Cassino Richardson (CR): My name is Cassino Richardson and today is November the third, 2011. It’s 2:45 in the afternoon and I’m conducting an interview with Dana Klein [Greenberg.] from Dallas [Texas.] for Quilters’ S.O.S. [Save Our Stories.] and we’re at the Houston [Texas.] quilt festival. And welcome Dana.
Dana Greenberg (DG): Thank you.
CR: We’ve seen your quilt hanging out in the quilt show, and it’s lovely. Would you tell us what inspired you to make that quilt?
DG: Well, the real inspiration for that quilt was a photograph of what I saw in an old quilt digest, in a series of books that were called The Quilt Digest and this was one that was made in the 1860s, I believe in Vermont. I just loved the real bold graphic image, and at that time I had just moved into a big new house and had a big wall in the family room that I just knew needed a quilt and so I really made this quilt specifically for that room, and for that wall, but it was a pattern that appealed to me.
CR: How long had you been quilting when you made this quilt? Was this your first quilt?
DG: Not my first quilt. I married in 1980, and went home to be a housewife and later a mom and didn’t know what to do with myself. I had not come from a quilting family, hadn’t sewn before, but I had a love for quilts when I would see them. I remember I had gone on a trip with my then husband and gone into a library to pass the time one day and while he, it was a business trip for him, and I checked out some books on quilts and I just thought, “I’d really like to do that.” I signed up for a class back in Dallas [Texas.] it was, we had several major quilt shops at that time that were very busy and full of activity, and I signed up for a beginning class [inaudible.] that was taught by Helen Hibs who founded the Dallas [Texas.] quilt guild. She, Helen, just passed away this past year. I remember the very first class, she asked at the beginning, “Is there anyone in here who hasn’t sewn before?” and she had prefaced that by saying, “Quilting, and especially piecing by machine, was precision sewing,” and so people who really did best in her classroom were people who had experience with sewing. When she asked, “Had anyone never sewn before?” and I raised my hand, she looked and me and she said, “Well, we’ll just do the best we can,” [laughs.]
CR: Encouraging [laughs.]
DG: Oh it was great. Helen was wonderful. She was a great teacher and encourager and that was where I started but you know, it’s funny, I never really took to piecing on machine, I really have always preferred appliqué and I think its because I’m more comfortable with the handwork than I am with the “precision” sewing.
CR: This quilt was done with needle turn appliqué?
DG: Needle turned appliqué, yes. It’s all hand done, all of its hand done. It has a lot of appliqué points; it’s got the razor tooth edges on the feathers of the prince’s feather. Then the border is reverse appliqué which I have not don’t recall that I had done any reverse appliqué before that quilt, if I had it was only to sample a little piece and there’s quite a bit of reverse appliqué which was a challenge for me in the beginning but then it was easier.
CR: Did you have a pattern to go by or did you just look at the antique?
DG: I drew the pattern from the, from the photograph of the antique quilt in the book. I had a projector that enabled me to blow it up on the wall and you know, sort of trace it off that way, and if you look at the quilt, it’s very, it does not, you can tell that it wasn’t a machine drawn pattern that each feather is slightly different, it has kind of a folk art feel to it.
CR: Not my catch.
DG: It’s not precise, yes, exactly.
CR: Tell us about your sewing room, do you have a sewing room in your house dedicated to quilting?
