Dianne Cannestra




Dianne Cannestra




Dianne Cannestra


Melissa Cannestra

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The Nat'l Quilting Assn


Atlanta, Georgia


Melissa Cannestra


Melissa Danielsson (MD): My name is Melissa Danielsson and today's date is October 9th, 2008, at 10:38 a.m. I am conducting an interview with Dianne Cannestra in her home in Atlanta, Georgia for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Georgia State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Dianne Cannestra is a quilter and is a member of the Martha Stewart Bulloch Chapter. Dianne, please tell me about the quilt you selected to discuss today.

Dianne Cannestra (DC): Thank you, Melissa. When I first decided I wanted to quilt. I was walking through Wal-Mart and found a book that had this quilt on the cover, and I fell in love with it and decided to make it. And I also decided that I wanted to make it a king size quilt, which was quite large. Being an absolutely brand-new quilter, I didn't know what I was getting into. This quilt is extremely intricate to piece, and I decided to hand quilt it because I didn't machine quilt at the time, so I bought a quilt frame from a local quilt shop. They had it on sale because a woman was not going to be quilting anymore. And I set it up in my bedroom and three years later the quilting was done. [laughs.] So, it took me quite a while. When it was completed, it reminded me a lot of the quilting my grandmother [Rose Strnad.] had done, so I named it for her, "Grandma Rosie," and she also loved to garden, so I named it "Grandma Rosie's Garden."

DC: So, the special meaning it has for me is for her.

MD: What are the dimensions?

DC: It is 109 [inches.] by 109 [inches.]. So, it is an extremely large king size quilt.

MD: And what year did you begin quilting?

DC: Let's see, I completed it in '04, so approximately '01--2001.

MD: Why did you choose this quilt for the interview?

DC: I chose it because it is one of the largest, I've done and also because it was the largest that I hand quilted. Which is an extremely challenging project and because of its intricacy.

MD: Where do you have it in your home?

DC: Actually, I am afraid to use it because it is primarily white. [laughs.] So, it usually sits either on top of my hope chest or in it. So far, we haven't used it, but one of these days. I made it to go on our bed actually. [laughs.]

MD: What do you think someone viewing your quilt might conclude about you?

DC: I think that they would probably conclude, especially if they were a quilter, that I'm not afraid to tackle large projects, large, complicated projects. And it is probably still true today, I like to be challenged.

MD: What are the patterns that you have used for this quilt?

DC: The pattern is actually called Primrose Garden. It is a pattern out of a quilt book.

MD: Your grandmother: Is she from Georgia?

DC: No, she is actually from the Czech Republic. From Moravia and was born with a needle in her hand. She quilted for as long as I can remember, and her grandmother quilted. So, I come from a long line of quilters.

MD: Do you have any of her quilts?

DC: Yes, I do. I do sleep under that one. It's a Texas Star. She lived and died, after she moved to the United States, in Texas and it's a pink and white Texas Star and that's the one I sleep under.

MD: Tell me about your interest in quilt making. You said you began in 2001. What motivated you?

DC: Actually, I've always been interested in quilting. My grandmother quilted, my mother [Anne Brown.] quilted, and I can remember when I was very, very small, probably my earliest memory was when I was two, sitting and playing under a quilt frame, while my mom, and aunt, and grandmother were quilting. So, it's just always been something I've wanted to do, but I've never had the time. I went to school, had a child, worked full-time and it was near retirement when I finally decide that I wanted to start quilting myself.

MD: Who would you say taught you to quilt?

DC: Probably my grandmother. I watched her from a very early age, and my mother, too, but my grandmother, probably more than my mom. When she would baby sit, I would watch her quilt. She taught me embroidery and cross-stitch and everything.

MD: When you began the king size quilt, "Grandma Rosie's Garden." Did you go to any classes here in Atlanta?

DC: I didn't until I'd probably been quilting a year and went to my first class at JoAnn's [JoAnn's Fabric and Craft Store] and then took at least six classes at Little Quilts, which is a local quilt store. Excellent classes and I still go. I go to a quilt class maybe once every six months just to learn some new technique.

MD: Can you name any of the classes you have been to that you benefited from?

DC: I've been to lots of appliqué classes: both machine and hand. I've gone to binding classes, hand quilting classes. I've taken many, many classes and enjoy them.

MD: How many hours a week do you quilt?

