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Running Stitch Podcast

Running Stitch, A QSOS Podcast, is hosted by Janneken Smucker, Professor of History at West Chester University. Join us as we explore quilt stories, revealing the inner thoughts, feelings, and motivations of contemporary quiltmakers by drawing from Quilters S.O.S. — Save Our Stories, the long running oral history project created by the nonprofit Quilt Alliance in 1999.

Quilts and quiltmaking serve as a lens to examine some of today’s most pressing issues, including activism, public health, politics, race, and the economy. We’ll dig into the QSOS archive to listen to excerpts from past interviews, and bring back interviewees to ask them about what they are working on and thinking about presently. Listen below, or wherever you get your podcasts!

Listen to the Running Stitch trailer:

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Season 1:

Episode 1: First Quilts with Victoria Findlay Wolfe

Episode 2: Quilts and Activism with Thomas Knauer

Episode 3: Quilts and Difficult Times with Melanie Testa

Episode 4: Quilts and Civil Rights with Carolyn Mazloomi

Episode 5: Quiltmaking amid Crisis with Jinny Beyer

Episode 6: Quilts and Writing: A Panel Discussion

Season 2:

Episode 1: On Creativity with Ricky Tims

Episode 2: Great Quilts with Merikay Waldvogel

Episode 3: Temperature Check on the Quilt Industry with Linda Pumphrey

Episode 4: Quilts and Authenticity with Denyse Schmidt

Episode 5: Researching Quilt History with Barbara Brackman

Episode 6: Outlier Quilts with Joe Cunningham

Season 1, Episode 1: First Quilts

Victoria Findlay Wolfe

Credits:
Host & writer – Janneken Smucker
Producer – Emma Parker
Production assistance – Amy Milne
Music – Chris Eselgroth

Episode summary

Welcome to the very first episode of Running Stitch, the QSOS Podcast. For our very first episode, we’re talking with New York City quilter Victoria Findlay Wolfe. Victoria was first interviewed for the QSOS project in 2011. Our host, Janneken Smucker, talks with Victoria about that first interview, her first quilts, and how her career has evolved in the nine years since. Janneken and Victoria also talk about making a first quilt with their young daughters, what makes a great quilt, and just why we care so much about quilt labeling. Join us for an episode all about firsts!

About our guest

Victoria Findlay Wolfe, Is a NYC based International Award Winning Quilter and teacher. She was raised on a farm in central Minnesota, and learned to sew and quilt when she was just four years old. Victoria graduated from the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Art in 1993, and a year later moved to New York City.

Visit Victoria online at www.VFWquilts.com, on Instagram @victoriafindlaywolfe, and Facebook at Victoria Findlay Wolfe Quilts

Other featured interviews in this episode

Why I consider that “Everything But the Kitchen Sink” quilt my first quilt, was it was something that really was helping me transition from a painter back into a quilt maker…

Victoria Findlay Wolfe

Season 1, Episode 2: Quilts and Activism

Credits:
Host & writer – Janneken Smucker
Producer – Emma Parker
Production assistance – Amy Milne
Music – Chris Eselgroth

Episode summary

Episode 2 of Running Stitch focuses on quilts and activism. Quilters have long used their work to make statements and advocate for change, tackling abolition, temperance, suffrage, and many other social justice issues. Join host Janneken Smucker for a conversation with quilter and author of Why We Quilt, Thomas Knauer, discussing why quilts are great objects for making statements, and how Thomas communicates politically through his own quilts.

About our guest

Thomas Knauer began his career teaching design at Drake University before turning to quilting. He has designed fabrics for several leading manufacturers, and his work has been exhibited in quilt shows and museums across the globe, including the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, Des Moines Art Center, the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, and the Cranbrook Art Museum. Knauer is the author of Why We Quilt, as well as two previous books, including The Quilt Design Coloring Workbook.

Visit Thomas online at www.thomasknauersews.com and on Instagram @thomasknauer

Other featured interviews in this episode

When we give a quilt to someone, there’s a desire to protect them. To keep them warm and safe.