DG: I do and I will say that I haven’t really quilted in the last gosh, probably fifteen years, but when I did begin quilting, and when I made this quilt, it was such an important part of my life, I mean I, when I worked on this quilt in particular, I quilted like it was a job, from the time I got up in the morning to the time I went to bed at night, if I didn’t have other things that I had to tend to, quilting is what I did. When I took the first quilt class, and began quilting, it was a time in my life where I was trying to reinvent myself, I didn’t know how to be a stay at home wife, without children, and then you know, later as a mother, and the whole transition from the work world to being at home, and not coming from a domesticated sort of background, you know, not sewing, and those sorts of things. It was a way that I really reinvented myself and the prop that I was going to bring today and I tore up my house looking for it, of course when I was looking for it I couldn’t find it, it was my grandmother’s thimble. My mother’s mother lived with us when I was a little girl, she passed away when I was about eight, but my grandmother sewed our school dresses, there were four kids in our family, she sewed our special dresses for the first day of school every year and she cooked and she baked beautiful cakes and decorated them; she did all those domestic things that my mother didn’t do, she knitted, crocheted, embroidered, and I learned as a little girl sitting by her, I just was so attached to her and I learned to embroider and I learned to knit from her. I was never able to really master crochet, but that was where I really had my first interest peaked in those sorts of crafts, even though she never quilted. Over the years, I saved her thimble, nobody, my mother really didn’t sew and so when my grandmother passed away, and the thimble was always there at her sewing machine, I took it and I still have it somewhere, I just couldn’t put my hands on it today [laughs.] but I do feel that connection. I can only imagine what pleasure she must have gotten from doing those things for us. You know, quilting was solace
to me, through years of real unhappiness of a difficult marriage, it was the camaraderie with the women in the quilt guild and in the classes and in the little quilt groups that I went to, that really carried me through some really sad difficult times and I, it will always have a special place for me because of that, and it’s something that I know I can always go back to. I can still remember being in this multi-age group of women and I was certainly one of the youngest ones in my mid-twenties, and their praise and encouragement meant more to me than I think they would really realize, that it was kind of a validation of who I was, or who I was becoming since I was no longer you know, a banker or whatever in the work world. It was always really, really important for the strokes that it gave my ego, and that’s why I was so flattered really to be included in this book, I just feel like, it’s been nice to go back down memory lane to the time that I made the quilt that’s hanging in this show today, and back to the whole era when I quilted so ravenously [laughs.] and I still have all my quilt fabrics, I have a whole wall of fabrics and patterns and needles. I just, this stage in my life, I haven’t had the time really to devote to big projects. I’ve taken up other crafts just in the last several years since my children have finished school, left home, and I find myself alone. I’ve taken up crafting again, but its things that I can start and finish quickly and easily [laughs.] so I really believe wholeheartedly in the value any kind of craft has in a women’s life.
CR: Very therapeutic.
CR: Tell me about the past to the show here, how did that quilt get in the show, how did it get in the book? Can you do that for us?
DG: Oh well this had an interesting path. When I started making this quilt, it, this is a funny story. My son, he had just gone off to first grade, and so I found myself at home alone again and when he entered first grade I looked at my husband then said, “Oh my goodness, I need a baby,” [laughs.] I had just devoted myself so to being a mother and absolutely loved it, and actually I had a baby nine months after he started the first grade and it was during that nine months that I made this quilt.
CR: Oh my.
DG: I used various quilt shows as my goal to finish it because the quilting on it was quite tedious, a lot of quilting was necessary to make it really look complete and I believe the first show that it was in was the Dallas [Texas.] quilt show, and at that point I only had part of the quilting finished, I had done the background quilting but not all the big leaves, the feathers.
CR: Was it bound?
DG: It was bound, it was bound and just the background, you know just some of the background quilting. So I entered it in the Dallas [Texas.] show and then next was the Houston [Texas.] show and I had never had the courage to enter a quilt in Houston [Texas.] before then, but I just decided why not. I entered it in the Houston [Texas.] show, and was flabbergasted when I came with my girlfriend, she and I used to quilt, do all of our child rearing and cooking and sewing and everything together and we came into the show and looked and went, “Oh my gosh, there’s a ribbon on it,” I just couldn’t believe it [laughs.] so it won a second place in the appliqué category here in Houston [Texas.] and then I entered it one final time at a juried show, Quilters Heritage, up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and was not able to travel to go to that show, I had an infant, but I did enter it in that show and it also won a judges choice award there; then it was completely finished, the quilting.
