By Rachel Elliott, Community Service Chair (Charity Quilts)
Every year, Calgarians celebrate our western heritage at the Calgary Stampede. A major component of the celebrations includes celebrating the aboriginal heritage of this area. It was a photo of this celebration that inspired this year’s Calgary Modern Quilt Guild Charity Quilt Challenge. At the same time Canada was engaged in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Residential Schools. In this regard Canada has a dark past that continues to haunt our aboriginal population, and the Calgary Modern Quilt Guild wanted to create a quilt that could contribute to healing the relationship between our Aboriginal population and those of European descent in Canada. It is our hope that this quilt and its proceeds will work towards building a better future for Calgary’s aboriginal youth.
In the photo you can see young people dancing at a pow-wow with teepees in the background and Calgary’s skyline in the distance. This seemed to represent our city beautifully, and the idea to make a teepee quilt was born. Teepees are known in the area to have provided shelter to local native tribes throughout history. They provide warmth in the cold winter months and are a cool shelter from summer’s heat. Families gather in teepees to find comfort and kinship. As a group of quilters, we knew we wanted to make a quilt that would symbolically bring people together and provide comfort and to bring our communities together.
We met at a sew day in August to design the teepees, and Jera MacKenzie created kits that members could get at meetings to create blocks for the quilt. We also have the benefit of having Cheryl Arkison in our guild, so she provided us with a lesson on “improv with intent.” Each person used their own inspiration to craft a teepee that represented her own style. In November we had a dedicated sew day to finish our quilt top. Members worked together to finish making teepees and design the final layout for our quilt. You can see from the photos that we had a productive day. We all learned so much in this process! Many of our members had never attempted improv sewing like this and were excited to practice a new skill. Our layout provided opportunities for members to practice their “quilt math” and partial seams!
The whole team agrees that seeing the quilt come together with such an incredible gesture of generosity of time, resources, and talent was the best part. We are very fortunate that our guild is growing and that members are keen to participate in these events.
The quilt was then sent to member Mary Dylke to be quilted by her expert hands. Mary added petroglyphs that have been documented throughout the prairies. Petroglyphs are are images created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art. The quilting was definitely the final touch that brought the quilt to life and helped to tell the story we were hoping to tell through this project.
The quilt will be donated to an organization that supports aboriginal youth in our area and provides them with resources to further their education and help preserve their culture. It is our hope that this quilt will help to heal the relationship between our two cultures and that it will contribute as one small step in the direction of a better future for Calgary’s indigenous youth.
Se more of our work at @calgarymqg and #calmgq.