Mary Wollenhaupt




Mary Wollenhaupt




Mary Wollenhaupt


Marlene McDerment

Interview Date


Interview sponsor


Belmar in Lakewood, Colorado


Marlene McDerment


Note: Mary Wollenhaupt is not a member of the DAR. And while this is a DAR quiltmaker documentation project, membership within the DAR is not required for participation.

Marlene McDerment (MM): My name is Marlene McDerment, and today's date is January 28, 2008, at 1:30 p.m. I am conducting an interview with Mary Wollenhaupt at Lakewood Heritage Center - Belmar in Lakewood, Colorado for the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Colorado State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Mary Wollenhaupt is a quilter who belongs to the Lakewood Heritage Quilters. Mary.

Mary Wollenhaupt (MW): The quilt I have brought in today is a quilt that I made for my grandson Kyle, and it is a tee shirt quilt. So, I asked Kyle to start saving tee shirts that meant something to him, and I incorporated those into a quilt. And, basically cut out twelve-inch blocks from the part of the tee shirt that I wanted to preserve. I backed it with a fusible material. And it is for his graduation from high school. I finished it early so I actually gave it to him for Christmas. So, it's a very special quilt in that Kyle is a special grandson, and he is going to be stepping out of his high school years and he is an athlete, so you will see the quilt actually has a lot of information in it about lacrosse and it also has a picture of Kyle, and that is special. So, the quilt is very meaningful, not only to me, but hopefully to him.

I chose the quilt because I've made numerous tee shirt quilts for all but one of my grandchildren, and I'm working on collecting tee shirts for that one, and I also made a tee shirt quilt for the daughter of a friend of mine when she graduated from high school. So, it's sort of a fun exercise and I've enjoyed doing that. Hopefully, when someone looks at this quilt what they would conclude about me, and it's obvious, that I think a lot of my grandson, and my other grandchildren, too, and wanted to do something for them that would live in perpetuity, and they would remember me when I'm not here.

He uses the quilt probably daily even though, I suppose, I hope it is in fairly good shape when he graduates because I'd like him to display it at his graduation party. But I know that he is already using it and enjoying it, which is what it's for. It's not to just be put somewhere to look at, it is to keep the person warm, and to be colorful, and all of the rest.

I've been interested in quilt making for a long time. I had an aunt who lived in Eastern Colorado, lived on a farm, and she did a lot of quilting. I visited her in Akron, Colorado, and she made beautiful quilts. I can remember, I was probably-- [cough.]

MM: We can edit that.

MW: I thought when I looked at her quilts that I someday wanted to do that. I suppose I was maybe in my, maybe my thirties. I wasn't like just real young, but I wasn't old at the time. She didn't actually teach me quilt making, but I think some of her work inspired me. And I've always liked to sew. That I learned when I was in junior high school. I took a home economics class, and made a project, and enjoyed sewing, and I have sewn all my life. Making clothing for my daughter, making drapes, making little projects. I've always enjoyed the time sewing. About the time that I retired from my career, it was my goal, since I knew that I would have time to learn quilting. And so, I did that.

I had a friend who was also interested in quilting. She had actually made a couple of quilts, and shared some of the patterns with me, and we took a class together at the Arvada Senior Center. I was probably about fifty-eight years old when I really, seriously, started quilting.

I think quilting is an exercise that evolves. I did learn a lot in the class that I took, and it sort of started, got me started, to be aware of quilt patterns, and how you would go about doing quilts. Other than my aunt in Eastern Colorado, who quilted, I can't think of anyone else in my family who quilted. Obviously, my connection to sewing was something that spurred me on in the quilting area.

My friends do quilt. That's something that, I guess, quilters find other quilters and they get together and they do quilt together. And they do quilt together and that's a very enjoyable exercise.

Quilt making impacts family, I think, in a positive way. In that most quilters, I think, make quilts for other people. They don't keep necessarily, keep their quilts. The quilts that they make are given away. I don't think I have a quilt, yet, that I've kept for myself. My husband keeps asking me when I'm gonna make one for keeping for myself. I'm working on that.

The quilts that I have made, it's an exercise that I find to be very relaxing, to be very satisfying, a way in which I believe women, and there are men who quilt, are able to express artistic inclinations through their quilting. And that's kinda fun. I don't paint or do other artistic endeavors, and that really satisfies me, and gives me a sense of accomplishment, and it has opened up a lot of avenues for me.