CR: It won two ribbons before it was even finished?
DG: Before it was completely done, right. You know, sometimes you don’t know it’s done. You just have to pronounce it done.
CR: Right [laughs.]
DG: But yes, so quilt shows were my incentive to keep going and to get it finished.
CR: How did it get in the book?
DG: I got a call, actually I got an email sometime last year that they, Carrie, was trying to find the Houston [Texas.] quilt show gal was trying to find me, she was trying to track down the previous, some of the previous ribbon winners at the Houston [Texas.] show from that time period of this new book that she was doing, Lonestar Three Quilts, and she was gathering the quilts to look at, decide which ones to include in the book and was having a hard time finding me. She found me and I, actually she found me late, and she was ready to do the photograph things with these quilts and to decide which ones she was going to use, and so I actually drove my quilt to her at her ranch down in La Grange [Texas.] which is where the new quilt museum will be opening up, real excited about that. I drove it down there to her and it was really, it was nice that I actually got in the car and drove it down, it was probably a four and a half hour drive from me, it gave me time to think back about how important really quilts had been to me, even though I wasn’t currently involved in quilting, but how important it has been in my life, it was a, it made me really happy.
CR: Well, it would, I can understand that. What are your plans now? Do you have other quilts, do you plan to get back into quilting?
DG: As I walk through here, I’m really inspired. I can’t imagine that I would never make another quilt, I really can’t imagine that. I don’t have grandchildren yet, that will be another reason to, I have a married son so you know, it could just be a matter of time before that, that would be a.
CR: That’s great inspiration.
DG: Absolutely, and when I first quilted, I made a couple of larger quilts but really for a number of years what I made were baby quilts, and I gave away a number of baby quilts that I would do for friends, you know we were all young and just starting our families and I really, I loved the quilting part and so I made a lot of white work quilts, just little–
CR: Whole cloth quilts–
DG: Whole cloth quilts that I thought were really sweet for babies, and I can, I can see me getting back to that pretty easily actually.
CR: [laughs.] I noticed that you’re a member of a guild in Dallas [Texas.] Do you teach at all or do you?
DG: No I have not been involved at all for so many years now, I haven’t but it’s something that I think I really would like to get back into.
CR: What obstacles do you see that quilters meet today in quilting? As a suggestion maybe, the price of cotton has gone up.
DG: Yes. It is a much more expensive hobby today than it was twenty-five years ago.
CR: We were buying calico that was–
DG: Three dollars, two-fifty a yard [laughs.]
CR: It was thirty-six inches wide.
DG: Right, right. It’s very different. I don’t know about the availability, the world has changed so retail wise that so much shopping today is online, you don’t go into a store and feel the fabric and see that fabric with your own eyes. You have to rely on seeing it online if you don’t find it in a shop, and there seems to be fewer, unfortunately, fewer quilt shops within easy access to people. That’s made it hard.
CR: So the internet is really been an advantage but a disadvantage also.
DG: Right, right, right.
CR: Most quilters are shop by feel, and so that is a disadvantage. Is there anything else that you want to tell us about your quilting career or about your quilt?
DG: I think that’s pretty well covered it. Just that it’s, I think there’s a kinship, I know that there is, a kinship and spirit among all of us who quilt and do any sort of needle art or needle work, and I don’t think that the role quilting has played in my life is really so different than it has been for a whole lot of people. I think that as women, we find outlets that bind us together, I really do.
CR: Okay. Thank you Dana.
DG: Thank you Cassino, I appreciate it.
CR: It’s just been so exciting to interview you.
DG: Thank you very much.
CR: It is 3:02.
Interviewee: Dana Greenberg
Interviewer: Cassino Richardson
Transcriber: Alana Zaskowski
Project Name: The International Quilt Festival QSOS
Location: Houston, TX
Time: 2:45 p.m.
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