Chris Hulin




Chris Hulin




Chris Hulin


Amy Henderson

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Carolyn Mazloomi


Grinnell, Iowa


Lori Miller


**This transcript was created by QSOS volunteers and was reviewed and, in some cases, edited by the interviewee. It may not exactly match the audio recording. For citations and interview quotations, please refer to the audio-recorded interview.** Amy Hudson Henderson (AHH): Hello, my name is Amy Henderson. It is 9:54. Today's date is Tuesday, November 5, 2002, and I am conducting an interview with Chris Hulin, for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories Project, in Grinnell, Iowa. Thank you, Chris, for meeting me today. Let's start out by telling me about the quilt you brought, what it's called, when you made it, what it's made out of. Just basically describe the quilt for me.

Chris Hulin (CH): It's a Lone Star. I call it my "Lonely Star." It's made out of a lot of batiks, but also other fabrics. It was inspired by a quilt I saw in a magazine; it was by the Colorado Mountain Mavericks, I believe. But theirs was an eight pointed star, but mine breaks off into sixteen points. And to give it some finality we shifted colors into the border, started with mediums and went on into the darks, to give it a border. Instead of a regular pieced border most people are familiar with.

AHH: Does the quilt have particular significance for you in your quilting career?

CH: Yes, it was my first quilt without a regular pattern. I learned to do all kinds of different shapes in it. I have parallelograms in it, large diamonds, small diamonds. It was really my first diamond quilt. So it was a lot of new stuff for me.

AHH: How does it differ from the earlier quilts that you made? What were those like?

CH: Awful. [laughs.] Well, put it this way. My--no I better not say that. I was told I ought to stick to something I knew how to do.

AHH: And what do you know how to do?

CH: Well, I thought my quilting was kind of nice. [laughs.]

AHH: This is a beautiful quilt and it has a lot of intricate pieces. For people who aren't familiar with the more traditional design, tell me a little more how it differs from the one that you saw in the magazine.

CH: Well, it starts out with an eight pointed star, as a regular Lone Star. But instead of continuing eight points on out to here, I broke it down into sixteen points and then just continued it. Most quilts have a regular border, or a pieced border, different than this. I think this was different because it shifted colors into the final border.

AHH: Do you tend to work with these colors? Or do you change colors around?

CH: Sometimes I'll work with warm or cool colors. Most of the--I like batiks. I like the bright colors. Rich colors. I just like them all I guess.

AHH: How do you use this quilt?

CH: Sometimes I use it as a bed quilt. I like it, I don't want to use it too much. I want to protect it.

AHH: Do you have any other future plans with it? Or just continue as you are?

CH: Probably continue as I am now.

AHH: Tell me about your interest in quilting.

CH: I've always wanted to quilt. There was no quilters in my family. So I didn't have anybody to fall back on, to ask questions and stuff. So it was just kind of jump in and do it. See if I could do it, just try it. And the first few were not very nice, but I improved.

AHH: Why did you want to quilt? What drew you to it at first?

CH: I'm not really sure exactly. I guess it's just the looks, the comfort, the texture. They look nice on a bed, which is homey looking.

AHH: Had you been making other art forms before and then switched to quilting, or did you start with quilting?

CH: No. I just started with quilting.

AHH: And how old were you when you started quilting?

CH: Thirty-five.

AHH: And if you were self taught, tell me about that process.

CH: I bought some books. And people tried to give me some pointers. But I found that most of them out there don't know any more than I do. Some of the books I tried were really hard, but I met Judy Martin, at one of our little quilting groups. And from there on out, she's the one who really showed me the pointers, tips, and how do to things properly to get the results I wanted.

AHH: Do you come from a sewing background?

CH: No.

AHH: So you had to learn that first?

CH: Yes. I didn't even know how to use a sewing machine.

AHH: So you learned all these skills because you wanted to make quilts?

CH: Yes.

AHH: Great. How many hours a week do you think you quilt?

