and the Québec Renaissance.
By Jean-Paul Picard Jr.
Every August, in Québec City, the "Plein Air" crafts fair is held. Artisans from all over the province sell their wares at this event and in Montréal in December. You will find weaving, ceramics, jewelry, custom-made coats, shoes and belts. The highest level of quality and craftsmanship is not dictated by price. However in 1929 a Québec Provincial Government report found that the old techniques of weaving and other textile crafts were lost and the facilities to teach were lacking.
One of the major figures that helped set the stage for resurgence in Canadian craft and orchestrated the “The Québec Renaissance” was Oscar A. Bériau. Working with the Québec Government, he used his skills in researching, writing, organizing, directing, and developing personal relationships with craftspersons, politicians, businessmen, and the clergy to create the environment to propel hand weaving and all other crafts to be part of an educated cultural society with an economic component.
By the 1850s Jacquard power looms were well established. Factory goods started to replace hand made furniture, textiles and dyes. Double weaving and other traditional designs were disappearing including the “ceiture fléchée, the French Canadian sash. Young adults were lured to factory and mill towns for jobs, which later became a problem when work was not available and self-sufficiency was not always practical. To improve the life of the habitant several organizations were founded.
Household Science Schools
Beside reading and writing, the typical curriculum could include: cooking, canning, house keeping, hygiene, domestic medicine, child welfare and home bookkeeping. The girls were taught sewing, cutting out patterns, economical dress-making”(5), darning and mending, knitting, dyeing and making over old clothes, hat making, embroidery and lace making.
On farming they learn to raise grains, beans, hay, vegetables, fruits and the importance of rotating crops. They raised farm animals, built poultry houses and pigsties and butcher the livestock for meat and other household needs. In Roberval students kept bees and harvested 4020 lbs. of honey in one season(6). In 1924 Mother Superior Sister St. Augustine wrote that her students found “…cooking, sewing, knitting, are synonymous with recreation…”(7) The Ursuline Convent found that “The study of music is the complement of teaching; one should know not only how to work but also how to enjoy a pleasant rest and spread happiness around oneself”(8)
Teaching, however, had its challenges. Sister St. Ignace de Loyola
wrote: “How many prejudices are to be overcome in fashions? Girls do
not know how to save nowadays, and as they have grown up with the idea
of spending, it is extremely difficult to teach thrift.”(9) Abbé Olivier
Martin, HSS inspector, advocated the use of the loom and spinning wheel
and encouraged the nuns to give prominent place to this work, which
too many families have discarded.(10) By 1928 the nuns from twenty-one
different religious orders were certified to teach Household Science.
There were 19,000 girls in 112 schools throughout the province.
Cercles de Fermières
©Jean-Paul Picard 2001-09 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED