Sandra Kluender




Sandra Kluender




Sandra Kluender


Pam Clark

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Carolyn Mazloomi


Moville, Iowa


Tomme Fent


Pam Clark (PC): This is Pam Clark. Today's date is Tuesday, October 21st [2009.]. It is four--actually, it's 5:05 p.m., and I'm conducting an interview with Sandra Kluender for Quilters' [S.O.S. -.] Save Our Stories project in Sandy's home here in Moville [Iowa.]. Sandy, tell me about the quilt that you've brought out for this interview today.

Sandra Kluender (SK): This quilt is the first quilt that I ever made, and it was the very first class, very first project that I ever did in quilting, and it was done in a workshop on Super Bowl Sunday in January of 2000.

PC: What special meaning does this quilt have for you?

SK: The special meaning would be that it is the first quilt, and I waited a very long time to get up the courage to start quilting. I admired quilts and loved quilts for a long time, but I was very intimidated at the prospect of doing it myself and just didn't think that I could do it myself. So, to have finished this project was really the start of my quilting.

PC: So, it taught you that you could do quilting?

SK: Right.

PC: And it opened up a whole new world for you, I bet?

SK: A whole new world, right.

PC: Why did you choose to bring this particular quilt to the interview today?

SK: Well, I thought it should be a meaningful quilt, and I have a few meaningful quilts but just because this one was what started my whole adventure in quilting.

PC: And what do you think that someone looking at this quilt might conclude about you and your personality?

SK: It's a very traditional quilt, and I think that that reflects my personality and my values, is as being pretty traditional.

PC: How do you use this quilt?

SK: Right now, I'm not using it. When I lived in the house before I moved here a few years ago, I did have it displayed on a bench in my kitchen area.

PC: So, do you have plans to use it in the future sometime, somewhere in the house?

SK: You never know, but right now, I don't really have a spot for it in this house.

PC: Do you change the quilts that you have in your home out periodically?

SK: Yes, I do.

PC: So, it's a possibility that that might be one of your change-outs?

SK: It is a possibility. It is a quilt that I'll always keep, that's for sure.

PC: Great. I like the color, the color scheme.

SK: It's really different.

PC: How did you choose the fabrics for this quilt?

SK: Well, as a new quilter, I really didn't know a lot about choosing fabrics and so I sort of went to a line of fabrics for the pink and the browns, and I liked that combination. And then I was just looking for something for the tulips that would make it pop just a little bit, so I sort of went with the mauve and lavender shade to complement the pinks and the browns that I already had.

PC: Did you buy the fabrics at Heart and Hand [Dry Goods Company.] then, since it was a class there?

SK: Yes, I did.

PC: Where do you usually find fabrics for your quilting projects?

SK: Heart and Hand is my primary source. They tend to carry more traditional fabrics and the kinds of things that I'm more interested in, although I have expanded over the years, and I do go to My Quilt Shop also for things. They seem to have a lot of children's fabrics and if you're looking for something with lots of color, that seems to be the kind of taste that they have, so I've found things at both places but primarily, I'll go to Heart and Hand.

PC: Do you find fabrics like when you're on vacation or out and about? Do you shop ever in quilt shops?

SK: I belong to a small group and so we will take road trips on occasion, and especially in Omaha [ Nebraska.]. We have two favorite quilt shops in Omaha that we will go to. But usually that will be maybe quarterly, not real often. Primarily I try to support my local shops.

PC: That's great. Are you planning on attending the American Quilter's Society's quilt show in Des Moines, coming up?

SK: Yes. My small group went last year for two days, and we'll go again this year for two days. We'll go down early Wednesday morning and stay all day Wednesday, and then stay overnight and stay all day Thursday.

PC: Do you take classes when you're there?

SK: No, I normally don't take classes there. It just means transporting a lot of things and, I don't know, I get pretty overwhelmed by just looking at all the quilts and I want to have plenty of time to do that and, of course, look at the vendors and see what's new out there.

