Stitching together our Stories
by Janice Landry
There is a familiar old saying which urges us to see, “the forest for the trees.” It is a reminder to occasionally step back and gain a better perspective, to look at things differently, or, take time to live in the here and now.
63 year old Bev Crouse is the veteran Nova Scotia quilter behind the “White Point Quilt – Stitching White Pointers Together” project. Every stitch in the special quilt being created for the new Main Lodge is kind of like every tree in that proverbial forest: each is special and tells its own story, but, when viewed in its entirety, together forms a life-affirming and sustainable masterpiece that will exist for generations.
“It is by far, the most exciting, the most emotional and most gratifying project ever. This is the one. It is part of me,” says Crouse, with a huge smile. Once you hear her amazing back story, you will understand why it is so impactful for her.
The original White Point Beach Resort quilt was among the many beautiful and significant pieces of art formerly displayed in the Main Lodge and which were subsequently all destroyed. Crouse says she first heard about what happened while watching television the day after the November 12, 2011 fire. She had two immediate, albeit, fleeting thoughts which crossed her mind: firstly, because she is a third generation, master quilter, with 50 years sewing experience, she says she worried about what had happened to the White Point quilt, and, secondly, she thought, if a second one was ever to be created, she could clearly picture it with the resort’s signature beach stone fireplace sewn in its centre.
Crouse admits she, like many, has had a hard time accepting what she saw on the t-v screen, in her Moose Harbour home. She didn’t want to believe it was true. Reflecting back, almost a year later, she now realizes the impetus for her reaction stems from the deeply emotional and draining personal drama she had just experienced with her beloved husband, Wayne Crouse.
The day before the fire, the couple had just returned from a Halifax hospital where Wayne had undergone extensive open-heart surgery, a valve replacement and had part of his aorta replaced after suffering from an aneurism. Crouse says her father had the exact same surgery, except for the aneurism, but he had died on the operating table.
It was, and is, a lot to bear.
She believes she was unable to process the fire, initially, because the previous 6 days spent with Wayne in hospital, post- surgery, were both emotionally and physically exhausting. At the same time, she knew healing could and would begin if she did something to help.
That opportunity came from Donna Hatt, White Point’s Marketing and Product Development Manager, who approached Crouse about creating a new quilt for the rebuilt Main Lodge. Crouse did not hesitate one iota and agreed to come on board.
Crouse spearheads the project and has committed about 20 hours per week to it since February 2012. It’s evolved into a “part-time job;” done out of love for her community, the art of quilting and White Point itself.
The quilt’s progression and design can be viewed on the White Point Beach Resort website. It is rich in colour and texture and deep in story. It is approximately 5 by 7 feet in diameter and each of 13 panels has been expertly handcrafted by Crouse. They depict favorite White Point scenes; every one is a special memory described, especially for the project, by loyal guests.
One dozen of the blocks are placed around the perimeter of the 13th– which is the centre and largest one. Appropriately, that place of honor is reserved for a panel showcasing the famous beach stone fireplace Crouse imagined should be sewn there when she first heard about, and reacted to, the fire.
While Crouse is the solo creator of the scenes, she is thrilled, and eager to explain, that people from all over the world, including her husband Wayne, one of her daughters and several of her in-laws, have helped stitch the main, fireplace panel. She has also taken the quilt to public events locally, in Toronto, Halifax and elsewhere to allow as many supporters as possible to place individual stitches in the quilt, “There is even someone from as far away as China! People say to me, ‘When I come to White Point, I’m going to look at the fireplace block and I think I can remember where I put my stitch!’”
When you get a chance to view the magnificent quilt, you should be aware that Crouse’s favorite panel is located on the bottom, right-hand corner and depicts the scene of a bonfire on the beach at White Point, “To me, it’s soothing because of the sky. I love the sky. I grew up in Prince Edward Island looking up at the night skies. I totally adore doing that. That’s why this one speaks to me,” Crouse says.
Another important panel for the quilter is located on the design’s top, middle. It’s a lovely scene showing people sitting on White Point beach looking at lobster boats at sunrise. Crouse worked from pictures to get the larger of the two boats stitched just right. She used many old and current photographs for her research of most of the panels, like the historical one showcasing the original hunting lodge from 1928.
The fishing boat panel is extra special because, of the two boats in it, she says she struggled to get the second, tinier boat on the horizon to have the proper shape and perspective. She asked her husband Wayne for help. He is originally from Lunenburg and is knowledgeable about vessels. Wayne drew her a small, green fishing boat and that is the exact one you see in the lobster boat panel.
Appropriately, both literally, and figuratively, there is a part of both the husband and wife, who have been through so much together, in the White Point quilt, “It definitely relates to Wayne’s (health) issues and the healing part,” she thoughtfully says.
In another twist of significance, Crouse says it will be she and well-known quilter, Lynn Hupman, of Mill Village, the creator of the original White Point quilt, who will work together to “sandwich” the new quilt before its’ final quilting and unveiling.
The term “sandwich” means the two veteran artisans will place the work in quilt bars in preparation for its quilting. The bottom layer of the sandwich is called the backing. The next layer is the batting and the top layer is the actual quilt. The two women will also have help from numerous sewers, quilters and artisans who are passionate about the project during a series of quilting bees being offered by White Point.
Crouse says the whole creative process has been very humbling. She literally tears up explaining what it means to her. She also physically gets goose bumps from, and is especially touched by, people’s varied reactions to the quilt’s individual panels as they choose a personal favorite.
After a year of both community and personal lows and highs, Crouse is both deeply moved and inspired by so many caring people who have lent a helping hand in creating the artistic legacy she has helped spearhead. When it is hung in the new Main Lodge in January 2013, the White Point Beach Resort quilt will become a constant reminder that, in the face of difficulty and challenges, people can and will come together to create something that is beautiful, lasting and impactful.
About the author: Janice Landry is a Halifax based author, director, strategic communicator, and instructor, Department of Communiations, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, *Nominated for MSVU’s Alumnae Award for Teaching Excellence 2010.