Linda Franz




Linda Franz




Linda Franz


Joanne Gasperik

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Dorry Emmer


Naples, Florida


Joanne Gasperik


Joanne Gasperik (JG): This is Joanne Gasperik. Today's date is March 22, 2004, and it's 2:14 p.m. I'm conducting an interview with Linda Franz for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are in her Naples home in Naples, Florida. Thank you, Linda for allowing me to interview you today.

Linda Franz (LF): Oh, thank you.

JG: Linda, we're looking at your beautiful quilt. Tell me about this quilt, its origin and how it came into being.

LF: Okay, the quilt is named "Love and Friendship" and it really came about through a lot of friendships that I made on the Internet. Before I made this quilt, I'd met Mary Althaus in Florida and she was really interested in "Dear Jane" quilting ["Dear Jane: The Two Hundred Twenty-five Patterns from 1863 Jane A. Stickle Quilt" by Brenda M. Papadakis; published 1996.] and I sort of slid into doing the "Dear Jane" blocks without really intending to make a "Dear Jane" quilt. I ended up making all of the blocks and I did them by hand, because that was what Mary was doing. So, I was really under the influence of a friend here. And I became kind of addicted to the hand piecing idea, but the other neat thing about it was that hand piecing came into my life at exactly the right time. I had a long background as a sewer, making clothes and doing all kinds of crafts and knitting and crochet, but I had never done any hand piecing. But I wanted to do hand piecing because that was what Mary was doing. And if I had started the quilt on the sewing machine, I think it would have ended up as a UFO [unfinished object.] under the bed, because right at that time my dad was sick with Parkinson's disease and he started to spend some time with us, especially during the summer when we were home in Canada, because my mother needed a break in looking after him. And I could sit and stitch with my dad. I was happy because it kept me busy and not thinking about how crummy things are when somebody is that sick. And he was happy because I was doing something I liked. It seemed that he was less of an imposition in our home because there was a nice atmosphere around him. He loved seeing the quilt blocks and so you know all of this kind of happened at the right time. I had the computerized sewing machine. I was very experienced on the sewing machine and here I was doing everything by hand. But at the same time that Mary taught me how to hand piece she signed me up for this group on the Internet to join the "Dear Jane" quilters. Now this was January 1998 and at that time there were I think between 60 and 80 of us on this Internet list. And it sounded like a very stupid idea [laughs.]. I mean anytime any one of these people would write a letter I was going to get a copy of it. No matter what the--I mean that just didn't sound very sensible to me that I was going to spend all this time reading letters from 60 or 80 people that I had never met. Now there are more than 1500 people on that list, and somehow it still works. But at any rate at that time, she signed me up and I became involved with all these people. And it was [sighs.] it's hard to describe just how friendly and encouraging and inspiring it was to be involved with quilters from literally all over the world. Quilters from Europe, from Australia, from all over the US and we could connect to each other, even when we couldn't be together. It was a wonderful thing for me. So, the two things kind of came at the same time. My life was a little bit more restricted because of what was going on at home. But I was really happy because I was connected with other people. So, at that time, I started writing tips for quilters and figuring out how to do one of the free websites and sharing photos online. Of course, I have been a photographer for a long, long time--30 years. And this was a great way for me to share what I was doing with quilters. I could show them the back of my quilt blocks. I could show them different fabric combinations. I could show them what I was doing, and it was inspiring to me to be able to do that and it was inspiring to other people. So that was really how it started with the hand piecing. But I finished that quilt. I never thought I would even make the whole quilt, but I did finish it because of all this interaction with people on the Internet. And I didn't want to leave that list because I knew so many people there and it was a community. We had been through, you know, deaths and illnesses with people on the list and births of children and grandchildren. There was a baby born to one of the list members the very first week that I was on the list. You know you just become involved in people's lives. So, I didn't want to make another "Dear Jane" quilt, but I was a big fan of Jane Austen and that quilt had diamond-shaped blocks in it. I knew that quilt for a long time before I ever quilted myself. And that gave me the idea for taking traditional square quilt blocks from "Dear Jane" and other sources and making them into the diamonds for the touchstone quilt that we have here. [JG hums agreement.] So, I think the name is appropriate with "Love and Friendship" because of all the circumstances surrounding when it was made. But "Love and Friendship" was the name of a novel that Jane Austen started when she was fourteen years old. It's not really a finished novel. It's hilariously funny, full of all kinds of events and people fainting and swooning and wild adventures and things. But it's a charming story by a fourteen-year-old, but I always liked the name. So--and she spelled it wrong too. Friend--she was [laughs.] you know, she's compared to Shakespeare. She is a masterpiece writer. Every one of her books is fabulous, but she never did really get the hang of spelling. And 'friendship' was one of the words that she always spelled wrong. In fact, even now when I write letters to my friends on the Internet, I usually address it 'dear friends/friends' with a slash in between. And once it's spelled and I'm sure there are a lot of people that don't know the whole background and wonder why I spell 'friends' wrong, so [laughs, inaudible.] I've actually changed my spell checker so that in will accept f-r-e-i-n-d-s [JG laughs.].

JG: Well, describe this quilt for people who cannot see it.

LF: Okay. It is two fabrics, blue and white. The white is a white-on-white with a tiny vine and leaf design. And the blue is a tiny oriental Kona Bay fabric from Hawaii. It's an oriental blossom design. The quilt has a medallion setting and there are 209 different diamond-shaped blocks in the quilt. And 180 of those diamonds are 4 by 7-inch diamonds that are set with sashing and cornerstones and interspersed with plain setting diamonds in white. There are nine diamonds in the center that are different sizes. One is actually an oval shaped block and the other eight are various sizes also diamond-shaped blocks inspired by traditional square quilt blocks. And there are 20 tiny diamonds in the scalloped border. Let's see--

JG: How did you come up with these different designs?

LG: Well, I started with "Dear Jane" squares and tried to see if I could redraw them. I was using a pencil and a ruler at that time. Now I use "Electric Quilt" [computer software program.] all the time and I can draw very well on the computer but in those days [smiles.] I was using a mechanical pencil and a ruler--

JG: So, all of these diamonds were hand drafted?

LF: Hand drafted. I have since redrawn them on the computer. But they--and it would have been much easier if I had just understood how easy it was to work with Electric Quilt software. I would have done them that--I actually owned it at the time, but I didn't quite know how it worked. So I drew everything with a pencil and a ruler. And I just would look at one of the squares and think what - some were very obvious. Some you could just see sort of like a nine-patch or a sixteen-patch with sashing and you could just turn it so that everything was a little diamond instead. But others I could actually draw three or four variations. I like some of the ones that have an oval. Normally if you stretch a square into a diamond shape you end up with an oval where you had a circle in the square version. But some of them I looked at and decided that I liked to keep the circle shape and not stretch it and make the diamond that way. So, often it was just playing with a pencil and a ruler to come up with something that was pleasing to me, that would work with two fabrics. I knew I was only going to work with two fabrics, because of traveling back and forth to Florida. I don't travel with a big stash because the piece you want is always in the wrong place anyway, so I try to pack so that I just have one main project that I'm going to work on for the winter. So, the diamonds had to look good in two fabrics. I didn't really know what this quilt would look like when I started. I thought I wanted to try to come up with a medallion setting, because the Jane Austen quilt has a medallion setting. And I thought I wanted to have a lot of tiny diamonds at the border because the Jane Austen quilt has that. But I actually just--they were addictive. I would just draft five or six diamonds in a spurt and then make them and then get an idea for more. When I had a pile of about 150 or 160 of the main diamonds, I was making them all the while thinking some of these have-to-have white sashing, because they're mainly blue on the outside. Some of them are really only going to look good if they have blue sashing because they have so much white on the outside and some it wouldn't matter. I thought well, I wonder how I'm going to deal with that [laughs.]. I really didn't have a plan.

JG: It was just as you go.

LG: Just as I went--but when I got a big pile, I started to divide them up and, 'Okay, these need white sashing, these need blue sashing.'