Thomas Knauer

Season 1, Episode 3:

Credits:
Host & writer – Janneken Smucker
Producer – Emma Parker
Production assistance – Amy Milne
Music – Chris Eselgroth

Episode summary

Let’s face it. It’s 2020 and 2020 won’t quit. We are living through difficult times. While the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are unevenly felt, we are all in the midst of it. QSOS oral history interviews often ask, “How have you used quilts to get through a difficult time?”Our guest for this episode, artist and maker Melanie Testa, first interviewed for the project in 2010, joins host Janneken Smucker to share how she has responded to the COVID-19 crisis by digging into her vast fabric stash and a network of generous friends to make masks to distribute to essential workers.

About our guest

Melanie Testa is an accomplished textile and quilt artist. She holds a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in Textile/Surface Design and exhibits her fiber art at various galleries and quilt shows around the country. Her most recent book offering, Playful Fabric Printing is coauthored with Carol Soderlund by Crafting a Life, LLC.

In addition to this, Melanie has written Dreaming from the Journal Page, Transforming the Sketchbook to Art by North Light Press and Inspired To Quilt, Creative Experiments in Art Quilt Imagery by Interweave Press and also authored a Quilting Arts DVD Workshop called Print, Collage, Quilt.

Other featured interviews in this episode

More Resources

Making has always been my go-to. I use it as a therapeutic means to meditate and clear my mind. Dipping into being creative really helps me to sort out the noise, to ignore the noise I don’t need to pay attention to, and focus on just simply being.

Melanie Testa

Season 1, Episode 4: Quilts and Civil Rights with Carolyn Mazloomi

Credits:
Host & writer – Janneken Smucker
Producer – Emma Parker
Production assistance – Amy Milne
Music – Chris Eselgroth

Episode summary

During the week after the killing of George Floyd, Running Stitch host Janneken Smucker spoke with Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi about quilts, race, and the long struggle for civil rights. Dr. Mazloomi founded the Women of Color Quilters Network and has curated many landmark exhibits centered on race and civil rights, including “Journey of Hope: Quilts Inspired by President Barack Obama.” This episode features excerpts from several oral history interviews conducted for the Quilts for Obama QSOS sub-project.

About our guest

Historian, Curator, Author, Lecturer, Artist, Mentor, Founder, and Facilitator — the remarkable and tireless Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi has left her mark on many lives. Trained as an aerospace engineer, Carolyn Mazloomi turned her sites and tireless efforts in the 1980s to bring the many unrecognized contributions of African American quilt artists to the attention of the American people as well as the international art communities.

From the founding of the African-American Quilt Guild of Los Angles in 1981 to the 1985 founding of the Women of Color Quilters Network (WCQN), Mazloomi has been at the forefront of educating the public about the diversity of interpretation, styles and techniques among African American quilters as well as educating a younger generation of African Americans about their own history through the quilts the WCQN members create.

Her own quilts have been included in over 74 exhibits and she herself has curated 21 extensive exhibits of quilts made by members of the Women of Color Quilters Network, many of them traveling exhibits. Among the many exhibitions she has curated is “Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversations”, which visually surveys 400 years of African American history. It is the largest travel exhibit of African American quilts ever mounted. In 2014 Mazloomi, along with co-curator Dr. Marsha MacDowell of Michigan State University Museum, presented an exhibition to honor Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Dr. Mazloomi’s quilts can be found in private collections around the world as well in distinguished museum collections in the United States. To date Dr. Mazloomi has published twelve books highlighting African American-made quilts. Her artistic work, as well as her defense of solid research, has disrupted long-standing myths about African American quilts, myths much debated among quilt historians and quilters alike, and thus moved the conversation about African American quilt history forward to more a solid academic footing. Visit Carolyn’s website.

Other featured interviews in this episode

This is the importance of quilts: to tell these stories. I can think of no better way to tell a story then have a visual piece made from something that people are accustomed to wrapping themselves up in for warmth. And security.  It’s safe, it tells a story, but at the same time, it’s loving as well.

