Karen Musgrave


Karen Musgrave Alliance-08.jpg


Karen Musgrave




Karen Musgrave


Elaine Johnson

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Iris Karp


Naperville, Illinois


Karen Musgrave


Note: This interview was conducted online in a series of e-mails from December 2005-April 2007. The quilt used for this interview is The Alliance for American Quilts' raffle quilt "The Voice of You and Me 2006. The amount of time this interview took is reflected by the busy lives of those involved.

Elaine Johnson (EJ): Karen, could you tell me about the way this raffle quilt came to be?

Karen Musgrave (KM): After last year's quilt didn't make as much money as our first one, Yvonne Porcella and I decided that we needed to return to making a contemporary quilt. This is the third raffle quilt that Yvonne and I have made together for The Alliance for American Quilts. Yvonne did a small drawing then we discussed it, made some changes. Unlike the quilts in the past, this time Yvonne made a part of the quilt then passed it on to me to finish. After I finished my part, I sent it to my friend Karen Watts in Houston to quilt. I wanted something heavily quilted because that's how I like my quilts. Karen did an excellent job. She sent it back to me and I put on the binding and the sleeve. The first quilt Yvonne provided me with a small drawing and I made the entire quilt. Rebecca Skvorc Latham quilted it. The second quilt Yvonne and I both did blocks. I set the blocks and made the scalloped border. Nancy Biecshke did the quilting. These quilts have always

EJ: Could you tell me a bit about the "hidden" words on the quilt?

KM: I have always loved words in quilts and try to incorporate them whenever I can in my own work so when Yvonne wanted to use words I was thrilled. "Cover Us" was in the first quilt and I loved it. Not only do quilts cover us but the quilt is used to raise money to cover the expenses of The Alliance so I insisted that we use it again. All three quilts have had the year on them which is something that Yvonne wanted. Then there are the words "quilt" and "alliance" which represent both the name of the organization but also the mission. It all about quilts and the forming of alliances with universities, individuals, organizations, etc. all working towards a common goal which is to raise awareness and preservation always with the idea of sharing.

EJ: Could you elaborate a bit about any other similarities among the three raffle quilts?

KM: The quilts are all collaborations; the combining of the "voices” involved in the making of these quilts. All were machine quilted by professional quilters on longarm quilting machines. All have a date on them. All of them represent a commitment to the greater mission of quilts.

EJ: The collaboration with a mission is so vital to The Alliance, how would you like to see that continue through this quilt once it is won?

KM: I would love for the winner to become involved or at least support the mission. The first quilt was won by our pro bono attorney of over 10 years. It was so exciting and it hangs in a very prominent place in his house. The second quilt was won by a friend of a board member. Actually, the board member, Justine Richardson, gifted the ticket to her. Unfortunately, we have not heard from the winner since she won. I suspect that will be true of this one too. However, that is okay. It will live on by being on our website where people can also read the story behind them. I just hope the quilts will be loved by the people who win them. Oh, and I hope people will let me visit them if I'm ever in their neighborhood.

EJ: The importance of the posting of these raffle quilts as well as quilts that have yet to be discovered and their makers stories told is summed up in your last statement. It is interesting that Yvonne started the quilt and you continued from her sketch - could you tell me how the colors were decided and set in the way they were?

KM: There was no plan at least not for me. I simply tried to balance the color and value so your eye keeps moving and looking at the entire quilt. I actually changed one corner that Yvonne did because it was too orange so your eye kept going to that corner. I also added stars and dots to Yvonne's part for the same reason. So, while Yvonne made the layout, I made changes and adjustments which is why it is the "voice of you and me."

EJ: The quilt does hold one's interest and keeps you focused on its different elements. It is successful in being the "voice of you and me." You had also mentioned you hoped all the raffle quilts would be "loved" what do you feel constitutes loving a quilt?

KM: I certainly hope that the raffle quilts reflect not only Yvonne and me but the different people who have quilted them. We have all worked toward the common
goals of creating something beautiful and that supports something we care about--The Alliance for American Quilts. As for as what constitutes loving a quilt, just the other day I had a non-quilt friend tell me that he had won a quilt in a raffle. He didn't particularly like the quilt let alone love it. When I asked him to describe it to me, all he could say was that it was 'green.' This is not loving a quilt. He couldn't even tell me what his plans were for the quilt. I hope that the person who wins this quilt would be thrilled to not only own it but display it. I would hope that they would be so happy to own it that they would spread the word not only about the quilt but the mission behind it.

EJ: What is the procedure and is anything else sent when the winner of the raffle quilt is selected?

KM: I am having a party at my home. I live in Illinois but the drawing must legally take place in Kentucky so Shelly Zegart, the president of The Alliance, will do the drawing. I'll have the phone on speaker so everyone at the party can hear the name of the winner. I did this two years ago and it was a lot of fun. And as far as anything else besides a letter, we do send them copies of the interviews so they have the stories behind the quilt. We also take their picture or have them take a picture and put it up on the website.

EJ: So, the winner becomes part of the quilt's "history" as well? Could you give some ideas of how to best display the quilt and care for it when it is not being displayed?

KM: The quilt comes with a four-inch sleeve for easy hanging. I use curtain rods to hang my quilts because they expand to whatever size I need. Other people use wooden slates. These need to be painted so the oil from the wood does not migrate to the quilt. I would suggest that the quilt not be hung in direct sunlight as it will fade. I would not recommend that it be washed. When not in use, I keep my large quilts on my guest bed with a sheet over them to keep them dust free. I have others rolled and in closet with muslin over them. I don't recommend storing in plastic. I can only hope that these quilts will be displayed and loved. They don't have to be put away. Does that answer your question?

EJ: Yes, thank you. Was your part of the quilt done by machine or by hand?

KM: I did things by machine; hand and I fused depending on what I thought would work best. I am open to all techniques and sometimes due to time restrictions I will fuse. That was true of this quilt as with the first one. The 2004 quilt was all hand appliquéd by both of us.

EJ: What aspects of quilting on a whole do you like the best?

KM: I'm a process person. For me it is truly the journey that makes me the happiest. Creating allows me to be in the moment and the whole world just disappears.

EJ: How long did your portion of the journey on the raffle quilt take and how did that compare with the overall timeframe from concept to completion?

KM: This quilt came together very quickly but it had to because of a deadline. Also, I'm more comfortable with the whole process. I no longer fear making Yvonne unhappy.

EJ: So overall how do you feel this process affects the relationships of the people involved in joining their "voice" to this quilt?

KM: I'm not sure it does. Yvonne has never put any pressure on me. That I did all to myself. There is no relationship with Yvonne and the women who have done the quilting but there is a relationship to me. Unfortunately, it has not made those relationships stronger. I'm not sure entirely why except that we all live busy lives. Am I answering your question? I'm not sure what you want to know.

EJ: Yes. Is there anything else you would like people to know about this quilt, any questions that you could think of that I didn't ask?

KM: The mountains and trees, etc. represent Asheville, North Carolina where The Alliance's office will be moving to next year. The block with the bird was also in our second quilt (only contemporary this time) and it is a bridge to the past and our attempt at a more traditional style quilt. That particular block is also available to our members. I also hope that people will support the quilt for many reasons.

EJ: Yes, in supporting the quilt much will be able to be accomplished. If someone were sent a copy of this interview and the picture by way of a printout through the mail how would they be able to support the quilt?

KM: They can go to the website which is www.centerforthequilt.org where all the details can be found.

EJ: Thank you Karen for sharing the story of this wonderful quilt for the Quilter's S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project.

KM: Thanks for interviewing me!



“Karen Musgrave,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 19, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1441.