Candy Goff


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Candy Goff




Candy Goff


Leah Call

Interview Date


Interview sponsor


The International Quilt Festival, Houston, TX USA


Joanne Gasperik


Leah Call (LC): It's November 4, 2000. We're at Houston, International Quilt Festival. This is an interview with Candy Goff. My name is Leah Call and this is part of the Quilters' Save Our Stories. It is 9:17. Candy, tell me about the quilt you brought in today.

Candy Goff (CG): Well, it's a long story. [laughs.] This quilt started right after my father passed away. I had been working on the quilt that is in competition in the show today. It was a very complicated wild flower, lady slipper appliqué on the quilt. After my dad's funeral I just didn't have the ability to be able to attempt getting back into that appliqué. I was having really a difficult time with it. But I still needed something to do with my hands, just to--I can't not quilt. So I had to come up with some kind of a project, just kind of occupy some time while I was going through the grieving process. So I started making arcs for this pattern. The pattern is from one of Debra Wagner's books. The pattern is called 'Candy Dish.' So of course I had to make it because my name is Candy. So I started piecing all of these arcs and it really was very comforting to do because I didn't have to make a lot of decisions about color. I just started. I took all my blue fabrics [loud laughter in the background.] and cut the little triangle pieces and all my neutrals and cut the alternating triangles for the arcs and started piecing those things together. Well, from the blues I went to the blue-greens and from the blue-greens I went to the blue-violets and then I went to the red-violets and pretty soon I had enough of these arcs together to start to compose the quilt. By that time it was probably 3 to 4 months later, I would say. I went to a quilt retreat and actually used a design wall to put it, put all this stuff out. During that process of course I had put a lot of time into making these components. When I initially started it, I didn't know that I was going to finish it. It was just kind of a thing to help me get through that period. So at the quilt retreat I put this stuff up on a design wall and I thought, 'Well wouldn't it be neat it I just kind of opened up an area to make a medallion with appliqué. You know that would be sort of cool.' So that's how I had planned to do the quilt. Well, I worked on just the center medallion and did this little appliqué around the middle, and as I got the background all pieced together and I was ready to set this center into the background, all of the appliqué started disappearing into the confusion of the border. This is the first misery. [chuckles.] So my husband said 'Well the medallion looks really great. Just make a wall hanging out of it and just throw the rest away.' Well, [laughs.] after spending months and months and months of making arcs and piecing all of those arcs together, there was no way that I was just going to give up on the whole thing. We don't throw anything away, as quilters, absolutely not. But this was just supposed to be a temporary kind of quilt, you know, one that I would--I mean it was supposed to be easy. It started as just a little quickie, you know, a diversion, so that I could get my mind back into doing my lady slipper appliqué. So I'm thinking, 'Well, I guess what I'm going to have to do is make my wall hanging and then take the background and put just something plain in the middle and do some big appliqué medallion or something with that piece of border.' And I thought, 'I can't make two quilts and be gone that long away from my lady slipper quilt or I'll never finish. I mean, now all of a sudden this little tiny project is turning into [laughing.] two major huge quilts for me. So just as you solve your problems, most of my problems get solved as I am either falling asleep or in that waking up period. I thought, 'You know what I could do? I could put the medallion on the front and I could put the border on the back.' The only problem being I'll have to quilt it from both sides. So I'm quilting from the front, the center medallion and then flip it over to do the border. My concern at that point was whether or not the stitches were going to be consistent on both sides. Well, that's the least of my worries. [both chuckle.] At this point it's really not that funny, you know, so I thought I had my problem solved. So being that I had used all these neutral prints in the piecing, I thought, 'Well that's what I want to do for the backing and the outside of the quilt.' So I searched high and low for the perfect--what I thought was the perfect little, sort of mottled, subtle, printed, neutral background. I went 45 miles to the quilt shop that said they had it. Bought all of that fabric, I took it home and washed it. And now I have to make a template for this really odd-shaped center medallion. And I have to make two templates because on this one I need the seam allowance on the outside and for the background I have to have the seam allowance on the inside. I pieced that perfect print into, and of course the backing had to be pieced and the front had to be pieced. I quilted all of the arcs in the center portion. I took me about 40 hours. It took me about a week or so. And I turned it over. I had been turning it over and I thought, you know you can't really see the quilting all that well, because of the print, but I kept quilting. Maybe