Carolyn Mazloomi

Season 1, Episode 5: Quiltmaking Amid Crisis

Credits:
Host & writer – Janneken Smucker
Producer – Emma Parker
Production assistance – Amy Milne
Music – Chris Eselgroth

Episode summary

Quilt legend Jinny Beyer has seen it all in the quilt world over the last 50 years. In this episode, host Janneken Smucker revisits Jinny’s 2013 interview when she shared the quilt she made following 9-11. Jinny joins Janneken to discuss quiltmaking amid crisis, including how independent quilt shops like Jinny Beyer Studio are weathering the current pandemic.

About our guest

For more than four decades, Jinny has been quilting, teaching, writing books and designing fabrics for quilters. She is world-renowned for her fabric designs (manufactured by RJR Fabrics), and especially for her border prints. Jinny has traveled world-wide to teach. She’s the author of twelve books, including The Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns, an encyclopedia of more than 4000 patchwork blocks that incorporates historical and drafting information — a 6-year labor of love. Jinny loves to garden and cook and she and her husband live just outside Washington, D.C. in Great Falls, Virginia. Her own quilts, as well as antique ones, adorn the beds and walls of her 260-year-old historic farm house home. Visit Jinny’s website.

Other featured interviews in this episode

More Resources

You don’t have to be making a masterpiece, you don’t have to make a statement. Sometimes you just want to sit and sew, and I think that’s how I’m feeling with this. I’m not ready to create, you know, a pretty spectacular quilt. I just want to sew.

Jinny Beyer

Season 1, Episode 6: Quilts and Writing: A Panel Discussion

Credits:
Host & writer – Janneken Smucker
Producer – Emma Parker
Production assistance – Amy Milne
Music – Chris Eselgroth

Episode summary

This episode–our last episode of season 1 of Running Stitch–features a panel discussion about quilts and writing moderated by host Janneken Smucker. Our four panelists are quilt journalist Meg Cox, novelist Frances O’Roark Dowell, quilter and mathematics professor Chawne Kimber, and poet and educator Gwen Westerman. All four are writers and quiltmakers and you’ll hear them discuss connections between quiltmaking and writing, their creative processes, and the intersection of quilts and words.

The discussion was recorded live as part of the Textile Talks lecture series, featuring public programming from six quilt and fiber art organizations across the country. You can see the video recording of this discussion on YouTube.

About our guests

Meg Cox

Frances O’Roark Dowell

Chawne Kimber

Gwen Westerman

Janneken Smucker

Other featured interviews in this episode

More Resources

There’s this process of discover that’s amazing, and which is my favorite part of the creative process. Once you start failing is when you get into the really interesting places.

Frances O'Roark Dowell

Season 2, Episode 1: On Creativity

Ricky Tims

Credits:
Host & writer – Janneken Smucker
Producer – Emma Parker
Production assistance – Amy Milne
Music – Chris Eselgroth

This episode sponsored by Ricky Tims

Episode summary

Running Stitch is back for Season Two, again digging into the QSOS oral history archive to explore the meaning of quilts in American life. In this episode, host Janneken Smucker talks to quiltmaking legend Ricky Tims about the role of creativity in his life. As a quiltmaker, musician, composer, co-host of The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims, and founder of Quilt Life magazine, Ricky embodies creativity. We’ll revisit his first interview for the QSOS project, recorded two decades ago in 2000, and continue the conversation with a new interview exploring the intersection of music and quilting, his perspective on the creative spirit, and Ricky’s new novel, Lizzy Albright and the Attic Window, co-written with Kat Bowser.

About our guest

Ricky Tims has successfully blended two diverse passions into one very unique and interesting career. His skills as a pianist, composer and producer have been evident by the thousands who have heard his music. His success as a quilter is equally significant.

He is known in the international world of quilting as a best-selling author, enthusiastic and encouraging teacher, an award-winning quilter, fabric designer, and a talented and spellbinding speaker. His innovative and entertaining presentations, feature live music and humor combined with scholarly insights and wisdom. His quilts have been displayed worldwide and are highly regarded as excellent examples of contemporary quilts with traditional appeal.