DC: I would say I probably quilt on the average two hours a day.

MD: "Grandma Rosie's" quilt, how many hours a day did it take you to complete?

DC: Oh, my gosh. Probably, well I worked on it -- It took me a year to piece, and three years to quilt it, and I would say that I worked on it an average of maybe four hours a day.

MD: Going back to your first quilt memory. What was it--you were two [years-old]. Is that quilt still here today? Do you remember that quilt being passed down?

DC: Actually, my grandmother had two daughters, my mother and my aunt. She gave all of her quilts to the two of them. I'm not sure who has those early quilts, but my mother, I would say, has about 50 quilts: half of them done by my maternal grandmother and about half of the done by my paternal grandmother [Ella Brown.]. They both quilted.

MD: Would they use any clothing, material from clothing that the family wore?

DC: Oh, always. Both of my grandmothers did not quilt like I do today. I go out to either Jo-Ann's or a quilt store and buy my fabric. They never did that. They always cut up shirts or dresses or aprons. I don't think they ever quilted anything that wasn't either cut up material from clothing or leftovers. They used a lot of scraps from clothing.

MD: Were the quilts then given to family members for birthdays or special holidays?

DC: We did receive quilts on special holidays. But we also received quilts just because too. [laughs.] When she [grandmother.] finished one, she usually didn't keep it. She usually gave it away.

MD: And how about you? Do you give quilts for special occasions?

DC: I do. As a matter of fact, I just finished a flip flop quilt for my daughter [Sherry Seabolt.] that I'm going to give her next month for her birthday. I typically give quilts for gifts for birthdays and Christmas, but I also give away a lot of quilts at other times too, especially charity quilts.

MD: You were mentioning you made a tote bag, a quilted tote bag for your daughter.

CD: My daughter has gotten obsessed with quilted purses and tote bags. I make for her maybe one a month. Every time she comes to visit from Florida she laughs and says she is always expecting some kind of purse or tote or something. [laughs.] She's gotten spoiled! [laughs.]

MD: How does quilt making impact your family?

DC: Well, my husband [Ken.] has gotten used to having some quilting process going on in almost every room of our house. I have a sewing room and a quilting room, and I always lay out my quilts all over the house. I have a design wall. But I end out laying them out on the bedroom floor. He's very tolerant about it. And actually, he helps me. He is an engineer and a lot of times if I have a very complicated quilt or a pieced border that I want to be sure fits the quilt. He often helps me with the math, and he's actually gotten quite good with color, oddly enough. I'll ask him, 'What do you think about these together, these colors together?' And he gives me his opinion about that.

MD: Tell me if you have ever used quilts to get through a difficult time?

DC: Oh, all the time. And that's why I make quilts for charity so much. In difficult times I find cuddling with a quilt is soothing. And then I learned when I started quilting that it is my therapy. If I'm feeling stressed about something else, I get away, and I either piece or quit and I immediately calm down.

MD: Tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred from your quilt making?

DC: That one I can't think of one, honestly.

MD: What do you find pleasing about quilt making?

DC: What's most pleasing to me is that it is absolutely endless the ideas that float around in my head of one pattern if you change the colors, will be a completely different quilt. I'll see a magazine or a picture. Everything that I see inspires me to a new quilt idea. It is just the endless possibilities I get so excited about, 'Oh I want to do that!' And then in the next hour I'll see something else and think, 'Oh I want to do that!' I literally have a list of quilts that I want to make that is probably, I'd say, at least 150 quilts that are kind of in my head that I want to do.

MD: What aspects of quilt making do you not enjoy?

DC: None. I enjoy piecing and when I get tired of doing that I like to quilt and some of my friends who are quilters like to either appliqué or traditional piece or--and I like all of it. I like doing appliqué and I even like doing machine appliqué and needle turn hand appliqué. I think it's all challenging and I like doing it all.

MD: What art or quilt groups do you belong to?

DC: I belong to the East Cobb Quilt Guild. I recently was accepted into the Bulloch Hall Quilt Guild after a three year wait. We have a big group. Our ECQG is about three hundred members. It's very, very large and I enjoy that. Shortly after I joined, they encouraged us all to form bee groups of about 12 to 15 people. So, I started a bee group of new members that joined about the same time I did. It's a very diverse group, extremely diverse, but we really enjoy--we get together about once a month and we stitch, and we share ideas and problems with each other. Bounce ideas off and bounce problems off each other. We take field trips. We go to quilt shows out of the area.

