Cindy Dollar Brown (CDB): Perfect. I was hoping we would get away from that; we had a lot of background noise the other day, didn’t we? This is Cindy Dollar Brown, and today’s date is November 5th, 2011, it is 12:28 PM and I’m conducting an interview with Mary Ann Littlejohn for Quilters’ S.O.S. Save Our Stories a project of The Alliance for American Quilts. Mary Ann and I are at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. Mary Ann, will you tell me about the quilt you brought with you today?
Mary Ann Littlejohn (ML): The name of this quilt is Self. I was going through a rather dry spell in my quilting and I had printed out a photograph of myself taken when I was about four years old, it was stuck on my design wall. One day I was so frustrated I just picked it up and (I don’t normally do this) I just started talking to myself. I said, “Self, tell me what to do with you? I know I can make a quilt with you, tell me what to do.” Then I decided to take the photograph and try a new process that I had heard about recently. With my injet printer, I printed on the back of an inkjet transparency. That side doesn’t dry instantly. To transfer the image I burnished it onto the fabric,. That’s what inspired the quilt. I went further with the word “self”. I looked up all the synonyms in the Thesaurus and wrote them on a piece of fabric and that’s included in the gray part. Then over in the gold I rubber stamped the word self a few times, that’s it.
CDB: How does this reflect you now?
ML: Well one thing it sort of, it represents a journey in some ways. The quilting in it is something new for me and that’s something I look forward to doing more of. That worked and I was very happy with it.
CDB: What was the process that you used in the quilting?
ML: It’s just straight lines, in rows, but there’s space between the rows and make the design you actually see.
CDB: What meaning does the quilt have for you?
ML: That I got started again.
CDB: Had you taken some time off?
ML: Yes. I just hadn’t done anything for a while, and it got me going again. All I needed was my self.
CDB: Why did you choose this quilt to bring to the interview today?
ML: Well, it has some more meaning too. The picture was taken when I was about four years old and we were living in Arizona after World War II and my father had returned from the war. In my mother’s hometown, Pomerene, Arizona, the women had set quilts up under the trees at the church and they were out there quilting on this beautiful spring day.The small children were playing under the quilts, and I could remember rolling around, playing, having a good time under the quilts, and looking up through the quilts and being able to see the geometric lines of where the seams were, thinking that was neat. I also thought it was really fun when somebody asked for scissors or thread and they threw it across the quilt and we could see it bounce. Even at that age I took away, a sense of community and the women having a good time and sharing — sharing their creativity and sharing their lives. It has just has a lot of meaning. That photo of the women quilting is actually in the Arizona book documenting the Arizona quilts.
CDB: Did you have family members who were quilters, part of that quilting circle
ML: My mother.
CDB: Your mother was a quilter?
ML: Then if you wanted to go beyond that, she was related to eighty-eight of the hundred people in the town, so if you went to cousins and aunts and [laughs.]
CDB: It was a community. At what age did you start quiltmaking?
ML: I made my first quilt back in about the 70s but that was really a poor attempt. I think it was a Family Circle pattern that was a single Carolina lily block for a queen sized quilt, and it was purple background with lime green and orange, hideous, and big fat batting. Quilted without a walking foot, but it kept us warm I guess [laughs.]
CDB: So you used that quilt?
ML: Oh we did, yes.
CDB: Did you keep going after that first attempt?
ML: No, not really. I was doing a lot of garment making, and I’ve always done a lot of other crafts and stuff too, and I guess that was about the time we moved to Saudi Arabia. We didn’t have quilting things available over there, we didn’t have the colors and fabric to quilt with at that time. we did later but not then. I also went to work, shortly after going there so I didn’t have as much time. I didn’t start quilting again until I made another poor attempt at a quilt when my granddaughter was born in ’86 or ’85 something like that. Again polyblend, cottons, satin stitch, the triangle was cut out of a cereal box, but it was for my granddaughter so I enjoyed that. Then another leap to 1992, after the Gulf War, I was living in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and the women there started up a quilt guild that just really took off. The women who had evacuated with their families during the war brought back books and techniques and we all just had a grand time quilting; we met once a week, and were able to put on a quilt show every year. That’s when I really started quilting.
CDB: Were there teachers, mentors, within that group in Saudi Arabia for you?
ML: There was one who was a master appliquér, Ruth Meyer, who had blocks in Elly Sienkiewicz books and won her competition one year, so she could guide us some, but mostly we were self-taught. We bought all the books, we all subscribed to Keepsake’s medley of the month so that we got new fabrics, and we mostly taught each other. We couldn’t bring in outside teachers.
