Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am conducting a Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories interview with Irene Goodrich. Today is June 19, 2008. It is 3:25 in the afternoon. We are in Columbus, Ohio and this is a demo interview being done at a training here at the National Quilting Association’s show. Irene, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me. Please tell me about the quilt you brought for this interview.
Irene Goodrich (IG): This here is one pattern of nine in a series of designs by Susan R. Du Laney of Albuquerque, New Mexico and I just love her patterns. She just draws one out right after the other, as well as we would write really, so I have tons of her patterns and I’ve done several of this series, not all of them, but I plan to do them all if I live long enough. [laughs.] I’m just what you call a traditional appliquér. I mark my pattern on the background and I make a template for each color and I baste my edge under and then I match my thread and appliqué them down. I use a #3 hard lead pencil on light fabric to do my marking. I use, well you don’t want this right now, but anyway, I guess that is about all on this one.
KM: You can tell me whatever you want.
IG: I believe that will do it for this one. But I love iris, so I’ve done may iris pieces. I collect iris patterns.
KM: Now this is hand quilted.
IG: Oh yes, I do all of my quilting by hand. Someone made the remark that hand quilting is going out of style, and I said not as long as I’m alive. [laughs.] I always put all the information that I can on the back.
KM: Let’s turn it over and tell me what information you have put on here.
IG: It is my #77 wall hanging. I’m up over one hundred right now. I numbered from number one. I tell it is made by myself and my location, the size of the piece, the content of the fabrics and the threads and the batt [batting.], and the day I begun and the day I finished. The amount of hours in the construction.
IG: The amount of hours in the quilting to equal a total. Then I sign it and date it, and I always date all my pieces on the last day that I put the last stitch in it. I also keep a record in books at home. I have several books, one for wall hangings and one for quilts and one for minis. Put all the information that I can in those on the back.
KM: What are your plans for this quilt?
IG: I really don’t have any. [laughs.] I really don’t have any plans for it. I do give away a lot, and right now I’m selling a lot. Selling a lot of my items. If someone comes along and wants to purchase it, I probably will sell it because I’m in my eighties and I’m not going to be here forever, trying to downsize. I don’t know if I should say this in here or not, but right now I have either a block or a wall hanging or a full size quilt or a combination of the three in half of the forty-eight states, and some in Canada, and I have a block in Copenhagen, Denmark in a quilt, and I have three wall hangings somewhere in the Orient. I don’t know exactly where they are right now.
KM: That is pretty exciting. What do you think somebody would conclude looking at this quilt about you?
IG: Well that is hard for me to determine.
KM: What do people think about your quilts?
IG: I get lots of compliments I know that. Really I’ve gotten a lot of them in this show already. Got one just on the way up here.
KM: What did they say?
IG: My gorgeous quilts, they saw my gorgeous quilts hanging in the show and of course I always graciously thank them for a nice compliment.
KM: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.
IG: I will start at the beginning. When I was about four and a half or five years old my family had moved and I was getting under my dad’s feet, he had sort of a short fuse, so he screamed at my mother to take that child somewhere and sit her down in the corner out of his way. She took me to the front room of the house, I can just picture it in my mind now, it had a lot of glass in the front and there was no furniture in it. She sat me down in the corner and she got a piece of white fabric and she threaded a needle with black thread. My mother was a good size and I was a scrubby kid. She put some cloth around my needle finger and put her big brass thimble on my finger and taught me how to use the thimble from the very beginning, and she said you want to try to make tiny stitches, so with this black thread on the white fabric, you can see how you are progressing. I took to it like a duck to water and shortly after that she cut out squares and then triangles and put the triangles on each one, she called it squares and corners. Recycling is nothing new to us, then your sugar and salt came in cloth bags and they were sewn together with a chain stitch, so when she used the salt and the sugar she would take out the chain stitch and bleach out the wording in the fabric and dye it. On this particular quilt, she dyed it red. I had the top done before I started school at the age of seven, and it wasn’t a quilt until 1968 which began my quilting career. Let’s see, I come from a line of quilters. My mother would say that when she and her three sisters were going to high school they would always hurry home and get their lessons done so that they could quilt for an hour before they had to go to bed. Both my grandmothers are quilters. None of my sisters quilt, I’m the quilter of the family. It just took off from there. What else do I have to tell you? I seriously got into quilting in 1968. My husband and I didn’t have any children but I had nineteen nieces and nephews and my sister back here had five that were our children, so I began to make quilts for nineteen nieces and nephews. I added seven brothers and sisters and my parents and I’ve been avidly quilting ever since.
KM: What made you start in ’68?
IG: I was aware that there was becoming an interest in quilts. At first I was the only quilter in the area, but now it is really going great guns, which pleases me immensely.
KM: What does your family think of your quiltmaking?
IG: Oh they are my greatest fans. [laughs.] They all have their quilts, some of them have two, two quilts, two full size quilts.
KM: How many hours a week do you spend on quiltmaking?
IG: I’m a widow now and live in this big old house by myself and so I can only quilt every other day because I can not quilt with anything on the finger. I can’t do anything with hands covered, even digging in the dirt, so I quilt Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and then on the other days I do whatever has to be done, wash the clothes, clean the house, mow the lawn or whatever, or get a new project ready. It is my life right now, just keeps me going. I want to mention that quilting is wonderful therapy. Beginning in 1970 when my husband and I had to take care of his mother and she was in our home in bed, and I think beginning in the early eighties my father became ill and for about ten years I had to go back and forth between the states of Virginia and Ohio. I had to get power of attorney for both of my parents and see to their affairs, and then January 31, 1997 my husband had a hemorrhage stroke and going on eight years, well he passed away in 2004, and I want to tell everyone that if you get into a situation like that quilting is the best therapy that you can possibly do. It saved me.
KM: What do you find the most pleasing about quiltmaking?
IG: Color and the beautiful fabrics that they are doing for us today and all of these wonderful books. When I first got into quilting I think we had two quilt books, one by, is it Marguerite Ickis and the other one was “101 Patchworks” by I can’t think of the author’s name right now. I just marvel at all the books we have and then all of a sudden all these appliqué books that are out there, which is my forte. I would rather appliqué than anything. I don’t like to piece any more. I love to quilt. I do the quilting.
KM: Do you quilt on a frame?
IG: I do have a floor frame, which I am not going to use any more. I have every shape of hoop that there is, moon shape, square, round, oblong. [laughs.] I use those mostly now.
KM: Why did you move to using a hoop and not a frame?
IG: It is difficult for me to handle the frame alone now, it takes two people to get a quilt in, but you do I think get your best quilted product on the floor frame, I have always felt that. Mostly I just use about I think a 15″ hoop now and I can sit in my front room and just quilt away.
KM: Tell me about your involvement in the National Quilting Association.
IG: I was subscribing to a little magazine, it was a needlework magazine called Stitch ‘n Sew. I don’t know if you are aware of it or not and it covered every type of needlework. They later had a Stitch ‘n Sew Quilt Magazine and I don’t think it is available any more or being published any more but I saw an ad from a lady by the name of Ella Anderson out in California and she wanted a store for her calico, where I knew where it was at the Vermont Country Store in Vermont because every October my husband and I spent three weeks vacation up there in the beautiful color leaves section, so I wrote her a short note telling her and in due time she wrote back a ten page letter, and she was telling me about National Quilting Association and I was very interested so I became a member. At that time I didn’t have chapters, I was just a member and now we have the two chapters in Columbus and I’m a member of both of those. I started getting their newsletter in 1972, but anything quilty, well I was very interested. I started out as a collector. When my husband and I would travel I would get the phone book and look under Q to see what there was in that area that had to do with quilting, and I met a lot of people that way and found a lot of sources. For instance, we were in Pennsylvania one time and someone told me that somewhere in Amish country there was a barn full of fabric, so I chased that down and truly it was a new barn with just bolts of fabric everywhere. One time we were going through Georgia and there were signs out around every turn, “Quilts Here,” so we went to this one home and the lady very cordially invited us in to see her quilts and she told me about another barn full of fabric. In this particular one, it was stacked from the floor to the ceiling, so if you wanted a bolt on the bottom it was your task to remove all those bolts to get to the one you wanted, but that was more fun. [laughs.] I’m a fabricolic. In my bedroom there are three chests and a dresser full of fabric and in the closet of that bedroom there is boxes of fabric. In the guest bedroom where my friend is staying, the closet is full of boxes of fabric. In my living room there is a desk, one drawer is full of fabric. In my dining room there is a buffet full of fabric. In a spare room upstairs I have forty gallon bins, six or eight of them full of fabric. I could open my own shop.
