Nadine Schuchert




Nadine Schuchert




Nadine Schuchert


Colleen Lemkuil

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Spirit Lake, Iowa


Colleen Lemkuil


Colleen Lemkuil (CL): My name is Colleen Lemkuil and today's date is October 6, 2009, at 12:20 p.m. I am conducting an interview with Nadine; also known as Deenie Schuchert. From now on we will refer to her as Deenie. We are in Spirit Lake, Iowa, and we are doing this interview for the Quilters' Save Our Stories S.O.S. [Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories.] project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Iowa State Society, Daughters of the American Revolution. Deenie Schuchert is a quilter and is a member of the Ladies of the Lake Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution of Spirit Lake, Iowa. [pause for 1 minute.] [question not heard because tape recorder was too far away.] The pictures look good. Now please tell us about the quilt you brought in today and the quilting at you do.

Deenie Schuchert (DS): The quilt I brought in today is called Double Wedding Ring and the reason I choose this quilt, was first of all because it is the third quilt I made and I made it because everyone in the quilt business told me it was too difficult and I could not do it, so then of course I had to do it. And I cannot remember exactly how many pieces, but it is over thousand pieces, and they are all hand cut into little squares and they are all sewed together on the curve which makes it so difficult and then I also hand quilted it because I was also told it was that was too difficult to do. At the time I made this quilt, about 10 years ago, and all my quilts I made I hand quilted. So, I did not make very many a year because it took a long time to piece them and then hand quilt them. And you finish one and it takes several months. And you start and the next one and you are stuck.

I started quilting by accident. No one in my family has ever been a quilter. Why? Because I have some quilts that my great grandma made for my family, and I thought those were pretty special. One day I was walking down the street of Algona [Iowa.] which we lived for 35 years and a friend of mine owned a fabric shop which I never went in because it smelled funny in there and there was nothing in there that I wanted to buy. I went by and she had this wonderful Christmas wallhanging hanging in the window and it had all the points that would look nice in my home. I always liked primitive things. Quilts fascinated me, but I did not sew. And I had this deal with the cleaners in Algona that if a button fell off one of our shirts, he would sew it on for a quarter because I did not own a needle and thread and I didn't want to own a needle and thread so that was just sort of our little secret.

Anyway I walked by this fabric store and here is this wall hanging that would look beautiful in my living room at Christmas time. And so I wanted to own it. I went into the quilt shop and said to my friend Karen who owned it, 'Will you sell me that wall hanging?' And she said, 'No. That is up there so people would buy the pattern and the fabric and make it.' Why I won't buy the pattern or the fabric and make it. So, I said to her, 'Okay, in July would you sell me that Christmas wall hanging because no one would design the Christmas wall hanging in July.' And she said, 'Go down the street to the used sewing machine store and buy a sewing machine and come back and I will teach you how to make it.' So, I went home, and I said to my husband that I wanted to buy a sewing machine. And he said, 'If you asked me if you wanted to buy a head of cattle. That would not be as funny as you wanted to own a sewing machine'. And we both laughed. And then I bought the first, spent sixty dollars on the sewing machine and hauled it, into the back of Karen's shop. And I thought she was going to just help me whip up one of those and that would be done with sewing and that would be the end of it but instead she took out a screwdriver and she took the sewing machine apart and piled into pieces on the table. And said, 'this is your first lesson. Put it all back together'. And I said, 'You got to be kidding me.' And she said, 'No, sewing machine's break and you are going to be very frustrated if you don't know how to fix em. So, the first thing you have to learn is how to take the machine apart and put it back together'. And that took a whole day. That's what I did the first day. And every time I got it back together. She would take it apart in a different form and I would put it back together. And that is probably the best lesson that I ever, ever had. And the second day I bought fabric and made a pillowcase. And I still have it. I thought that was pretty cool. But I still wanted the wall hanging on the wall. Any way it went on for two full weeks before we got to the wall hanging and each day, she taught me something and I bought something that I needed in order to do it. So, everybody won. I won; she sold me things. And at the end of two weeks, I started the wall hanging and I made four. Everybody in my family got one for Christmas. [laughs.] And I still have it. It is not well done. It is kind of a mess. But it is the very first thing I ever made. I made a fold up so I could learn how to read a pattern and put the pages in the right order, a cloth book. And at the end of a month, I was sitting in the back of her store every morning. She said do you need a ready to be invented. And I said, okay, I want to do that one. And I pointed to one up on the wall that was star point and difficult and she said. 'No.' I said, 'Yep, that's the one I want to do.' So, she sold me the fabric and I went home. And it paid out, and I couldn't put it together. I couldn't follow the pattern it was just so complicated. So, I kept running back into her store, laying the pattern out. And she would say, 'Sew this piece to this piece'. And I would go back home and do it. And that quilt is on my guest room bed. And has been ever since, I made it. I am very proud of it. It is amazing that I actually did that. And I bought a second hand frame, a hand quilting frame. And I set it up in my family room. That was really the first quilt I actually put on a frame and quilted. Took me most of the winter but I am really proud of that.

