Annie Strivers




Annie Strivers




Annie Strivers


Evelyn Salinger

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Le Rowell


Washington, D.C.


Evelyn Salinger


[This interview took place in the loft above the meeting room. There was continuous murmurs and laughter from the Daughters of Dorcas meeting downstairs.]

Evelyn Salinger (ES): Today is March 15, 2005, and we are interviewing Annie Strivers in Northeast, DC. Her number is 20002.011. The interviewer is Evelyn Salinger.

Annie Strivers (AS): Hello. How are you today?

ES: [laughs.] It's nice of you to come and be ready to answer today. I would like to talk about the beautiful quilts you brought in front of us here. Let's describe the big one here first. Will you describe it for us?

AS: This is a Celtic design that I made for my daughter. We [the Daughters of Dorcas.] had one for a raffle quilt and she fell in love with it, but she didn't win the prize. So, I decided I would make one for her. She wanted the white background instead of the off-white and it has the African fabrics in it. Most of the bias that I used around the African fabric I made by hand, because I find it's much easier doing it yourself than trying to use the ready-made bias tape.

ES: Do you fold it under so that it's got a seam underneath it?

AS: Yes, your seam is underneath of it. That way you only see what's on the top where you join it to your fabrics.

ES: And this came from a design in a book that you found?

AS: Yes, it came from a Celtic book ["The Celtic Quilt Design" by Philomena Wiechec.] that had designs in it. And I picked out the ones that I preferred doing.

ES: That's beautiful. So that was all hand work, all that binding and all the piecing.

AS: Yes, all that is hand work. I prefer doing my quilts by hand.

ES: But I think the quilting here is by machine.

AS: No. It's all hand quilted.

ES: It's so tiny! [laughs.] Believe me I thought it was by machine.

AS: No, that's hand quilted.

ES: That's fantastic! [laughs.] People must say that to you all the time. How many to an inch, I could not tell you--

AS: I don't know.

ES: But it is--that's the smallest--that is amazing. And what did you have inside? Did you have a batting?

AS: Yes, I have the batting inside. Uh-huh.

ES: That's amazing! Well, you made this, as you say, for your daughter and you have the date on it someplace.

AS: It's December 2000.

ES: Is there a title for this quilt? What would your title be?

AS: No, I didn't have a title. It's just that it was something that she wanted, so it was made especially for my daughter.

ES: Okay. Well, it's wonderful. Now, is she using it?

AS: Not really, other than, you know, [laughs.] wanting to find somewhere to hang it. Right now, she doesn't--

ES: She doesn't really want to use it on a bed she wants to use it as a wall hanging.

AS: No, she wants to use it as a wall hanging.

ES: But this is a full-size quilt--

AS: Yes, it is. Uh-huh.

ES: That is beautiful, Annie, just lovely. And the other fabrics that you use, the sampler, the little bits and pieces in here, are they from scraps that you had?

AS: Some of them were exchange fabrics within the group. A lot of times, you can ask someone if they have African fabrics, they are willing to share with you, and that way you don't have to buy quite as much, unless you have a large project.

ES: Right, because you really didn't need very much of any one of these.

AS: Yes, Uh-huh.

ES: Well, that is a work of art.

AS: Thank you. [laughs.]

ES: Do you like to do all hand work?

AS: Yes, I do. I prefer the hand work to using the machine. Using the machine to me is a job. [laughs.] That's why I prefer the hand work.

ES: How long did it take you to do something like this?

AS: I think it took me about 10 months to finish it.

ES: That is super, especially with all this quilting. Do you use a hoop or a frame or--

AS: I use the frame. I don't have a regular quilting frame, I just use one of the aluminum hoops, you call it, but I call it a frame.

ES: How large can you do on it?

AS: It's not much larger than, I would say, size 14-inch block.

ES: Oh, okay. So, you had to be moving it a lot.

AS: Yes, you move it a lot.

ES: And the backing here, I saw in the little patch that you put on the back of it--a beautiful patch with its little orange frame in which you document the quilt.

AS: Yes.

ES: So, you have photographs of this, I hope?

AS: Yes, I do. [laughs.]

ES: Let's discuss the other little one that you brought here. And that is again, a piece of art. What do we call this one, now?

AS: That's a miniature Baltimore Album quilt, but you are using silk ribbons along with your other threads. [noise.] The silk ribbons are really where you used to make the flowers that are on these designs, and I added some pearls to it.

