Edna Kotrola




Edna Kotrola




Edna Kotrola


Heather Gibson

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The National Quilting Association


Newark, Delaware


Heather Gibson


Heather Gibson (HG): It is Tuesday, July 25, 2000. This is Heather Gibson and I'm talking to Edna Kotrola in her home in Newark, Delaware. And first of all Edna, does this quilt have a title that's in front of us?

Edna Kotrola (EK): It's Tumbling Blocks.

HG: Tumbling Blocks. Is that a traditional pattern, or one that you created?

EK: It's a traditional pattern, and it--I deliberately did it in rainbow because it's for a baby. And I wanted nice bright colors but I wanted it to fade into a rainbow. And it's completely hand done. There is no machine stitching on it.

HG: Can you talk a bit about where you get your fabrics?

EK: In Lancaster if I can. I like the variety, and I like the fact that there--I mean I have my favorite shops there, but there are lots and lots more that I haven't discovered. So I like going there for fabric.

HG: Did you do any surface design or was the fabric already like this?

EK: It was already like that. This particular quilt--just a little bit about it. It's English paper-piecing. And, where you cut--I use index cards--and you cut an index card for each diamond, and then you wrap the fabric around it and baste it onto it, and then stitch them together. And when it's stitched all around you take the basting out and pull the card out.

HG: Where did you learn that technique?

EK: I don't know. Years ago. My grandmother's favorite quilt was Grandmother's Flower Garden and that is English paper piecing. And I never could find directions for making it. Back when I started quilting there were no classes. You just kind of picked it up. And I picked up a British magazine one time and they had the directions for English paper piecing. And I've been doing it ever since.

HG: When did you first learn to quilt, and from who?

EK: My grandmother quilted. I had one grandmother who quilted a lot, and I had another grandmother who quilted just to prove that she could, and then never did it again. But neither one of them taught me. I think they taught me a love of it, and my grandmother who quilted especially. And she was such a perfectionist. And I liked seeing what she did with fabric. I've worked with fabric all my life. I just started quilting seriously probably about fifteen years ago, but I made my first quilt when I was sixteen. And I knew nothing about it. I made it out of left-over upholstery fabric. It was really ugly.

HG: Do you still have it?

EK: No, I wish I did. I really wish I did.

HG: Did your mother quilt?

EK: No.

HG: Do you have a first memory of a quilt?

EK: Well, yeah, my grandmother did the Sunbonnet Sue. And I always used that quilt when I went over to her house. And it's such a simple pattern, you know. And I remember I used to trace it and think that I could probably draw it, which I couldn't, but... When I teach we always do Sunbonnet Sue in the sampler that everybody makes. That's one of the pieces that they do to learn to appliqué. But, as I said, I suppose from her--from watching her quilt.

HG: Can you talk a little bit about your experience teaching quilting?

EK: Well I started- it's really interesting I think, because I started teaching--first off, I've been on the internet probably for about six years. And when I first went on I think I did what a lot of other quilters did. I just was gathering as many--getting involved in as many quilt groups as I could. And I got involved in an exchange. And the one I got involved in was a row-by-row, which was started by a bunch of quilters in Nebraska. The advantage they had was that they all knew each other. These on the internet- the woman who started them probably went up to 150 groups before they kind of fell by the wayside. But what you would do is buy fabric for your quilt, and make the first row. Mine had to be eighty inches wide--with--I used eight-inch blocks. And that set the tone for the quilt. And then you would send it on. And you sent it on- it went to nine different women. And they didn't attach the rows. They just did their row and when you got it back you put it together. And the first quilt I got was absolutely gorgeous, but the work that I saw as it came was really bad. And what struck me--I have a real problem with the quilt-in-a-day stuff, where people jump in. Quilting's not something you do in a day. I personally like the entire process, from designing to measuring to cutting to sewing--I mean everything. But these women were like throwing things together and it was that whole attitude of quilt-in-a-day. And they had not learned the basic stuff. And I didn't set myself up as an expert quilter, but I certainly knew the basic stuff. So I started teaching traditional- basic, traditional quilting. And we've moved on now with the groups. We do other things, but certainly my reasoning for doing it was to give people a foundation. And I don't--I think quilting is an art and I don't think you can teach an art. But if you were teaching an art class you would teach someone how to mix paint well, okay, so that's what I do with quilting. I try and show them so many basic things that once they have that they can just go off and do...And I have women who become art quilters, which is real non-traditional stuff. But whatever--each person who comes has a talent or leans in a certain direction, and you just encourage and let them go that way. But it was because of the really awful work that I saw that I started teaching