And then later, a couple of months later, a friend of mine in town decided what always wanted to design her own fabric and sell it, and I always thought she was nuts. Because who bought fabric? [laughs.] Who in the world bought fabric? While now I buy. She has become an International famous designer. Her name is Sandy Gervais Bay. Her fabric line is, My Dream Design, because it was always her dream to design. And she sells it through Moda. And the fabric quilt you have here is made totally with her fabrics. It is a Christmas line of hers. I think the first year she designed Christmas lines, this is hers. So, then it became a goal, each and every time I decided on a pattern, I would decide I would go and decide which of Sandy's fabrics I wanted to use. I obviously used Sandy's fabrics. I have broadened my horizons now. I don't live in Algona anymore. And so, I don't have access to a top defess [inaudible.] as I use to. So now I don't just use Sandy's I use whatever I fall in love with. I can't stay out of fabric stores. I am passionate about this. I have to hold back because I would be willing to drive a hundred miles out of my way to get to one. So, every dime, extra dime, I had on my body fabric is what I want to get as much as I can get possibly get, because there is another quilt around the corner that I am going to make.

We always sleep under a quilt. Every bed in our house has a quilt on it. Every couch has a quilt on the back of it. This one hangs over the railing going downstairs. They are everywhere. My grandchildren each get a quilt for Christmas every year. This is the first present they open, and they wrap it around their neck while they open their rest of their gifts, and it is worth every hour that I have spent. The quilts are always about, they relate to what they are very interested in that year. Last year, last fall my 13-year-old grandson shot his first deer with a bow and arrow. So, this year's quilt is all deer antlers. It really push? He's going to love it.

I don't belong to a quilt guild. But I do belong to a group call work, WORC. But we call it work. So when are husband, or significant others or friends say, 'What are you going to do this afternoon.' We say we are going to work. And it stands for Women Organized and Ready to Create. We get together twice a month. We knit, and some people embroider and most of us quilt. And we bring some hand thing to do while we are there. And we are served a gooey dessert. They are some of my very closest friends. And one of the members of WORC is Mary Cornell's daughter-in-law, Dee and Dee and I have this passion in common among many other things. But now we have started designing our own wall hanging and we create them together. She pieces them together and then I finish the quilt and then they are done. We are having more fun with that. Which we finished a Halloween one, a Christmas one and now we are going to do something with owls because that is something which Dee is real interested in. So, we are going to do something with owls.

I have never won any awards for anything that I have done. It has only been in the last year that I am comfortable even showing people what I have done. Because no matter how experienced you are there is always somebody who has done something more intricate, or more time consuming or more involved. And so, I don't think I am really confident about my work. But I know it will be something I will do until I can no longer, until my hands fall off or my machine dies. My husband teases me when does this end. I tell him it ends when I quit breathing, or the machine dies, and I can't figure out a way to get another one. That's how it will end. But I just don't think it will ever end. It just goes on and on for me. I am totally addicted. I don't think I have ever been addicted to anything in my life. Been this I am addicted to.