JG: The blocks told you.

LF: The blocks told me at that point. So, at that time I think I had about 48 that really needed blue sashing. And when I came up with this design for the medallion, I needed 56. So, I designed some more to make sure that I would have 56 of them that would look good with blue sashing.
Then I took the ones that needed white sashing. They're all around the outside edges, across the top and down each side and across the bottom. Those really have almost exclusively blue on the outside edges of the diamond. Most of the others it really didn't matter. They had some blue, some white. So, I divided them up like playing cards. I was making sets to go in the four quadrants. So, if you look at the top left, the top right, the bottom right and the bottom left they're all sort of stars. It's sometimes very hard to put into words what they have in common, but they looked right together [JG: mhmm.] And it's the same thing. In any position in the quilt if you look at the baskets that are near the medallion, those were set with the ones that you can now check lower down.

JG: Yes.

LF: They aren't baskets, but they have the same look. So, all through the quilt I was able to match up, with four quadrants like that. But it really it was something that happened at the end. I'm really saying to myself, 'Well I wonder what you're going to do with this [both laugh.] because you're creating a problem for yourself.'

JG: [smiling.] It's beautiful.

LF: Thank you.

JG: Now this quilt--not everybody has a quilt and a book to go with it.

LF: Yeah.

JG: What came first?

LF: Oh, the quilt came first. The quilt was made to fit a bed in our house. And that was what I wanted it for, was to decorate our home and for the joy of making it. But when it was finished, through encouragement from these friends on the Internet, I entered it in a couple of quilt shows where it did well. But also, there's a retreat in Shipshewana, Indiana that I had been going since 2000. And it was people that I had met on the Internet that I was going to finally meet in person. And people have--I'm going again this year and there will be people there from Australia, from Holland, from all over [JG exclaims.] who plan their vacations around this wonderful retreat.

JG: Oh, great.

LF: So, when you go to a retreat like that, the first one I went to, I felt I wanted to have something to give to everyone that I was meeting there. I had some special gifts for very special friends, but I wanted something that I could give to 50 or 60 people that I was meeting. So, it had to be something inexpensive. I wanted it to be something personal-- not just something I had bought. But what can you make 50 or 60 of? So, I had my patterns for the diamonds, and I made up a little booklet on the computer. It was actually scanning pencil drawings. And I put a little cover on it. And it was a Shipshewana souvenir. Well! They started to make the diamonds from this. And I started to worry because these were photocopies of pencil drawings. They weren't even all that accurate. But the response was so encouraging that they actually did want to make them. And so that was what spurred me on to learn how to draw them in Electric Quilt. I thought, hey, if they're really going to try to make these, I'd better have really accurate drawings for them, not a pencil drawing distorted by a photocopier. And I was also encouraged because my first quilt won Best in Show at the Vermont Quilt Festival and a first-place ribbon at the AQS [American Quilter's Society.] Show in Paducah. Just before we left for Vermont in the summer of 2000 for a Dear Jane Reunion, I put a binder of stuff together and sent it to AQS. Within three weeks they sent me a contract. They wanted the diamond patterns. [JG inaudible.] They thought people would want to make them.

JG: Yeah.

LF: So, it was really the quilt and then the idea for the book ["Quilted Diamonds."]. When it came to actually writing the book and looking at these diamonds there were several of them that I actually didn't want to put in the book. They had been fine for me to make them, but did I really want to inflict that on somebody else? But the quilt was made! The decisions had all been made, the quilting was done. It was bound. It had been hung in shows. That was all determined. There was no going back. But some of those blocks are absolutely ridiculous. I mean 53 pieces in 14 square inches. Some of the ones that have curves and very, very narrow joins on the curves, you know where the line almost disappears into a straight line, the curve peters out. They were fine for hand piecing, but they were not what you would necessarily want to teach another quilter. So, for the second book, I was really set free. I started the second book with ideas about what I wanted to teach and designed the blocks around that. But this whole first book was done backward. I was limited in the nicest possible way [laughs.], by what I had already done.

JG: Sure, sure.

