It all began as a project to dampen the acoustics and add colour to the bland but noisy and echoing Parish Hall at Christ Church Cathedral. We planned to engage the community and share our love of textiles and indigo dye. To visually link the quilts, a red band signifying community would sweep around the room.
From the first dye days, through open studios and workshops, we saw artistry and community blossom. The tremendous outpouring of enthusiasm, creativity and commitment was simply astounding.Indigo is as ubiquitous as blue jeans, and yet has a profoundly spiritual dimension. Natural indigo derives from a variety of plants common throughout the world, but getting the dye into solution requires patience and mastery. White fabric immersed in the dye vat first appears pale yellow. As it emerges and is exposed to oxygen, it magically turns blue. Repeated dips create deeper tones.
During ten dye days in early 2013, we stitched, clamped and tied more than 50 yards of cotton, linen and silk to create an array of pattern and texture in blue and white. This palette was enriched with red, solid darker blues and a selection of other indigo fabrics.After creating templates of each panel and designing the red band, everyone gathered in the hall. As we looked outward, the panels became lenses to view our landscape, community and ministry. Individuals and teams then took on the design and construction of many of the quilts while others contributed a few hours at a time on one of the community panels. Quilters and textile artists from outside the Cathedral were drawn in by the project and the excitement it generated.
As the quilts came together, we were awed by the creativity and commitment of the artists. Each quilt is uniquely the creation of its maker, yet clearly belongs to the whole. Birds and fish, especially salmon, make frequent appearances. Unique fabrics make unexpected appearances in multiple quilts. The final resulting 26 quilts and one art panel (considerably more than the 18 quilts we originally planned) are so much more than we could have asked for or imagined.We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all of the 118 people who contributed over 4000 hours of their time to this project. Whether it was dyeing a piece of fabric, stitching a block, or making a whole quilt, they found ways to participate that suited them best and this incredible participation made the project happen. The keen interest and creativity of everyone who came into the project was always infectious and uplifting.
The project wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Cathedral’s 125th Anniversary Committee, 125th Anniversary Sponsors and Donors, Cathedral Staff and Trustees. We especially thank the building and custodial team who created space for us, set-up and cleaned-up – and always with a smile.We would never have finished this without the incredible assistance of Elsie Sands and Janet MacKinnon, two mentors from Vancouver’s quilt community. We are grateful beyond measure for their mentorship, friendship, experience, determination, technical skill and artistry. Thank you.
We know the Cathedral Community and all who pass through the Parish Hall will treasure this gift of creativity.
Following a blessing offered by Cathedral Vicar, the Venerable Ellen Clark-King each participant cut a section of the red ribbon which they would keep as a reminder. Printed on the red ribbon in each section were the words “Common Threads-Indigo Quilts, February 21st, 2014”. After the ribbon cutting, Dean Elliott recited the famous blessing by Henri-Frédéric Amiel of which the first verse can be found embroidered on one of the quilts by long-time Cathedral parishioner, Heather Davies:
Images: Top and homepage, Thomas and Sheila pose with some tulips by one of the quilts. Upper right, Sheila rolls out the red ribbon while quilters keep their eyes closed. Middle left, time to cut the ribbon, Deirdre Rogers opens her eyes with scissors at the ready. Lower right, Heather Pynn, Wendy Roberts and Andrea Griffin have cut the ribbon in front of their quilt. PHOTOS by Bayne Stanley. Lower left, the Amiel verse. Below Two full quilt photographs by Martin Knowles.