Diana Ziegler




Diana Ziegler




Diana Ziegler


Megan Dwyre

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Nancy O'Bryant Puentes


Milford, Delaware


Rachel Grove


Megan Dwyre (MD): Good afternoon. This is Megan Dwyre. I'm here interviewing Diana Ziegler on October 19, 2003 in Milford, Delaware. So we're here standing in front of a wall hanging that she made. So could you start off just by describing it?

Diana Ziegler (DZ): It's a wall hanging that I made for my husband for our fortieth anniversary. It has grapes in the center--red grapes and yellow grapes, and then it's bordered with several borders out to the edge. It has corks on one border and wine bottles and some solid borders and then grapes--grapes and leaves on the outside border. There are wine glasses with both red and white wine bottles with both red and white wine labels on them. The premise of the wine quilt is that he likes red, and I like white, and when looking at descriptions of wine, I thought it was very descriptive of a marriage as well as wines. It's an original pattern that I made up as I went along. [laughs.]

MD: So what is this quilt--What do you use this quilt for now?

DZ: It is a wall hanging in our great room.

MD: And do you have any plans for it?

DZ: Well, I did give it to him last year for our fortieth anniversary, and he gets very upset when I decide I want to hang something else up--a seasonal quilt instead of having this up there, it kind of goes with the theme of our room. We have some wine memorabilia and a wine cabinet and things like that.

MD: So I guess we just kind of decided to do this interview, so you didn't really have a choice of what quilt to bring, but did you want to talk anymore about a like special meaning that it has for you.

DZ: Well, as I say, the descriptions of some of the wines and whatnot describe them--a marriage that's gone on for forty years, and it's kind of interesting that he likes red, and I like the white and how it just blends together, and that's what the center shows.

MD: At what age did you start quilting or when did you start quilting?

DZ: The first quilt that I made was back in the seventies. I made one that I saw in a magazine--a log cabin one that I did on machine and gave to my mother-in-law, and then I made a twin size child's quilt--appliquéd toys and animals and hand quilted, and then I made my oldest son a quilt which he got when he graduated from high school that I also, hand quilted, and he still has it [laughs.] and uses it, and I kind of took a time off because I had--we adopted three children, and I was busy, going to college for my nursing degree and raising five children.

MD: [speaking at the same time as Diana.] At the same time? [laughs.]

DZ: Yes, I was going back to school, and I didn't have too much time to do any quilting, so I kind of let it go until the mid-eighties, and then I started up again, and I have lots and lots of unfinished projects. I've done full-size bed quilts as well, but lots of those are just tops and not quilted as yet.

MD: So what sparked your interest in quilting in the first place?

DZ: I've liked to sew since I was--since I was about six. I started sewing doll clothes with my grandmother. Through elementary school I kind of did that and other projects and then when I was in high school--junior high school and high school I made most of my own clothes. My mom was a sewer as far as clothing and decorating type things, but she wasn't a quilter until she was older. Probably in her late fifties she started quilting, and so did that in later years and she took lots of classes from the senior center. She never really completed a full quilt. She did complete pillows, and I have a Baltimore Album wall hanging. It's about fifty inches by fifty inches that she had started before she died, and it's not quite finished, so that's one of those things I need to finish.

MD: So did--are you mostly self--you say you're mostly self-taught?

DZ: Yes, I had some basic quilt classes. The first one I took in the seventies was through adult education in Minnesota by Patricia Cox, and in the Midwest she's pretty well known, and I did do hand piecing and hand quilting. It was more or less a sampler quilt – this is the only one my oldest son still has.

MD: And do you usually make your own patterns or do you usually--

DZ: No, I usually follow someone else's pattern. In this instance, the wine quilt, I got some ideas on some things and then improvised. I did get the pattern for the actual cluster of grapes and leaves from a book that was totally unrelated to quilting, it was a painting pattern, and then I adapted it to do what I wanted. I used washers to make my circles and gathered up the particular fabrics with the grapes on the washer and carried those across country on the plane to appliqué to the center panel.

MD: Did he know that you making a wine quilt?

DZ: No, he did not. He had no idea I was doing this, so he was really, really surprised.

MD: It's definitely an interesting idea. I think it makes it a lot more personal. It's really personal.

DZ: Right. I took the wine labels from two of our favorite kinds of wine and had those reproduced and then attached them on to the wine bottles on the quilt.

MD: Let me see. How many hours a week do you quilt?

DZ: Now that I've retired--oh, probably eight or ten, maybe more, and that's on an average. In some weeks I probably do it twenty or thirty, and other weeks I don't do it at all, so it depends on other activities and commitments.

MD: What do you think is the most pleasing thing about quilting?

DZ: The satisfaction of getting something actually done. Most of the time when I'm doing a pattern I either change the colors or the way it looks, and other times I change the pattern to suit me, to kind of make it my own even though it's based on someone else's pattern.

MD: Is there anything that you don't enjoy about quilting?

DZ: No, I really--it's very relaxing. I really like to do appliqué, because I can do while I'm watching TV, but I also like to do the quilting and the finishing. I don't like to do it if--I've done a few quilts on consignment. I feel pressure to do it, because I'm doing it for somebody else, and not so much that I'm not going to do the job. I feel like I have this person looking over my shoulder and waiting for it to get done, so that takes some of the enjoyment out of it. I think that you enjoy it more if you just do it because you love to do it.

MD: How many quilts have you made?

DZ: Completed, actual completed ones, totally, bed size I've probably have done five, and I probably have five more tops that are not quilted, and I have one in process that I'm giving to my son and daughter-in-law for Christmas, so that one will be done before the end of the year. I have a millennium one that I did not have all two thousand plus different pieces to put together. A millennium quilt, which didn't get quite get done in the millennium year, so it's going to be done this year or next year.

MD: So do you find that you usually have just a lot of different projects going on at the same time?

DZ: Right. Yes.

MD: And what--what have happened to these quilts? Do you know? Do you give them away or keep them?

DZ: I have kept most of them. I've given two away. I gave my sister-in-law one for her sixtieth birthday, so I quilt them for special things. This one for my son and daughter-in-law is one I've been being bugged for, because their old one is wearing out, and it doesn't match their décor anymore, so that's one, and I have done several lap size or smaller quilts and given them as Christmas presents, and my nieces all have had babies, and I've done baby quilts for each one of the children, so I have given lots of smaller ones away but not too many of the bigger ones.

MD: Is this the first wall hanging that you've done?

DZ: No, I've done lots of wall hanging. Those I have a tendency to finish. They seem to be smaller and just more--I don't know they just seem to get done. Most of my wall hangings are smaller than this but with lots of pieces.

MD: It seems like there's more of a way to show them off than--

DZ: Well--

MD: You only have so many beds in your house to [inaudible.]

DZ: Exactly, and these--I have seasonal ones, a fall one and a winter one that I hang, and I have a small, very tiny beach one with beach umbrellas that I did this last year that I have hanging for the summer, and I also have some seasonal ones for Halloween and Thanksgiving—I put them out.

MD: Have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time?

DZ: Yes, probably. You know because it's something about the handwork whether it's sitting at the machine or hand stitching it. Hand quilting or appliquéing or just fiddling with the fabrics and trying combinations it takes your mind off of all the other things that you maybe want to not listen to.

MD: So how do you feel about machine versus hand quilting?

DZ: I am a not a very good hand quilter I guess at this point. I do it, but I don't feel my stitches are very even. I'm more creative I think with the machine quilting, but there are some things--I do have one quilt, one of early ones that I made, that's all hand appliquéd and I will not machine quilt that. I will hand quilt it and I just haven't started it yet because once you start that it's there until you finish it, so that's one that I would definitely hand quilt but most of the other ones I've done I've machine pieced so I don't have a problem with machine quilting them. This one is--well, this is hand appliquéd in the center panel, but the--

MD: Machine--

DZ: Yes. It's machine--the borders, the leaves and hearts that I used.

MD: I see that they're like little hearts--the hearts.

DZ: Yes.

MD: How interesting. What do you think makes a great quilt?

DZ: I think color is number one, and I think the theme of the quilt. If it--the fabrics, if they go with what the pattern is to kind of coordinate it. Sometimes you can get a quilt that doesn't--just it--I can't think of the word. It's not cohesive. It's just like mishmash, and it may be beautiful work and a generally appealing pattern, but with the type of fabrics that were picked, it just doesn't look or give it any oomph.

MD: Yes.

DZ: So it just looks like a bunch of fabrics put together.

MD: So that's like--makes or breaks it? [laughs.]

DZ: Right. Yes, I think that the fabrics--I mean sometimes you can take a very plain pattern and put really great fabrics or very contrasting fabrics, and it's just to die for, and you can take the same thing with two very busy fabrics, and it would just look like a bunch of pieces of fabric put together.

MD: How do you think quilters can learn how to do things like that like how to design a pattern or put together color, different colors?

DZ: Well, I think part of it comes from just--you certainly have enough fabrics and things available in this day and age. I think part of it comes from just the person's inner self--how they look at things and whatnot. I mean everybody has a different feel for what they think is good in decorating or in clothing, and I think that follows through into quilting that obviously you're not going to like everything you see, but to be appealing it has to be kind of more--more classic I guess I would say as opposed to something off the wall, although there are some really wonderful avant-garde kinds of quilts. [laughs.]

MD: What do you think makes a great quilter?

DZ: To be willing to have things that maybe aren't finished, because you just didn't get to them -- at least I do. I get tired of working on the same thing, and I always have at least three or four projects that I'm working on, and depending on the mood of the day or the time of the year or whatever you get out certain things and do them, and I think you always can learn something whether you're watching a quilt show on the TV or you go to a demonstration or you go to a class in a shop. There's always things to be learned from other people and not necessarily a better way to do things but different ways, and you incorporate that into what you do, and each one of those things I think makes you a little bit better.

MD: You mentioned that you're involved in a guild, which is part of what the show--

DZ: Yes, it's four guilds. Right.

MD: And you're on a committee--on a committee?

DZ: Yes, for the quilt show, I did the show pin and I am the co-chair of the community services for my own guild Ocean Waves.

[note: throughout the tape there are various audible background voices. At this point, they become part of the conversation. The "Unidentified Speaker" is not necessarily one individual.]

[DZ note: I believe the next comments were about my quilted jacket, which I made, and was wearing.]

Unidentified Speaker: [inaudible.] talking about you.

MD: [laughs.] Yes, we're talking about--

Unidentified Speaker: On your jacket.

Unidentified Speaker: I had forgotten.

Unidentified Speaker: Wonderful.

MD: [laughs.]

DZ: I co-chair the community service projects for the Ocean Waves guild out Lewes, Delaware, and that's my second guild. I was a member of a guild in Minnesota which was the first time I'd been involved in a guild. I was in that one for several years, and I've been in this one two and a half years, because I've only been living here for two and a half years. We do lap quilts for nursing homes, and actually we're doing some children's quilts right now for a nursery school also. We do Meals on Wheels placemats which we give to Meals on Wheels for their clients in Sussex County.

MD: So do you have a lot of friends who are quilters or even family?

DZ: Not too much family. My sister was dabbling a little bit in quilting, but she does some other things as I do also--cross stitch and things, but I do have some really good friends that was the one way when I moved to the area that I found out about the guild, and I have made some really good friends from that, yes.

MD: How does quilting impact your family?

DZ: It's everywhere in my house.

MD: [laughs.]

DZ: I have things hanging over banisters and from the wall and on the table, and I have a sewing room, so I try to confine it to that, but there's always handwork laying in the family room or on the porch or whatnot, and you know so it's sort of not in the whole house, but its evidence is throughout the house. I have a couple of antique quilts that I have displayed also.

MD: Do you think that your quilts reflect your community or region at all?

DZ: A few of the smaller ones that I've done do. The one that I did for summer is a beach scene and that very much so. We live near the beach, so--and that's part of our life. We love the beach, so that, yes, and the appliqué one I spoke of earlier is of flowers, and I love to garden. Sometimes I think the colors that are available in different regions--having lived in Minnesota for thirty years, a lot times the colors that are available--they are in the fabrics--are quite different than the fabrics that we found here in Delaware and Delmarva Peninsula, because we usually have to go to Maryland for our stuff. [laughter.]

MD: What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

DZ: Oh, they've been around forever, and you know from the very beginning of the settlers dragging them across country in covered wagons, and I think that they, whether they're out for show, or whether they're used for utilitarian things that they're just been a part of everybody's life, whether they were commercially made, or whether they've been made by somebody that lovingly made them and had them in the family that we've had quilts, and you know all these quilts are clothes that have come about now. That shows that people like the texture I think, because of all those things.

MD: In what ways do you think quilts have a special meaning for women's history in particular?

DZ: Because the women generally were the ones who made them, and they were the ones who got the criticism or accolades depending, whether they came out or fell apart or whatever, and it was also I think, especially in pioneer and through the early part or even the mid--end of the eighteenth century or 1800s, an artistic outlet for them, because they didn't have the things available to them that we have now. I think at this point in time when you look at the things that are available and the people that are doing them that it's still an artistic outlet for--what women want to do, although the men are getting into it. [laughter.]

MD: Yes, I've heard a couple people say that they've known quilt, and it's [inaudible.] surprise. How do you think quilts can be used?

DZ: You mean as a history or--

MD: Yes, I mean anyway that they can be used besides maybe just as a bed covering or as a wall hanging?

DZ: Well, I think they're a wall adornment, a decoration, and I think that a lot of history goes into quilting by the names of the blocks and the types of fabric if you research what quilters have done. I mean now we have all these reproductions from the Civil War, and people are going back and making patterns that were popular at that time, and there's a resurgence of the red work, which is the embroidery, and that's been very popular in recent years, also the crazy quilts people have done.

MD: Why do you think--

DZ: I think it's a history kind of thing where the patterns have names that depict the period of time when the pattern was made.

MD: What do you think would draw people to like a historical pattern rather than something else?

DZ: I think that comes from --more from the manufacturers or a quilt book that maybe is published and people get into to, and if it's something appealing and maybe a little different from what everybody has been doing--if it's a new technique maybe or something like that, and then people are willing to go and maybe take a class or learn how to do it and continue. I'm into this thing called 'stack and whack' where you take a floral print or a very busy print, and you cut it up, and it kind of gives you a kaleidoscope design, and each one of your blocks in a totally different thing, and it's a very modern kind of thing, but it's based on a pinwheel pattern. It's been a pattern you know been here forever, so it's a new twist on old thing.

MD: And then like it can also tell personal--you know personal stories or--

DZ: Oh, yes, personal history. There are lots of autograph quilts or farewell quilts for people that leave guilds or companies if there's a group of women that like to do that kind of thing. Marriages, anniversaries, significant anniversaries--I know my neighbors got a quilt for their fiftieth anniversary that had lots of family pictures and things on it.

MD: How do you think that quilts can be preserved for the future?

DZ: Well, I guess I'm the type--I feel like that if you have some, you should use them and not put them away. Obviously if I found in my possession a family quilt from the seventeen hundreds or the eighteen hundreds that was relatively well preserved, I would probably not put that out to use it. I would want to preserve it at that point, but I make my quilts, the ones that I give away, both baby and other quilts, to be used and hope that people use them, and I know that's not preserving it per se, but I feel like the pleasure that the people enjoy out of them is important.

MD: More valuable?

DZ: Yes. [laughs.]

MD: I think [4 second pause.] we pretty much covered everything that's on--you know that we usually ask. Did you want to add anything else?

DZ: No, I think you seemed to cover it pretty much. I can't think of anything right off the top of my head to put into it.

MD: Okay. Well, we're concluding this interview at 3:15. Again this is Megan Dwyre interviewing Diana Ziegler, and it's October 19, 2003.

[tape recorder shut off.]



“Diana Ziegler,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 15, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1622.