Marlene Kosnac




Marlene Kosnac




Marlene Kosnac


Lori Miller

Interview Date


Interview sponsor


Milford, Delaware


Rachel Grove


Lori Miller (LM): Good afternoon. Today's date is Sunday, October 19, 2003. My name is Lori Miller, and I'm at the Milford Senior Center interviewing Marlene Kosnac for the Q.S.O.S. - Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project, in Milford, Delaware. Welcome Marlene and thank you for allowing us interviewing you today.

Marlene Kosnac (MK): Thank you.

LM: Could you tell me about the quilt you brought in today: who made it, the origin, date to sort of describe it for us?

MK: When I left North Idaho to move to the East Coast many of my friends made me Flying Geese block, and I took them with me. When I started putting it together I realized I had over five hundred blocks, so I not only have this quilt, I have two pillow cases to go with it. [laughs.] They knew that I liked bright colors and that I used a lot of black in my quilts, so the Flying Geese are on a black background, and they named the quilt "Fly by Night." A quilt is never finished until it has a label on the back, and this quilt has two labels on the back, one signed by all the ladies who made the quilt blocks in North Idaho and one by the ladies at the Milford Senior Center who have helped me to quilt it, so the blocks were made in 1999, and the quilt was finished in 2003.

LM: Okay.

MK: It is all hand quilted.

LM: So what special meaning then does this quilt have for you?

MK: The friendships that I developed over the years and the people that I still keep in contact with, and I will take this quilt with me when I go to visit my friends in North Idaho, so they can see it all finished.

LM: Okay. And why did you choose this quilt for the interview? [laughs.]

MK: Hard decision. Possibly because it was hanging here at the quilt show, and it's one that we just finished quilting this past month.

LM: Okay. So even though it was just finished how do you use this quilt or how do you plan on using this quilt?

MK: I plan on using this quilt in our motor home, so it will travel with me, and I can show it to many, many people as we travel across country.

LM: And alright tell me about your interest in quilting.

MK: I started quilting probably in 1990, '91, in Spokane, Washington, with the Washington State Quilters, small group of about nine hundred in the guild. Many teachers--I've taken classes from many famous teachers, and have made many, many quilts over the years.

LM: Do you know how many? Do you have an approximate number of quilts you've completed?

MK: I have journals of all of them. I didn't think to take a count. [laughs.] My daughter has some. Granddaughters have some. Different family members have quilts.

LM: Okay. And from whom did you learn to quilt?

MK: I learned to quilt from - I started learning from books, and then I had two quilts in my permanent collection in Paducah, Kentucky, Margie Kravitis and Mary Gardener. They are the best of friends, They're both in their upper eighties, and they've given me many ideas and helped me - mentored me along in my quilting.

LM: Okay. And how many hours a week do you quilt?

MK: Minimum of six here at the senior center and when I can at home.

LM: Okay. And what is your first quilt memory?

MK: [4 second pause.] A very funny Christmas quilt that I made. [laughs.] Knowing nothing about quilting I picked out a book, I liked the quilt on the cover, and I was helped by a girl at the fabric shop who knew as little as I did; so this quilt is made out of Christmas fabric, which was on sale at the time. It is queen size. It is a log cabin design. It has a red flannel backing on it, because the girl in the store thought that would be great for a Christmas quilt. I thought the batting was very, very thin, so I put a double layer of batting in it, and this is the heaviest quilt you've ever seen. [laughs.] Not too many people want to sleep under it.

LM: Very warm then? [laughs.]

MK: It is extremely warm and very heavy to be under. [laughs.]

LM: Okay. Are there other quilters among your family and friends?

MK: Friends yes. I think my daughter has made one quilt, a baby quilt, but otherwise not to my knowledge, my family.

LM: Okay. And how does quilting impact your family?

MK: Well, I hope they're proud of what I've done. For me personally it's a very creative endeavor. I enjoy every aspect of it from designing it, to picking my colors, to cutting my fabrics, to quilting it.

LM: Okay. So there isn't anything you don't enjoy?

MK: Nope. I like it all.

LM: Okay.

MK: I like the variety. You get to do the designing. You get to do picking out of your colors. Just everything about it.

LM: Okay. And have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time in your life?

MK: Yes, yes.

LM: Would you elaborate?

MK: I have one quilt that's sort of a mourning quilt. I'm involved in rescue and every time one of our dogs passes their name gets added to the back of the quilt.

LM: Okay.

MK: And that quilt travels with me also usually.

LM: Okay. And what do your think makes a great quilt?

MK: The memories that go into it, the quilting that goes into it, the friendships made while quilting.

LM: Okay. And what do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?

MK: The colors. I like vibrant colors, [laughs.] and I've evolved from soft, old fashioned type of things to more vibrant quilts.

LM: Okay.

MK: More vibrant colors.

LM: Alright. What do you think makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

MK: I think the quilting itself has to be very good. I'm not fond of machine quilting, although there's some beautiful machine quilted pieces. I think the evenness of the hand quilting, the uniqueness of the design, how things have evolved over the years. I see for myself how I have evolved over the ten or twelve years that I've been quilting.

LM: Okay. And what makes a great quilter?

MK: I think the ability to teach is one thing. The ability to visualize what you're doing, not let it go to your head, be willing to share your ideas, be willing to teach others, to pass on the craft, so it doesn't die.

LM: Okay. And what sort of classes have you taught or how have you--in capacity have you taught?

MK: I've taught Hawaiian quilting. I've taught basic quilting. I demonstrated Hawaiian quilting for two hours yesterday [laughs.] here at the show. I had a very good teacher, Elizabeth Akana, from Hawaii. I took classes from her in Spokane, Washington.

LM: And how do you think that great quilters learn the art of quilting, be it choosing a pattern or colors and putting it together?

MK: I think passed down from one to another. When I made my first Flying Geese quilt I wanted to make a quilt that was all black, white, and gray, and my teacher said to me, 'Don't do it. You'll be sorry. You need to spark it with a little bit of red and yellow,' so I did and it made the difference in the quilt, so it's women helping women, teaching each other.

LM: And you spoke about this a little bit earlier, but how do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting?

MK: I prefer the hand quilting. I have machine quilted baby quilts, because I feel they get washed so much. [laughs.] I know there's a lot of artistic metallic threads and thing like that. I've tried machine quilting. My preference is hand quilting.

LM: Why is quilting important to your life?

MK: It gives me peace and quiet and time to organize my thoughts. It's creative. It gives me a lot of satisfaction.

LM: Okay. In what ways, if they do, do your quilts reflect your community or your region?

MK: They probably don't, because I've done most of my quilting in Idaho and Washington. I've lived in New Hampshire. I'm now living in Delaware. I've traveled around the world, met quilters in Russia, so I don't know that it reflects any one region.

LM: If you could talk a little about the trips that you've taken? Have they been specifically for quilters to visit other quilters, or where have you been?

MK: No.

LM: Just--okay.

MK: In my travels, let's put it this way when I went to Russia I did not speak the language. I stayed with a host family and indicated to my hostess by hand motion and photographs that I brought with me that I would like to meet quilters and see a quilt exhibit in Russia. One day when I came home she was very excitedly raising a newspaper to show me a picture in the newspaper, and I shook my head 'yes', so then they took me to an exhibit of antique quilts at the Russian Museum and then to another building to see a student exhibit, so I got to see two quilt exhibits in Russia on the same day, one of antique quilts and one of student works. The students were very thrilled to have someone from America, who could sign their guest book, and one of my pictures was identical to one of the quilts that one of the quilters in Russia had made, the same pattern, so American patterns have circulated around the world. In Amsterdam I visited a shop, and the whole shop window was done with color wash quilts and books, and they were done by the two girls that I knew from Washington State, Pat Margaret and Donna Slusser, who do watercolor quilts.

LM: Okay.

MK: So no matter where you go around the world, I was wearing a jacket that I had made. The pattern was made by a girl in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. I walked into the quilt shop in Amsterdam, and there in the basket was the jacket pattern for sale, so it's a small world.

LM: [laughs.] Do you dye your own fabrics or anything like that?

MK: No, I don't.

LM: Okay.

MK: I enjoy using hand dyed fabrics but I do not dye on my own.

LM: Okay. What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

MK: Very important because it tells the history of the country. There are books written on the quilts that were made on the Oregon Trail. Patterns evolved as women saw flowers as they crossed the country in the covered wagon, and many of our patterns tell a story. There are many blocks- "The Road to Oklahoma," "The Road to California," and these are all blocks that are part of our history.

LM: And what do you think about the importance of quilts for women's history specifically?

MK: Extremely important. We need more history from a women's point of view [laughs.]

LM: Okay. And how do you think that quilts can be used?

MK: Quilts are used in many, many ways. When I made my son a quilt I told him whenever he wrapped himself in that quilt it was like my putting my arms around him - he was grown up and lived away from home, and unfortunately five years ago I buried him in his quilt, so quilts serve many purposes.

LM: Okay. And how do you think that quilts can be preserved for the future?

MK: Using acid free tissue paper. [laughs.] We've learned a lot. Not to put them in wooden trunks, not to put them in plastic. Put them in pillowcases. There are a lot of ways to preserve them. Don't hang them in the sunlight.

LM: What's happened to the quilts that you've made for your friends or family?

MK: I hope they're all being used. The ones I have at home I use and I change them with the seasons. I have many hung on the walls, and at one point I probably had fifteen on the guest bed in the bedroom [laughs.] just to lay them flat, because that's another way that they wear out is when they're folded. You should always refold them every few months, because the fabric wears out on the creases.

LM: Do you have any advice for future quilters who might read this interview?

MK: Don't strive for perfection. Quilt to enjoy it. You will relax. Your stitches will be more even. Don't be uptight. Don't try for perfection. The Amish have a saying, 'Only God is perfect,' and they make a mistake in every quilt because of that so my quilts are not perfect. I quilt because I enjoy quilting. This is probably one of my favorite pieces, my Victorian quilter. I borrowed the pattern from the woman, who was the president of our guild out in Washington, and it hung--it was the only quilted piece in a juried art show. It hung for three months in Post Falls, Idaho. When they told me to put a price on it I said I wouldn't because I didn't want to sell it. They said I had to put a price on it, so I put fifteen hundred dollars on it so it didn't sell. [laughs.] But my quilts--like I can look at the fabric and say, 'I bought this fabric on my first trip to Seattle, and that's my memory of Seattle.' And different quilts I can point to and say, 'This is my souvenir from Sisters, Oregon.' That's where I started buying fabric for the quilt that is "Sister's Choice."

LM: All right.

MK: My fabric reflects a lot of where I've traveled.

LM: Is there anything we haven't asked you that you'd like to add?

MK: No. I hope everybody enjoys quilting as much as I do.

LM: You hope so? Alright I would like to thank Marlene for allowing us to interview her today. Our interview actually began at 1:35, and it is now 1:55, Sunday, October 19, 2003 for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. Thank you again.

MK: You're welcome.

[tape recorder shut off.]



“Marlene Kosnac,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 21, 2024,