Madge Ziegler




Madge Ziegler




Madge Ziegler


Heather Gibson
Bernie Herman

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The National Quilting Association


Corner Ketch, Delaware


Heather Gibson


Heather Gibson (HG): Today is Sunday, February 25, 2001. This is Heather Gibson. I'm interviewing Madge Ziegler in her home in Newark, Delaware. Bernie Herman is also sitting with us today. Madge let's start out by talking a little bit about the quilt we have sitting in front of us today.

Madge Ziegler (MZ): Well, this quilt was designed as a wall hanging. [tape shuts off for a moment.] The challenge was to create an alternative book cover. The design is based on the book "Plains of Passage" by Jane Auel. I had read the book and had decided I would do a book that I had read and enjoyed. My mother didn't do too much reading in her later years but she and my sister and I all read the series of "Earth's Children Books", and we discussed it and enjoyed it. I had shown her the center piece about the time she became ill, and she passed away before I got the border on. Right after she died, I was searching for borders and all of a sudden everything came together. The border went on I knew what I was going to do for quilting and I completed the quilt. So, it became essentially my memory quilt, my memorial quilt, for my mother.

HG: You have some gorgeous fabrics in here. Where did you buy the fabrics for this quilt?

MZ: The fabrics in this quilt are commercial quilt shop fabrics plus decorator fabrics that are part of a large stash. There were very few of the fabrics actually purchased specifically for this quilt. They were chosen from my palette in the sewing room.

HG: Is this any particular pattern or is it something you designed yourself?

MZ: This is an original design, and it was designed on isometric graph paper all based on the 30x60x120-degree triangle and it was drawn and cut all as individual templates.

HG: How do you use this quilt?

MZ: It's a wall-hanging quilt.

HG: Do you have it hanging in your home normally?

MZ: On occasion. There are a lot of blue fabrics in it which are very sensitive to light so to make the color last longer I have to be careful when and where I hang it.

HG: You made this for a challenge. Was there great diversity in the quilts that came about for this challenge?

MZ: Yes, the challenge was issued as part of a quilt making teachers group, and most of the people in the group do original design work. Unlike a lot of guild challenges where you take a piece of fabric and you come back with something unique made with that fabric, we tried to do creative challenges. With this alternative book cover that was the only restriction. I can remember some of them were quite interesting as all of the challenges have been over the years.

HG: Tell me about how you got started in quilting.

MZ: I began making quilts in 1976 when my younger son was six months old, and I needed to get out of the house one night a week. There was a class offered at the local fabric store, Dannamen Fabrics. It was four weeks, and it was within my budget, and I had always wanted to learn how to make quilts. I had sewn and done all other kinds of needle works for as long as I remember. And I had always wanted to make quilts. So, I took the beginners class in and there was another four weeks class, and it was uphill from there.

HG: Were there any quilts in your family growing up?

MZ: There were only a few. They were not made by family members. They were made by friends of the family. I have three of them. When I was growing up, it was the 1950s, and quilts were rarely used on beds in our house. It was what the local dress-drapery maker made, as what happened in the 1950's most quilts were relegated to the attic or the basement and then when I began quilting my mother said, 'Oh there are some quilts hanging around here, you might as well take them.' But they were not made by family members.

HG: I know you are very informed of the history of quilts because you work with quilt restoration. Can you talk a little about that and how you got into doing that?

MZ: I got into doing restoration when I saw a few quilts that had been ruined by people who owned them and did things like putting them in the washing machine and dryer. I thought, 'There has to be a better way. There has to be somebody to inform them.' So, I began to educate myself and get some experience. I have a lot of quilts that I own in need of restoration that I never get around to doing. I do restoration on one quilt at a time, very specialized work. I try to consult with the person who owns the quilt. The first question I always ask is, 'What are you going to be doing with this quilt after I work on it?' They need to really think about that. So basically, I am careful about what I work on, and I try to be more of a counselor to people that come into me with old quilts about what the proper thing to do with them might be. I really enjoy that part of it.

HG: When I talked to you in Milford, you mentioned you were part of the Delaware Quilt Registry in Dover at one point. Can you tell me about that?

MZ: In 19--I think it was '84, there was a Delaware Quilt Search Day, and it was held at the Arden YWCA. It was part of a whole week. There was a quilt exhibition. There was a trip to see the play "The Quilters" in Washington D.C. There were speeches. Some of my participation included a program one afternoon on the history of quilt making and I also was a co-dater on the day that we had the Quilt Search Day and in which we documented and photographed one hundred and forty-seven quilts from Delaware in the same day.

HG: What are some of the criteria that you use when you are dating quilt?

MZ: Basically, the easiest quilts to date are those with multiple printed fabrics in them because you get a feeling, and you have reference books you can use. And so that is the first thing you look at is the fabric and the prints but then you also have to consider the size and the shape and the type of batting and the edge finish and all of the fabrics in the whole quilt. The design, predominant colors. You kind of become a detective in determining how old a quilt might be. The other thing, which is usually the least reliable, is family history of who the person thinks made it. That only really counts if everything else you are seeing in the quilt coincides with what their memories might be.

HG: Is there any type of quilt that seems to have the highest survival rate that you've seen, ones that have seemed to survive the best?

MZ: Quilts that were made by family members for special occasions such as weddings are many times saved carefully. A lot of it has to do with how well the present owner of the quilt educates the future owners as to its importance, which is I think something that I've tried to do in my family. It makes me very sad when somebody comes to me with an old quilt, and they want to sell it or donate it out of the family. I really try to encourage them to keep the quilt in their family. The ones with the highest survival rate have the owners that educated their families, they have kept the quilts that were made for special occasions, many times with the finest needlework this is a big concern of mine because I'm very concerned with the quilts surviving that are not the good quilt. I think they are just as important as the "special" quilts.

HG: Are there any stories that stick out in your mind from your work with quilt restoration with families and quilts?

MZ: I think shipping disasters are interesting things. I think that sometimes the people who have quilts with the most sentimental value are willing to pay foolish, foolish amounts to have it even look reasonably good. They are usually men. It may be the only thing they have from a particular grandparent or great-grandparent, and they just don't really care if it is a smart thing to do with their quilt or not. The hardest thing is to try to tell somebody that they should just preserve their quilt as it is. I tend to want to do as little on a quilt as possible and people don't want to display rags in their house. So, it's a real education process sometimes because many times it is in such condition that they might as well have a new quilt. To do it, to make the quilt for what they want to do with it, they're covering everything in the old quilt that was the quilt's personality, and they will only be back if they continue to use it. Yes, I have an interesting story. I just got a call from a woman that I did a restoration on a quilt for twelve years ago and she wants me to fix the pieces that have deteriorated since then. She still has the original receipt from the work I did, and the quilt wasn't even made by a family member. She'd just been given the money to purchase it. It was an Appalachian Mountain quilt, a very typical 1970's bright-colors quilt. So, she is coming by Tuesday to bring it and I said, 'You do understand that this is not cost effective.' It's very hard for me to turn down something, and that's an easy, easy repair. It's just not something that I would recommend but once sentimental value takes over there is no going back.

HG: Has working with these older quilts influenced your quilting activities today?

MZ: Absolutely, absolutely. The best quilt teachers that I've have ever had are antique quilts that I own and that I've seen. They are where I get my design sensibility. Where I got what choices I have. When I work on originally designed contemporary quilts, be they traditional in nature or abstract in nature or whatever, my design influence comes from antique quilts. I am quiltmaker who has turned into a quilt artist not an artist who has decided to use fiber as my medium.

Bernard Herman (BH): Does this quilt reflect that kind of exchange. Could you talk about that a little bit?

MZ: Absolutely. It's based on the design element of dividing a hexagon into triangles, which is very traditional quilt making. One of the oldest shapes that was used in quilt making was the hexagon shape. It has a border. It has a binding. It has three layers. It is rectangular in shape. It is actually a very traditional quilt even though it may not appear so on first glance. It is pieced and quilted entirely by hand which is traditional don't let me get into hand versa machine, but it is pieced and quilted entirely by hand. If I were doing it now, I may not have done it, except that the repetitiveness of the hand work is extremely therapeutic and since this turned out to be a memorial quilt it that was part of it--it needed to be done that way.

BH: How is it nontraditional?

