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The practice of using up scraps of fabric left over from another use, or cut out of worn garments, is a longstanding one in Canada, and indeed in most of the world. Before the industrialization of textile manufacturing, cloth of all kinds was precious, since every step in its production was time-consuming. Every bit of it was used. Our ancestors would find the way we casually use and discard our clothing in contemporary Canada utterly foreign to them, just as they would disapprove of our wasteful ways with food, another hard won asset in pioneer Canada.

Where was this textile created?

World map preview image

The Log Cabin

North America: Canada, Central Canada, Ontario, Waterloo County, Elmira
Wool fabrics, pieced and quilted
190 cm x 183 cm
From the Opekar/Webster Collection
T94.0385 Textile Museum of Canada

The red fabric for the eight pointed stars on this wool quilt may have been purchased, or it may have come from the “red coats” of military clothing. The rest of the pieces were probably scraps of fabric left over from the making of suits. The suiting materials, some woven by hand and some commercially produced, conform to a somber palette of browns and purples, and they make the red eight-pointed stars blaze with warmth.

A quilt like this – covering your bed during a winter’s night in a log cabin heated only by a wood stove – would do an admirable job of keeping you warm, but it would also be heavy and, unfortunately, itchy.

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