Cindi Goodwin




Cindi Goodwin




Cindi Goodwin


Suzanne Sanger

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Sara Jane Hardin


Naples, Florida


Suzanne Sanger


Suzanne Sanger [SS]: This is Suzanne Sanger. Today's date is July 8, 2005, it is 1:15 PM, and I'm conducting an interview with Cindi Goodwin for the Quilters' [S.O.S-] Save Our Stories project and the Naples Quilters Guild in Naples, Florida. Cindi, tell me, were you living in Naples when you learned to quilt?

Cindi Goodwin [CG]: Yes, it was in the mid-eighties at Adult Education.

SS: That's where Elva [Zoltai.] learned to quilt too, right? Were you in the same class?

CG: We were in the same class, and we didn't know each other for a long time, and several of the Guild members were there also. Now we can correlate our stories, but we didn't at the time become friends until way later, like twelve years later.

SS: Isn't that interesting.

CG: It was fun.

SS: Tell me a little bit about the quilt you selected to talk about today. Did you make it?

CG: I did. It took me six months to complete. I do not know how to precision machine piece. Somebody was going to teach me this summer though [eyeing SS, who had made this promise.], but I haven't done that yet. [laughs.] I did get a book and I'm trying to learn how to machine piece, but it's not working. I know how to random piece, but as far as piecing on this quilt, it's all randomly pieced, but hand appliqu├ęd also. It's called "The Bubblegum Tree," and it defies things that people tell me I can't do. I did it anyways. I do that on quite a few of my quilts.

SS: Well, I know this is your own design because you never do anything that's a pattern.

CG: I use hand pieced patterns and incorporate them into my own designs.

SS: A lot of your work is heavily embellished. Is this embellished, or is it all cotton, or--

CG: It's all cotton. There's some clear yo-yos though. I also told a good friend of mine, whom I'll mention later, [clears throat.] that I wanted to make a stuffed tree, and she said, 'Oh, don't do that. They don't like that.' Well actually, who are they? And do I care? No. I did it anyways. I've never sold my soul to the devil, and I never will. I'm doing it my way.

SS: That's what we love about your quilts.

CG: Thanks.

SS: Does this quilt have any particular special meaning for you?

CG: It does because, like I said, it defies a lot of things that people will say, 'You really can't do that on a quilt.' I become bored very easily and just to appease myself and appeal to people to look at my quilts longer than seven seconds; I do tend to make intricate little pieces that you really have to think about.

SS: What are your plans for this quilt?

CG: Hopefully it will go to Houston, and if it doesn't, I'll try in Paducah.

SS: So, you don't have any plans to use this quilt yourself.

CG: I'll give it to my youngest daughter, Caitlin. She likes it.

SS: That's great. Now we know that you started quilting in about 1980 and you learned from that class.

CG: Basically, I was self-taught though. Most of the teachers I had in Naples just patted me on the head and said, 'Oh, what a wonderful job.' I was never corrected, and I never knew that my quilts were 'bad' until Agnes Ann Bonsch came along and told me that I could be very good if I just slowed down. [both laugh.] But I think it was good that nobody discouraged me early on because I would have quit.

SS: By the time Agnes Ann came along you probably were well into the creative part of quilting.

CG: Oh, long before that.

SS: And really hooked.

CG: Yes.

SS: Did you never have like home ec class or--

CG: Oh, I did! I got a D+. [Ss laughs.] I made a mini skirt. We were supposed to make an A-line skirt touching the knees, and mine was probably about eight inches long. It was red corduroy. I made a lot of my clothes back then.

SS: [laughing.] Oh, that's wonderful. What classes have you taken that benefited you?

CG: Quite a few. There were several teachers in Naples that were great!

SS: In Naples, the city or that have come to the guild?

CG: To the guild. You were there when Pauline Salzman told me that I could be a real good quilter, but my binding was terrible. She just laid it out on the line, and then after that my binding got real good in a hurry. [both laugh.]

SS: And since then, you've gotten quilts in national shows, right?

CG: Yes!

SS: So maybe that wasn't as much an insult as a contribution to your progress.

CG: That's right.

SS: Why do you take classes at this point?

CG: Actually, I probably won't take too many more classes. I don't do well in classes. I have a problem--that ADD I was telling you about. I have trouble sitting and focusing on what I'm doing. I'm better at home without noise, stereo, and TV. That's how I quilt all day. I can't do a lot of things at the same time. I do better with books.

SS: My next question is how many hours a week do you quilt. I think I should probably change that to how many hours a day do you quilt?