KM: How do you find everything?
IG: I don’t sometimes. [laughs.] I know I have a certain piece in the house and you can believe it or not sometimes I have to go through every one of those storage places I told you about to find what I want. In the meantime I’m growling to myself. [laughs.]
KM: Do you plan things out? How do you go about deciding what to place where when you make a quilt?
IG: I’m no good at drawing, so I have to use someone else’s patterns, and I always draw it off onto the background and then make my templates and cover it wherever. That is the way I work.
KM: How do you go about selecting? How did you decide to make this orange and make three different colors of orange?
IG: There is a color sheet and I have always followed her color sheet and I duplicate it exactly.
KM: Good for you.
IG: Same shade as she has. I know iris come in all colors, but I always think of purple when I do iris.
KM: Is there any part of quiltmaking that you don’t enjoy?
KM: Like it all?
IG: Yes I do.
KM: That is good. What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?
IG: You have to say the design, the colors used, and the person’s interpretation of the pattern I suppose. Is that good enough?
KM: Sure, you bet. What do you think makes a great quiltmaker?
IG: A person that is dedicating to quilting. You have to have the interest to want to do this, the quilt.
KM: What do you think about the changes in technology and how quiltmaking has grown?
IG: It is very competitive. I don’t, myself follow most of it, I’m strictly a traditional quilter and that is pretty much what I can do. If there is an artistic piece out there, I don’t try to think that I could do it, of course I probably can’t, but I just do what I can do.
KM: Why is quiltmaking important to you?
IG: I think in the several members of my family there is artistic streaks and mine happens to be quilting. I have three sisters that can paint, or do paint and one still paints, and I have a brother that does woodcarving. He has never had a lesson in his life and you should see what he does. He just does gorgeous things. Our father was a number one carpenter and I think there are some [carpenters.] of the grandchildren or nieces and nephews out there. I heard my sister say this morning that one of her granddaughters is very into art and we have a nephew that writes poetry, so there seems to be an artistic element, if you want to call me an artist.
KM: Do you call yourself an artist? Do you feel that you’re an artist?
IG: Not a painting artist, but I call myself, I guess a fabric artist maybe.
KM: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?
IG: I’m not sure if I have an answer for that. I hope they keep it going, don’t let it die.
KM: Do you think it will die?
IG: I don’t think it will anyway soon. I know they keep inventing new things. We don’t just don’t know how far it is going to go.
KM: Do you have a design wall?
KM: Why don’t you have a design wall?
IG: I really don’t have any place for it in my crowded house. [laughs.]
KM: In what ways do you think your quilts reflect your community or region?
IG: I don’t know whether they do or not. Do they?
KM: I don’t know.
IG: I don’t know either.
KM: Do you belong to quilt groups? You mentioned something about being in the chapter.
IG: I’m a charter member of Quintessential Quilters, Columbus Metropolitan Quilters, The Appliqué Society, AQS [American Quilters Society.], and almost in NQA.
KM: Why is belonging to these different organizations important to you?
IG: I just love quilting that much. Interested in all of it. I want to support it as much as I can.
KM: Is anybody in the group like to ask a question? Here is your opportunity. Silence. [IG laughs.]
Janet White (JW): Tell us about your relationship with Cuesta [Banberry.].
