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Patchwork Quilt

Curated Submission
Hawarden, Saskatchewan
Circa 1920
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
197 x 175
Materials & techniques
Cotton, wool; Machine-sewn
Made by Clara Bowman
Saskatchewan Western Development Museum WDM- 1990-S-11
In the first decade of the 20th century the Canadian prairie lured hundreds of thousands of land seekers. Among them was 25-year-old Herbert Bowman, who came to Davidson, Saskatchewan, from Ontario in 1905. The following year he filed his homestead claim near Hawarden, northwest of Davidson and directly south of Saskatoon. For the first couple of years, he survived in a sod shack. By the time Herbert married in 1913, he had built a two-storey farmhouse, a much more fitting home for his bride, Clara Mino. Clara too had come from Ontario, finding work in a Wolseley, Saskatchewan, millinery shop.
Clara was soon a busy homemaker, with a son born in 1916, twins in 1920, and a daughter in 1922. With the cooking and cleaning, gardening, and tending to chickens, the work of a farm wife and mother was never done. Even so, Clara and her sewing supplies were seldom parted. Daughter Millie recalled, “Mother was a home lover...she liked sewing, making quilts, and always had a crochet hook in her hand.” Keeping warm during bitter Saskatchewan winters was a constant concern. Many a homesteader reported frost on the wall and ice in the kettle by morning. The stove needed a constant supply of firewood. Warm clothes and bedding were necessary to protect the family from winter’s chill.
About 1920 Clara set about to make a quilt. Instead of going to the store to buy fabric, she cut up worn clothing, suits and coats perhaps, stitching the small squares together by hand. The quilt may not be a work of art, but it is pleasing in its simplicity. Dark striping borders six large blocks composed of 36 small squares. Blocks of four squares each were sewn to either side. For the batting – the layer between the patchwork top and the backing – the enterprising farm wife made do once again, gathering tufts of wool that clung to the barbed wire fence that separated the Bowman farm from the neighbours’. The neighbour’s sheep, perhaps looking for greener pastures, had brushed up against the fence, catching bits of their woolly fleece on the spiky barbs. The bits were Clara’s for the picking, providing the perfect fill for her new quilt.
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