CDB: Do you have any special stories about those blocks made back then?
ML: Actually I do, the way I got into the quilting guild. I had a friend who had broken her knee, and needed transportation to go to the grocery store and pick up her mail, and everyday when I went to pick her up, she was doing something, sewing something. I said, “So what are you doing?” and she said, “Well we have this quilt guild and we do a block of the month.” I think she said she had to do a minimum of four. You put your name in the drawing and then you get to take the blocks home if you win. I said, “Oh,” it’s a bowtie block, nice little straight lines, I could do that, maybe I’ve got some cotton fabrics, she probably gave me some muslin, I don’t know, and I made my four blocks, took them to the guild meeting the next night, and I won about a hundred blocks, and I played with those for a long time before I put them together, arranging them. That was really my start in quilting.
CDB: You made a quilt out of those bowtie blocks?
ML: I did.
CDB: Do you still have that quilt?
ML: I surely do.
CDB: Do you use it?
ML: It’s my nap quilt.
CDB: Very good. How many hours a week do you spend quilting now?
ML: Recently about a quarter [laughs.] of an hour, but last week I probably spent a dozen hours or more quilting. I’ve had a lot of dry spell. I used to quilt with a friend, Connie Fahrion, who lived nearby every Thursday and that was really great. We were both at about the same stage, traditional quilters just entering the art quilt world, so we were able to mentor and critique each other. She has become a very dear friend and we still depend on each other to critique and be honest about what we’re doing.
CDB: What do you do for creative inspiration to get past those dry spells?
ML: Recently I’ve actually been doing some exercises that don’t even involve sewing in one of the books I have. There are a number of books out there about how to get, jumpstart your creativity and I have been working through one. It’s interesting sketches, quick sketches and drawing, and you cut out pictures to make inspiration boards and things like that.
CDB: Do you have a background in art?
ML: No, I do not. We did not even have an art class in my high school. We had a tremendous band program, so I had music, but no art.
CDB: So you’re self taught?
CDB: How does your quiltmaking impact your family?
ML: They see it as something that I love to do. They understand that. My husband once told me, “I don’t always like what you do, but I love to watch your face when you tell me about it.” He gets it and he certainly allows me the space and time and doesn’t fret about the money or anything of that sort. My daughter has become a quilter, and my granddaughter has done joint projects with us.
CDB: Do you work with your daughter at all? Do you guys collaborate on any of your quilting projects?
ML: We have, we have collaborated on several quilts. She is president of an organization of six thousand people made up of children who grew up in Saudi Arabia They have a reunion/conference every other year. Starting back in the mid 90s she made a quilt that she put in their auction and it was by far the highest priced item in that auction. Of course they wanted to do one more the next reunion and she’s probably done five of them. We have collaborated some on that, but it usually had to do with the design and getting started, she actually executes it, and adds her own touches. I think one time I had to do some bindings or something, but she essentially finishes it.
CDB: Are there specific themes for those quilts or how are those quilts developed?
ML: They all have some sort of Middle East theme or something that would remind these kids of where they grew up. One of them was what we called a prayer quilt, Muslims have prayer rugs that they put down on the ground to pray five times a day. They have a pointed arch at the end that they points toward Mecca. I found some stickers for children to teach the prayer ritual they do They bow and I can’t tell you what all they do, but I often wonder what they were doing. It is a ritual four times a day were they kneel and stretch out and stand again, repeat…. It was even translated into English. I printed those on the fabric with my little laser printer, and used those as the center of log cabin blocks that I then worked into a quilt which looked like a prayer rug. I actually sold patterns and gave the people the printed images to put in the quilts. All of Marie’s quilts for them have had some sort of Middle East theme. One of them was 1001 Nights, based on some stamps that Dubai published some years ago. What else has she done? One of them had Saudi money printed on it. We picked a block with rectangles in it. Not many blocks have rectangles and, when she put the first four together, it looked like a mosaic floor. That was a little serendipity. Right off, right now I can’t think of the others, but they always had a Middle East theme of some sort.
CDB: How have the places that you lived affected your work as a quilter?
ML: Well obviously that has and all of our travels during the twenty-three years we were there have affected my sense of art. I learned a lot about the art of calligraphy. Calligraphy’s very important to the Arabs and it is really beautiful. I learned to do some calligraphy myself in English, not in Arabic. I just think I have a fairly broad way of looking at the world.
CDB: Do you incorporate the calligraphy and other elements into your work that you do now?