Visit Ricky online at www.rickytims.com

Other featured interviews in this episode

My message to you is to believe in the unbelievable, reach for the impossible, and remember that not everything is as it seems…

Ricky Tims

Season 2, Episode 2: Great Quilts

Merikay Waldvogel

Credits:
Host & writer – Janneken Smucker
Producer – Emma Parker
Production assistance – Amy Milne
Music – Chris Eselgroth

This episode sponsored by the Robert and Ardis James Foundation

Episode summary

Quilters S.O.S. – Save Our Stories oral history interviews often include the question, “What makes a great quilt?” Running Stitch host Janneken Smucker asks today’s guest, quilt historian Merikay Waldvogel, to answer this most challenging question, while they also listen back to other interviewees’ responses. What’s the answer? Good planning? Lots of fabrics? First place ribbons? Immortality? Tune in to hear from one of the world’s foremost quilt authorities, who has seen 10,000s of historic quilts, and finds something to like about each one.

About our guest

Merikay Waldvogel is an internationally known quilt historian author, and lecturer. She is widely considered an expert on mid-20th century quilts. Her expertise and tireless research into quilting and the quilters who made them led to her induction into the Quilters Hall of Fame in 2009.

Learn more about Merikay at https://quiltershalloffame.net/merikay-waldvogel/

Other featured interviews in this episode

People put things into their quilts, and a quilt is a gift from someone to someone else—maybe even hundreds of years down the road.

Merikay Waldvogel

Season 2, Episode 3: Temperature Check on the Quilt Industry

Linda Pumphrey

Credits:
Host & writer – Janneken Smucker
Producer – Emma Parker
Production assistance – Amy Milne
Music – Chris Eselgroth

Episode summary

For well over a century, quilts have meant business. A thriving quilt industry has existed since the 19th century, publishing patterns, selling fabrics and supplies, promoting quiltmaking, and offering celebrity endorsements. In today’s age of social media and online retail, the business side of quilts has continued to thrive, while navigating all sorts of bumps in the road, including, most recently, a global pandemic.

This week, we talk with Linda Pumphrey, Senior Account Executive for Mountain Mist. For decades, Linda has worked for quilt companies, criss-crossing the country managing her accounts. This year, she has stayed home, Zooming with her customers and colleagues. We’ll talk with Linda about how quilt businesses have adapted, and the role of celebrity in the quilt industry, both today and in the past.

About our guest

Linda’s life-long passion is quilts, old and new. As a quilter, she found herself able to feed her passion with a career spanning over 25 years in the quilting industry. Recently back with the brand that started her career, she is Senior Account Executive for Fibrix, LLC, makers of Mountain Mist batting. She has been an active member on several non-profit boards, including the Quilt Alliance board.

Linda is known for her hand quilting for which she has won international awards. Linda started collecting quilts in the mid 1990’s and focused on quilts were the design contained very small pieces. Her collection has grown to include international pieces from her travels.

Other featured interviews in this episode

I’m looking backwards, in a lot of ways, and I’ve just been super fortunate to have the quilt industry as my career. It’s a part of my family. It’s a fun industry, both visually, and the people that are involved in it.

Linda Pumphrey

Season 2, Episode 4: Quilts and Authenticity with Denyse Schmidt

Denyse Schmidt

Credits:
Host & writer – Janneken Smucker
Producer – Emma Parker
Production assistance – Amy Milne
Music – Chris Eselgroth

Episode summary

What makes a quilt ‘sing’? Join us for this episode of Running Stitch, with our guest Denyse Schmidt, to explore that question and more. We’ll talk about what it means—for an object OR its maker—to be ‘authentic’.

Denyse is a groundbreaking quiltmaker, and the designer of numerous patterns and fabrics, the author of Denyse Schmidt: Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration and Denyse Schmidt Quilts. We’ll revisit her 2012 QSOS interview, explore the places and eras that inspire Denyse’s work, and end our conversation discussing her upcoming fabric line, “Five and Ten”.

About our guest

A former graphic designer and graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, Denyse Schmidt has been sewing since she was a young girl, taught by her mother. As a professional seamstress, Denyse worked on everything from tutus and bishop’s mitres to fine clothing. She brings these eclectic influences together in patchwork quilts characterized by simple graphics, rich color, and quality workmanship.