I don't have a collection of quilts from my family except for two that my great-grandmother made for my grandmother. There really homily. There purple and yellow. Because those were my grandmothers two favorite colors. But they are really special to me because they are well worn and thread barren. No one else in the family cares for them, but I do.

Right now, I am in the process of sewing together pieces of clothing that my sister-in-law worn when she worked at the [Okoboji.] Summer Theater 30 years ago. She wants to remember the clothing she wore when she worked in the summer theater. I am trying to figure out how exactly to manipulate these satins and taffetas and fabrics that are not easy to work with into something that she can keep forever. Normally I use hundred percent cotton. It is a lot easier. Does not have a lot of give ness and it is wonderful.

I have sold quilts. For two years I sold my quilts through Mary's Gift Shop in Spirit Lake, and I sold a lot of them. I think I sold about twenty-five. And I made some money, some good money which I immediately turned around and bought more fabric with, so. The reason I quit doing that was I would make like this double wedding ring, and this is in reds, and blues and whites, red, white and blues basically. And I would take it in there and people would go, 'I love that, but I want it in green, and purple and brown.' I did not want to go back and do the same quilt again in a different color because there is another pattern out there and something else to do. I don't want to do the same one over and over. I have done two Double Wedding Rings. Just because after about 3 years I wanted to see that I could still do it. So, I did another one. The lady that taught me to quilt said to me, when I started this, 'Don't do it. I started one. No one finishes them. Because they are too difficult. And people who have been quilting for lots of years do not do this pattern.' Don't do it.' So, you know that is the way I am built, so I had to. And then I had to again. [laughs.]

So, I have never taught any one to quilt except my granddaughter. And I am tying really hard to get her passionate about this which my husband grimaces about because then he will be buying fabric for two people in his family to be doing this. I love this so much and I just think someone else I love should like it too.

My friends who shop with me for years. When they go in the quilt store or, fabric store and I sit in the car. But do you know why. There is nothing in there that I want. They just think this is a hoot. That I am still into this. Because it is not like me to want to be creative, but it is an outlet for me, and it is therapy for me. That is the number one reason I think I continue to do it. Most people think that I started quilting when my son died because it got me out of bed. That's not true. What started me quilting with that silly little Christmas thing hanging in the window. But any time there is stress in my life. Or I am happy about anything, or there is something I don't have control over. Just anything. Just most everyday people have some part of their day that just isn't lovely and wonderful. I can do down into my sewing room surrounded by fabrics that I love and pattern books. And I can pull something out and start to put it together. And I am lost in the process. It calms me and sues me. And when I am done, when I am done with something I don't care about it anymore. I give a lot of them away. It is not anything that I have to have. It is the process what makes me happy. So as soon as I am done with one, I move on to the next one. Selling quilts made me design some quilts and that was out of the box for me but it was fun, and it also made me work with colors that didn't necessary go into my house. Because they weren't something that I was going to keep. They were things what other people, whatever was in, last year it was turquoise and brown. I worked with those colors and when I was done was kind sort of proud of that. This is kind of pretty even though it wasn't anything I would ever seek out.

I donate to the Animal Rescue League every year because that is a cause I care about. That's really fun. Fun to come up with new ideas and themes to do. I donate to Relay for Life every year. Last year I took all of the t-shirts, the survival t-shirts and made a T-shirt quilt. This year I am doing as I already completed it, a University of Iowa Hawkeye one and I designed it and that was really fun. And I am also going to do, an Iowa State Cyclone one which I have not started yet but I have all the fabric though. I am really looking forward to that. Because I go to bed at night thinking about, how am I going to do this one and I want it to be different, but I want it to be appealing so that Iowa State fans will spend lots of money for Relay for Life.

CL: Mary said that you really helped her daughter when she lost her husband. You two quilted together.

