Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am doing a Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories interview with Irene Goodrich. Today’s date is June 19, 2008. It is now 4:32 in the afternoon. We are in Columbus, Ohio at the National Quilting Association’s quilt show and Irene thank you for doing this interview with me.
Irene Goodrich (IG): Thank you for inviting me.
KM: Tell me about your quilt “Tutti Fruitti.”
IG: I have used, I am going to do some reading from here. I have used all or part of eight patterns in the construction of this quilt. The top center block I started in a Baltimore Album quilt, it is from Jeanna Kimball’s Baltimore Album book I believe, and I had that block done for a long time and got sidetracked and didn’t get into the Baltimore Album quilt. As I mentioned, I’m trying to downsize and redo some things and I thought well I’ve got to use some of these things that I have started, so I used that as the basis of this quilt. I dug out all of the patterns I could find on the fruit baskets and I do have a lot of other fruit patterns and so the four corner blocks on each corner are the red back is seasonal fruit of spring, summer, fall, and winter and I started this quilt January or February. Well I’m sorry, I started this quilt February of 2006 and finished it in January of 2007. Construction required four hundred and three hours, and the quilting three hundred and eight hours for a total of seven hundred and eleven hours. I basically built the quilt as I went along. I started with this center portion and the four corner blocks I mentioned that, the center block on point is Winter Basket from, “Baskets, Baskets, Fruit and Flowers,” by Tony Phillips and Juanita Simonich from “Fabric Expressions.” The four corners around the center block are enlarged designs from “Gathering Baskets” by Cindy Blackbird and Mary Sorensen, published in the April of 2001 magazine of Better Homes and Gardens. The four borders around the center are the “Pineapple Passion” block from Robert Callahan’s “Floral Garden” in the February 2004 McCall’s Quilting magazine. The top center basket is Block #10 from Jeana Kimball’s “Reflections of Baltimore” book. The bottom center basket is “Therom Fruit Bowl” by Polly Whitehorn and the pattern is in Better Homes and Gardens’, “Great Appliqué, Wonderful Small Quilts” book. The four berry and cherry blocks on the corners of the center portion and the banana, pomegranate, kumquats and damson plum blocks are from the “Horn of Plenty” book by Kathy Delaney. The grapevine border is a Nancy Pearson pattern, and did I mention that I had used eight patterns. [100% cotton and threads were used.] That is the story of the blocks. Is there something else?
KM: Do you work on one quilt at a time or do you work?
IG: No I have probably a dozen things that are in progress. If I get bored with one I can go to another. What I mentioned in the earlier interview that I try to quilt three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the reason I do that, this finger that I put underneath the quilt gets sore so it has to have a day to heal and sometimes on the odds days, like Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday when I get chores done then I will start to cut out some appliqué pieces for another project or maybe I will have to bind a piece that is laying aside to be bound, or some other phase of the quilt that has to be done.
KM: Did you plan this quilt out? Did you decide what blocks before you started or?
IG: No. I built the quilt as I went along. I did that center one on point and then I figured out what I had to do to get it square again, so therefore those three little corners from “Baskets, Baskets, Fruits, and Flowers,” then I decided I needed a border around that so that is when I dug out the Robert Callahan pineapple and put that around, and I knew I was going to put the four seasons on the corners, and see what did I fill in with, oh, and I filled in with the other patterns from the Kathy Delaney book, and then I had to do something to two odd size, so I felt Nancy Pearson’s grapevine which is still fruity will complete that. I bound it in red, I thought that would frame it somewhat and then that finished the quilt. My friend, Sharla saw the quilt, the center part of it when I was just starting to construct it. She says, ‘Well I have a dibs on that quilt.’ [laughs.] I said, ‘Well you better wait and see what happens and then you might not like it.’ I think she loves it.
KM: Are you going to give it to her?
IG: I’m not going to give it to her, she is going to pay me for it. [laughs.] I’m a senior citizen on social security and so this is my way of making some extra money. It is tough. Of course I lost income when my husband died, you know, so it is a little bit tough what you have to pay today to keep yourself going and I’m in my own home, three bedrooms upstairs and a living room, kitchen, dining room downstairs, basement and the lawn to take care of. So you need extra money and that is my way of earning something extra.
KM: You are okay with selling your quilts and giving them away? It is not difficult?
IG: Not really. I feel very sad when a piece leaves the house but all of my nineteen nieces and nephews and my seven brothers and sisters and my parents all got a quilt. Some of them have two now, some got two quilts. So that took a lot of quilts out of the house and then my last four quilts, my four bed size quilts, outside of the present one that no one has seen that I’m going to put in the state fair in August have been sold. When my husband became ill, I still had several nieces and nephews that hadn’t gotten a quilt, so I called them in and let them choose. I must have thirty or forty quilts stacked up on a bed, so I let them choose and that depleted my supply. When they called on me here in ’05 to do the trunk show, I had to borrow quilts. I had my sister in Maryland to come in with several pieces that she had and then her daughter from Washington, D.C. came in with several pieces that she had, and my sister Ruth and I have a sister in Westerville [Ohio.], they all let me have pieces that they had so I would have enough to do the trunk show. I am trying to build my quilt supply back up because I don’t know when someone will call me to do another show, now what do we do now.
KM: Can you make your way to the light? [the lights in the room went out so KM is talking to someone sitting in the room.]
IG: Wow, I hope the electricity didn’t go out.
KM: No I don’t think so. Oh, it went back on.
IG: Oh there it is.
KM: Well we had a little technical difficulty that will be in this interview. We were sitting in the dark for a while. That was very strange.
IG: We could cut that.
KM: We can.
IG: That part out. Let’s see, where were we?
KM: Oh, the trunk show.
IG: Yes I was telling about trying to build my supply of quilts back up. I have plenty of wall hangings, although you can replace the wall hangings a lot faster and I’m constantly making those. I can turn two or three wall hangings a year out. For my fair in August, I have one bed size quilt and three wall hangings and a crib quilt and a table runner. So, even though they are buying the wall hangings, I can replace those easy. Not so quite easy, because it takes longer to do a large bed size quilt, but if someone calls on me again to do a major quilt show, I want to have the supply, you understand.
KM: Tell me about how you decided to quilt your “Tutti Fruitti.”
IG: My rule sort of is, well not really my rule, but the appliqué is rather elaborate on there, so I just used cross hatching on that, but also I do love to use designs in the solid, to me a quilting design is lost on a print fabric, but when you have a solid I do like to, and then sometimes if I’m in a hurry the cross hatching is the fastest way to get the job done.
KM: You hand quilt all of your quilts?
IG: So far yes. I hand quilt them all. [tape malfunction.] I said earlier made the remark that hand quilting is going out of style and as you know there are a lot of them being machine quilted, I really don’t like to see handmade appliqué quilt machine quilted, I truly don’t. So I said as long as I’m alive, and another friend I spoke with made the same remark, as long as we are alive there will be hand quilting on our quilts.
KM: Do you sleep under a quilt?
KM: Tell me about this quilt you sleep under.
IG: It is a cross stitch. A friend that I used to work with had a neighbor that had quilt tops and she wanted to unload them, so she sold me this cross stitch top for five dollars and I quilted it, and that is the one I sleep under. My gift to [my friend.] Sharla [pointing to a friend in back of the room.] here is sleeping under a Lone Star, or is it Bethlehem, they are both similar, which is a Martha or Aunt Martha Rainbow kit that was a present to me from my mother I believe. She is sleeping under that.
KM: When did you make that one?
IG: Oh my, probably in the seventies. I started in 1968 to seriously quilt, so I probably made it in the seventies. I don’t have all the dates in my head now.
KM: I don’t have dates in my head most of the time, so I think you do wonderfully. How many quilts do you think you have made? Do you know?
IG: I believe the quilt I’m putting in the fair might be ninety-one. See I’m headed for eighty-three. I just had my eighty-second birthday and I would like to at least do a hundred and I might go over that. I believe it is ninety-one. Wall hangings I believe over one hundred wall hangings, and miniatures is around forty sometime, because I separate each into three.