LF: But I had no intention of writing a book when I made "Love & Friendship." I had never taught quilting. I had never planned on a quilting book at the time I made the quilt. So I just kind of backed into it.

JG: Yes, but now you are teaching and you're traveling and teaching.

LF: Actually, the very first time I ever taught was in Paducah in 2000. You know start at the top and work down [laughs.] That was actually--I mean it didn't work out with AQS [American Quilter's Society.], because we saw the book differently. The book was too long. It was very involved for them. And we didn't see it the same way at all. But the people were very nice. At the time I decided to back out, they had given me a weekend to make up my mind. You know, would we go ahead and--I was really very unhappy with the design. And I called them on the Monday and said, 'No.' I'd rather not have a book than have it like this. The compromises were too great. At that time, I thought that that meant I wouldn't be teaching either, but they called right away. The only reason they'd hired me to teach was that they were doing my book and would have students for me at the show in Paducah so I had assumed that when I canceled the book contract, that meant that I wouldn't be teaching either. But they said no, they still wanted me to come and teach. So, the very first quilting class I ever taught - the very first quilting presentation I ever made was in Paducah. [both laugh.] Can you believe it?

JG: Wonderful. [laughs.]

LF: It was really quite overwhelming. But it all started with wanting a blue and white quilt for that bedroom.

JG: Yes. Yes. So how many quilts have you made now?

LF: Well, I have made two big quilts. I've made two challenge quilts for our guild in Naples. [JG affirms.] I've made a bolero, which is quilted clothing - it's a very small piece, but I consider it sort of a quilt, and I guess that's it. [laughs.]

JG: Well, your quilted clothing, your quilted clothing is the envy of me [laughing, emphasizes.] personally [LF laughs.] because I know all your lovely, all you lovely, quilted tops that you've made. [smiling.]

LF: Well, I do like doing that but they're just two layers. They don't really count officially as a quilt.

JG: Sure. Sure, but, but for those, for the benefit of those who are going to read this I think it's just phenomenal, you've made two large bed quilts and you've written a book for each of them [both laugh.]

LF: Well, actually the first bed quilt was the "Dear Jane" one so Brenda Papadakis wrote that book. But this quilt that we're looking at, I wrote the book for and the second book ["Quilted Diamonds 2."] that I've just published literally this week, [Joanne nods.] there isn't a quilt for it. And this is kind of an amazing thing. When you are your own publisher and you get an idea and you say to the publisher side of yourself, [laughs.] 'Boy, I'd really like to do this. What do you think?' The publisher always says, 'Yes.' [laughing.] So I've kind of gotten away with murder with this second book but I have done this the way I really wanted to do it. This time, as I say, I started with what I actually wanted to teach, and designed a hundred and one diamonds based on that. Now there are quilters all over the world making the diamond quilt from the first book. In fact, I know of three of them that are at the quilting stage right now, exact replicas. I got a photograph of one by email today. One quilter finished two years to the day after she started.

JG: What a compliment. [both talk at the same time, Linda inaudible.] What a compliment.

LF: It is absolutely amazing, and you know I almost didn't put all those wedge pieces in the book, because who was actually going to copy my setting or make all of the diamonds? The medallion pieces took a lot of pages that I could have used for other things. And who was ever going to want the medallion anyway? But they do. They're making it all over the world. I could list off all these countries in Europe and Australia and all over the United States where they're making diamonds. But this time I really did start for the second book with what I wanted to teach. And because so many of the quilts from around the world are turning out blue and white, I thought maybe I'd poke them a little bit. And I've shown each of the one hundred and one blocks in the new book in a four-fabric variation. There are 101 of those that will all go together in one quilt. And I also made each diamond in two other fabric variations. I've got every combination of colors you can imagine in there. It's really a colorful book.

JG: [laughing.] You'll drive them crazy.