ES: Yes. This is used as a wall hanging, I would think.

AS: Uh-huh.

ES: Again, the stitching, all this work is really fantastic. Now, do you make all these little flowers yourself?

AS: Yes. All of those are handmade.

ES: Now, where did you learn to do the flowers?

AS: Well, it was the instructions in the book that I got all of my patterns from. They had the instructions there as to how to make the different kinds of flowers that are on there.

ES: So, did you learn to do that as you made this quilt? Or did you practice beforehand?

AS: I learned as I went along. [laughs.]

ES: Well, you have done a beautiful job. So, each little square is probably, what, five inches, or four and a half square?


AS: Yes. Four and a half or five-inch block.

ES: So, you have twenty-five of these and each little one is a different sampler piece, and then you made this beautiful border that goes all around, again with a little appliquéd little flower.

AS: Little stems along with the little leaves, yeah.

ES: The leaves are appliquéd?

AS: Uh-huh.

ES: That is fantastic. For whom did you make this?

AS: Well, I just made that to show at the exhibits that we have at the Sumner [Museum.]. I did not make it for anybody special.

ES: Has it hung at the Sumner, already?

AS: Yes, it has been to the Sumner, already.

ES: Oh. What year did you say you finished this?

AS: This is December 2002.

ES: I don't know where to begin here, this is all so beautiful. The back on this one we should say is cream with little red flowers in it. What are your earliest memories of quilts and quilters?

AS: I never quilted until I retired. And I came to the group in January of 1990. And I saw the piece in the newspaper about the group and I came, and I had never quilted before, but I didn't mind sewing, so I thought I would give it a try, and everybody was so nice. They helped and I made an Amish quilt for my first quilt. Yes. And after that I was hooked. [laughs.]

ES: You had some sewing skills from your past--

AS: Well, really, other than something that I had in school that was the only--it's something that they taught in school here when you were in junior high school, but otherwise than that, no.

ES: So, did you have any person that you saw, who was a quilter--

AS: No. Nobody in my family at all was a quilter. [laughs.]

ES: Amazing. I guess I would like to know, when did you come to Washington, D.C.?

AS: I am a native Washingtonian. [laughs heartily.]

ES: You are. You are an unusual one.

AS: Yes, I am.

ES: So, you went to school here?

AS: Yes, I went to school in Washington.

ES: What did you do when you finished your school? Did you go further?

AS: Well, really, I had two years at Morgan State, but I decided to get married instead of finishing, so after that, I stayed home a couple of years before I went to work. I worked 30 years and retired. Yes.

ES: And when did you retire?

AS: In December of 1989.

ES: And so, this quilt group here, you came just like the next year? [banging noises.]

AS: Yeah, the next month.

ES: But you didn't know anybody here at the group?

AS: No, I didn't know anybody at all, no. I just saw the photo in the newspaper talking about the group and I thought it might be something, because I was looking for something to sort of occupy my time during the day, until I was used to being home. And I enjoyed it.

ES: What did you do on those thirty years that you worked? Do you mind telling us?

AS: I worked at the post office.

ES: Oh. You were an employee of the post office?

AS: Yes. [laughs.]

ES: Good for you. After you got started here, what did you find that is your favorite part of quilting? Obviously, you do appliqué. What are your favorite parts?

AS: I really don't have a favorite part. I just like the idea of them bringing in new designs and things for you to learn about, because you always see something that you wonder how it's put together because now, they had a Bargello class. And when they had that, I was amazed at how you put the Bargello quilt together. And once we had the class, and I understood, then it made sense. But just to look at one off-distance you wouldn't realize that it was put together like that.

ES: Did you do a Bargello [quilt.] when they did that?

AS: Yes. Now, that's one quilt that I had to do on the sewing machine in order to make it come out right. [laughs.]

ES: So how many quilts do you figure, about one a year since you joined or more?

AS: I made at least ten full size quilts along with the other wall hangings and the projects for the baby quilts, and what not that we've made.

ES: And I know you are quite involved with taking photographs of everything that comes along. Tell us about that.

AS: Well, I have about two photo boxes of pictures over the years. And I like to go back every now and then to look at what we've accomplished during that time. And then I have some of the different classes that we've had. It's amazing to go back and look, 'Oh, yes, I remember this.'