I belong to two quilting bee groups. They're not really guilds, they would be, I guess, defined as quilting bees. One group is comprised of people that I formerly worked with, and others. We meet once a month, and we share what we're doing, we work on projects. Currently we're hand quilting a Dresden Plate pattern quilt that we each made two blocks for. It's a slow process because we are quilting it by hand. But it is a learning process, and very social. It's very much a social outlet for the ladies in that group. It is also, sort of a sharing experience. We have show-and-tell where the ladies bring projects that they've been working on. We share different techniques, patterns, different material, websites, new technology. For example, the tee shirt quilt that I made for my grandson, one of the ladies learned how you use photographs, and put the photographs on fabric. I was able to incorporate that in the tee shirt quilt that is the quilt that I brought. We're always learning, and we're always fun. We always just support one another. It's sort of support one another, and it's sort of a little family group.

The other group that I belong to is the Lakewood Heritage Quilters. I've belonged to that for, probably, nine months or so. My main motivation for joining the group is that I did want to learn more about quilting, and I wanted to learn about hand quilting. This group does fantastic work. They bring quilts that have sat in someone's cedar chest, for thirty or forty years, to life. And make them a quilt top that someone has brought in, make that quilt top into a quilt, and a thing of beauty, and a thing of usefulness. It's amazing to me that how many people are out there who have quilt tops that either they have made, their grandmother has made, their great-grandmother has made, and it has never been made into a quilt. It's just a quilt top. And so, I really support the idea of getting those items out of the cedar chest and getting them finished. There are a lot of ladies who begin a quilt top and never finish it. We talk about finishing projects. It really helps to have that little push if you are stuck or need help with something. That's so helpful to have a group to give you ideas and to sort of encourage you to go along.

Quilts sort of evolve. I find that I have to be in the mood to quilt. I have taken over the basement of our house, according to my husband. And that's okay because you really do need a space in which to quilt. You need a space in which to keep your material, and what you collect. Quilters collect fabric and all sorts of things. You need space to keep all those things. That has been, I'm glad I have the space to work in that I do have.

As far as putting together a great quilt, I think I have seen a lot of beautiful quilts. The people who have made the quilts have a lot more expertise than I have, but the color, the idea, the flow of the quilts, the quilting on the quilts, there are so many things that go into that. Some of the quilts, just the quilting on them alone, is outstanding. The design and the color, and I think a great quiltmaker is able to put all of those elements together. The design, the color, the actual quilting that goes on it. I've gone to many quilt shows and admired the work that people are able to do and it's very inspiring to see that.

Quilt making has become important in my life because I have the time to devote to it now that I'm in retirement. I find it a satisfying way of expressing my artistic goals and feeling a sense of accomplishment. Besides the actual quilts, the process of spending time with ladies, such as at the Lakewood Heritage Quilters, where we work together, and we visit, and we have lunch, and we talk about everything, it's very relaxing. It's a very social event. I think quilting for me, I enjoy quilting alone but I especially enjoy quilting in the groups that I belong to. That's very special to me.

Quilts, I believe, have special meaning for the history of our country because we can look at the quilts and see quilts that have endured for years and years. And show, for example, quilts that have been made from feed sacks that our grandmothers used to have. Quilts that have been made out of clothing that family members have worn. That's, I think, is tremendous for the historical record of our county. And, I know, early on, especially in the south the quilts were used to communicate. In the case of African Americans, when they were involved in the struggle for their freedom, they communicated with their quilts. I find that extremely interesting.

Basically, for families, I think it's a great, quilts can have a great impact because it unifies, sort of as a common thread that is there. Not everybody appreciates quilts, but I know I've probably made quilts for my sisters, my brother, my children, my grandchildren, my friends, and hopefully they would remember me by those quilts that I've made. I've made quilts for babies, and baby showers, and wedding showers, and it's just extremely satisfying to give something to someone that you have made yourself.

In the area of challenge for quiltmakers, I can speak for myself. I'm a little bit stymied because I find that the materials that go into quilts, for me, have become harder to obtain. As popular as quilting is today, one would think there would be more outlets for fabrics and patterns, and all. I do not find that to be so. I find that certain large chains are discontinuing their fabric sections, which makes me very sad because I'm always looking for fabric. Some fabric companies have closed their stores in certain areas of our location, and that makes me very sad because I feel as though I have to really go further. A lot of the women in the groups I belong to are able to go online and locate fabric that way. I'm not a person that does that very easily. I have to see it and touch it. I find it a very tactile part. That doesn't work too well for me doing the fabric search on the internet.