PC: If you see a piece of fabric that you like there, will that be a venue for you to buy fabric?

SK: Oh, yes, I usually buy some things there, usually things that I maybe can't find here. For instance, last year I bought a couple of wool projects, which we really don't have much of locally, and also there was a new way of doing machine quilting and that gal that has that booth and was demonstrating that, that was quite interesting to me, so I bought some of her things.

PC: Have you tried wool quilts before?

SK: I hadn't ever done it before, but I have done one now and I have a second one that I'm going to start.

PC: So, you obviously like working with that fabric, with wool for a quilting fabric?

SK: Yes. I haven't made an all-wool quilt, but I've used the wool in combination with the cotton as appliqués and I like that contrast.

PC: How does working with wool differ from working with other fabrics like cottons and things?

SK: I think it gives you a lot more texture and it's a whole different look. I think I would find it harder to actually sew a piece with it, as opposed to using it for appliqué purposes.

PC: Do you have to worry about bulk reduction?

SK: Yes, you would definitely have to cut away overlapping pieces for appliqué.

PC: Tell me a little bit about your interest in quilt making. At what age did you start making quilts?

SK: Like I said, it was in 2000, and so I was in my early 50s and just to the point where my children were getting into high school, so I had a little bit more free time. And I worked full-time all of my life so things that I took up always took a back seat to my children's interests, so I pretty much took it up then just because it was something I was looking forward to do when I retired.

PC: And you felt comfortable in a class at Heart and Hand just because--

SK: I really did. I didn't know anybody personally that quilted and [I.] had been in and out of the shop a few times and admired everything, and as I said earlier, I was so intimidated by the prospect of doing it that I enlisted my sister-in-law at a family gathering, at Christmas the month before, who is very good at--she hadn't done any sewing at all but she had done all kinds of other needlework, and so I asked her if she'd be interested in going with me and she was. So, I think that helped me a lot to have her go with me and I guess I just went up to Heart and Hand, and they said they had a beginning class, and I signed up.

PC: How much quilting can you fit into your schedule? Like how many hours a week or a month do you think you quilt?

SK: That always varies, depending on the time of the year. In the summer, of course, I don't do as much and I do babysit my grandkids three days a week, so that limits my time a little bit. But I would say I usually get in at least ten hours a week of quilting.

PC: That's awesome. What is your first quilt memory in your life?

SK: I think my grandmother had quilts at her house. She did quilt but it was always just squares sewn together of usable fabrics that she got from other things, and they were always tied quilts.

PC: Are there other quiltmakers among your family or friends?

SK: No. I didn't have that exposure at all. It was just--I would just see them in pictures or photographs or hear about them, and I just loved them.

PC: So that piqued your interest then, just seeing them in magazines or pictures of them?

SK: Right, right.

PC: How does quilt making impact your family, the time you can spend with your family right now?

SK: Well, quilting always takes a back seat to my family. My family has always been number one and it'll always be number one. I was going to go to a thing Sunday, the Sew-and-Stitch thing Sunday, and my grandson said to me at church, 'Grandma, we're going to come to your house and rake leaves today.' So, I never even mentioned that I had that planned and I went and played in the leaves with my grandkids. So, it is a real release for me when I have the time, but if something else comes up that involves my family, it will always take a back seat.

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

SK: Yes, I did. My brother was diagnosed with leukemia and--about four years ago, three-and-a-half years ago, and it was a very difficult time. He couldn't tolerate the chemo treatments and had a severe stroke, disabling stroke, so while I was going up there every day and spending time with him, I did [quilt.], when I had the time at home, and I think that that would probably be my second most meaningful quilt. He was a big New York Jets fan, and I made him a New York Jets quilt, and he had it on him every day that he was sick and, in the hospital, and talked about it a lot. It was a conversation piece with people who would come to see him. And I still have that quilt. I was able to get that quilt back.

