Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Oma's quilt textile pattern

When I first began making quilts, I assumed that I was drawn to make them because it was in my Dutch/German/Russian Mennonite DNA. My NSCAD professor, Naoko Furue, challenged me to look into this, to explore my aesthetic heritage. What I discovered, after interviewing over twenty women who had immigrated to Canada from South Russia (present-day Ukraine) that I was wrong. I asked each of these elderly women what they slept under in the old country and I learned that they slept under Federdecken (duvets) or Wolldecken (wool blankets). When they arrived in Canada in the 1920s, they were given quilts by local families and they didn't know what to do with these strange "English" textiles. 

Thanks to Naoko Furue, I learned that Russian Mennonites only started making quilts upon their arrival in Canada and that unlike the Swiss Mennonites who are known for their gorgeous pieced quilts, they mostly made whole cloth quilts in the early years.
My dad's mother, my Oma, made several whole cloth quilts for our family and I slept under this one for about ten years, until I left home to go to university. The quilt was probably made in the early 1970s and may have kept my parents warm at night before it was passed down to my bed. It remains in my parents' collection. The fabric is timeless.

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