Moira Sullivan




Moira Sullivan




Moira Sullivan


Marsha Turner

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Houston, Texas


Elaine Johnson


Marsha Turner (MT): [tape begins mid-sentence.] ...1999, and my name is Marsha Turner and I'm sitting here with Moira Sullivan. And I'm going to be interviewing her for the Quilters' Save Our Stories Project here at the Houston Quilt Festival. Good morning.

MS: Good Morning.

MT: How are you?

MS: It's a little early for me but I'm doing fine.

MT: Great. Tell me about the quilt you brought today, and why you chose this quilt to bring in?

MS: I chose this quilt because it is one that has so much variety to it. And it's a happy quilt. It's an enjoyable quilt that everybody can look at and always find something new to see in it. It's three hundred twenty-four four-inch blocks, and I made them from May 1st to August 1st, 1997. I set myself a schedule of four a day. And then I had to take a little time to travel, and then I came back and quilted it up. But I tried to get as many varieties of different fabrics, quilt patterns, styles, and memories. I made certain ones to think about special friends of mine. I had my ladies in my quilt group give me samples of fabric from what they were working on so that I could make a block that was special to them.

They would always say, 'Well, this is my block,' or 'That's so-and-so's block.' And it's just a rich, happy quilt with bright, wonderful colors. It was accepted at the quilt show for last year, for the competition.

MT: And what category was it in?

MS: Traditional pieced.

MT: Traditional pieced.

MS: And that's one of the great joys of having something in the quilt show. I'm not at the point where I truly think I should want to win. I just like being accepted, to stand in the background and listen to people make comments about your quilts is so rewarding. And mine is so very traditional, you get the two kinds of people walking by- those that go, 'Oh, I don't like that one,' or 'That's my favorite one in the show,' because of it being so traditional. And actually, this one--a little aside, was at my vacation house up in Canada, and I had to get friends to bring it down here for this interview because I just thought it was the most vibrant of the ones I've done.

MT: It's beautiful.

MS: It's rich. Rich in color and rich in texture. And the blocks are mostly traditional blocks, so that you can go through and see that old blocks from two hundred years ago can be brought forward and something done with them.

MT: Now every block is different?

MS: Every block is different. Every fabric in every block is different.

MT: Every fabric in every block is different.

MS: My sewing room looked like an explosion of fabric for three months. I just had fabric pieces everywhere.

MT: Would you say that the fabric you had everywhere determined the design that you chose for each block?

MS: A little of both. I would find a wonderful fabric and say, 'Oh, gosh, what block would look good with this?' Or I would find a block I knew I wanted to do, and I just keep searching until I found just the right fabric that said, 'That's it.' And I tried to put in pieces, too, that were, like I said, special to family. I can see one on my first quilt I made for my grandson. I cut a little piece from the leftover fabric of that, and so I made--

MT: Which one is that?

MS: The gingerbread boy.

MT: How cute. And he's appliquéd on top?

MS: That's little baby rickrack and little baby buttons.

MT: Oh, sweet.

MS: I'm more of a piecer than I am an appliqué person. I very rarely do appliqué because it's not what I'm best at but I'm a very meticulous craftsperson.

MT: And that certainly shows. Now this is all hand quilted, also?

MS: Oh yes, I don't do any machine.

MT: You don't do any machine quilting, so this entire quilt is made by hand.

MS: Yes.

MT: And you did it between May and August?

MS: Well now the blocks are done on the machine.

MT: Okay.

MS: But the quilting is done by hand.

MT: It's beautiful.

MS: People ask me quite often, they'll say, 'Well, is it a real quilt if you use the sewing machine,' or, 'Isn't it a better one if you do it by hand?' And I always tell them, 'It depends on the block. Some of them look better if they've got the crispness of a machine line, nicely pressed down, and others look better if they're done by hand.' So, there are definite rules that you break all the time because it has to apply to the project you're working on.

MT: Depending on?

MS: On what the style and the block is. Some are better one way. Some are better the other way.

MT: When you started this quilt did you have the inspiration in mind that it was going to have all of these individual squares?

MS: Yes. Actually, I was headed for four hundred, and I ran out of wall-space. [laughter.] I was going to make it a wall hanging, and I went in and measured my wall and I said, 'Oops. I think we'd better cut back on that, or I would've had a train down on the ground.'

MT: Where does it hang now, in your vacation home?