CH: I have times when I quilt all the time, and then I can go months without doing really anything at all. It really depends on what's going on at the time.

AHH: And how has quilting influenced or impacted your family life?

CH: It's just my husband and myself. And I have a stepson. They all like it, I guess. It hasn't really changed my life in any real way.

AHH: They're supportive of it? They sleep under your quilts?

CH: Oh yes.

AHH: What is your first quilting memory? Or memory of a quilt?

CH: My dad had a cousin that made quilts. I just remember how gorgeous this one particular quilt was. It wasn't pieced, it was just a quilted quilt. A whole cloth quilt. I just remember how beautiful it looked on the bed, and the tiny stitches. It was just wonderful.

AHH: Did you grow up sleeping under a quilt?

CH: No.

AHH: I'm fascinated by this desire to reach out and know about quilting and make quilts when you didn't grow up with them, or come from a quilting or a sewing background.

CH: I've just always liked them. That's why I really started.

AHH: Have you ever used quiltmaking to get through a difficult time in your life?

CH: I haven't really had a real difficult time in my life. I've had a pretty good life.

AHH: What do you find pleasing about quilting?

CH: Color, the designs. It's just endless what you can do with fabric and color. It goes on and on and on.

AHH: Do you like certain aspects of the quilting process more than others?

CH: I think I like the piecing part, working with the colors, the best.

AHH: Tell me about the process you use to pick the colors and then arrange them. This is such a complicated quilt. Do you put them up on a wall before you piece them together, or do you sketch it out in advance?

CH: I start going through fabric. I don't even necessarily have to have a design in mind. I'll just start going through and looking at fabric, and the design will come later. Usually I'm knee deep in fabric on the floor because I'll take it and throw it down with something else and say 'Oh man, this looks really good' or 'Nope, this one doesn't work,' and pull it out. And then I'll cut them up. A lot of times I'll just cut all kinds of fabric and then start playing with the pieces to see if this is the look I like, or not. I don't worry about wasting fabric, or making a mistake that way. If I don't like it, I'll pull it out.

AHH: Do you have a large fabric collection?

CH: I have a pretty good size. More than the average quilter, I think.

AHH: So then how do you pick a pattern once you've selected all your fabrics?

CH: I don't know. It's the way of the colors. If its warm colors, like a fall leaf, a maple leaf or whatever the season is. And so on, like that. I just thought a Lone Star would look good in cool colors.

AHH: What year did you make this quilt?

CH: I think I probably started in 1996. I think I finished it up in 1998.

AHH: And you say that this one presented new techniques where you worked off of a picture you had seen but you really created the pattern as you went? Do you feel that it liberated you, in some way, in your quilt making? That your quilts today follow this example of how you make quilts?

CH: Yes. I didn't want to copy anybody's work. But I was inspired by the Mountain Mavericks in Colorado. I thought it was such a gorgeous quilt.

AHH: When you've made quilts since this one, do you feel that this one has changed your approach to quiltmaking, in terms of your reliance on a published pattern or a known pattern?

CH: This one is one I started learning from Judy Martin. The techniques, and the way--she just opened up a whole new world for me. I feel like I can make anything now. I always thought the math was so intimidating, and really she does all the math work, through her books and rotary reference. So what I learned was that--like I have nine little diamonds in one diamond, to make one bigger diamond. So as long as they were all equal--these were finished at an inch, these finished at an inch and a half, and then these finished at three. They're all divisible by one. Am I making sense? No?

AHH: They have a common denominator.

CH: Okay, common denominator. It's the same with the parallelograms. As long as they all equal the same finished size, you just go on and on and on.

AHH: What kind of quilts have you made since this one?

CH: All kinds. Maple leaves, a lot of them are Judy's [Martin.] designs. All kinds, anything that's pieced, I love to do pieced work.

AHH: You commented when you saw the picture in the magazine that you didn't want to copy a quilt, implying that you wanted to have a sense of originality or your own mark on this quilt. Why was that important to you, to make your own quilt?

