The Power of Quilts, with Yoskyl

Joan's Turkey Red quilt
Joan’s Turkey Red quilt

At our October meeting, we were treated to an engaging presentation called “The Power of Quilts,” given by one of our members.  Yoskyl is a retired North Vancouver teacher librarian with a love of quilting and with a family tradition of handwork.   A version of this presentation is part of our “Have Quilts Will Travel” program.

Yoskyl talked about the history of quilting in Canada, how the culture and events of the times, the availability of fabrics and supplies, the changing roles of women, and advances in technology have all influenced quiltmaking through the years.

We heard stories about the earliest quilts brought to Canada by European immigrants, quilts made by women homesteading in isolated areas of the country, using what they had on hand to create warm bedding for their families, and quilts made by very young girls for their future marriages.  We heard about quilts made for charities to improve harsh social conditions caused by the Industrial Revolution.

We learned about the Women’s Institute, which started in Canada in 1897 and spread to Britain after the First World War, and was dedicated to improving home life, including quiltmaking.  Yoskyl recalled entering handwork exhibitions at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto in 1967, and many of us remembered similar displays and competitions at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver in years past.  She noted that today the quilt world incorporates art quilts, computers, modern tools and high-tech sewing machines.

Detail - Feedsack Quilt
Detail – Feedsack Quilt

The talk was illustrated with some of Yoskyl’s own quilts and with samples of various traditional blocks grouped in themes reflecting the lives of quiltmakers – home life, the outdoors, farming, and others.    Other members brought quilts that represented various eras – a feedsack quilt from the Depression, a Turkey Red and White quilt from a time before chemically-produced fabric dyes, and a machine embroidered quilt created with an early computerized sewing machine.

Yoskyl spoke about how quiltmaking has given women opportunities to come together for companionship and to perhaps find a social and political voice.  Quilts have also given their makers a means of self expression and places to reflect their memories and feelings.

Yoskyl concluded “The Power of Quilts” with a quotation from quilter Jane Sassaman:

“People need to use their head, heart, and hands to be a whole human being.  Quilting fills that for a lot of people.”

Many thanks, Yoskyl.

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