Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Arleen Goodwin and 'Some Well-Travelled Quilt Blocks'

Featured Fibre Artist:
Arleen Goodwin and Her Story
of ‘Some Well-travelled Quilt Blocks’
By: Joan Beswick 

Talking with Arleen Goodwin is one of my fondest memories of the 2012 Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival.  Arleen did an appliqué demonstration at Dayle’s Department Store, Amherst. An island of serenity - she sat amidst the ribbons, housewares, fabrics, and furniture – quietly and capably appliquéing and explaining the process to visitors on a busy Thursday afternoon in a downtown department store.  

Her mother was a quilter and Arleen is also a versatile fibre artist – she does many types of quilting as well as cross stitch, knitting, rug hooking and crocheting – and she has passed her artistry on to her daughter, Shelley Tanner. Some of their family’s creations were featured in the window of Pugsley’s Pharmacy, a collection that included quilts, mats, and a lovely sepia-toned crocheted curtain for a front door window – this collection was a major attraction during the Fibre Arts Walk.  

Another much appreciated contribution was the quilted wall hanging from Arleen’s church in Lorneville, a quilt that Arleen helped bring to life after a multi-generational journey of ‘some well-travelled quilt blocks’.  

Here is the story as Arleen told it to me. Many years ago, a young woman from Lorneville went to ‘the Boston states’ to find work. As so often happened in those days, she married, had a family, and lived there the rest of her life. The young woman’s name was Bessie, and she was sorely missed. In 1933-34, some women from the Lorneville area decided to get together and make quilt blocks for Bessie. Each woman embroidered her name on the block she created and they sent Bessie a lovingly crafted collection of quilt blocks. However, life being what it was, Bessie was by then a very busy woman with seven children, and she died without putting the quilt together. The blocks went to her sister in Guysborough, Nova Scotia, and after her death, her daughter (Bessie’s niece) brought the twenty-one blocks to Arleen in Lorneville, to the community where they had been created almost eighty years earlier. Arleen took the blocks to her United Church Women’s (UCW) group where many of the women recognized the signatures of their own forbears – aunts, mothers, and grandmothers - the women who so long ago had missed Bessie and wanted her to remember them. With Arleen and her daughter Shelley’s encouragement, the UCW decided to ‘set the blocks together’. This was a labour of love, carried out amongst recurring waves of nostalgia, many chuckles and much chat. The finished product is now a beautiful wall hanging proudly hung in the Lorneville United Church, and generously loaned to the Nova Scotia Fibre Arts Festival for display during the 2012 festival.       

After telling me this story, Arleen mentioned that she’d recently celebrated her 60th wedding anniversary and on that special occasion, her family had presented her and her husband with a new computer.  So, I’ll be e-mailing Arleen to let her know about this blog post. Although she cherishes traditional fibre arts, Arleen is very much tuned in to the present. She is a busy woman with a large family who continues to create fibre art and who embodies a true appreciation of its history and heritage, as well as its contribution to our lives, both past and present.


1 comment:

  1. What a great story! I saw the quilt while I was there.