HG: Do you think much higher quality work is done when it's one-on-one contact with people, than when it's--

EK: Well, not necessarily. I don't even think you need a teacher. I think you just need a desire to do it well. And if you have your eye on the finished product, you probably won't do it well. If you totally enjoy each part of it, then the end-product will come out very well. But if you're just thinking about that end--it's just like cooking. If you're just concerned about that end-thing, you'll rush through and it probably won't be very good. But if you take your time along the way and really enjoy each part of it. I don't think you even need a teacher to do that. It's just that with the classes I'm able to offer that and there are enough people that want to learn it that they'll come. In the beginning I wouldn't even let them use a rotary cutter. I want them to learn to cut precision with scissors. And once you do that, then you can use a rotary cutter because you know what it's supposed to look like. Then you can go to a rotary cutter. But no I don't--it's a whole process. Someone told me one time that men have their eye on the product and women have their eye on the process, and I think that's correct.

HG: That's interesting.

EK: Yeah. A man said that. [laughter.] But it is very insightful I thought. But that's what it is with quilting. If you like the process you'll probably do well. And if you just have your eye on that end-product, you should just go buy something.

HG: Can you tell me about the process of making this quilt? First of all, how long, maybe, it took you to make it.

EK: Well, it's hard to say how long it took to make because I always have quite a few going at one time. It was several months. Once I started quilting it, doing the hand-quilting, it didn't take that long, because his baby's due in September and I have a daughter who's going to have a baby in December so I wanted to get this one finished. I've often wondered that when I make quilts--how long it takes to make them? And I really don't have any idea, because I never start and go right through on one.

HG: Why do you think that is? Why do you think you take up several projects at once?

EK: I like, depending on the mood I'm in, and right now I really want to hand quilt so I do a lot of hand quilting. There are times when I don't want to hand-quilt at all, so I pile up all these projects that I've done. And sometimes I just want to experiment with color and I have no intentions of turning it into a finished product. I just want to experiment with some fabrics, and I don't normally do a lot of art quilts, but when I do an art quilt, sometimes I don't finish 'em. I just want to see what it'll look like. I've got one that's at the municipal building that usually hangs here [pointing to blank wall space.], and it's all black. And I did it for Amnesty International and it's got a lot of different patterns on it. They're each significant. And it's got different kinds of blacks, so the texture's different. But it was just an interesting experiment to do. But that's, I guess why I have so many because I don't feel the same everyday.

HG: Earlier you said this Tumbling Blocks quilt is going to your son. You also said many of your other quilts you don't have anymore. Where are they?

EK: Oh, I give 'em away. I think most quilts you just give 'em away. All of the children, my six children- they all have quilts, and they all have baby quilts for their babies. And, I don't know, I just give them to whoever wants them, or whoever at the time--I have one there ready to send off to a friend of mine who is taking over a new school in Tennessee for troubled teens, and I have a sunshine-and-shadow quilt that just seemed really appropriate for what she'd doing. So I'm going to send it to her. Sometimes I have someone in mind when I'm making them, and sometimes I don't. If I don't, I just keep 'em 'til I do. That one, the Lancaster Pastel--[pointing to Lancaster Pastel quilt she has made.] I don't have anybody in mind for that, but somebody will--it'll be right for them sometime.

HG: Have you ever sold a quilt?