DS: I had known Dee Cornell a long time. Mary's daughter-in-law, but not personally, just acquaintance, and a third person called me one day and said, Mary's son, Dee's husband, Bobbie was interested in NASCAR. They had a lot of NASCAR clothing, and would I be interested in helping her figure out a way to keep that, to make it into something she could keep for a long time. So that I was how I contacted Dee. Actually, it was by email. We talked for about a month by email. Just back and forth and she would talk about Bobby who I remembered when Bobby was born, and I knew Bobby my whole life. So, we asked Bobbie. We emailed back and forth for about a month. And that we got together, and she showed me the shirts and I was very excited to do it. And also, very nervous because if anything happened to any of these and they were not replaceable. These were places he had gone over the course of his adult life all over the United States and the t-shirts were no longer available. I teased her that she had obviously had saved his clothes and did not let him wear them because they were in perfect shape. So, yea, I put the quilt together and it was a ton of fun to do. Like I say and I've known Bobby forever and he recently died. So, it was sort of like there was like a mention in there when you are messing with that stuff. And then when it was done, Dee helped bind it and then Dee and I talked about Bobbie a lot and she told me about the shirts, and when he had gone these places and special memories that were there. But most of all what Dee and I learned we had in common was a faith journey. And I can talk to her to her to this day about anything and but mostly we talk about our connection with God. Dee has more faith, then any, working faith then any person I have ever known in my life. So, what a blessing that was. That she, just through quilting we got together. She is a treasurer.

But that is pretty much true of everyone that I have met through this. I mean people don't sit over a sewing machine for hours on end creating these things unless they have a reason. Why they are doing this, they are either escaping some thing or it is the Joy of making something. And mine started out the joy of making something and through it I learned to spend a lot of time with myself, and you learn to appreciate what you can do, and you love what you create. But you learn you are okay. You learn a lot about yourself. You work through a lot of things in your mind when you are working with your hands. So, it is all positive. It is very, very good.

I have been only doing this. I was trying to figure exactly the date when I started, but it was ten years ago. And now I own a sewing machine. I must tell you I no longer totally hand quilt and now I have upgraded my machine five times. I now have a Bernina, a really good sewing machine. It is incredible actually. And when I am done piecing then I can quilt them with this machine. I don't own a long arm heavy duty professional quilting machine. I would like to someday but there about, a good one, about thirty thousand dollars. So, the only way you could justify in my situation buying one if you were going to quilt for other people and make money. I don't want to do that. I just want to do what I want to do. I have a machine now that has a free motion foot. So, I can make the top, I piece the top in whatever pattern I have chosen, then I put the batting under that and the back under that. So, I have the three pieces. Then I pin with safety pins about every four inches. And I iron it really tight. And I pin it so nothing moves. That's the trick, to keep everything tight. Then I roll it up. Put it on my machine. I have a free motion foot so when I push a button it sews only as I move the fabric. So, I can quilt my own. That is what I do. I quilt. I also quilt Dee's. But I do not quilt for other people. [laughs.] Because you really want to go to a professional who has the heavy-duty long arm. But I love doing it and it is really fun to do the whole thing yourself from start to finish. From cutting out the fabric to putting it on your bed. You got to do the whole thing.

C L: I have been in a quilt shop here in Spirit Lake. Do you go there?

DS: I do. I would do just about anything to keep that store open because if you just have a place to buy, buying the fabric in town is wonderful, but if you have a place where you can buy the batting, the back and the thread. That saves you the trip out of town. Otherwise, no matter, it is kind of like the grocery store, no matter what you buy where you are you will end up doing a project that you don't have the right color of thread, or you don't have some fabric. Some require I want wool batting. Sometimes I want cotton. I am so grateful that there is a store here in town. I just could run uptown and buy it. And they also are very accommodating with their fabric. They have a nice variety. I tend to want to do Civil War fabrics and old. First thing I do when I done with a quilt, I wash it so the batting shrinks and looks like it is fifty years old. Because I don't like it to look brand new and shining and that was hard for me when I was selling them, and they had to look new. And I want them to look like they been on my grandmother's bed, and I have just brought them into my house. The one that I brought looks like it is very old, and it is not. It has just been laundered right so that it looks old. But I am grateful that have a place to buy the supplies that I need here in town. But otherwise, you travel out of town and when you are there you panic that you are not going to have the right things. It is nothing to walk into a quilt shop and spend five hundred dollars just on fabric. And that's not thread, and cutting tools, and all just the extras, the batting. It is very difficult to make a quilt for a double size bed that costs you less then several hundred dollars, so you want it to be special right.

