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Merle Loves to Quilt

(Picture and article used with kind permission of Heather MacAdam of the Casket Community Newspaper)  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Merle Taylor VE1VIC displays the 100th quilted comforter she has made since 2005. All of Taylor's comforters are donated to the sick or those in need or sold or raffled to raise money for the Lochaber Seniors' Association.

Merle Taylor's sewing machine has seen a lot of use over the yers. The resident of Lochaber recently finished making her 100th quilted comforter. The blankets are donated to the sick, those in need or sold/raffled to raise money for the Lochaber Seniors' Association. Merle has been using her treadle Singer Sewing machine to make quilts for decades.

She and her husband bought the sewing machine second hand in 1946. "The same year we bought our farm," she said. "One of our friends worked in New Glasgow and he knew where the Singer Sewing Machine Company was." The machine that Merle bought was reconditioned. "It had been used for many years. We would pay $25.00 if we bought it as is, or if it was reconditioned we would pay $30.00, so we decided to have it reconditioned."

When she first bought the machine she used it to make clothes for her five sons as well as sheets for the beds. "It was then that I started to make quilts - coverings for the beds."

Merle used to be a member of the Lochaber branch of the Federated Women's Institute of Canada which used to make quilts for the Red Cross. "I would always get the job of sewing around the edge and finishing them up because I had this Singer sewing machine," she said.

Since that time Merle said she has been making quilts but got into making them to donate and to raise funds in 2005.

Merle is an active member of the Lochaber Seniors' Association and since that time she has made 100. "Besides selling a few, I gave away most of the ones I made."

To make one of her quilted comforters Taylor must first cut out pieces of material by hand. "Each quilt takes 284 squares," she said. I do them all the same pattern which is a stairway pattern - I don't go into fancy patterns." Working steady it takes Merle a week to make one. After the material is cut and sewn together the comforters must be put in a frame and tied. It's then taken out of the frame and bound. "That takes a lot of time to bind it - it takes probably 12 hours." The machine is used for sewing the pieces together and half the binding. "The rest of it is done by hand - I do the tying and the binding by hand.

The frame Merle still uses for her comforters is one she used in 1946. "I went to the barn and I took pieces of lumber - and I tacked some black denim along. It's the same black denim and the same frame I used on my first quilt in 1946."

One of her sons wrote his name on the frame as a small child which is still visible.

" I happen to have a room large enough to have it in," she said, adding she moves her living room furniture to the side for the entire winter to make room for the frame. Merle said she only quilts in the winter because she is busy working on the family farm in the summer.

Quilts that are sold go for $100, she said with all the profits benefiting the Lochaber Seniors' Association. "If I had to go out and buy all this beautiful print, it would just be too costly," she said. One woman made a donation of materials to the Seniors' Club which was enough to make 20 comforters." Merle said. "Brand new material. That was a great boost to us."

Earlier this winter she received a financial donation from Olympic curler Russ Howard, a friend of Merle's, to buy the batting for 11 comforters.

"We've given away about 70 of the 100," she said. "The balance have been sold (or raffled)."

The Casket is the community newspaper for Antigonish town and county.

The newspaper documents its official beginnings as being 1852 when John Boyde, a school teacher in Pictou County, set up the newspaper in Antigonish. The first copy of the Casket appeared on June 24, 1852, consisting of four pages, two in English and two in Gaelic.