EK: No. No, never have. I sold some wall hangings. I did- I don't remember their names- but, the women who did the little quilts--the little--I went through a whole period of time where I did reproduction quilts. And copied larger quilts and did them really, really tiny. And they put out a series of books where they had some reproduction-type stuff. So I sold those down at the antique shop. But then I went on and I made some...I took from a book of Civil War quilts. I copied some--[coughs.]I have a cold. But anyway, so I did sell them for a while. And then- but I don't think you ever get what they're worth, so I'd rather not sell them.

HG: Well, the way I found out about you is through the Quilts for Comfort project.

EK: Right.

HG: Could you talk a little bit about that?

EK: Well--[coughs. The tape is shut off for a break.] Okay, Quilts for Comfort. Quilts for Comfort kind of serves two purposes in that it- we make quilts for the babies in the hospital, where our goal is to make fifty quilts a month. And we're close to doing that now. So it's a very worth-while program but it also brings women together for a common purpose. It introduces quilting to women who don't quilt. The majority of women who come to quilt bees don't quilt. And it's really neat. At the end of the quilt bee they've made a quilt, so I like that. We started a year ago in June at Cecil Community College-- [Cecil County, Maryland.] I had my first quilt bee. And when I saw how easy it was I just kept doing it. I've always collected sewing machines, and it was just really easy. So when we go to a quilt bee we bring everything--machines, the fabric's precut, the sewer, the supply-box--everything's there. They just have to come. And the only thing that we ask the church or the organization to do is to ask everybody to bring food to share, because we're copying or replicating an old-fashioned quilt bee. So we do 'em--I took July off, but starting in August we pretty much have one every Saturday until February. And when we go to a church, then they always invite us back because, you know, everybody has such a good time. And we sponsor one ourselves the first Saturday of every month up at Newark United Church of Christ. And that is for women who are not necessarily affiliated with the church but want to take part in it. So we rent space up there. So, we're a year old. We've delivered a hundred and forty-six quilts, and had nineteen quilt bees. And we will be registered as a non-profit by the end of August. Once we do that, then we can go out and do some fund-raising, which has been a real problem up 'til now.

HG: How do you get your funding?

EK: I put every dime I have into it. And I worked up until January. I had to quit because I developed some kind of a really strange arthritis and I can't work anymore. Before that it was easy 'cause I was working--I put all my money into it. But then when I quilt work, my funds dried up. But as soon as we're registered, then we'll be able to go out and actually solicit some funding.

HG: Now you mentioned that most of the women that come to this don't know how to quilt. What do you think attracts them to the program?

EK: I make 'em come. [laughter.] If I can go to a church and talk before the quilt bee--I just make 'em come. I think they're great fun. I don't know why anybody wouldn't want to come. And I bring a lot of quilts and they get all excited. And they get it in their head that maybe they could do that, and sure enough they can. You know, so everybody who comes has a great time. You know, and we put flyers up and we send out invitations, but the best way to get people to come is one-on-one go talk to them, you know. I've had women come to the quilt bee that don't even know how to thread a sewing machine. I mean, we really get some pretty basic people. And kids come. Kids can come if they come with a parent who'll help them. But we went to one quilt bee and I put two little ten-year-olds on a machine and they put one together. So anybody can do it. It's not hard to quilt; you just have to want to do it.

HG: Do you find that the people who come to them come back to the next one?

EK: Oh yeah. Yeah, once we start, then we get a following, which is another reason why we decided to sponsor that one ourselves. Because people don't always feel comfortable going to someone else's church. I mean, if this church is sponsoring it, they're a little hesitant--some of them do, that's okay. So we have the one at Newark and then we have one at the Unitarian Church we're sponsoring, too. And that's just basically for anybody who wants to come. Because of the article [in the Wilmington News Journal.] I think there'll be three hundred women at the one on the fifth [Quilts for Comfort bee, August 5th.]. I don't know what I'm going to do with them all. The biggest one I've done so far was thirty-three women. And usually my daughters go along to help. They're involved in it, too. But they were both out of town, and I was on my own. And I am amazed that I managed to keep--see I take, I bring the kits, so they grab a kit and they make a quilt, but I also bring unfinished quilt tops, and they work in pairs finishing quilts. So you have maybe ten machines, and the women work in pairs, so that's twenty women working, and then they work in pairs to finish them. So all thirty-three of those women found something to do, and I wound up--that was our biggest, as far as making quilts that was the most I ever got at a quilt bee.

