Lanark County Quilting Legends – of the 1950s, 60s and 70s

Almost every family had one – a quilter; someone who could take random bits of cloth, even scraps or rags, and turn them into a work of art. They were the creative ones; usually the quiet ones, sitting off in a corner, away from the crowds, working on their quilting blocks, embellishing their squares of cloth with embroidery, and intricate stitchery. They were the serious ones, labouring with precision, ensuring that their stitches were evenly spaced, even in places hidden deep within the seams of the cloth.

Ladies quilting # 2Ladies quilting # 3quilts at the fair

These quilters were the unsung heroes of home crafting. Blessed with nimble fingers, tireless hands, and meticulous sight, they turned the family’s cast-off clothing and abandoned fabrics into beautifully designed bedcovers; fit for the coldest Eastern Ontario winters. Often young, inexperienced hands worked alongside older, farm-weathered hands, at community quilting bees. The older ones were the masters, the coaches, and the instructors, guiding the young ones on the finer points of their art.

quilting at the frame

 

Pattern:  Parasol Ladies

umbrella ladies quilt

Pattern:  Log Cabin

log cabin pattern

 

Pattern:  Double Wedding Ring

Double Wedding Ring

Many of these artisans were sociable, and organized quilting bees, welcoming all of the ladies in the neighbourhood. They assembled quilting frames, and set up sturdy, wooden chairs all around, inviting the experienced and the not-so-experienced, to join the circle.

ladies around quilting frame

There were lively conversations along with occasional laughter and story-telling, mixed in with the stitching. The quilting bees always ended on a high note – with hot tea poured lovingly into delicate china cups, served alongside decadent homemade cookies and squares.

cookie and tea

 

A few quilted on their own, but many were members of local churches, community organizations, or Womens’ Institutes.

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Eleanor Conboy’s Quilts

Eleanor Conboy  (Eleanor was the daughter of George Garrett and Edith Armstrong)

Eleanor Conboy (1922-2015) was an avid quilter, and good friend to my mother.  They often worked at the quilting ‘bees’ together, at neighbour Lottie Jordan’s house.

Many thanks to Trina McMillan Conboy for sharing the photos below, of some of Eleanor’s beautiful quilts!

Eleanor Conboy's quilt # 1     Eleanor Conboy's quilt # 2

Eleanor Conboy's quilt # 3   Eleanor Conboy's quilt # 4

Eleanor Conboy's quilt # 6   Eleanor Conboy's quilt # 7

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Some of the most active quilting groups

in the 1950s, 60s and 70s in Lanark County:

 

Balderson Women’s Institute

Bethel Women’s Institute

Calvin United Church – Calvinettes, and U.C.W

Drummond Centre Women’s Institute

Elphin community quilters

Flower Station community quilters

Glad Tidings Tabernacle Church, Ladies group, Perth, ON

Harper Women’s Institute

Hopetown community quilters

Innisville – St. John’s Women’s Association

Lanark – Catholic Women’s League

Maberly United Church W.A.

McMartin House, Perth, ON

St. John’s Church Perth – Catholic Women’s League, Perth, ON

Port Elmsley Women’s Institute

Rideau Ferry United Church Women’s Group

Salvation Army Church, Perth, ON

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Women’s Missionary Society, Perth, ON

St. James Anglican Church, Perth, ON

St. Paul’s United Church, Ladies group, Perth, ON

Watson’s Corners U.C.W.

……………………………………………………………………………………..

The highlight of the year for many in farm country, was to enter quilts, sewing, needlepoint and other handy-work into the local fairs with the hopes of winning a first prize, second prize or third prize ribbon.

Fair quilt display

Many of us who lived in rural areas looked forward each year to the local agricultural fairs.  Our mother, Audry Stafford judged the quilts at area fairs, and those as far away as Madoc and Tweed.

Perth Fair logo on blue

prize ribbons
Audry Stafford judging a quilt

(missing text – First Place awarded to Gladys Haughian)

Whether quilts were entered in the local Fairs, raffled as church fundraisers, or created to keep family members warm on those cold Lanark County winter nights, – they each had their own unique beauty.

Some area quilters were known for their meticulous stitching, their creative designs, or how quickly they could complete their work.

Some quilters were so skilled that they even made the headlines of the local newspapers.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The Port Elmsley Womens Institute

Completes Quilt at One Sitting  ! ! !

 

Port Elmsley quilters complete

……………………………………………………………………………………….

Do you remember some of Lanark County’s Quilters

of the 1950s, 60s and 70s?

