Catherine (Katie) Mae Epler was a diminutive woman, but what she lacked in stature she made up for in spunk and creativity. In 1914, Katie travelled from her home in Pennsylvania with her 16-year-old daughter Frances Iva to the Swan River Valley in Manitoba. There, she took out a homestead in the Lenswood area, some 350 miles northwest of Winnipeg. Together the widowed Katie and her teenaged daughter cared for animals, tended crops and, when time permitted, they sewed.
Katie and Iva made quilts from scraps left over from garment construction or scavenged from worn items. In time, following her marriage to fellow homesteader Harley E. Bradley, Iva became known as a skilled seamstress fashioning clothing for her four children and those of the neighbours out of adult castoffs and discarded remnants from the garment factories in which her Pennsylvania sisters worked.
In May 2014, a century after Katie and Iva homesteaded, their direct descendants held a quilt show at the Swan Valley Museum. Some 50 quilts hung in the Six Generations Quilt Show showcasing Katie’s fine hand piecing and quilting to modern machine pieced/machine quilted items created by her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, and great-great-great-grandchildren. Quilt related memorabilia from sewing baskets to unfinished tops were on display as well.
Read more in our Fall 2014 issue.
Article by Rosalie Tennison