CG: Probably six to eight hours a day for myself only, and then this week, on the fourth of July, what did I do? I quilted a king-size quilt, a double quilt and a throw. And I wonder what the other people did?! Maybe have a picnic or something? [SS laughs.] So, I quilted over fourteen and a half hours that day.

SS: I just am astonished at how fast you can do that. It just blows my mind, because I did one really fast recently and it still took three days.

CG: Really? Wow.

SS: [laughing.] You may have no idea how fast you actually are.

CG: No, I do. My machine goes 1100 stitches per minute, my Juki. Oh, you have a Juki too though. I am very focused on quilting time and I'm hard on myself, allowing a 30-minute lunch break, only.

SS: I do [have a Juki.], but I can't sew that fast.

CG: You can't go on the full throttle?

SS: Uh-uh. Cindi, what's your first quilt memory?

CG: It probably was my grandmother's quilts, Mildred Krug. The first one I made for my son was in 1978, and not many people would like this quilt, but I loved it. It's real primitive looking. It's muslin and brown and a lot of orange colors, and I was definitely self-taught. I love it. I keep it as a remembrance or reminder of where I've been and where I'm actually going.

SS: What inspired you to start quilting?

CG: It was my grandmother. She quilted. And I love to hold fabric and stitch by hand.

SS: So, your grandmother was a quilter.

CG: Oh yes, she was a really good quilter, too. She was mainly a piecer, and I've got many of her quilts and I love them. They definitely inspired me.

SS: Had you started quilting while she was still alive?

CG: No, unfortunately not.

SS: That's always the conversation I wish I could have is the one with my aunt who inspired me to start quilting. How has quilting impacted your family or your personal life?

CG: It now takes up so many hours of my day that I really don't do things like--I used to run mini-marathons and hiking and swimming and all that. I was very active in sports. Now I sit for long periods of time. But my kids come over. They live in the guesthouse out behind, so they come to visit every so often, and there I am quilting. We talk a lot while I'm quilting.

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

CG: Oh yes, as long as I can remember. It's very meditational and soothing. If I wasn't doing quilting, I'm pretty sure I would be in a straitjacket somewhere in a padded cell. [both laugh.]

SS: What do you find most pleasing about quilting?

CG: I used to like the instant gratification, and that's why I like doing dolls once in a while and purses, because you can get them done in such a hurry. I'm training myself to be more patient and focused. Sometimes a border takes me two months to do, and that's very hard for me to stay focused, but I will hop around from piece to piece. I don't work down the path and start at the top and go to the bottom. I jump around on that border and do a bird, a basket or a flower or something so I can get that border done. It's really hard for me to do that, because I only have one quilt that I'm working on at a time now.

SS: Oh really?

CG: Oh yes.

SS: You don't have multiple projects?

CG: Uh-uh, I only have one.

SS: Do you have a quilt and a doll going at the same time?

CG: No.

SS: Oh, my goodness. That surprises me.

CG: I know. I have done a hundred percent turnaround. I have to work four times as hard on a quilt as everybody else does. Probably I was dyslexic and never really was diagnosed, but I see things way differently, and I have to do it over just to get the same effect that you probably only do once. Anything I've done on quilts; I've worked four times as hard as anybody else.

SS: Do you do a lot of unsewing?

CG: No, I don't. But I do impromptu, like the night before the Naples quilt take-in when I had seventy holes in my quilt. Nobody taught me to go back and reinforce my hand piecing, to go over it and then go back up a quarter of an inch up the seam, and so I just ended it and they all split apart the night before I took in the quilt. I had to put seventy yo-yos over those holes, which then turned into a new idea.

SS: Is it the improvisational factor in quilting that in part appeals to you?

CG: Yes! Because I don't feel they really were mistakes. I just feel they were learning experiences; I also see four different ways to tackle a problem on any given situation in a quilt. What would make it work? Well, I've got four Ideas in my head that I know that any one of those is a crapshoot because they would work. That's kind of a neat gift that I've had for as long as I can remember.

SS: Now, Pat McAfee, one of your very dear friends, said to me recently that you are by far the most creative person she's ever known in her life, and I think this is an example of how your mind works. You don't see a problem. You see an opportunity for new creativity.

CG: Yes, on top of her giving me probably over a hundred little tidbits, tricks, suggestions, and techniques, that helped me immensely, but that's not what did my turnaround. Her words had major impact on me! I mean, she said to me that 'I've never met anybody as creative as you,' and it was really shocking because I guess, of the way I've been non-accepted.

