| Jun 30, 2005


Feature article, June 30, 2005

Feature article June 30, 2005

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Georgina Hughes: the Skootamatta quilter

by Jeff Green

Today, the Hughes Landing road is similar to the many cottage roads throughout the Land O Lakes. It meanders along the shore of Skootamatta Lake, punctuated by cottages and year-round waterfront homes every few hundred metres.

When Georgina Hughes first came to Skootamatta over 50 years ago, however, what is now a road was only dense bush. The only access Georgina and her husband Stan had to the property they purchased from the Ministry of Natural Resources was over water from the other side of the lake. Once they had built their first cabin, they spent several years as the only people on the south side of the lake, before others started coming and buying up property. Over time the numbers grew. Stan and Georgina began collecting names on petitions, and appearing as delegates to the Council of Anglesea Township, pressuring for a road.

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First we worked on getting a road, then on the hydro people, and then the phone company, Georgina recalls today.

Eventually a community developed on the lake, and in the mid-60s, the Hughes Landing Marina and store was developed. At first Georginas parents ran the store during the week as Georgina and Stan commuted with their three children from Oshawa, where they both worked. As the business grew, first Georgina and then Stan moved to the lake on a permanent basis. Stan served on council for four years and eventually the road was named after the business.

The Hughes began scaling down the business in the early 80s as they contemplated retirement. It closed in the mid-80s and Stan died a few years later.

Meanwhile, Georgina had taken up a pastime that she had left behind since her youth: quilting.

She made her first quilt in the mid-30s when she was 11, and made another quilt during WWII, which was raffled off for the Red Cross.

Twenty-two years ago, she began quilting again, and Ive never stopped, she laughs.

As a member of the Land O Lakes Quilters, Georgina has been hosting the June meeting of the group for the past couple of years, and this year she volunteered to do so again. But this time, instead of bringing in a speaker or an instructor, Georgina offered to gather up the quilts she has made over the past 22 years and put on a show. It wasnt that hard to locate the quilts, because almost all of them were made for Georginas three children, seven grandchildren, and five great grandchildren.

Earlier this week, the quilters were afforded the opportunity to wander around Georginas home to look and touch the products of her labour.

Its a good thing the weather is so warm, because most of the quilts on display came off the beds of Georginas family members throughout the province.

I tell them all to use the quilts I give them. I dont want them to store them away in a box somewhere, says Georgina.

Some of the quilts do show signs of wear, and will be repaired by Georgina before being returned.

Some quilts were made according to the wishes of the recipients; some were made for young children and have nursery rhyme figures, while others have classic patterning. Still others have figures that represent the family they were made for, but all of the quilts are meticulously crafted, the shapes cut out to exacting standards, the colours carefully matched, and the stitching ensuring they will hold together over the long run.

For the past several years, Georgina has been working on a large quilt, which she will keep for herself. It is based on the Times and Seasons calendar, which features complicated scenes, from farmhouses to illustrations of nursery rhymes. Georgina joking calls it a ribbon quilt because of the amount of ribbon work there was in completing the illustrations of the various scenes. The quilt is finally complete, only needing to be backed, and was on display this week.

It has taken several years to complete the Times and Seasons quilt because Georgina works on many projects at the same time. Her latest great-grandchild was born last year, so a quilt was made, and the fabric has been washed and ironed for a new Dresden Plate Quilt for her daughter in-law.

Although Georgina Hughes turned 80 early this year, she gets up each morning before 6 and begins working away, either at her quilts or her garden. She sometimes takes a rest in the afternoon, but other than that keeps active all day. She has never determined how long it takes to make an individual quilt, always working on several at once, but says that, they take hundreds of hours.

Georginas motivation for gathering the 40 quilts that are in the show (she couldnt get her granddaughter Tiffany Hughes quilts because Tiffany is in Calgary with the National speed skating team) was mainly as a way of showing some of the newer members of the Land O Lakes Quilting Guild some of the quilting techniques she uses.

Anna Steele, the President of the Land O Lakes Quilters, said the exhibition was an opportunity for some of the newer members of the club to learn about the care and upkeep of quilts, about handling quilts, and about colour choices. It is also a beautiful exhibition.

Seeing all the quilts gathered together, it is clear they constitute something more.

They symbolize a lot of quiet, peaceful work on the shores of the Skootamatta, an artistic temperament, and, mostly, a commitment to family.

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