MS: It's up in my vacation home in Victoria, British Columbia. And right now, actually I have it on a bed because it's a cozy little quilt but the next time I finish another big quilt then this one will--I circulate constantly from room to room and from wall to wall. I'm one of those that thinks you need to have a quilt hit you in the face when you walk in the front door, and one hit you in the back when you walk out the back door. They should be all over the house. A room just doesn't look good unless you've got about four quilts in it. Small ones on the walls, big ones on the walls, on the beds, draped over the chairs. This is what I have with the vacation home and my home in Houston. I can sew until the end of time and not get caught up.

MT: With all your quilts?

MS: Yes.

MT: How does it make you feel when you enter in a house that has quilts on the walls?

MS: I feel like I'm comfortable and cozy and it's a home. And that's the feeling I want to give when people walk in, like they're just being hugged, and that they're comfortable, and that they can prop their feet up and feel that it's not a showplace. It's a place where real people live. It just makes it homey.

MT: Something you can relate with?

MS: Yes. And houses, I think, that don't have quilts so often seem to be sterile. Very beautiful, House Beautiful probably took pictures but they're not cozy. Quilts do that. I'm doing my kitchen at my vacation house up in Amish quilts. And so, I'm making very miniature Amish quilts, and covering the entire wall with small, different Amish quilts.

MT: How wonderful. So, you'll feel like you've gone back in time, almost.

MS: I do very traditional work. You won't find anything in my house that's contemporary, abstract. And that's partly my taste, partly because I inherited a lot of traditional furniture. Going into a little history, too, I come from a long line of women in Texas. I don't know a lot of their personal stories about quilting, but when I do this, I feel like I'm paying tribute to my foremothers. I'll sit there and work on a block and say, 'You know my grandmother probably worked on the same pattern.' Different fabrics, different times, but I feel like I'm carrying on a legacy of their voices from the past because the women, now we're digressing a lot, but the women that came before us, they didn't leave us a whole lot. They didn't write a whole lot down. They didn't have time. They were too busy. And sometimes the only voice we hear from them is their quilts and the names of the quilts, and the patterns that they used. And we can reconstruct a lot of what their lives must have been like from their quilts. Like to name blocks, you know, that was important to them. They weren't going to pick a name that wasn't something that they related to. And how they made things, you can see the level of comfort that they have and the level of discretionary income that their family had. And you can see so much. And I look back and I think my grandmother could've been doing the same block. My great-grandmother could've been doing the same block. And I think that's partly why I'm drawn to the real traditional styles.

MT: How long have you been quilting in your life?

MS: I'd like to say all of it.

MT: Who taught you to sew?

MS: I taught myself.

MT: So, neither of your grandmothers that quilted--

MS: Well, I wasn't close to them. I mean by that, geographically close to them. I started sewing when I was about five and I started embroidery. And I don't think I hit one stitch inside a line, but I just knew I loved it. I got a book from my aunt when I was twelve that really piqued my interest in quilting. It was "The American Needlework Quilt Book" by Rose Wilder Lane, who was the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder from the "Little House on the Prairie" series. And it's a kind of a classic, old quilt thing. And I made my first quilt when I was about fourteen and then I had to find a quilt frame for it. Nobody taught me this stuff. I just sort of muddled through on my own. The only place you could buy a quilt frame, and we're talking like 1969, 1970, was through Sears mail order. I mail ordered it and my mother made me go in and pick it up myself. I was so embarrassed. I was afraid some of my teenage friends would see me. I was like, 'Oh mom.'

MT: So, this was a closet activity?

MS: You couldn't be cool if you were quilting. Back then, the first quilts that I made were the embroidered quilt tops because you couldn't just go into the stores and buy quilt fabric like you can now. You could go into stores and buy cottons, but they had them so heavily treated with different chemicals. I don't know if you remember fabric stores back then, but you would just go in and cry from all the preservatives they had floating in the air.

MT: And the odor.

MS: And the odor. It was awful. So, I got the quilt frame from Sears, and I put it up in my bedroom. If I remember correctly, you had to open the door, crawl under the frame and up over the end of the bed to get into it because the frame took up so much room. I quilted up two quilts before I went off to college and both of them were embroidered quilt tops. I would get those from the mail order catalogs. There were no quilt stores. There were no quilt patterns that you could go buy. You would just look in a book and trace something out. I went off to college and worked for a while. I read a lot during that time. In fact, in college for an American history project I wrote a term paper about American women and their quilting. There weren't a lot of sources you could get back then. There weren't the books that we have now. I looked in the library and there would be two or three that even mentioned them briefly. I was always interested in it. I think I've been to every quilt show that Houston has had since the beginning ones. As soon as I retired, I started quilting up a storm. I probably have made an excess of seventy quilts in the past eight years. The early ones are not very good, but I got to learn from my mistakes and keep going, and I'm getting better.

