Vivian Fidler


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Vivian Fidler


The West Georgia Quilt Guild QSOS





Vivian Fidler


Violette Denney

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The Nat'l Quilting Assn


Carrollton, Georgia


Sara Boyd


Violette Denney (VD): Hi, I'm Violette Denney. It's November 21, 2008. I am interviewing Vivian Fidler in her home for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. Thank you for allowing me to come into your home for this interview. Could I please start with the name and a description of the quilt you have chosen?

Vivian Fidler (VF): It is a Double Wedding Ring quilt. The top was started by my mother, and it has a lot of blue in it, and the red and green which were bright colors were at the ends of the wedding ring, and I just think that it was very special to me. It was the first quilt I made.

VD: Will you kindly describe the special meaning that it has to you. Is there anything else you'd like to add to this special meaning that this quilt has?

VF: I think that it was such a pretty quilt with the 30's prints of cotton in it that I just loved it, and I added that blue color [laughs.] to it which just made it more special, 'cause blue is my favorite color.

VD: Why did you choose this quilt to bring to the interview?

VF: Well, it's just a special quilt to me because my mother started it and left it in a sack at her house. [laughs.] I just found these three quilt tops that I thought were very interesting, as she must have -- I don't think that she ever quilted at home but quilted out at her family home which was out at the Kirby Homeplace. They used to always quilt.

VD: Was that a Bee that met at the Kirby Homeplace?

VF: Well, it was probably mostly just the family. It was a big family, and they all would get together and quilt when the family would get together.

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

VF: Well, they would look at that quilt and say, 'She's not much of a quilter,' [laughs.] because the stitches are large on it, and I hadn't had any practice, and I just wanted to learn by myself. And I just think that it was, it's just not a good example of quilting, but is a good example of my love for my mother.

VD: How do you use this quilt?

VF: Well, I display it on a rack in my guest bedroom.

VD: Do you ever put it on a bed?

VF: Not really. I don't use it on the bed. I just use it there for display because I don't want anything to happen to it. [laughs.]

VD: But you do want to share it.

VF: Yeah.

VD: What are your plans for the quilt? Have you promised it to anyone?

VF: Well, I think I have not promised it to a special person, but I'll either give it to my oldest son or somebody in the family, or grandchildren. It depends on who seems to like it [laughs.] more or want it more. I'll just decide at that time. I haven't decided for sure.

VD: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

VF: Well, I had a friend, Doris Parrot, who lived across the way from me, and we decided to take a quilt course out at West Georgia College, and I think she encouraged me although she couldn't quilt, and I couldn't quilt. We just went and took the course and I think that we were both interested in making a pretty quilt and that was why.

VD: Did Doris go on to make quilts?

VF: She made a few. She was an artist in that she knew color and everything. She helped people with their houses. So, she was a full time worker, but she did a little bit but not much.

VD: At what age did you start quiltmaking?

VF: I was 63.

VD: That's good. From whom did you learn to quilt?

VF: Well, I think Pam Stevenson, when I took a course from her. And Tommy Freeman at that time helped me and also Hattie Bandy, who was her mother. They would always give me suggestions for my quilt, and it was very helpful.

VD: How many hours a week do you spend quilting, approximately?

VF: Well, I do two or three hours a night when I'm really working on a quilt, but so that would vary from time to time, but anyway I just pick it up when I have my other work done. I do some in the afternoons or at night mostly.

VD: What is your first memory of quilting?

VF: Oh, going out to my grandmother's house. They would have a quilt hanging in the frame from the ceiling, and they didn't have anything to keep them warm. I remember that quilt hanging with the fire burning in the fireplace because they had to have wood to keep warm. They would sit by that fire and work on that quilt, and I think that was my first memory. And, but the thing of it, we always had a quilt on our bed when we were growing up, too, and that was old quilts. [laughs.]

VD: But this was the old fashioned frame hanging from the ceiling?

VF: Yeah. It was the double bed quilt size hanging down.

VD: Are there other quiltmakers in your family other than the ones you've talked about that you could tell me about?

VF: Well, I have a sister who is going to start quilting because she loves quilts, too. And my mother left three quilt tops, and it was the Double Wedding Ring and then the Flower Pot. And she took that quilt top and had it quilted by someone. And now she's bought some material to make her own quilt, and I was just so glad she wanted to use her talent and to make a quilt of her own. That's what she wants to do.

VD: Do you remember the name of that third quilt top?

VF: Yes, it was the Fan quilt, and I gave that to my daughter, Mary Anne.

VD: Did you finish it?

