Canada Day: A farm wife’s Centennial project becomes her Canada 150 quilt

A Saskatchewan farm wife and avid quilter’s plan to mark Canada’s centennial in her own way took an unusual turn through time.

Helen Huls — who, with her late husband Bernard, had operated a mixed farm at Muenster, Sask. — died June 6 at age 84, having just recently finished what daughter Michelle Crone described as a “masterpiece,” the Canada 150 quilt shown here.

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In the Canadian-flag pocket on the quilt, Huls left a note explaining how she planned to put together this quilt in 1967, using embroidered blocks with each of Canada’s provincial and territorial coats of arms.

A farm journal had offered the patterns as a special item for Canada’s centennial, and Huls ordered them that spring, she wrote.

“However, as I became too busy with a family of seven, gardening and farming, the patterns got tucked away in a patterns and sewing box.”

Huls moved to Humboldt in 2011, and while cleaning house in August last year, she came across the coat-of-arms patterns again and “I got the urge to make a few squares, thinking if it did not work too well with all the tiny stitches and appliques, I would garbage it all.”

The problem was, after 49 years, the patterns — which were printed in special ink to stamp onto cloth, mapping out the design for an embroiderer — wouldn’t transfer onto any material.

The ink, Huls wrote, had “deteriorated into the paper, so I had to trace on one side of them using carbon paper and retrace again to the material. I decided to use very vintage material (Robin Hood flour sacks), as that material always embroidered well.”

But with Canada’s sesquicentennial in mind, Huls also decided she would update the design.

The package of centennial patterns had included coats of arms for Canada’s 10 provinces and (at the time) two territories — so to add Nunavut’s coat of arms, Huls had to draw her own pattern, using a picture for reference.

Then, for a more balanced design, she also added a maple leaf square and a Canada 150 tulip, plus the Canadian flag pocket.

Huls bought navy-blue material for the borders and sides and, with “helpful hints from friends on quilting the sides,” the quilt “is finally finished — 50 years later. It now is my Centennial quilt for Canada’s 150 years.”

The Canada 150 quilt was the 170th she’d made since she started keeping track of her quilt projects, she noted.

“My mother was a very creative lady,” said Crone, who now lives at Annaheim, Sask. “She could could turn scraps of material into works of art, hillsides into beautiful flower gardens, acorns into beautiful wreaths and centrepieces, rocks into duck figurines… she was a self-made, talented artist.”

Crone said her mother had called her in April to tell her about the quilt, and when Crone saw the finished work, “I had tears in my eyes,” she said. “I said ‘Mom, you’ve done lots of great quilts — (but) this one is a masterpiece.”

Museums in the area have since expressed interest in the quilt, said Crone, noting it’s now in the care of her older sister.

Huls, Crone said, had probably always had the desire to finish the detailed embroidery and quilting, but for her to have completed it before her passing, with Canada’s 150th birthday so near, “it’s kind of like it was meant to be.” — AGCanada.com Network

About the author

Editor, Daily News

Dave Bedard

Editor, Daily News, Glacier FarmMedia Network. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.

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