MT: When you say you retired, do you mean from your first career?

MS: From working. I was a banker. I think also that's where it carries over that all of my designs are very symmetrical. I have a great deal of trouble putting anything off center. It's very Palladian in architecture, like. If there's a left side, there has to be a right side. Everything is very neatly balanced. I was lucky that my husband retired and said, 'Let's move for the summer,' and I said, 'Okay!'

MT: As long as you can take your quilting supplies with you.

MS: I don't care where we go. If I can take my quilt stuff, I can be happy anywhere. I never travel without a project in my purse to work on. It's the greatest obsession. When you go someplace you can always find a quilter to talk to. Quilters are never strangers. They can just sit down and start yakking without ever even exchanging names. There's a bond between quilters everywhere. I'm very active in my quilt group up in Canada. I'm very active down here too, because you feel like you've walked into another family unit. They are so supportive and so encouraging. It's like quilting and therapy every week when we get together. It's women helping women. It's just a marvelous thing.

MT: It's really a thing of resurgence as quilters increase in numbers, I think.

MS: When I started quilting there was no support network. I had to teach myself. I enjoyed that. If there's anything to do with fabric or fiber, I can figure it out some way. Now with the quilt stores and the quilt magazines and everything else, it's just exponentially building.

MT: What do you think about the appearance of men?

MS: I think it's fabulous. A friend of mine up in Canada, when I get back, wants me to take him down to join the Victoria Quilter's Guild. He doesn't want to go by himself. He's afraid those other four hundred and fifty women will pick on him. I don't think he realizes they'll just welcome him with open arms. I find in quilters generally that even if it's not a style or technique that we particularly like to do, we're supportive of somebody else doing it. It's like, 'Go knock yourself out.' I may not particularly care for the innovative appliqués or the very modern types, but hey, it's an art form so run with it. They might not appreciate my real traditional work, but there are very few bad comments you get from people. Everybody is supportive whether they actually like it themselves or not.

MT: We can all identify with what it takes.

MS: They'll welcome almost anybody into the group if they feel that they have something that they want to learn or contribute. It's like, 'Come on in,' instead of 'Oh no.' You don't find very many stuck-up quilters. You don't find many that aren't supportive or encouraging of enhancing quilting as an art form and its recognition. That's something I have not consciously tried to do, but whenever you get me anywhere--I can go into a social situation and mention quilts, and have six people around me, and we'll just yak all evening. I get to meet new people, and people who have never seen quilting as an art form to start appreciating that it is art in fiber. I'm trying to get some of my relatives to start being interested, 'Get a quilt up on your walls, guys.'

MT: Are they generally supportive of what you're doing?

MS: They are generally in awe. At first, it's kind of like, 'Oh, that thing that those old country women did?' Then when they see how big and everything this is--another quick aside. I have some friends here who are extremely wealthy and have a beautiful house in Tanglewood with all the accoutrements and everything else. This was like my husband's best friend and his wife. I made a little kimono quilt. So, the husband's best friend was going through our house and saw the kimono quilt and said, 'Well that's a really pretty quilt.' I put it over my shoulder and said, 'Here, you take it.' He took it home and took it to a museum framer and had it framed. It's not that good a quilt, I have to say, but he loved it. He had it framed, and he put it in his foyer with a little light over it and a little plaque on the bottom of it that says, "Kimonos by Moira Sullivan." I was just tickled to death. Not because I want to pat myself on the back, but people are going to come through their house and see this and say, 'I didn't know that stuff that my grandmother worked on was an art form.' I run into so many people that say, 'I thought it was gray-haired old ladies that did that.' I say, 'Well not necessarily.' There are a lot of younger people who are getting into crafts today. Of course, I was interested at a young age.

MT: What do you think you can do in a society of women to encourage the young teenagers to develop an interest?

MS: My group up in Victoria is doing a very good job of that. I'll give that as an example. They've contacted each of the schools in the Victoria area. They're providing them with fabric and batting. We're all cleaning out our closets and getting rid of leftovers. When we bought them, we thought, 'This is great.' Then when we get home we think, 'I must have been drunk when I bought that.' We're cleaning out the fabric since our tastes have changed, and we're donating it to the school project. They're trying to get each school in Victoria, British Columbia up in Canada to do a school project. Different classes will each contribute a block to it. Any time that the school would like, the guild will send one of the quilters in the area over to give a lecture or talk and bring their quilts and show what they're like so that the kids can have a big display at our next big Canada quilt festival. I have found, and their experience has been that if you get to these kids at an early age, the boys think this is a wonderful way to spend time.

