Gail Van Horsen (GV:): Okay you have answered some quick little questions here and I
have a question about one of them. The question is ‘Do you sleep under quilts?’ and you
answered ‘no.’ Why is that?
Audrey Waite (AW): I have mostly antique quilts and I put them on the guest bed, so then when guests come I move them. They have a tendency to put their suitcases on top.
GV: I heard that just last week. Are you a self-taught quilter?
GV: Who do you think encouraged you to start quilting or how did you start quilting?
AW: It was kind of a long involved process, because I learned patchwork before quilting and I used to make doll quilts and I would just tie them. Like little nine patches. When we lived in Missouri my husband was in the Air Force and the Officers Wives had a bazaar and they wanted people to make things to sell at this bazaar so when I went to the organizational meeting they passed around pictures of suggested things and one was a magazine article about patchwork pillows. And I said oh I’d like to do that. So I started making these patch work pillows and I got so enamored with all of the different patterns.
I wanted to make one of every pattern that existed. So pretty soon I said how many pillows did you want? And she said well I don’t know and I said well I have nineteen. So
I had to have my own booth at the bazaar because I was having so much fun putting these pillows together. So that is how it kind of started. When I began collecting antique quilts. I decided that I should know how to make them. When we moved to Arizona I took a class through the Mesa [Arizona.] Parks and Recreation. We had a very nice teacher and we had a choice of two patterns: a hole in the barn door or a sailboat. I made the hole in the barn door and I chose the cheapest fabric I could find and it never went with anything I ever had in the house.
GV: About what year was that?
AW: That was probably 1976, maybe.
GV: That was pretty much right at the beginning of the new quilting revival. It says here that you had quiltmakers in your family. Who was that, that quilted in your family?
AW: l didn’t find out until much later that my grandmother quilted and that my aunt had some of her quilts. But, I never got to see them. An aunt gave me three quilt tops and we could never figure out who had made them, so I was always looking for someone to quilt them. When we lived in Missouri I found out that the ladies in the Methodist Church quilted every Wednesday, so I had them quilt them.
GV: Wonderful, Tell me about the quilt that you have hanging here today.
AW: This is a quilt that I made. When we lived in Arizona I quilt my job at ASU[Arizona State Universitv.l I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do but I was still into crafts a lot and doing the patchwork thing. The Quilted Apple had just opened in Phoenix [Arizona.] so I went there and I fell in love with the place and I told the owner that I wanted to work there and she told me that we don’t need anybody. So I went back a couple of months later and she was gone and her husband was there and he was very busy. I told her husband, who was very busy, that ‘I told your wife I would like to work here’. She called me and told me we’ve just opened and I can’t afford to pay you very much. I told her ‘I don’t care just as long as I have enough money to pay for gas to get from Tempe [Arizona.] to Phoenix I’d be happy’. Because, I just knew that I needed to be there. While I was there I took a beginning applique class and then I took an advanced class at the home of Helen King and mostly it was about where to find supplies. We were still in the infancy of quiltmaking, making templates of cardboard, we’d cut up cereal boxes to make our templates and that sort of thing. When I moved to Virginia I happened to live on the same street as Jinny Beyer so I wanted to take her medallion quilt class and she said I could as long as I read through her book Patchwork Patterns and did all the exercises, which is learning to draft your own patterns. Then I took her class and I made this quilt.
GV: Do you draft your own patterns today?
AW: I do.
GV: Do you make mostly traditional quilts today or do you consider them more art?
AW: l think they are traditional.
GV: Is there something that people viewing your quilts might conclude about you?
AW: l don’t know what that would be.
GV: Okay, they are not all in the same vein. Do you do a lot of different things?
AW: l did a lot of different things because when I worked at the Quilted Apple I taught
Classes. A lot of the things I made were class samples. I taught the Mary Ellen Hopkins method of “It’s Okay If You Sit on My Quilt” It was a lot of cutting of strips, machine piecing and machine quilting. Doing things an easy way.
GV: How do you use this particular quilt?
AW: l don’t use it. It’s the one and only bed size quilt that I have made. Like I said, most everything I’ve made has been class samples. So, my husband bought me a quilt frame. It is a round quilt frame, it’s cherry wood on a stand and I have an antique quilt in that. It is partially quilted and when someone wonders when I’m going to finish it I say I have that in case some one wants me to demo hand quilting it’s all ready to go.
GV: Did you learn to quilt at the Quilted Apple or did you know how to quilt prior to
AW: No, I didn’t know how to quilt. I don’t know if I still know how to quilt. I’d just as soon have someone else do that part. I like the designing and the selecting of the fabric and making tops. My husband calls me the quilt top queen because I never would go from there. I just make tops. I have machine quilted and hand quilted and a combination of both on small pieces but not really bed size quilts. Just a lot of wall hangings and smaller things.
GV: Are you also a quilt teacher?
GV: And what kind of technique do you teach?
AW: A variety. I like to do hand applique. I have taught that in different quilt stores and
for the state guild traveling teacher program. I’ve taught classes in hand applique.
GV: I think I might have taken one of those. Did you teach mola?
GV: I was the only one who finished my mola, I love reverse applique.
AW: Good girl.
GV: What do you find most pleasing about quilt making?
AW: Well, like I said, I started out collecting antique quilts and that is still my main
interest. My main interest is antique quilts and the history connected with quilts.
GV: The history of quilts?
AW: l belong to American Quilt Study Group and I have been to several of their
seminars. I find that most interesting.
GV: Do you belong to any other quilt groups?
AW: We have a group here in Sedona [Arizona.] that just are just friends, eight of us that get together every Tuesday, and I belong to the state guild and the American Quilters
GV: Have the new advances in technology influenced your work at all?
AW: Definitely, like I said we started out with sandpaper and cardboard templates and scissors. I had a class one time with Wailani Johannson from Kaui and she said you have to have Gingher scissors so we all bought Gingher scissors. So it has been a progression from just cutting with scissors and pencils and trying to find what supplies you could to use to make quilts until now it’s just a plethora of things. It’s just wonderful everything that is available now and the fabric is just beautiful.
GV: Do you use any of the computer technology to quilt?
AW: l haven’t. You know, I had a business where I was sitting at the computer a lot everyday so I didn’t want to incorporate that into my quiltmaking.
GV: I know you best in Arizona for your Quilt Camps. How did that come about?
AW: Well, Dee Lynn moved to Sedona, Arizona and we had worked together at the
Quilted Apple so I had known her for several years. Before she moved here she had been in California and part of the Orange County Quilters Guild and they have a biannual retreat called Camp Watchapatcher and she had been registrar for that and so when she came here she was still working for them and I thought that was silly living in Arizona and working for a guild in California. So I said why don’t we do one here? We thought we won’t compete with them. We’ll have ours on opposite years if they are the even years, we will be the odd years. At our first Quilt Camp in the Pines in Flagstaff in 1995 we had a survey for everyone to fill out and we asked if they would come again in
1997 and they said they wanted to come next year. So then we decided we’d do it every year.
GV: Did you teach at the camp too?
AW: No, I wanted to take classes and the first year I enrolled in one of the classes making a jacket. I had the fabric and I went to class and I was so tired I was afraid to cut the fabric. So I decided that this was probably not a good idea. Just be the administrator and not try to take classes.
GV: Yeah, that would make sense. Well, you could have taught, been the administrator
and taken classes. What do you think makes a great quilt?
AW: Having studied antique quilts a lot, when I first started buying them I looked at the quilting stitches that was the important thing to me. Because when I had these three family quilt tops done they were done by a group of ladies and most of them were elderly and some of them probably didn’t see as well as others so the stitching was uneven.
When I say quilts that had beautiful quilting on it I thought that’s what I wanted to buy.
But then looking at books and magazines and calendars and what was published. I thought why would they select that quilt it really doesn’t have nice quilting so it finally dawned on me that there was more to it than the quilting.
GV: That is interesting that you first viewed it as the quilting as opposed to the applique
or the patchwork, I think most people do just the opposite. What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?
AW: Color. The color and the value patterns can look so different dependent upon the
value and the different colors used.
GV: This is another question that your collection background will come in handy here.
What do you think makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?
AW: Provenance. It depends on what their focus is at the museum. They can only accommodate what their space will allow. Usually museums can’t exhibit everything that they have only a portion of what they have so they have to be very selective in what they have.
GV: Is there a specific quilt maker that you are drawn to?
AW: l like them all. I’m just not particular. I just like them all.
GV: Have any artists in particular influenced you?
AW: l think Jinny Beyer did, because I learned to draft patterns and everything on her
quilt was done by hand. Only long straight borders were sewed on by machine and she
still does everything by hand. I think she was a big influence.
GV: How do you feel about machine quilting vs. hand quilting?
AW: It’s come a long way it is just amazing what they are doing with machines nowadays.
GV: Have you ever had a quilt long arm quilted?
GV: A smaller quilt or?
AW: The smaller ones I do myself. I have the bigger ones done by long arm quilters.
GV: Why is quiltmaking important to your life?
AW: It is my life. [laughter.] Years ago I had an exhibit in a museum in Mesa [Arizona} and the woman who worked there she told me I was obsessed, she meant it to be derogatory but I was flattered.
GV: I would be too.
AW: It’s a blessing and a curse I guess.
GV: Do you feel that it interferes with your home life at all.
AW: don’t think so. He’s very tolerant.
GV: What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?
AW: That’s pretty deep, I don’t know if I can answer that.
GV: Do you have any politically motivated quilts in your collection?
AW: I don’t think so. There was a [inaudible.] recently about using flags in quilts and I thought I made one years ago that had little flags in it and nobody said anything about it then. It was in a book, it wasn’t an original idea. Quilts, especially when you go around documenting quilts or when you talk to people about being a quilter, they always have some comment like oh my grandmother quilted or they always have some thing in their mind that they know about quilts. We had a pest control service when we lived in Mesa, he came every month. We have quilts on the wall, quilts on the bed and he said you must really like these blankets. Everybody you run into has some relation to quilts in their life.
GV: That seems to be true. How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?
AW: Oh, we just do the best we can. They are all cotton they seem to have survived, the special ones that people didn’t use.
GV: Do you make quilts for friends and family?
GV: Do you know what’s happened to those quilts?
AW: Hopefully they keep them. I don’t know. I recently did ones for two grandchildren that were corning to Sedona and going on a camp out. I made them quilts to take on their overnight camp out. One was an I Spy for my granddaughter. One of the things that these people on the camp out were going to do was invite the astronomy club to come with their telescopes and they were going to look at the stars and what not during the evening after it got dark so this other one was this new fabric that is out that glows in the dark and has all the constellations on it. So I made that for my grandson. So I quilted it all in silver thread too. I just make some little stuff like that and whether they hold on to them or not I don’t know.
GV: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today? [Telephone rings/recording political announcement.]
GV: Have you ever been a chair or a board member of a committee or a quilting guild?
AW: I’ve done a lot of work with guilds in places where we lived.
GV: Did you find that rewarding?
GV: Have you had pictures of your quilts or patterns published?
AW: Yes, many of them.
GV: Where was that?
AW: The quilt that you took a picture is in Jinny Beyers medallion book and one time the
guild had Joyce Schlotzhauer come and teach. She stayed with me when she was here
and she asked me to do something for her book. I made the yin-yang pattern she wanted.
GV: ‘Linger Here Garden’. How do you pronounce that Chinese town?
AW: She was doing all of this curved piecing so I did that.
GV: What’s the date on that.
GV: So all these new curved books are not necessarily new. It’s just the next
AW: She had a really good technique. She blocked every piece once it was stitched and she would have on the ironing board a drawing of the size of the finished piece and you had to block it to make sure it fit.
AW: When Elly Sienkiewicz came to the Quilted Apple to teach she saw a lot of my class samples and she asked if I’d do some sewing for her. So I did this quilt that she had made for her daughter and all I did was piece it together.
GV: That is called ‘Project #24 small quilt: Katya’s Album’. That is beautiful.
AW: Yeah, its kind of cute. It’s not real big; it is fifty nine and a half by sixty seven and a half.
GV: I like quilts with writing on them.
AW: She always has different people doing different things. I did the piecing and she had
dged by Mary Sue Hannan and quilted by Mona Cumberledge. They are always done by different people. I did another block for one of her quilts and she sent them all to me to put together. The Odense Album – this one here. [Showing picture in book] I did this block she did the inking and I did the sashing and then someone else had already done the border so I had to make it fit the border. Wasn’t that fun. And then some one else did the quilting.
GV: I think that would be a hard quilt to make by committee.
GV: Especially adding the border later.
AW: It was on the cover of Quilters Newsletter one time. It’s in Baltimore Beauties and Beyond Volume 2.
GV: I think I have that book at home so I can find it
AW: There’s my block. It’s the Little Mermaid of Copenhagen.
GV: That’s beautiful. Now, when you do that. Does she provide the fabric and send you
all that and then you make the block?
GV: So she has figured out what all the colors will be and that type of thing.
AW: Right. I had one of my antique quilts in this book. The Irish Chain Quilt by
Blanche Young and Helen Young Frost. It’s a red and green quilt. I bought it in Mesa[Arizona] There was a gal who advertised in the paper that she had a quilt for $25. So I thought what could it be. So I went to see what it was and it was a Lone Star that was all machine quilted so she didn’t think that it was worth much. I bought that and she said well since you are interested in quilts I have one that is museum quality. So I thought good thing I came and she sold me this one Irish Chain.