CL: Recently you moved. Do you have a bigger quilting room now?

DS: Yes, before I had it in our family room. And was like trying to keep an end of room tidy. There is no way when you are creating something you are going to be neat. So, I now have a room with a door that I can shut. But we still track thread through the entire house because it drips from everything. And my husband laughs about it. But when we moved, and I cleaned out my refrigerator I had thread in the back of my refrigerator. Just off my hands, off my clothes. Just it's everywhere. [laughs.] It's in our shower so you vacuum a lot. That's another secret. Have to have a room to shut the door and you need a good vacuum. Two things, tools you have to have when you are doing this in your home.

Let's see. Is there any else I need to mention. I have made some wearable art. That is one of the questions on this sheet. I have quilted jackets. I decided to quilt a jacket for my mother-in-law for Christmas three years ago. And I thought this is ridiculous and I don't make clothes, but I did. She went so crazy. She cried when I gave it to her. If I get the right reaction, I will do it again. Then I made her another and another. She has three. She is so cute. Because she wears them all the time. Every time I see her, she has one on. I say you do not have to wear those every day. But she says she loves them. That is my only wearable art. I don't make clothes. I don't want to make clothes. This is what I want to do. I make Halloween costumes for my grandchildren also. That's it. But quilting is my passion. I won't be stopping any time soon.

CL: It is getting cold. So, I bet those quilts feel good.

DS: They do, but you can decorate your home with them. I have things on the wall that I have made. I have them on my furniture. My goal is I would like to buy a coach, I think I will probably start with a chair, I want to buy a piece of furniture second hand. Then I want it to make then I want it reupholstered it in a quilt. I think this would be really fun. I use them as headboards also.

CL: Neat.

DS: Yeah.

CL: Were you creative, artistic as a child?

DS: [laughs.] No, anyone that knows me says, [laughs.] 'This is not Deenie.' It isn't. It is so far removed from me. No. I can't draw. I can't, I don't color well. I can color in the lines but not well. And, But I jokingly tell people who say I can't believe you do this. All you have to be able do to quilt, is to be able to read. If you can read, you can quilt. Because you just have to follow the pattern. But I have done it enough now following the pattern is a kind of boring and I want to alter the pattern. So, I do. Each pattern I am not that I have now I am not going to do it exactly the way the pattern says. That is growth for me.

CL: How many hours a week do you quilt?

DS: Well, I like to spend a minimum of twenty minutes a day doing this. I won't get to the machine today and I didn't yesterday. So, by tomorrow I will be really giddy to get into there. But depending what is going on in my life. If I have extra time, that's where I am. Right now, I have my mother is going through some pretty intensive cancer treatment. And I so I take her to those treatments on a Tuesday. And you can count on all day Wednesday I will be quilting because it gets me centered and makes me calm and feel good. And so, I am [inaudible.], but most every day I spend some time.

CL: Deenie is there anything else that you would like to add to this interview?

DS: I can't think of anything but except it is enjoyable, fun and relaxing, thing for me to do. I am really grateful that I found the God given talent and I had to do it.

CL: We'd like to thank Nadine "Deenie" Schuchert for allowing us to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. Deenie is a wonderful person and a new member of our DAR group.

DS: Thank you.

CL: Our interview is concluded now at 1:00 p.m. Oct. 6, 2009.


“Nadine Schuchert,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 16, 2024,