Story Spotlight Sunday

Sometimes the quiltmaker isn’t the only one who has a story to share about a quilt. At this year’s International Quilt Festival, Susan Stewart shared her quilt “Blue Plate Special”, winner of the Superior Threads Master Award for Thread Artistry. Can you believe almost all of the color on this quilt is machine embroidery?!
After Susan shared her story, her husband Mark did a Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! interview about his experience living with a quilter, traveling to quilt shows, and the quilt world in general.

Thanks so much to Susan and Mark for sharing two sides of the same quilt’s story!

You can watch more quilt stories from the International Quilt Festival on the Quilt Alliance’s Youtube page.


Posted by Emma Parker
Project Manager,  Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories

My Top Ten List for Why I Love Attending “Quilters Take Manhattan”!

Were you at our 2015 Quilters Take Manhattan event? Even if you missed it, here’s a GREAT post from Alliance board member Laurie Russman. There are more than 10 reasons to add QTM 2016 to your calendar now, but these are some of our favorites!


My Top 10 List of reasons to attend QTM:

10- You get to visit NYC during its best weather season…there’s a reason songs like “Autumn in New York were written!

9- You have the opportunity to get an inside look into the fabric industry by taking one of the Friday tours (and, pssst, there are goody bags :))

8- QTM’s headquarters for the event are in the midst of innumerable galleries…you can totally get your art fix.

7- You never know who you’ll run into while in town…

6- You can buy signed copies of best-selling quilting books and meet amazing authors like Jamie Fingal, Leslie Tucker Jenison, Victoria Findlay Wolfe and so many more…

5- You can hang out in the best local quilt shop you’ll ever encounter- The City Quilter. Cathy and Dale and the team curate the quilting world for the very best in notions, have an…

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Memorial Day Quilts

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day to honor the men and women who lost their lives while serving in the armed forces. Throughout their history, quilts have been used to remember, comfort, and honor servicemen and women and their loved ones. From quiltmaking projects that gift quilts to grieving families, to quilts that capture the history of military sacrifices, today we’re sharing a few stories of quilts as memorials to those who served.

Dianne Higley shared her experience making quilts to comfort families who lost loved ones in Iraq:

I did a quilt for the Home of the Brave project too that the DAR did or is doing… I think it was maybe last year or the year before they did that project, the Home of the Brave. They asked each of the chapters to donate quilt squares or quilts and they would go to the families of the young men and women killed in Iraq, as a memory quilt. They used what is called an Album pattern where they had a little white square in the middle where the people could sign their names and the ladies in our chapter put their names in those little squares before we sent it in. Back during the Civil War where this pattern came from, they would have the family members sign their names and then they would send the quilt off to war with their soldier and a lot of these soldiers carried those quilts all the way through the war, but not many of them survived. When a soldier was killed, he would be buried in his quilt. Quilts have come a long way. Back then they were made out of scrap fabric what was left out of clothing that could no longer be worn, but now we go to the store and we buy fabrics and make them.

Carole Lyles Shaw
created a quilt to honor African-American servicemen and women. 
This quilt is part of a series of quilts and other mixed media art work that I am creating to honor the memories of ordinary men and women who served in the American Armed Forces, particularly in the early part of the 20th Century and most of the work features images and documents and so forth from 1960 or earlier… I happen to have been born in 1948 so in my lifetime literally we moved from a legally segregated army to a desegregated army although for many years there was still lots and lots of discrimination and limitations of roles that African American men and women could play. I downloaded the first page of Truman’s executive order and I superimposed over that these words, ‘They fought and died for American freedom before they had their own’ and those words, those are my words and to me it just captures once again the honorable service that African Americans have given since the Revolutionary War obviously, even though at the time of the Revolutionary War we were still enslaved legally. Following the Civil War we were legally free but not full citizens. That took many, many more years to happen, and now we have an African American supported by Americans of all colors and walks of life…

Making quilts can also help heal the grieving. Sandra Branjord shared a quilt that she made 10 years after the death of her son, who had served in the US military. 

Q.S.O.S. Spotlight

Usually we focus our Q.S.O.S. Spotlight posts on interviews from the Q.S.O.S. archive (hence the name!). But we’ve just posted a fresh batch of our Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! interviews (short 3 minute video interviews with one person talking about one quilt) and wanted to share a few with you!