MD: Where do you meet?

DC: We meet in different homes. We rotate. We make lunch for each other. It's a great time. I'm going tomorrow as a matter of fact and looking forward to it.

MD: What quilt shows have you been to?

DC: I've been to quite a few quilt shows. My favorite is the East Cobb Quilt Show. That happens every other year and it's in the Cobb County Civic Center and the other one is Bulloch Hall [Roswell, Georgia.] and it's every year in the spring. I probably enjoy that one the most because the quilts are displayed in an old historic home. So, they look comfortable there. That's probably my favorite. So, I attend and show in both of those shows.

MD: Have you ever been out-of-the-state for a quilt show?

DC: No, I haven't yet, but one of my goals is to go to Paducah, [Kentucky.] which is THE big quilt show, and Houston [Texas.]. When I get a lot more time that's on my list of to-dos --

MD: Have advances in technology influenced your work? If so, how?

DC: Well, the evolution for me is--as an example of that, I started with a Singer sewing machine that my mother gave me for my high school graduation a "Touch and Sew." I started piecing on that--started piecing the Grandmother Rosie's flower garden quilt on it. I realized it was very important to be very accurate quilt and it was difficult to do on that machine. The stitch was not perfect etc, etc.

DC: So, I bought a Bernina, which is the quilting machine [big smile.] and was very happy with that for a number of years, and then a new Bernina came out with a stitch regulator, so I invested in that, and have just been extraordinarily happy with that.

DC: I was doing machine quilting. I started out, as I told you, hand quilting. The reason that I decided to do machine quilting is that hand quilting is very slow, and I wanted to give more quilts away. So, I started quilting on my original Bernina and lap quilts are okay to do on a regular sewing machine, but anything larger than that was very difficult. Hard on my back, hard on my shoulders, wrestling all that material, so at that point when I really knew I was dedicated to quilting I would do it for as long as I was able.

DC: I bought a Gammill longarm machine, and now I can quilt a lap size quilt. If I stayed at it, I can probably do a lap size quilt in, depending on the complexity of the design, four hours from start to finish. So, it's extremely quick. I believe that machine quilting, especially on the longarm, is more durable. Children's quilts, like I do one a month for Ronald McDonald [House Charities.] I always do those in the longarm. And I quilt for Quilts of Valor, which is for wounded soldiers, and I do those on the longarm, so that no matter what the quilts going to encounter in terms of use and wear, this and that, I think that machine quilting is more durable.

MD: Could you please tell me more about Quilts of Valor? How you heard about it and became interested in it?

DC: Our sewing guild ECQG talked about it. There is a huge quilting organization and they're on the Web. There's lots of information on the Web. I got interested--my father is a WWII veteran and my husband retired from the Navy, so I've always been very patriotic and appreciative of our service men and women. And when I heard about these quilts for wounded soldiers, it touched my heart [tears up.] so I decided to get involved. So, I do one a month. I quilt for other people on my longarm also. I volunteer my time and so I quilt for other people, and I do quilts for myself for Quilts of Valor. It's just for wounded soldiers.

MD: Have you ever been able to give one directly to a wounded soldier?

CD: No, I wish I could. The process is you finish the quilt; you have to make a presentation bag. I often do a matching pillowcase out of coordinating material. When you finish the quilt totally, bound, labeled, everything, you've made the bag. You contact the Quilts of Valor coordinator, and she sends the destination address and name to you. I write a letter talking about the quilt, why I made it, how much I appreciate them, how long it took, what the process is, and you enclose the letter in the box that goes to the recipient and often you get a letter back.

MD: What was your favorite letter?

DC: I'll tell you my favorite letter was from a mother of a recipient. She talked about how important it was to her, that her son was [chokes up.] wrapped in love.

MD: What are your favorite techniques and materials?

DC: I think I like traditional piecing the most. I like floral fabric. I like bright fabric and pastels. It's really hard to pinpoint what I like.

MD: What does your daughter like you to do for her?

DC: She likes appliqué a little more. The flip flop quilt is an example. She likes geometrics, a little more difficult to do, set in diamonds. So, she's more into geometric patterns, appliqué, I enjoy doing it, but that's not what I do for myself.

MD: How about your husband?

