A crazy quilt created from the silk and velvet dresses women wore to Charlottetown Conference balls in 1864 is finally being unveiled this Saturday at Kings County Museum in Hampton.

New Brunswick seamstress Frannie Parlee, who made the ballgowns, put the quilt together from their fabric. She stitched together 16 large blocks and four smaller blocks into one big quilt, and dated her work on the back.

"Confederation was the coming together of all the pieces — the pieces meaning the colonies, the people, the pieces meaning the motivations and pressures that led to it," said Ed MacDonald, a historian and professor at the University of Prince Edward Island. 


The quilt, which was restored and reinforced by specialists in Ottawa, will be unveiled to the public and Kings County Historical Society on Saturday. (CBC/Canadian Conservation Institute)

The quilt was taken to the Canadian Conservation Institute to be restored four years ago. Last fall, it was returned to the Kings County Museum, which had some trouble getting it through the door but is now ready to show it off. 

Women did not participate in the Charlottetown discussions, but they were present for other parts of the conference agenda.

"There was a banquet and then a ball, and it lasted into the wee hours of the morning before everybody went off to a resumption of the conference in Halifax," said MacDonald, who will speak Saturday to the Kings County Historical Society.

"Luckily, it was foggy day the next day, and they didn't leave when expected because, I think, everybody was suffering from lack of sleep, if not hangovers, certainly from lack of sleep."

The link to Confederation

The Charlottetown Conference was held on Prince Edward Island, although the Island resisted joining Confederation until 1873. New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario were the first provinces.

"There are lots of strands that come together in the conference," said MacDonald. "The colonial office in London was encouraging some sort of union or a series of unions."

He said this was because England wanted to cut down on the cost of overseas governing and defences.

The Kings County Museum will open its doors at on Saturday morning for MacDonald's talk to the historical society and at 2:30 p.m., Parlee's quilt will be unveiled.

Sunday the quilt will be on display from 1 to 4 p.m. and both days are open to the public.

With files from Information Morning Saint John