PC: And so that inspired you, his illness then inspired you to make that for him?

SK: Right.

PC: Because it was something that was meaningful for him, that he could wrap himself up in?

SK: It brought him so much comfort, right.

PC: And you could see that, that it was something of comfort for him. Do you have any amusing experiences that have occurred as a result of your quilt making?

SK: Oh, many, many. As I said, my small group and my sister-in-law and I have taken many trips and there's always a lot of laughing and stories going on. Probably the funniest story was when my--we went to Paducah, probably the year after we started quilting, we went to Paducah with two other girls. And while we were down there, neither of us had ever even been to a quilt show, let alone a big venue like that. And we were just amazed. All day long, our mouths were just open, and we were just--our heads were just swimming with these colors and patterns and everything from quilts. And that night when we were going to--we shared a room, and we were going to go to bed, and she says to me, 'Oh, I just can't get to sleep. All I see is these colors whirling around in my head, whirling around in my head.' She said, 'I keep saying, “Think muslin! Think muslin!”' [PC laughs.] And got to laughing pretty hard over that but there's been a lot of fun times with quilting.

PC: Have you ever done anything that you just had to laugh at yourself because if you didn't laugh, you'd cry, like something in a quilt you were making that went wrong?

SK: Well, you always have those, and I've ended up with several potholders from things that I started and could soon tell were either beyond my ability or I just didn't like doing it.

PC: You got one block done and said, 'That's enough'?

SK: Right.

PC: What do you find especially pleasing about quilt making?

SK: I think it's the sense of accomplishment when you're done. And being a practical person, it's something useful that can either bring you warmth or bring you beauty to yourself, and I give almost all my quilts away which is unusual. A lot of people don't like to give their quilts away. But I am particular who I give them to, but it gives me a lot of pleasure to see their pleasure receiving them.

PC: What determines whether you're willing to give one of your quilts to someone?

SK: Just that I know they're going to take care of it, mostly. I want them to be used. If I give a baby quilt, I want it to be used. But I've had people, a couple of times that I've given them, maybe something that my daughter asked me to do for one of her friends, and they send you back a note and say, 'Thank you for the blanket.' And you think, 'Oh, maybe not.' So, I think that's it. And I know the people that I give them to are going to take care of them and use them and appreciate them.

PC: What aspect of quilt making do you not enjoy?

SK: The actual quilting, the machine quilting. The fun for me is picking out the fabrics, doing the piecing, coming up with different ideas, but the tedium part, where you have to actually quilt it, that I don't enjoy. So, I will send almost everything out to be quilted.

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

SK: I just have my one small group. It's a group of seven of us, and they had already been in existence prior to myself and my sister-in-law joining, and they had six. And they're all members of the Siouxland Samplers [Quilt Guild.] and one of them passed away so they were kind of looking for another member and I knew one of the gals through her sister who I worked with, and so she introduced me to the group and then I just said, 'Well, if you take me, we're kind of a package deal.' [laughs.] 'Can my sister-in-law come along?' So, we both joined that group and we've been in that group for about seven years, so it's been nice.

PC: How long have you been a member of Siouxland Samplers [Quilt Guild.]?

SK: We joined very shortly after we started quilting so I would say sometime during 2000.

PC: Early 2000?

SK: Yes.

PC: What role do you see yourself playing in the quilt world as President of the Siouxland Samplers? Do you see that as a way to promote quilts, or what do you see as your role as President for what you are doing for the members and for the world of quilting?

SK: I think the main focus is always just to keep the group large enough to make it viable, to try and bring in some challenging speakers and introduce some new techniques. I'm sort of being on if you have a workshop, we don't really all need more projects; we have more projects than we can get done, so I always like to think if there's going to be a new technique introduced. So, I think that was kind of my motivation is to get the Guild going in that direction. We are chartered as an educational organization, and so it's pretty much to promote that aspect of it more than anything else, and to keep activities relevant to the group so that everybody wants to come and has a good time while they're there.

