Dianne Deming




Dianne Deming




Dianne Deming


Kelly Lucas

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Nancy O'Bryant Puentes


Lewes, Delaware


Rachel Grove


Kelli Lucas (KL): Today is March 3, 2003. We're here with Dianne. [cough.]

Dianne Deming (DD): Yes.

KL: Diane Deming and the Ocean Waves quilt guild in Lewes, Delaware, and Dianne, why don't you start out just talking about the quilts you brought with you?

DD: Okay. Well, the crazy quilt was given to me by my mother-in-law, and it was made in 1884. It is dated--it says December 25, 1884, from Mother, and then there are two initials on it, R.D., which are quite beautifully embroidered, and that's the only information that's on the quilt itself. But my husband is into his family's genealogy, and so given those initials and the date, we were able to piece together that it was made by his great-great-grandmother, Julia Deming, in Wichita, Kansas for her son, Robert O. Deming, on the first Christmas after his wedding, and I always thought it was kind of odd that she didn't put the wife's initials on it too. [laughter.] Anyway, different times, different styles, I guess.

KL: Right.

DD: And then Robert O. Deming who was the recipient of the quilt started the Deming Investment Company in Oswego, Kansas which went on to become a quite prominent business for a couple generations.

KL: So, it came down to your husband through the family?

DD: My mother-in-law gave it to me. I started quilting about ten years ago, and so then my mother and she started giving me quilts, [laughter.] so that was fun.

KL: Yes, yes. Now we can see for the benefit of those that are listening and not seeing the quilt that it's made of some extraordinary fabrics and beautiful silks and velvets, and you mentioned something about that earlier. Do you want to talk about the fabrics today in the quilt?

DD: Well, I don't know exactly where they came from, but one interesting fact that my husband told me was that Julia's daughter married a wealthy clothier, and it could be that some of the fabrics were given to her by her son-in-law, because the daughter was married before Robert was married. So that would make sense, chronologically anyway. There are some beautiful silks and velvets and taffetas, and some brocades and ribbons and the variety of stitches is just incredible.

KL: Right, with the crazy quilt you get amazing embroideries. Is that a style you've done yourself at all, the crazy quilting?

DD: I've been working for about four years on a crazy quilt Christmas vest, and I'm so sick of it. [laughter.] If I never embroider another thing in my life, it will be too soon.

KL: Yes.

DD: So, I don't see it as a lifelong passion or anything, but I'm glad I tried it once.

KL: Yes. I imagine it would give you even more appreciation for this quilt--

DD: Absolutely yes. And the one thing is most crazy quilts have a spider web in them, embroidered in them somewhere for good luck, and this one does not.

KL: Interesting.

DD: There's a horseshoe, it says 'Good Luck,' but there's no spider web.

KL: That's interesting. Now do you have this quilt out on display in your home? Is it an important family piece for you, or do you have it in storage?

DD: I have it in storage, but I bring it out whenever possible to show people. I'm afraid that if I display it--The back is very deteriorated. It's this hot pink silk, and it's just falling apart completely. So, I don't think it would be really possible to put a rod pocket on it and hang it.

KL: Right.

DD: And then I thought I could just put up a rod and just drape it over a rod or over a quilt frame and I might do that at some point, but I know if it's exposed to air or light, it'll just increase the deterioration. It'll happen faster. So, I hate to do that, but then on the other hand you hate to not have it seen too. It's sort of a Catch-22.

KL: Absolutely.

DD: I think.

KL: Yes. You mentioned that your mother-in-law gave you this quilt. Does your husband's family have a lot of quilters?

DD: No.

KL: Really.

DD: Well, not that we knew.

KL: This one just came down to you, because you started quilting?

DD: Right, but as far as I know Frank's grand--my husband's father's mother did not quilt, and his mother didn't quilt either.

KL: That's really neat then that there's another quilter in the family that can--

DD: Yes.

KL: Continue the tradition. That's great. Now how did you get started quilting?

DD: My mother started quilting after I was an adult about fifteen years ago, and she started giving me gifts, and they were so beautiful I thought, 'Gosh, I want to try this too.' So, I took a class with a friend of mine. I was living in Mountaintop, Pennsylvania at the time, and my youngest son was one year old, and I took a class with Dianne Louvet in her dining room in beginning quilting. We had to do everything by hand except sewing on the sashing strips, but it was a four-block sampler quilt, and each block taught us something different.

KL: Right.

DD: It was a lot of fun.

KL: Do you still have that quilt? Take it out to look at it every once in a while?

DD: Yes. [laughter.] It was on my-- [inaudible.] [laughter.]

KL: Now could you talk a little bit about the second quilt you brought, because this is one you have made?

DD: These are blocks from the 1930s that were given to me by my friend Katherine Freund in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, and she gave them to me because the blocks of the little boys--It's Overall Sams--reminded her of our little boy when he was two, but she did not make these. She thinks that her mother's friend--Mrs. Sarah Eckerd made the blocks in about 1930 and then gave them to her mother, but we don't know why, because Mrs. Freund only had Katherine. She never had a boy. We don't know why Mrs. Eckerd would give her blocks of boys, but that's the only--She could not remember her mother sitting around making them, so that made the most sense to her. I pieced the old blocks with new reproduction fabrics about 9 years ago. I think they're called Aunt Graces 1933 reproduction fabrics. It was kind of just at the very beginning of the reproduction wave, and there weren't a whole lot of choices at the time. Now you go in the stores and there's like three shelves full of the stuff, but I found four different reproduction prints that I liked, and the next thing about the reproduction fabrics is that the colors match. You know it's the same type of colors and the prints too. So, I set the blocks in a grid and separated them with the sashing strips, blue sashing with yellow corner stones, and then did a half square triangle border.

KL: Now you mentioned that the first quilt you made was mostly by hand. Did you did you do this one also mostly by hand or did you do some on the machine?

DD: I machine pieced it and then hand quilted it.

KL: Do you work a lot--have you found yourself working a lot with the reproduction fabrics since then?

DD: No, this was the only one since then. [laughter.] I don't like doing the same thing twice.

KL: That's great. So, what other things have you experimented with then?

DD: This is a twin-size quilt, and it's the only bed size quilt I've had anything to do with. Well, that's not true. I've done quilts with my church--started a group at my church, and we started with a quilt that the children in Sunday school made, the blocks, and I pieced them together and then I gathered some ladies to help me quilt it, and then after that they wanted to know, 'What can we make next?' So, we made a Nine Patch scrap quilt, auctioned it off, and well raffled it off, and so we got going there. But I mostly do smaller things, wall hangings and things like that to decorate my home and give away as gifts.

KL: So, I imagine you got together with the group from your church to even see if quilting could be a little bit of a social--

DD: Oh definitely. Yes. In Pennsylvania, I belong to a mini group, and we met every Tuesday afternoon in different women's homes, and we all said it was a lot cheaper than therapy.

KL: Yeah. [laughter.] Good babysitting too. [laughter.] That's great. What kind of wall hangings do you find yourself doing? In terms of color or pattern or technique?

DD: I mostly like traditional patterns, but I'm starting to kind of branch out more. I like also like the batiks and hand dyed things. I think the colors in those are beautiful.

KL: Yes.

DD: Especially the batiks and I made a number of stoles for clergy. You know the pieces that hang down on their robes. I made four of them for people from Africa who are visiting our Presbytery in Pennsylvania, and they had different colors of the liturgical year, purple and green and white, and then I used the batiks to make Friendship Stars and that was really nice. They liked those a lot.

KL: Do you find yourself going to a lot of those bright colors? When I think of batik, I think of very bright colors--

DD: Either bright of jewel tones, I like those too, but not pastels much--

KL: Right.

DD: Or muddy--I don't like muddy colors too much. Another thing I've done is--I made for my niece and nephew an I Spy--each an I Spy quilt. Have you heard of those?

KL: No.

DD: Oh, they're a lot of fun. You take a--they were made with hexagons set with triangles, and each hexagon you use a novelty print, something that has a little picture printed on the fabric, and then on the back you put a list that says 'Find the frog. Find the airplane.' And you play this game with the kids, and it's really fun. It's cool.

KL: That's great. Do a lot of your quilts become gifts?

DD: Yes

KL: Other people.

DD: Yes, they do. [laughter.] I try to get a picture of them before they fly away, and I keep a journal.

KL: That's a good idea.

DD: And try to write down these stories about the quilt in the journal, as well as the boring stuff like how big it is, stuff like that.

KL: Oh, that must be wonderful for the people getting it, to have that story with it as well. That's great. So, when you're doing these quilts, what's one of your favorites that you've done? You've talked about the I Spy. You have the Overall Sams today. When you think back--the one you had the most fun making? Could you talk about one of those quilts?

DD: Well, it seems as long as they're not giving you any problems, the one you're working on now is the most fun, you know. [laughter.]

KL: Anything new--

DD: New. Yes. Right. But I really enjoyed working on the Overall Sams because it was so unique, and I love hand quilting, and it was easy because I didn't have to quilt through a lot of seams. So, I could just sit there and quilt away, because it was mostly done in the background of the appliqué blocks, but my favorite method is to machine piece and hand quilt.

KL: So you get the tedious work out of the way and then--

DD: Yes. I think the hand quilting relaxing and I feel a lot--

KL: That would be fun. Do you get most of your ideas from pattern books or from other people in guilds and groups you belong to? We're going to talk about some of your ideas and how you get started on a quilt.

DD: I like to take classes, and that helps a lot. I think I'm more of an audio learner than a visual learner, so if someone tells me how to do something it's easier to pick up than reading it from an instruction book.

KL: Right.

DD: But I've got a lot of ideas and help from my mini group too. We're always passing around suggestions and pieces of fabric and patterns.

KL: So, a lot of your fabric doesn't necessarily come from a fabric store, but you swap with other people?

DD: To some degree, yes, a little bit. One time I wanted to make a Double Wedding Ring wall hanging for my husband, because whenever I drag him along to quilt shows he always pointed out the Double Wedding Ring, and 'Isn't that beautiful? Don't you love that one?' And we had this wall in our old house, and right smack dab in the middle of the wall was the thermostat, the register, and you couldn't hang a painting there, and it just looked really ugly, this plastic box, so he said, 'I wish we could hang something here.' He said, 'Even one of your quilts would look better here.' [laughter.]

KL: Oh dear.

DD: And so, I asked my friend Dianne, who taught the classes, if she would teach us a Double Wedding Ring class, so I could make him this thing, and I think she taught it twice. It was real popular class. It's not an easy pattern, because every piece is a different size.

KL: Okay.

DD: And you have to use templates. You can't rotary cut.

KL: And there's a lot--it's made up of circles, right?

DD: Exactly, so on that arc every, well the middle one's one, and each one they're all different sizes going around the arc.

KL: What kind of colors did you use for that one?

DD: I used weird colors, because that's a really traditional pattern, and most people would use real traditional colors, but I was trying to match our room. So, our room was like rust and gold, and it was early eighties colors, [laughter.] so gold furniture--

KL: Yes.

DD: So then one fabric had like an African look to it, and one fabric was this real pretty but almost kind of a denimy blue with off-white stars scattered around, kind of batiky looking, because he does astronomy.

KL: Oh neat.

DD: And so I tried to incorporate some of his tastes and the quilting pattern inside the circle was four stars.

KL: Okay, very cool.

DD: Another thing I'm working on is an anniversary quilt for my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary, but my mother had better not read this online before [laughter.] June of 2005.

KL: We'll try our best knock it down a little bit. [laughter.]

DD: Thank you.

KL: You can give her the interview along with the quilt.

DD: There you go.

KL: That might be a neat story.

DD: But each block is something from their life, and my sister's helping me with it too. She's doing some counted cross-stitch embroidery to go on it, so that should be really special and [inaudible.]

KL: Yes, oh definitely. Are you choosing fabrics that suit their house decorations?

DD: Yes, it's blue and like rose, which is what their house is, and then it's a mixture of mediums, so I think that's really neat. Some is pieced and some is appliquéd. I have straight appliqué on my dad's Suburban and their trailer because they used to go--They go camping, and then I have a pieced block from every state they've lived in.

KL: Oh cool.

DD: Yes, and then things representing my sister and her family, my family and me, and so it should be fun. We'll have been working on it five years when we're done.

KL: Oh my--

DD: But you know it's the thing that always gets put away when I work on other stuff. I have to start being serious about it though because it's only a year away at this point. [laughter.]

KL: It's coming up quick.

DD: Yes.

KL: You mentioned you're doing some cross-stitch?

DD: Well, no my sister--

KL: Your sister is.

DD: I used to do that, but then once I started quilting, I didn't like it anymore. I quit. [laughter.]

KL: You get hooked on quilting.

DD: Yes, absolutely, and there's only so much time in the day so--

KL: Do you find yourself quilting just about every day you pick up one project to work on?

DD: No.

KL: No. Just talk about how often you do it or when--

DD: It goes in spurts and depends if I have a deadline or not or if I have a project like when I had this little boys quilt, this Overall Sam quilt, I would keep it in a bag in the family room and I did pick it up a number of times a week, because it was just straight quilting and it was easy to pick up and work on. Right now, I don't have anything at that stage that's ready. You know everything that I'm doing now needs sewing machine work first before it can get to the hand quilting stage.

KL: Right.

DD: So that seems to take more effort to--because I have to drag out my sewing machine.

KL: Yes.

DD: We just moved here, and finally I think I'm going to have a spot where I can leave it set up and not have it overtake the whole family living space. I used to have to drag it out, put it on the kitchen table, and then--

KL: Oh.

DD: Put it away when we ate, but then sometimes we ate lunch down on one corner of the kitchen table. [laughter.] Try not to splash over.

KL: So, your family got to see what you were working on.

DD: That's right. They saw the work in progress and progress and progress.

KL: Yes. You mention your family. Do you have children who have taken up quilting as well or--

DD: No, but they both want Mom to make them quilts.

KL: Oh yes.

DD: I'm working on a quilt for my one son now that's all flannel, and it was a kit that has all kinds of woodland prints. It has moose and bear and cabins and trees and then black silhouettes, silhouettes of animals, because he likes forest animals, so that's about it. Well, it's getting there. [laughter.]

KL: It's in progress.

DD: It's in progress.

KL: How many quilts--I'm sorry. Go ahead.

DD: My other son has the fabric chosen. We've had it for about a year, and now of course since I've moved, I can't find it, so it gives me an excuse while I finish the other one. How many quilts have I done?

KL: Well, that too, and how many do you have in progress right now? Either one.

DD: I probably have, not including the one that's still just a stack of fabric, [laughter.] probably four things in progress now.

KL: Okay.

DD: And then I'm not sure how many I've made. I mean when you add up all those stoles, you know those go really fast, so probably fifteen pieces, maybe twenty.

KL: You mentioned earlier that this quilt took you a period of several years. What kind of time span--when you've got so many going at once, they must take you a long time to finish. Take me through a quilt from start to finish. How long does an average quilt take you?

DD: Well--

KL: One of your wall hangings--

DD: It depends on if it's for me or if it's for someone else. If it's for someone else, like for a birthday, I usually get it done. Well, my nephew's was on time, and my niece's was two weeks late. [laughter.]

KL: That's close.

DD: Yes, and theirs only took a couple months, but they were all machine done, and you know it was for someone else, so I got it finished.

KL: Whereas for you, you take--

DD: Takes years. [laughter.]

KL: So, when you're working at quilts and when you see quilts that you've made and what others have made, what stands out to you? What makes you think, 'That is a wonderful quilt?' What are some of the qualities that jump out at you?

DD: Well, probably the three things would be first color, that you would see first, then design, and then the quality of the stitching. I get up close and look--

KL: Yes, stitches. [laughter.] So, if they're nice and tight and even, things like that?

DD: Yes.

KL: Do you remember one or two particular quilts that you might have seen at a show or that really stand out, and talk about those a little bit? Feel free to take some time to think about it. I'm putting you on the spot with all these questions.

DD: Well, I've gone to a number of the Lancaster quilt shows. That's not the official name. I can't remember what it is, but they always have exquisite quilts, and I'm usually drawn to the traditional ones with lots of little, tiny stitching, and there have been some gorgeous things there. But this one, the first show I went to, they also had this category that was more like art quilts, and there was one that was commemorating the Holocaust, and it just was so moving. It was phenomenal. It had barbed wire. I can't remember if it was actual barbed wire or if it was stitched barbed wire. Anyway, it had words on it. I can't remember specifically anymore, because it was probably about ten years ago, but I just remember it being extremely moving. So, it's the kind of thing when you go to an art gallery, you say, 'Well, I wouldn't want that on my living room wall, but it sure is pretty or interesting or'--It was that kind of experience.

KL: Yes.

DD: But it was admirable.

[5 second pause.]

KL: You see I'm looking to pick up the questions that I might have missed. Is there anything that you particularly wanted to talk about, any questions that I haven't asked you that you would want to talk about in your experience with quilting, the quilting scene--[inaudible.]

DD: Well, another thing that interests me is the history of quilts, and that's why this project is so important, and I've taken my quilts on the road so to speak. I used to go around to elementary schools and civic groups and church groups and talk about the history of quilt making and how women express their feelings, their beliefs, their lives, through their quilts and how quilts have been used recently to learn more about women since, in history, there aren't as many written records about women or by women as there are by men, and so I think that's the very interesting subject, and I'm thrilled that you're doing this project. It's wonderful.

KL: You mention you like to talk about how women's beliefs and values come through in their quilts. Could you talk a little bit about how your quilts express what you believe and the things you value as important to you? Is that something you've--[inaudible.]

DD: No, that's fine. Well, I think the experience of sitting around the quilt frame with the women from the church has been really invaluable, and it's a way to show support for their church and also support one another, and that was a wonderful experience, and I like working on the vestments too, because it's a creative outlet and it lets you use the traditional ideas in new ways and try to express faith through that, and that's been interesting.

KL: So, it's very much tied to faith in a way.

DD: Right.

KL: That's great. How did you get interested in the history of quilts? Did you start reading books or just from seeing other people's quilts?

DD: Well, you know I've been given these quilts as gifts, and I belong to a women's group that needs a program every month.

KL: Yes. [laughter.]

DD: And I can't really remember how it got started. I think that I went to my son's third grade class, because they had a story that they were reading in school about quilting in their reader, and I said to the teacher, 'Oh, I've got 6 or 7 antique quilts. Would you like me to bring them it?' And then I also about that time found a book on the women's expressions through quilt making, and it just kind of snowballed.

KL: Yes, so you take these quilts in to talk to elementary school students. Talk about how they react. What do you talk about, and how do they react to the quilts?

DD: We talk about how a quilt is made and what kinds of--where ideas come for patterns or like from nature or whatever, Flying Geese or Maple Leaf or from things around your house, Broken Dishes and Log Cabins and so forth and the role of quilts in westward expansion and how important they were for the women going from the East to the West. It was something that they could take with them that was a tie to their friends back home which I've experienced recently because my quilt group gave me a quilt top when I moved. The children all want to talk about their quilts. You know the quilt their grandmother made them when they were a baby, and it's just really sweet.

KL: Right.

DD: And they're very interested. They sit there for a full forty-five minutes, not saying a thing--

KL: That's an accomplishment. [laughter.]

DD: Yes, plus they're interested in the subject, and I have a lot of samples, so I always borrow a lot of quilts from my friends, and we show about fifty quilts, so they don't have a chance to get too bored. That's good. [laughter.] But it's neat the way that they're so interested, and almost every kid in the room usually has a quilt.

KL: Really? Something that their family--

DD: Yes, either their mom or their grandma or their aunt or their mother's best friend or somebody made for them when they were born usually.

KL: So, these kids are really associating quilts with family and home and--

DD: Right, exactly.

KL: That's really neat.

DD: Yes, it is. Isn't it?

KL: Could you talk a little bit about the quilt that your quilt group gave you when you left and what it was like? The quilt and what it means.

DD: Okay, they only had a month.

KL: Wow.

DD: Because they didn't know we were moving until the last minute, and so they picked a very simple pattern, which was a Split Rail pattern, but it was so meaningful to me, because each one of them made a block and each one of them signed it. Some of them put little messages on it, and then two or three of the women put them together in the top. So, all I have to do is quilt it and bind it, and they gave me not only the top but the batting and the backing, so there's no excuse not to get this done.

KL: Yes. [laughter.]

DD: We had made a quilt for the woman who left our group just before me, and one woman made it and we all pitched in to help pay for the fabric. Well, I didn't think that was nearly as meaningful as this where everyone had contributed their own work to it.

KL: Definitely. Now you described a pattern I'm not familiar with, so maybe for my benefit and the benefit of those listening you could describe the Split Rail block you said?

DD: It's a really basic block. You have three strips--

KL: Okay.

DD: Maybe we'll say two inches wide by six inches long and then you have three more going this way--

KL: Perpendicular.

DD: And then over here you have three more and then over here you have three more. See? So, it's got twelve strips all together set in strip sets of three.

KL: Okay.

DD: Okay, so then you make them perpendicular to each other. The upper left, the lower right are up and down. The upper right and lower left are across.

KL: Okay, so it's a two by two with these little blocks of three strips. Two on the top and a two-by-two block. Okay we're going to do a quick [inaudible.]. [10 second pause.] Okay, thank you. For the tape we've got a drawing, a sketch on the back of the contact information. [inaudible because of laughter.]

DD: Someone else can figure out how to describe it. [laughter.]

KL: Yes, yes.

DD: The [inaudible.].

KL: I'm a little bit slow, [laughter.] so thank you for the diagram.

DD: And now when she set it with sashing strips, she made the corner stones which is where the blocks come together into red stars, all different fabrics of red, dark red stars, eight pointed stars. It looks really neat.

KL: It must be beautiful.

DD: It is and so meaningful. I take it out every once in a while just to look at it.

KL: Yes.

DD: Even though I'm not ready to put it together yet. [laughter.]

KL: Sounds like you got a few projects going--[laughter.]

DD: Yes.

KL: So, everybody wrote messages on it you say?

DD: A couple people did.

KL: A couple people.

DD: Most of them just signed their names, but there are a couple messages too.

KL: That's really special.

DD: It is.

KL: Well, if you think if there's anything else--you have so many wonderful stories.

DD: Oh, thank you--

KL: Such neat quilts, and it's been great fun to talk about them.

DD: Thank you.

KL: Are there any other topics you want talk about? You talked about your visits to elementary school students. Are you hoping to do that here now that you've moved down to Delaware?

DD: I don't know. [laughter.]

[inaudible because Kelli and Dianne are talking at the same time.]

KL: Yes. Well, any other final thoughts or questions?

DD: I can't think of anything. I just thank you so much for doing this. I just think it's great, and I hope it works really well, and you get all twenty million quilters out there. [laughter.]

KL: We're getting there. [laughter.] Good [inaudible.] Well, once again we've been here at the Ocean Waves quilt guild meeting. This is March the third, 2003, and we've been interviewing Dianne Deming. We're going to go ahead and stop the tape right now.



“Dianne Deming,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 15, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1617.