So, concluding, I just have to say that quilting is, has, become a large part of my life, and will continue to be so as long as my eyesight keeps holding up, and I enjoy it tremendously.

MM: Mary, I'd like to ask a question about the quilt you've brought today.

MW: Okay.

MM: The colors that you have used, are those symbolic of the school colors of your grandson?

MW: Yes, yes, they are.

MM: Can you elaborate for me?

MW: He's graduating from Mullen High School in Denver.

MM: How's that spelled?

MW: Mullen. Their colors are gold and sort of a dark navy. The sashing between the squares is done in a flannel which is blue and gold. The binding is done in a gold cotton fabric and it's significant of the school colors. It's bright and cheerful.

MM: What is your grandson's name?

MW: Kyle. [MM and ME speak at the same time.] Kyle Wollenhaupt.

MM: Excellent.

MW: Class of 2008.

MM: You say he plays lacrosse, and what other sports.

MW: He plays lacrosse. Basically, he plays lacrosse. And he was chosen an All-American Lacrosse Player in his junior year. He's a great lacrosse player, and he's going to the University of Denver on a lacrosse scholarship. He's a very accomplished lacrosse player.

MM: So, the quilt has even more meaning because it's symbolizing what his accomplishments are.

MW: Exactly. Exactly.

MM: You talked about flow of color earlier. Did you consider the flow of color when you were creating this quilt?

MW: Actually, with a tee shirt quilt, it's pretty much determined by the tee shirts that one has to work with. I've tried to break up the color in the shirts as how the placement of them in the quilt. But the colors are pretty much pre-determined by the shirts that I get from the grandchildren or whomever.

MM: [laughs.] Their favorites, as you say.

MW: Yes. Yes.

MM: Okay. Mary, do you have anything else that you would like to add today?

MW: I think that I've pretty much covered what I would say about the impact that quilting has had for me. I know as far as time, how much time do I spend quilting? Well, I've been working on quilts, some nights, into the wee hours of the morning. Other times, not so much. It sort of depends on what you have to work on, and if you're working towards a deadline, a birthday, or a graduation, or something like that. I would hope that I could quilt every day. That would make me very happy.

MM: I'm going to ask you some personal questions. Do you sleep under a quilt yourself? I know you said you've given a lot of yours away.

MW: I do. When I take my little snoozes on the sofa, I always have a quilt that I put over me. It's sort of my napping quilt.

MM: Ah, hah. Is this one that you've made for yourself then?

MW: Yes. Yes, yes.

MM: Can you tell me a little bit about that, and what the inspiration was on that one, for that quilt?

MW: I made some quilts early on using, most quilters are familiar with Eleanor Burn's Log Cabin pattern. I had made numerous quilts like that. The quilt that I have, it's very colorful, it's reds and whites and blacks. It has black polka dots, it has black stripes, and white and red, and it's backed in flannel so it's very soft, and comfortable, and it's a neat quilt.

MM: It's your fun quilt, wonderful. Is there any other quilt that comes to mind that you would like to talk about?

MW: Some of the quilts that I've put together, for my sisters for example, I really planned, asked them their colors, and tried to incorporate the color schemes of their bedrooms. Those have been special. I made a quilt for my brother in which he had a fabric that was actually on a chair, upholstery. I was able to get scraps of that and incorporate that into the quilt. That made it special.

The very first quilt that I made, I made for my mother. My mother was in an assisted living place, and it was a log cabin quilt. It had reds and blues, and very bright. I would go to visit her, and I would not see the quilt on her bed. Invariably, I would find the quilt in the closet. I would ask her why the quilt wasn't on her bed. She would say, 'I don't want to get it dirty. I don't want anything to happen to it.' I would take it out of the closet, put it on her bed, and next time I'd visit her it would be in the closet again. I finally convinced her that she should leave it on her bed. She finally said, well, she was afraid someone would take it. I said to her, if someone takes it, I'll make you another one. A quilt is to be used, it is to be enjoyed, and she did leave it on her bed after that.

MM: You made it with love.

MW: Right, right.

MM: Love was coming to her every time she used it.

MW: Right, right.

MM: Wonderful, wonderful. Anything else, Mary, that you would like to share?

MW: I think that's pretty much what I have to say. [laughing.]

MM: [laughs.] I'd like to thank Mary Wollenhaupt for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 1:48 p.m. on January 28, 2008.

[interview concludes.]


“Mary Wollenhaupt,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 19, 2024,