First, an interview with Australian quilt and fabric designer Lynette Anderson. I love this interview for the unexpected childhood backstory of the name of the center panel in her quilt:

Next, a pair of interviews about a stunning red and white quilt exhibited at the International Quilt Festival’s Ruby Jubilee exhibit. The quilt was made as a tribute to Joanna Rose, from whose collection more than 600 red and white quilts were shown in the 2011 Infinite Variety show in New York City. Hear Andrea Murray and Deborah Semel Bingham tell the story of this amazing collaborative quilt:

And finally, an interview with a young but accomplished quilter, Karlee Porter. Did you catch how many Swarovski crystals Karlee added by hand to this quilt?!

These interviews (and 180+ more) are available to view on the Quilt Alliance’s YouTube channel. At only three minutes long, they’re a quick way to hear the stories of quilters and quilt lovers from every corner of the quilt world. What’s your favorite Go Tell It video you’ve seen so far? Let us know in the comments!

Q.S.O.S. Spotlight

Tonight is the seventh night of Hanukkah, and Christmas is only three days away–we’re right in the middle of a season of giving. Whether it’s new gadgets and gifts to friends, quilts for family, or a donation to an organization near and dear, there will be a whole lot of giving going on this week!

Today’s Q.S.O.S. features 4 quiltmakers on giving. What do you plan on giving this year?

14-31-97E-1-qsos-a0a9n9-a_15370Violette Denney, interviewed in Carollton, Georgia: In all I have made about 189 quilts. I do keep a log of my quilts and I probably have less than 100 still, so those others I’ve given away. So I’ve given lots of quilts away. And that doesn’t count the quilt tops that I’ve made, I did five for the DAR that were quilted by someone else and used as fund-raisers. We’ve made many, many for the children’s home, we’ve made them for Kosovo and troops and I did one for Merrill Gardens, the assisted Living Facility here in town. I did one for the Historical Society to be given to the city during the anniversary celebration and it’s hanging in City Hall [Carrollton, Georgia.] now. My daughter-in-law works for Home Depot and I did a quilt for her and it actually ended up in the Home Depot Museum. So, anyway I’ve done lots and given lots away, but I guess my favorite is giving them to the children. I gave 8 to hospice last year for the children patients at Heartland Hospice and made pillowcases with animal prints and all for them too. So I like to do things like that.

Judy Whitson of Tuscaloosa, Alabama: I love to give. It is a sign that you really care for somebody when you give them a handmade item like a little baby quilt or a quilt for their bed or something, and it is more or less a memory quilt. I always put a signature block on there saying who it is for, the date, and who designed it and who made it, quilted.

Judy Kriehn, at the International Quilt Festival in Houston saidI don’t have kids. I’m not married and I don’t have kids. All I have is fabric. [laughs.] I have three sewing machines and fabric. I had a lot of cousins who were having babies so I made baby quilts for them. I make a lot things that I give away and people are like, ‘How can you give that stuff away?’ Well because it’s personal even when it’s a baby quilt. It’s coming from my heart and I’d rather give it to somebody who is going to appreciate it than try to sell it and be unhappy no one wanted to buy it.

And I just love the way Sue Stinner in Elkton, Maryland talks about her grandchildren: Most of the quilts I’ve made though, I’ve given away. But know that I’m building up a stash of grandkids along with a stash of fabric; I’ll probably be making more for family than I will for friends. 

You can read more quilt stories on the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page on the Quilt Alliance site.


Posted by Emma Parker
Project Manager,  Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories

Q.S.O.S. Spotlight

Today’s Q.S.O.S. Spotlight is shining on a 2002 interview with Rosemary Zaugg, in Fort Worth, Texas. In her interview, Rosemary shared about the 30 year gap between her first quilt and her second, how she came to quilt-making (again), and her advice to new quilters. Read on for more words of wisdom from Rosemary:

My first quilt was when I was 18 and right out of high school. When I was 15 or 16, I made a list of things that I was going to accomplish in my life and one of the things on there was ‘piece a quilt.’ And so I took a cardboard shoe box and took some cardboard templates, I first went to see my dad’s cousin who had tons of quilt tops that she had made all her life. People brought her scraps and people in the town had given her scraps to make quilt tops and they’d come and she would sell the quilt tops and she had hundreds of them. So I went to visit her and I picked out a pattern and she gave me her templates and I had cardboard templates and I cut out all these triangles with the scissors. The pattern was supposed to be “Hope of Hartford but I got the pinwheels turned around, half of them, so I called it “Hope of Rosemary.” And I got the quilt finished, my mother put it on the frame, and she had her friends come and quilt it. And I was going to learn to hand quilt and I pricked my finger and it bled on the quilt and my mother said, ‘Honey, you can serve the lemonade.’ So I never learned to hand quilt because I was serving the lemonade. So I checked off on the list that I had made my quilt and it was quilted. And that was in 1964, and I never did a quilt again until 1994. […]