ML: I don’t incorporate any of the calligraphy because I no longer can hold the pen for very long to write. I have had to stop doing that.
CDB: You mentioned using a laser printer, what advances in technology have influenced your work?
ML: I started actually one of the things that isn’t really technology. When I first heard of paper piecing, we didn’t have all the things in Saudi Arabia that people in the U.S. had access to. I started using airmail paper that came in pads to print out my foundation paper pieces. It was great because it tore very easily, you could get it off. Somebody told me that was an innovation, back then, but then, of course, shortly after that, everybody was doing it. I started printing things on fabric, labels and things, I mentioned the prayer quilt, I did some printing with a laser printer, it was kind of problematic sometimes I jammed the printer. It cost seventy-five dollars for the repairman to open it, and he could not understand. They knew American women were crazy, but why was she trying to clean inside it [laughs.] I also got to be computer literate on my job before we left there, so I use a computer and digital camera extensively. I was not a photographer until I got a digital camera and I’ve just taken photos all over the place and realize if you take enough, some of them come out pretty good and some of those can become inspiration for the quilts, or get printed on fabric to go into quilts.
CDB: What are your favorite techniques and materials that you use?
ML: I think my favorite part of the process is the quilting. I just love to quilt. Well I’ve always liked to sew and I think I love the hum of the sewing machine; it’s very soothing, meditating. That’s my favorite part, and I tend to over-quilt a quilt because I enjoy the quilting part so much.
CDB: What kind of machine do you use?
ML: For the quilting I use a Juki with the stretched arm, most of the time. If I’m trying to do anything with a zig zag, I have various other machines.
CDB: Are you a collector of sewing machines?
ML: I seem to be [laughs.]
CDB: What quilt groups do you belong to and what do they bring to your quilting, or what do you bring to them?
ML: I was a member of the Quilt Guild of Greater Houston [Texas.] and I served as an officer and on committees there for many years, I’m no longer a member of that group. I’m a member of the Houston [Texas.] Area Fiber Artists. We use any fiber medium and quilts are included. I’m the webmaster there. I recently helped, to hang our annual show. I have a small critique group, there are six of us, one of them is the Connie that I used to sew with every week. Now she has moved two hours away, which is really painful for me, and we’ve become like sisters and we’ve done projects together. At our monthly meetings, we get together and just enjoy show and tell and entering some contests, that sort of thing.
CDB: Do you enjoy entering contests?
ML: I do, but I don’t enter a lot of them, because I live in Houston [Texas.]. If I enter something in the Houston [Texas.] show and happen to get it in, I can just drive across town and drop it off, I don’t have to pack it up. I’ve only entered a couple of shows where I had to send it somewhere. It’s not something I have to do, I’m, I’ve gotten over some of my competitiveness.
CDB: What kinds of awards have you won?
ML: I’ve some awards in guild shows. I haven’t won anything in Houston [Texas.] yet.
CDB: Is that a goal?
ML: If it happens.
CDB: Have you ever been a judge or on a jury for a show, and what was that like?
ML: I judged the Fort Bend [Texas.] quilt show, the portion of their county fair, maybe three times, which was interesting.
CDB: What was interesting about it?
ML: At the county fair; we were instructed to give mostly blue and red ribbons, and give more blue than red, and everyone got a ribbon. So if you didn’t get blue or red, you got a white ribbon. Having been in Houston [Texas.] and seeing the way they give awards in Houston [Texas.], that was quite a change.
CDB: How is it in Houston [Texas.]?
ML: Well they don’t give out very many awards, but you don’t get very many ribbons. The county fair, you’re going to get a ribbon.
CDB: [laughs.] Tell me about your studio where you do your creative work, what’s it like?
ML: It’s a bedroom upstairs in my house, it has a little bit too much furniture and so it’s kind of hard to get around in. I have two machines set up on tables that are next to each other so that I have a large open space to hold a quilt for quilting. I have a wall of cabinets with fabric and more. Then I have a large drafting table, old fashion drafting table, on wheels, that has plastic boxes stacked under it, sort of different ways, it holds other piles of fabric and things around. I have a flat screen TV in there, and I can listen to music. Then it spreads into the bathroom that goes from there to my office, which has a lot of storage. I have stacks of plastic bins in it that have all the paints and brushes and stamps and all that stuff.
CDB: You know where everything is?
ML: Pretty well.
CDB: That’s great.
ML: I know which pile it’s in sort of [laughs.]
CDB: Are you a collector of fabrics?
CDB: Do you create your own? Oh go ahead.