LF: I will. They'll have a lot of fun and I think it will stretch them. But the other thing was I didn't finish a quilt for the book. And part of it was that I wanted to photograph the backside of every single one of the blocks, because for me one of the huge benefits of hand piecing is how beautifully the blocks press--that I can press those little intersections in a radiating manner. I think it makes the blocks look better. As a hand quilter I really enjoy the flatness and the precision that I've got in the diamonds themselves. [JG agrees.] So, because I needed to be sure that I had all the photography that I needed of the backside I really couldn't put those all together in a quilt before the book was printed. So - they will become a quilt, but they are still just loose diamonds now. [both talk and laugh at the same time.] They will become a quilt. And in the book, I did use Electric Quilt to come up with a whole lot of setting ideas for diamonds. So, I hope that people will feel a little bit more stretched to be creative. It is very flattering when people copy my design and when people write to me. One lady wrote to me about seeing Love & Friendship hanging in Paducah. This quilt did not have a ribbon on it in Paducah, but she wrote to me afterwards and said she had taken three quilt photos while she was at the show in Paducah and my quilt was one of them. And it had stuck in her mind so that when months and months later she saw the book she thought, 'That's the quilt that I loved in Paducah.' So, you know that's very, very flattering, that someone would relate to the design that well.

JG: Right.

LF: But as a teacher I like the idea that my students would stretch themselves and come up with their own settings too. There's a gal in Indiana that I met in Shipshewana at the retreat--oh I've met her every time I go, I guess, five times. She was so in love with this first little booklet of patterns that she asked for more and I provided her with all of the patterns at the time when AQS was still working on the book. And Claire made--her name is Claire Baker, and she lives in Lafayette, Indiana, she made 117 of the diamonds in very bright, wonderful fabrics. I don't know how many fabrics she's got in this quilt, but she's got a lot of lime green and orange and bright yellow, all kinds of bright colors. And she came up with her own setting for the 117, setting them in triangles. So, you know that to me was really exciting, that she would take it a step further [JG: Sure.] and come up with something [JG: Sure.] totally different.

JG: Yeah. Yeah. Well tell me, what was your, what is your first quilt memory?

LF: Nobody in our family quilted at all. I'm very jealous of you [laughs.]. Russ says I should say 'envious,' instead, but really, I never saw anybody quilt until I was in my forties. And I do remember there was a quilt on my bed as a little girl. I think it was probably a 'thousand Pyramids' or, you know, it was all little triangles. And we got in trouble for sticking our fingers in. The batting was showing. And it was a very raggedy quilt. But I remember liking that. That would have to be my earliest quilting memory.

JG: And did that stay with you? Was that one of the reasons that you got into quilting?

LF: I don't think so. I had learned to sew on a sewing machine before I was old enough to go to kindergarten. My mother was very patient teaching each of us. I'm in the middle of three girls and we were all taught how to knit and crochet and sew. And we made things for our dolls and stuff. I think it was more--it's not in the individual craft that she taught us. It's more the idea of loving to create something for yourself. The enjoyment of making things. So, at the time that I signed up for the first quilting class I took I had been doing a lot of clothing construction for years and years and years, and things for our new house, draperies and valances and a lot of things like that. And I was interested in the new sewing machines. I only signed up for the quilting class on a whim. It was advertised as lap quilting. Literally I did not know that there was a way of quilting without having a big frame. I didn't know anything about quilting. So, I took this class on a whim thinking it would be fun to try. The class was from the Georgia Bonesteel book on lap quilting. But if it hadn't been lap quilting, I don't think I would have signed up. I would have thought, 'No, no, we don't have a big quilting frame. I don't want to get into a hobby that requires such an initial upfront commitment.'

JG: Requires its own house.

LF: Yeah, before I even know that I would like it. It didn't even really stick after that first sampler quilt. That was one we didn't list. I did make that first sampler quilt with six blocks. I did finish it. That quilt had round corners because I didn't know how to miter a corner [laughs.] on a binding so I rounded them instead. I just sort of felt my way on that because the class was over when the quilt top was prepared. But it really didn't stick at that point. I think it really took meeting Mary and seeing how involved she was with quilting to get me excited about it and then on the Internet with the "Dear Jane" and then I was hooked.

JG: You were hooked? And that's--

LF: Yeah.