In 1992, I had a liver transplant and I could not go back to work as an accountant because I couldn’t–I wouldn’t have the stamina to take that many hours. I had done our daughters’ wedding–we had two daughters get married and a liver transplant in eight months and when that all was over with, I got bored. I couldn’t go back to work and I said, ‘I think I’ll piece a quilt.’ My husband said, ‘Well, why don’t you write a book?’ and I said, ‘No, I think I’ll piece a quilt.’ I got a quilt book and by the first time I had–by the first quilt I got done, I had three more cut out. And it was just my thing and I just got into it and I made thirty-two full-size or queen-size bed quilts. I’ve made over 180 quilts. I have paper-pieced 1500 blocks in wall hangings, jackets, and quilts and I’ve got a few unfinished projects […]

Edie Jones (interviewer): What advice, in parting words, would you give to new quilters?

Rosemary Zaugg: The first couple of years, I said, ‘There are quilters who talk about it and quilters who do it.’ I said, ‘Get out there and do it. Don’t just go to meetings and learn about it. Don’t go to classes and never make a quilt. Get out there and do it.’ And the vender booth Pastime Fabrics has this display and she’s got these quilter’s quotes out there, and as I walked past it yesterday, I pointed to the one and I said, ‘It says, She who dies with the most fabric wins.’ I said, ‘That’s not really true. She who dies with the most fabric is still dead, so get out there and use the fabric, make the quilts, don’t just collect the fabric.’

You can read more quilt stories on the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page on the Quilt Alliance site.


Posted by Emma Parker
Project Manager,  Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories

Q.S.O.S. Spotlight

Here in the US, we’ve just finished the Thanksgiving holiday, a time to celebrate, gather, remember and give thanks for our families. But now that that holiday is finished, the malls and commercials have started pushing one thing: gifts for Christmas! Today’s Q.S.O.S. spotlight features an excerpt from an interview with Bonnie Gallagher as she talks about making gifts for her family:

Bonnie Gallagher: I’m doing the family Christmas project this year is they are holiday fabrics actually and they are table runners and table toppers for everyone’s dining room tables for the holidays with the exception of one for my nephew, Misha, and his wife-to-be, Katie I asked them to be really specific with me about what they would like in the way of quilting because I said, ‘After all your Aunt Bonnie quilts and that’s what everybody gets for Christmas.’ [both laugh.]

Bless his heart, two years ago Misha asked me, he said, ‘Well Aunt Bonnie, now that I’ve graduated from college and I have my own apartment and I’m fully grown. Does that mean I get to graduate to the family quilt project list?’ I just couldn’t believe it. I could have just hugged him because first of all he was a guy and second of all he was a guy in his 20’s and so it was kind of like graduating to the adult table at Thanksgiving when you’re a little kid. [both laugh.]

I said, ‘You bet.’ I said, ‘Well, did you have anything specific in mind?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I love having friends over for dinner and I really would like to have one of your table toppers and those wonderful napkins that you make.’

I said, ‘Well, I have one more question.’ He said, ‘Blue and green.’ [both laugh.] He knew what that next question was.

This year, bless his heart, I asked he and Katie here not soon enough practically. I said, ‘Did they have any specific thing in mind this year?’ And they both said, “Yep, you have one over here on your quilt rack that we both just love.’ And I said, ‘Ah oh, so do you remember which one it was?’ By golly, they went right to it and it was a Bargello quilt that I’d made to commemorate my mother’s Chinese dinners over the years and they just loved it.

Well, I’ll tell you, Bargello, some of these pieces are like 7/8 inches wide and they are just itty-bitty things, but it’s a technique that I love to do. It is just that I kind of recalled that one quilt I did for Mom took me about two months and here I’m asking them the first of November what it is they want for Christmas this year. I’m down to the borders now, hallelujah. They may not have it quilted in time for Christmas, but they will be able to see the design. That’s kind of fun.

Carolyn Kolzow (interviewer): What a treasure.  

BG: Yeah, well I hope they like it. [laughs.] I said, ‘Oh cripes, you guys are going for the art quilts.’ I said, ‘You do know those take a little longer than the traditional ones.’ Anyway, that is okay. It gives me a warm heart that they’re thrilled with it.

CK: I suppose that is what you find most pleasing about quilts too.

BG: I do. It’s like you think of whomever you’re making them for with great love every stitch of the way. I mean you have that person in mind and it’s just wonderful and they know it when they get it that quilt was especially made for them. It does give me great joy.

I did for this year’s family reunion that Jim and I host here at the house in Sandy for all my Lippincott, my father’s family, come and I’m fortunate enough to have still five aunts and uncles that are living on that side, which thankfully makes me feel not quite so much like an orphan with both of my parents gone now.

