Vicki Greenstein



Vicki Greenstein




Vicki Greenstein


Dee Richardson

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

National Quilting Association


Newark, Delaware


Elaine Johnson


Dee Richardson (DR): This is Dee Richardson. Today's date is November 8, 2003. It's about quarter 'til eleven in the morning. I'm conducting an interview with Vicki Greenstein for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project in Newark, Delaware. Vicki where are you from?

Vicki Greenstein (VG): Originally, I'm from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but now I live in Newark, Delaware.

DR: How long have you been here in Newark?

VG: Almost six years.

DR: You're one of the younger quilters that I've interviewed. Do you mind telling us how old you are?

VG: I'm twenty-six.

DR: The quilt that you've brought today can you tell me about it?

VG: It was a part of a block swap. It was the second block swap that I ever did.

DR: What is a block swap?

VG: I'm part of a bunch of online groups.

DR: Online groups?

VG: Yes, in order to kind of get fabric that you can't ordinarily get in this area and stuff like that you swap fabrics, or specific block types and they usually have something in common, for this quilt we all did white on white center squares and then the rest of it was just cut up your fabrics and stick them in a bag and half was lights and half was darks and that was that.

DR: So you actually made the squares but someone else gave you the fabric, so you swapped fabric.

VG: No, we actually swapped the blocks.

DR: Oh, okay.

VG: I had to make sixteen blocks, I kept one for myself and sent them in and then two or three of my other friends made sixteen blocks also and then one person swapped out all the blocks and sent it back. So, I had no idea what I was going to get.

DR: So, there's one central swapping place, one person who takes care of that. And then when you got them back you put them together.

VG: Yes, I sat down on the floor and figured out how I wanted to put them together. It kind of looks like crosses because I tried to match up colors because nothing else had anything in common.

DR: It is very colorful.

VG: It was my first scrap quilt.

DR: How long ago did you make it?

VG: In May.

DR: Oh, okay so just this year?

VG: Yes. Well, I've only been quilting for two years.

DR: What is the pattern you've used here?

VG: Log cabin.

DR: Log cabin, okay. Do you have any other requirements for the material?

VG: Yes, it has to be quilt shop quality.

DR: All cotton?

VG: Yes.

DR: Okay. Quilt shop quality, that's interesting I've never heard that description.

VG: [laughs.]

DR: Tell me what special meaning this quilt has for you?

VG: It's from my friends, so to me it means a lot.

DR: Your friends, are these online friends?

VG: Yes, I've never met them.

DR: Never met them. How frequently do you communicate with them?

VG: Every day.

DR: Every day.

VG: Yes, several times a day.

DR: Interesting. Why did you choose this one as your quilt to bring to the interview?

VG: It was a very hard decision. I was going to bring my first one I ever made, because I started quilting because when I was pregnant with my daughter, I wasn't allowed to do anything that was stressful. [laughs.] Which quilting can be stressful, but I wasn't supposed to be doing anything stressful. So, my husband asked me what I wanted to do, and I said that I had always loved quilts so I would like to learn how to quilt and that's why I started. I was going to bring that one, but my daughter didn't want to give that one up this morning. And then I was going to bring one that I had made with my sons but that's theirs. Then I thought about it, and I really didn't want to pick just one of their quilts to kind of be like this is all about me. And this is me--my online friends and swapping that is my favorite thing to do. I love to swap blocks and get things back and put one-of-a-kind quilts together that have a meaning behind them that no one else would understand and that my friends made blocks that are part of my quilt.

DR: Do you use the quilt?

VG: Yes.

DR: And how do you use it?

VG: On my sofa.

DR: It looks like it was machine quilted.

VG: It was.

DR: Did someone else do that for you?

VG: Actually, someone did. I do this--I stipple. It's my favorite thing.

DR: Stipple.

VG: Yes here. I love to stipple. But my brother's getting married two days after Christmas, and I am very busy between Christmas presents and all kinds of things so a friend of mine offered to quilt it for me. And I said, 'Oh, you'd be doing me a big favor because I really wanted to get it quilted, but I just would not have the time.' So, I sent it to her, and she lives in North Carolina, and she quilted it for me and then sent it back.

DR: You sound like a person who doesn't let a project hang around forever, you do complete projects. Does that describe you?

VG: I have two UFO's.

DR: Two, well that's pretty minor. That was UFO, would you tell us what UFO is?

VG: Unfinished object.

DR: Just two, that's amazing. What made you become interested in quilting?

VG: I've always loved quilting. I actually have family background of Amish and it's always just been something I've loved and something that is very humbling and to me it was just extraordinary that people could take fabric and cut it up and put it back together and it could look magnificent.

DR: So, your daughter who is now two, you just started quilting when you were pregnant with her, and how many quilts have you made in that time?

VG: Probably between 60 and 70.

DR: Sixty or seventy?

VG: I make a lot of baby quilts and I don't actually own a lot of the quilts that I've made. I make them as gifts and give them away more than anything.

DR: How did you learn?

VG: Self-taught and I've taken two classes.

DR: By self-taught, what is the first thing you've did?

VG: Got a book from the library is the first thing I did. My first quilt was a baby quilt, but it is one Ohio Star, it's huge and the star is like 27 X 27. That was the first and I did templates and the whole bit and then I started getting more interested in going online and found more information. I found tons of information online and then found groups and I've sort of gone from there. When I got to the part of machine stipple and machine quilting and I thought I'd need to take a class for that one, because I was a little lost.

DR: Where did you take your class?

VG: At the Quilters Hive.

DR: In Newark?

VG: Right.

DR: How many hours a day do you spend quilting? Most people would be able to answer how many hours a week, but since you've got that kind of production going.

VG: Probably on an average, two or three hours a day or so. My husband took half of our garage and made a hobby room and it's right off of the toy room so it's very helpful that my daughter or my sons can play downstairs and I can still sew.

DR: So they're in your eyesight.

VG: In my eyesight or at least my ear sight. [laughter.]

DR: You said you have a little bit of Pennsylvania Dutch in your background. What is your first memory of quilting?

VG: Probably going to Lancaster for some outing event and seeing Amish quilts hanging out in all their beauty.

DR: Any special color combination attracts you or pattern or anything?

VG: No. I was there for a while just stuck in like baby colors, but I was forced to change my color combinations. Now I can go with anything.

DR: What do you mean you were forced?

VG: Force swaps them. I wasn't allowed to do pastels and so I figured I'd have to branch out here. I did.

DR: For such a young quilter, I'm wondering where you see yourself in say fifteen years as far as quilting is concerned?

VG: I don't know. I really don't [laughs.] I've progressed so far in the past two years that I can't really imagine what my quilting ability will be like in fifteen years.

DR: So, in your imagination you would be continuing to quilt.

VG: Oh, yes, I'm not doing this [inaudible.].

DR: And try new techniques?

VG: Most definitely.

DR: On the questionnaire one of the questions that you answered 'yes' kind of intrigued me. The question about whether or not you have a collection of quilting or sewing memorabilia. Would you talk about that collection?

VG: I have three antique machines and I would really love to have a treadle, but I don't have one as yet. And when my great-grandmother died, I found out that they had just gotten rid of hers and I was heartbroken, but that's okay because my grandmother promised me that hers would be mine. [laughs.]

DR: Your grandmother has a treadle machine?

VG: Yes, I come from a long line of sewers, but I am the only quilter. The rest of my family all sew clothes, but I cannot cut a straight line to save my life with scissors, so I quilt. Which is fine because being me, I get the stuff I need that they made, and they get the things they need that I made.

DR: I just want to hit on one other question that is in this little questionnaire. Have you ever been a board member or chair of a committee in a guild? And you are a member of what guild?

VG: The Ladybug Guild.

DR: It seems to me you have a little more involvement than just to say 'no' you've never been a chair of a committee. Tell me what you've done for the guild?

VG: Currently I'm the webmaster and I'm also helping with the Diamond State Quilt and Doll Show, as far as I'm putting together the brochures for it.

DR: What kind of background do you have that would lend you to be able to do that?

VG: My husband is a Lotus Notes administrator and so whenever I have run into troubles, I just ask him and I've always loved computers and they come very easily to me, and I love to play with new products to see what I can figure out. So, I'm just using two products that I already know how to use anyhow. And whenever I run into a real problem, I just get David to help me.

DR: Do you feel like a real high-energy person? Do you see yourself as a real high-energy person? You seem to be able to accomplish a lot.

VG: Yes. I'm always on the go. I'm very schedule oriented, so if I don't have very set schedule and I kind of have nothing going on for the day I find I don't do anything that day. I like to seem to like to say, 'Okay, you're going to allow two hours for this and an hour for that.' And it drives my husband crazy, because he is the opposite. He is very good with the flow and if something takes an hour and forty-five minutes instead of an hour and a half, I'll have a cow and he'll say, 'It's only fifteen minutes.' [laughter.]

DR: The quilting that you do, you are giving the quilts away generally, so you have a lot of very lucky friends and family members. How do they respond?

VG: They love my quilts. Coming from a long line of sewers, they all understand how much time and effort goes into anything you create, so they all appreciate everything and anything that I make on their behalf.

DR: Do you have a waiting list?

VG: No. [laughs.]

DR: That's good. I think you've already answered this question, a lot of the older quilters have different answers from what your answer would be, but has quilting ever helped you get through a difficult time?

VG: Yes, I had a very bad pregnancy with my daughter and quilting helped tremendously; because I was allowed to have all the time that I just needed for myself to just put it into something else. I created several quilts before she was born in a month. Of course, they're all tied so it was the first thing I tried was tying quilts.

DR: What is it that makes quilting fun for you?

VG: I'm not good at cutting with scissors, so for me.

DR: What do you use?

VG: I use a rotary cutter and a ruler. But if I make a mistake no one will know. It doesn't matter I can flub it and make it look right or add an extra piece of a border if it doesn't come out just perfect. If my blocks come out at twelve inches instead of twelve and a half inches no one except a professional quilter would ever realize. So, to me it means I can be me and nobody will know any different.

DR: What part of making a quilt do you least enjoy?

VG: Seam ripping.

DR: Seam ripping?

VG: Yes.

DR: Do you have to do much seam ripping?

VG: Not normally. I did when I first started but now, I'm getting much better and much more accurate. I got a new machine for my birthday in June and it's helping tremendously. I've gone through three different machines.

DR: In two years?

VG: Yes. Well, the first one I got was a really cheap one and it didn't have all the stitches that I liked and the second one I got from a garage sale for twenty bucks and it's absolutely my favorite machine and I told my husband if I ever bought another machine, I wanted a computerized one. And so for my birthday he took me to the store and told me to pick out a new one and that's it. I'm not allowed to have anymore, that's what he says.

DR: Have you used the computer features of your machine?

VG: Yes, I got an heirloom addition and it's got a bazillion stitches and it's easy to fool with and to machine quilt with and I've got the extended board and it just makes it much easier than to try to roll it up and hold it here and figure out how you're now going to use it under the machine, so I like it.

DR: It sounds great. So, what do you think makes a really great quilt?

VG: I think every quilt is a really great quilt. I don't think it really matters whether the person has hand-quilted and spent a thousand hours doing it or whether a person took forty-five minutes and stippled it. I think that every single quilt that is me is an original quilt and a quilt that comes from someone's mind whether they've taken an exact pattern and copied it or if they took their time and made an artistic quilt. So, I think every quilt is a great quilt.

DR: Are there, just trying to be objective a little bit and thinking about quilts, what makes it have artistic power?

VG: Any time a quilt wows you. When you look at it and you go, 'Wow,' you know.

DR: What kind of quilts do you say 'wow' to?

VG: I think appliqué.

DR: Appliqué, okay. A color or specific pattern, it doesn't?

VG: No, I'm very amazed by anyone who has the time and ability to hand appliqué quilts. It doesn't matter to me what size they are I don't do them well, at least at this point. I like to machine appliqué, but I use a satin stitch and it is very fast and simple and I use the biggest pattern that I can use. But to me it's just anything that and people that are able to use thread and make pictures just using thread, because I'm not very artistic or able to draw really well, so to me that's just amazing.

DR: Do you have any feeling about hand quilting versus machine quilting?

VG: I'm not a hand quilter, but I think people have to have a little more talent to be able to keep the stitches even. I like machine quilting because it goes very quickly, it can be done and it's not something that I have to spend a thousand hours to quilt something. I think that they're beautiful. It's just not me. I like my stuff done quickly.

DR: Looking at quilting from a larger view. Have you ever gone to a museum to look at a collection?

VG: Yes, I have.

DR: Which museum?

VG: It's a museum down in Virginia. We spent our vacation in Virginia this year and I do not know the name of it.

DR: Was it a large collection?

VG: It was like this house that had quilts on the first and second floor and they had a small quilt store inside and they just had quilts from the local area.

DR: Were any of them old?

VG: Yes, they were antiques. It was just very interesting. I took my six-year-old with me because he is very much into quilting also and we just kind of oohed and ahhed.

DR: What do you mean he is into quilting? Does he help you or does he quilt on his own?

VG: He would love to, but I don't trust him quite yet with the machine. But he does already have the fabric picked out for the time that I say that he can actually make his first quilt. He does love to help. If I get stuck on what color a piece should be or a border, I will hold it up and say, 'Okay, Ty tells Mommy what color I should put here?' and nine out of ten times he's right as far as what color it should be. I also like to do Round Robins and so I'll say, 'Okay, Ty what kind of border should I put here?' and he'll say, 'Oh, Mom you need to do more stars. You need to do pinwheels,' or whatever.

DR: What are Round Robins?

VG: It's another online thing. I don't know if it's just online. But I work with a lot of online friends. You make a set size center block. It can be anything from something you appliquéd to something as simple as this log cabin block. And then from there it gets passed on through four or five women that do it. So you make the center and then you send it to somebody, the first person on the list and then someone will then take a set size for the border and someone will send that to the next person and they will add a border to it and send it to the next person and they put a border on it and it continues until it gets back to you and then it's done.

DR: Who gets to keep it?

VG: Me, because at the same time I'm doing theirs.

DR: You're doing borders on theirs so there's probably several quilts in the mail. Are you comfortable with mail? Have you ever had any scares about losing anything?

VG: No. I send everything priority and insure it and make sure that I have a tracking number. The Post Office is pretty good, if you write right in the corner that it's fabric swap or whatever, their pretty good about it getting where it's supposed to and if it doesn't its only fabric.

DR: Did you meet your Round Robin friends on the internet?

VG: No.

DR: Have you ever see any of them up close?

VG: No, I've seen pictures, but I've never actually seen them in person.

DR: It's sort of like the modern-day pen-pal.

VG: Yes. And I have friends that are as far away as Alaska and Australia that I swap with.

DR: How wonderful. How about your friends locally? Do you have friends locally that you quilt with?

VG: No, I quilt basically by myself. I do belong to the guild, and I do belong to a bee in the guild.

DR: What is the bee you belong to?

VG: I don't know if we actually, technically have a name. We don't meet on the same day every month. [laughs.]

DR: You get together once a month?

VG: Yes, normally. We have gotten together for a couple of months because Stacey [inaudible.], but that's okay.

DR: What do you do at the bee?

VG: Talk, that's about it. We mostly talk and look at things and if somebody is working on something give ideas and things.

DR: So, like a show and tell and help me with this kind of project. What aspects of the guild are you most interested in?

VG: I really enjoy the programs, because they are so much part of quilting. Being a self-taught quilter and the only quilter in my family that I just can't get and you being a quilter also and I realize this area other than the Ladybug Guild. It's kind of quiet as far as quilting goes, we have like two or three shops. I'm from Philadelphia where you have Fabric Row and things like that. And to be here and when I first started looking, I couldn't find anything, and I looked for the first year and a half that I was here when I got involved in quilting in order to even find a quilt guild. I just happened to be in the Quilters' Hive and saw a red flyer and thought, 'We do have one in the area.' But I had no idea because I had tried to find one on the web and all kinds of things and couldn't find one.

DR: So, now that you are the guild's webmaster hopefully there will other people like you to find them easier.

VG: I tried really hard to get our name out there as much as physically possible, so people will be able to see. And I get e-mails all the time, and I say, 'You have to come to a meeting, just come and you'll see if you like it and if it's for you.' And every time I go to a class or if I'm up in Lancaster County and someone says, 'I live near Newark.' And I say, 'Do you belong to our guild?' I try to promote us as much as possible.

DR: What are the programs that the guild has that are especially good for you?

VG: I like anything where I learn a new technique or get a new idea or just see something that I've never seen before. I love the history behind quilts. I love learning about past times and reason why quilts were used, and I love to read, and I love to get knowledge as much as possible with three small children. I kind of like anything that's informational, those programs are important and interesting to me.

DR: When you make a quilt do you sign it or put a label on it?

VG: If I'm giving it as gift I do. If it's just staying in the house for the children, they know which quilt is theirs and the rest of house quilts they know are the house quilts, so I normally don't.

DR: How do you actually sign the quilts that you give away?

VG: I use pigment pens and write a little something specifically to that person and then sign it and put Newark, Delaware and the year. I don't usually put the exact date because I usually finish things months before they're needed.

DR: Wow.

VG: I try really hard like right now a couple of people my husband works with are all pregnant and I'm like, well, none of them are finding out what they're having so they have to wait until the babies are actually born. But if I know then I try to get started now even if the baby isn't due until March, because I don't like to work last minute. I don't work well under last minute pressure.

DR: Interesting. How do you think quilts have affected or reflect the life of American women?

VG: I think they've given American women a lot. I think they've help settlers have a comfort of home when they left their homes. I think women in communities become tighter together?

DR: You mean like a quilting bee?

VG: Yes, and I think it helped them realize they weren't alone. That the same things that were going on in your home were going on in someone else's home even though you only saw what was going on in your household. Now, I think that it helps women do the same thing now; it helps women who need to have someone to talk to and to share their ideas and get a fresh aspect of things going on in their lives. I think it gives us all a common bond that we're able to talk above and over that. Plus, they keep you warm.

DR: Plus, it keeps you warm. That's very good. Okay, I think that probably you've talked about all the areas I needed to touch one. I'd just like to talk about quilts a little bit more. You can focus on this one or other ones, or is there an aspect of quilting that I haven't asked you about or that you would like to offer up ideas on?

VG: Well, you didn't ask me about my stash?

DR: Okay, tell us about your stash.

VG: My stash actually, most of it comes from my aunt who started quilting but never really got into but had bought fabric and it came from my grandmother and great-grandmother.

DR: So, how big is your stash?

VG: Pretty big. It has quite a bit in it. My grandmom and my aunt said that I could come up and take as much as I wanted so I came home with four huge 35-gallon trash bags full, because she said you'll need this, and you'll need that. So, I don't actually have to go to a fabric store for anything for quite some time. But I do.

DR: The fabrics that you got from your aunt and your grandmother are they old fabrics?

VG: Some of them are, a lot of them probably are more from the '80's and the '90's so they're not quite antiques yet, but they hold special value especially when they go to other family member and my grandmom or aunt will turn around and say, 'Oh that's a fabric I used to have.' So, it's kind of like they're still getting passed down and to us they're special. I have fabric from my great-grand nanny who when she died, she was 96 years old and so I have fabric from her and that's special fabric. And that fabric has not been touched.

DR: So how old is that do you know?

VG: Oh, gosh, I don't know probably pretty old.

DR: Like fifties or sixties?

VG: Probably, it's very old fabric; I mean it's nothing that you'd find now unless it was just a reproduction or whatever. But that fabric is very special, and it will be made into a very special quilt.

DR: What kind of quilt is in your mind to make it into?

VG: I have no quilt plan. It's just sitting on a shelf all by itself and eventually it will get used, but I'm not sure when.

DR: There's enough fabric for a full quilt, but if you need to will you add something?

VG: Yes, I would add something that I already have. I mix and I don't care. I use 100% cotton, but I would use some old and some new. To me those are special things I can give back, my grandmom or great-grandmom but my family can have something that was hers and be able to say that if it's my children can say that it was from their great-grandmom or great great-grandmom. There were five generations alive at the same time at one time.

DR: Now your children's quilts, you said they all know which belongs to them so what do they do with them?

VG: It's more like what they don't do with them. Both of my boys have quilts that they've outgrown so their all folded and they don't play with them anymore. Though one of them is a Trip Around the World that my oldest son actually stood next to me and handed me each block as we put it together. We put that together and it's special and put away, so it doesn't get ruined. So, I made him just solid blocks that he just changed, and he picked the fabric for and so to him that is very special. And then they have rag quilts that they have on their beds that they can do whatever with them and that's fine because that's what they're for. They're not supposed to be all we lay them on our bed and never touch it, because they're four and six and my daughter has a sampler quilt that was also a block quilt on her toddler bed and now, she is in a twin bed so it kind of doesn't really fit, but I'm in the process of making a new one.

DR: That will probably be done tomorrow.

VG: Not quite. But she is very proud of her quilt. She still carries around the very first quilt I made her. That's her blankie and she loves it. It's got spots that have dirt that's in ground into the fabric, but that's okay because it's her quilt. If that's what she wants to do with it then she can that's fine. It is the first quilt that I ever made and if it stands up for ten years I'll be really amazed.

DR: What colors do the kids like?

VG: Jordyn's favorite color is purple. Drew's favorite color is green and Tyler flips between blue and orange.

DR: So Jordyn is?

VG: Jordyn is my daughter.

DR: And the middle one is?

VG: Drew.

DR: The green guy.

VG: Yes, green. Everything is green if it's green I buy it for him because he'll love it.

DR: Okay. I think that probably we can close this up. I want to thank you very much Vicki Greenstein for letting me interview you today for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. Our interview is concluding at twenty minutes past eleven on November 8, 2003. Thank you so much.

VG: Thank you.

[tape ends.]



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