Judy Manlove




Judy Manlove




Judy Manlove


Rachel Grove

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Marie Bostwick


Milford, Delaware


Rachel Grove


Rachel Grove (RG): Okay. I'm here with Judy Manlove at Milford, Delaware, at the Kent Sussex Quilt Show, and today's date is October 19, 2003, and this is for the Quilters' S.O.S.-Save Our Stories project, and I guess I'll just stop the tape recorder a second to make sure that it's working. Why don't you just say hello, Judy, so we make sure we're getting you?

Judy Manlove (JM): Hello.

RG: Hello. Okay. [tape recorder briefly shut off.] Okay, starting up again with Judy Manlove and the time is 3:20, and could you just tell me a little bit about the quilt that you brought today?

JM: Well, it's a quilt that was published in McCall's magazine by Robert Callahan. It's called "Grandmother's Album" and several people in one of my guilds were interested in doing the quilt, so we all decided to start it at the same time and see if we would finish. [RG laughs.]
And I had the center block--I had done years before and had never used it in a quilt, and this particular quilt had a house in the center, so I thought, 'Oh well, a good chance to use up one of those orphan blocks.'

RG: [speaking at the same time as Judy.] Perfect.

JM: And also it gave me an opportunity to use fabric in the border and on the back that came from the stash of my mentor who had died not too long before that, and I wanted to have some of her fabric in a quilt that I was going to keep, and I wanted to do something with both appliqué and piecing in it--for the variety, and so that was why I did it, and I used some fabrics that I had used in other quilts. The homespuns were leftovers, and I bought some new fabrics, and so I enjoyed doing it.

RG: Could you describe some of the images that we see in the quilt?

JM: Well, there are some pieced blocks that are just regular kind of piecing, and the--Oh, what do you call it? I want to say Mariner's Compass, I guess. That's what you would call that one block, but then there's this block with the book, and it gave us an opportunity to put our names on it, and there's lots of leaves and lots of berries and different blocks, and then there's a long swag across this bottom. It just had a lot of variety. Let's see. Some of my favorite blocks--I like the ones with the grapes here and this tree with the birds I enjoyed doing, and there were some new challenges too. I hadn't done Maple Leaf pieced blocks.

RG: Right. Lot of variety?

JM: And then this was the--on the border was a little different with this fold. It was a folded piece that was in this whole border. I'd never done anything like that, and the stuff was just all rotary cut, pieced and cut part again.

RG: Yes.

JM: Which I enjoyed doing.

RG: Can you talk a little bit about all--there's so many different fabrics in this--where some of them might have come from or--

JM: Well, most of the plaids I used in another two quilts that I'd made, one for my sister and myself, of baskets that were designed by Mimi Dietrich, and I had a lot of those plaids. I had collected for a long time, and I wanted to use those up, and then most of the other fabrics are Thimble berry's fabrics and they just all kind of go well. They're muted rusty kind of fabrics.

RG: Yes.

JM: But, like I said, the border and the back, all the back, was this large piece that was in my mentor's stash. She was my quilting teacher, Ginny Glenn.

RG: Oh.

JM: The reason I quilt.

RG: So, my next question was going to be, what special meaning does this quilt have for you?

JM: Well, that's it. The person that taught me to quilt Ginny Glenn. I took my quilting classes at Milford Library years ago. I remember we had just built our last house, my husband and I, and I came home, and in the paper one day, I was looking through, and they said they were offering quilting classes at Milford Library, and it was the last time I could remember feeling really excited about something, and so I called, and I signed up to take these classes, and I took it for a full year, and I finished that quilt, and then I signed up and took her whole class again the second time over with all new beginners just because I liked having that routine and having to have homework done.

RG: Right.

JM: And I finished that quilt, and then she invited me to join a bee that she was in, and I've been quilting ever since. That was back in '86, I guess. I started with her.

RG: Was that the first time you'd ever quilted?

