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Biography & Autobiography Women

Knots and Stitches

Community Quilts Across the Harbour

by (author) Kristin Miller

Caitlin Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2023
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price

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In 1979, Kristin Miller and her partner hitched a ride on a fishboat to a remote community across the harbour from Prince Rupert, BC. Entranced with the wild beauty of the rocky inlet, they bartered a handmade quilt for half the price of a sturdy skiff and bought a ramshackle cabin for $3,500. Together, they imagined settling down in this rustic paradise. But that dream fell apart and Kristin moved in alone. Bereft, angry, and in fragile health after a disastrous failed pregnancy and a faltering marriage, she sought refuge in the cabin to harbour her grief.

The support of the open-hearted hippies, hermits, fishermen, and adventurous women living across the harbour helped Kristin heal physically and emotionally. Friends gave advice about storms, fog, and outboard motors, and though often scared, Kristin became stronger and braver and grew to love the sea. The women taught her to can salmon and beachcomb for firewood. She taught them to quilt.

Women around the harbour made quilts together to honour births, weddings, and friendships, and to comfort the ill and the dying. The quilt tops crisscrossed the harbour in plastic bags, with each woman adding colours, patterns and images. Making baby quilts with her friends softened Kristin’s grief at being childless. Over the decades, the quilting circle expanded to include over a hundred women, some kids, and a few men. Many quilters have now left the North Coast, but they still make quilts together—today, they have created almost 130 communal quilts.

Knots and Stitches: Community Quilts Across the Harbour is a touching memoir about the power of community, and a celebration of the stalwart women who honed their nautical skills, fell in and out of love, celebrated life’s milestones by making quilts together, and thrived in a harsh and sometimes dangerous environment.

About the author

Contributor Notes

After her early days as a waitress, Kristin Miller worked as an occupational therapist. After abandoning that career, she was a housemother at a group home for teens, worked on a fish farm, coordinated a mental health activity program, and became a professional quilter. Kristin has created hundreds of art quilts and custom quilts, and has involved others in group-made friendship quilts and protest quilts. She is the author of The Careless Quilter: Decide-as-You-Sew, Design-as-You-Go Quiltmaking. She wrote a research paper about the Coastal Quilters for the American Quilt Study Group, and contributed a chapter to Gumboot Girls: Adventure, Love & Survival on the North Coast of British Columbia. She lives in Powell River, BC, and enjoys reading, gardening, boating, dogs and red wine.

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