HG: Do all the quilts get finished in one day?

EK: It's better now than it used to be. Used to be we would take a box of squares and everybody would pick their own pattern, which could take an hour or two. Now that I take the patterns, put 'em in kits, usually we do get 'em finished.

HG: How did you get inspired to start this project?

EK: I wanted the quilters to have something to do, to hold them together. I wanted them to go on quilting. I wanted more women to be introduced to quilting, and I found that there was a big need for, you know--I make my son his quilt, and the babies that we make these quilts for really don't have anybody to make quilts for them. So, that was kind of a big motivator. And when I originally started, I was with ABC quilts, which is a national organization. I was the Delaware coordinator. And we just decided after a short period of time that it would be better to stay small and make it a Delaware organization. And we were in Smyrna a couple of months ago, and all the quilts we made down there, which we made quite a few, went to the hospital in Dover. So we try to keep them right in the area. You know, the women want to know where they go. So, it works better to be a small group than hooked up to the national group.

HG: Do you ever have men show up?

EK: Yep, yeah. St. Andrews' Presbyterian has men quilters, and Newark United Church of Christ has a man that comes and they're both terrific. They're both terrific. I wish more men would quilt. My son made a quilt that I've already given away. But, you know, he worked it--he worked out his own pattern and put it together and made it. Don't get men often. When I go to a quilt bee, aside from asking them to do a lunch, I want them to have someone there to unload because, you know, because of this stuff I can't unload. So at St. Andrews' the men who unloaded for me and helped me set up, then the guys stayed and quilted. And I kept fussing with this other man that he ought to start, and I looked over and he was quilting. So that was a great day, St. Andrews' was a great quilt bee. They're very supportive people over there.

HG: How do people react to making these quilts not for themselves- they're never going to see them?

EK: They love it. They love it. And they all like what we do with them, and who they're for. I mean, that's why they're there, you know, is to make them. I only had one woman ask if she could keep the quilt. And I was so surprised I just said, you know, 'No.' She had put a lot of work on it, and she was a real perfectionist. And she kept taking it apart, you know, totally unnecessary. Like I tell them, you hear 'em at a quilt bee, 'Oh, my corners don't match.' [laughter.] This baby's not going to sit up and say, 'Look. That corner doesn't match,' you know. You're just making something nice for a baby. And the baby really doesn't care. So don't get real fussy about it, just make the quilt. But some people get very perfectionist when it comes to making them.

HG: How would you compare the experience of making a baby's quilt or a children's quilt in comparison to making one for an adult? Is it just the perfectionism that goes into it, or are there other aspects?

EK: No--

HG: They're smaller. [laughs.]

EK: They're smaller. Myself personally, I like to experiment with patterns. And whenever I want to experiment with a pattern I've always done it small. And then if I like it I'll end up doing something large. But I think making either a wall hanging or a baby quilt gives you that opportunity to play with color and play with pattern before you go and commit yourself, you know, to a full quilt. I made one for my daughter that I just finished. That one took about four years and it's not quilted yet. It's a charm quilt. It has over two thousand pieces in it, and no two are alike. The story was that the young girls would make their--start cutting when they were thirteen to make their quilt, and then the man they would marry had to supply the last piece of fabric. And then when she got engaged, then it was quilted. And it was bad luck to quilt it until you got engaged. And I made one for my daughter.

HG: And it's called a Charm Quilt?

EK: They were real popular probably in Victorian times 'cause they were collecting buttons. And then they went from buttons to fabric. [coughs.]