SS: What aspects of quilting do you not enjoy?

CG: I was wondering if you were going to ask me that, and I even like picking up scraps from the floor. There's nothing that I don't like.

SS: Oh, come to my house!

CG: Oh, I will, and I'll save them, and I'll make you a quilt. [both laugh.] No, I love everything about it. I love putting the binding on, I love cutting pieces out, I love designing.

SS: Do you like doing binding better now that you feel you've mastered it?

CG: I always did love it. It's just that this woman found fault with what I did, and I didn't know it was bad. Like I said, nobody ever told me I was bad. How is a person supposed to know if they don't correct you?

SS: Right, right. I know you enter quilts in shows. Do you feel you've learned things from doing that and what?

CG: Probably not. I'm not good at reading people. I'm not a very good judge of character, and I'm not good at reading shows. I have two acquaintances in the guild who are very good at reading shows. A lot of my quilts had crushed glass and wire on them. Well, duh. They're not going to travel with people handling your quilts, so I had to kind of change my criteria for entering a certain media in the shows for that reason. I don't think it's helped me because a show is really just a crapshoot anyways.

SS: Well, when you get the judges' comments back, do you think that sometimes their comments have been helpful?

CG: I once received the most hurtful comment of my entire life on a critique but yes, it did help me because it turned my life around. She said, 'You must be kidding!' She wrote that clear across my entry form. This was a very prominent woman in Indiana or Illinois that was head of major competition, and I got it back and I said, 'Is this a good you must be kidding,' or is it a bad, you must be kidding?' Well, it was bad, because I didn't make the show. It was an Indian, with his head coming up off the top like a coffeepot, and little Indians were flying in space, and this was back about fifteen years ago. Maybe there weren't quilts like that, but I felt that comment was really strange. Actually, it helped me though because from then on, my quilts made that traveling contest every single year after that. I confronted her with it last year in Nashville when I saw her and said, 'You really changed the course of my life with the comments you made.'

SS: So sometimes comments have an unintended result, and I'm glad in your case that the result was to keep you going.

CG: Yes, it was.

SS: If no one were ever going to see your quilts, Cindi, would you still make them?

CG: I make them just to make my mark. What's my motivation? It's probably fear, and I fear that I'm not going to live long enough to make these quilts to make my mark on earth. That's probably why I do it.

SS: What do you think makes a great quilt?

CG: Soul. A quilt that draws you to it must have soul. I'm told my quilts have this.

SS: And is there something else that makes a quilt artistically powerful for you?

CG: Probably the message. I put little messages, whether they're personal things to present a certain side of something I believe in. All my quilts have a little message, whether they're fairy tales or something funny. I like to poke fun at myself and other things, and I hope people can gather that message through them. I think they can.

SS: I think they can too. What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

CG: Like I said before, probably a message that it's giving, or the colors, or the fine workmanship, which I'm always striving to do better. [both laugh.]

SS: What makes a great quilter?

CG: Determination. I've never lost my drive. I've been shot down a peg or two here and there, but I never lost my motivation or my determination. I hope the novelty never wears off, because I wake up every morning (and for me--I do this for a living), and it's like being paid to go to the circus! I can't believe I'm having this much fun and making a great living at it.

SS: That's wonderful. You're the only person I know who makes any kind of living at it really.

CG: I was thinking about that. You had said that before that it's hard for a person to make a living at it, and Linda Franz is doing really well, and Pat McAfee and Pat Kumicich, and maybe even Joan Franz. I realize that as far back as I can think, I was successful at everything I did. I didn't realize it until a month ago when this article came out [CG was the subject of a two-page human interest article in the Naples Daily News.] that I had to list all the things I did in my life, and I even had a dog walking business at eight and did really well with it. I think it's my determination. I wake up every morning at five and I look forward to seizing the day.

SS: And I think you're willing to do the work, whether it's walking dogs or quilting quilts for people. There are a lot of people who say well that's not a good use of my time or whatever. And you not only think it's a good use of your time, but you enjoy it while you're doing it.

CG: Love it. I can't say enough.

SS: Yes, I think that's wonderful. How do you think great quilters learn the art of quilting, especially things like how to design a pattern or choose fabric or pick colors?

CG: For some it's taking classes. For me it's definitely books. I think constantly quilting too is another thing. That's how you get better at machine quilting, that's for sure!

SS: What does quilting teach you, Cindi?

CG: It's teaching me patience and endurance and how to sit still for long periods of time, something that I've never been good at. [laughing.]

SS: How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting?