PC: What is one thing that you see as your most defining moment in the quilt guild, the thing that you are most proud of as president of the organization that you've accomplished in your term as President?

SK: Well, nothing earth-shaking. The Guild is pretty strong and has a lot of really great members, and I never like to think that the things that happen are really my, primarily my idea or doing or execution. It's a group effort. But I did start with a couple of things that I wanted to see done. One was I wanted, and had wanted for a long time, for them to have a speaker system, a loudspeaker system for the meetings because you know how people tend to congregate at the same tables, and I know our group had a very difficult time hearing what was going on. And so then there got to be a lot of crosstalk, 'What did they say? What did they say?' So that was something that I really wanted to implement and did go to the church [where we meet.] and well, we actually looked into buying a system and then I found out the church had a system. All we had to do was change rooms.

The other thing I wanted was to have a stage to have the programs on, and originally, I thought we were going to have to stay in this basement area that we had and so I had even looked into having somebody build a platform that was at least elevated enough that it could be in two or three sections and we could still store it there at the church without taking up too much room and have it put together for our use during meetings and presentations, because there again, I think you lose a lot when you can't see. And if you're sitting far back, you need it. And then the other thing besides--those were my three things that I went in thinking I wanted to accomplish. The third one was new nametags. We'd had the same nametags for a long time and they really weren't all that attractive, and they couldn't even find matching fabric anymore to continue making the same design, so I did bring that idea to the Board and the Board itself brainstormed and came up with the idea of having just one central logo and name on the nametag, and then the rest of your nametag designed individually to suit the person who was wearing it. So those are the things that I came in thinking I wanted to accomplish, and we did get them all accomplished. In addition, they had already started working on updating the by-laws, which were way out of date, and I did hold a couple of special meetings and we got those up to date.

PC: I think you've done a great job. Have advances in technology influenced your work in quilting at all?

SK: Well, I haven't been at it too terribly long so a lot of things that older quilters had, I'm sure, have proved--have been a big improvement. But even myself, the sewing machine I started with was one that I had bought to sew my wedding dress with forty years ago. So just by getting a new machine, up-to-date machine, that improved my--

PC: And what kind of machine do you have?

SK: I have a Pfaff machine and I really like it. I'm sure I would love some of the other brands, too. I wanted one that had a local dealer so if I needed servicing, I could get parts and maintenance, so that's what led me to that direction. And in addition, there were a couple of very good quilters in my small group, and they had Pfaffs and had had good experience with them, so that's why I went that direction.

PC: What does this machine allow you to do that you couldn't do with your old machine?

SK: Well, one of the biggest things was that buttonhole stitch around--just doing machine appliqué for kids' quilts and various things that you did, and I didn't have any extra stitches really other than the straight stitch and maybe a little bit of a zigzag, but this one has a lot of different stitches and I don't use a lot of them, and the other thing that really I think is the biggest thing is that this Pfaff machine has an automatic feed, so you don't need to change feet to do quilting with or just to even feed fabric through. It just feeds through so much nicer.

PC: I like that part on some of the new machines, too. What are your favorite techniques and materials?

SK: As I said, my favorite patterns and techniques are probably all going to be related to traditional quilts, although I've done a few art quilts and enjoyed them. But it isn't something--I'll do the one time and enjoy doing it, but when I start to look for patterns to make things for myself or others, I'll fall back to my more traditional patterns. So, I think--what was the other part of the question?

PC: Besides wool, you talked about wool a little bit, how you'd like to try that, but--

SK: Oh, other fabrics? No, I pretty much use cotton.

PC: Traditional cotton?

SK: Yes, and flannels and pretty much always.

PC: For baby quilts, what do you usually use?