it will look better after I get a whole section of it done. So I finished this center, the center arcs, turned it over and I said 'you know you really can't see the quilting at all.' This is misery number two. You know what you have to do. You have to rip out all that quilting and you have to replace that printed fabric with muslin. So I said, only a week of quilting, no problem. [chuckles.] So I picked out all the quilting, took off, un-pieced both the backing and the front of the quilt. Had to remake my template. Of course I saved one. So I haven't had to really make the other one. Re-pieced the backing. Re-pieced the top. Re-quilted for a week. Now I'm happy, because it has the look that I want. I finished quilting, you know I then am proceeding to quilt from the back to the front, and I'm happy with the way the quilting is looking, and I'm feeling pretty good. And as I was finishing the quilting, my mom died. So [both laugh.] anyway, I thought as I came back into this quilt as soon as I can finish this the misery will be over. It kind of [laughing.] grew out of a really sad period of my life. [laughing.] So I put the binding on and of course it's not a straight binding. It has to be curves and angles and all that stuff. I'm thinking it's looking pretty good. Well the last step when I make a quilt is to wash and block it. Well unfortunately [starts laughing.] another misery appeared. Five of the red diamonds in this quilt and--I've got a sample with me, five of the red diamonds bled from the back to the front of my quilt. [Leah moans.] And this was muslin. This was the color of five diamonds on the front of my quilt, hot pink. Absolutely gross. My husband said, 'I think I'll go to a motel.' [laughs out loud.] He says, 'The quilt's ruined. You know you might as well just throw it away.' Well after that long I did everything. I tried Synthrapol which is my normal solution. It made it worse. I soaked it overnight because I figured, 'What do I have to lose?' Now everything started to run. [laughing.] I'm laughing now but I was not laughing at the time. So I sent my husband to the fabric store and they said that they have this stuff called 'color run remover.' I am thinking that's my only option. That's the only thing that I can do to save the quilt. So he goes to the--he says, 'Call them first and make sure they have it.' So I called ahead and said, 'I'm sending my husband in for color run remover. Set it aside.' He gets there, buys two boxes. So, comes back and the directions say 'For best results wash in hot water.' I have a wool batt. And I said, 'Uh oh, it might felt.' But this is a Hobbs wool batt and I had talked to the Hobbs representative and he said pretty much as long as you don't agitate it, it's going to be fine whether you use hot or cold water or whatever. So I had to do the hot water routine. So I dumped in one box of the color remover, put in the quilt. It didn't make a lot of difference but it faded it just a little bit--the diamonds. But it also faded about half of the other fabrics in the quilt. [laughs.] Well, it didn't look that bad, but I still had those pink diamonds and I thought, 'Well this stuff kind of works.' I tried bleach on and it didn't do anything so I thought, 'Well, I either have to pitch it out or I have to do what I can do to try to salvage it.' What I ended up doing is putting a plastic tarp down on my living room floor; put the wet quilt down on this plastic tarp. It had been wet now for two days. So I was mixing a double strength solution of the color run remover, nuking it in the microwave to boiling and then pouring it over these diamonds to try to get them to fade, brushing it with a paint brush and scrubbing on it and everything else. Well finally they did, they did pretty much fade away. There are indications of where they were on the front, and I'm not sure--yeah, you can see. It's light enough. I mean if you're looking for them you can see them but a normal person probably isn't going to be able to tell that they're there. And there is a little shadow through because there is piecing on the back. And there is a definite problem with the quilt. But at least it's a quilt that I can live with. In the end result, I've got a quilt that looks like it is probably about a hundred years old. It's probably gone through enough to be a hundred years old, at this point in time. But a lot of the original fabrics are not even close to the color that they were. A lot of the hot pinks faded to these golds. A lot of the purple grapes went to gold or khaki or gray. And it's really interesting to look at what my fabrics were originally and then what was left after this remover took away most of the color. And then fifty percent of the fabrics are just the same as they were when I put them in the quilt. So it really does have that antique look about it and in a lot of places it's hard to tell that there was even any contrast between the light and dark diamonds. I think they are probably more apparent on the back side, where there is not much contrast here, and I think you see that in a lot of the old quilts. And that's just because that dye has gone away. And it probably doesn't resemble anything that the original quiltmaker had done at the time. You can see these were all very dark reds, true reds, and I've got an orange, a gold and a sort of a tany color. So anyway that is the story of the Misery Quilt. It has gone through several names in the process. And the Misery Quilt is what this is always going to be [laughs.]