JG: This is the last needlework that you're ever attempt?

LF: Well, I--

JG: Or are you going back to knitting?

LG: I don't know if I'll ever knit again. I don't know how many hundreds of baby preemie bonnets and booties and things and little matinee jackets [laughs.] that I made for babies. I think I've probably made two since I started quilting, and one was for Mary's first granddaughter.

JG: Mhmm.

LF: So knitting kind of went by the wayside. But it had a lot of the same appeal that the hand piecing does, because it was so portable, because I could just pick it up and put it down. I had a knitting encyclopedia of stitching, and I would make up my own patterns. I'd never been that great on following the pattern. I look at all of this stuff and say, 'How could I do it differently?' I did that with "Dear Jane." My quilt doesn't look like a "Dear Jane" quilt. I did that in my first sampler quilt, dumping Sunbonnet Sue for a teapot. [laughing.] You know that story. [both laugh.] So that was I think more the friendship angle of quilting that got me hooked and the idea that I just loved making things. But if I hadn't met Mary, I probably would not be quilting today. Russ will say he blames all of this on Mary. [both laugh.]

JG: Well, that's a nice blame. [both talk at the same time and laugh, inaudible.]

LF: I think she'll take it. I think she'll take it.

JG: So, what--how do you use this quilt?

LF: I have it on a four-poster bed at home. Obviously, I carry it with me a lot. When I travel to teach it always goes with me. But at home it fits the queen-size four-poster bed. The room that it's in is a very long room. I think its 24 feet long. So, one end of this room is a bedroom with a four-poster bed, the other end has my desk with the computer. So, I spend all day every day with this quilt when I'm on the computer at home.

JG: Wonderful. So how many hours a week do you quilt? I mean now that you - now that the book is finished, I'm assuming you'll get back to quilting.

LF: Yeah. That's always been really sporadic. Like this quilt took a little over a year to make. But there were periods of two or three months when I didn't work on it at all for one reason or another. So, you know it really depends on what's going on in my life, whether or not I have time. And for a lot of my projects there has been a big pause while I've decided on the settings. You know there's the addiction mood, the obsession with making all the little blocks and seeing that pile up and then running up against the wall thinking, 'Well, now what? How am I actually going to set these?' I don't have a design wall; I have a design floor. So, you know, you just play with them on the floor. So, I really--I can't say that I sew or quilt every day or every week. It goes in fits and starts; it really does.

JG: So how does quilting impact your family?

LF: Oh, I think it's had a lovely impact. Partly, the relationship with my dad and with my younger sister. She is really into everything and has done stained glass, cake decorating and she's a very accomplished oil painter. She can copy anything, any of the old masters, and she's really got an awful lot of talent. I wouldn't want to be in competition with her on anything. She's actually started quilting. And it was a cute story because she had seen me making the little blocks for years while I was doing "Dear Jane" and the diamond quilt. It was after I was on "Simply Quilts" [Alex Anderson's quilt show. laughs.] that she said, 'I saw you on TV, and you know, that looked really like kind of fun. What do I need to get started?' And she has made some diamonds now. And she made one for my new book.

JG: Oh, gosh.

LF: Yeah. So that's a lovely family influence. Russ loves what I'm doing with the publishing. He is totally, totally into it. He laughs about the quilting in a way, but he's just totally supportive. But when I was designing these diamonds and I knew I wanted the blue and white quilt he and I would drive all over the place trying to find the perfect fabric. And of course, I needed a bolt. I needed it to start, I felt, with a minimum of 12 yards of whatever blue I fell in love with. And there were a few false starts before I found this one.

JG: You have some spare bolts, blue bolts.

LF: I have, yes, I do. It's sad, isn't it? I'm sure I'll find a use for it. But he was willing to drive me anywhere. We would have lunches out with his daughter or, you know, just combine it with other traveling. So, it was a lovely thing. He very rarely goes into a quilt shop, but he has been just totally supportive. And especially with the publishing. He loves what I do with the books.

JG: Perfect. Super. What do you find pleasing about quilting?