Mrs. Ralph Affleck

Mrs. Alexander

Mrs. Elsie Anderson

Mrs. Ralph Barrie

Mrs. E. Benedict

Miss Jean Blair

Mrs. Bothwell

Mrs. Boyce

Mrs. F.J. Byrne

Mrs. Mildred Briggs

Isobel Cameron

Lillian Cameron

Marguerite Cameron

Mrs. Stewart Cameron

Mrs. Walter Cameron

Mrs. Joseph Chamney

Mrs. Charlton

Mrs. R. Charlton

Mrs. Churchill

Eleanor Conboy

Mrs. Conlin

Mrs. Cooper

Mrs. Charles Crampton

Mrs. George Crampton

Mrs. Clarke Devlin

Mrs. Cecil Dobbie

Mrs. Hilda Donnelly

Mrs. M.J. Donohoe

Mrs. Barbara Dowdall

Mrs. Betty Dowdall

Mrs. H. Duby

Mrs. Clarence Ennis

Mrs. H. Ferguson

Mrs. Dave Foster

Isobel Foster

Marlene Foster

Mrs. B. Fournier

Heather Fournier

Mrs. M.J. Furlong

Maria Fyfe

Miss Mae Gallinger

Mrs. Gamble

Mrs. Clifford Gardiner

Mrs. Lillian Gardiner

Mrs. Oliver Gardiner

Mrs. Thomas Gardiner

Mrs. Adam Geddes

Mrs. Aldon Gray

Mrs. Beverly Hall

Mrs. Earl Hallaren

Mrs. Charles Hermer

Mrs. George Ireton

Mrs. A. Ireton

Mrs. Harry Ireton

Joan Irvine

Mrs. James

Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Keays Jordan

Marion Jordan

Mary Jordan

Mrs. Edward Joynt

Mrs. Kennedy

Mrs. W.P. Kilfoyle

Mrs. Keith Knapp

Mrs. James King

Mrs. Violet Kirkham

Ethel Korry

Mrs. John Larmon

Mrs. Manion

Mrs. C. Matheson

Eleanor McInnis

Mrs. Alex McIntyre

Mrs. McPhee

Mrs. Charles Miller

Edith Miller

Mrs. Ernest Miller

Mrs. Forrest Miller

Mary Miller

May Miller

Mrs. Robert Moodie

Mrs. Eleanor Munroe

Miss Ursula Murphy

Mabel Palmer

Mrs. John Pennett

Mrs. Thomas Phelan

Mrs. Lester Polk

Mary Popplewell

Mrs. Ed Rathwell

Mrs. John Reid

Christine Rice

Florence Rice

Miss Jean Riddell

Mrs. Norman Richardson

Jean Scott

Dorothy Scragg

Eleanor Senkler

Mrs. H. Shaw

Mrs. A.M. Sheppard

Miss Elspeth Smith

Mrs. Somerville

Miss Spence

Audry Stafford

Mrs. Frank Stead

Mrs. Harold Stead

Mary Stewart

Mrs. Stokes

Mrs. E. Thompson

Madge Thompson

Bertha Toutant

Mrs. John Vanden Bosch

Mrs. George Wales

Mrs. Mabel Walroth

Mrs. H. Warwick

Mrs. Sadie Watson

Mrs. Allan Weidenmaier

Mrs. Fred Weidenmaier

Mrs. W.G. Weir

Mrs. Wilfred Wesley

Alice White

Mrs. J. White

Mrs. Roy White

Mrs. Murray Wilson

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quilt pattern book

vintage quilt books

Quilt pattern in Perth Courier

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15 Characteristics

of an outstanding Quilter:

  1. They possess the patience and commitment to complete a long-term project such as a quilt
  2. They have the skill and precision to produce work with fine craftsmanship
  3. They have an artistic eye for good design
  4. They have tremendous self discipline to produce consistent stitching throughout the piece
  5. They have a natural gift of creativity and originality
  6. They have a rare ability to see connections in patterns, and to draw ideas from many sources
  7. They possess a high level of esthetic skills in order to situate patterns to set them off to their advantage
  8. They have the ability to focus on solutions, not on regrets. When they make mistakes, they learn from experience
  9. They experiment with open minds in order to improve
  10. They meaningfully communicate with others in the quilting circle to share ideas
  11. They create designs that have the power to withstand time
  12. Their works are easily distinguished from others of their own time
  13. They have the ability to portray light, perspective, color and space
  14. They teach others and pass down their knowledge
  15. They inspire others to be the best they can be!

These quilting legends of Lanark County passed down their knowledge, and left their legacy in the form of the beautiful quilts that they produced. They were the gifted artisans of their time, and will be remembered for their delicate stitching and colourful designs, works of art that will be handed down through families, for generations to come.

***If you remember a Lanark County quilter, or a quilting organization, (1950s-70s) that has not been mentioned in this article, please send their name in the ‘comments’ box below, and they will be added.

To discover more about quilting in the 1950s, 60s and 70s in Lanark County, read “The Quilting Queens of Lanark County”, from “Lanark County Connections – Memories Among the Maples”

http://www.staffordwilson.com

7 comments on “Lanark County Quilting Legends – of the 1950s, 60s and 70s

  1. Alice Gilchrist says:

    Mrs Elsie Anderson, Lanark – usually worked on her own and quilted everything by hand. As she grew older her son would cut the pieces for her. She was my aunt and I still have the quilt she made for my wedding in 1973 (when she was 81).

    • Thank-you for sending that Alice. I have added Mrs. Elsie Anderson’s name to the list of Lanark County Quilters. How lovely that you still have a quilt that she made in 1973! Do you have a photo of it that we could add to the story?

  2. Marilyn Ethel Rodger says:

    I still have several quilts that were hand quilted by my maternal grandmother Mrs. Lester Polk whom I am names after and her quilting group of the Port Elmsley Women’s Institute in the early1960’s. It was so nice to scroll down your list of quilting queen’s and recognize so many names. Today making quilts and teaching of same is one of my passions which I credit as passed on from my grandmother. She also taught me to knit and crochet. Her Raymond treadle sewing machine which she taught me to sew on has a prominent spot in my living room. I can still use it today

    • Hi Marilyn – You are so lucky to have some of your grandmother’s quilts, and that you also have her Raymond sewing machine. It seems that the Port Elmsley Women’s Institute was a busy quilting group. Quilting is becoming a lost art, and it’s good to know that the craft is still being passed down through the generations. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to share your story!

  3. Audrey Acres says:

    ,my mother Evelyn McKay from Hometown made numerous quilts and taught me to quilt as well. Many of our family have her quilts. Mrs Vera Bowes also spent many hours making quilts and quilted on several of mine.

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