Annie Dunning
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quilt quilt detail clues clues pattern 1
clues pattern 2 J A Parsons Mrs Almost
Mrs Almost
In 2010, while living in Thunder Bay, I found the beginnings of a quilt in a free box on the sidewalk. The fabrics caught my eye, unusual colours and patterns that looked old. Everything was meticulously packed and sorted in a clear plastic pouch. Fabric pieces were cut out and sorted by colour, the paper pattern and instructions included. The pattern pieces had been pinned again and again to cut out all the fabric pieces and the newsprint shapes had begun to fall apart. The original maker had retraced the pieces onto scrap card stock - a Hudson’s Bay Company telegram card dated September 1934 and signed by J. A. Parsons, Aklavik, North West Territories. On the other side of this card is the name of a Vancouver furrier, J. H. Munro and a list of prices payed for various animal pelts. Using these clues I began researching, trying to find out who had started this quilt.

I quickly found that there was not much recorded history about the women of that time. Did the quilt maker know either of the two men corresponding via telegram? Where was the quilt begun? I found clippings from a Winnipeg newspaper in the free box package, a piece of paper from Ottawa for the 1935 King George V Silver Jubilee Cancer Fund for Canada, and the telegram card written in Aklavik, NWT in communication with the Vancouver fur company. Somehow all of these items had ended up in Thunder Bay.

I found fascinating tales of John Ambrose Parsons, who was born in 1886 in Codroy, Newfoundland. He served in the Royal North West Mounted Police before becoming the post manager for the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost in Aklavik and was involved in the hunt for Albert Johnson the “Mad Trapper” in 1932.

J. H. Munro was more difficult to track, but I found that in 1928, in Revelstoke BC, he offered the prize of a new car to anyone who could break Nels Nelsen’s World Record for ski jumping, set in 1925, also in Revelstoke.

But who started this quilt? The only female name included in the package was handwritten in pencil on the back of the quilting instructions: Rose Currier Mrs. Almost

fragment 1 fragment 2 fragment 3 fragment 4 fragment 5 fragment 6 fragment 7
fragment 8 fragment 9 fragment 10 fragment 11 fragment 12 fragment 13 fragment 14

When my research failed to turn up any female histories that could be connected with the quilt, I began to think of the quilt itself as a record. I assembled the quilt and made a series of 14 watercolour illustrations of the fabric fragments, one for each shape needed to make a block of the quilt. This process of construction and deconstruction was a way to invest in the female side of this historical mystery.