DC: My husband typically likes appliqué, too, because he likes pictorial quilts and memory quilts and that sort of thing. I do some with photographs. I'll scan a photograph and then print the scanned the picture and the piece around that and make kind of a memory quilt.

MD: Was he raised in a house where there was quilting?

DC: No, he wasn't. His first introduction was me. [laughs.]

MD: What do your grandchildren think of Grandma quilting?

DC: Oh, they love it! I made each of them a baby quilt when they were born. They still have them and still cuddle with them. I guess my first quilt for my oldest grandson [Christopher Duncan.], who just turned 22, was when he graduated from high school, he saw a T-shirt quilt somewhere and he said, 'Grandmother, do you think you can make a quilt for me out of my T-shirts?' I said, 'Well, I've never done it before, but I'll give it a shot.' So, I took a class, made a T-shirt quilt and he loves that quilt today! When he's feeling sad or whatever, he cuddles with that T-shirt quilt.

DC: My middle grandson [Carson Seabolt.] loves golf and wants to attend the University of Michigan so I made a golf course quilt in Michigan colors. My youngest grandson [Chandler Seabolt.] loves football, so I made him a football field quilt with appliqué footballs on it and he still sleeps with that one. Each of them as they've gotten old enough to know, 'Oh, Grandmother makes quilts.' Will come to me and say, 'Can you make me a quilt?' [laughs.] And my son-in-law [Craig Seabolt.] is the only one that I didn't make a quilt for and about six months ago, no, I think it was at Christmas, I gave my daughter another quilt, and he looked at me and he said, 'You realize of course that I'm the only one in the family who doesn't have a quilt.' So, I said, 'Okay, what would you like?' And he said, 'I went to Georgia Southern, and I have tons of GA Southern T-shirts, and would you make a T-shirt quilt for me?' So that's what he is getting for Christmas, this next year, from me. [laughs.]

MD: Describe your studio/the place that you create.

DC: I have a very small room, upstairs where I do my piecing, where my Bernina, cutting table, ironing board, that kind of thing. And all my big stash, my fabric is up there and some of my batting. That room was too small to hold the longarm that I got for Christmas, a year-and-a-half ago. We had an exercise room in the basement. I talked my husband into selling the exercise equipment that we didn't use anyway, and that's where I have my longarm. My design wall went up in the TV room downstairs in the basement. And as I said, I lay quilts out all over the house. Really the whole house is my quilting studio.

MD: Can you tell me about your sewing box? [next to Dianne's chair she is sitting in her sitting room in her master bedroom.]

DC: I cannot sit and watch TV. TV is just totally boring to me. Whenever I am sitting here, I always do handwork. And sometimes when I go to a bee group meeting, I don't have something to bind or handwork to do. A year ago, I started a Cathedral Window quilt. It is totally by hand. I don't know what size it is going to be. Because I may be dead before it is finished. [laughs.] I always sit and do needlework while I'm watching TV. I also have a whiteboard next to the TV and I'm practicing my quilt designs on the whiteboard or doing handwork.

MD: What are these quilts on the floor? [next to her chair.]

DC: The quilts on the floor. One of them is one of my grandmother's, that's almost worn out. I've had it forever. The other one I took a quilt class. I took a quilt class from Nicole Webb, a world-renowned quilter, and she was showing us how to do the designs that she does and then we would practice too. So that's my practice piece. [pause.] So, quilts all around me.

MD: Do you use a design wall? If so, in what way/how does that enhance your creative process? If not, how you go about designing your quilts?

DC: Yes, I do. I have a design wall in the basement. Before I came up with the idea of tacking batting on the wall-- [tape stops.] I do use a design wall. My grandson actually used PVC pipes and designed one for me that I could take up and down. That one worked pretty well, but the fabric was so flexible on it that sometimes my blocks would fall off, so again, I talked my husband into taking all of our family pictures off of a wall, and I tacked up some batting on a wall and that's what works for my design wall now. It works beautifully.

MD: Tell me how you balance your time.

DC: That's a great question. I'm a member and an officer in ten heritage organizations and that's extremely time-consuming. I also have a father in Texas who is elderly and a daughter in Florida and three grandsons in Florida. So, I spend my time traveling between Texas, Florida, and all these heritage organizations, and I try and find the time to quilt. I would probably quilt eight hours/twelve hours a day, if I did not have all these other things going on. I guess it's balance in my life. I might burn out if I just quilted. But it's difficult, it is very difficult.

