By Maelissa Watson
It is that time of year, Quilting Time on the Eastern Shore. Eileen Bradley, a talented, dedicated, and experienced quilter graciously agreed to share her life story. Growing up as a child in Tangier, she watched her Mother, Edna Hawes Cooper nee Mason sew. Her Mother took patterns from Eaton’s and Simpson’s catalogs drew the design on paper; measured the child that needed a dress, skirt, trousers, or a coat and pronto perfect fashion. Eileen has fond memories of the numerous beautiful coats and dresses her Mother made for her. Clippings of all the materials left over were carefully stored in a basket for quilts or hooked rugs,
Her childhood family home had quilts on every bed, but Eileen did not continue that practice. All the quilts that she has made have been given as gifts or donated to Charity. Eileen has made a hundred or more quilts in her lifetime, “I never kept track of them.” Eileen watched her Mother make all the traditional patterns, Dutch Girls, Mariner’s Compass, Log Cabin, Rose of Sharon, Bears Paw, Wandering Foot, and the Double Wedding Ring. The latter is popular today because of the symbolism of the interlocking wedding rings; since it fosters romance and marriage, joining two souls on their journey through life.
Eileen creates her own design based on the fabric and colors she has chosen. Her pieces can be geometric, circular, or trapezoidal. The sunflower is her favorite traditional pattern. Eileen has pleasant, happy memories of Eastern Shore social and fundraising quilting. In her early days quilts were auctioned off for the Schools. Eileen, Theresa Cooper, and Winnie Hawes formed “Quilting Bees” at Sheet Harbour Nursing Home, and with the help of seniors there, diligently quilted numerous creations; with needed proceeds going towards the Nursing Home.
I asked Eileen a few questions about “Eastern Shore Superstitions”: “Every quilter makes one small mistake to avoid bad luck”? “If a woman had not made a quilt by her 21st Birthday she would never marry?” ”If a quilter breaks a needle while quilting, it was bad luck?” she laughed her hearty laugh, her response was “never heard them”. In that Philosophical vein we addressed another question about weather, climate and quilting. “Nova Scotia has a reputation for dark, dreary, cold winter days, hence most Eastern Shore quilts have a white background to banish grey days”? Eileen said “I always use a white background because I like bright, cheerful colours not for environmental or psychological reasons. “
Eileen has created a pictorial art legacy for her Children, Grandchildren, and Great Grandchildren. “I think I have made a quilt for each one, but there are so many Great Grandchildren, I am not sure.” She has one surviving quilt left for a Granddaughter when she gets married. “I never have kept a quilt for myself” she said. The writer’s Granddaughter has been honored by Tangier Resident Anne Thomas, since her Grandmother does not have the ability to create a quilt. Anne Thomas’s English born Mother Alice Walker, had indescribable artistic talent and left Anne many treasures. Anne gifted an heirloom quilt, brilliantly designed, hand sewn, to my Granddaughter Avocet MacDougal on her first visit as an infant to Pleasant Harbour. The Eastern Shore is fortunate that Eileen’s, Alice’s and other neighbourhood quilter’s artistic legacies, will live on cherished by the beneficiaries in perpetuity.