IG: Yes, have any of you met Cuesta? You know about her I’m sure. She has been a friend of mine for a long, long time. Let’s see, how did I originally meet her? I’m losing my memory on some things in the past. I’m not sure how I first met her but some years ago she came to Columbus. She only had one son and he lived here in Columbus. She came to Columbus this one time and came to my home and Marguerite Wiebusch happened to be a guest in my home at the time and Cuesta has special information. You know the Ohio Museum has the Hatfield McCoy quilt and Cuesta had some extra information on the quilt that they didn’t have and we had made an appointment with Ellice Ronsheim, who at that time was the curator at the museum, so she took us into the warehouse and showed us all those kinds of quilts to Cuesta and her son. He was so patient while his mother was there and we just had a grand time. I visited her home and I suppose all of you know that she was a quilt, one of the top quilt historians. In her home she had this closed in back porch with all of these boxes and stacks and piles of stuff, catalogued properly that she turned over to the museum not too long ago in New York, and she was a likeable person. We corresponded all the time. She sent me patterns and I sent material of mine to her and she made a scrape book about me, and I don’t know what became of it, I am curious of what became of it. She mailed it to me one time to look at and I mailed it back to her. She was a collector of the old kit quilts. She had tons of the old kit quilts and she had, I think it was called American Beauty Rose and she had two of them done by two different companies at the time just alike and I wanted to buy one of them from her [laughs.] but she didn’t sell it to me. I did a quilt for her grandson. I quilted it for her, for her grandson one time. I did a quilt business out of my home. I had to take early retirement because of health reasons and for about ten years I worked on quilts out of my home, repairing quilts, I did what ever they needed. For instance there was a doctor in my neighborhood that all I did three different times was cut out ocean waves for her, three different color waves, or different color waves each time. She was originally from Austria, her mother still lived over there, and she mailed these cut out pieces to her mother, her mother would sew the top and then it would come back to our neighborhood and another quilt friend, Mrs. Ellen Meyers, would quilt them for her. My husband was a photographer and I was so disgusted with myself that I didn’t have him take before and after photos of all of this work that I did. It was so rewarding. Sometimes I would take the worst rag you can image and restore it. I just did whatever was needed, binding, just one little patch or a whole lots of patches and replace fabric and re-quilt, whatever. I discovered that a lot of damage is done by pets, dogs and cats they love quilts. They do damage. That was really rewarding, I enjoyed it so much, but it got to the place where I couldn’t do anything for myself, which was frustrating. [laughs.] I’ve quilted for people and just all kinds of things.
KM: Tell me about teaching.
IG: Yes I taught appliqué throughout Ohio for several years and I started to work in the Ohio Research Project but I had to quit because my husband became ill so I didn’t finish with that.
KM: What did you like about teaching?
IG: The love of the students liking to learn something I suppose. I usually had them write out what they thought of what I did for them and I taught a little bit differently. I took some workshops myself quite a bit and when I taught I made up whatever I was going to teach, I made up a block first and then they were all going to do the same block, they would have their supply list and so I made another block right along with my students so that I wouldn’t forget any steps. They liked that. Went over real well. Had I been able to get into quilting sooner, I would have done what a lot of the quilters are doing, travel all over and teach, but I didn’t have an opportunity to do that.
KM: How would you like to be remembered?
IG: I don’t really know. [laughs.] How I would like to be remembered. Maybe my sister could answer that, how I would like to be remembered. How I would like to be remembered after I leave here?
Ruth Shea (RS): As a wonderful quilter is all I know.
IG: [laughs.] That is my sister Ruth.
KM: We have been talking about thirty minutes, is there anything else you would like to share before we conclude our interview?
IG: I don’t believe so. I don’t know if you would like to have this or not. You know I did a Trunk Show for our show in ’05 and this is the write up that Sandy did for the magazine. I don’t know if you would like to have that.
KM: We can include this. Tell me about this. It says, “Irene Goodrich Extraordinary Woman and Quilter.” What was the trunk show about?
IG: I showed them all the quilts that I had. I had an hour to show them.
KM: How many quilts did you show?
IG: How many did I have Janet?
JW: A bunch.
IG: I know when Teri [Henderson Tope.] wheeled them in on the whatever it was she brought them in on, and Pat [Moore.] said, ‘Oh you only have an hour to do the show,’ but we got done in due time and had a question and answer time at the end.
KM: What is your favorite quilt?
IG: Are you aware of the Simply Delicious by?
KM: Piece O Cake.
IG: Piece O Cake. I changed it a little bit. That is my favorite quilt.
KM: How did you change it? Tell me how you changed it.
IG: There is one in the show right now that has the little separate squares. Each block is separated with all of these little teeny squares and I didn’t want to do that. There was no border so I put the fruits on a gray sort of print background and I think I striped them with color, I don’t remember exactly and then I wanted the border so I used Nancy Pearson’s Grapevine border on it. I think I used a plum color for to add some color and I made a regular bed size quilt. It won big at the Ohio State Fair, and that is my favorite quilt. There’s a couple of people out there that have designs on it. [laughs.]
KM: Why is it, tell me why it is your favorite quilt.
IG: I like to work with fruits and vegetables and it just appeals to me. It was so much fun to do, and I like to make flowers and fruits and whatever I’m doing as much like nature as possible in color and everything.
KM: Thank you so much for taking your time today.
IG: You are welcome.
KM: To come and be my demonstration interview. You did a fabulous job. We are going to conclude our interview at 3:55.