From unimaginable tragedy has come beauty and colour and warmth, and it is hoped, some comfort.
Handmade quilts in the colours of Nova Scotia tartan will be warm hugs to the families of the 23 innocent victims in the Portapique tragedy of April 18-19 who were murdered by gun or by fire; three others were injured. It marks the deadliest rampage in Canadian history.
In total, a group of compassionate quilters under the guidance of Pictou’s Glady Knowles, made 39 quilts for the loved ones left behind.
The tragic 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.”
For New Glasgow’s Susan and Dan Jenkins, whose daughter Alanna Jenkins and her partner Sean McLeod were victims in the tragedy, it is a tangible expression of the love and support that has been pouring in to them for the past seven months.
The quilts were presented to the Jenkinses on Sunday; they will distribute them to the families of the victims.
Drawing a deep breath, an emotional Susan Jenkins praises, “I am just totally in awe with how kind everyone has been through this whole ordeal. How the province and the community have come together is just … They really care. This has impacted so many people, so many families.”
The quilt tops came from across the country. One was made in Manitoba, three came from Ontario, four were made in New Brunswick. And a resident of Lochaber, who did not quilt, sent the material and supplies for someone to make.
Each handmade quilt is accompanied by a handmade card crafted by Mary Christene Hankey from Port Hawkesbury. The cards feature the Nova Scotia tartan. The cards simply read: “Made with LOVE. A quilted hug just for you.”
The presentation was made at the office of Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane who, Knowles lauds, was involved from the get-go.
“When I started the project I messaged Karla and asked if she would help us distribute the quilts and she was happy to help.”
Kim Bland was also involved from the get-go. She made the template for the quilt tops. “It’s a simple block that even people who aren’t quilters can put together,” she explains.
Bland credits Jonathan Dean of Atlantic Fabrics for helping with the project. “He allowed us in the store during COVID-19 and to do orders so we could get our kits made. We made kits and sold them, and people made them, and then we used that money to purchase other fabric.”
Mallory MacMillan, age 10, is the youngest of those who made the quilt tops. The Bayview resident, who enjoys sewing, says she put her heart and soul into the project, “Because it was for a good cause.”
Knowles says the entire experience was “amazing.”
“We started this in April, and it was a big project. It was amazing because we received so much support from all over the country. The outpouring of support was simply amazing.”
Knowles selected one quilt in particular for Dan and Susan.
“I want you to have this particular quilt because Alanna was a colleague of Margo Watts, who is my sister-in-law,” says Knowles.
Susan nods, “Margo was one of Alanna’s professors at St. FX, plus Margo’s involved with the Nova Institution for Women (where Alanna was employed) and she’s started a legacy fund in Alanna’s name at St. FX. She was Alanna’s mentor in university.”
The project also received assistance from WearWell Garments in the form of fabric and Lynn Langille, past president of the Northumberland Quilt Guild, who organized all of the women who made the quilt tops. There were 18 women involved in the quilting and binding of the quilt tops. Two quilts are hand quilted.
Many people from across the country sent in financial donations to help with the project. In total, Knowles said $2,295 was received in donations for supplies which cost $1,360.08 leaving $934.92.
The remainder will be taken by Dan and Susan Jenkins to be given to the families.
“There’s a lot of little ones,” Dan says, about the families left behind.
From the left: Glady Knowles, Kim Bland and Mallory MacMillan present quilts to Susan and Dan Jenkins whose daughter, Alanna Jenkins, and her partner Sean McLeod, were victims in the Portapique tragedy that occurred in April. The quilts were made by local quilters under Knowles’ direction. Dan and Susan will help deliver the quilts to the families of the victims. (Jardine photo)