GV: Is it hand pieced and hand quilted?
GV: Oh, circa 1870.
AW: It’s interesting because half of this border and all of this border is tan.
GV: Oh, it’s a different red.
AW: It might have been green, it was a polka dot because there are little holes where the dots were. Lot of time the greens faded to that tan color. So who knows what it was but evidently she ran out of the red she was using.
GV: Nowadays that would just be a little artistic detail.
GV: So, when did you begin collecting quilts?
AW: In 1976 when we moved to Alabama, like I said I was really conscious of the quilting in antique quilts. We had started buying antique furniture so my husband was looking at a desk and I spied this double wedding ring quilt that was beautifully quilted so I said to him when you negotiate the price for that desk see what they want for this quilt. I wanted that quilt because it was beautifully quilted. So it just kind of blossomed from there. You know they say if you have three it’s a collection. I wanted more than three.
GV: Okay, Do I dare ask how many you have now?
AW: I don’t know.
GV: Is there any specific type of quilt you collect?
AW: I was buying everything at one time but then I thought I should concentrate on something. I try to collect signed and or dated quilts.
GV: That limits your choices.
AW: Yes, and they are usually more expensive because that wasn’t done then.
GV: Sure, Do you still pay particular attention to the quilting when you collect them?
AW: I like it if they are very nicely quilted.
GV: But, It’s not a requirement.
GV: Do you have quilts from all eras?
AW: I try to get them to have an example from each decade because I would give talks on quilt collecting and quilt conservation and that sort of thing. So I have them from 1790 on.
GV: On to when?
AW: The present. I’ve got three on the way. Don’t tell him. [laughter.]
GV: Are you still giving talks on quilt history?
AW: I do, I just gave a talk for the Questers International Convention in Phoenix. It was in May and there were over 600 people there from around the world. They wanted me to give a talk on quilt conservation. I belong to questers here in Sedona. All of the chapters in Arizona were heavily involved in getting ready to host this convention. It was at the
Biltmore Hotel. So I had 160 or 170 people come to the talk.
GV: Wonderful. In your conservation of quilts do you repairs as well.
AW: I can do that. I try to buy quilts that don’t have to have repairs done. But every once in a while if there is just one patch that is gone or something I do have a collection of old fabric so I can do repairs. That’s how another collection started I thought if I get quilts that need repairs I need to have some fabric. You couldn’t find fabric so I bought aprons. I thought I could cut up an apron and use that fabric but, then I never cut up any aprons.
GV: So now you have aprons.
AW: Now I have forty aprons.
GV: Are they mostly from the thirties and the forties?
AW: Yes, recently the historical museum here in Sedona exhibited my aprons.
GV: How neat. I notice they are very popular in antique stores nowadays the aprons.
You don’t have any idea how many quilts are in your collection.
GV: How do you store your collection?
AW: They are everywhere. When we bnilt this house I wanted to have enough storage so that I wouldn’t have to put them under beds. They are still under beds. In the closets, under beds, in blanket chests and on the walls, in pie safes and acid free boxes and pillow cases. They’re everywhere.
AW: I just can’t keep track.
GV: Do you mostly collect while traveling throughout the country or do you do it online?
AW: l haven’t got much on line. I used to get some by mail. We are from Pennsylvania and I still have contacts. There is a gal in our hometown and she used to buy quilts in the area and she would sell them to stores in New York City and places like that and so she’s sending me three more.
GV: Do you find a difference between quilts made in East or Northeast compared to quilts made in the West?
AW: The older ones? I don’t notice too much of a difference. The ones in the South seem to be thicker like they used heavier batting but it seems like the same type quilts are made everywhere.
GV: Do you have Pennsylvania Dutch quilts in those beautiful colors?
GV: Those are my favorite, I think.
AW: There is one in “Grand Endeavors” this was the documentation that we did around the state and this is one of the quilts that ended up in that book. See it’s dated 1901 and it’s Mennonite from Pennsylvania.
GV: I didn’t realize that your name was on that. There is a quilt very similar to that I wanted to reproduce for a star challenge. I’m sure I would have recognized your name on that.
AW: l was on the book committee. We had a lot of fun going around the State and documenting.
GV: We had hoped to do that again this year for the 2012 Celebration and it didn’t work
GV: Have you won any awards for your quiltmaking?