SK: I'll use cotton mostly because of the patterns that I like to make, but I have made some with the Minkee, that Minkee fabric on the back and the kids seem to really like that.

PC: How is working with Minkee? How do you like working with Minkee?

SK: I did not have any problems with it. I think I've heard some machine quilters, professional machine quilters have some trouble with the way it comes out on the back, but generally if I do a baby quilt, it'll be a fairly simple pattern and, as I said, I don't like to machine quilt but if I do, like on a baby quilt, then I'll just do a simple crosshatch pattern and it seemed to work fine with the Minkee just doing that.

PC: So, you did do some of your own quilting on baby quilts?

SK: I have, small projects I've done, or things that I've done with fusible appliqué. I did a set of different quilts for every month and some of those have fusible appliqué on them, and I'd just outline quilt those or, like I said, I'd do a lot of the grid quilting.

PC: Do you think the walking foot allows you to have a little more control?

SK: Yes, by far.

PC: It controls the bulk a little bit better, I think, or the fullness or whatever.

SK: Yes.

PC: Can you describe the studio where you create your quilts?

SK: I have a spare bedroom. It was the smallest bedroom in the house when I moved here. When I first started, I had the luxury of having a very large room in my basement that was completely finished, and so I had very nice shelving and two six-foot tables back-to-back for a good square of [inaudible-phone ringing.] and it was nice. Excuse me. [brief pause.] So anyway, I had that nice big room but when I moved here, I had the smallest bedroom, but I can take you up and show it to you, too. But it's--I suppose it's ten by twelve [feet.] or maybe a little bit bigger than that room. I have an extra-wide ironing board. I have a six-foot table that my husband made risers for to elevate it up to a cutting height, and I have one whole wall of shelving units. And my sewing machine is in the middle of the room and my brother made me a custom sewing table for my machine. He welded the frame and then put a top on it so that my machine will set down, be recessed.

PC: Do you have a design board?

SK: Yes, I have a design wall. It's nothing fancy but it's the wall that I look at when I'm sitting in the middle of the room, at that wall, and it's just a special piece of fabric. I ordered it out of a catalogue and I'm not sure what it is. It's like a flannel but it's a little thicker than that, little heavier, and I just have that. It's about twelve--eight feet square, maybe.

PC: And does that help you in choosing fabrics and--

SK: Yes.

PC: What does that help you with most, do you think?

SK: I think the placements of the fabrics and the color choices because I'll usually, if I'm going to make a project, kind of start it or do a few blocks or at least cut the pieces out, get them up on the design wall, and while I'm sewing on something else over the course of two or three days, I'll kind of keep looking at that and then going up there and changing something out so that by the time I'm ready to sew it, I don't usually end up with very many things that have to be changed.

PC: Yes, it's helpful to see it and be able to back away.

SK: And have some distance, yes.

PC: Tell me how you balance your time between quilting and your family and your housework and everything else that you do?

SK: Unfortunately, it usually gets to be the last choice. I have a hard time going in and quilting if I know dishes need to be done or laundry needs to be done or something like that. I'm kind of a very organized person, but I will make extra effort to get those things done so that I know I'm going to have some extra time to do that.

PC: That's your reward, then?

SK: That's my reward. That's pretty much right. That's pretty much right.

PC: But if you have something that you know needs to be done in the house, then you don't allow yourself the luxury of quilting and just ignoring it?

SK: Not normally. Not normally. But there have been times when I've had to do that, if I'm making something for somebody that needs to be done by a certain time. But that's not the norm, no.

PC: Going on to aesthetics and craftsmanship and design aspects of quilt making, what do you think makes a great quilt?

SK: For me, a great quilt is just a quilt that when I look at it, I find it very pleasing. I like all different kinds of quilts when I go to quilt shows. I mean, I do favor the traditional, but I love looking at all the other kinds of quilts and have a real appreciation for anything that I think is well put together, that's well balanced, that the colors relate well, and of course workmanship.

