Worthing Patchworkers'  Group

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Who made the Canadian Red Cross Quilts and Why?

These quilts - all bearing the label similar to that above - were made by Canadian women between 1942 and 1945.  It was part of the Canadian Red Cross (CRC) war effort and they were sent to bombed out Britain.


How were they made?

It is reported that some were from the Victorian period....taken out of closets and sent to Britain.  Most, however, were worked on by individuals or groups.  The quilt tops would be put together using any material that came to hand; cotton, chintz, sateen, wool fabric and even pyjama material.  May quilts reflect the 'make do and mend' ethos of the time so that every scrap of fabric could be used.  A variety of designs would be used such as 'crazy patchwork', nine-patch or even grandmother's fan.  Some would be knotted together with wool rather than quilted.

The CRC would provide commercial cotton wadding and bales of winceyette would be used for the backing.  However, when supplies diminished old blankets would be called into use along with sheep fleece and any other suitable filling for wadding. Calico sheeting or cheap dress fabric would be used for backing.


Comfort and Care

Although quilts were made all over Canada the highest producers were women in Nova Scotia.  The 1,000th quilt  completed by the Digby branch and auxiliaries of the CRC went on display in a store window in Digby.

The prize for the 1,000th quilt went to the same group who produced the first quilt in 1940 for the British War Relief during the blitz.

1943 - Junior Red Cross Newsletter - October

"Some energetic young people at Hebbville School in Lunenburg County make a quilt of flour and feed bags with a picture of their school and appliqued designs, mottos and names."  Their teacher describes it "Every block is a work of art."  The quilt raised $10.10



Who received the quilts?

In Britain, during the Second World War, fabric and clothing rations were as harsh as those on food and fuel.


1941 - clothes rationing began - 66 coupons, per adult, per year

           reduced to 48

           again reduced to 36

1944 - reduced to 20 coupons.

1949 - clothes rationing came to an end.


The CRC sent quilts to Britain for evacuated and homeless families.

1942 - in one six week period 25,000 quilts reached Britain.  They were distributed by the British Red Cross, the WVS, and the Salvation Army.

The recipients were people who had been bombed out of their homes, hospitals, members of the armed forces, refugees from Europe and anyone else in need of warmth.  However, their cheery colours also did much to brighten up the lives of the recipients......"We knew them as Canadian Comports and  comforts they were indeed - British quilt owner, Clover Mack.


Where are the quilts now?

Each quilt had a small label sewn on it, 'Gift of the Canadian Red Cross Society'

Some quilts had their labels removed but may still have some discolouration where the label had been.  Some quilts have turned up in Charity Shops and Auction rooms.  Three members of the Quilters Guild have set up a website to collect and give talks about the quilts - Maxine March, Jackie Massell and Anna Mansi.


Anna gave a fascinating talk to our group (photo's above) and showed us her many fabulous CRC quilts.