somewhere.”

In due time, the WI put out the word that ‘A Story in Patchwork’ was in progress and samples began coming Henderson’s way.

Some materials are new fabric while others are samples from milestone or significant occasion projects, such as wedding quilts, or quilts made to comfort family members battling cancer. Some WI members sent in samples in memory of now-deceased WI quilters or to honour important people in their lives.

“One lady sent two panels that were cut out like aprons,” said Henderson, adding she thinks the samples dated back at least 50 years.

“She said her mother was going to make these aprons, but she didn’t get around to making them and then had a stroke and couldn’t make them.”

Henderson added material from the woman’s contribution to ‘A Story in Patchwork,’ then sewed the rest of it into the apron her mother never made.

“I’m hoping to give it to her if she’s at the conference.”

There were truly moving stories shared about the fabric samples, noted Henderson, adding that other WI members from Nova Scotia and Alberta decided to create a ‘memory book’ to go with it, matching fabric samples to the stories shared.

There was also lots of material left over, so two additional smaller quilts were created, including ‘The Red Quilt,’ and ‘The Scrappy Quilt,’ plus two runners.

In all there are 110 pieces of material sent from coast to Canadian coast, as well as the U.S., Australia and even from Wales, whose senders included a thank-you card to Canadian women for first establishing the Women’s Institute.

The Women’s Institute movement has its origins in Stoney Creek, Ontario in 1897 and caught on quickly throughout Canada, eventually forming branches with thousands of members. It took root in Morris, Manitoba in 1910.

‘A Story in Patchwork’ was raffled off this past weekend — the others sold by silent auction — during the FWIC’s four-day meeting in Winnipeg. The event was attended by about 120 WI delegates from across Canada and hosted by the Manitoba Women’s Institute (MWI).

Speakers at the event spoke on topics themed around ‘Women Making Change Count,’ addressing subjects such as protecting the environment, empowering people to grow food, strengthening trade and securing financial independence. There were panel discussions on how the Canadian population is changing and how the WI can continue to support its communities where it’s present.

Several young leaders also addressed the conference about making a difference, plus there was discussion around supporting other organizations including Winnipeg Harvest, Agriculture in the Classroom Canada, the Manitoba Northern and Rural Stress Line and Fruit Share.

The Manitoba Women’s Institute is affiliated with FWIC and the international Associated Country Women of the World (ACCW).

MWI hosted delegates from ACCW in 2008.

About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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