VF: Yes, I finished it. I tell you what, there weren't very many of the fans made, and so I used the fabric from Mary Anne's dresses to complete the fans and the old part that I had were from my dresses and my sister's dresses, and so I thought that was nice. She uses it on her bed now or one of her beds in her house and it's very pretty.

VD: How does quiltmaking impact your family? Do they appreciate it as much as you do? [laughs.]

VF: [laughs.] Well, I think so. I think that Frank, who is my husband, really likes quilts. His grandmother gave him a quilt when he was a little boy, and he loves that quilt. And so, I think he likes it when I'm quilting. That makes it good that you have somebody to back you up. [laughs.]

VD: We all need encouragement, don't we?

VF: Uh, huh.

VD: What do you find pleasing about quiltmaking?

VF: Well, I just love it because I've always liked to do things with my hands. I've just always embroidered and knitted and did things that you could see your work completed. And I love to embroider and so that is why. That's one of the reasons that I like quilts.

VD: That's definitely a skill you can use on your quilts, too.

VF: Yeah.

VD: What aspect of quiltmaking do you not enjoy?

VF: Well, I don't especially enjoy [laughs.] putting the three layers together, the batting and the backing, but usually it's just a job to put a quilt together like that the three layers. And I think that's probably the worst part. Other than that, I just like to do quilts. [laughs.]

VD: Do you enjoy the stitching, the quilt stitching?

VF: Oh, yes.

VD: Quilting?

VF: Yeah. Very much so.

VD: What art or quilt groups do you belong to

VF: I belong to the West Georgia Quilter's Guild, and also to a small group of people who are big, good quilters - Tommy Freeman, Violette Denney, Sue Hardin, and Nadine Cole. We all get together and quilt once a month and that has so much meaning. They are special friends, and they are special quilters.

VD: When did you join the Quilt Guild? Do you remember? Was it the first year?

VF: Yeah. I was a charter member of our quilt guild. I don't remember--

VD: 1987?

VF: 1987, yes.

VD: How have advances in technology influenced your work?

VF: [laughs.] The advances in technology I don't know about, because I really like the old-fashioned hand quilting best.

VD: What are your favorite techniques and materials?

VF: Well, I love all the cotton prints, and I love to work with the colors putting them together. I just like the hand quilting better than any of the other because I don't know, I just feel like if you are going to make a quilt, you just do it from the beginning to the end with your hands.

VD: Do you like to appliqué or embroider? Is either one of them your favorite?

VF: Yeah, I like the appliqué very much. It's between that and the piecing that [laughs.] I can't decide for sure which I like the best, but I lean more to the piecing, but appliqué is very pretty. I made some appliqué pieces that are very pretty, and when you get it completed, it looks so good.

VD: Describe your studio or the place where you create.

VF: Well, I have a small room in my house where I keep my quilting projects in the closet, and I have a special place for them. And I have a sewing machine in this room that I can use if I need to, but it is just big enough to put a full size quilt frame in there. I can go in there and just quilt by myself, and I enjoy that. It's away from everything, and I'm at peace with the world when I'm quilting. [laughs.]

VD: It's a great time to meditate, isn't it?

VF: Uh, huh.

VD: Tell me how you balance your time. Which comes first?

VF: Well, I feel like I have to do my housework and cooking first.

VD: That spells family.

VF: Yeah. [laughs.] And then I do church work, too, that takes a good bit of my time. And then quilting comes next, and so I just more or less do it when I get through with my other tasks.

VD: Do you use a design wall?

VF: No, I use the floor. [laughs.] Spread them out on the floor to see how they are going to look and put the borders on and everything and figure it out. What would look best?

VD: Well, I'm sure you have it figured out, because you do really pretty quilts. What do you think makes a great quilt?

VF: Well, I think the design and the colors that are put together and the quilting itself, the technique used for quilting, the subject, what is being quilted, whether it is a historical quilt or just a quilt for my own benefit to be used by my family.

VD: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

VF: Hmm. [laughs.] I don't know. Let's see, I think they're unusual.

VD: Do you think you can make appliquéd quilts more artistically powerful than any other kind?

VF: Well, yeah, they do add a lot to it, but I think a pieced quilt can be might pretty because of the pattern.

VD: Well, is it the color combinations?

VF: Yeah, the color combinations and also putting together the different fabrics that have color, and I think that makes an outstanding quilt.

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

VF: Well, I think quilts that are historical like a quilt that we made a Red-work quilt for the Guild. I quilted. I embroidered a design of our church, Carrollton Presbyterian Church, and different squares depicted the history of this county, and I think that was very good. And in my church, I embroidered a quilt square that was really pretty I thought. It's a square that depicts Jesus as a Shepherd with a lamb, and all the squares were done by ladies in our church. It's an embroidered quilt of the stories of Jesus' life.