PC: Does anything come to mind for one of the greatest quilts you've ever seen? Anything stand out in your mind that you saw that you thought, 'Oh that is just the most fabulous quilt I've ever seen in my life'?

SK: There was a quilt, and I don't know the name of it, but it was at the Minnesota quilt show a year or so ago, and I think it was the Best of Show there. And it was--

PC: I remember that quilt.

SK: It was an appliqué quilt. And I'm in awe of people who do appliqué. Those are the quilts that--I mean, I know firsthand how much time and effort have to be put into those, so generally, if it's just a 'Wow!' quilt, it'll be probably an appliqué quilt, which is odd because I don't do that, but I just have a real big appreciation for it. Although a couple of years ago, one of our former members who moved to Colorado, and I can't think of her name. Andrea, Andrea [Kroening.], had quilts entered in our quilt show that she sent back. She stayed a member even though she wasn't local. And those were more modern quilts and more pieced quilts, and I loved those quilts, too. They were fairly complicated in construction.

PC: Was that Andrea Kroening, maybe?

SK: Yes, Kroening, yes.

PC: Kroening, K-r-o-e-n-i-g [sic.], yes. I remember that she won--was one of her quilts Best of Show a couple of years ago?

SK: Yes.

PC: Yes, it was kind of a Southwestern theme, I believe. Yes, that was an awesome quilt. What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?

SK: Probably most, the color, some color combination that's maybe not traditional but just really stands out and says, 'Wow!' And in art quilts, just the juxtaposition of the pieces, the way that they combine different shapes and elements to--I don't know, it's just impressive to me that people can do that. I feel like they really are works of art. I feel like it takes more really than being a quilter to do those. You have to have some talent in art.

PC: Just coming off of our own quilt show with the Siouxland Samplers, does any quilt come to mind to you that you felt was artistically powerful in our quilt show that we just had in September?

SK: I think the Best of Show, Jan Johnson's depiction of a homeless man. That was very powerful. And her use of threads that she used to do the hair and the beard; it was a wonderful interpretation. I thought she did a wonderful job. I couldn't even imagine picking the idea, let alone executing it.

PC: I agree. It was something. What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

SK: I think a lot of people like older quilts that have some history to them or have a story. They may not be the best executed quilts, but they are quilts that tell a story of people riding on covered wagons and making these quilts, or people that had very little to work with and very little access to fabrics. Those kinds of things really impress me. I like that. And I like the quilts from the South that are crooked and uneven but they're these bright colors from the ethnic backgrounds that they were from. I don't know, modern-day quilts, if somebody has a real preference, I think any quilts, any genre of quilt is worth collecting. Some people love art quilts and that's what they like.

PC: What makes a great quiltmaker?

SK: I think first of all, somebody who gets their projects done. [laughs.] But I think everybody is a great quiltmaker that quilts. I really do. I think if they make the quilt and I look at it and I think, 'Oh, my, why did they do that? I don't see it. I don't see the colors being used.' And yet that person made that quilt, and they obviously love that quilt and like that quilt. So, I think that to me, a good quiltmaker is one that gives the maker self-satisfaction. 'I made this, and I like it and it brings me joy.'

PC: Do you have any people that come to mind of great quiltmakers that you feel just in your own personal thoughts that that is really--that lady or that man or whoever is really a great quiltmaker?

SK: You see so many wonderful, beautiful quilts, but it's just funny because I think of those people as being professionals, and when I think of a professional, I think of somebody that devotes their whole life to that particular thing, whatever it be, a sport or whatever. And in quilt making, they're devoting--that's their job, so to speak. They spend every day, every hour with these elaborate studios and have all this access to time to get these things done. So, while I appreciate their efforts and I like the things they do, probably I have more admiration for, say, a member of our group, for instance, who is able to just excel and do wonderful work. Helen Lacey comes to mind. She did that wonderful quilt a couple of years ago. I think it won Best of Show. And she just does beautiful appliqué work. Everything she does is just perfect. The pattern was a Courthouse Steps. But the pieces were like an eighth of an inch around and the appliquéd border was just so precise and fantastic. And Mary Anne Nooney, who's a dear friend of mine, she'll take an ordinary pattern that most people would do and reduce it down to a third of the size just because she wants the challenge of working with these little, tiny pieces and coming up with these appliqués. And so, it's people like that, I think, that I really admire, that are just doing it as a hobby.