CG: I really like the look of hand quilting better and I wish I was a good hand quilter. My last judge's comments were, 'What happened to this quilt? It looks like you gnarled it to death.' It came up into a little wet ball when I was done. My hands sweat and I try to do it and it just doesn't work out. I do love the looks of it though, but we're not going to live long enough to make all the quilts, and that's my biggest fear so I have to machine quilt them to get them done.

SS: I didn't realize you ever hand quilted. Did you have a hand quilted quilt in the show this past year?

CG: I did. It was a little Charlie Brown quilt. It was a miniature. It just really made such an effect and people remembered it so well you know. [both laugh.]

SS: What about long arm quilting versus--

CG: I have no upper body strength that that takes. I've tried to do it, and my sister who has no quilting knowledge did wonderfully with it because she's really strong. I only have finger dexterity. So, I could not do long arm.

SS: Why is quilting important to your life?

CG: If I'm going to spend twelve hours a day doing something, it better be something that gives me great pleasure and happiness. I would have been a knitter if I didn't quilt because I designed my own patterns.

SS: Do you keep any kind of record of your quilts when you make them?

CG: None. None at all. It's all in my head.

SS: None at all. Do you feel that you should be? [laughing.]

CG: No! I don't want to contaminate my mind with anything else that's ever been done. I want fresh new looks.

SS: Even anything else that you've ever done--when you're finished, it's over?

CG: It's over. That's why I can sell my quilts and not worry that I spent six months on it. No, I don't want any record of anything because I just don't want to infiltrate my mind with duplicating. I would be too bored, and I wouldn't want other people to be bored either.

SS: Do you know what's happened to quilts that you've made?

CG: A funny thing. I was at a garage sale, and I saw a baby quilt that I had made years before that said Hannah's sister and Rebecca's sister on it. I had painstakingly made a quilt for somebody, and they actually had it up for sale for two dollars at a garage sale. [SS moans.] I wanted to buy it back, but a Haitian lady grabbed it up really fast and bought it. I was thinking I'd love to have that back. It was all denim and cute little girl things and stuff on it.

SS: Maybe you could have bought it for five dollars from the lady.

CG: [both laugh.] I wanted to.

SS: Do your quilts reflect your community or your region do you think?

CG: No, not at all. They actually reflect my dreams. Surrealism. I have dreams that inspire me to make the designs on fabric.

SS: Do you keep a notepad near your bed, or do you remember your dreams?

CG: I remember them.

SS: You really do?

CG: I can. Don 't ask me what I had for lunch yesterday, but I remember ribbons that people won and quilts that won and names of quilters from years ago because that makes a big impact on me.

SS: And you remember your dreams.

CG: I do.

SS: What a gift. What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

CG: I think that it will never phase out. I don't think it's a fad. I'm just happy that people can find satisfaction and comfort in doing this art form.

SS: How has quilting had special meaning for American women?

CG: I. think it gives us an opportunity to display our dreams our visions, and maybe our love.

SS: Have you ever tried to get into a gallery or been in a gallery show?

CG: Yes. I think you were there when I had my gallery opening on Marco a few years back. And I sat back the first night after it had opened, and I knew I had arrived when I had sold eight pieces out of eleven that night. It was kind of shocking to me. I won my college's highest art award too. It was a Gold Key award. To handle that much success is a real uncomfortable feeling for me.

SS: Have you ever tried to get other gallery shows?

CG: No, I'm not interested in that. If they don't come to me, I don't pursue things like that. I'm pretty happy with what I do and where I'm at. In fact, I think I'm happier than probably most people I know because at a young age I chose to make my own happiness. I remember back even at eleven I was winning art shows and at seventeen I was winning art shows also.

SS: What was your medium back then? Were you a painter?

CG: Watercolor, pen and ink.

SS: Do you still have any of your work?

CG: I have a few pieces--I still like them too.

SS: Oh good, that was my next question. Are you still happy with them and proud of them?

CG: Yes. I am. I like them a lot. In fact, I'm going to get some new frames and just keep them around as collectibles. They're almost antiques. Not!

SS: Oh, come on. [both laugh.] How do you think quilts and the art of quilting can be preserved for the future?

CG: I guess they're doing a pretty good job of it right now with museums and the acid-free tissue paper, TV, slides, and DVD and CDs and all of that.

SS: Have you ever done any teaching of quilting to others?

CG: I have, and I can't stand it. I almost want to rip women's hearts out with my bare fingernails! I have no patience with whiners. I'm not going to sugarcoat this. I can't stand, 'Teacher will you thread my machine? Will you wind my bobbins?' I can't take it. It drives me bananas.

