Rita Micek




Rita Micek




Rita Micek


Joyce Starr Johnson

Interview Date


Interview sponsor



Houston, Texas


Rachel Grove


Joyce Starr Johnson (JSJ): [audio too low.] interviewing Melody and today's date is November, second 2001, and it is 2:42 p.m. I'm conducting an interview with Rita Micek--

Rita Micek (RM): Micek.

JSJ: From Duncan, Nebraska, here in Houston, Texas for the Quilters' S.O.S - Save Our Stories project, and Rita, could use please spell your name for the transcriber?

RM: Rita, R-I-T-A. Micek, M-I-C-E-K.

JSJ: And we're talking with Rita today about her quilt she made following the attacks on September, eleventh, and we'll just start off by talking specifically about the quilt that you made and that you brought today, and what would you like to say about this quilt?

RM: I wanted to first of all represent the different symbols of our country: the unity, the different nationalities in our country, the fear and frustration, and anger that was brought to all of our different nationalities the day of September eleventh, 2001. To this day I just still get goosebumps when I think about that day. It totally affected our whole country, and it definitely reminds me of the tragedy of the assassination of President Kennedy back in November of 1963. And this is just kind of the way I felt at this time. It was disbelief. Our son called from Chicago and told us what was happening. And so we turned the television on, and we did see the planes going into the second tower, and I just to this day, I just can't get over it. Making the quilt definitely released, relieved me in the sense that I did get to rid of some of the frustration and some of the anger, but there's still that disbelief that who would be so angry or hate us so much that they would perform this act of violence that is totally, very, is just disastrous. And I feel for the people that were killed that day, and the families that are suffering today as a result of this tragic day. And I am just still in such disbelief that something could happen to us like this. And who knows what this is going to lead to and how long it will take us to get over this. We'll probably never get over it, but I do hope that our country finds some way to relieve their anger, and I know with the wars going on is something that a lot of us don't want to see. But if this is the only way we can solve it, I guess go ahead. I feel like we need to put a stop to this stuff. And the different things that I am representing here is the New York skyline. And I wanted to represent the different nationalities, so I chose the different fabrics in my stripes.

JSJ: I don't want to interrupt, but as you are talking about these different areas and what they represent, could you describe what they look like, so that we have that also.

RM: Yes, the skyline is made of different fabrics which represent different heights and different buildings of New York City. The stripes in the flag have different red- and cream-colored squares to form the red and white stripes of the flag, and these fabrics represent different nationalities of our country. In front of the flag, I chose to put figures holding hands to represent the unity in our country and also to bring out the "United We Stand," the slogan that is on the side. And on the side of the flag I have the tumbled towers plus rubbish below to represent the aftereffects of the tumbled towers with smoke and rubbish around it. And above I chose to put a portion of the Statue of Liberty crown to represent the Statue of Liberty, which greets everyone that comes into our country. And here then below I had an empty area and I just thought that was a good place to put the slogan, "United We Stand." I hope when someone looks at this, they will possibly be able to see the different symbols of our country and the tragedy of that day.

JSJ: You mentioned earlier that when you were working on this it really helped you with your feelings at that particular time--

RM: Yes.

JSJ: Could you spin on that a little bit?

RM: Yes, first of all I was terrified for all the people, and I felt like in making this I'd spend a lot of time trying to design, and it took some of my mind off of the tragedy. And basically, it was just kind of a release of the way I was feeling, the anger I was feeling.

JSJ: With your own interest in quilting, either with this quilt or with other quilts, how does quilting fit into your overall life?

RM: Quilting is a very good past time for me. I am retired now, though I did choose to start quilting back in '92 while I was still working. And definitely I just spend a lot of time on it.

JSJ: But how much time?

RM: Within a week I probably spend 15 to 20 twenty hours a week on quilting.

JSJ: What kind of quilts do you typically make?

RM: I typically make traditional quilts, but I also like to work on challenges which bring out the ideas that they're requesting.

JSJ: Like a month ago, a guild project or something like that?

RM: Yes. Guild projects--I do quite a bit of that. We have different types of guild projects, maybe samplers, progressive quilting, where different members work on different parts of the quilt, and then we finish our own project. And definitely challenges and making quilts for my grandchildren are projects that I continue striving to do.

JSJ: Alright. You said since 1992?

RM: Yes.

JSJ: And how did you learn? What got started in '92?

RM: Actually, how I got started is I have three daughters that are married, and they all received quilts for wedding presents, and I thought the only way I'm going to have one is if I make it myself. So, I took a couple classes at the college and really got hooked.

JSJ: Were quilts part of your life before that?

RM: No, it never was. It was just totally since '92.

JSJ: How has quilting impacted your family since this time?