MD: Would you ever consider selling your quilts?

DC: No, I probably would never consider selling a quilt. I have had a couple of people talk me into quilting for them. They've done tops and all of them have come from Quilts of Valor, people who I've quilted, the tops that they make are Quilts of Valor and after seeing my quilting they've asked me if I ever quilted--if they could pay me to quilt a personal quilt for them. So, I've done I guess four or five, but that's not what I want to do. I prefer to do something that I am really passionate about. That's not one of my objectives.

MD: We are going to talk now about the aesthetics, craftsmanship, and design aspects of quilt making.

MD: What do you think makes a great quilt?

DC: I think the most important is you do have to have a vision of what you want to make, work it out in your head, what colors might be best, I think it's important to put colors up on the design wall and step back because you think something is going to look good and when you step back from the design wall, you realize that it doesn't have the sparkle you want. So, I think it's important to kind of visualize it. Have a vision. Then put some fabric up on the design wall. I probably have a hundred quilt books. And I flip through the quilt books and flip through magazines to get inspiration and then you just have to be flexible. It's an evolution. When you start putting things together, if it doesn't look right then change it. Once I've gotten the top done even, you have to think: 'How would the quilting, add to the dimension and texture to enhance the quilt.' So again, you have to think about it. Until the quilt is quilted, I never really know what it's going to look like. I guess it's just being flexible and being open to what's working and what's not. I've actually ripped many, many, many hours ripping something that didn't work.

MD: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

DC: Well, there are lots of--I think you have to have contrast. I've heard that a really great quilt almost always has a splash of black in it. [laughs.] So, I've started playing with that. Black is not a favorite color of mine. I listen to what other quilters say and I know that a little bit of white and a little bit of black and green. Green is another color that if you put a little bit it tends to somehow make the quilt more powerful. So, it's just experimenting.

MD: Have you ever used a color wheel?

DC: I have had a color theory class. I've studied the color wheel. I've studied books about the color wheel. I personally don't relate to that. I know what's pleasing to me when I see fabric together. I typically will put several pieces of fabric together and work with that, but just looking at a color wheel just does not do it for me. It's not my make-up, I guess.

MD: Would you say you use mostly cotton?

DC: Always, 100 % cotton all the time. I never use anything else.

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

DC: Although, I do machine quilt most of the time because it's faster I believe, as many other quilters do, that a museum piece has to be extremely accurate. You know, all points perfect, and I personally believe that a museum piece and a collector's piece has to be hand quilted.

MD: What do you think of Amish quilts?

DC: They're not attractive to me. They're stark to me. They're not colorful in the same way that I like colors. They are not the colors that typically I prefer. Would I want to own one? No probably not. I appreciate them, and I know a lot of people who love them, but it's just not my thing.

MD: Is there a special group that you appreciate or feel inspiration from?

DC: I like more traditional quilts. I like Country Fair kind of quilts. I don't like real stark quilts. I like the softer more traditional look.

MD: Is there a particular pattern you find that you like to repeat?

DC: No, as a matter of fact, I do not like--even the last T-shirt quilt I did, which is my second one; I don't like to do the same quilt twice, ever. Once I've mastered it, I don't want to do it again. I like new things, always.

MD: What makes a great quiltmaker?

DC: Patience, tenacity, passion. I think you have to have some degree of skill. You have to develop your skill, whether it's machine quilting. It takes a lot of practice and a lot of patience. You can't just sit down and whip out a quilt.

MD: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

DC: I like Diane Gaudynski's quilts. She's probably the most creative machine quilter that I've seen. I've seen her work and I've read her books. I like her. I like the inspiration that I get from her. That's the only person that pops into mind. Every quilt instructor that I've ever had brings something to me. I learn something from all of them. I don't think I draw my inspiration from any one person.

MD: Which artists have influenced you?

DC: I don't think anybody. I'm very eclectic. I take a little piece out of a lot of things and a lot of people. My style is my own, my colors are my own. I wouldn't say any one person or even several people have influenced me that much.

MD: For someone starting out in quilting what do you recommend: machine quilting or hand quilting? What about longarm quilting?