MZ: Landscape quilts are not particularly traditional quilts. There are some non-traditional fabrics used in it. The back is pieced and is also a design. A lot of these things are traditional just not widely traditional. So, you will find quilts with pieced backs that have designs on them and I chose to do that on this one. It is not something that you'd find in the traditional quilt making world very often. And the fact that I started with a piece of scrap paper and a pencil, and the design is mine to me makes it more nontraditional.

HG: Have you ever replicated an antique quilt?

MZ: Not one that I've owned. Sometimes used a block design and went on and did my own twist on it. To actually take a quilt and copy it stitch for stitch, I get enough of that doing restoration on an old one because I try to copy the person's stitching and quilting and the fabrics and that's enough. I have enough that I want to do that are not replicas.

HG: Describe to me in a nutshell your quilting activities.

MZ: I teach quilt making. I used to teach extensively beginner quilt making, both hand and machine. For eleven years I taught at the same quilt shop and the only other places that taught were nonprofit organizations such as Adult Ed. And when that shop closed, I became a freelance teacher and I taught at a number of quilt shops, many at the same time. A lot of that was beginning quilt making and now what I am teaching basically is beyond beginner quilt making classes. I also do private restoration and consultation that we talked about. I also do private commissions and original design work. The private commissions I've had have taken precedence over the original design work in the last three years. I have always had some commission going. When you are doing paid work, it is really hard to then sacrifice that time and put it in to some arbitrary thing that might turn into something neat which is why I have not had quilts to enter into shows in the last three years because I have been doing some private commission work.

HG: Tell me about your commission work. I am interested in that.

MZ: I did banners for Grace United Methodist Church in Wilmington with beautiful silk that they had that needed to be used for part of the church decoration. That was really fun because it was unusual type fabric for me to work with. And then several of the other quilts that I've done have been memory quilts commemorating the life of a person. The last one I did was a young man who was turning forty and his mother had a quilt made as a surprise for him with wonderful things. I did photo-transfers, and I did embroideries, and I did pictures and traditional quilt blocks that represented things in his life. The first one I did of that nature was a memory quilt that was created for the parents of a young man who had died at the age of nineteen from asthma. And that was the hardest thing I have ever done because my younger son was the same age at the time. The most difficult part was it was all made from his clothing, and the hardest thing my husband did was carrying the bags of clothing upstairs when they brought it. The hardest thing I did was cutting into it. It was very difficult, but it turned out to be extremely rewarding. I was very happy with the finished piece, and they were very happy with it.

HG: Why do you think quilts are so appropriate for marking life's monumental occasions?

MZ: Well's that's part of the quilt making tradition that goes back forever as long as quilts were being made. They were used to wrap the dear departed. They were used to wrap the new babies. They are part of the bed, which has its own connotation for marking life's events. Quilts have always been a part of that. Any kind of needlework is a logical way for a woman to mark a life event. Considering the fact that needlework is therapeutic, and you also get something when you are finished that you can keep. Preparation for a life event or a memory of a life event, the before and the after, I just think quilts are a natural part of that for a woman's art to commemorate.

HG: Along the same lines, what do you feel about the importance of quilts in woman's history?

MZ: For me, it's more what do I think about the importance of woman's history in quilting. My interest is first the quilts then woman's history. My current interest is the Depression Era, the 1920's through the 1940's. I am fascinated by marketing to women and how, especially in that time period or slightly before that, the people that sold things in this country found out that women control the purse strings. So, quilts, fabrics, patterns, designs, and home decorating items were just extensively marketed directly to women through newspapers and magazines. I love to read how they got to the women. In other words, if you wanted to be a good person you needed to buy this particular thing. You were judged by what you owned and how your house was decorated and how white your wash was and what patterns your quilts were. That whole era just fascinates me. That was the first great quilt revival of the 20th century. There are still some people that lived through that revival and quilted in that revival, which is part of what I try to emphasize. You still might know people who made these Depression Era quilts. I tried to parallel this revival, keeping in mind the current revival that started in the 1970s, late 1960's. Keeping in mind that by definition the revival has a beginning and an end, I am trying to predict why and where the current revival will end. It does not seem to be happening. Also, I want to know, two hundred years from now, what are the quilts from this revival that are valuable to people in terms of money value and also historic value. I have some very strong feelings on that.

