We’re shining today’s Q.S.O.S. Spotlight on a just-posted interview from Cookie Williams of Dundas, Minnesota. In her interview, Cookie shared two quilts she’d made for two generations of men: her husband and her son, both veterans of the US National Guard.
Cookie told interviewer Heidi Rubenstein about designing the quilts, choosing personal and patriotic symbols, and why making a quilt for her son was one of the hardest quilts to make:
“These two quilts are the most special quilts I’ve ever made. The first one I’m going to tell you about I made for my husband. Fifteen years ago he was on the road and he stopped at a quilt store. He asked the storeowner to gather fifty blue fat quarters for me and he gave them to me for my birthday that year. I knew right away that those fifty blue fat quarters were going into a quilt for him. He spent 37 and a half years working for the National Guard as a full time person and I knew that this quilt was going to pertain to that career. I started with Flying Geese. I knew that he was an eagle lover and I actually tried to piece an eagle, and it sort of looked like a lame duck. So then I went to the Flying Geese. At the time for Northfield Quilters we were teaching each other classes and I elected to teach the Flying Geese block, but the hook was you need to bring me back one Flying Geese made in red and I handed the quilt club background fabric. They said ‘well, it won’t be the right color.’ I said ‘I don’t care.’ I did not have enough red in my stash to make this quilt that I had envisioned in my mind. So I got the Flying Geese together and I had red ones and blue ones and I had tried piecing the eagle. That didn’t work, so I thought ‘how about a flag.’ So the next part of the quilt is an American flag done with a Log Cabin pattern. It came together and it was sitting on top of the Flying Geese and I thought, ‘well, we still have to incorporate eagles into this quilt somehow.’ About that time I went to a Minnesota Quilt Show and went to a stencil booth at one of the vendors and they had a stencil for an eagle and I thought, ‘ok, here’s the flag, on either side of the flag we can put a blue sky and I can quilt in the eagles.’ Consequently, two days before my husband’s 70th birthday last March, the 18th of March, I finished that quilt. This past summer I entered that quilt at the Rice County Fair and it won a grand champion ribbon. That quilt took me 15 years to get done so it’s really special.
The other quilt that I’m going to tell you about is titled “Why This Quilt Reminds Me of You.” Our son also belonged to the National Guard. In 2004 he was deployed to Iraq. He was gone a year. It was probably the toughest year we spent as a family. During his deployment I started putting this quilt together and every color in it reminds me of something he has done in his life. There’s red, white and blue, of course. There’s maroon because he was an athlete for Northfield High School and the school colors were maroon and gold. There’s green in there because one of his first jobs was working for his dad’s cousin baling hay. There is a blue cobblestone fabric in this quilt that reminds me of all of the travels he’s done in his life including being deployed to Iraq. It’s a star quilt and the star is because he’s been a real star in our life. The golf fabric is because that is his current hobby. He’s a golfer and he’s pretty good at it. Every fabric that I chose during the piecing of this had something to do with him. In reality, the pattern for this quilt was not a hard pattern. But it was the hardest quilt I’ve ever pieced. So these two are near and dear to my heart. And I’m proud to say that they belong to the guys that they do.
HR: So the first one was Flying Geese and Log Cabin. You designed it yourself?
CW: I designed that quilt. There’s not a pattern out that I know of with these elements. The process of making a quilt for me, for these two in particular, when I decided to put the flag on blue sky, well I had some blue sky fabric, but I didn’t like it, so then it was a few months down the road and we travelled somewhere and we went into a quilt store up north and there was the blue sky fabric that I had envisioned in my mind. Usually when I make a quilt and give it away I will ask the person that I’m giving it to ‘what’s your favorite color?’ But these two quilts are exactly what I designed from the bottom of my heart with every ounce of design element in my body that I could garner up. Every emotion that these quilts evoke, the other 200 plus quilts that I’ve done do not equate what these two mean to me. They are special quilts for special guys.”
You can also read more stories about quilts and their makers at the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page on the Quilt Alliance’s site.