Every year for the family reunion I do a big quilt, a napping size I guess I call it. The napping blanket and I only let my aunts and uncles put their name into the hat and I pull a name or have the youngest person at the reunion pull a name and that quilt goes home with that aunt or uncle.

My Uncle Boyd won the last one and my Aunt Sharon won before then and my Aunt Rhodie bless her heart is 96 years old, so she called me about March and she said, ‘Bonnie this is your Aunt Rhodie. Have you started that family reunion quilt yet?’ And I said, ‘Well no, I have clear till August.’ Anyway she said, ‘Well, I’m kind of figuring this out. I think my odds are improving.’ Because if they won before they are not eligible at the next one. She said, ‘So your Aunt Becky usually only comes to every other reunion.’ She said, ‘Your Uncle Boyd already won and your Aunt Sharon already won.’ So she figures, ‘I’m down to one in three now and I really want to win that quilt before I die.’

And I thought, ‘Oh my God. How am I going to do this?’ I just shifted into high gear and I figured the only way I was going to do it was to make a quilt for each and every one of them for this year’s reunion. I did. I made a total of six of them each specifically for that person. 

Go Tell It at the Quilt Show in Houston!

GTIlogo_800pixwideThey say everything is bigger in Texas, and they might be right! At the end of October, the Quilt Alliance visited the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. It was the festival’s 40th anniversary–its Ruby Jubilee–and there were more quilts than ever before.

With all those quilts and quiltmakers in one place, it was a perfect location to capture some Go Tell It at the Quilt Show videos… lots of them! We filmed the stories of over 100 quilts this year in Houston!

We hope to have all of the videos on our YouTube channel soon, but in the mean time, kick off your weekend with this sneak peek:

Flora Joy, Viewer’s Choice winner:

Marisela Rumberg:

Sandra Lauterbach:

Candice Phelan:

Look for more Go Tell It at the Quilt Show videos from the International Quilt Festival soon!

Calling all International Quilt Festival attendees!

Will you be attending the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas this year? If so, we want you!

Quilt Alliance will be filming 3 minute videos for our Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! series at the International Quilt Festival this year. Check out some of our videos from last year here.

We need quilters to tell us the story of their quilts, and volunteers to help us collect these stories. We also need volunteers to help staff the Quilt Alliance booth and share information about the organization.

If you’ll be in Houston and you:

  • would like to bring a quilt and share it in your own Go Tell It at the Quilt Show interview
  • have a quilt in the IQA ‘A World of Beauty’ judged show OR a Special Exhibit and would like to share it
  • are interested in being a beloved, celebrated and much-needed volunteer (you can give us as little as 2 hours) at the Quilt Alliance booth or Go Tell It at the Quilt Show booth

We’d love to talk to you!

Sign up for a Go Tell It! Interview
If you arre interested in participating in Go Tell It at the Quilt Show, either with a quilt in the show or a quilt you’ve brought, you can sign up here.

Screen Shot 2014-10-13 at 9.19.39 PMVolunteer
If you’d like to help out in the Quilt Alliance booth (sharing brochures and membership information) or at the separate Go Tell It booth (registering interviewees, collecting forms, keeping time) you can sign up here.

Please share this post with friends who are headed to Houston–we hope to see you there! Even if you can’t volunteer, stop by the Quilt Alliance booth and say hello!

If you have questions about volunteering or the Go Tell It at the Quilt Show project, email us at

Emma Parker, Q.S.O.S. and Go Tell It! Project Manager

Q.S.O.S. Spotlight

Have you ever seen a barn quilt on a road trip? More than 43 states now have ‘Quilt Trails’–trails featuring the locations of painted quilt squares on barns and other buildings. The idea was hatched by Donna Sue Groves, of Ohio, and her mother in 1989 but has spread across the country (and even into Canada!).

Today’s Q.S.O.S. Spotlight features an excerpt from a 2008 interview with Donna Sue Groves, as she told the story of the first barn quilt. You can find a quilt trail near you on this page.