JM: Right. I had sewn since I was a kid, but I had never done a quilt, and my husband and I collect antiques, and we like all kinds of colonial things, and quilts just fit in. I couldn't afford to buy original, old quilts, so I thought I would make them.

RG: Yes.

JM: That's what I did.

RG: Why did you choose to bring this quilt today?

JM: Because it--mainly because it had fabric in it that came from my mentor's stash. I had several others. I have four quilts that are in the show today, but none of them has a special meaning to me.

RG: Right.

JM: And this had things at least that I could say.

RG: Yes, and like we sort of talked about before we started the interview, you're a pretty prolific quilter. You've said you've done about forty quilts, so a lot to choose from with this one. Really just has that special meaning.

JM: Yes, and it was a combination of a lot of things. I enjoy appliqué a lot. I don't do a lot of machine piecing, but it's nice when I try something that has mixed methods in it. I enjoyed that about this, so that reflects what I like the most.

RG: How do you use this quilt?

JM: Oh, I sleep under it as an extra quilt, because it's not a full-size bed quilt, so on chilly nights, it lays there beside me, and I just pull it over.

RG: Great. What are your plans for this quilt?

JM: Well, I'm going to keep it as long as I'm alive.

RG: Right.

JM: And then my poor nephew, who is the only person who is in the next generation of my family [laughs.] and already has two or three quilts that I've made him, will probably get this quilt too. Yes, this one will probably stay in the family.

RG: How many hours a week do you quilt?

JM: Well, since I retired from teaching school, I work a couple days a week at the library, but every other day that I'm at home I quilt almost like a nine to five job.

RG: Really?

JM: Because I really enjoy it, and my husband works on antiques and refinishing so he's in his workshop and I'm in my workshop, and we both work. We meet for lunch and dinner.

RG: [laughs.] Do you have a special room in the house that you quilt in?

JM: No, I have a--I actually--where we have our house, we had built a separate apartment for my father-in-law, who lived with us until he was ninety-two, and after he died, I made his place into a sewing studio.

RG: Oh, great.

JM: So, I have that. It's real nice, and I can just shut the door on it at the end of the day, and leave everything on the floor, draped wherever it is.

RG: That's fabulous.

JM: Yes, it's nice.

RG: What is your first quilt memory?

JM: Well, I guess my first memory is buying one in Amish country up in Lancaster, and I did buy one and how expensive they were. [laughs.]

RG: Yes, yes.

JM: So that's, yes, that's my first memory. As far as my own quilting, it would be signing up for that first class and just the excitement I felt being able to do it.

RG: Are there other quilters among your family or close friends?

JM: Well, a lot of my close friends are quilters. Like I meet with about three different bees at the hospital and at homes and things, and sometimes we'll form a bee just because we're all interested in doing the same quilt or whatever, and some of us have been sewing together for a long time. We still call ourselves by the group name for the original quilt we made, but we've made half a dozen other quilts together.

RG: What was that first quilt?

JM: White on white. It was--the first group started this White--and we still call it White on White. We meet the second Saturday of every month at Milford Hospital, but we have long since passed White on White and done several other things together, but I forget what we were--What was I starting to say? Oh, you asked me if I had--

RG: Family or friends, yes.

JM: Family members. Well, my--I had great-great-aunts, three of them. Never got married. They all quilted. [RG laughs.] And I used to--I mean I didn't know them, because they were dead by the time I was born, but I heard stories about them, and I do have a quilt that belonged to one of them, so--and my great-great-grandmother quilted. Now my immediate family--my mom never did. My grandmother never did, so it goes back about a couple generations.

RG: You're picking it up again for the family.

JM: Yes, yes.

RG: How does quilting impact your family?

JM: Well, everybody has plenty of covers to sleep under. [laughs.] That's about it. I mean for the last twenty--I mean my sister has about four quilts. I think everyone's got one. I'll sit and count how many everybody's got, because you can only give so many away, and I've never sold any. I've thought about it occasionally, and I don't have any children, so people always say, 'What do you do with all your quilts?' And they think like you're going to quit quilting just because you don't know who to give them to.

RG: Right.

JM: But it's just a way of life for me, so everybody has a couple that is in my family, and I just keep piling them up, and I--somebody in our guild once said that they figured that their legacy on Earth would be the quilts that they left behind them, and that's kind of how I feel myself. You know? It'll be something left of me when I'm gone. Somebody will enjoy it.

RG: Yes. Have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time?

JM: Yes, my mom came down one year at Christmas, and ended up in Milford Hospital for a couple weeks, and I started a quilt, about the second day she went in, just something that I could hand piece and sit in the hospital with her each day and work on, and she got through that, and I still have the quilt.

RG: What do you find pleasing about quilting?

JM: Well, that you get a finished product. You get a lot of satisfaction from it. It's an artistic outlet. All growing up I always was--even though I was a math major, a math teacher, I was always interested in art, but I just didn't have the imagination and originality to be an artist, but this is a good outlet, and I find that it teaches patience, and I am a person who likes to finish things, and this gives me--there is a definite finish. I mean there's a beginning and an end, so I like the process. It's just very satisfying to me.

RG: What aspects of quilting don't you enjoy?

JM: Putting on binding. [laughs.]

RG: Oh, that's what a lot of people say.

JM: [laughs.] Yes, and I guess that, and machine work I'm not real fond of. Like I would like to know how to machine quilt just because of the speed, but I don't really enjoy it. I find I have a lot of tension if I try to do that. The rest is much more relaxing.

RG: But sort of on that note, how do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting or even longarm quilting?

JM: Well, I always figure machine quilting or longarm quilting is alright for something that's going to be washed over and over and for a functional thing, but for something artistic or something that I've put a lot of hours in, like in appliqué, I want to have it hand quilted.

RG: You talked before the interview about how you had this quilt, I think you said in particular sent away to have quilted by some Amish folks. Do you do that often or--

JM: Well, I--like I said about the first three or four quilts I hand quilted myself. I have a big frame like this my husband made [Judy's quilt was draped over a quilt frame during the interview.], and it took me about a year to do each one.

RG: Yes.

JM: After I had done the top, it took me about a year to quilt, but that also was when I would quilt one stitch at a time, one in and one out.

RG: Oh.

JM: And so, then I, as I made more quilt tops, I started sending them away, first to Rose Valley Quilt Shop--Rachel Hershberger--and she would send them out, and then there was a girl in--

RG: Where's that Rose Valley Quilt Shop?

JM: Well, it's out of business now. She, Rachel, went out of business and got married and stopped that, but she did quilts or sent them out for several people in the area, and then there was a girl that was attached--her husband was at Dover Air Force Base, Cindy Wilkerson, and she started quilting, or she quilts for a lot of people, and she's quilted about seven or eight quilts for me. She lives in Virginia now, and I send them to her. She's got one right now that I worked on for the last year, and she's a wonderful quilter, and she does them, but occasionally I'll still do lap sized quilts myself, and I'm actually finally learning to quilt the correct way.

RG: The running stitch?

JM: Right, in a hoop instead of a full-size frame, so I kind of enjoy that too, but I still--there's too many things I want to do and there's just not enough time.

RG: What do you think makes a great quilt?

JM: Fabric and color and the feel of it and the time that you spend with the people while you're making it and the good conversations and everything that you have and the memories that it invokes.

RG: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

JM: Well, it's certainly different for everybody. I mean that's a question I guess that would be different for everybody, because I know even as I walked my husband through the quilt show today, we don't even necessarily like the same quilts, and I bought several miniatures yesterday, three of them, took them home, and I mean they really just spoke to me.

RG: Right.

JM: You know? None of them were alike at all. One them was like in lime and lemon colors and just reminded me of a summer day and a cool drink, and another one had a photograph of what looked like teachers from the nineteen hundreds, and it had been reproduced on fabric and then had log cabins, and that spoke to the old school teacher part of me, [laughs.] and then third one had a little appliqué bird that I appreciated the quality of the work and everything, so there's just different things. I mean its color. It's the technique. It's the quality, and sometimes it's just something that's a bold statement. You know we noticed, as we walked through the show yesterday, some quilts look totally different half a room away from them they do right up front, so I mean that makes a big difference too.

RG: What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum?

JM: Well, I guess I don't know. That's a question I have in a way. I don't think just because something had lasted for two hundred years that it necessarily is, and I'm thinking--I know it seems anymore that if something just has been around long enough that some people think it should be in a museum, but I don't necessarily think that, but if it has a history or a story to tell I guess--

RG: So, you're more--maybe the quality then is something--

JM: Well, I don't know. I don't know. I'd have to really examine my own thoughts about that.

RG: Be an individual basis?

JM: Right. I mean I really--yes, each quilt I'd have to think about, but I don't think just because--same way with antiques, furniture and things. I don't think just because something has been around and lasted for two hundred years that it's necessarily deserving.

RG: What makes a great quilter?

JM: [5 second pause.] [laughs.] I don't know. I guess just somebody who has fun doing it. I mean who gets satisfaction out of it. Somebody maybe that inspires other people to do it and enjoy quilting too.

RG: Yes. How do great quilters learn the art of quilting, especially how to design a pattern or choose fabrics or colors?

JM: That I really don't know except with the help of other quilters. I'm the first one to buy a block of the month because somebody else has wonderful color taste--

RG: Yes.

JM: You know, and then do it. So, I don't know.

RG: You seem like you're very focused on quilting as a group activity, sort of something--learning from other women.

JM: Yes, I mean I have learned--when you were talking about learning before I mean I'm always learning. I learn new things all the time, and you do. It's like a group activity. It's a whole social thing for me. As a matter of fact, the years that I've lived in Milford, which is about thirty something, I taught twenty-five miles away from here, and even though I lived in Milford I never knew anyone in this town, and it's only through sewing and quilting that I have really met people here, so it's like my whole--

RG: So, has it really been just since you've been retired from teaching that you've been involved in this?

JM: No, no, but I got more involved.

RG: Right.

JM: But that was my only connection to the community until I retired, and then it was only on like the Saturday bees [inaudible.] thing, but now I'm involved in more during the week and things like that.

RG: Why is quilting important to your life?

JM: Because I think I'd go nuts. [laughs.] I need to feel that the time I spend is worthwhile, and quilting makes me feel like it's worthwhile. A lot of times I'll have the TV on or something like that, but I need to feel I'm doing something productive all the time, and if--since I retired, if I wasn't quilting, I would have to go and get another full-time job, because I would go nuts, so--

RG: In what way do your quilts reflect your community or region if any?

JM: I don't think they do, because like one of the ones I have in the show is called "Las Cruces." It's from New Mexico. It was a block of the month from there, and I mean I like them from all over the place.

RG: So, you have an interest in different styles?

JM: Right. Different styles. Right. People--you know when people say, 'Oh, that looks like you.' I always have to laugh at that because I don't think that there's anything that does look like me because sometimes, I'll do bright, real bright orange and different colors.

RG: Yes.

JM: And sometimes I'll do country things.

RG: [speaking at the same time as Judy.] This one's very muted.

JM: And other times I want just a two-tone, you know, blue and white, real traditional, so--

RG: I think about the importance of quilts in American life?

JM: Oh, I think they're real important. I think that women's crafts are undervalued, and I think that--You know if I had one job that I try to do when I come in contact with people that don't know about quilting it's to educate them on the amount of time and the cost and everything else involved in quilting and that it should be highly valued just as knitting and a lot of other crafts that are traditionally women's crafts should be just as important as any woodworking and things that they do.

RG: Sort of in that same vein--in what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history and experience in America?

JM: Well, lot of women have incorporated things in their quilts like fabrics that they made all their children's clothes out of and things like that, so a lot of times they are a--I mean somebody can take a quilt and point to different parts of it and say this is from when we did such and such and things like that, so they're like an open book in a way, and they represent a social gathering of people a lot of times.

RG: How do you think quilts can be used?

JM: Other that keeping warm? [laughs.] Yes, right. Well, decoratively and--yes, I have them on all over walls in my house. I have a display of small quilts at the library. I put that up to advertise the show, and people keep coming in and noticing all the little quilts up there, and they can be used as educational tools, and they can used to raise money for many different things.

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

JM: Well, the big thing against quilting in general being preserved for the future is there aren't very many young people doing it and I think--you know they took home ec out of schools or at least sewing pretty much. At least the school--I was in a junior high when I learned to sew, and I think there's a lot of lost arts, and we don't get very many young people. I mean for a long time I was the youngest person in our guild, and that's really sad, [laughs.] and I think that it would be nice if--I mean when I go to the big quilt shows like at Lancaster or Fort Washington where there's thousands of people, and they come from all over the country, it's great to see it, but still the average age has got to be in probably the sixties, and if you're in your fifties, you feel like you're one of the young ones.

RG: Yes.

JM: So that's sad, and I do think--but there's a whole generation of people that think that the quilts that you buy in Boscov's [a regional department store.] and Wal-Mart are--you know that come from Asia and have stitches that are half an inch long--that that's a quilt, and it's just not the same.

RG: Hopefully--I'm twenty years old, and I'm just starting, so hopefully--

JM: You're interested in sewing and stuff?

RG: Yes

JM: Oh, that's good, yes.

RG: My mother's a very big sewer, and it almost always seemed because she's such a good sewer she did all the sewing, so [laughs.] I'm just starting to learn as I get away from--

JM: Well, you know there's sewing and there's artistry too.

RG: Right.

JM: And there are a lot of fabric artists that make quilts, but it's just a whole artistic thing.

RG: Yes.

JM: You know, and I would like to have that talent, and maybe if I ever put my mind to it and ran out of things that were already designed that just attracted me, I really could do that, but I don't worry about it.

RG: What do feel about like art quilts, ones that are abstract and really different?

JM: Well, I think it's neat to have the challenge and to see it, and I think that it's important to--you know I would not necessarily own one, but I admire the work. I appreciate the talent that goes into it and everything, and that's the only way to grow. Anything that stimulates growth and gets more people interested in widening the parameters is valuable.

RG: What has happened to the quilts that you've made for your family and friends?

JM: They all have them, and they use them. I don't like something to--like my mother had a quilt that I saw about twenty years ago that had been made when they were children, and it stayed in the cedar chest for thirty years, and I think that is crazy. I think that they should be used all the time until they're worn out, and then you can rest them for a while, but they use them.

RG: Is there anything that you'd like to talk about that I missed?

JM: I don't think so.

RG: Anything that comes to mind?

JM: I'm not real good on interviewing. I'm trying--well--

RG: I thought a schoolteacher like yourself would know how to take charge.

JM: With a bunch of eighth graders [laughs.] thirteen-year-olds, right. No, I just--you know I thank God that my eyes are good and my hands--that I don't have arthritis and everything and that I'm able to do it, because I hope that I can make another forty quilts and stuff, and I really don't worry about whatever happens to them, and I don't make them for a reason except that I enjoy the process of making them. I mean that's the part that I like the most.

RG: Very good. I'd like to thank you for talking to us, and I just want to say that it's about 3:46, 47, and this has been an interview with Judy Manlove. The interviewer, myself, has been Rachel Grove. It's October 19, 2003, in Milford Delaware, and it's for the Quilters' S.O.S.-Save Our Stories Project, and I'd like to thank Mrs. Manlove. Thank you.

[tape recorder shut off.]



“Judy Manlove,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1624.