DC: Well for somebody starting out should try all three which is what I did. I started out hand quilting because that is what my mother and grandmother did. And I liked the process. I liked the fellowship of sitting down and quilting together. But I found that my patience level is not there. I like an end product quicker than hand quilting will afford me. Although I still do hand quilting and I appreciate it very much. I don't do it very often. I tried machine quilting. I enjoyed that. I decide to get a longarm because I got tired of wrestling with my machine. I saw people--I had a friend who had a longarm machine and I thought this is the--it's so much easier to do quilting and to visualize it. My advice would be to try all three and decide what works for you.

MD: The function and meaning of quilts in American life.

MD: Why is quilt making important to your life?

DC: I think that if I look back at part of why I like quilting is that strong heritage that quilting has had. In the beginning, women utilized material that was leftover. Pieces of clothing and they made something beautiful out of leftovers. They used quilting as a social venue. Quilting brought women together through-out time and it's evolved, and it's the same for me, even though I buy fabric, I have four boxes of leftovers, remnants of previous quilts that I keep in boxes, and I make something beautiful out of those leftover little bitty pieces. Some of my pieces are 2 inches by 2 inches and I know that someday that piece is going to be in one of my quilts. And I love getting together with other quilters just to sit and talk. We talk about everything. Not just quilting and quilt making and fabric, we share our lives with each other, and it brings us closer together as women.

MD: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or region?

DC: The way that I quilt is most typical of Southern quilting. There are lots of people that I know and associate with here, that do art quilts and wearables, but the majority of the people I quilt with quilt like I do: very traditional, patterns from the early 1900s, some from the late 1800s, so patterns that have been around forever and ever. I think that's a little bit more typical for Georgia than might be true of other parts of the country.

MD: What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

DC: I think it draws families together. That's really all I can think about right now. Quilts are very important. They give people comfort--to cuddle in. They give quilters an outlet for their creativity.

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

DC: I think we touched on that earlier. Throughout our history women have been quilting. It's been passed down from generation to generation. They've used materials that might be thrown away otherwise. And they've created quilts to keep their families warm for many generations.

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

DC: I have been told and I have read that the best way to preserve a quilt is to put it in acid free paper, in an acid free box. I don't do that. I have been told the best place for a quilt is on a bed. Preferably covered by a sheet or something else to keep it out of the sun, but those are ways you preserve quilts. Other than "Grandma Rosie's Garden," that I'm protecting for some reason, I do believe quilts should be used.

When I give away a quilt that's my hope--I gave my sister [Denise Carter.] a quilt and she has it in a cedar chest and I've kind of been upset about that. I made it for her to use and I want her to do that -- I understand preserving quilts, but they should also be enjoyed and used.

MD: What has happened to the quilts that you have made for friends and family?

DC: My sister's quilt is not being used. I can guarantee you that my daughter and grandsons' quilts are being used. One of the quilts I gave my daughter she hung on the wall, but that was the purpose for it. They enjoy it and look at it every day. I've made two quilts for my husband. One hangs on a wall and the other one he uses when he is taking a nap. I would say at least 90 percent are being used.

MD: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

DC: Probably, the expense. I'm very lucky in that I can afford my craft. It's a challenge for a lot of people. Material is very expensive. Time is another challenge. Young mothers: I think that my daughter would like to quilt, but there's just no way. She has two kids in elementary school and one kid in college. She just doesn't have the time. I think those are the two things: the expense and time. I didn't start it myself until I retired.

MD: Do you think your career had an influence in your quilt making?

DC: No, I don't. [laughs.] I was just waiting to retire to do something that I enjoy like quilt making. I was an organizational development consultant. I worked with groups of people to help them work more effectively together. Resolve conflict and labor management negotiation. A very stressful job, I should have been quilting all along. [laughs.]

MD: Tell me about your hope chest.

DC: My hope chest is actually my mother's hope chest before she was married. I've always kept quilts in there. In there is my baby book, that my mother finally gave to me, that she put together before I was born until I was about two years old. I also have my daughter's baby book. It's memories. Mostly quilts and baby books and a couple of pictures and that sort of thing.

MD: And what are the quilts stacked on top of it?

DC: [laughs.] The first quilt that I ever completed is on it.

MD: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today? That was our last question we were on.

DC: Money and time is probably the biggest challenge.

MD: Dianne, I'd like to mention that you are the past Regent of the Martha Stewart Bulloch Chapter and your gift to your chapter officers was a quilt that you specifically made for each of them. How many quilts did you make and how long did it take you to make them?