KM: Tell me about making miniatures. How did you start making miniatures?
IG: When NQA started having the mini auctions, I don’t think I got in. Do you know how many years they have been doing it? My donation this year is my seventeenth donation running. I think I missed at least the first year or maybe the second year. I just got interested in supporting. I have been a good supporter of NQA from the very start and I do all I can to help them. It is so much fun. [laughs.] It is so much, for instance at the Silver Jubilee, the one in Charleston, West Virginia, well may little, it was four little houses and the, I met her there and she gave me a hug, the head lady of, her name was, her last name is Tate. What is her first name? [Brenda.] Anyhow she wanted it and it was a house quilt, little houses, and so it won Viewer’s Choice. I didn’t know that they were voting on it. It won Viewer’s Choice. It was the Silver Jubilee and so they were doing these silver thimbles, so I got a free $35.00 silver thimble for my prize and got my picture on, or got my quilt pictured on the front of the newspaper in color, which I have a copy of. She was bidding on it and people were bidding against her because it was very popular, but when it got up past $200.00, why she looked at her husband and he nodded okay for her to go ahead and it went for $300.00. The thing of it was when the auctioneer got up front, he said now this quilt is very popular. He said [that.] it is Viewer’s Choice and he said, ‘We are starting the bidding on this at $100.00.’ And I think I made a few enemies, I think I did. [laughs.] It is so thrilling, I just love those auctions and the auctioneers, and when they, you know, you get up and start to get the bidding going and then it is so interesting when one will put their card up and the next one put their card up and there will be a little feud between the couples sometimes. [laughs.]
KM: I bet you are happy that the show is staying in Columbus now?
IG: Yes I hope it stays here for ever.
KM: I thought it was supposed to.
IG: Well all I know is that it is going to be here the next two years. I hope it stays here. Of course if it goes out somewhere I will not be able to attend. I just can’t travel any more.
KM: How many of the shows have you been to?
IG: In the beginning, I think the photo I showed you is in ’78 in Georgetown. I had it on the back of that photo that it is my first one, but I attended two or three. Greenbelt, Maryland and maybe I was at Georgetown twice. I think it was there twice in a row. Then the first when they moved out was in Fort Wayne, Indiana and myself and do you know Marguerite Wiebusch? [KM shakes her head no.] Well she is one of your earlier–she has a low number in NQA and I met her a long time ago. Marguerite, her husband Richard and me and my husband Albert we were a foursome at all of these shows. We would go in, earlier shows, and when they were hung and the powers to be would let us go in the night before and do our photography. The three of them, Margarita, Richard, and my husband were photographers and they would let us go in and photograph. I have a house full of NQA slides. Originals. He was a good photographer.
KM: What is going to happen to those?
IG: Well I don’t know. I may not be at liberty to say right now but something that I have done, I will just hold it for right now. I don’t know. But I want them to go somewhere.
KM: That is a great resource. That should not be lost.
IG: I don’t want them, there is hundreds of dollars tied into those things. But anyway, I am losing my train of thought. I had another thought here. What was it? Oh, they would let us go in and do our photography. Once in the DC area there, it was in a schoolhouse and there was going to be some janitors in doing work after hours and so, oh my goodness [lights go out.]. Should I keep talking?
KM: Yes keep talking.
IG: So one of the ladies in charge engaged my husband and I to baby sit those quilts until the janitors left. So the show closed about probably 6:00 and we were there to almost midnight baby sitting those quilts and she had gone out to get something to eat. She came back around 11:00 or 11:30 to make sure the janitors were gone and everything was locked up. We had the best time, my husband and I. We were there with all of these quilts guarding them and I was appliquéing Lancaster County Rose. Do you know the story of Catherine Eshleman that was a president of NQA in the past and she designed this. She designed this rose pattern called Lancaster County Rose and we had a contest and I think only about four or five of them ended up in one of the shows, but I got a 2nd place ribbon on mine, and let’s see, the Lancaster County Rose, I think, is that the one that they bought at AQS [American Quilters Society.]? I believe that is the one AQS bought for the museum and they had it a couple years before they got the museum built I believe, but anyhow, Catherine designed a pattern and we had the contest, and I was appliquéing then so I just sat and appliquéd on that while we were guarding the quilts.
KM: That sounds like fun.
IG: Oh it was. Anyhow, we haven’t been there too long and one of the janitors came over and he said, he said, ‘You people can leave if you want to. You don’t have to stay here.’ I said, ‘Oh sorry we had been told to stay right here. We weren’t about to leave.’ So anyhow that is that story.
KM: Is there anything else you want to share about NQA?
IG: I’m glad to see it constantly growing all the time.
KM: It is the biggest show ever.
IG: Since the beginning yes, absolutely yes.
KM: What is your favorite part of the show?
IG: The whole thing.
KM: The whole thing.
IG: [laughs.] The banquets and meeting all of my friends. I have lots of friends. I have people that they will come by and say, Hi Irene, and I haven’t the faintest idea who they are. I said to her this afternoon, ‘Why hello Irene how are you?’ And when we pass here I say, ‘I don’t have the faintest clue who that is.’ I have been written up in magazines and books and I’m on PBS TV and magazines.
KM: Tell me about PBS TV.
IG: It was in connection with our research project. They interviewed myself and another lady who is now deceased. Poor thing she died of cancer in her forties and they interviewed both of us in color and every time we turned on PBS people would see us on there doing our bit. Of course that was a long time ago, probably late eighties I image.
KM: What were you documenting?
IG: I don’t recall what all it was about. They came to my house to do the photography and we put a quilt on a stand in my front room and they photographed me in front of the quilt. I don’t remember all the dialogue or anything. I don’t know where they interviewed Ellen, I don’t know if they went to her home or what. Anyhow another time, CMQ [Columbus Metropolitan Quilters and NAQ chapter.] has a show at [Inniswood.] Gardens, one of our city parks at Westerville, Ohio and a couple years back while the publicity came in and I had a flower appliqué there at the time and so they did a close up on that quilt and that was on TV in color.
KM: You have had a lot of adventures.
IG: I should have kept a log. I really should have kept a journal. I’m sorry that I didn’t.
KM: What advice do you give to someone starting out in quiltmaking?
IG: Stick with it. A lot of beginning quilters become discouraged because they don’t do the small quilting stitches or they will pick a pattern that is too complicated. They should start out maybe with a potholder or a pillow with a small design, if they are doing appliqué; a Sunbonnet Girl is good for a beginner, or a large flower and work up to it. I’m a self taught quilter. I was on quilt number 22 before I was doing a stitch that I was pleased with, and of course the more you do, the more you improve. I have a motto; I will not sacrifice good workmanship for speed.
KM: That is a good motto. Do you use a thimble?
IG: I certainly do.
KM: What kind of thimble do you have?
IG: [laughs.] I have about three or four dozen with holes in them. I will make my last wall hanging if I don’t die to hang all those thimbles on [laughs.] and I’ve got to think of a good title. My mother hand this brass thimble, if you can get brass ones they last longer, but I’m hard on them. I poke holes in them and the first time I poke a hole, I usually get a hole in the finger. [laughs.] I use different ones, different types of thimble. I have several different varieties. I have a leather one that I didn’t care for and I don’t use it. I try to cover this finger, but I have to have a bare finger under there.
KM: Me too.
IG: I have to have a bare finger under there.
KM: I can understand having to rest then.