SS: Do you help people one on one sometimes?

CG: I do, but most people, I'd say only two percent really want to learn. The rest of them want you to sugarcoat it and say, 'Oh no, that's wonderful.' I do enjoy teaching children with no pre-conceived notions.

SS: Do you have any advice for new quilters, Cindi?

CG: Read a lot of books and look at a lot of pictures. Write down your dreams.

SS: Do you have any future dreams or plans for yourself in working with quilts? Any new directions you're thinking of?

CG: No. I've done it all. I've sold over 144 purses at the quilt shop, and I've sold 30 dolls, and I've sold a lot of big quilts. I've done the teaching. I don't have any desire to travel around and teach at all. And I've had my quilts in major shows. I think I'm going to continue doing what I'm doing.

SS: I know you've made wall quilts and bed quilts and dolls and purses and fabric bowls and probably a ton of other stuff.

CG: Jackets.

SS: Jackets, that's right. Wearables. What's your favorite of all of those?

CG: The dolls.

SS: Really.

CG: And I don't like small wall hangings. I told you they make me nervous. You'll only see big quilts from me from now on.

SS: Why do small ones make you nervous?

CG: I can't stand little dust collectors laying around. How many wall quilts can you put up in your home?

SS: Mine is getting that way.

CG: And how many can you give away as gifts and people can't stand them, and they pretend they like them. [both laugh.] It's very presumptuous to think that we can give somebody something and have them go "Oh wow, I really like this" when in essence they don't. It's like giving them a piece of art, and I don't think it's fair.

SS: What is it about the dolls that you like the best?

CG: That it's quick.

SS: Oh really.

CG: You can make them whimsical, and each doll is so different, and they're fun! If you've never made a doll, you really haven't lived. I know you said you didn't like them, but--

SS: I like yours. I just don't like to make them.

CG: I love everything about them.

SS: Yours are so creative. Is part of what you love about doing them that it just lets you, every little quirky thought that comes to your mind you can do it?

CG: Yes! [both laughing.]

SS: Well Cindi, we have blitzed through this interview. If you have anything else, you'd like to add--

CG: I do. I wanted to say that my best friend, Pat McAfee, inspires me. It was her words that held major impact on me. Pat tells it straight. She says, you know, 'You could be a really great quilter if you--'and she gave me some tips. It was the gentle approach and when I critique hers, I'm not that soft with her. I flat out tell her, 'What in the H were you thinking?' I'm not that kind on her critiques and we critique hard on each other's quilts, but besides Pat saying all those wonderful words to inspire me, the Japanese quilters were a mega influence in my life. I studied those quilts. Their workmanship and, their ideas, and if you'll notice in all of their quilts, they use a little bit of orange in every single quilt. Look at the quilts and see what wins in Paducah- Houston and Nashville. A little bit of orange. Trust me on that one.

SS: And is orange a favorite color of yours?

CG: No. But in order to be effective I use it. I can show you Pat McAfee's quilt on the rack, the one that she won third place in the world, and she didn't even know she did it, but she has a little bit of orange in one corner, and I can cover that up with a book, and I can show you. Does this quilt work? Yes, it was pretty good without it. Sure, it was. It would have won something, but that orange, if you see it in the quilts that's what does it. I shouldn't have given away my secret, but it's out. Oh well, now you all know. [laughs.]

SS: I've heard that about yellow. So maybe it's not just orange. It needs to be just something that catches you?

CG: Orange really is the kicker. It really is.

SS: Interesting.

CG: And also too, blocking quilts. It's the difference between blow-drying your hair or not blow-drying your hair. I don't know how else to explain it. It gives a real nice, finished look, and I didn't do that until two years ago. That's what turned my quilting precision around too, the look of it anyways. You can make a not so good quilt into a great quilt.

SS: When you block your quilts, do you do them on the floor or do you pin them to a board?

CG: Pin them on the floor on a rug. Pretty cool, eh? I'd like to end this interview with a "ray of hope" for the "little guy." I was once the "little guy" and with hours of practice (years) I have triumphed because of a willing spirit. The truth is, life is hard, and still, we flourish through our quilting. Quilting finds me when I am not still. My artist eye never closes. If my quilts fill me and others with some emotions, experiences and expressions of truth, love and joy, then I will have really lived.

SS: I'd like to thank Cindi Goodwill for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Q.S.O.S. project. Our interview concluded at 1:45, July 9 [sic.], 2005.


“Cindi Goodwin,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 23, 2024,