Quebec City in Winter, Part 5

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I have met a master of Quebec’s artistic folklore. She is Yvette Michelin, a maker of intricate, finger-woven sashes created in French Canada in the 18th century.

If you are in Quebec when she’s making a public appearance, go. You’ll learn how a simple sash has centuries of tradition and how the old way of making them is not practiced by very many people today.

If you can find one of her creations to buy, be prepared to pay upwards of $1,000. That sounds like a lot, but not if you’ve met the artist and learn how much time and skill are required for each sash.

Yvette Michelin's fingers work on another piece of Canadian art.

Yvette Michelin’s fingers work on another piece of Canadian art.

More likely, you find a machine-made arrow sash for a Quebec souvenir. It will suit your budget more, and it will help you fit in during the Carnaval de Quebec, the city’s winter festival.

Bonhomme Carnaval, the festival’s seven-foot-tall snowman ambassador, sports such a sash. Its array of red, green, blue, white and gold yarn is highly visible against his massive white body.

Bonhomme Carnaval and one of his fans show off their arrow sashes.

Bonhomme Carnaval and one of his fans show off their arrow sashes.

In long-ago fur trading times, the native Amerindians were very fond of the French Canadian sashes that the newcomers used as belts to tie winter coats shut at the waist. They doubled as a weightlifter’s belt, too, back when people actually lifted heavy objects and became part of the region’s combined culture.

Today, you’ll see sashes worn purely for decoration around the waist, used for their original purpose with some outerwear, adapted into scarves and sometimes wrapped around a festival-goer’s face for protection from the cold

Your sash will be a souvenir that last far longer than a bottle of maple syrup from the airport gift shop.

(Quebec City visitor information is right here.)

Sometimes an arrow sash goes beyond decorative and become very, very useful.

Sometimes an arrow sash goes beyond decorative and becomes very, very useful.

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