LF: I guess it goes back to that whole feeling of creating something. I think I do enjoy the process more than I enjoy the finished product. I love looking at other people's quilts and I enjoy seeing quilts in a quilt show, but there is a kind of a sadness when a quilt is finished. I don't know. Do you feel that ever? That you just enjoyed working on it so much that you're sorry it's come to an end. [JG agrees.] So, I think it's more the process. I don't collect quilts. The only quilts I own are the ones I've made. I'm not into a whole lot of different styles of quilting or the history of quilting that much. But I love the feeling that I can make something original with my hands.

JG: Yes. Yeah. So, what aspects of quilting do you not enjoy?

LF: Hmmm. I don't know that there is anything. I love the designing and the actual stitching. I've gone away a little bit from enjoying hours and hours sitting at the sewing machine. That started to seem a little bit like work. But on the other hand, ten years ago I would have said I was not a candidate for doing everything by hand. So, I don't rule out the possibility that I'll get back into machine piecing. But I love the hand piecing, I love the portability. I love the feel of the fabric in my hands. I like just working with a needle and thread as opposed to a machine, and I love the quilting. Actually, even when I was into clothing construction when I got to the point where all that was left was the hand work, it just needed a hem and you know whatever other handwork there was on it, that was great with me. And yet I knew other people at the time who once they got to the part where it needed hand work, it could hang in the closet for a year while it waited for a hem, [JG: yeah.] because they had to do that part by hand. I was just the opposite.

JG: They dreaded it.

LF: Yeah, they did.

JG: So how do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting or even long-arm quilting?

LF: I admire original work. And I really don't care so much about the technique. If I look at something that is hand quilted, but all they did was outline stitch or stitch in the ditch, I think they missed a huge opportunity to grow a little bit and to personalize the quilt. And some machine quilting is absolutely awful, too. But I've seen machine quilting and long-arm quilting where I just can't help but feel drawn to whoever made that and to wonder what she was thinking when she came up with those neat designs and when she mastered her technique. So I think I'm more interested in the process that the technique being mastered and personalizing somehow.

JG: [agrees.] Yeah. Do you think--what do you think about the importance of quilts in American life or Canadian life?

LF: [laughs.] Well, yes. You know I don't think of myself sort of separately as a Canadian that way, maybe because of the Internet but there are so many of us - all countries around the world. I'm hoping that on my DVD lesson they'll be able to understand my Canadian accent. It's not really that strong, is it?

JG: It's not. [laughs.] No, it's not.

LF: Unless I talk about something 'about the house.' [laughs.]

JG: About.

LG: [laughs.] They're not going to pick up on it. I guess I would have to say it's the feeling of friendships and the social aspect of quilting that is the most important. I see that as, you know, I made that first quilt and didn't feel hooked, until I was connected with other quilters, with Mary, with the people on the Internet. So, I think it is the social aspect, women interacting like this. I know there are men on the Internet and there are male quilters too. I don't know a lot of them personally but it's a feeling of community and sharing that goes on. I think that's the most important thing. I know it's sad when quilts are destroyed or when bad things happen to quilts, but I don't collect them myself. They are possessions. The people behind them I think are more important than the quilts themselves. So, it's what the quilts do to people that are more important to me.

JG: In what ways do you think that quilts have special meaning for women's history?

LF: Oh. Now that's interesting. You know just the idea that the Jane Austen quilt was preserved because it was associated with her. It's not that incredible a quilt. It's pretty and a lot of people are attracted to it, but I don't think it would have even been saved if it hadn't been associated with her. And yet it's drawn a lot of people together. People talk about that quilt and write about that quilt. And I think Jane Austen as writer of masterpieces can be very intimidating, but that's a way into her, through her quilting. It makes her seem more accessible. She was like a--I don't know that I have any, any big draw that way. As I say I don't collect them. I don't study the history, but quilts draw us together as people.

JG: Well, how do you think that quilts can be used?

LF: Oh, well I wear them. I hang them on the walls, and I use them on beds. They obviously can tell a story and they can teach people about themselves and other people. I guess really, we're the only ones who can set a limit on what a quilt can do. Aren't we?