VD: Where is that quilt now?

VF: It's hanging in the Westminster Hall, which is an activity hall in our church in downtown Carrollton.

VD: Great. Do you know what happened to the Red-work quilt - the historical quilt?

VF: Yeah, I think we gave it away. We raffled it off, and I forgot who received it.

VD: A guild member.

VF: Yeah, but that was a lucky Guild member that won that quilt. [laughs.]

VD: What makes a great quiltmaker?

VF: Practice, practice, practice. [laughs.]

VD: What works are you drawn to, and why? Are there any particular ones?

VF: Let's see--

VD: Any thing you can think of right now?

VF: What did I write down? Let's see, I can't think of any. [she had a list of her quilts.]

VD: You can think for just a minute. [pause 20 seconds.]

VD: Any special quiltmaker like the lady who does a lot of appliqués?

VF: Oh, yeah. Well, they all, all of the members of our quilt guild make beautiful quilts, but I especially enjoy being around Tommy Freeman, Nadine Cole, Violette Denney and Sue Hardin who all do beautiful quilts and are outstanding quilters.

VD: Are their quilts usually the ones you look for in our quilt shows? [laughs.]

VF: Yes, that's right. [laughs.]

VD: How do you feel about machine quilting vs. hand quilting?

VF: Well, you see I don't machine quilt, so I prefer hand quilting. I think machine quilting is pretty, but it is different from when you make it by hand from the very start.

VD: Have you had any experience with the longarm quilting?

VF: No, I haven't. I haven't had that and so I don't really know much about it.

VD: Have an opinion?

VF: No.

VD: Why is quiltmaking important in your life?

VF: I think because it brings us together, brings my family together then I'm real proud when they have my quilts, and they show them on their beds or in their house/ home, and I think that means that quilting means a lot to them, too.

VD: So, you feel like they take care of them.

VF: Yeah. That's right.

VD: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or religion, or region, I'm sorry? I think you pretty well covered that earlier.

VF: Yeah, I think just the quilts that have been made and shared.

VD: How about the ones for the schools? Were you involved in them?

VF: No, I wasn't involved in that, but we have made quilts for children's homes. I made a quilt for the Boys' Home, and it was such a pleasure to go out and see the quilts laying on the foot of the beds. And mine was one of those. I was really proud of that.

VD: How about our quilt shows?

VF: Well, the quilt shows are just spectacular. [laughs.] I think they are!

VD: Do you think they get a lot of community attention?

VF: Yes, I do. I think everybody looks forward to the quilt shows. It's unbelievable how many beautiful quilts that we display, and I especially enjoy it and like to look forward to it in February.

VD: Do we have one every February?

VF: Yes, and that makes it so nice.

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

VF: Well, I think it's part of the history--

VD: What does it say about American women?

VF: That it says that American women are artists and that they are interested in keeping the art of quilting going and not let it die. For a long time in between before it had a revival of quilting it sort of died out, but now it's going strong. I think women should be aware of keeping it strong and do their quilts with that in mind and display them. Be sure and display your quilts at home so that people will know that you are a quilter.

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

VF: Well, I think that women are responsible for a lot of things in the history of America. But I think quilting is one of the things that has grown and makes people aware of the heritage of women and how they are providers for their family with quilts. [whispers.]

VD: Can you describe some of the innovative ways that women got their materials for quilts?

VF: Well, they used quilts a lot of times from their clothes or old things they didn't wear anymore, and they also used old blankets and things that they would put in for the batting. They did not have batting like we have now. They would use woolen things for the batting and would make it look pretty. I think they used the cotton sacks to make beautiful quilts.

VD: Like feed sacks?

VF: Yeah, and so that is a wonderful way that they used things they had to make their quilts.

VD: Do you know of any person in your family who ever covered an old quilt with a new top and new backing and preserved the old quilt?

VF: Well, I think that some of the ones I slept under were old, and that might have been the case, but I'm not sure. They were not like the quilts of today. They were more or less just made from things that people had. Mother had quilts that would serve as a part of our cover to keep us warm.

VD: So, most of the quilts then that your mother made, or you remember early on were utility quilts?

VF: Yeah, they really were.

VD: Well, that expressed her love for you, didn't it?

VF: Yeah.

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

VF: [inaudible.] Keep out of sunlight.

VD: Do we need to teach our young people?

VF: Yeah. We need to teach our young people the value of them and also to teach them how to take care of them.

VD: How do you store your quilts?

VF: I store my quilts [pause.] on a quilt rack and also that's the main reason I use tissue paper that's especially--what is that called?

VD: Acid free?

VF: Yeah, acid free tissue paper. And then some of them I use on my bed, [laughs.] I guess that's a good way to store them. I don't know.