ES: You really have been the historian of this group. [AS laughs.] And that's going to be very valuable some time. Really.

AS: Oh, yes.

ES: And then do you keep an album of your own quilts?

AS: Yes. I always keep an album of the things that I've made. Yes.

ES: Now, I think you are even an officer of the Daughters of Dorcas. Officially.

AS: Yes. I am officially the treasurer of the group. I think, as of 2003, the treasurer passed away and they decided to elect me as the new treasurer. And it's a responsibility that you have to keep touch with everything.

ES: Every single week I see you taking things in and giving out—and so forth.

AS: Yes.

ES: How does the quilting impact your family? What does your family think about this?

AS: Well, really, other than wanting me to make something for them, because I've made quilts for my brother, my cousins, and what not, because I prefer making them for family and friends, more so giving that as a gift than try to sell them, because nobody wants to pay for your time. And I feel that, if you are willing to accept something that I want to make and give to you, okay. But if you want to buy something, I'm not willing to go through the process of making something for you to buy. It's too time consuming and everybody want to know if it's ready, now. And you don't need that pressure. [laughs.]

ES: How much time in a week do you figure you spend on quilting?

AS: Well, really it all depends on the project that I'm in. If I'm on something that has a deadline, I imagine every day I spend two or three hours trying to meet that deadline. But if it's something that I don't have a deadline for, it's no definite time as to how much I do, because really, I am into family research. So, if I don't have anything really pressing, I'll start out with the family research, instead of working on the quilts.

ES: Family research, means you are going to archives or--

AS: Yes, I'm going to archives, I've been to Richmond, and to North Carolina, and Raleigh. So really, it's time consuming, but it's something that I like to do.

ES: Have you found out some interesting things about your family?

AS: Yes, I have. [laughs.] Because, really, once I got interested, my mother could not tell me who her grandmother was, and once I found her father's marriage application, I found out what her grandmother's name was. Because she said her grandmother died and they didn't really talk that much about her. So, I did find out that type of information that I didn't know at first. But it's very interesting.

ES: You said that you don't really sell things, but have you entered shows?

AS: No, other than our regular exhibit at the Sumner School, I haven't ever entered a show.

ES: Are there any stories or experiences about quilters or quilting that you'd like to share? Anything from the early years when you first came here?

AS: Well, other than having a lot of people that were willing to help you, I found that interesting. And I found that sooner or later I found myself doing the same thing to newcomers—trying to help where I could. Because you'll find that a lot of people think that making a quilt is easy. In a way of speaking, it is, but you have to have the basics. And a lot of them will come in not knowing the basics. And then we've seen some come in, they're in a rush to do their project but they're not willing to take the time to do the measuring and get everything right. And you have to tell them, 'That's not right. You have to take it apart.' [laughs.] Yes.

ES: That's a hard thing to do, isn't it?

AS: That's the hard part. Yes, it is.

ES: But people appreciate it in the long run, I think.

AS: Uh-huh. Yes.

ES: I usually ask the general question, how has quilting had meaning for the American woman--or men?

AS: Well, really, a lot of them consider it an art. And then you have those that make the quilts just to have something to put on the bed for the family. And theirs will be made a little different than those who consider it an art.

ES: For yourself, you consider it as your art?

AS: Yes, this is my art. [laughs.]

ES: You already gave a little advice to new quilters; do you have any other things that you'd like to say about what new quilters need to know?

AS: Well, really, no. It's something that you have to have patience, because if you do not have the patience, and be willing to work with something, it makes a big difference.

ES: Recently, you have started working as the coordinator for our raffle quilt.

AS: Well really, the raffle quilt we're making this year, I got quite a bit of cooperation from the members and we have our quilt together, now we're going about trying to get people to help quilt it. I am hoping that within the next couple of months, we'll have it completely quilted. So that we can take some photos and start selling tickets.

ES: Will you describe the pattern that you used this time?

AS: This year, our pattern is a fan that has a heart on it instead of the regular semi-circle. And it's on point instead of being a regular in a square.

ES: So, it's on the diagonal.

AS: Yes.

ES: And the colors that you've chosen--

AS: We have the multi-color fan, and your heart is sort of a deep red. And we put it on a white floral background. Your sashing is in royal blue. On the borders we have royal blue with a paisley blue and white border.

