Retro Sewing Sunday – Red Cross Quilt

Todays Retro Sewing Sunday post goes back to the 1940s, with a chance meeting with a  Canadian Red Cross quilt.
During the second world war, the Canadian Red Cross donated thousands of quilts to the UK, and these were handed to families who had been bombed out from their homes.  The quilts are made in a number of designs – usually utilitarian piecing.  A lot of the ones I have seen in books are tied (again utilitarian in style), but the one I met is hand quilted.  They are still quite rare, especially when the amount that were made and given out were taken into account.  Part of the problem is that they were made to be used – so they may have ended up being used for the dog in the 1960s, or thrown out when families could afford nice new things and didn’t want reminding of hard times.

There is a group of quilt researchers documenting these quilts, in musuems and private homes, and they own a collection of the quilts which have been displayed in places such as The Quilt Museum in York.  There is a selection being exhibited at the Minerva Centre in Wales starting this month, and finishing at the beginning of September.  There is an interview with one of the members here Maxine Marsh interview.

Canadian Red Cross Quilt

This particular quilt was given to a family bombed out of their home in Bromley, Kent.  They ended up in Sussex, and this quilt has been in a garage for at least the last 10 years.  It was given to my quilter friend, Carolyn, to repair as one of the fabrics is not ageing well and is shredding. Carolyn immediately recognised what it was, and contacted the group of quilters documenting the quilts.  She took it to show them at the exhibition they curated at Maidstone Musem, and they documented it as the “2 label quilt”.  The Red Cross quilts all had labels on them identifying them – not all of them have their label still as they were sometimes lost or removed.  This is the only one seen that has 2 labels – one on the front and one on the back – hence its name.  It is 63″ x 78″, and the squares are 4″.  (Btw, we photographed it on her lawn – there has not been any rain for weeks, so it was dry and clean, and this was fine with the owner.)

Close up of Red Cross Quilt
Close up of Red Cross Quilt
Another close up
Another close up

The question remains for Carolyn about how to repair.  We have discussed applying another piece of fabric on top of the damaged square.  In some ways it would perhaps be best to leave the quilt as it is, especially for its historical importance.  However, the lady who was a girl when it was given to the family still wants to use it, and really quilts are made to be used, aren’t they?

The Red Cross Label
The Red Cross Label

If you know of one of these, maybe in a cupboard somewhere, do contact me and I will forward on your details to the group.


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