PC: But they're everyday people?

SK: Yes.

PC: And they have everyday lives?

SK: Everyday lives, right.

PC: And they still are able to create wonderful creations?

SK: Right, right.

PD: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

SK: That's a good question. I don't have a certain quiltmaker or a certain publisher or book or actually quiltmaker. I'm just drawn to what I like. When I see--

PC: Has any of them influenced you, anybody that's influenced you, your style or whatever?

SK: Oh, sure, they've made me try new things. I think about Susan Cleveland, when she came and introduced you to just putting those little bindings and those extra touches on quilts. I think about every one of them has some technique. I think of Peg Pennell, who had this wonderful way of paper piecing that caused me to do some of that where I had kind of shied away from it before, because her technique was so good. Again, with her Hawaiian quilts, it's nothing I normally would have picked up, and I not only did the one that she had in her class, I took another pattern, bought a book and took another Hawaiian pattern out and made another one. I just like that so much. And now I'll probably never make any more, but those--

PC: You tried those techniques.

SK: I tried those techniques, and they turned out great. I actually had them both framed and they're in my daughter's office at her work.

PC: Great. How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting?

SK: Well, I admire machine--hand quilters and I know that's kind of an old-school thing, that that's the only legitimate way to quilt. And I admire people who do it; I think it's wonderful. But it's way too labor-intensive for me. I'm not into the handwork aspect of quilting. Everything that can be done on the machine, I'll do on the machine. And I just think we have a lot of really good machine quilters that take people's quilts and do them for them in the area. I have a kind of a struggle right now because I've been working for many years, just off and on, on a Grandmother's Flower Garden, and the whole thing, it's going to be fairly good sized, probably seventy by eighty [inches.] or something, so it's got a lot of pieces, but I have done the whole thing by hand but now it's a conundrum when I get done because I will not hand quilt it myself. It'll be the only project like that that I'll ever do in my lifetime. Do I send it to a machine quilter? I almost feel like I should see if I can't find someone to hand quilt it just because the whole other part of it's been done by hand. And so, I think it really has a place, and like I said, if I can find someone to do that, I'm sure I probably will have it hand quilted, just because I feel like it's more authentic. But by and large, I love machine quilting.

PC: And if a piece is machine pieced, have you had your quilts longarm quilted?

SK: Yes, in fact almost everything I do has been longarm quilted.

PC: So obviously you like that genre and think that that's an okay way to finish a quilt?

SK: Oh, yes. Yes.

PC: Going on to the function and meaning of quilts in American life, why is quilt making important to your life?

SK: It's just a wonderful creative outlet. It's something I can do. I'm not artistic in that I couldn't paint a picture or draw or that kind of thing, but it is a creative--a very creative outlet that lets me produce something that I consider art-worthy--

PC: And that you can be proud of?

SK: That I can be proud of, right.

PC: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community?

SK: Well, I make a lot of--part of a lot of quilts that get used for raffles and things like that, and of course I'm part of the Sunshine program where we make the Sunshine Quilts, so I guess they reflect it in that way. And as I said earlier, I give away a lot of my quilts so they're all over the United States, and I'm sure are topics of conversation for various people.

PC: You talked about being a very classical, traditional quilter, that you have appreciation for those types of quilts. How do you think that that typifies our Iowan upbringing?