ES: Very colorful. And you chose all the fabrics so that all the fans are the same.

AS: Yes, all of the fans are the same and each one is made by a different person.

ES: Very nice. Have you thought about people signing their names, on the open spot on each fan?

AS: I don't think it would work, because some people would not know who they were. If one of the members of the group [banging.] won, the quilt then they would know who it was. But otherwise, then that you are giving it to someone else, I don't think they would appreciate it.

ES: You're right.

AS: Because we did have a group where we made individual blocks, and each week somebody would win a block. Now, they signed their names into that block, but that was staying within the group. So, you didn't mind that, because you knew that was your block that you were going to keep.

ES: Do you belong to any other quilt groups or any other craft group?

AS: No, I don't.

ES: Are there some hobbies that you have besides your genealogy one?

AS: Other than flowers. I love flowers. But I'm into cacti [laughs.] more than regular flowers.

ES: Neat. Do you have things blooming at different times?

AS: Yes. At different times they are blooming.

ES: Have you ever seen cacti in their own environment?

AS: Yes. I have, because I've been to Arizona, and I've seen a lot of them out there. Yes.

ES: They can be very beautiful. Some of us in the East do not always appreciate them.

AS: I just went to the flower show in Philadelphia last week, and quite a few of the cacti won quite a few first places.

ES: Have you ever placed any of yours into a show?

AS: Well, other than the cacti group that I used to belong to, I had won several first prizes with my plants. Yeah.

ES: How nice. Do you generate new ones from little pieces--

AS: Yes, you can, but I haven't been generating too many because I don't have that much space. And I have them growing under lights. So, you have to eliminate some of your [laughs.] excess in order to keep what you have. Yeah.

ES: Now, you mentioned that you have the one daughter.

AS: I have two daughters and two sons.

ES: Have you made quilts now for everybody?

AS: No. I have one that I'm finishing up for my son. He lives in Florida. But right now, I don't think he wants a quilt, but we'll see.

ES: He can hang it up as a decoration.

AS: Yes.

ES: He doesn't need it for warmth.

AS: Yeah.

ES: So, this has been a source of happiness for you.

AS: Yes, because I find it very relaxing. That's why I like to do it by hand because I can sit in the chair and relax and work on this, whereas if I'm on the machine, I'm steadily pushing a button or something trying to get a line straight. I just don't call that relaxing. [laughs.]

ES: Well, this has been very interesting. Is there anything else that I should have asked you?

AS: Other than the fact that I've shown my quilts at the Mayor's office, Decatur House and the Sumner. Yes.

ES: Oh, good. The Mayor's office, is that at a particular time?

AS: Well, we were in Mayor's office--I don't really know what year.

ES: Was it the present mayor? Or Marion Barry?

AS: Well, Barry. It was in Barry's office. But I also made a block with a bowtie on it for the present Mayor Williams. And then I made a block for the National Council of Negro Women, the Tabitha House, the Armistead ship. Then we helped the children at Houston School make a wall hanging for their school. And then I worked with the Girl Scouts at the Smithsonian. We made baby quilts to donate. And we sent quilts to the people that were in the flood in North Carolina. Yes.

ES: Have you been a teacher of quilting in these particular ones, like the school project?

AS: We worked with the Girl Scouts at the Anacostia Museum. We would have people that we were teaching along with the Sumner School. We had students there that we were teaching how to make a Nine Patch block.

ES: You went as a group of two or three teachers?

AS: Yes. We went as a group from the Daughters of Dorcas. Yes. But the Nine Patch is usually your easiest block when you have a time limit of how to show somebody to put something together. Now, when we go to the Smithsonian, usually we have more time so we can carry more different things there and go according to the sewing skills that the person has as to what kind of block we give them.

ES: I don't understand about the Smithsonian. Is that part of a class or the folk festival?

AS: This was, I'm trying to remember, I know we worked with Girl Scouts when we went to the Smithsonian, but I'm trying to think whether it was during Girl Scout Month that we went there to work with the Girl Scouts.

ES: And was it more than one time?

AS: It was one day. We had a whole day, but we had different groups at different times during the day.

ES: You certainly have a wonderful output [laughs.] and outlook as well. And I hope that you continue the enjoyment of quilting.

AS: Yes, I hope so, too.

ES: And thanks so much for being interviewed today.

AS: Thank you.


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