HG: Would you like to stop for a moment?

EK: Yes--[the tape is shut off while Edna retrieves two quilts. the tape resumes after Edna has described the first quilt, which is the one she discussed earlier where the top was sent to various women who each made a row and sent it on. now she is showing and describing the Charm Quilt she made for her daughter.] And I did a color exchange. They were called Charming Charmers. So the theme would be red, and I would get twenty-four five-inch squares from up to fifty women from all over. And I would mix 'em up so they would get twenty-four different ones back.

HG: This is amazing.

EK: Anyway, that's how I got most of the fabric for this, 'cause I would never have collected all this fabric.

HG: And there are three blocks with hand-written names on them- your daughter, her husband, and the baby? [pointing to three blocks in the top portion of the quilt.]

EK: Yeah, well I put their names on them because in the mean time they got married. You know, they didn't wait. So I put the center blocks there with their three names on them. Her name and his name and when they got married, I think. But yeah, this one will go on the frame soon.

HG: So this'll be an heirloom for sure.

EK: Oh, yeah.

HG: It surely will.

EK: Yeah, this was a Sawtooth Star. So they can lay there and try see if they can see a duplicate, but there aren't any. There are no duplicates. And that got very hard as it moved on, trying to figure out which ones you've used and which ones you haven't used. This one, the yellow one [referring to the quilt that circulated among the various women who each made a row.], that one I'll keep. You know, since it went around and whatever, I'm sure that one I will keep.

HG: Do you use them on your bed?

EK: No, I don't own any. I don't have any. [laughter.] But his one I will. No, like I said, they always wind up...they're for somebody. But then I was in another exchange and some girl out in Utah wound up keeping all the boxes for two years. And there was absolutely nothing we could do. You know, because she was in Utah. But evidently she got to feeling bad and sent 'em back to us. So, what else?

HG: Well, so do each of your children quilt? You have six kids, right?

EK: My two daughters do it. One of my boys started--he's in his late thirties now, but he quilted when he was a teenager. He patched...he started and patched a pair of jeans that wound up--he entered in an art show and won a prize for.

HG: Oh, wow.

EK: Yeah, but he just--that's probably all he's done. But the two girls quilt. And one daughter is a real serious quilter and the other one quilts when she can.

HG: Would you characterize yourself as a traditional quilter?

EK: Yeah.

HG: A traditional quilter, okay.

EK: I do, like I said, occasionally do an art quilt, but mainly it's very traditional quilting.

HG: I ask this question a lot, but is quilting an art or a craft?

EK: Art.

HG: Art.

EK: Only because craft has a negative connotation. It could be a craft, but, I have a son who's a carpenter and he says he's a woodworker--he's an artist who happens to work with wood, you know. So I think it's an art. And if I could paint I probably would never have started working with fabric.

HG: Do you think quilts belong in museums?

EK: As opposed to--

HG: As opposed to not being in them. Because nowadays there's this big concern with whether quilts are art or craft. And some women that I've talked to consider themselves traditional quilters and they think that maybe quilts don't belong in museums along with paintings and sculpture.

EK: Oh, I think they do.

HG: You think they do.

EK: Yeah. I think that it's a tribute--one of the ways that I see it and have always seen it is a tribute to the women who made them when there were sort of no materials to deal with; they still found some way to be creative and artistic. Even if it was cuttin' up fabric and rearranging it. I think it's amazing.

HG: What do you think makes a great quilt?

EK: Oh, I think it starts at the beginning. I think a great quilt--I don't agree--I mean, I go to a lot of quilt shows and I look at a lot of quilts that win prizes, and I don't feel that a perfect quilt is necessarily a great quilt. I think a quilt that has a story, and if you can either feel it or see it, that that's a great quilt. I think right now there's a big emphasis on perfect quilts. And I don't think that necessarily. In my opinion, I don't think that makes a great quilt, a perfect quilt. There are some, there's one next door--my daughter lives next door and her husband's grandmother made quilts. And I mean she just constantly just--and right before she died she couldn't see well, and she had these horrible, horrible problems--had arthritic hands. And she's made this quilt with these huge, big stitches. And I think it's the best quilt she ever made, because it's a story. You couldn't keep her down. She created until she died. And I think of all her quilts, that quilt would mean the most to me because she just insisted on doing it. I thought that was pretty terrific. So, a quilt that says something is a great quilt.

