After almost 80 years, several historical quilts are in the process of returning home to Canada. 

When it comes to quilting, Canada has a long, rich history, dating all the way back to World War I. 

During the First World War, Canadian citizens were sending materials overseas such as quilts, bandages, and sweaters to support the war effort. 

Pam Robertson Rivet, lead of the fundraiser project to bring the quilts back to Canada, explained that when World War II came around, production accelerated significantly. 

patch on a quilt

“During World War II, they created 400,000 quilts that we have counted, but there are a lot of missing records, and people have been piecing that together through the research and estimate another 100,000 that are not counted in newspaper stories and all kinds of records from that time,” she explained. “So, there was a tremendous amount of work going on because they were also knitting bandages, sweaters, mittens, scarves, long underwear, everything that you could think of, was crated up and sent overseas for the war effort.  

“They were primarily sent to bombed-out civilians and soldiers. We had a lot of Canadian soldiers over in Britain at the time, as well as the British public who were distributed all over and just didn't have a lot of access to resources, and we were providing a lot of those resources.” 

patch on a quilt

During the war, The Canadian Red Cross had about 10,000 chapters, made up of mostly women, set up across the country to work on supplies. In addition, about 2,000 Junior Red Cross chapters were established for children to make items after school. 

For the last 20 years, a group in England called The Canadian Red Cross Quilt Study Group (CRCQ), has been working tirelessly to collect as many of these historical quilts as possible. 

“That study group has spent the last 20 years collecting and gathering these beautiful old quilts and some of them are very, very fragile, they're well worn, and the colours have faded,” Robertson Rivet elaborated. “Then on others, the colours have stayed really quite bright and they're in great shape, they just need to be cared for if they're going to last into the next generation. So, our goal is to bring these quilts back to Canada. They're being shared among museums who have a bit of space and would like to display them.” 

patch on a quilt

The CRCQ, Robertson Rivet, and museum curator and quilt expert, Lucie Heins, are now working together to bring the collected quilts back to Canada. 

Various different ways to donate have been arranged to assist with the project. 

The goal is to raise approximately 200 dollars per quilt for them to be safely shipped to Canada. 

Individuals or businesses are able to sponsor an entire quilt for 200 dollars. If sponsoring a whole quilt, the donor will receive a certificate of their involvement. 

patch on a quilt

Other options include the purchase of a kit for a quilt block for 15 dollars or a downloadable copy of their own Quilting Legacy Journal for 50 dollars. 

“Part of my goal is to help people remember that incredible history and the huge amount of work that these women were doing in aid of the war efforts to make sure that they were doing their bit,” Robertson Rivet explained. “When those quilts come back, we have an opportunity then to study them and look at them. How were they made? Who were the people that were working on them? And then finding stories of the makers and sharing those stories with Canadians who will visit those quilts in the museums and read about them in books.  

patch on a quilt

“What I'm hoping is that they'll think, ‘Oh my gosh, my grandmother was one of the people who worked on this quilt, or my aunt, and looking at that legacy as part of the helpfulness of Canadians and part of sort of the fabric underlying everything you do in terms of volunteering, because all of this work was done by volunteers.” 

To learn more about the fundraiser project, click here