Pictou resident Glady Knowles turns to what she knows best during times of crises — her sewing machine.
And the tragic events that unfolded April 18 and 19 in Portapique and surrounding area certainly qualify as crises.
“We are all heartbroken due to the horrible tragedy in Nova Scotia,” she writes on her Facebook page.
The events left Knowles feeling helpless so she used it as a call to action. To help deal with the devastation, Knowles issued a plea to her comrades in the sewing community on the Facebook page Quilts for the Victims Families — Sending Nova Scotia Love in a Quilt. “I am calling on all sewers and quilters in the community to help sew lap quilt tops. We will be donating these warm, loving quilts to the families of the victims.”
The quilts — which Knowles says are being made by a “bunch of people” — are all being handcrafted in the colours of the Nova Scotia tartan: blue to represent the sea and sky, green to depict the evergreens and deciduous trees characteristic of the province, white to show the colour of rocks and the coastline surf, gold representing the Nova Scotia Royal Charter and red symbolizing the lion on the Nova Scotia crest.
Kim Bland of Atlantic Fabrics made a template of the quilt blocks to make the lap quilts. The quilt pattern has four rows across and six rows down.
Knowles says, “I got in touch with Kim when I first wanted to do this project. I knew she would have great ideas to help.”
Members of the Northumberland Quilt Guild, which has been in existence for 27 years, are among the many groups and individuals who have volunteered to do the quilting.
“It’s just a wonderful way to wrap your arms around the families, with the quilts,” says Lynn Langille who is among the 65 Guild members and has been with the quilt guild for about six years.
“I know there’s other people doing it too,” she stresses, to give credit to others. “People just want to help.”
The quilts, Knowles explains, are meant to show love, give comfort and “just a gentle reminder that we all care for all the families mourning from this tragedy. We hope that we can get as many quilters and sewers to help.”
Knowles put out a call for donations of fabric, thread, backing or cash to go towards these items, and she was rewarded almost instantly.
“Julie Blais heard the call out for quilts on the radio. She works at WearWell and asked her boss if they had any material that they weren’t going to use that they could donate to us. Thank you WearWell for your wonderful donation!”
So far, the project has received approximately $1,000 in cash donations to purchase fabric, batting and notions needed to complete the quilts.
Knowles is blown away by the support — and the rapid response. She made the initial Facebook post on a Saturday night and by morning, she already had $500 in donations. “And I had people from all across Canada.”
Knowles teaches sewing classes to kids ages six and up. She has approximately 38 kids who go to her workshop in Pictou to learn the skills she teachers. She would love to get her students involved in this heartfelt project, but due to public health restrictions enacted to prevent the spread of COVID-19, she is unable to extend the invitation to them.
Since she can’t continue her classes, Knowles has been putting her talents to use in her sewing room making face masks. Prior to the quilt project taking shape, Knowles spent anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day making the masks. “I’ve made them for Shoppers Drug Mart, and for the New Glasgow Veterinary Clinic. And I made 32 for the fire station in Pictou. I have 300 orders to make and I’ve already made 300!”
Giving from the heart is not a new concept for Knowles; she’s been doing it all of her life.
When a bus carrying the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Humboldt Broncos crashed in April of 2018 in Saskatchewan, killing 16 people and injuring 13, Knowles felt called to action again.
Her daughter, Bianca, was playing for the Subway Selects at the time and they were always on the road travelling for hockey games. That tragedy hit close to home.
“I decided that I wanted to do something to help, so I got a group of hockey players together — male and female — and made quilts. My boyfriend and I cut out all of the material, so I had the kids come here in groups of four over two days, to make two quilt tops. I had 14 kids participate.”
Over her lifetime, Knowles has created probably millions of stitches in projects ranging from quilts to basic alterations for local residents. And she’s not stopping there.
When your quilt top is finished you can mail it to: Glady Knowles, Box 825, Pictou, B0K 1H0 or e-mail: email@example.com.
Glady Knowles hard at work with her sewing machine. (Submitted photo)