LC: That's your name for this quilt? [loud bang in background.]

CG: Yes.

LC: Misery Quilt? How do you use the quilt? [loud bang in background.]

CG: It will never be shown. I had originally intended that it would be part of the 'Crossing Boundaries' contest, because it was a two-sided quilt. But of course after the bleeding incident it's just for me.

LC: So what do you do with it? How do you use it?

CG: I just put it on display on a quilt rack. [bang in the background.]

LC: [laughs.] Long story.

CG: Yes, that was quite a long story. [laughs.]

LC: But what is your history with quilting before the--

CG: Before the Misery Quilt. I started quilting in '86. I had a goal to get to the point that I could compete nationally. And I had my first quilt in competition in '93. And won Best of Show here in Houston in '96, the Founders Award in '98 and I have a quilt in the show this year, in 2000.

So I have accomplished the goals that I set out to do, and at this point in time I don't really have further goals to attain, other than to make the quilts that I want to make.

LC: What is your first memory of a quilt?

CG: Well I never – there weren't any quilts in my family. The only quilts that we had were the comforters from Sears, so to speak, that were re-covered and tied with yarn. That had, you know, been around. You'd recover them three and four and five times [smiling.] and they got so heavy that you couldn't move under them. [laughs.] But the only hand quilted quilt that I had ever seen was at a museum when I was out of high school. It was probably a 30's quilt that had been washed over and over and over. There was hardly any color left in the quilt at all. It had faded to almost all white. The way I got started in quilting was one of the quilt shops had a little sample hanging that was a crib quilt, hand-quilted. I told my husband, I said, 'You know, I'd kill to have a hand quilted quilt.' I don't even know how to do that. I couldn't get the concept of how you would hand quilt. I had sewn all of my life but I couldn't figure out how you would go front to back to do that quilting stitch. So he said, 'Well why don't you take that class?' It was a little lap quilting quilt-as-you-go, make one square at a time, and then sew the squares together. Well that was the end of it. [laughs.] Little did he know that innocent comment was going to lead to what it did.

LC: What do you find pleasing about the quilting? As far as do you enjoy the piecing? What process?

CG: Well I enjoy the whole process. For me I really enjoy the hand quilting part of it, making the quilting designs, enhancing the quilt top. I like to combine all of the techniques in my quilts. I like to work in a traditional style. But I like to do original things. So I don't remake a lot of things that have been done before or copy. I did to get started, but I like to use antique quilts for inspiration and then, you know make the design better, or take a pieced design and add appliqué to it, or, I'm particularly attracted to the mid eighteen hundreds quilts and those ugly fabrics. I get a real reputation in my home-town for using the ugliest fabric you can find [laughs.] In fact my quilt 'Timepiece' which won Best of Show here in '96 was predominantly a Jinny Beyer border print. When I purchased, I purchased 13 yards of the border print on sale and found out later after the quilt was done, one of my good friends said, 'We were all talking about that fabric that you purchased. I thought it was the most butt-ugly fabric I have ever seen in my life and I couldn't believe that you could make such a beautiful quilt out of it.' So that's my reputation for buying the 'what-in-the-world-is-she-going-to-do-with-that-fabric' and turning it into something that looks good in a quilt.

LC: So where do you live?

CG: In Lolo, Montana, just outside of Missoula.

LC: You shared that your husband supports, for this I think he supports –

CG: Yes he's very supportive although he said, he did, and he kept saying, 'I'm going to town. I'm going to town.' [laughs.] But he did come back and he said, he said, 'Well, it's getting, it's getting better. I can see it's getting better. I'm going back to town.' [laughs.] But he is--he is very supportive of what I do. However he has a hard time giving me an opinion about a quilt. He always says, 'Well I have to wait until it's quilted because the quilts really do look a lot different once they're quilted compared to just a plain top.' Then he likes to sort of hedge a little bit until it's been in a show. And if it wins something then of course he says, 'I knew it was really good.'

LC: Did he come with you today?

CG: No he didn't. He is home. He's babysitting our little dog which is spoiled rotten. She's a Pekinese and Poodle cross but she has no Poodle personality. She's sort of aloof. [giggles.]

LC: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

CG: Well I think a lot of quilts are artistically powerful and I think that both art quilts and traditional quilts can be powerful quilts. I think that what you're looking for is something that is truly unique, something that you haven't seen before. I think a lot of it has to do with color. I think a lot of it just has to do with that original idea. I think that if technically you copy a pattern that's already been done, even though it is perfect, it's not as exciting as something that is from somebody's personality that comes across in the quilt. And I think that's part of what makes some quilts last through time, you know have that history about them. Because they're--they are so unique that they're not going to be--they probably can't be copied, you know. Where we come here to the festival and say, 'I like that quilt. I want to make that quilt.' Well sometimes you just can't. You can't duplicate something that somebody else has whatever their original idea was. It's just not going to come across when it's duplicated.

LC: What do you think about the importance of quilts in the American life?