JG: I guess.

LF: They're way more than a bedcovering, and I don't think very many of us really make them any more to keep warm. They're expressions of love, because somebody is having a baby or because somebody is moving away or just because we love somebody that we want to give them something that we've made ourselves.

JG: So, you've made gifts of quilts.

LF: One major one. That was for my younger sister Alison. And that one started out as a challenge with the Naples guild. I had won the previous year's challenge with a little quilt that was very pretty, despite the fact that the fabrics we were given were quite ugly. And when they handed out the fabric for the next year's challenge it was almost a direct challenge to me, you know, 'See if you can do something with this dog fabric.' And before I left that meeting, I knew that whatever I made with that dog fabric would be for Alison, because she had a dog that was really important in their family life. That dog is gone now. But I'm glad I made that quilt for her. I put a lot more effort into that challenge quilt than you would normally put into a quilt for that purpose. But I knew from the first cut that that was for Alison. So far that's the only one I've actually given away. Not that there have been such a huge inventory of potential gifts [both laugh.]

JG: So, what do you think makes a great quilt?

LF: I think it depends on the idea that the quilter had and the quilter stretching herself to do something special with her own ideas. You know I think the majority of quilts that are made are made from a pattern. Somebody may even be copying somebody else's color scheme, maybe trying to match exactly the fabrics that were used. And that's honoring the original maker. But I think to make a really great, great quilt you have to really start with your own idea. It's a way of expressing yourself.

JG: What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?

LF: Well, it would be the story of the quilter, I think. And it could be something incredibly traditional or something way off the charts at the other end that you connect to. You know where you feel you understood what she was trying to tell you. So, I actually my technique in my quilt is very traditional, not even using a machine. But I think I relate well to what art quilters are trying to do and what we would think of. Some of them don't appeal to me at all, because I don't think I understand them. Sometimes I think art quilts are more gimmicky, that they were trying to shock, or whatever, and I tend to back away from that. But I think I don't just admire one kind or another, just like machine quilting versus hand quilting, I think I'm looking for how much of the quilter is in there.

JG: Yeah. Yeah. How do you think quilters, great quilters learned the art of quilting or the design or colors?

LF: Oh. - We have a long history of sharing among quilters, I suppose. A lot of it goes from mother to daughter and among friends. I've never really thought about those questions before. I learn well from books myself. That's just what I do. I seem to relate well that way. But I know that when I teach my classes a lot of my students need to hear it, need to write it down, need to see it done. That was why I wanted to do the DVD for the second book although if I had known Joanne how hard it was--[laughs.] I mean that was ten times harder than doing the whole book, just getting that DVD together. If I had realized that in the beginning, I never would have done a DVD. It was too hard. I was just - I had just that little bit of knowledge lacking to tell me, 'Linda be smart. Don't do this!' [inaudible. laughing.] I think a lot of it's just, I guess we see what other people do and obviously the quilt shows that we have nowadays where we can go and see what other quilters have been inspired by and what we're doing, that's a great way to learn.

JG: Sure.

LF: But I love the teaching that I do in my classes. I do think though that when I visit a guild and teach a class there is a core group of quilters in any guild who will take a class no matter who shows up. They love taking classes. And there are some quilters who will; you know they'd be okay to take a class if they knew something about the person that was coming. They might sign up. But there are a large number of quilters out there who wouldn't take the class no matter who came. And they learn better from books. It's something they want to do at home or with friends. And I think those are quilters that I can relate to, because I learn from books myself. I wanted my books to be something for those people that aren't addressed by the big quilt shows and the big classes and the big-name quilters.

JG: Yeah. Wow. Well, Linda, our time has come to an end--

LF: I really talked-- [laughs.]

JG: Our time has come to an end [laughing.]. I just have to conclude this interview right now at 2:59 before the tape ends. But I thank you very much for talking to me today for Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. And it is 2:59. Thanks very much.

LF: Thank you Joanne, this was fun.

[tape ends.]


“Linda Franz,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 16, 2024,