HG: Could you talk more on that?

MZ: My big fear is that the quilts that are going to be valuable two hundred years from now from this current revival are going to be Eleanor Burns' Quilt-in-a-Day Log Cabins because there are a million of them made and most of them are--I don't want to get into value judgment but let's say they were usually made to be used up and thrown away. And the ones that are going to be common as mud are the current Baltimore Album Revival because there is a bazillion of them being made. What you are going to find are thousands and thousands of unfinished Baltimore Album quilt tops two hundred years from now. The people that are making them are spending enormous amounts of time and money and it is scary to me because I wish those people would be creating more original designs rather than replicas so just as the Amish quilts of the 1920's and 1930's became so valuable in the 1980's, those women had no idea, the quilters had no idea. It is interesting to look at what's going on now and think, 'Two hundred years from now what are people going to be looking at? What is not going to be around? Is it going to be the quilts everyone made but never saved?'

HG: What makes a quilt valuable in terms of what you feel is valuable in a quilt valuable and what makes a quilt valuable to a collector?

MZ: What makes a quilt valuable to me is when I look at a quilt and the quilt gives me what I call "peace in my heart." It is a valuable quilt to me. There is nothing that gives me peace in the heart more than, let's say, a red and white Double Irish Chain with beautiful quilting on it, which is about as plain of a quilt as you are going to get with a stunning graphic value. I am not particularly attracted to quilts with lots of stuff on them. This is about as much stuff that I want on a quilt. The Baltimore Album quilts I saw the exhibit of the real ones in 1983 at the Baltimore Museum of Art. They are a product of their time and place and the women who lived in that time and place, and I have no interest whatsoever in making reproductions of them. I admire them totally for what they are. I am more attracted visually to the more primitive, the earlier, Baltimore Album quilts and I did make a reproduction one, but it was forced on me--I was teaching a class. As a collector the graphic value of a quilt is what draws me. Now you have to understand I started collecting quilts when fifty cents was my budget for a quilt twenty years ago. Then three dollars and then it got more. Cheap was a big factor and condition didn't matter. It had to be cheap, and I bought it. And I never sold one. So, I have this wonderful collection of old rags. But usually, they had a lot of fabrics in them and as a fabric person I still love them. Little by little my focus and my collection became: I would like the best example I could find and afford of the main types of quilts. So, for instance I wanted a crazy quilt so I bought a crazy quilt, and I don't want another one--unless it would be such a bargain I couldn't resist. I wanted a Sunbonnet Sue. I have a beauty and I don't want another one. When I teach and lecture, I can bring in and show a real example of that part of quilt history I consider important. So that is the focus of my quilt collection. I can't speak for other collectors. Other collectors maybe collect just one particular thing. I love yellow and white quilts. I have five or six of those quilts and quilt tops. I collect bow tie patterned quilts and quilt tops. So, there are some that draw me. And also, Depression era quilts and quilts tops. I want to go on record as saying that I regard quilt blocks, quilt tops, and quilts as kind of equal things of their own. I used to buy a quilt top or quilt blocks and say, 'Oh, I will make this into a quilt.' So actually, what I was buying was a load of guilt. So about ten years ago I came to the conclusion that a top can be a top, blocks can be blocks, and they can be preserved exactly for what they are with no obligation to do anything with them but take care of them. And that took away the guilt. They are also much easier to transport to show to people and store.

BH: But at the core of your collection is this idea that it's a teaching collection.

MZ: Exactly.

BH: Which gets me to the question; you taught quilting at various levels; how do you teach design?