IG: Yes, it gets quite sore. Most people get calluses. Do you see any calluses there? [shows KM her finger.] I can’t keep the calluses. Some lady somewhere talking about quilting, I might have been, I’ve done a lot of demonstrating at different things. Oh one time in Columbus I lent all my quilts to a charity for children, they raised funds for children, and we had this armory in Columbus, I forget what street it is on, it might be Route 161, and they had a balcony, a real high balcony in the armory and I think I loaned them twenty some quilts and they hung all those quilts around the balcony. I did it free. They raised funds for the children. I can’t think of the name of it, anyhow we have bags all over Columbus that they put the groceries ads in and so my name was on all the plastic bags in connection with this show. But anyhow, somewhere, some lady knew I was a quilter and was talking to me and she said, well let me see your fingers, and she looked at my fingers, and I didn’t appreciate her or her remark and she looked at me and she said, you are no quilter. [laughs.] I didn’t argue with her, and at this armory I got so tickled at the lady that engaged me, that invited me to put the quilts in. She was walking around behind these two old ladies. They had big cards on the quilts of the years that I had made them, and I’m a constant quilter and I have a quilt here from 1970 and over here another one that was 1971 and another one 1972, and the ladies were discussed because they said there is no way this woman can make a quilt a year. [laughs.] So this lady came to me, what was her name, I don’t remember now, and she was telling me, and I said I wish you had gotten me and let me talk to them. I have a lot of fun experiences. Oh, my best win. I won lots of prizes and I’ve probably won around 275 ribbons and I’ve won everything but Mary Krickbaum and to my astonishment last couple of years I was looking at my critique sheets and it said in the corner, ‘consider for Mary Krickbaum ribbon’ and I said, ‘Oh my goodness.’ Of course I didn’t win it, but I’ve won best workmanship, best quilt stitching, best theme quilt, best basket quilt, best of show quilts. I have tons of ribbons, you know they always awarded the ribbon the best of show and I never had to buy bat, I got free bats all the time. Let’s see what else?
KM: What do you do with your ribbons?
IG: I have them in a big box and they need to be pressed. Well now lately I’ve been giving some of them away. I made a quilt for my youngest sister, she collects owls and I made her an owl quilt. She lives on the west coast, and so I gave her I think three ribbons and there was supposed to have been a fourth of which I never got. I think she framed them. Then my sister, Ruth, one of her daughters-in-laws [Pam.] that lives in Kentucky, she is crazy about birds. I do a lot of bird quilts, and so the bird quilt won about six or seven ribbons and I gave them all to her. Do you know, did she hang the ribbons with the quilt or anything Ruth? Did Pam hang the ribbons on the bird quilt? [Ruth states they are framed.] Are they framed? She probably framed them. She had won seven or eight I think, seven or eight ribbons.
KM: Great. That is wonderful.
IG: If I had kept a journal I would have all this stuff in chronological order, but I’m beginning to lose my memory somewhat, for instance like just now I couldn’t think of some names I wanted to think of, they are not there.
KM: I’m younger and.
IG: One of my best friends said, ‘I don’t have Alzheimer’s, I just have half-heimers.’ That is me. [laughs.]
KM: It happens. I want to thank you for doing this second interview with me.
IG: Well thank all of you who have, I think Janet was behind this. [laughs.]
KM: Janet. Well we were very interested in getting some of the histories of NQA because there aren’t anywhere and I’ve been working two years to get Janet to do this.
IG: Well I had the old NQA newsletters probably in your archives you have a copy from the very beginning of all the newsletters that you can refer to, but the very beginning ones are very enlightening for anyone that wants to get filled in on some things that went on. I gave the early ones to Janet [White.]. I’m trying to unload things, so I hope she still has them and they finally went to color. I gave her all the black and whites from ’72 and I’m not sure how many years it was black and white and they started doing some color on the front and now they are doing color I guess throughout the magazine, which it is sort of tough to see a quilt in black and white.
KM: They are so much better in person than the picture too.
IG: They have a ton of stuff I’m sure in their office in the archives.
KM: It is time to get it shared with other people. I think since we are in the dark again [lights went out and the room was pitch black, we later found out that the lights were on motion sensors so because we didn’t move around the lights would go off.] we will go ahead and conclude this interview. Unfortunately since I can’t see my watch we won’t know what time, but thank you so much for doing this interview with me.
IG: Thank you and I hope I wasn’t a complete disappointment.
KM: Oh no, you were fabulous.