Stitches in time: How local quilts capture the spirit of Fogo Island

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It was my mother who built the Fogo Island, NL . But had claimed the right when winter started for us

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We knew he had decided it was winter when we saw summer quilts on the drying line and winter quilts on our beds. Many November nights in our home without central heating, we’d be shivering under summer quilts, wondering, “When will she decide to winter?” Our seasonal quilts reflect the deep connection we have with nature that we’re living on an island far from an island at the edge of the continent.

Quilts incorporate important things in design, among them our affinity for people and place, both poetic and practical. Architect and design theorist Christopher Alexander wrote that, “Most built environments today lack natural order, an order that presents itself very strongly in spaces created centuries ago.” Alexander believed that in order to create buildings where people feel alive, connected and good, we must draw inspiration from organic forms and patterns. Their thinking influenced our location-specific approach to creating Fogo Island Inn and validated the local ways we’ve served for the past 400 years. You see it in our quilts. Winters are heavy and dark in colour, reflecting moody skies and shorter days. Summer quilts reflect the vivid colors of wildflowers and seemingly endless daylight. Quilters follow the lead of nature.


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Fogo Island is a fundamental place. You cannot stay here without acknowledging that the weather reigns supreme. The sharp line between living inside and out defines how we live, how we design and how we build. Traditionally, from the inside out, the dynamic is a refuge from the weather. And because we’re fishing people, there’s work to do. We wanted our guests at the inn to experience that dichotomy, the difference that is captured in seasonal quilts.

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One of the defining characteristics of Fogo Island is the wind. People often buy quilts when they come here. It is a souvenir but a very functional one which helps to enhance their relationship with the place. We, of course, provide instructions for caring for them, reminding people to dry them out on the line when the wind is in the west, for there is a saying here: “When the wind is in the east So it is not suitable for man or animal. . When the wind is south, it blows the bait into the mouth of the fish. When the wind is in the north direction, the skilled fisherman does not go further. And when the wind is in the west, it is at its best. “

Like any handmade item, there is love in a quilt. My mom made a quilt using pieces from our molded fabrics. I would look at a patch of cloth and think, “Oh, that was my skirt.” Sometimes, my next thought might be, “Oh, I didn’t end up with that skirt!”

Nowadays I have a quilt made by Phyllis Combden on my bed. She was a neighbor when I was growing up and had half a dozen kids. I wasn’t much of a babysitter, but I agreed to babysitting at Phyllis’s house because she had a set of encyclopedias. Phyllis’s husband died in young age, so she worked at a fish plant to support her family. He is a producer. She grows things. She traps the rabbits. She picks berries. Those jam bottles. There is nothing that Phyllis cannot do. Her quilt connects me to her and gives me the strength of her perseverance. A quilt can do that. In addition to its obvious function, it can change your state of mind.

Quilts are traditionally designed at the moment of making. Even though they’re made from random pieces of old clothing, there’s nothing random about how they’re stitched together. The quilter is making design decisions on the fly as to which piece of fabric to add next. Looking at my quilt, I might ask myself, “Does that yellow really go with that pink?” I’m not so sure, but Phyllis thinks it does. I love that this quilt has the idea of ​​Phyllis’ beauty.

Local quilters made all the quilts for our 29 rooms at the inn, 220 quilts in total. We had to buy new fabric to make up that volume and struggle to replicate the randomness and beauty of a traditional quilt made from cast-off fabrics. With so many fabrics to choose from, we tended to end the approach, but the last thing we wanted was a quilt to lose its energy in a matchy-matchy flatness. It took many conversations to figure out how to randomly distribute these new clothes.

The quilt patterns that matter most to us are heirloom patterns, such as the tea leaf quilt with its geometric design or the Rob-Peter-to-Pay-Paul, where the circles overlap to form a field of stars. They are more schematic than a daily strip quilt like mine because you should have the whole picture in mind from the start. We consider these heirloom quilts to be “fancy.” I had an aunt who never had kids and always made fancy quilts. I don’t think my mother has made any fancy quilts in her life. There was no time for imagination, to weave clothes and sweaters to sew for seven children and a husband.

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After finishing the quilt for the Fogo Island Inn, the makers sewed their name onto a label inside it. Sometimes, when guests are out, they meet one of those makers and recognize their name from the quilt in their room. They end up in a conversation with someone they’re already in a relationship with – through the quilt.

Anonymous commodities, which emerged from an opaque, disorganized business model—created by someone we don’t know, to enrich a broker in the middle—may perform a task but we can’t go home to see them. are. But if we allow them, objects can carry forward relationships and help us create meaning.

Whether plain or fancy, quilts cover our bodies in our most vulnerable moments. And they can be trusted unconditionally to fulfill our dreams.


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