After a year of loss, this artist is sewing her way through adversity

Sylvia Lafontaine threads beautiful creations to give back to her community as she copes with difficult cancer diagnoses in her family, including her own.

Sylvia Lafontaine threads beautiful creations to give back to her community

Sylvia Lafontaine started sewing to fill idle time as she coped with a difficult cancer diagnosis. Now, she's sharing her work with her community through social media. (Submitted by Sylvia Lafontaine)

Face masks. Aprons. Bowl covers. Tote bags. It seems like Sylvia Lafontaine creates just about anything that can be made out of fabric.

It started out as a hobby to get her through a number of cancer diagnoses in her family — including her own. Without work, and with idle time between medical appointments, she needed something to do to keep her mind off things.

But, during the pandemic, this hobby took on a new role. It was a way for her to help her community. It was also a way to bond with her husband, Edward "Skip" Tourangeau, before he died in April.

"It brought us really close together," said Lafontaine in an interview with Sabrina Marandola on CBC Montreal's Let's Go. "It was incredible."

LISTEN | Sylvia Lafontaine says sewing keeps her sane during her free time:

We learn about the journey of one Quebecer who is making a difference in not only her own life, but many others, thread by thread... her name is Sylvia Lafontaine.

Stacks of fabric filled the dining room. She would take care of the sewing, and he would take care of packing and shipping. Together, they created masks and other products for people in their home community of Montreal West.

Lafontaine looks fondly on this experience. 

"It was the first time in many years that we were just living on our own," she said. "Being a couple instead of being parents."

Sylvia Lafontaine and her husband Skip worked as a team to get her sewing creations out the door. (Submitted by Sylvia Lafontaine)

Since the death of her husband, she hasn't stopped creating. On her Facebook page — called Sylvia Sews — she shares her work. Her feed is full of brightly coloured fabrics and cute patterns.

The creation process still reminds her of her husband, but it also gives her purpose.

"I love the outcome of these projects," she said. "I love that people can enjoy them."

Sylvia Lafontaine created this well-loved quilt as a Valentine's Day gift for her husband. (Submitted by Sylvia Lafontaine)

Everything she creates, she either donates or sells online. The only item she's kept is a 5,000-piece quilt she made for her husband for Valentine's day. It was her first-ever project, made with the sewing machine he gave her some 20 years earlier.

As a first sewing project, a quilt of that size is a lot of work. But she's happy with how it turned out. And it was the first step on a path toward sharing her creativity with the world.


Eric Dicaire

CBC editorial assistant

Eric Dicaire is a CBC Montreal editorial assistant working from home during the pandemic.


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