HG: Can you talk a little bit more about the process of quiltmaking? In the article I read [in the Wilmington News Journal.] you mentioned that you think that the process of making quilts is just as important as the final product.

EK: Yeah, you get something out of each part of it. I mean, when I start I sit down with graph paper, and I sometimes will spend a whole week with the paper. And that's one part of it and I get one thing out of that one, out of that process. And when I start to plan it, I get something else out of that. I think it's all very relaxing. I think it's all therapeutic, and I think it's all very creative. But I think each part of the process pulls out a different type of creativity. Making these [pointing to the Tumbling Blocks and Lancaster Pastel.], you have to be incredibly patient, you know. They just don't go together. The stitches to hold them together are so close together you can't see the fabric. It just takes an incredible amount of patience to do the English paper piecing. I suppose appliqué's the same way, but--so each part of it is something, you know, something different, but very creative all of it. Very, very creative.

HG: Why would you say it's therapeutic?

EK: So calming, it's like meditation.

HG: What do think about it makes it that way, though.

EK: The repetitiveness of quilting. But that's the quilting part, is like meditation. I think piecing it can be very exciting because you want to see the next part. So that part is an exciting process. And the women in my class right now are doing a Trip Around the World, a point-on-point so that they're going this way with it. And each row they make just changes it completely. So there's this excitement. They just can't wait to get the next row on it. So that's one part of it. But then when they start quilting it, then that's when the, like I said, the repetitiveness and the meditative kind of process kind of takes over. So it's just all different, you know, all of it thrown in together.

HG: How do you teach people the artistry behind quilting?

EK: I don't.

HG: They just--

EK: Everybody has it. Everybody has the artistry and the creativity. I only give them the place to do it, and the encouragement, and the tools. You know, when I start a new class--my first class is a lecture class and I always tell 'em, 'Don't go out and buy'" because a lot of new quilters go out and just buy tons of stuff. And I have all the tools they need. They can use mine and then as they see what they need they can buy what they want. But, no I just allow people to open up, to tap into it. I think the worst thing I ever heard, and I hear it a lot--not with quilting so much, but when different women that I've worked with. You hear somebody say, 'Well I'm not creative.' I mean, I've never met a person in my life who's not creative, you know. Or they say, 'Well, I don't know how to put color together.' Well, you know, you get dressed. [laughter.] You obviously know how to put color together. Now let's just put it together in a quilt. But just to get past people's own, sort of being unsure of themselves and kind of opening that up is terrific. And if you open it up through quilting, then you obviously open it up in other areas, too. I've had people, the worst students I've had--and I've only had a couple- have just been so incredibly hard on themselves, and such horrible perfectionists. I always use the one woman as an example. She was with me in class for ten weeks, and never did make a block. She had the most gorgeous collection of fabric, and was so afraid to fail that she never made a block. And she would lay them out and she would draw. But she just couldn't--and she was so hard on herself. She just couldn't allow it to be anything but perfect, which was way too bad because, you know, you get better at quilting as you practice. So you have to make the errors or you're not going to get there. You know, errors--we skip right over 'em. I mean, you can take it out. If something's way off you can take it out and fix it. But you can't get there without making an error. It's just not going to work.

HG: Did you ever have any artistic training in any other mediums?