MT: What age are the kids?

MS: I'd say middle school. But even the younger kids enjoy playing with the shapes of the fabrics. They'll play with the shapes. With the bonding techniques and everything now, you can let them actually think they've made a quilt block without having to stitch anything. Then when they see it hanging up someplace, they get so excited about it. I think it's more of an outreach program to the schools to let them see what can be done and also let them know that this is not just bedcovers. This is museum quality art that is being produced, and if you like it and keep going at it, you too will hang in a museum someday. It's not just canvas and paint that hangs in museums. I think that the Victoria outreach program is going to be a wonderful experience for the kids there. I'd like to see a lot more of that.

MT: It's a model, hopefully, for many other schools.

MS: I hope so.

MT: Do you see this as one of your missions for the future, to try to educate the public about quilting as an art form?

MS: I do because it is an art. I think that women's art has been undervalued throughout history because women produced it. If we had worked in canvas and paint, and several did, they would have applauded us but because we worked in fiber and fabric and because it was, quote, women's work, they didn't stand back with a critical artistic eye and say, 'This is really good work.' I think now they're looking back at the bits that we have left and realizing that it was very undervalued. When I tell people that there are quilt museums out there, they are amazed. There is a marvelous one in Lowell, Massachusetts that I went to this past year. It has quilts hanging on the walls. None of the old quilts are necessarily any better than what we're seeing produced yearly that comes in to the IQA. [International Quilt Association.]

MT: Do they have the stories that go behind the quilts?

MS: They try to. That's another thing I think people need to realize. If they have a quilt, get some photographs, talk to your grandmother who probably got it from her Aunt Bessie who got it from cousin so-and-so. Write it down somewhere so that somebody can match up the story with the quilt later on. Like with any piece of history, you have to have the provenance to give it extra value. I've got a cousin who lives in Italy. We went to visit her a few years ago, and I was trying to explain quilting to her. She just looked at me and went, 'You cut up the fabric to sew it back together again?' Quilting is not big in Italy right now. I just keep sending her articles and pictures of my quilts and telling her what's going on. By God, I'm going to get her hooked someday. Anywhere I go I'm always working on a piece. My husband and I travel a bit since we're retired. You can be sitting in an airport, somebody comes up, and pretty soon you're talking about the power of quilting, the power of the work that women are doing.

MT: Is he supportive?

MS: He is wonderful. I caught him on the phone yesterday bragging to one of his friends. He thinks it's fabulous. His whole family has never had a quilter in it. He comes from a Sicilian family; relatively recent immigrants, the past hundred years so they look at what I do, and they are just awe-struck, absolutely awe-struck. They are very supportive. He likes everything that I've produced so far. He and his best friend that I was just talking about-- A few years ago I was down here doing some stuff at the quilt show. They met me at the front door and asked me to take just the two of them through for a little tour of the quilts. They are always asking, 'What makes it a good quilt?' and 'What makes it a bad quilt?' and all that stuff. He is very, very willing to learn, and that helps. A couple of my friends' husbands are like, 'Just go off and do your little hobby,' and I just want to smack them! But he's like, 'My wife is producing museum quality work.' He tells his buddies about that, and they are like, 'Wow.' That helps a lot.

MT: It frees you up to devote the time you need to do it.

MS: And also, he understands that no matter what we're doing in our life or our home, we have to find quilting time for me. That keeps me happy. I'd say, in a way, it's cheaper than therapy. I say that facetiously, but when I have my quilting time, I'm very happy. When I don't, I tend to get a bit grouchy or cranky. I don't have that meditative time. Because of us being retired I finally put two sewing machines in the house, one in my sewing room and one in the main room so I can work on a project while we're doing couple stuff, but I can still have a sewing machine going. He's happy because we have our time together and I'm happy because I'm still doing my sewing.

MT: You're both meeting your personal needs. Speaking of the artistic eye, and you taking your husband through the museum or quilt show and saying what makes a good quilt, what do you think defines a good quality quilt or an artistic quilt?