CG: One thing and I admit I do as I said, like to work in a traditional style, and at this point in quilt history I see a real trend toward art quilts and machine quilting. And the traditional quilting goes way back and is American more so than any other country. And unless we carry the history of quilting with us along with the art quilts and the machine quilting and, you know fast strip piecing and quilt-in-a-day and all that kind of stuff. Unless we carry the tradition forward, the process, the original traditional designs, hand-quilting, the length of time that it takes to make a quilt, the idea that some quilts are utilitarian, some quilts are meant to be masterpieces, that are handed down for generations to appreciate then I think--I think the history of quilting is going to change direction. So what I want to see in quilting going forward, especially in America is that there is a good mix of those traditional and art quilts, hand-quilting and machine quilting. I don't want to see the traditional and hand work being left behind, because I think we're going to be missing a big portion of how to shape quilting in the future.

LC: In what ways do you think quilts have a special meaning for women's history and the experience in America?

CG: Well I think probably a lot of what I just talked about. I think a lot of women made quilts to hand down to their children, so that they--part of their personality remains even after they're gone. I think that's a big thing, I think that's still happening today.

LC: Do you give the quilts to friends or family?

CG: I have given very few gifts and most were small wall hanging sized to close friends that would appreciate the quilting. I haven't made quilts for family members and one of the main reasons is that I didn't feel that they were in a position to care for them. My mother never really understood my quilting. She would say, [chortles.] 'Well I know you spend a lot of time on those blankets.' And so she never really did understand the concept of that. So if I'm going to do a quilt and give it away, I want it to go to somebody who understands what is in the quilt. I do have two quilts that I no longer possess. One was the national winner for the Land's End contest and that is part of the corporate art collection for Land's End. The grand prize was not a purchase award and then they came to me and offered to buy the quilt. At that time it was the first quilt that I had ever even been placed in the position of having to make a decision about. I had put it in my last quilt show and saw the people that were appreciating it and I thought, well if it's part of their art collection, of course it has more stature. Again it was a traditional quilt and in a way for me to put that label 'art' on a traditional quilt was important. I just felt that it was probably a better thing for people to be able to see it, than for me to put it on my extra bed in the bedroom, covered up with a sheet and then nobody gets to appreciate it. And the only other quilt that I no longer have was 'Joie de Vie' which was the Founder's award winner here in '98. It was named one of the 20th Century's Hundred Best Quilts [special exhibit and book.] and was Best of Show at American Quilters Society in 1999 which became part of the museum's permanent collection. At that time again it was another decision that I had to make, but it was very difficult for me to accept the responsibility of having one of the one hundred best quilts and then, what if something happens to the quilt on my watch? It's my responsibility and I want to retain, I want the quilt to be around for another hundred years. Well of course I'm not going to be here that long. What if something happens? What if it were destroyed? You know we live in the country, it could be fire. It could be lots of different things. So the decision to have it placed in the museum was more based on the preservation of the quilt for the next hundred years.

LC: Is there anything that we have not asked you that you would like [Candy laughs.] to say?

CG: [laughs.] I think I've shared quite a bit to tell you the truth.

LC: Do you machine quilt piece or do you hand piece?

CG: I hand piece. Everything is done by hand. I do that for the integrity of the piece. I even put the binding on by hand, which is real unusual. Most hand quilters will piece their blocks together by machine and put their binding on by machine. I put the sleeve on by hand, not that it's necessary to do that but after I've done all that hand work I just feel that for the integrity of the piece that it's worthwhile to just say, 'It's all done by hand.'

LC: Now you teach, correct?

CG: Yes.

LC: So what do you teach?

CG: Well I've been trying to convert some of the quilting community [chortles.] into recognizing that hand piecing is not totally out of the question. Most people are going towards the, you know, fast strip-piecing methods, which is fine, but a lot of quilt-blocks are not very easy to piece by machine. This arc block could probably be paper-pieced, but it gets difficult to piece curves and that kind of thing, So my focus, when I teach hand piecing is, if you're going to hand piece pick a project that would be very difficult to do on a machine, Probably take you just as long, be more frustrating and you can do it more accurately by hand piecing. And you're not really losing any time. But don't hand piece a log cabin. Why? There is absolutely no purpose in it. But challenge yourself to look at block designs and say, you know if I did this on machine what would I have to do? Look at in-set seams. They are very easy by hand, very difficult by machine. That's the way I think too, that traditional designs can get more complex looking without every traditional quilt sort of having that cookie-cutter look.

Unidentified Person (UP): Can you add anything?

LC: I really have enjoyed your quilts. [Candy laughs.] I'll talk to you about this. This concludes our interview with Candy Goff at the November 4th International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas for the project Quilters Save Our Stories. It is 9:40.



“Candy Goff,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 21, 2024,