MZ: That's a difficult thing. And basically, for me I am not at what I call the national teacher level. My quilts are not recognized by people for their particular design and there are a lot of quiltmakers that are. If I were to take a class from a recognized quiltmaker, and I will use Judy Dales because I know Judy Dales and I love her designs and her methods of working. What I am taking the class from her for is to learn how she designs her quilts not to teach me how to design mine. How she does hers. I pay attention. I do what she says during the class and after the class is over, I take what I want to use from it that I can use in my own design work. So, some of the workshops that I teach that involve doing some designing in class are "here's the tools." For instance, using isometric graph paper. I do a class and they learn how to isometric graph paper, but they make my pattern. They don't do their own design. But I give them a little bit of tools so they can go home and do that. Quite frankly, as a quilt making teacher, I think you need to teach classes that you think people are going to want to take. I do the kind of marketing where you think there is a need for what you do. You do not do your thing and then try to convince people they need it. A lot of quiltmakers in this day and age do not want to learn how to do their own designs. They want to walk into a class, they want a fast project, they want something they can walk out with almost done and they don't care if it is your pattern or a commercial pattern or whatever. What is really hard to teach is technique classes, process classes, and that is what I love to do best. I want you to come and learn how to machine quilt. I want you to walk out with a bunch of little samples and I don't really care what you do with them. They want to walk in and make something they can hang on a wall and so it's this really fine line between convincing people they need to do their own thing because only when they start doing their own thing do the great rewards start to come. The "a-ha" factor when you do something that you've worked out and it works. But there are a lot of quiltmakers that their quilting is strictly a past time. They do it to pass the time, not as an art, and I try to forgive them because I think they are important too.

HG: I've heard a lot of quilters mention certain aspects of the quilt making process that makes them feel like this quilt is theirs, like they substituted a particular fabric because it makes them feel like it's theirs. What, in collecting quilts and in making them, makes you feel like this quilt is yours?

MZ: Well, the collecting part, it's mine when the quilt is paid for. Actually, the interesting thing about using it as a teaching collection, some of the best ones, I call them my working quilts. They have actually paid for themselves from the lectures they've appeared in, which is wonderful. As far as what makes the quilt mine is everything that I make the decision on, the choice of the fabric. I don't take somebody else's pattern and make anything with it anymore. That's not the part that I enjoy. In the last two years I got into dyeing my own fabrics and I have a wonderful stash of that just waiting for me to make the time to do my own thing. I'm even at the point now where I have greatly cut down on purchasing commercial fabrics other than base fabrics to dye. It's every part of the decision that makes the quilt mine.

HG: What do you think makes a great quilt?

MZ: My own decisions that I've put into to it. And I've never regretted it. The more of my own decisions I put into it the more rewarding the quilt has been after it has been finished. I don't usually care if I finish anything because I don't really make quilts for a specific competition with a deadline other than the commissioned ones. That I consider important to finish. I am a process person. It is the process for me that is the joy not the product, never the product. But the more I've put my own decisions into the process the more recognition the product has gotten when it's been finished in terms of contests or publications, or people asking when they see it hanging, or being invited to hang it somewhere. It's just great fun. And that's why I would love for people to do their own quilt designs. It why when I teach, I want to work with traditional patterns and it's very frustrating when you teach in a store that sells patterns and fabrics. You need to sell books. So, you need to make your class samples and your class based on things that the store can sell. So, you are going to say to me, 'Isn't it the logical thing then to design and sell your own patterns?' And the answer is yes, but I want to make quilts, I don't want to be a publisher. I am in a crossroads now of focusing. What do I really want to do when I grow up? It's starting to be later and later.

BH: It seems to me you are describing a kind of crossroads between teaching process and teaching product.

MZ: Yes. It's a hard decision.

BH: Which gets me to the question that part of the process and looking at the quilt in front of us and think about the process as being one of memory, which is very much a part of this process here and the personal narratives this object carries for you. What happens to those in the long run when that quilt becomes separate from you through the course of time?

MZ: Well, the label will be with the quilt. The story of the quilt is recorded somewhere because this quilt is hung was part of an exhibition that needed an artist statement so in my book there is the story of the quilt. I am not fanatical about recording things like time. I hope if you learn one thing from interviewing me and all these people is that you never ask someone how long it took them to make a quilt. That to me is the stupidest question anyone could ask a quiltmaker, 'How long did this take you?' I like to say fifty-three years because I was born a quiltmaker. So having a quilt in an exhibition where you have to write a description is good for me because it forces me to do that. Some quilt makers keep diaries and swatches of fabric. I have the original graph paper. I have the swatches. I have the pieces for this that were cut and discarded because I do decisions on a design wall and lots of time you cut things that you don't use. The ones that have been published in books and magazines I have whatever they were published in. I do have archives, paper and photographs and the quilts and I really try to do good labels for all of them. Trying is not always succeeding. I succeed better than some and not as well as others. So, to answer your question about how important documentation is and I always mention to my students. It's very important.

BH: I am struck in the interviews with quilters about the importance of personal narrative found in these objects, and I wonder amounts the fact of time itself, not in terms of making but in terms of the future and what happens when these personal narratives become separated in terms of the voices how does the quilters imagination continue to carry its meanings forward?

MZ: If the quilts that I have acquired that I have no idea about their history speak to me as much as they do, then my quilts, if they become separated from the narrative, will continue to speak to somebody. My hope is that they reside with the person they speak to the loudest. I know the documentation is really important, but the quilts do talk. One thing I have a hard time with are people that write statements and just put down words because they have to. I'd rather see a two-line artist statement that says really what that artist does and means than a three-paragraph thing that goes on and on and has no meaning at all. I have been forced to do that three-paragraph thing on occasion and felt very foolish after.

HG: Why is quilting important to your life?

MZ: Let me use an example. I recently have had problems with my neck and hands. I've had carpal tunnel surgery on both hands and have had some return of the problems. I thought of this to explain because usually doctors and therapists say you need to just stop quilting and you know, 'Just don't do that kind of thing where you have to bend your neck and the repetitive motion of your hands.' So, I started out my interview with the therapists by, 'Quilting is not what I do, quilting is who I am.' I am not going to stop doing it so let's take it from there. And fortunately, they understood that. So, does that answer your question?

HG: Yes.

BH: How has quilting affected your life and family?

MZ: Fortunately, I live with people who can tolerate the passion. I am one of the lucky people to not have to feel obligated to financially justify any of this. To talk about buying and selling, teaching for money is because I need to do that for my own personal gratification because I refuse to spend money I haven't earned on things like materials and fabrics. However, I will say there are very few people in the quilt business today that actually make quilts that can support themselves and actually eat. I am also very aware that a lot of those very early quilt icons, not the historical icons necessarily because I do not know their personal lives, but a number of people that have made it big in the quilt world on the teaching circuits and through writing are not in marriages that they were in when they started out. There would not be a question that family is first and takes precedence. So, the secret is to find somebody who will tolerate all this nonsense without loving it. My husband knows a Double Wedding Ring from a Log Cabin and that is about it. A quilt that is going to appear in a book that is an antique quilt that I finished is going to be part of a book. The only time in thirty-two years he's ever commented on anything is when I hung it up and he said, 'That is the ugliest quilt I have ever seen in my life.' It was feed sack fabrics and I said that's how I knew it was going to be great in this book. I thought, 'Yes this is wonderful.' It has impacted my family life because my family has lived with quilts. My son that still lives with us tolerates it. The son that does not live here takes great care of the few quilts that I have given him. And he has great plans for the collection. He values the ones that I have made and also that ones that I've bought. But he is the one with the artist's eye so I will give responsibility for my collections to him.

HG: As women become more and more self-sustaining and self-supporting, how can they reconcile their time with making quilts? Are there any quilt making practices that you think are more time savings that can allow people to use their time best for quilting?

MZ: Choosing small projects over large ones; because large unfinished projects create guilt and there is one thing that women do not need more of in this world is guilt which they own by the very fact that they were born a woman. So small projects. You want to say machines are faster than hands but if your quilt making time is on the road, like in an airplane, then actually the hand is more efficient. I am interested in time management. Time management is my husband's thing at this point. You don't say you don't have time; you say here is what I chose to do with the time I have. And once I knew that was a choice, I lost the guilt of spending time quilting. But my time and choice is, 'Do I work on something I know I am getting paid for or do I work on an artistic thing that may have no paid repercussions down the road?' So even if you could quilt twenty-four hours a day, because that is what you do, you still need to reconcile the time! It comes back to the choice of is your quilt going to be a stress reliever or a past time or is it what you do all the time? And if it is a past time then all you need to do is just not push yourself and just do the parts that you enjoy in whatever manner that you like doing it. If you want to make quilts, then farm them out for someone else to quilt them that's just fine. Actually, I knit as a past time. I don't quilt as a past time.

HG: We have a few minutes left do you have any more questions?

BH: Is there something we have not covered, an area that you thought we should talk about that we haven't addressed?

MZ: I think we have covered a lot because I do a lot of things. I am interested in a lot of parts of the quilt making world. I'm concerned that there have not been enough crossovers between the quiltmaker and the academic, and I see these interviews as a nice walkway between the two areas. So, I think this is very important. I have experience with people that do quilt research for example, or that are working on quilt research as part of their thesis that did not really understand how a quilt was constructed. I thought that was really sad. The terms contemporary quiltmaker's use may not be understood by someone who doesn't make quilts. When you talk about a challenge project, when you talk about a block of the month, these are big things in the quilt world right now and if you are doing contemporary research you need to know what they are and if you are not making quilts or buying in quilt shops or searching the web, you need to find out what those things are. My big concern is the number of people making quilts that don't care to do anything original. They think they're fine quilt makers and they are making block-of the-month kits. They don't really even understand that when you get the fabric and pattern every month from the quilt store them what you are making is a kit. There is a theory that quilt making in the 1940's died out because of the proliferation of kit quilts available. First of all, women were making money producing those kits and designing them in many cases. So I said, 'Okay with me.' Second of all, I think that researcher kind of forgot about World War II a little. But I would hate to see that the block-of-the-month and the kit quilts be the downfall of the current quilt revival. It concerns me a lot because there is an enormous amount of money and time spent by quiltmakers in doing this. The difference between quilts being an art and a craft, I'd rather make quilts than spend time discussing that. I think it is one of those things that can be discussed for forever. If you feel you are making art than you are making art. If you feel you are making a craft than you are making a craft. You can decide for your own what you are making. It is wonderful to make something and it's also wonderful to make something purely decorative that has a practical use, which is what you do what you put quilts on a bed. I love wall hangings. I make them, but I think it is important to have bed quilts too. Do I have a quilt on my bed right now? Yep. Did I make it? Nope. Where was it made? It's a Chinese quilt that I bought ten years ago. The thing has held up like crazy. I will admit it right here, we had a dog that got on the bed when we weren't home. If you think one of my treasures was going to be under Bertha--she was buried underneath one of my quilts because she deserved it by then, but she didn't deserve to sleep on it. So, I just think that to interview people and get all kinds of opinions and to record these things is a great thing. I try to tell people, when you talk to someone that is a quilter, especially those who are still alive from the Depression, find out where they got their fabric. That is an important thing, where did they get their fabric? What types of tools are people using? And I think that the people who do marketing research in this day in age are smart enough that they do lots and lots of research and that that should be recorded somewhere. I realize how valuable swatch books from old fabric companies, 19th and early 20th century fabric companies are. Those old swatch books are extremely valuable in dating quilts. I once asked an expert in a seminar, I said, 'I'll assume then that all the modern companies are keeping and recording swatch books,' and she said, 'Don't kid yourself.' So, I just consider my stash very important to quilt history.

BH: I would like to ask one other question. I was having a conversation with another person, and we talked about the scale of the phenomenon, where currently an estimated twenty million quilters of all strips within the United States alone. She talked about the disconnect between scale and visibility and she said it's like being a part of an underground.

MZ: I can't really address that because I am part of the underground. If I were outside of the underground, I might be able to answer that better. So, what you need to do is to find a fifty-four-year-old woman who is not in this quilt world and say what have you seen or heard about quilting in the last year? Where did you see it? Do you see it in the newsstand? Do you see it in the paper? Do you see it on television? Do you see it from your friends? Because when you are in something--I am bombarded with quilt information, but I also seek it out and quite frankly you can be my friend if you are not a quilt maker, but you won't see a whole lot of me because the circles of my friends are all quilt makers. We tend to hang with people that have lots of things in common. So, it is really hard for me to address how much of an underground we are because I am not seeing it from the outside.

HG: I think that was a wonderful answer. We began this interview at 1:30 pm and it is now 2:15 pm, so we are about out of time. To close this interview out, this is Heather Gibson with Bernie Herman and we have been talking to Madge Ziegler. Thank you.



“Madge Ziegler,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 18, 2024,