MS: For me, it has to be technically good. It's like art, as I've always heard. You have to know the rules before you can break the rules. Picasso was a wonderful artist, and he had to know technically how to draw the human body and everything else and be able to generate that before he knew which rules, he could break, and it would still be art. In quilting, I think you have to know how to make the points match and how to get all the different technical aspects, your seam lines done correctly, your appliqué turned correctly, your stitches invisible if that's what they're supposed to be. You have to get the technical aspects down. Then, if you want to start pushing the edge of the envelope, you've got the skills to do it. But you can't just come in and go abstract and do this or that or the other thing, and not have the technical bits down. I still go back and re-read beginner's quilting books. When I'm killing time, I'll re-read a couple of chapters because you never quit learning the basics. You have to constantly keep going back and say, 'That didn't make sense when I read it before, but now it does make sense.' Keep reading books. I think people need to also read a lot of the historical books that are coming out. There is a wealth of books about quilt history now. See the pictures so they can see what's gone before and say, 'Oh, I could take that one and just tweak it and make it a little more modern,' which is what I like to do with my blocks. In this quilt, I took traditional blocks and shrank them down to four inches. I used modern colors and modern techniques. I have some in here that are kind of like practical joke type things. But you have to know the technical bits before you can change things and pull it off.

MT: When you are piecing this, do you use paper piecing or templates?

MS: I used everything. Some of them adapt very well to paper piecing, and some of them would be an absolute mess at paper piecing. I like paper piecing. I'm doing a quilt now with one-inch blocks. I find that is the kind of thing I can do with my brain completely turned off. It's very good meditative time. I also like strip piecing, rotary cutting and just let her rip with the strip piecing. Like I said, I'm not very good at appliqué, and I don't really want to be. I can appreciate it but I don't necessarily want to do it. I'd like to find ways to take some of those styles and do them in pieced or something else. Take the inspiration and move it on. I'm doing one that you'll see next year at the quilt show I'm sure, and I'm taking Hawaiian appliqué but doing it differently. It's going to be a traditional pattern with a slightly different technique to it and a slightly different quilting to it. I like to take the traditional but not go all the way, maybe find a different way to quilt it up or a different way to attach it to the fabric. But I still remain traditional.

MT: When you walk through the art show or the quilt show, and you see a contemporary quilt that has bypassed the steps of piecing and has perhaps a painted background, do you view that as quilt art?

MS: As long as it's fiber and fabric and a batting in between, it's going to be a quilt. It might not be one that I want, but that doesn't take the value away from it. Not everybody has to have my tastes for it to be good. It would be a very boring world if everybody had the same kind of tastes. As long as it has those basic constituents of top, batting and backing, I consider it quilt art. I usually prefer that it have some kind of square or rectangular form to it. There are one or two over there that I did have to have great generosity of spirit to consider them quilts. There is one that looks like the skeleton of a lady, and I had a few iffy's about that, but the lady did follow the parameters of top, middle and back.

MT: And she got her quilt the right size for that category.

MS: I could never be a quilt judge, nor would I want to.

MT: That's not part of your future?

MS: That is not part of my future. Nor have I ever made a dime off of any of my quilting. I'm trying to keep my husband from finding out that people can make a living at this. It's all basically out-go. We don't worry about income.

MT: So, it's a personal thing that you're doing?

MS: Exactly. I think that I might not enjoy it so much if I had to worry about making any money from it. Since I don't and I'm in a position where I don't have to worry about income, I can just traipse off on my own little things and do what I want to do, and not have to worry about anybody else's judgment on it. I enter the quilt shows because it helps push me to try and improve my quilting each year, but not because I want to make it show up against anybody else's quilting. It's a personal thing. It makes me say, 'Okay last year I did so good. Well, let's see if I can learn a new technique or push that a little further for my personal growth.'

MT: When you're in the process of creating a quilt and pushing yourself, does it become fun any longer on a daily basis? Do you drop that process and go on to something else?

MS: You'll find most quilters, myself included, have a number of projects going on at any one time. I call them the UFOs, the Unfinished Objects. Also, there was another good term I read about recently, QUIPS, Quilts Unfinished in Progress. I'll keep different levels of projects going, some that are totally mindless. You can just set the satellite TV and watch the movies and stitch away, and you don't have to even think about it. Then with others you have to be so meticulous you can only do them at certain times of the day when you're very rested. If you start burning out, you tuck it away for a week and work on a different project. Or you start doing something the size of a potholder so you can finish it fast rather than one of these bigger projects that can take up to a year to finish. You never burn out on the sewing, or I don't. I just shift from one to another for whatever mood I happen to be in.