VD: But when you put them on your bed you change them periodically?

VF: Yes.

VD: So, they are not exposed to a lot of light?

VF: Yes.

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

VF: Let's see. I gave Lee my first quilt that I made in a day. That we made the "Quilt-in-a-Day" in a workshop.

VD: Is that Eleanor Burns quilting pattern?

VF: Yeah, and his was the Log Cabin Barn raising pattern, and it was pink and green. I gave it to him, and he likes it, and he uses it on his bed. [laughs.]

VD: Lee is your oldest son?

VF: Yes, he's my oldest son, and Kirby is my middle son, and he is a bow hunter. So, I made him a special quilt with printed squares of animals on it. And to quilt it I used templates of arrows and deer heads and arrow heads so it would tie in with his bow hunting. And the fabric that I used for the binding and everything was a feather design that I thought also tied in with the bow hunting. Then Mary Anne and Andy, my daughter and her husband, have the Fan quilt which was made from my dresses. I completed it with fabrics from Mary Anne's dresses, and she really loves it. She has one room that is set up with her things that are sort of old-fashioned. It's really neat that she loves her quilt so much. And then I have three grandchildren, and I have given them each a quilt. I gave Robin a quilt called the Double Irish Chain, and it was a pretty quilt. It was yellow and blue. I don't know what Robin's done with hers, but I hope she's taking care of it. I'm going to check with her at Christmas when she comes. I made one for Ellison, and it was just a design. I knew she loved animals of every kind. I made hers all animals - each square had a different animal in it, and I appliquéd the animals. Some of the animals I had used the designs from a book. But some of the animals I drew to use, and they were all appliquéd, and she was so thrilled over that. Then I have a grandson, Mac. I made him a quilt. I used his grandfather's ties. I used the bow tie design and all the ties that his granddaddy had worn. I used those to make a beautiful quilt for him, and he was really happy to receive that quilt.

VD: How does Mac use his quilt?

VF: I don't know. I just haven't asked him what he's doing with it, but I gave it to him at Christmas. No, I didn't. I gave it to him when he graduated from high school. Each one of my grandchildren, I gave them a quilt when they graduated from high school. I don't know what he's done with his quilt. He might be using it. I don't know.

VD: Is there another special person in your family that you made a quilt for?

VF: Well, my husband is a fisherman. I didn't exactly make a quilt, but I made him a wall hanging that has a fish on it, and I also made a wall hanging of a fiddle because my name was Fidler and that really tickled him, too. We have that hanging in our home and that's real special to him. So that's about all of my quilt stories. I have more quilts. I have the Basket quilt and the Heart quilt. [laughs.]

VD: Have you ever started a quilt that you really didn't want to finish and did something else with it?

VF: [laughs.] Yes, I appliquéd a basket. I thought it was so pretty, but I don't believe I can do that.

VD: Was that the Baltimore Album Basket?

VF: It was fun to make, but I have it framed.

VD: The Baltimore Album Basket?

VF: Yeah, right.

VD: Can you think of any other interesting quilt stories or experiences you have had in quilting that you would like to share with us?

VF: I can't think right now. I have used Umbrella square. It's a wall hanging, and I have it in my sewing room and quilting room. I thought it was cute. I got the pattern from the Kansas City newspaper. They [Guild.] wanted us to use a pattern from that. That's interesting, but I can't think of anything else of interest.

VD: Do you have lots of unfinished projects, quilt projects? Or do you pretty much work on one at a time?

VF: Yeah, I just more or less work on one at a time. Right now, I'm working on a quilt called Hands All Around. I don't know if I'm going to make a quilt or a wall hanging out of that. [laughs.]

VD: So sometimes you use a pattern, but you don't like it well enough to do a whole quilt but make a smaller quilt?

VF: Yeah, after you get started you think about it and think, well, maybe I'd better not do the whole thing. [laughs.]

VD: Are there any quilts that you have in mind to make in the future?

VF: Not really. I think they just come along when I have something I want to do. T hat was the way with the Hands All Around. I thought, well, I need to start something to quilt. I just start it when I have a feeling to start a new quilt.

VD: So, you are inspired by magazines or books or something?

VF: Yeah.

VD: Do you get a lot of quilting magazines that you are inspired by?

VF: Well, I do. I did. I don't subscribe now, but I have a book that my sister-in-law gave me. It has a lot of quilts in it that I might be interested in making.

VD: Well, it's been an interesting interview, and I guess we'd better wrap it up. Thank you, Vivian, for sharing your quilt story. I enjoyed hearing about your quilts and your family. I'm closing the interview at about five minutes till twelve.

VF: Oh, well goodness. [laughs.]


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