DC: Well, let me back up because all of the regents in the past have given their officers a gift. And I started thinking about my gift to them - my term is for two years and about a year into my administration I started thinking about the gift that I wanted to give them. And in the past, we've gotten crystal candy dishes and purchased items. I decided that I have a gift and that I would make them each a quilt. So, I did ask each of them. I knew that two people would really appreciate it. I know them well enough to know that quilts are something that they are passionate about. I knew that it would work for them. But I asked them all because it's a lot of work and it's a lot of money. And I didn't want to give them something that they really wouldn't appreciate. So, I asked them all if they would like one, if I could get around to it. And they all said yes, and I asked them what colors they would like, and they told me. And I did ask them about pattern, I said, 'Is there something--if I got around to it, would you like a traditional quilt or whatever?' And they all said, 'Oh, they would love a quilt.' They gave me their colors. It took me--I made a quilt a month. And that was very, very difficult. I was under a tremendous amount of stress [for about a year.] And there were a lot of other things going on in my life. It was difficult to make one a month, but it got done and they were overwhelmed. I think it's safe to say they were very appreciative and very overwhelmed.

MD: And when did you give it to them?

CD: We install our new officers in May at our luncheon meeting and so that's when the gift has always been given traditionally. So that's when they received them. It was a lovely day. Everyone is wearing hats. We dressed up. We had it at the Swan [Coach.] House in [Atlanta.] Georgia, which is an old historic home. I didn't know whether they would all actually unwrap their quilts [laughs.] at that meeting, but they did. It was nice to see their appreciation.

MD: I was there, and it was visually stunning to see all the lovely quilts. And I'll never forget the blue and white one.

DC: I think they were all very different. As one example, the closest officer--the one that I was closest to, Mary Simonds, who is now the Regent. She was the First Vice [Regent.] at that time. I made a quilt for her and was not pleased when it was done. It just didn't fit Mary. So, I actually made ten quilts because I made a second one for her, that was more pastel, softer, that was more her personality. So, each one was very different and each one I tried to reflect not only the colors that they chose, but their personalities, and what I thought they would relate to.

MD: Have you ever made a quilt for DAR or with DAR in mind?

DC: No, but I'm about to. For the American Heritage Committee, the [2008-2009.] theme is "Our Heritage - A Patchwork of Our Past." So, I have started thinking about what I want to do. I've started thinking about the design. But that will be my first one for DAR specifically.

MD: Have you ever been to the DAR museum to see any quilt shows there?

DC: I haven't been to the quilt shows, but every time, without fail, every time I go to the DAR headquarters, I go to the museum, and I pull out every quilt that is in the museum. They have a lovely display. They have them hanging on--I don't know what you call them, but you pull them out of the wall, and I never go that I don't pull out those quilts. [laughs.] They're all so beautiful and they're all extremely old.

MD: With all the heritage organizations that you are involved in, have you ever thought of doing a quilt that reflects your ancestors?

DC: Actually, what I'm thinking about--I had lots of ideas about this quilt that I'm going to make. One of them was getting the scrapbooks from our chapter's history and doing a quilt about our chapter's history. I thought about maybe doing something about the DAR history. Somehow, I wasn't getting that excited. And then I thought about, 'I think I'm going to do a memory quilt of my parents, my grandparents on both my mother and father's side, do something about them.' So that's kind of where my design is going is it's actually going to be about my own heritage rather than the DAR.

MD: Have you ever been to Williamsburg to see the quilts there?

DC: Yes, I have, and I love Williamsburg. I love the idea of Williamsburg and stepping back in time. And certainly, enjoy all the quilts and all the heritage that is displayed there.

MD: And it ties in with your own family history?

DC: Yes, it does. I have traced my heritage back to Delaware, unfortunately, not Virginia. Back to that era, the early 1640s, 1620s. I know that they lived much the same way. Williamsburg gives me the feel of what it was like when my ancestors came to this country.

MD: Is there anything else that you would like to add to this interview?

DC: Not that I can think of it's been fairly thorough. [laughs.]

MD: I would like to thank Dianne Cannestra for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. Our interview concluded at 11:38 a.m. on October 9th, 2008.

[interview concludes.]


“Dianne Cannestra,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 19, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1659.