RM: Well, they are all proud of my work. And my grandchildren are very proud, and they all want me to make quilts for them. And so they know that this is a part of my life. And I do hope that some of them will carry it on. I really do.

JSJ: Have you taught any of them?

RM: I have had three, four of them. I have been working with four of them.

JSJ: What is it about quilting that you enjoy?

RM: I like the idea of the satisfaction I get from it when they're completed, and also the competition. I do like the competition in your challenges and such like that. And it is something that does fill in my time when I have spare time. It definitely is a good thing for me. Otherwise, I wonder what I would be doing. [laughs.]

JSJ: Eating.

RM: Yes, probably, and I do some of that too. [laughs.] Plenty of that.

JSJ: What do you think makes a quilt great?

RM: I think bringing out your own ideas, you own expression, your own feelings. I do try to strive for perfection, and maybe that's not all good, but--

JSJ: What kind of perfection?

RM: In stitching, in just overall general work of it.

JSJ: Work, okay. What kind of quilt do you think belongs in a museum?

RM: I think this type of quilt belongs. I think a lot of people's own ideas, their own creativity. I still think traditionals belong in a museum, the quilts of years past, the ancient ones. At this time that's all I can think of right now.

JSJ: I see on this quilt you've used machine stitching in part of that--the time factor?

RM: Yes, machine quilting definitely saves time, but I still prefer the hand quilting over the machine quilting.

JSJ: So, most of the quilts that you do, you hand quilt them--

RM: I do both. I do both.

JSJ: How do you decide one over the other?

RM: The ones I know are going to be used a lot I feel maybe should be machine quilted, but those that are to be handed down from generation to generation I feel, I feel like the ones being used by my grandchildren, they can be machine quilted. The ones that are to be preserved, like the one I'm working on now, Grandmother's Flower Garden, I would not dream of machine quilting that one. It's the ones that you would like to hand down from generation to generation would be hand quilted. Okay.

JSJ: That kind of leads me into another question. When you give quilts to other people do you have any expectations of what they will do with them?

RM: No, I really don't. I know most of the old ones hang them, take good care of them. The grandchildren I know will use them. I mean they definitely use them, and that's what I made them for. So that's the way I feel about that. Okay.

JSJ: Okay. Would that hurt your feeling if they chose not to, if their mom put them away to keep them when you had intended--

RM: No, that would not hurt my feelings. I feel like when I give a quilt away it's theirs, and whatever they choose to do with it, it's there's. They can do what they want with it.

JSJ: You've mentioned about handing down quilts and about saving traditional quilts. How do you think quilts fit into America's history?

RM: I think the quilts will show what types of materials are used in this period and what different methods are being used in this period of time. And basically, that would be it. What type of art--

JSJ: Do you think there's any connection to women's history in quilting that has affected you at all?

RM: Not at this point. I can't think of anything. Okay.

JSJ: Do you think that your quilting over the last ten years reflects in any way the part of the county where you live or where you learned to quilt? Or the things that you produce do they reflect--

RM: I do think maybe like central Nebraska is in the central part of the country, and I think maybe there isn't as much glamour and art as there are maybe like on the east and west coast, but I definitely would like to get into more of that [laughs.] especially after this show. Okay.

JSJ: Do you think that there would be anything holding you back from doing that?

RM: No, there isn't anything holding me back. In fact, I have gotten several patterns here, and I said when I get home I'm going to try. Even like the clothing construction, and that type of thing. It has really generated some enthusiasm as to going ahead and trying that kind of thing, so there's nothing that's going to hold me back, because I'm going to do it. [laughs.]

JSJ: Finding the time.

RM: Yes.

JSJ: Coming back to this quilt real quickly, is there anything you have for special plans for this quilt?

RM: At this particular time, I do want to keep it, because I think that generations like my grandchildren will probably enjoy it, and it will bring back memories of this particular event. That's my plans for it at this time. And they are definitely really proud of it. My children are too. They like the creativity of it.

JSJ: You feel they're proud of you?

RM: They are very proud of me, because they have told me so. [laughs.]

JSJ: Great. Well, I'm glad they told you.

RM: And I have a grandson that was in the second grade here a couple years ago, and he took a library book home on quilting, so I know I have affected them.

JSJ: Great. In general, is there anything that I haven't asked you about in term of your own quilting history or things that are important to you that you want to add at this point before we conclude?

RM: No, I just guess I would like to continue teaching quilting, which I have done some of, and continue with creativity, and I think the rest you pretty well brought in.

JSJ: Well, we certainly thank you very much for sharing this special time with us.

RM: Thank you too, because it definitely was a relief to get rid of some of that frustration. But it still sends chills up my spine--

JSJ: It will for some time.

RM: Okay.

JSJ: Well, let me finish this up. This concludes our interview with Rita. It is 2:58 p.m.


“Rita Micek,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 19, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1305.