CH: Pride, I guess. I don't think it's proper to copy somebody else's work, specially when it's not the pattern, the pattern isn't published. It's not a kosher thing to do.

AHH: Why is that?

CH: You feel like you're stealing. I don't want to do that. I want to do my own thing. I think everybody, someway or another is inspired by somebody else's work. At least give them credit for it. It's just pride. The ability to say 'Hey, I can do this. This is my own work.'

AHH: What makes a great quilt?

CH: It could be whatever. Maybe it has some kind of meaning to you is what makes it a great quilt. If you make it yourself and it means something to you. I don't think it's always necessarily the workmanship. I think it all depends on each individual. That it means something to you.

AHH: What does this quilt mean to you?

CH: That I can make anything I want.

AHH: It's powerful. What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

CH: Scrappiness. The more fabrics the better. The color, texture, things that give it texture. Quilting, hand quilting, means a lot to me.

AHH: And how is this one quilted?

CH: Actually it's hard to see. It's got big feathers in it, throughout it.

AHH: Is it hand or machine?

CH: It's hand quilted.

AHH: And the piecing is--

CH: Machine pieced.

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

CH: Workmanship. Color. Design. All those things.

AHH: What makes a great quilter?

CH: The ability of the one making quilts, I guess. I'm not really sure what you mean by the question.

AHH: There could be lots of different answers. What draws someone to making quilts--

CH: Myself, it's probably fabrics and color.

AHH: Why is quilting important to your life?

CH: It's a hobby. It's a good feeling to see what you can accomplish. It's comforting to see a quilt finished and say 'Wow, this is pretty nice.'

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

CH: I'm not sure they really mean anything to anybody but me. I make them for myself.

AHH: Do you think there is anything characteristic about being an Iowa quilt?

CH: No, it's just my quilt.

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

CH: It's important. I think a lot of people use them as comfort, see them as comfort. Everybody needs a form of comfort sometime in their life.

AHH: What kind of comfort you get out of your quilts?

CH: It's more of a satisfaction.

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

CH: A lot of women put a lot of time in it, a lot of love, a lot of work. And pride. They didn't have much. Most women didn't have anything. They used what they had. It was really pretty amazing the design and stuff that they came up with, from not having anything--fabrics and stuff.

AHH: How do you think quilts can be used?

CH: All kinds of different ways. Artwork, hang them on the walls. Or, of course, on beds.

AHH: Do you hang them on the walls in your house?

CH: Yes. And use them as bedspreads, quilts.

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

CH: I'm not sure. I really don't want to answer that.

AHH: Should they be preserved?

CH: Yes. There's a lot of artwork in them. There's a lot of time--they mean something. It's discouraging when you give somebody a quilt and they ruin it, or something. It's meaningful.

AHH: So you like to use quilts on your bed, but they should be taken care of?

CH: Taken care of, yes.

AHH: What has happened to the quilts that you have made for friends or family?

CH: Some people have really taken care of them, saving them. Others have just used them to shreds. A quilter--you make them to be used, but you also don't want to see them ruined.

AHH: Does your mom sleep under a quilt that you have made?

CH: I don't have either one of my parents.

AHH: Well I think it looks like you have great skill in quiltmaking. Is there anything I haven't asked you that you would like to advise future quilters, any tips for future quilters, people who might read this interview?

CH: Do your own thing. Don't be discouraged if somebody says 'Well that looks awful' or something. Don't be afraid of making mistakes, that's how you learn most, is by the mistakes you've made. I've made plenty and I still make plenty. Just keep going. If you like it there's nothing wrong with it, just keep on doing it.

AHH: That's great. I'd like to thank Chris for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories, in Grinnell, Iowa. Our interview concluded at 10:16 am, on November 5, 2002. Thank you, Chris.

CH: Thank you.



“Chris Hulin,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 19, 2024,