Sewing in Wartime

‘Sewing in Wartime’ demonstrates the ingenuity and creativity of women and men, sewing in a time of scarce materials and extreme circumstances. The exhibition features a large number of Canadian Red Cross Quilts, as well as other patch-worked and quilted pieces, all with their own unique stories. Throughout the duration of the Second World War, Canadian needlewomen made and donated hundreds of thousands of quilts to the British war relief. These quilts were produced quickly and were often utilitarian in style, the most common design being the ‘Crazy’ block, which could incorporate all different sizes of available fabric. Women were very resourceful in using every available scrap of fabric. However despite the speed and lack of materials available, these quilts are often carefully thought out and well arranged to produce attractive and colourful designs. Unfortunately the makers of these quilts have remained anonymous, as it was expressly forbidden by the Canadian Red Cross, although all quilts originally bore a label which read ‘Gift of CANADIAN RED CROSS SOCIETY'. Not all of the labels have remained intact, as the idea of ‘charity’ was sometimes considered unfavourable, and the labels were removed.

The exhibition also features several quilts made by individuals during the war, including one made by a woman using sewing as a welcome distraction from the events surrounding her, and one made by German Prisoners of War in York. The quilts featured in this exhibition include items from the Quilters’ Guild Collection as well as from private collectors and other museums. The majority of the Canadian Red Cross Quilts are on loan from the Canadian Red Cross Quilt Research Group, who continue to research, document and rescue as many of these quilts as they can, to raise awareness and interest in this important part of quilting history.