ML: Yes, I do create my own too. I’m really moving away from using commercial fabrics, but every time I decide that I’m just going to pack them all up and donate them, I need one, so they’re still there, but some of them I think may go away pretty soon because I’ve begun to realize I have so many in there, I don’t know where to start, and that’s difficult.
CDB: What processes do you use when you create your own fabric?
ML: I’ve dyed fabric, which I love to do but I don’t have a good place in my house to dye fabric. My laundry room is so small, I tend to spill the dye rather than on the fabric. I’ve done some painting on fabrics, some dyes, blueprint process on fabric, of course inkjet print some fabric, I now have a Thermofax machine to make silk screens, I have rubber stamps, lots of fun things to play with.
CDB: Do you use a design wall?
ML: Yes, I do; I have an eight by eight foot design wall that’s covered with a flannel sheet and it always has something up on it.
CDB: What is your design process as far as the steps you take when you’re coming up with a quilt?
ML: Unlike some people who sketch out a quilt and decide where everything goes before they start, I can’t seem to work that way, probably because I think I can’t draw. So I’ll pick a few pieces of fabric. I may select my color palette from a photograph or a magazine advertisement and say, “Yeah I like these colors together,” and start pulling out fabrics that match that, put them on the wall, just play with them, move them around a little bit, maybe put something else on there, maybe take down what I started out with. Sleep on it, come back the next day and see if they look different when you come back and get a fresh look. I work improvisationally, not very much is planned out.
CDB: What do you think makes a great quilt?
ML: One that speaks to you, with good design elements, color, good use of the color, and I really appreciate attention to the details that make a piece hang correctly and show correctly.
CDB: What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?
ML: Artistically powerful? Well certainly design elements and color are the, would be most important.
CDB: What makes a great quilt maker?
ML: Somebody who loves fabric, and is willing to step out the box and keep learning things. The same friend who was making those blocks for the quilt guild way back when in Saudi Arabia was a school teacher. While she was teaching me to make my first two or three quilts, she said, “Mary Ann, you need to learn something with every quilt you make, so push yourself just a little bit and learn something,” and I carried that with me. So explore new colors or something, to give new life to what you’re doing.
CDB: Do you have any other philosophies that you follow when you’re quilting?
ML: Well maybe it’s not really a philosophy but I took a Nancy Crow weeklong workshop early in my quilting career or life I guess you could say. She kept telling us, “keep focused, keep focused” and I actually have a sign on my wall in my studio that says, “Keep focused,” which I probably could find it if I looked for it [laughs.]
CDB: Do you follow that?
ML: Not very well [laughs.] I try, it’s just a reminder and I think, “Get back to it Mary Ann.”
CDB: How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting? Do you have a preference?
ML: Well I, because of a pinched nerve I can’t hand quilt more than a few stitches, I learned that very early on, then I discovered machine quilting and I thought, “If my grandmother had been able to quilt on the sewing machine, she’d have done it.”
CDB: You mentioned Nancy Crow, do you have other mentors or quiltmakers who have influenced you?
ML: Another weeklong workshop that had a lot of influence was with David Walker and that was probably mostly spiritual. You know, you’ve got it in you, so just do it.
CDB: Why is quiltmaking important to your life?
ML: I’ve sewn all my life and I guess I’ve always liked fabric, and I think actually fabric is one of, I’m stealing a Michael James quote, “is one of our first sensory experiences because they wrap us in cloth after we see the light,” I’ve always loved to feel fabric, and must get on, I’m rambling [laughs.]
CDB: I love when you ramble. Why is quiltmaking important to your life?
ML: When I started quilting, again in the 90s, I felt like, “Oh my goodness, this is what I was born to do,” and I pretty much quit my garment making, I just love the whole process, and not having had any art in school, everything was new. When you’re middle aged, about retirement aged, and suddenly there are all these new things to learn. I’ve been taking workshops and classes, both in techniques and art and design, ever since and I think it keeps me a little bit younger. I’m never bored, let’s put it that way.
CDB: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or region?
ML: All of the Middle East influence, I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that reflects Texas, no, not really, well, yes I did one, well, I’d been to Saudi Arabia for a visit in the Spring, and of course everything there is sand color, even the houses. When we came back to Houston [Texas.] the second week in March all the camellias and azaleas were blooming. They were so beautiful. I had an inkjet print of camellias and I remember, I very quickly made a piece. Everything was so beautiful, the colors around me and because I was happy from the trip I’d just been on.That one definitely reflected Houston [Texas.] not that anyone could tell, but I know it.
