The Rocky Mountaineer & Calgary Festival of Quilts

By Pat Archibald

I have just arrived in Vancouver with 25 guests taking part in the Stitchtopia tour to Canada this year. All aboard the tour bus at 9am to enjoy the early morning sunshine and spring colours of the Queen Elizabeth Park. We had plenty of stops with enough time to disembark the bus, enjoy the colours the views and panoramas of this wonderful city. The totem poles in Stanley Park are awe inspiring in terms of their height and the art and folklore that is contained in each one.

Descending down from the heights of Stanley Park to Gastown we stopped to watch the Steam Clock “letting off steam” every 15 minutes and to see the external elevator whizzing people up to the top of the Harbour Centre. Time for leisure time in the afternoon so most of the group elected to head for Granville Island to check out the artisan area of the city. This is a vibrant part of the town with many craftsfolk working here. Guess what??? Our fabric noses led us to a wonderful place called “The Cloth Shop” and were those some Stitchtopia ladies I spied around the counter? Check, out the street art here – silos painted up to look fun; a fire hydrant with colour coordinated mittens and a “Good Vibes” stone which sums the city up.

We set off early this morning for the station to start our adventure on the Rocky Mountaineer. After a coffee and a sing song accompanied by an accomplished pianist on the grand piano we were piped aboard the Rocky Mountaineer train. The food and service on the train was amazing and we were informed all the way along the tracks about the history, points of interest, wildlife, bird life, local geology and train etiquette. It was a spectacular journey up to Kamloops where we disembarked for the night.

Our day started early from Kamloops with all the Stitchtopia guests climbing aboard the Rocky Mountaineer for the second leg of our journey to Banff. We travelled alongside the green waters of the South Thompson River, the Eagle River, and then the water colour changed as we came to Kicking Horse River and it became a clear, icy aqua tint. We ran parallel to the Trans Canadian Highway as we passed thorough the Selkirk Mountains. As we emerged from the mountain pass onto a flat plain with the glacial aqua coloured waters we got a fabulous panorama of the Rocky Mountains and a sighting of Cathedral Mountain shrouded in cloud. We climbed steadily upwards away from the river and excitement mounted as we approached the spiral tunnels which we snaked through to come out even higher with spectacular views of the mountains above and the river below. Suddenly we heard the shout out for ‘bear to the left’ and all the occupants of the coach rushed over to catch a sight – some are lucky, most are not. But further on we got another shout of ‘bear to the right’ and again we all shifted over with cameras poised and we were all rewarded with a mother grizzly and her two cubs frolicking out in the open a few metres from the tracks. So over the two days we have the hat trick of eagles, osprey and bears. the two days of travel have been a heady mix of fantastic scenery, gourmet food accompanied by wonderful wines. A trip of a lifetime and one to be totally recommended.

The Stitchtopia group had a free morning in Banff so I decided with a few others to walk the length of the town taking in the very old but very fresh mountain air and the amazing panorama of the Rock Mountains. At the other end of town is the Buffalo Nations Museum. This museum is well worth a visit to find out more about the First Nations and their customs and traditions. But as someone interested in textiles then I found the samples of stitch work, beadwork, embroidered garments, papooses and head-dresses fascinating. Plenty of inspiration to be found here and also across the road in the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.

Moving on from Banff we headed for Canmore with the specific aim of visiting the patchwork shop there. The staff of the Sugar Pine Co. could not have been more welcoming and helpful as they steered us through 8,000 bolts of fabric to advise and help us with our choices. Yes……more than a few purchases were made and a huge thanks to them for the free fabric gift that was presented to each of us. Certainly a visit to be remembered. By chance the local patchwork Guild were holding a small exhibition in the arts centre nearby. Each of the innovative quilts was made using 4” blocks. You can see here a selection of the works

From Canmore it was a short drive to Calgary and again free time to wander the downtown area around our hotel. On our explore we stopped to admire a very modern and beautiful building which was the public library. We decided to have a look inside and were amazed at the architecture. The various levels seemed to continuously wind around each other.giving the feeling of being inside one of Escher’s paintings. Public arts works had been installed and open spaces were being used for lectures, performances and even swing dancing. We even spotted the patchwork and quilting section. If you are visiting you can take part in a guided tour of the building.

The last two days have been spent at “My Sewing Room” in Calgary, run by Anne Dale and is the largest quilting shop in Western Canada. Anne had organised a project for us based on the iconic Calgary skyline which she taught on the first day and I had designed a small bag incorporating a maple leaf block which I taught on the second day. Anne and I were delighted that everyone completed the pieced top of the skyline as well as the bag and time left over for retail therapy in her wonderful shop! Thanks to Anne and her staff for providing a fantastic spread at lunchtime to energise us for full afternoons of stitching.

In the evening some of us went to the top of Calgary Tower to check out the skylines we had been stitching earlier in the day and to scare ourselves by standing on the glass floor to look down on the city below to see the Olympic Park. Another excitement was to visit the Glenbow Museum to see the Dior exhibition and having a guided tour of highlights of the exhibition was the cherry on the cake.

Today we set out for Calgary Heritage Park to View the Festival of Quilts. Quilts are displayed throughout the park, inside the old buildings and usually outside as well but as the weather was slightly wet the quilts were undercover in tents. The weather didn’t dampen our spirits in any way and we thoroughly enjoyed the show and our visits into the houses to hear more about the history, the local trades, and the business men of the area a hundred years ago.

Ana Buzzalino had been awarded “Quilter of Distinction” and had a solo show in the old Opera House – a very talented lady indeed.

Today we were back at the Heritage Park in Calgary and this time the sun shone, the quilts were on display outside and everyone was set for wonderful visit to tour the old buildings, ride on the paddle steamer and most of all enjoy the quilts. Here is a taster of our day.

Free time in Calgary on the last morning of our fabulous tour of Western Canada and a few of us walked over to Prince’s Island Park to stroll in the morning sun and to enjoy the panoramic views of the city and the wildlife.

We spent our last afternoon back at ‘My Sewing Room’ to make final purchases and a chance to finish our Calgary Skylines. I ended up teaching the group how to make mobius scarves from our ‘exclusive’ purchases from the Dollar Shop next door. Lots of fun and a great way to finish the tour modelling our quick makes!

Watch this space for further tours that I will be leading next year to Japan and China – can’t wait!

To see all Pat’s upcoming tours, click here.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *