Aloyse Yorko




Aloyse Yorko




Aloyse Yorko


Joanne Gasperik

Interview Date


Interview sponsor


Naples, Florida


Joanne Gasperik


Joanne Gasperik (JG): This is Joanne Gasperik. Today's date is April 7th, 2003 and it's 2:04 pm. I'm conducting an interview with Aloyse Yorko for Quilter's S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are in her home in Naples, Florida [sitting in two rocking chairs.]. Hi, Aloyse.

Aloyse Yorko (AY): Hi, Joanne.

JG: Thank you, Aloyse for allowing me to interview you today.

AY: Oh, this is going to be fun.

JG: First let's start with the quilt in front of us. Tell me about this quilt and who made it, what--describe it to me.

AY: It is a Tumbler quilt. It's a one-patch, meaning, one shape is used throughout the quilt. It was made by a group of quilters for me, and this group is called the Sand Dollar Quilters. The Sand Dollar Quilters meet in North Palm Beach Florida every week, one day, all day, and they have for years and years. At the time that this quilt was made in the mid 1980's, I was living there. It was our custom to make quilts for each other. So the person for whom the quilt was going to be made would cut out the pieces, mark the sewing line because all of our quilts were pieced by hand, and then distribute the kits to the other members who would have a month to get them back. There are 24 rows in this quilt, and I diagramed it. Because it is a dark, medium, and light quilt, it is actually a Tumbler Trip around the World. If you squint your eyes you can see it, or it will show up really well on a photograph better than with the naked eye. I don't know why. It just does. So row one and row 24 are the same; row 2 and row 23 are the same, so this is how I gave them the kits. And they sewed them together by hand, gave me back the strips. My aim was to sew the strips together by hand, but that was kind of boring, so without a single pin, these were so accurately pieced, that I sewed all the rows together by machine, without pinning anything, and added the border, the two borders, and did the hand quilting. Do you want to know why I like this quilt?

JG: Yes, Please tell me.

AY: The main reason is that it's a group quilt. The second is that it's a one-patch quilt, which I love. And the third is that it probably has a couple hundred fabrics, different fabrics in it. And, I really love quilts of that kind, scrap quilts of that kind. I enjoyed the quilting so much, because when I would, I had the list of people who made the rows, and I'd be thinking, 'Oh, this is Kaye's row,' or 'This is Patty's row.' Actually the quilt was inspired by an antique top that Patty Irwin had bought, and it was a Tumbler, and that quilt spawned many quilts in that group. It seemed that almost everybody in the group made a Tumbler quilt, and this one was mine. I diagramed it, so other people used my diagram to get the Trip Around the World effect, which is more or less successful. This is the third quilt I tried this border on, because I love the border, I love the brushed print fabric, So it stayed with this one, even though a judge in a subsequent quilt show said the border was not appropriate for the quilt, however I knew that. Because this is the third one I tried it on. [laughs.]

JG: Do you have the names of all the contributors on the quilt?

AY: Of course I do, but I don't have them on the label. I should do that, and I will.

JG: How do you use this quilt?

AY: I use it on a bed and unfortunately, although it's a good-sized quilt, it's a double bed quilt, we have only one bed and that's king-size, so I use it sideways, and that works out fine. I use a lot of quilts sideways, with, you know, with just the pillows showing at the top. After all, a quilt is a quilt, it's not a bedspread. It doesn't have to cover the pillows.

JG: What are your plans for this quilt?

AY: Just, just to keep it and enjoy it, and pass it on, either to my son and his wife or my daughter and her husband.

JG: Tell me about your interest in quilting. When did you get started in quilting?

AY: In 1973, I lived in Cincinnati Ohio and always before that time I had wanted to make a quilt, however I had kind of a quaint idea. I don't know how it happened that you made the top and then you hired somebody else to do the quilting. I knew of no church group of old ladies, who would quilt a quilt top, so I didn't make the quilt top, because I didn't think you quilted your own. I guess my mother had told me that. So when in 1973 I saw that the adult education program was offering a course in quilt making, I was probably the first or second person to sign up. The teacher was Betty Jane Alfers and she was public relations gal for Stearns and Foster, which is a very old company in Cincinnati and at that time were about the, you know, one of the few makers of quilt batts and supplies for quilters. They also had a line of patterns, of old patterns that they sold, and, also these patterns were on the inside of the quilt batt wrapper. So we went to this meeting. Because my background was in teaching, I imagined, not quilting, but in other kinds of teaching. I imagined that we would get probably a kit to make a pillow. We'd make that pillow in the 10-week course, and maybe we'd make a second one or a third one, but that was about it. Betty said, 'Actually what we're going to do is make the 'Cincinnati Quilt,' and we're going to go out and photograph sites in the city of Cincinnati, and then we're going to come back and interpret these in fabric and make a Cincinnati quilt, a city quilt.' So of the thirty-six people who had registered, twelve went out and got their money back. That left twenty-four of us, and we did indeed make the Cincinnati Quilt, which, belongs to the Art museum in Cincinnati, and it's not shown constantly, but it's displayed from time to time. At the end of the ten-week course we had the top done, but of course not the quilting. Then we had all become such good friends that during the next three or four months we met at a members house and quilted it.

JG: So this was an appliqué quilt?

AY: Appliqué. And nobody really knew how to appliqué. And only one person knew how to quilt. Betty did not know how to do either one, I don't think. But she was full of ideas and loved quilts. So we persevered together. [chuckles.]

JG: So you learned to quilt in this adult--

AY: Adult Education.

JG: Education.

AY: Because there was precious little written about how to do it at that time.

JG: So were there other quilters in your family and friends at the time?

AY: My mother had made a quilt about the time that I was born in the mid-thirties, but that quilt was worn, worn out and used up. Plus she had a career, and so she didn't have time to make quilts. She did some knitting, but not quilting. My maternal grandmother made very heavy quilts out of men's suits and things like that, and wool and things and they were tied. My paternal grandmother, although she sewed, I never saw that she made a quilt. So, no there really weren't.

JG: What are your, what is your first quilt memory?

AY: First quilt memory. Hm. Okay, my paternal grandmother gave me a Sunbonnet Sue doll quilt that she had made, but it was just a piece of fabric, it was not quilted, it was just a piece of fabric, and she had sewn the pieces on , top-stitched them on her treadle sewing machine. And I really think that is my first memory, I was probably pre-school, but it was not really a quilt, it did not impress me enough to keep it, in other words I don't have it. I wish I did.

JG: Oh. How does quilting impact your family?

AY: Well, It's sort of taken over our lives, as a matter of fact. [laughs.] When my son was in high school, we moved from one house in Ridgefield, Connecticut to another one about 2 miles away. And he said that he certainly hoped that I wasn't going to junk up this new house with my quilts hanging all over the walls. So it has made a great impact. I used to edit Quilt magazine and other needlework magazines for Harris Publications, and my husband was the photographer. My daughter was a contributor. Son Garth went with me one time I remember to the United Nations where we were photographing a quilt there and he did the photography when he was in college. It's had a, it's had a lasting impact, in other words, none of us ever sleep under a blanket, we all sleep under quilts. My grandchildren, Jessie, who is thirteen and Alex, who is eleven, are piecing quilts now. My daughter and my daughter-in-law claim that when I go they're just going to, they're going to get all the quilts together and, I told them what they should do is flip a coin to see who goes first, and they can choose, you know they can take turns choosing. They suggested, perhaps they'd flip a coin and call Goodwill to come and get them [chuckles.] I don't know whether they really mean that or not [laughs.].

JG: Oooh, that would be terrible. Oh, dear me. Your grandchildren quilt, so you taught them--

AY: Yes, yes. And I would say, they probably started when they were seven or eight, but they, at that time they were hand piecing. But since that, when I go to see them, I let them use my machine. A month ago, I went to Illinois to visit them. Their parents were going away, so I had them for the whole week. Unfortunately they had to go to school during the day, but I had them on weekends and in the evening. They were having so much fun with the three inch squares that I took along with me that we went to Wal-Mart and bought them a sewing machine, and an inexpensive iron and a seam ripper and all kinds of things. And now they are making quilt tops and they send them to me and I quilt them, and then I send them back. And Alex, the boy, especially is just really taken with it, and of course the idea that you can drive a sewing machine is next best to driving a car. I think that has a lot to do with it.

JG: [chuckles.] So who else have you taught? Were you, were you a quilting teacher?

AY: Yes, I was. That, because my background is in education and I taught kids, I mean, you know, if you can teach kids, you can teach grown-ups. That first year that I, when I took the first class from Betty, and there was going to be another class in the Spring, in adult education, Betty found out that with her schedule she could not do the class in the Spring, she could do the, she did the one in the Fall. But In the spring they were looking for another quilting teacher, so she suggested me, and I said, 'Well sure, of course.' Also I taught for Shillito's Department store in Cincinnati, two classes a week, and then when we moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut I began in earnest to teach and I taught for the YMCA, Parks and Recreation, Adult Education, for quilt shops, sometimes ten classes a week. I would just load my car on Monday morning and not take the stuff out until Friday afternoon. But you understand that this would be in 1975 and this was the resurgence of interest in quilting that was influenced by the Bi-centennial, so it was the prime time to get started in teaching quilting. And I just enjoyed every minute of it and taught for the whole eight years that I lived in Ridgefield. Then when I became editor of the quilting magazines, then I became a traveling teacher and taught all around the country and went to guilds and things like that.

JG: That was my next question. How did you make the transition from teacher to editor for a quilt magazine?

AY: Well, I could read and write. I had self-published. I had self-published quilt pattern books. My husband was a free-lance writer, so he helped. And my kids were used to collating things. They would walk around the dining room table, and help me collate, you know. But they got kind of tired of that. It was tough, because I really didn't know what I was getting into. But what the publisher wanted was someone who could read and write and who could make quilts. So I met that criteria, and I did the magazines for about seven years, sometimes ten or twelve issues a year. People don't realize what was involved, because I did Christmas magazines, needlework magazines in addition to the quilt magazines, which were the tip of the iceberg I free-lanced, I did this at home, only going to New York, to Manhattan maybe once or twice a month. So, and it was the days before faxing or email or anything else, so Federal Express and telephone and this kind of thing. But it was very fulfilling; it was like, sort of like the next step, to find out what other people were doing [inaudible.].

JG: And when did you finally say 'no thank you' to all of this fun?

AY: Around, I think 1986. By that time we had moved to the east coast of Florida and it was a trek to go up there, because I would go in the morning and come back at night. It was no longer any fun. Plus I was not getting any younger, you know, really, and the things that I could have done even five or six years before, I was worn out. And when it wasn't any fun any more then that's the time to quit. That was it. And then the teaching went on. I was still teaching till 1991. So, but then just generally, it tapered off.

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

AY: Absolutely, absolutely. It's so engrossing that you forget about your problems, you forget that your mother-in-law is undergoing surgery and she is probably never going to recover from this terrible cancer. You just quilt the dickens out of something and it's just, it's not mindless. I don't mean that, it can never be mindless, but it's so engrossing and absorbing, that I never tire of it. That's the one time I can think truly that it really helped me. And I thought 'If she gets better, then this can be her pillow. If it's not then I'll have it to remember Dorothy with.'

JG: And you have that quilt now?

AY: A pillow, yeah, pillow.

JG: What do you find pleasing about quilting? What aspect of quilting?

AY: Actually I like the repetition. I really do. I never tire of that. I like, I even like to make the same patterns over and over. I could probably make nine- patches and log cabins for the rest of my life and be perfectly happy. I think the main thing is, though, the fabric. Even though my mother did not sew, she had a sewing machine and she mended or she made simple curtains and things like that. She always encouraged my sewing and she would buy me new fabric, a half yard of fabric from JC Penney when she went uptown. I mean it couldn't have been more that a quarter. So I think that that love of fabric is with me. I have some fabrics that are too good to use. That I probably never will use, because I can't bring myself to cut, it's just so lovely. So I think probably, that's the main thing, the fabric, the repetition, the fact that when you get a quilt done, it's so big, it's so wonderful. It's so big you can wrap it around you. You can spend all that time doing needlework and it's not that big, it's not that comforting. I love the old, I love old quilts, and I keep thinking, that maybe a hundred years from now somebody will like my quilts as much as I liked the old ones that I bought.

JG: Are there any aspects of quilting you do not enjoy?

AY: I really don't like to mark quilting designs. I would, and yet I know you have to do it, but I would think a long time. For instance on this quilt that we're talking about today, I'm trying to think, just a minute, could you turn that--[Aloyse gets up from her rocking chair, which creaks; she looks at the border of the quilt .]

JG: Keep on talking.

AY: The border of this quilt is done with a compass. I just used the compass and then [chair creaks.] drew my lines, so I didn't have to, I didn't have to figure where it was going to go around the corner the right way or anything, and really because the border is so busy, you don't even see it. On other quilts I have sometimes just quilted on the design of the fabric to avoid doing that.

JG: And in this case you have two parallel lines.

AY: Right, and I used quarter inch masking tape. I did not draw those on.

JG: Have you won any awards for your quilting?

AY: Well, this quilt, and that's another reason why I love this quilt, in 1987 this quilt won Viewer's Choice at the Tallahassee Quilt show, and that to me is 'IT'. That is really the prize. As far as I'm concerned. The fact that every man, woman and child who came in there voted for the quilts and they liked this one. They felt that this was really a quilt, traditional quilt. And I've won some, I've won some ribbons, but never, never a blue. Blue just doesn't come my way [laughs.] even though blue is one of my favorite colors. [laughs. rocking chair creaks.] Lots of seconds, thirds and honorable mentions and one Viewer's Choice.

JG: Well, that is the prize.

AY: Yes.

JG: That is the prize. So, yes what do you think makes a quilt great? What makes a great quilt?

AY: It has to be the workmanship. It has to be the workmanship, first, last and always, because if a quilt is not well-made, it's not going to survive. And if it doesn't survive, why are you doing it? So, it has to be well sewn, it has to be adequately quilted, straight, the binding has to be on securely. That's what I would, that's what I would look for first, and when I was a judge that's what, that was my, that was probably seventy-five percent of my criteria, was how well the quilt was made. And then, of course the design, and there's not that much design to this quilt, but instead of just doing dark, light, dark, light, dark, light, I did use the dark, medium and light, to give the Trip Around the World effect. So design is something that is difficult for me to do. I'm not inclined that way, and I don't have the training or the desire to design an original quilt. But that doesn't mean that I don't appreciate what other people do, and I'm in awe of people who are making creative, original quilts, and I think it's wonderful. And I also think that we have this idea that, that all old quilts were made from traditional patterns. And yet when we see them we know that they weren't. We know there were many original ideas there, which have become traditional, because we've had them so long.

JG: So in that same vein, what makes a quilt artistically powerful in your view?

AY: It's been said so many times and I don't even now who originated it, but the last person that I read who said it was Freddy Moran, a woman who has published at least one book about it. She's from California and she says, 'Color gets all the credit, and value does all the work.' So I think when a quilt has really good contrast and values, that's probably, that's probably the best thing I could find. In other words if your quilt is all medium, it's going to be pretty boring or all dark, it's going to be pretty boring, but just have that contrast. What did you say 'What makes a really good quilt?'

JG: What makes it artistically powerful?

AY: Ok, the, ok the values, how well the design is interpreted in the fabric. I mean, there are people today who can do a realistic appliqué picture of a person's face, with all this wonderful shading, I think that's a wonderful thing. But I think that if you can stand across the street or across the room from it and this quilt is still powerful, I think that's a really good thing and not just the minute details.

JG: What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

AY: [sighs.] Oh, Joanne, I don't know. If it is, if it's well-made, of course, if it is something that was wonderful in its own time and is still wonderful today, if it's an antique quilt, if it tells something about the maker, because a lot of quilts are beautiful, but they're almost anonymous, you don't, you don't really know much about the maker and his or her personality is not reflected in the quilt. Someone told me one time, that a Bowtie quilt, beautifully made by an anonymous quilter is, is very nice to have, but if Dwight Eisenhower had worked on this quilt when he was recovering from an illness, that's really what they want. So not necessarily a famous person, but if you know something about the person who made it I think that's really important.

JG: [nodding and agreeing.] What makes great quilter?

AY: Someone who loves fabric. [chuckles.] Somebody who is willing to share with other people. Not necessarily in a guild or a club, or anything like that, but is willing to share fabrics and ideas. Someone who is open to new things, doesn't always say, 'Well that's not the way we do it, we've always done it,' [Sighs.] certainly a careful person, who cares about detail, a fabric lover, I said that already, someone who could go anywhere, and regardless of language restraints, be able to sit down and communicate with other quilters or other crafters. I don't think I'm great, but I have done that in other countries, where I really, I don't know the language, they don't know mine, but we're, we're sure communicating. We're trading fabric and sharing ideas and it's just a great thing. You could make yourself right at home, in a minute.

JG: How do you think that great quilters learn the art of quilting and, you know how to design a pattern or how to choose fabrics or colors?

AY: Well, certainly these things can be learned. In other words, my daughter, for instance, has a degree in Fine Arts. She could take her training and transfer it from paints and pencils into fabric with no problem. She could design and she already knows about careful workmanship. She could do that. By taking classes and being exposed to other things. Certainly from the books that we have, the wealth of books that we have now, just compared to twenty five, even twenty five years ago, if you didn't know somebody who was a quilter, how were you ever going to learn? Because there was very little written down. So certainly by taking those classes and absorbing whatever you can, certainly by going to quilt shows, and observing, photographing quilts and taking those home, not that you're going to copy them, but it will inspire you to do original things also, or a better way, find a better way to do it. Television shows like the ones on quilting on the PBS and 'Simply Quilts' are mind-opening things. You have the opportunity to listen to and observe quilters that you might never ever see in person. There are all these opportunities out there now for quilters that weren't there a very short time ago, and we should really take advantage of. When the teachers come to the workshops to teach for your guild or club you should really [rocking chair creaks.], even if you think you probably are not interested in that, you should take at least one of their classes, and be open, be receptive.

JG: [quietly agreeing.] Yes, yes. How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting, and now, what about long-arm quilting?

AY: Okay, there was a time in my quilting life, this is from 1973 to this, this is my quilting life, when if you went to a quilt show, where there were different categories for quilts that were hand pieced and machine pieced, they were judged in different categories, and frankly, the ones that were machine pieced were second, they were considered kind of second-rate, because they weren't quite as good. My mom, for instance, would turn up her nose at something that was machine pieced. That became passé, because of course if, if Betsy Ross had had a sewing machine she wouldn't have pieced that flag by hand. A machine pieced quilt is stronger than a hand pieced quilt. I mean, let's face it, it just is. So, I think about that and I, oh, also, [rocking chair creaks.] if you have a hand pieced, at that time if you had a hand-pieced quilt and you had the audacity to sew that seam on the backing up by machine it was then not in the hand pieced category, because the judge could, by pulling at that seam, could see that it was, it was machine pieced. So she would move it into the machine pieced category, which of course was second-rate. I do both. I do, of course, when I started to make quilts, I quilted everything by hand, because that's what we did. And because we did not have the kind of sewing machines that we have today, we certainly didn't have a walking foot or a darning foot. If we had, it was a good sewing machine. So then it was impossible to do a good job, but then again, with classes and with books being written and observing and talking to other quilters we found out that we could do it. I like to do both. I don't think it's--to me it's not one or the other. If I want to relax and sit back, I always have a quilt that I can hand quilt. If I, sometimes I have a quilt that I decided that I would hand piece it, when I came to the quilting, it was ridiculous to hand quilt it, so I machine quilted it. What's wrong with that? But I think that the quilting, first of all has to be well done, and not all hand quilting is good, not all machine quilting is good, so it depends upon the skills of the person who is doing it. I think that the machine quilting has to, the people who do machine quilting have to look at the quilt and decide how they're going to machine quilt this. Just quilting in squiggles all over the quilt sometimes is not what the quilt needs. I think you have to put a lot of thought into how you're going to machine quilt it, just as you do how you're going to hand quilt it. As a machine quilter I know that people who hand quilt all the time think that machine quilting is so much easier, and it really isn't. It may be faster, but it's not any easier, for you are dealing with a bunch of cloth. As far as long-arm goes, I think long-arm is fine if what you want is a bed-spread. But if you want a quilt then I think you either have to hand quilt it or hand guide it and machine quilt it. I think there is a place for long-arm quilting, I mean why not just put two pieces of cloth together and long-arm quilt it? Do a design over it. But I think probably in ten years we're going to say, 'Remember when we said long-arm quilting wasn't any good?' [laughs, chair creaks.]

JG: [laughs.] Most likely, yes, yes. Why is quilting important to your life?

AY: Why is it?--well I think, I really think it's what keeps me going. I have so many ideas for quilts, I have bought so much fabric for quilts, I have so many quilts started, I have so many designs of quilts in notebooks that I want, and these are the quilts that I want to make, that I, there's only one way that I'm going to quit, I hate to tell you [laughs.] what it is, that's the day I die. In other words it has become almost a, not a fetish, but a driving force. Again, when I tell my grandkids that I've been doing this for thirty years and I have never been bored with it, it have never been tempted to quit doing it. I have always approached each new project with a fresh eye and a fresh mind. I don't know if they believe me or not, but that's the truth. So it really does keep me going.

JG: It's a passion.

AY: Yes, it is, it's a passion. I'm very passionate about it.

JG: Do your quilts in any way reflect your region or community, or are they neutral?

AY: Certainly not my region here, because this is Southwest Florida, and I like dark-colored quilts. I have made some light-colored quilts, but I don't really like them. [tape is turned off because Jerry Yorko came into the house. door alarm will be heard several times during the rest of the interview.]

JG: We took a brief pause, but we're back, and the question was do your quilts in any way reflect your community or region?

AY: Yes, as I said, I don't think they reflect where I live now, but I did live in border Appalachia, if you will. Cincinnati is certainly right across the river from Kentucky. And I lived in Ridgefield, Connecticut for 8 years, so I think that my quilts reflect those two places, because I do like traditional colors. I'm crazy about brown. I don't know why. In quilts I love brown. I don't wear brown. I don't have brown anywhere else in my house, but I love it. I like deep colors, like deep red and navy blue and golds, and things like that. I also think, though, that we have, my husband and I, been collecting turn-of-the twentieth century oak furniture for maybe twenty five years. And so I somehow make my quilts to fit in with that hundred year old furniture. I choose not necessarily reproduction fabric but fabrics that have that old look, and I really love it. If I'm making a quilt for somebody else and I know that they like bright colors or they like pastel colors or all blue or something like that, I would have, I would certainly make something that they liked, you know. But for myself I like these old looking colors. I have quilt, a Tumbling Blocks quilt. If you would see it; you would think that it is an antique quilt, because I very carefully chose those fabrics in the early eighties, and made it look old.

JG: What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life? [chair creaks.]

AY: I think you can almost trace the development of this country through the quilts that, the quilts that people made, when they had hardly any fabric at all, and quilts that were made during the Civil War, when there was nothing left to make quilts of, and yet they managed. Quilts that were made at the turn of the century which are the ones that I like, with those rich colors and a lot of bubble gum pink and things like that. And then the quilts that were made during the Depression years with the bright pastels which must have cheered up the people immensely. And then the quilts that were not made, during the Second World War because everybody was busy. A lot of people were busy and there was no fabric being manufactured for home-use. Everything was going to the war effort. [door alarm goes off.]And the quilts were not made again in the fifties and sixties, mainly because they had synthetic fibers, and people found that they didn't like to use them in quilts, so it really is--Oh and then, the resurgence of quilts with the Bi-centennial which did do much I think for all kinds of handcrafts, but especially for quilting. It's funny, because what I've noticed, because I was around at that time, the resurgence of quilting came about at the, about the same time as the women's movement. It seems strange that those two things would coincide, and yet they did. There is no doubt about it. I, even though I'm not a feminist, or any thing like that, I think that it's interesting that, that when women became aware of their, the power that they had, they could do things, then they became entrepreneurs, they were writing books, they were opening quilt shops, they were designing fabric, they were doing all these things, traveling all over the country. A lot of my friends who were traveling teachers, as I was, never traveled by themselves before they went to teach, never went on a plane by themselves. They were always with their husbands. And suddenly this became the thing to do. And certainly is, the commercial side of quilting is certainly dominated by women. I think that it's interesting that that happened.

JG: So to elaborate further, in what ways do you think that quilts have special meaning for women's history in America?

AY: Well because of projects like the ones you're doing, where you actually try to find out who the woman was who made it. So many times they are anonymous, the quilts are not signed, and the quilt documentation that is taking place in the states where the quilts are documented, the history of the family is there. I think these things are really important and worthwhile things for groups to do. [chair creaks.] Ask me that again.

JG: OK. In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history in America?

AY: Ok, I guess that's it. [laughs.]

JG: All right. How do you think quilts can be used?

AY: Well, first and foremost as bed covers. I have made, I've probably made one wall hanging in my life. And the rest of my, the rest of my quilts are bed quilts. They could be hung on the wall, but they are not meant to be hung, in other words they were not made as wall hangings. I think quilts can be used to show fabrics from other times, that people have an idea how people lived and what they wore, because the quilts were certainly made from re--, from what was left over from clothing that they had. My own grandkids, for instance, were fascinated to see, when I pointed out to them, that I was using two different types of reproduction fabrics, when I saw them in Illinois last month. One was reproduction fabric from the 1930's and another was Civil War reproduction fabrics on another quilt, on two different quilts. They could see, they certainly could see the difference and they could certainly see the difference between those fabrics and the fabrics they were using for their little quilts. We were using things like spaceships and cars and bright stars and things like that. So they could tell that there was a difference in the kind of quilt and the kind of clothing people wore at that time. How else they can be used?--I think that they can be used to bring generations together that--a quilt that I, I had no quilts from my family, but we have one from my husband--just one from my husband's family. It's a Dresden Plate that his great-grandmother made in 1929. Her name was Ida Reese and she lived in East Palestine Ohio. We have that quilt. I didn't know this lady, but I have her photograph and I have her quilt, and I have the stories that Jerry has told me about her. And I feel as if I know her. So these are things that bring generations together.

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

AY: [sighs.] Oh I don't know, that's--that's such a hard thing to do. If you have them and you don't use them, if you wrap them in acid-free tissue paper, and roll them up in a linen sheet, and store them in rolls, do you really have them? I like to, because I have a lot of quilts, I like to rotate them, you know put a different quilt on the bed every week or every other week. Certainly I have holiday quilts which we bring out once a year. If I give my grandkids a quilt, I expect them to use it. I know that it will be used up; it will be washed a lot. If I give something, then I give it. I can't worry about it, if it's going to be preserved. I don't know, I refold my quilts. I don't always just leave them folded in the same way; I air them once, at least air them or wash them about once a year, once every two years. And of course, very, very precious quilts should be preserved by a museum. But yet, if nobody sees it, do you really have it? It would be like, you have wonderful jewelry, but you're afraid to wear it and so you keep it in your safe deposit box. I mean, it's not yours any more.

JG: Well, [phone rings.] we're coming to, close to the end, is there anything that we haven't covered that you would want other quiltmakers or future historian to know?

AY: I think, Joanne, we've about covered everything I have to say. I really do.

JG: Well, I would like to thank you, Aloyse Yorko, for letting me talk to you today for the Quilters' Save Our Stories Project. We have concluded this interview at 3:46. Thank you very much.

AY: Thank you, Joanne.

[tape ends.]


“Aloyse Yorko,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 15, 2024,