“The quilt barn project is a project, or it was an idea, a concept, that probably was birthed about the same time that I watched my grandmother’s quilt and when we would go visit them in the Roane County, West Virginia. During road trips with Mother and Dad, my mother created a car game to keep my brother and I quiet. Since we grew up in West Virginia you can’t play the typical license plate car game when you’re traveling on the back roads of West Virginia, because all you saw was West Virginia license plates. So Mother created a car game and we counted barns. If it was a certain kind of barn, you got two points; if it was another kind of barn, you got three points; if it had outdoor advertising on it, you got a bonus of ten points if you could read it. Barns like “Chew Mail Pouch” or “See Rock City” or “RC Cola,” all kinds of outdoor advertisements. Red barns were higher points. The game led to discussions and questions about the barns, “Were they an English barn, were they Welsh, German and what the purpose of the barns was?” It became a history and cultural opportunity for my mother to engage my brother and I, and my father too, in conversational teaching moments, whether I knew it or not, and they were exciting. I looked forward to seeing barns. And then as a teenager, we traveled through Pennsylvania, where I was first introduced to the German, Pennsylvania Dutch barns with their hex signs which had the most colorful, wonderful, geometric designs on them, and they were worth fifty points in our car game and that was pretty exciting. 

So, as you can see, I was imprinted with the love of barns, as I said, and then imprinted early with quilting and the designs. Both were a major part of my childhood and represented my culture and heritage and my love of home and family. In 1968 we moved away from West Virginia, and moved to the flatland of Ohio, and then eventually the path took my mother and me to southern Ohio, to Adams County where we bought a farm that had a barn on it. So, I finally had a barn that actually belonged to us. One day as mother and I stood looking at our barn in 1989, it was a tobacco barn, and I, not knowing that people actually grew tobacco and dried it in barns was surprised to see how it differed from the barns of my childhood. I didn’t understand about tobacco barns because we didn’t see those in West Virginia or in our travels. I said to Mother, ‘This is the ugliest looking barn I’ve ever seen in my life! It needs some color, and I think I’ll paint you a quilt square on it someday.’ Well, that promise or that outburst became a continuous promise from 1989 through the years, until the year 2000. Friends of mine, Pete Whan with the Nature Conservancy and Elaine Collins, the Economic Development Director in Adams County approached me and said, ‘Donna, your mom’s getting older, and that’s really a great idea, you wanting to create a quilt square for her and paint it on the barn. Pete and I will volunteer to help you.’ And I said, ‘Great. I think that if we’re going to do one, we should consider doing a bunch of quilt squares, because I think we can create a driving trail and people will come to Adams County to drive a trail, to see our barns with quilt squares on them, and ultimately that will create economic opportunity. Our quilters can sell wall hangings and quilts based on these quilt squares, and our artists and photographers can make note cards, and we can have t-shirts, and our potters will make coffee mugs, and we can raise money which will help everybody locally.’ And they said, ‘Oh, how can we do that?’ And I said, ‘Well, we need to form a committee and create a plan of action.’

So we did, and our first committee meeting was in January of 2001, in Adams County. My mother was part of that committee. Several business owners, a couple of barn owners, someone from the Chamber of Commerce and the Travel and Tourism Bureau, there were about ten, twelve of us, sat down together and created this model on how we would create a driving trail. Our goal was to hang or to paint three quilt squares on barns in 2001. We applied to the Ohio Arts Council and received funding for our first three quilt squares, and someone on our committee, Judy Lewis who owns Lewis Mountain Herb Farm, volunteered that she wanted to have the first quilt square and she wanted it dedicated at her festival in October 2001. We all agreed that that would be fine. Mother had researched traditional old quilt square patterns, we tried to be very conscientious about copyright with the concern that we did not infringe on artists or designers of any quilt patterns. So Mother came up with about thirty-five squares, and we voted on twenty, the committee, that we wanted to do. The reason we chose twenty quilt squares to develop a quilt trail, a driving loop, was because mother said that twenty quilt squares make up an average size bed quilt. We felt that the trail needed a beginning or it might go on forever. 

So the end of the beginning of the story, or the end of that story for the moment, is we hung our first quilt square October 2001, at the Lewis Mountain Herb Fair, with an attendance of about 10,000 to 15,000 people. Then the story was out. The press picked it up. An adjoining county, Brown County, Ohio, called and said, ‘We love it. How do we do it?’ Tennessee read an article in a local magazine. They called and wanted to know how to do the project. Iowa wanted to duplicate the project. I spoke at a conference in Nebraska. Pat Gorman from Iowa was there and heard me talk about the trail. When I got back home, Pat called me and said, ‘Donna Sue, Grundy County may not have all of the bridges as Madison County but we have the barns. How do we do the project?’ So Pat and I collaborated. I went out two or three different times to work with Grundy County and help them to get a good start. And the rest is history. Now we’re up to about twenty-two states, and twenty counties in Ohio. I’m very proud.

Want to learn more about Donna Sue Groves and barn quilt trails? Check out the trailer for the documentary Pieced Together, to be released in 2015. You can read more quilt stories on the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page on the Quilt Alliance website.


Posted by Emma Parker

Project Manager, Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories