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‘Everyone has their own idea and their own vision’ A patchwork of personality and craftsmanship inside the Thistle Quilt Guild’s annual Show and Tea event in Westville

Debra Battist and Wanita Atkins together at a table selling tickets for the Stepping Stones quilt which was a guild group project.
Debra Battist and Wanita Atkins together at a table selling tickets for the Stepping Stones quilt which was a guild group project. - Brendan Ahern
WESTVILLE, N.S. —

On the last Saturday of every May the Thistle Quilt Guild invites the public to see what its members have been working on. And for the very first time ever, visitors had the chance to buy hand bags, tea towels, table runners, sink scrubbies and, of course, quilts.”

“I would say that this is our best one yet,” said quilt guild president Gloria Turnbull. “We actually had to put more racks in this year because we had so many quilts.

Inside the Westville Civic Centre during the Thistle Quilt Guild's annual open house on May 25, 2019.

Inside the Westville Civic Centre during the Thistle Quilt Guild's annual Show and Tea on May 25, 2019.

Everything that was on display or for sale had been hand made by the thistle quilt guild. The Show and Tea event which took place at the Westville Civic Centre was an astonishing display of patterns. There were log-cabin patterns, and intricate quilt-work that uses the paper-piece method in which every inch on the fabric could contain up to ten individually hand-stitched pieces.

Even the more standard patterns have something to say about the guild and it’s 80 members.

“My neighbors say, ‘how did you ever quilt that,’” said Janice d’Eon whose deep burgundy quilt had taken her nearly seven months to complete. “I say that I only ever quilt a block at a time. You don’t approach the while quilt. It’s overwhelming. Just do a section at a time.”

A row at one end of the hall is made up entirely of this year’s Block of the Month. An exhibit showing off over 30 quilts. To the untrained eye, each one of these quilts looks different from the next, but in fact they’re all the same.

“They’re all the same patterns, but they’re put together differently,” said Turnbull proudly showing off the guild’s work. “Everyone has their own idea and their own vision.”

In fact, there was one quilt in the block of the month that stands out, but it might not have been intentional.

“My centre piece was put upside down,” laughs Debra Battist from the Town of Pictou.

Battist said that she’s only been sewing two years ago which is also about as long as she’s been in the guild. For her, the guild offers a lot more than just the opportunity to work with fabric.

“I moved here four years ago from Newfoundland, and I knew nobody,” said Battist. “Now, since I’ve started with the guild, I know quite a few people. It’s been very good for me.”

Battist was sitting at a table where people could buy tickets to have their names entered in a draw for a large quilt behind her. It’s one that everyone in the guild worked on together, and it’s called Stepping Stones.

Beside Battist was another guild member from Pictou. Wanita Atkins has only been in the guild for one year.

“My kids are all grown up now and I didn’t have to make them clothes anymore,” she said laughing. She and Battist both travel from Pictou together every week for the guild meetings and workshops, and 17 of the quilts inside the Westville Civic Centre were hand-made by the two of them.

Turnbull points out the intricacies of a quilt made in the paper-pieced method.

Turnbull points out the intricacies of a quilt made in the paper-pieced method.

“Everything is done within the last year,” Turnbull told The News. “We’re not allowed to show anything that’s two years old. That’s the rule.”

That rule is clearly not a hard one to follow for the guild, which right now is closed to new members.

“It’s nice having a lot of members, but it does get very busy,” Turnbull said. “We usually get the main part of the meeting over in a half-hour, then we have our workshops coordinator, show and tell, and then we have lunch.”

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