CDB: Have you done any that reflected your childhood in Arizona?
ML: Only this one.
CDB: What do you think is the importance of quilts in American life?
ML: I think over the years it’s certainly been a way for women to express their creativity, sometimes with very little money to keep their families warm. For instance, my mother kept a journal while my father was away during WWII. My mother and father wrote letters to each other during that time and kept them all. In there she talks about what quilt she’s making or the next one, the next design that my grandmother, her mother, is going to make. So they actually were planning these things and I thought, “That’s exciting,” that these poor, I mean my grandmother was a dirt farmer, she lived a very hard life, but still she got to play with these pieces of fabric and make something reasonably beautiful for her family to sleep under. I think it’s just a wonderful way to express their creativity.
CDB: Have you ever used a quilt or quiltmaking in a difficult time?
ML: I have a couple of times. One, I started making a quilt as my mother was dying. I picked up a fabric that I knew she would love. I was making a quilt about her and it was just a theme fabric with flowers and vegetables and things in it that I paired that with some music fabroc, because she was a piano teacher, organ player in church. The quilt was very much about her. I couldn’t finish it immediately after she died. I guess it became my grief quilt, but it’s a very happy quilt. I was kind of sad when I was working on it. Then another time after we had retired, where am I going with this one, I can’t remember. Oh, I did some group therapy because my husband and I had left our home, we left our job, we moved halfway across the world again and it was a depressing time. We had a wonderful time in Saudi Arabia, and had wonderful friends, and I ended up doing some group therapy. A year or two later when the center where I was in therapy was doing some fundraising, I offered to make a quilt for them, and they said they didn’t want it for their fundraiser, but I made it anyway. I used their logo which had a house, that had two or three people in the house and one of them was stepping out of the house. When I asked the director what she would like in her quilt, she said, “We mend hearts,” and so I said, “Okay.” With my inkjet printer, I printed clipart of all sorts of family relationships, you know, religious, babies, grandfathers, drunks, the whole bit, and pieced parts out of this fabric with the clipart into mended hearts. When I presented it to the director and she said, “Well tell me about it,” and I said, “Well, you know, I used your logo,” and she said, “Oh no, tell me about it,” she said, “All that stuff is in there for a reason,” and as I begin to tell her about it I realize that I had worked through a lot of things while making that quilt. Even today, they use that quilt in their intake room with families because she said, “Everything we talk about in there is in your quilt.”
CDB: Do you have any amusing experiences related to quiltmaking or teaching?
ML: One that’s not quite amusing but it was shocking at the time, I was teaching a class and just using a rotary cutter and no rulers, and I watched as the women in front of me said, “So I just close my eyes and cut?” She was cutting with a rotary cutter toward her hand [laughs.] “Oh no you keep your eyes open.” [laughs.] There had probably been other amusing ideas of the things, but, I’ve been asked some strange things about my quilts sometimes.
CDB: Oh really, can you think of any funny questions people have asked you?
ML: Well of course most of the world thinks they’re blankets, and you try to tell them what it is you do, and they just, they don’t, they can’t grasp what you’re talking about. Right now I can’t think of more.
CDB: Do you get into the dialog between art quilting and traditional quilting at all?
ML: No, but I think it’s very narrow minded of traditional quilters who just turn their nose up at the art quilts, or think they’re not quilts. If that’s the way they want to stay in their little niche, that’s fine with me. Some of the traditional quilts are very beautiful; I appreciate the workmanship there too.
CDB: How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?
ML: Well certainly through your project, and by storing them properly and educating the world that they’re not blankets.
CDB: Do you have any quilts that are ones that your mother or grandmother made?
ML: I have one that my mother made, but none of my grandmother’s. In fact I don’t think my mother had any quilts from her mother, they all got thrown out when the house was cleaned out or something, and I think they were probably in very bad shape too. Oh, we have a quilt made out of, out of Garanimals knit fabric that my husband’s aunt made. She lived near a Garanimal factory and used to go dumpster diving to get the t-shirt material out so we have a quilt made out of Garanimals fabric [laughs.] That’s kind of a, that’s a period quilt too,. You can tell by looking at it.
CDB: Kind of like your orange and lime green and purple.
CDB: When we spoke last, you told me about a special memory of your mother’s hands, was very special to you in your quiltmaking, can you tell me that story?