EK: No, I wrote a lot. Like I said, with fabric, I spent a lot of years designing. I had a kind of a design shop in Newport and I enjoy designing. Because I was in Newport and they were doing a lot of movies there, I got to do a lot of movie work, which was an awful lot of fun. It's just great fun. I did a lot of fashion shows, and showed a lot of my work. I loved that, that whole--and then I had a costume shop for a number of years. I think people put a costume on every day, whether they call it that or not. So it was just really fun to tap into that and then go into designing. Oh, it was great. It was great fun. And I just--to see my work in a show was just a big kick. It was phenomenal. And I've been in so many big shows, so I got a lot of strokes. And I think one of my biggest things that I just absolutely loved--one of the hotels was having a Halloween masquerade ball, and a lot of my friends were invited, and I costumed them. And three of the people at RISD--Rhode Island School of Design had done costuming, and they sent a bunch of people. Anyway, I took first, second and third prize. It was great. [laughing.]

HG: That's amazing.

EK: It was pretty phenomenal. So I worked with fabric most of my life. I tried sculpting. My son's father's an artist and we kind of did a little sculpting. But I like fabrics. I like to work with fabric.

HG: Why do you think that quilting has kind of taken over in the past fifteen years, or you just started seriously quilting in the past fifteen years?

EK: Well, because I made time for it. When I had my shop, I quilted then, I just didn't quilt as much. I mean, I've always quilted. I just didn't quilt as much. But I used to tell 'em, you know, when I'm an old lady I want to be great. And then one day I was going home from work and I thought, 'Gosh, what if I don't get to be an old lady? I'd better start quilting now.' So I started putting more time into it. And it has become a priority now, so that's what I do. I made it a priority. And, I told you, those clothes on the wall, I made them all. [referring to photos of clothing she has made.] And it was horrible, 'cause I don't do that anymore. And I hate it. I hate it. Except for the children. I love making the children's clothes. But, for everything I made up there it was such an effort. I don't do clothes anymore. I quilt but I don't do clothes.

HG: Can you talk a little bit about the importance of quilts in American life?

EK: Well I think what I said about, it's such a tribute to women's spirit. And I think when--this pattern is old [pointing to Tumbling Blocks.], that one parts of it are kind of old. [pointing to Lancaster Pastel.] When I'm working, and especially when I'm quilting on something, a really old, traditional pattern I mean, yeah I feel incredibly connected to the women who went on before me who made it. I think it's a way to stay connected and to honor the women who went before us. I mean, as women now we have so much. We have so much we can do, and so many ways that we can show our, or let our creativity out. But I've read a lot of--my mother's people all came from Kansas, you know they homesteaded. And I've read a lot of history, and the journals from the women who were in it. And it's just amazing that they were able to find beauty in that kind of a life. It's just...And when I first got married my husband and I farmed. And the very idea that anybody would find time to quilt was just amazing. I didn't know anybody back in Iowa at the time who quilted. There was no time. So, I guess that's why I think it's important to keep the tradition alive.

HG: One thing I wanted to ask you is, how do you feel a quilt differs from an ordinary blanket? Through your organization you make all these quilts. What makes them so much more special than ordinary hospital blankets?

EK: What goes in to 'em? I was...Back in the '70's I spend some time in an ashram in upstate New York. And the man that we studied with there were women there who were either knitting or sewing or making him things. And he insisted that as they sewed, they said their mantra and they put their love into what they were doing. And when these women make these quilts, and they put all this energy and this love and this care and this concern into this blanket, obviously it's different than a hospital blanket. It's got good energy. And that's what our labels [Quilts for Comfort quilt labels.] say, you know, "Made for you with love by--," and then the woman puts her first name and the date on it. So it's much more comforting than just a plain old blanket.

HG: That's great. I think all my questions have been answered. Do you have anything you'd like to add?

EK: I can't think of anything. I enjoyed talking about it.

HG: Great.

EK: But, no, I think we've covered most of it.

HG: Well thank you so much for letting me come into your home and ask you these questions.

EK: Yeah, well I'm glad you did. I'm real glad you did. Like I said, I like to talk about 'em.

HG: Well this is Heather Gibson signing off with Edna Kotrola on Tuesday the 25th of July, 2000.



“Edna Kotrola,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 18, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1593.