Kingston Heirloom Quilters

established in 1979

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Kingston Heirloom Quilters' Role with the Making of the Quilt of Belonging

The Quilt of Belonging is a stunning, collaborative textile art project that shows there is a place for all in the fabric of society. This rich tapestry is 120 feet (36 metres) long and 10.5 feet (3.5 metres) high. Its 263 blocks portray the rich cultural legacies of all the First Peoples in Canada and every nation of the world. Several Kingston Heirloom Quilters and other quilters from the Kingston area sewed the border blocks to the huge panels, and hexagon blocks to the black background. The needleworkmanship in this quilt is incredible. We know, we've seen it up close and personal. If you get a chance, see this Canadian quilt. For a quick tour, visit this 2 minute video on YouTube. Let Esther Byran, the creator, artist, and coordinator, tell you what this Canadian Quilt is all about.

What follows is our story in helping to make this quilt ...

In Our Glory

On October 1, 2004, a bus load of Kingston Heirloom Quilters (K.H.Q.) traveled to Williamstown, ON, (near Cornwall), to learn about the Quilt of Belonging project; a trip that was instigated by Diane Berry, who had spent several rain days working on the project over previous summers. On November 10, 2004 Diane, along with K.H.Q. members Fran McArthur, Margaret Hewshaw, and Bea Walroth, returned to the site to participate in the production of this monumental endeavor. We had been deeply moved by the artistry and skilled workmanship of the pieces that we got to handle. We 'pillow turned' sixteen blocks that morning, then sewed and tacked down a number of border blocks in the afternoon.

Nov 10/04 in Williamstowm: Bea & Marg Pillow Turning a block

Nov 10/04 in Williamstowm: Fran busy at the sewing machine

As Esther Bryan, the creator of this mammoth quilt undertaking, thanked us for our help, we in turn thanked her for allowing us the privilege of working on such a grand project. We stated our regret that the travelling distance, during the coming winter months would prevent us from doing more.

So it was with excitement and delight that we responed to Marilyn Vance's call for help a few weeks later.

Marilyn, of Elginburg, near Kingston, who had constructed the vibrant border blocks for this work had taken it upon herself to see that they would be properly assembled onto the huge bengaline panels. She brought one panel to her home, contacted Diane Berry, and on November 16, a team of six Heirloom Quilters responded, and dealt with that panel in one day. We wanted to do more. Marilyn was elated; this gargantuan project suddenly seemed do-able. She and her husband, George, hauled four more panels to and from Williamstown for us to help with, 'til that phase of the project was completed.

Nov 16, 2004 in Elginburg, The team of 6
"Getting 'er done!"

Mary Ann & Margaret applying the border






Sylvia & Marilyn working on border.

Maple leaf to be added to border.




Borders are finished. The blocks are yet to be appliqued.

While cheerily stitching, we fervently hoped that we might also get to sew some of the blocks onto the panels. Though Esther Bryan was loath to have the precious, irreplaceable blocks out of her care and traveling down that winter highway, that wish too was granted.

Back the panels came, one at a time, now with wool braid attached, along with the blocks to be appliqued onto them. On one occasion, Diane and husband Jim Berry, crammed into their car, and fetched from Williamstown, a panel, three boxes of blocks, and a sonotube around which the panels would be wrapped.

Blocks!! We are enthralled!
We get to handle blocks. Left to right: Gail, Bea, Margaret, Mary Ann

Working our way down the first panel,
one row at a time.
Standing: Bea
Sitting left to right: Margaret, Diane, Lorna,
Gail, Mary Ann


Almost finished the first panel!

Left to right: Margaret, Bea, Lorna, Gail, Mary Ann, Marilyn

Our first full panel finished. We were not trusted with the "First Nation" blocks
that would fill the bottom row.

Each row of blocks came in its own box. We didn't peek into the next box until the previous one was empty. Each box produced a new favorite which we claimed 'dibs' to work on. Marilyn had printed off cloth tags naming each country, to guide in the placement of the blocks. Mary Ann collected these as they came off, to later incorporate into a quilt. The First Nations blocks, deemed too fragile to handle, were withheld on the first panel that we were privileged to work on, but to our delight, were included thereafter.

In every batch of blocks, we'd find a new favourite.
It was fun but it wasn't easy!
Left to right: Mary Ann, Marg, Lorna, Bea, Diane
Mary Ann & Diane sewing those
wonderful blocks!

Margaret working on a block.
Margaret & Diane take a break.

Other KHQers joined us when they could.
Left to right: Joan & Bea
George and Marilyn tackle a problem.

Left to right: Mary Ann, Marg, Lorna, Bea, Diane working on a blue panel.

Other KHQers joined us when they could.
Left to right: Gail, Sylvia, Donna, Marilyn

Each panel contains four rows of eight blocks, plus those along the upper border. Sewing them down was not easy. Bending over the huge panel to work on a block while avoiding contact with any of the others was arduous work. But we were in our glory.

Many lively discussions ensued, frivolous, emotional, and sometimes enlightening when Marilyn, ever the educator, would pull out the reference books. A map of the world was mounted on the wall and the country represented by each block was located along with some often sobering statistics. We felt an affinity with the country upon whose block we worked.



The country represented by each block was
located on the map along with some sobering statistics.

Mary Ann and George working on a sonotube
around which the panels would be wrapped

George "under the table"

Rolling the finished panel onto a sonotube was an exacting task that required all hands to move it along, with George working under the table to guide it around the tube. He had 'jerry-rigged' a bar through the center of the tube, creating handles by which it could be carried, or suspended on strong stands.


Rolling the panels onto the sonotube required all hands on top and George under the table.

Many of the blocks incorporated items that dangled loosely and had need to be tacked down or protected in some way. The rolled panel was wrapped in a sheet then hoisted up the stairs and out into the Vance's van, with agile Mary Ann scooping up the stands and scurrying ahead to set them in place to receive it.

As winter settled in we worried that despite our best efforts, the weather could defeat our cause. As we worked throughout the day, George would give us updates on the depth of snow on our cars. Then he would have kindly cleared them off before we went home. But the fates were with us. For it seemed that each time a panel was ready to 'hit the road' the weather would clear. Marilyn would call ahead to Williamstown to ensure that another panel would be made ready to bring back.

We took a break over the Christmas holidays. Having already assembled six of the eight panels, we offered to come back in January and complete the final two. At which time, and with a deadline rapidly approaching, we decided to bring in more card tables and set up both remaining panels at once, to avoid some being held up waiting for all the blocks in a row to be finished. That worked. All eight panels were completed and returned to Williamstown one week prior to the January 31st deadline.

Two of the eight panels!

Members of the Kingston Heirloom Quilters who participated in the assembly state of the project were: Diane Berry, Sylvia Currie, Lorna Grice, Margaret Henshaw, Gail Jennings, Mary Ann McAndrews, Margaret Rhodes, Bea Walroth, Ros Hanes, Joan Bales, and Donna Hamilton.

Marilyn Vance, an honourary member of the Kingston Heirloom Quilters, directed as well as stitched this project.

Would we do it again? In a heart beat! If you get a chance, see this wonderful Canadian work of art! Be sure to visit the Quilt of Belonging web page to see where it is being displayed. You can also see close up pictures of every block. Tour dates can be found here. Enjoy.


Send questions and comments to: khq at
Last modified by dhh: March 5, 2010