ML: My mother was interested in genealogy. Both my mother and father, a university professor, were interested in the documentation of things. She went to a quilt show in Tucson [Arizona.], where they were documenting the old Arizona quilts, and was absolutely fascinated. I think she volunteered to help with the photography and stuff, and help hold the quilts for the photography, and became quite close to the women who was the project manager or whatever she was. She probably helped her find quilts among her many, many relatives, and that sort of thing. Toward the end of the project, they made a video. They came to my parent’s house, in Tucson [Arizona.] and then they went to the little town near Tucson [Arizona.] where she grew up, a very small town, about a hundred families. As they drove into the town, my mother said, “Oh, there’s cars in front of cousin or Aunt so-and-so’s house.” They stopped and went in, and there was a quilt set up there where the women were sitting around quilting. My mother sat down and quilted with them, with the videographer filming. They’re chatting about their families and their gardens and just having a good old quilting bee, so some of that was in the video. Then, after she died, I realized that the hands behind the credits in the beginning of the video were my mother’s hands quilting.
CDB: Do you still have that video?
ML: I think it’s at my daughter’s house.
CDB: What has happened to the quilts that you’ve made? Do you sell them? Do you give them as gifts?
ML: I’ve sold some, I’ve given a few as gifts, I’ve done a few commissions, I have a closet full. I do show quilts, I have a relationship with a gallery in Round Top, Texas which is a lot of fun; I’ve sold some through there. The quilt that’s in the new Lonestar III Texas quilt book was sold through that gallery.
CDB: Is it hard to give them up?
ML: I have a few that I will not sell. One of them that I love, I didn’t do the design it was actually a block of the month, I have in my living room and everybody that walks in will go by it. I love it. That one is just really special because it was a lot of work. Most of them I would sell, this one, I don’t know if I would ever, I’m not ready to sell that one yet, let’s put it that way, but I have very few that I wouldn’t sell, unless because some of them aren’t great quilts that’s for sure [laughs.] They don’t all come out like we think they’re going to.
CDB: Is your first improvisational quilt one of your special ones that you wouldn’t give up?
ML: Oh yes it is [laughs.] When I took a Nancy Crow weeklong seminar in Brussels, Belgium, it was actually my first formal quilting class. This was a five day Nancy Crow improvisational workshop. I was out of my mind, I don’t know why I did that. I was so out of my box, I mean it was painful. At the end of the first day, when Nancy came around, she didn’t do a lot of critiquing, but she came around and she asked me why I was looking so puzzled and frustrated, and I said, “Well I’m trying to put a border on this quilt,” and she said, “Why? What’s wrong with the way it is now?” “Oh okay.” Then of course we went on through the rest of the week and at the end of the week, when each teacher had her students put their work up for people to look at, she asked me what I was going to do with that piece and I thought, “Well I don’t know, I mean it’s not a quilt yet, not sure how I would quilt it. She said, “Well you’re not going to just put it in a UFO basket or something are you?” and I said, “Well, no, I kind of need to study it,” and she said, “Because if you are, I would like to buy it.” I was so shocked, I thought, “I think I need to keep this around to study a little more,” and I did not sell it to her. So it’s now framed and on my wall and I tell people, “It’s the quilt that Nancy Crow offered to buy and I kept.” [laughs.]
CDB: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?
ML: Time and money [laughs.] For some people it’s the money, for me it’s time.
CDB: How do you balance your time?
ML: Not very well. I’ve had too many volunteer jobs for the last two, maybe three years, but I’ve realized the toll it’s taking and one of them is coming to an end on Monday [laughs.]
CDB: Well I think we’re coming to the end of our time. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you want to make sure gets said on this interview?
ML: I can’t think of anything, you did a wonderful job.
CDB: Thank you so much. I’d like to thank you Mary Ann Littlejohn for allowing me to interview you today for the Quilters’ S.O.S. [Save Our Stories.] oral history project. Our interview concluded at 1:09 PM.
Interviewee: Mary Ann Littlejohn
Interviewer: Cindy Dollar Brown
Transcriber: Alana Zaskowski
Project Name: The International Quilt Festival QSOS
Location: Houston, TX
Time: 12:28 p.m.
Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories (QSOS) creates, through recorded interviews, a broadly accessible body of information concerning quiltmaking, both present-day and in living memory. Our downloadable QSOS Guidebook has everything you need to conduct your own QSOS interviews. Our archive for the original audio recordings and photographs is the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
QSOS volunteers from across the country conduct and transcribe these interviews. We appreciate their generosity of time and dedication to the project. We are always looking for guilds, organizations and individuals to undertake their own QSOS projects and join us. Find out how you can get involved with QSOS.