SK: I think it very much is a part of my being raised in the Midwest and the influences of always being around traditional. I like modern things. In fact, a lot of people that really like traditional like country, and I'm not at all into country or country crafts or really country colors in my quilts. I very seldom use those kinds of colors. I like the traditional patterns. And part of that is just my personality. I tend to be a little anal; I like things orderly. And traditional patterns sort of follow that.

PC: Where were you raised as a child?

SK: I've lived here all of my life. I was born in Sioux City [Iowa.] and lived in Sioux City until about fifteen years ago when we moved to an acreage here in Moville, which is twenty miles from Sioux City.

PC: So, you were a city girl, though, as opposed to a farm--

SK: Right, right.

PC: You didn't grow up on a farm or anything like that?

SK: No, no, no.

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

SK: I think people who do quilting generally have a good life. I very seldom meet a quilter that isn't a fairly happy person or a contented person, at least. And when you make a quilt, it's sort of a labor of love. I don't think I'm unique in the fact that I make a lot for other people. I think a lot of people do. And so, I think it's a reflection that--of people in general that are positive and have a lot in common. So, it is a common denominator. As you're traveling, it's popular everywhere.

PC: And I think a lot of our heart and soul goes into quilting--

SK: Yes.

PC: And when you give quilts like you do, it's giving a part of your heart, a part of your soul to that other person.

SK: Right.

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

SK: Oh, I think it's very important. I've always wanted to do one of those women's history quilts and I will at some point in time, but you can tell a story by quilts and you date them back to the slave days and even now, the fact that people, women are using quilts to make a living, to start businesses and all the related things that go with quilt making, so I think it's been a big part.

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

SK: Yes, that's always a concern, especially when you give a lot of them away because you know they're going to get used and abused. And so I think it's good that they have places going like Lincoln [Nebraska.], where they have the quilt museum and I'm hoping that families of quilters will pick up the significance of the quilts and pass them down to generations.

PC: Do you plan to save or ask your family to save one of your quilts for posterity? I mean do you feel--do you see a portion of you living on after you pass away? Do you want your family to save a quilt that--

SK: Well, no, I don't. I give them freely, without strings, and whatever happens to them will be. But my daughter is the primary recipient of most of my quilts and she has a great love and appreciation of them. She has only one son and no daughters, so it does lead me to believe that at some point down the line, probably, those quilts are going to get distributed to who knows where. But that doesn't really bother me. Like I said, I spent all this labor on this one that was made by hand and I'm going to impress on her how much time and effort was put into it, but you can't control those things. You can't control those things. If I had a bigger family maybe.

PC: But you feel for now that in your daughter's hand, that they will be preserved because she will take care of them?

SK: Oh, she will.

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

SK: I don't know. I guess cost. I think it's an expensive hobby. I mean, it doesn't have to be, if you do the more traditional methods of gathering fabric and using pieces and make utility quilts, but most people want to move beyond that. They want to move beyond that and make things of beauty out of quilts, and it is an expensive hobby. And we have one of our [guild.] members, even, one day was sitting there and I just said something, or someone brought it up about the quilt show and about doing something, taking a class or something, and she said, 'Oh, no, I couldn't afford to do that. I'm just trying to find enough money to be able to go to the banquet.' So that kind of hit home with me a little bit, too, that some of us take for granted that we're just lucky to have resources to do this kind of hobby. But when you think about it, when you think about a class and you think about the fabric you buy for the class, you kind of have a good amount of money, so I think that's--and then machines are not cheap. Granted, once you get one, you can use the same one forever, but it's not an inexpensive hobby. So, cost would be, to me, what keeps more people from doing it.

PC: I tend to agree with you. We're at the end of our time. I'd like to thank Sandy Kluender, Sandra Kluender, for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project in Sandy's home here at Moville, Iowa. Our interview concluded at--

SK: 5:47.

PC: 5:47 [p.m.] on October 21st, 2009.


“Sandra Kluender,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 18, 2024,