MT: When you finish your quilts, where do they end up?

MS: I have never sold one. Like I said, I've got two houses to decorate, so I can just keep going and I'm not going to finish. In fact, I just started hanging them in the foyer of my house up in Canada. I had to climb up eighteen feet and put-up big rods so that I could hang them above the front door. I'm never going to run out of space. When I get to the point when I don't like the techniques I used, or I can see my mistakes that much better because they were maybe five or six years ago, I'll pass them on to the grandkids or somebody else in the family and let them beat them up for a while. I shift things between houses because I'm a great believer in circulating what you have out. Who wants to look at the same things all the time? Once I finish them, I enjoy them and I'm glad I'm finished, but I'm looking for the next project.

MT: Do you have children?

MS: I have grandchildren by my husband's first marriage. That's really the way to do it. Skip the kids, go for the grandkids. It interferes with your quilting otherwise. [laughter.] No one else in the family is a quilter now. They appreciate it, but I'm the only one who has gone beyond quilting as a hobby. There's nobody else in the family who is like that. I figure, the good lord gave us each one gift. He missed me by a million miles on a lot of the biggies. I don't cook. I'm the world's worst gardener. My housekeeping is just one step ahead of the health department. But I can quilt and sew.

MT: And what a legacy.

MS: It wouldn't be fair if I could do a whole lot of other things, and I don't. I was asked by somebody a few weeks ago if I was making these as a legacy to hand down. I think I'm making them more as a tribute to the women who came before rather than worrying about what's going to happen to them in the future.

MT: Do you sign your quilts, though, and document the date?

MS: That's one of those things that you don't do at the beginning and your friends say, 'Are you crazy?' Go back and put all your names and dates on them and where you did them if you can, so that somebody someplace is not going to have to go back and find documentation on them.

MT: So, future generations will be able to know what you were thinking when you put that quilt together.

MS: I have got a lot of improving to do. You never get to where you are satisfied with your own work. But I do think that this work is not going to end up laying across somebody's bed or stuffed in somebody's attic. More communities are going to recognize the value of the fiber arts and there are going to be more quilt museums around the country aside from the few that have gotten going now. There are going to be more endowments. I don't want to say scholarship money, but grant money, to encourage the fiber arts. I think we're going to see a lot more of a push in that direction. I have a friend who raises a lot of money in non-profit types of things. I've talked with her about this. They need to make more of a push, I believe, when people die not only to save their quilts but also to get them to leave a legacy to encourage future quiltmakers or to encourage museums. In fact, I've told my husband if I drop dead in front of my sewing machine, to endow some sort of a scholarship or an award to encourage people to continue quilting. That's another thing I'd like to see more emphasis on, collecting endowments for museums and future teaching centers.

MT: For quiltmaking?

MS: For quiltmaking. In the Lowell Museum, they have a marvelous research center where you can go and look up on microfiche and computers a lot of old data and documents. Most of us can't travel to Massachusetts all the time. There should be centers around the country where quilters can go and do research.

MT: Regional centers, or even an online kind of thing--

MS: Yes, but there's something that is just not quite as fulfilling as actually being there and having other people in the same room and saying, 'I found it,' and networking with people like that. I have also found that most quilters I have met are very eager to get computer literate because that has enhanced our quilting experiences in the past few years. I am of an age and my husband is of an age that a number of our friends are like, 'I'm never going to have anything to do with computers.' I find most quilters are like, 'Show me how to do it, let's get some more done. Let's streamline the process so that we can get to the creative bits and skip the boring part of drawing patterns.' I can remember back to when I did my first pieced quilt. I had a ruler and a pencil and a pair of scissors. There were no rotary cutters. They weren't Gingher scissors; I can tell you that right now. It was an Irish Chain. If any of the seams met, it was a pure coincidence. [laughter.] There weren't the tools to get the accuracy. I remember when those first rotary cutters came out, we said, 'What are those pizza cutters there for?' I go back quite a ways with watching quilting develop.

MT: Well, what beautiful quilts you make today. I'd like to thank you very much. You've shared all of your wonderful insights, which are going to be valuable to many people for a long time.

MS: Like I said, I studied history for many years in college and it's the tracks you leave behind that make it so much more interesting for the people in the future. You try not to hide too much from them.

MT: And you continue to do that, just keep them out in the open for us. This is Marsha Turner with Moira Sullivan and we're closing our interview at 10:40. Thank you very much.



“Moira Sullivan,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024,