Denyse’s work has been published in hundreds of distinguished magazines and newspapers world wide, including: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Magazine, TIME, American Craft, Yankee Magazine, O the Oprah Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Better Homes & Gardens, House Beautiful, Country Living, Town & Country and People Magazine. She has appeared on several national television shows, including Martha Stewart Living. Her work has been exhibited around the country. She lives in Bridgeport, CT.

Other featured interviews in this episode

There’s a sense that I get when looking at something that I can label or consider authentic: that it feels like it’s not trying to be something other than what it is

Denyse Schmidt

Season 2, Episode 5: Researching Quilt History with Barbara Brackman

Barbara Brackman

Credits:
Host & writer – Janneken Smucker
Producer – Emma Parker
Production assistance – Amy Milne
Music – Chris Eselgroth

Episode summary

Have you ever wondered how quilt historians can unravel the story of a quilt with just a few threads? Do you want the inside scoop on how researchers look for “clues in the calico”? Our guest this week is celebrated quilt historian Barbara Brackman. Running Stitch host Janneken Smucker talked with Barbara about quilt history research and how it’s evolved in the 21st century, how quilts can be used as a lens for women’s history, and the new, expanded edition of her Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.

This episode was recorded live, as part of the Textile Talks free weekly lecture series. You can see the entire interview, including a Q&A with Barbara on our YouTube channel.

About our guest

Barbara Brackman is a quilt historian, quilter, author and lecturer. She is the author of many books about quilt history and quilt patterns, including Clues in the Calico, Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, Facts & Fabrications: Unraveling the History of Quilts and Slavery, Making History–Quilts & Fabric from 1890-1970, and many others. Barbara also develops quilt patterns, maintains two blogs about quilt history, and is available for online lectures and programs.

Other featured interviews in this episode

Quilt patterns are just a way to get your attention! I am far more interested in women’s history and social history… you can use these things to tell a true story of women’s lives and that’s very, very important to me.

Barbara Brackman

Season 2, Episode 6: Outlier Quilts with Joe Cunningham

Joe Cunningham
Credits:
Host & writer – Janneken Smucker
Producer – Emma Parker
Production assistance – Amy Milne
Music – Chris Eselgroth

Episode summary

What do one-of-a-kind, unusual, or outlier quilts tell us about the quiltmaking tradition? In this episode, Joe Cunningham joins host Janneken Smucker to revisit their 2007 interview and discuss how American quilt history reveals a tradition of experimentation, problem-solving, and creativity that today’s quilters can draw on. Joe further contemplates the relationship of art and quilts, recalling his own evolution and liberation as a quiltmaker.

About our guest

Joe Cunningham has been a professional quilt artist since 1979. He has written essays on the subject for museum catalogues, books and magazines. His book, Men and the Art of Quiltmaking was the first book on its subject. In 2004 he received a $30,000 Shulte Grant from the Fort Mason Foundation. In 2009 he received a grant to study with the Gees Bend quilters in Alabama. In 2010 he was artist in residence at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, which purchased one of his quilts for its permanent collection. Joe travels throughout the country to give lectures and workshops on quiltmaking. His ten books on quiltmaking  include the first biography of a living quilter, the first book on men who make quilts (Men and the Art of Quiltmaking,) and a definitive book on marking quilts for quilting called Quilting with Style, published by AQS. He has been seen on the Peabody Award-winning PBS series Craft in America, the HGTV series “Simply Quilts with Alex Anderson,” as well as  “The Quilt Show” with Ricky Tims and Alex Anderson, and others. Cunningham has performed his musical quilt show, “Joe the Quilter,” for guilds and theaters nationwide. His latest book is “Man Made Quilts: Civil War to the Present,” a catalogue for the show of the same name at the Shelburne Museum. His quilts are in the permanent collections of the DeYoung museum, The Shelburne Museum, The Newark Museum, The San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles and many private collections. Visit Joe online.

Other featured interviews in this episode

More Resources

These outlier quilts that we think of — they’re not always country style, some of them are fabulous, sophisticated ones… The important thing to me about it was that they signified that the tradition of quilts contained this… trap door out of the room that people thought of as the tradition. The tradition contained the idea that you could do anything you wanted, any way you want it to do it. It always did, for everybody.

Joe Cunningham