AW: I don’t like to enter for judging. It’s just not my thing. I did enter some in the
Coconino County Fair in Flagstaff and one was rejected. I don’t know who the entry person was but they said it was dirty, but it was tea dyed.
GV: Oh, they must have thought it was really dirty.
AW: So I called up and said who are your judges up there? They wouldn’t tell me. I said it’s not dirty, it’s just tea dyed. I got some ribbons there. It’s really not my goal to try and get prizes.
GV: I know you are a member of the Arizona Quilters Hall of Fame, were you surprised when you won that honor?
AW: That was very nice. Wonderful.
GV: Had you heard about the Hall of Fame prior to winning that award?
AW: Yes. I’m on their mailing list and I’m on their email list.
AW: This is one of the local papers. You can have this if you want. Where I did a talk for a Questers Chapter. There was a gal for the newspaper one taking photographs and
one had a laptop she was typing into and she did a pretty good job. They don’t always get everything correct.
GV: I know.
AW: It’s the flood issue [newspaper.]
GV: That was this year?
AW: No, last year.
GV: I remember that one.
GV: Do you have a quilt studio or a place you make quilts?
AW: l do. In our other house and other places we have lived I’ve had a bedroom. In our previous home we had a laundry room that was like 9″ X 20″ and that was very good because it was a long way. I could see from the kitchen like ifI was standing at the kitchen stove I could see to the end ofthe laundry room. It was great to have a design wall at the end of that far distance. I could really see what was going on as far as value especially when I was doing watercolor quilts. You didn’t have to use a reducing glass.
You could just look from far away and move that one right there. When we built this new house I needed more office space so I have a big closet for fabric storage and a small space for sewing.
GV: Do you have a design wall now?
AW: I don’t.
GV: So how do you do that?
AW: The last fifteen years I haven’t had too much time to make quilts. So it hasn’t been a problem. But I did a portable piece of foam core that had flannel on it and I could put that up if I needed to use a design wall.
GV: Do you have quilts in progress right now?
AW: I’m making some charity quilts right now for the Coconino Quilters Guild.
GV: Great. Do you do that every year?
AW: No. Like I said I haven’t had time to do a lot of that so I’m trying to make up for lost time. They put together kits so I brought home a kit and then I added to it. I got carried away making blocks with the fabric they sent me so I think I’ll have about three. They are all pink and purples and pastels so I want to do something for a boy too. They have several different charities that they give them too. I don’t want to have all girlie stuff. I want to do something for a boy. I’ve got some cowboy fabric and I’m going to do another one from that.
GV: Do you ever make patterns? Have you sold patterns or designs?
AW: Years ago I did a tree skirt. That was a log cabin design. I think that’s the only one
I’ve ever published.
GV: Was that in Arizona?
AW: Yes at the Quilted Apple. I haven’t really gotten into it. I do design things and I designed things for classes I was teaching. But, I didn’t really sell patterns.
GV: Are you still teaching with the Arizona Quilters Guild traveling teachers?
AW: No. They took me off the roster. They decided they wanted to have every one come to Phoenix in January of every year for a 15-minute review. I said I was not driving five hours to do a 15-minute review. They took me off the list. [Laughter.] That’s just the way I am.
GV: I don’t blame you. That’s a long drive. It’s a very long drive unless you can do moret han one thing when you are down there.
AW: In January I was busy with Quilting in the Desert. I just didn’t want to take the time to fool around with that.
GV: You’ve sold your quilt camp now, so how did that transfer go at Quilt Camp in the
AW: Well, part of the sale contract was that I would help her through Quilt Camp in the
Pines so I was there for several days. Helping and assuring people it is going to go on and making sure it was a smooth transition.
GV: Great. So now you have more time for quilting. Do you have some projects in your mind?
AW: I’m still just trying to decide what to do with the rest of my life. I just saw on CBS
Sunday Morning this story about women on motorcycles and I said to my husband maybe
I’ll get a motorcycle. Travel around looking for antique quilts.
GV: Well, you’d better get a little trailer then.
AW: Yes, maybe I’ll get a little side car.
GV: That sounds like a lot of fun.
AW: I’m still working two days a week for the bead store here in town. So that keeps me busy, too.
GV: Thank you, Audrey. If I have any more questions, especially when I start to write peoples’ names that you have mentioned, I’ll give you a call.
GV: It is quarter of twelve. 11:45 am.
Interviewee: Audrey Waite
Interviewer: Gail Van Horsen
Transcriber:Gail Van Horsen
Project Name: The Arizona QSOS
Location: Sedona, AZ
Time: 10:30 a.m.
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