In Memory of YP

Beloved quilt world legend Yvonne Porcella died on Friday. She will be greatly missed by her family and friends and by so many in the quilt world–her fellow artists, her students, her colleagues at SAQA and the Quilt Alliance.

Yvonne (or YP as many called her) was documented by the Quilt Alliance and its partners via projects like Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories (Q.S.O.S.), Go Tell It at the Quilt Show!, Quilt Treasures and The Quilt Index (see excerpts below). The vibrancy of her work and her spirit were exciting and magnetic, and the YP brand was easy to spot–bright red and/or pink and always a black and white element (be it a quilt binding or a pair of socks, pants
or glasses).
YvonnePorcellaMany of our sister organizations have also documented and honored Yvonne. (Find links to these resources at the end of this post.) In 1989, Yvonne founded the Studio Art Quilt Associates organization and remained committed to its mission until her death. In 1998, she was inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana. That same year, Yvonne was named the 5th recipient of the Silver Star Award at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas.

Yvonne was very supportive of the Quilt Alliance’s newest project, Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! which debuted in 2012. We recorded two Go Tell It!’s with Yvonne in 2014: the first during SAQA’s 25th anniversary conference in Alexandria, Virginia and the second at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas.

Yvonne’s life and work was documented by the Quilt Treasures project in 2002. Quilt Treasures, a joint project of the Quilt Alliance, Michigan State University Museum and MATRIX Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences, documented the stories of a limited number of notable individuals – quiltmakers, designers, business people, collectors, scholars, publishers – who were instrumental in moving the 20th century quilt revival forward in some significant way.

Yvonne’s Quilt Treasures Web Portrait includes a photo gallery, biography and timeline, and features a Mini Documentary video and Interview clips (below):

Yvonne Porcella Mini-Documentary

Interview clips


As a founding board member of the Quilt Alliance, Yvonne contributed to many aspects of the organization’s projects and initiatives, including co-founding the Alliance quilt contest. In 2006, she worked with Karen Musgrave to launch this annual fundraising and documentary effort, and since then, artists from the United States and around the world have created and donated 872 quilts to support the Quilt Alliance. For the past nine  years, Yvonne has made and donated one or more of her own quilts to the contest. Here are those quilts, now documented both on the Quilt Alliance website as well as in The Quilt Index.


Yvonne’s struggle with cancer was long and daunting. As a former nurse, she knew her body and her illness with precision. She managed to stay incredibly positive in the face of her prognosis, and maintained a lightness of being and sense of humor that fueled her fight.

Yvonne explaining Quilt Match Manhattan to the crowd at Quilters Take Manhattan 2013.

Yvonne explaining Quilt Match Manhattan to the crowd at Quilters Take Manhattan 2013. She was one of the judges and dressed appropriately in black and white stripes (part of that spunky YP brand).

When Yvonne had to cancel her presentation at the Quilt Alliance’s 2015 Quilters Take Manhattan event, it was not her battle with cancer that prevented her from attending. She called me, laughing, about a week before the event to explain that she had dropped a giant bottle of ketchup on her foot and her doctor wouldn’t let her fly in that condition. She even texted me the photo of her foot as we talked, so we could mock the situation together with proper visual aides.


Yvonne making me (and anyone within earshot) laugh at Quilters Take Manhattan 2014.

Keeping up with the latest technology, while never losing touch with handwork was a central theme in her optimism and excitement for the future. In this Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories interview conducted on November 29, 1999, Yvonne talks about anticipating the Twentieth Century.


Q.S.O.S. Interview, Nov. 29, 1999. International Quilt Festival, Houston, Texas.

Interviewer, Jeri Baldwin: What have you done with thinking about the Twentieth Century in your work and your teaching? What do you think you’ll change, or will you want to change, or what do you want to leave the same? What are you going to take into the Twenty-first Century as a quilter and as a teacher?

Yvonne Porcella: I’m still going to take the passion I have for doing it by hand. I’m going to take the passion of creating something totally for myself, that pleases myself, that comes from myself. I am not interested in scanning it on the computer. I am not interested in coloring it on the computer. Because to me the reason I am an artist, which was very difficult for me to even reach that point where that I can verbalize it because I was trained as a nurse. I was trained as a mother, as a grandmother and to be an artist was to say to people, ‘Well, I think I am an artist although I am not academically trained.’ But I have a passion and I know that if I don’t do the work that I’d be unhappy. So for me the twenty-first century will be similar to the twentieth century because I will continue to work until I can no longer work. The wonderful part of being an artist is that the wonderful ideas never stop so the concept of the creativity that will be produced in the–however long I am going to live is very exciting to me.

On behalf of the board, staff and membership of the Quilt Alliance, I want to send my condolences to Yvonne’s family.

Rest in peace, dear friend, colleague and treasure. You inspired us to be our Best.

Please leave your own remembrance of Yvonne below in the comments.

"The Best", 2014, "Inspired By" contest.

“The Best”, 2014, “Inspired By” contest.

Those who would like to make a tax-deductible gift to the Quilt Alliance in Yvonne’s honor can make a secure donation online via credit card or PayPal here:

Or mail a check, payable to Quilt Alliance to:
Quilt Alliance
67 Broadway Street, Suite 200
Asheville, NC 28801

Please indicate “In Honor of Yvonne Porcella” in the memo or description line.
You can contact us here: or 828-251-7073

More online resources about Yvonne Porcella:

Studio Art Quilt Associates
Quilters Hall of Fame
The Quilt
Yvonne Porcella’s website
San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles
Twisted Sister (blog of Jamie Fingal)
Pokey’s Ponderings (blog of Pokey Bolton)
Video interview with Yvonne recorded by Lisa Ellis in November 2015
C&T Publishing

Amy Milne headshot

Posted by Amy E. Milne
Executive Director, Quilt Alliance

Twice the Good (and why you should)!

This year do twice the good with one donation. Remember the Quilt Alliance this giving season with a donation of any amount and each dollar you give will be matched by a generous family foundation (up to $15,000 total in matching funds).
Please consider joining, renewing your membership or making a one-time gift by December 31. All donors are invited to honor someone special with all gifts over $25–see the details of our Thank You Thursday Tributes here.

Why you should
Donations of any amount advance our mission and allow us to continue the work that you value–documenting, preserving and sharing the rich stories of quilts and quiltmakers from all over our community. Please consider joining, renewing your membership or making a one-time gift by December 31.

1. Support the Alliance because you care deeply about the documentation and preservation of the rich history of quilts and their makers. Our members and donors provide significant support for our core projects like Q.S.O.S. and Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! and allow us to partner on projects like The Quilt Index. We document, record and share, even when you can’t be there! Over 100 Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! interviews were collected at the International Quilt Festival in Houston this year!
Here’s Sandra Branjord talking about the quilt that healed her:

2. You will receive Story Quarters, a new members-only e-newsletter with “Behind the Seams” stories about quilts and their makers from our staff, board, volunteers, and partners.


3. You will receive discounts on ticketed events like Quilters Take Manhattan (Save the Date: September 25-27, 2015 in NYC!), and our second Quilts & Oral history Conference (July 17-18, 2015, Herndon, VA).











4. You can enter our annual contest for only $5/entry. Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen Grand Prize! Entries due May 1. 2015 contest theme: Animals We Love.







5. You’ll receive our new membership lapel pin, and if you join or renew your membership (or make a donation of at least $25) by December 31 you’ll be automatically entered to win one of these great prizes provided by members of our stellar board of directors:

Quilt Alliance Grant Report to the Robert and Ardis James Foundation

Expanding the Reach, Audience and Impact of the Q.S.O.S. Oral History Project
A Report to the Robert and Ardis James Foundation
Reporting period: 4/30/13 – 2/1/14
Grant period: 3/1/12 – 2/28/14

Increasing Accessibility: Simplifying the Q.S.O.S. Manual

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 1.21.51 PMIn 2013, Q.S.O.S. volunteers and staff pinpointed the revision of the manual as an important step to encourage participation in the project and expand Q.S.O.S. internationally. Pauline Macaulay and Janneken Smucker helped update the manual, which had not been updated since 2008.

The revised Q.S.O.S. Guidebook is now available on the Quilt Alliance site for download and includes current Quilt Alliance branding, up-to-date technological guidelines and best practices, and a simple, clear protocol for conducting or participating in a Q.S.O.S. interview. In an effort to make the Q.S.O.S. process more inclusive and increase participation, we have reduced the guidebook in length from 58 to 17 pages, creating three new ‘Quickstart Guides’ to clearly explain each Q.S.O.S. role. We will be able to easily adapt the new guidebook as the project evolves and expands.

Widening Our Reach: Internationalization of the Q.S.O.S. Protocol

With help from the Quilt Alliance, board member Pauline Macaulay launched the Talking Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 1.25.08 PMQuilts Oral History Project, a UK-based oral history project modeled after the Q.S.O.S. protocol. The project received £89,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund after Macaulay conducted a pilot study using the Q.S.O.S. method with London-area quilters. Talking Quilts and Q.S.O.S. are in the planning stages of development a platform for sharing the UK project alongside Q.S.O.S. When developed, future international sub-projects or Q.S.O.S. sister projects around the world will be able to adapt the platform to share their records.

Not Fade Away: Sharing Quilt Stories in the Digital Age

NFAlogosThe Quilt Alliance’s inaugural quilts and oral history conference, Not Fade Away: Sharing Quilt Stories in the Digital Age, was held on July 20th, 2013. Holding the conference in conjunction with Sacred Threads, an established Northern Virginia quilt show,  defrayed venue costs, encouraged participation and allowed attendees the opportunity to visit the exhibition during the event.

The one-day conference included:

  • Keynote session from Janneken Smucker entitled Quilt Stories/Storied Quilts,
  • Demonstrations of a Q.S.O.S. interview, with quiltmaker and fabric designer Jinny Beyer, and Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! interviews, with quilters featured in the Sacred Threads exhibition,
  • Panel discussion featuring textile curators Marin Hanson, Nancy Bavor, Mary Worrall and Suzanne McDowell
  • Breakout sessions focusing on Q.S.O.S. training, self-publishing and social media for quilters, quilt photography and quilt labeling.

70 people attended the conference, with 15 home tickets sold.

Home tickets allowed participants to virtually attend the conference from around the country and included video footage of the keynote speech, Q.S.O.S. interview with Beyer, Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! interviews and the curators’ panel discussion.

Sharing Resources: Q.S.O.S. Spotlight Blog Series

Emma Parker has created a weekly series of posts on the Quilt Alliance blog, called the Q.S.O.S. Spotlight, that features excerpts from compelling or topical Q.S.O.S. interviews. The posts encourage interaction with the Q.S.O.S. collection and offer an opportunity to share content from the archive.

Ardis James Q.S.O.S. Scholars Program

unnamedThe Ardis James Q.S.O.S. Scholars Program has announced its first 3 scholars, each of whom is crafting an illustrated essay from curated content from the Q.S.O.S. archive. The Scholars Program aims to mine the rich resources of more than 1,000 Q.S.O.S. interviews and encourage the use of this repository for research, scholarship and education. The scholars’ essays will be shared on the Alliance site in the spring of 2014.

The first three Ardis James Q.S.O.S. Scholars are:

Barbara Brackman, quilt historian, curator and teacher. Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 1.33.51 PMBarbara is the author of a number of books about quiltmaking and quilt history including the Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns and Clues in the Calico: A Guide to Identifying and Dating Antique Quilts and was inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame in 2001.

Barbara’s project will be an essay or gallery that will examine interviewees’ use of aesthetics in discussions of their work such as color, design, pattern and the use of inspiration such as commercial patterns, photographs and other works of art.

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 1.33.56 PMMerikay Waldvogel, author, quilt historian and lecturer. Merikay has written several books about quilts in the 20th century, including Soft Covers for Hard Times: Quiltmaking and the Great Depression and, with Bets Ramsey, Quilts of Tennessee: Images of Domestic Life Prior to 1930. She was inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame in 2009.

Merikay’s project will revisit Linda Claussen’s 2002 Q.S.O.S. interview, including an exploration of the controversy surrounding the Smithsonian Institution’s licensing of the reproduction and sale of important quilts its collection.

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 1.33.46 PMChristine Humphrey, doctoral student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Christine received her master’s degree in textile history with a quilt studies emphasis at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where her master’s thesis focused on the roots of American quilt documentation projects from 1980-1989.

Christine has already submitted the first Scholars Program essay, drawing on her original research from the Q.S.O.S. archive, and dovetailing with her doctoral research in textile history at UNL.

Her essay—available here—is an accessible, informative exploration of the ways that quilting skills are learned and shared with future generations.

After we receive all three essays, we will share them on a dedicated page of the Quilt Alliance website and via social media and used to raise awareness of the Scholar’s Program and publicize the selection of the second round of researchers, to be selected in mid-2014.

Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! Growing and Expanding








Go Tell It at the Quilt Show!–the Alliance’s newest project–has grown quickly since its start in 2012. Currently, the Quilt Alliance YouTube channel features 50 3-minute videos filmed across the country, including at the Not Fade Away conference in Herndon, Virginia, at Quilters Take Manhattan and at the International Quilt Festival in Houston.

2014 will see the launch of Go Tell It at the  Museum!, thanks to a partnership with the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We will collect Go Tell It! stories at the Museum’s celebration of National Quilting Day on March 15, 2014.

Guidelines for public submission of Go Tell It! videos are in progress, as well as training programs for guilds, museums and events interested in filming their own Go Tell It! videos. To help us conceptualize this project, we have proposed a paper for presentation at the Oral History Association’s annual conference in fall 2014. The OSA conference provides an opportunity to solicit advise from colleagues in the field of oral history.

Go Tell It! Interviews from QuiltCon

Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! Findlay Wolfe, Gering and Knauer Interviews

Seven new interviews for the Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! project were conducted at QuiltCon in Austin, Texas, February 21-24. Go Tell It! is a new Quilt Alliance project designed to capture the stories of quilts where quiltmakers and quilt lovers gather. The protocol for Go Tell It! is brief and personal: one person talking about one quilt in front of one video camera for three minutes, recording the most essential and compelling details of the quilt according to the “teller.”

We were so proud to document and preserve stories from Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Jacquie Gering and Thomas Knauer at the first-ever QuiltCon. Read the full press release here.

QuiltCon Best in Show winner Victoria Findlay Wolfe (New York, New York) talks about her quilt Double Edged LOVE.

Jacquie Gering (Chicago, Illinois) tells the story of her quilt, Bang You’re Dead.

Thomas Knauer (Utica, New York) tells about his quilt, In Defense of Handmade.

Let us know what you think about this new project. Leave comments here, on our Youtube channel or Facebook page.

Amy Milne headshot

Posted by Amy E. Milne
Executive Director, Quilt Alliance