Marian Brockschmidt




Marian Brockschmidt




Marian Brockschmidt


Betty Wilson

Interview Date



Springfield, Illinois


Jenny Albrecht


Note: Marian Brockschmidt is not a member of the DAR. While this is a DAR quiltmaker documentation project, membership within the DAR is not required.

Betty Wilson (BW): My name is Betty Wilson and today's date is January 23, 2008, at 1:40 p.m. I am conducting an interview with Marion Brockschmidt in her home in Springfield, Illinois for the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Illinois State Society, Daughters of the American Revolution. I am a quilter and a member of the Whiteside Station Chapter, NSDAR. Marian thank you for helping us with this project. You've inspired me several times I know with looking at those quilts. Would you tell me about the quilt you have brought in today?

Marian Brockschmidt (MB): Yes, I brought in my 50th Anniversary Baltimore quilt and it was one that I made using a number of Elly Sienkiewicz's blocks and a grapevine border. All the blocks commemorate the lives of my husband, Art and me. We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary on February 14th of 1993.

BW: Do you have a particular pattern that you used?

MB: Most of them were from Elly Sienkiewicz's books. She was a quilter that inspired me. She wrote many books. She researched the Baltimore quilts and then made books for them. So, I took some of her patterns and she sent me the pattern for the grapevine border.

BW: And it was all made with cotton materials?

MB: Cotton materials and the calligraphy on it was done by my husband, who did a lot of that for me. And that's why it does have special meaning for me and that's why I wanted to bring it too.

BW: Yeah, you ever use this quilt? Did you ever put it on your bed just for old time's sake?

MB: No, I have not put it on my bed. In fact, it's not quite large enough for a bed quilt. But I have shown it various places and it's been photographed for different publications.

BW: What are the plans for this quilt? Is it going to be given to somebody special?

MB: Well maybe to one of my children or grandchildren. Now I have 5 great grandchildren and they may like to have it someday because one of the blocks in it is one that was designed by my grandson. It shows my husband's hobby and then another block shows my hobby of quilting. My husband fixed bicycles for people, and he bought bicycles at Salvation Army, and then he took them and fixed them and gave them to Washington Street Mission here in town, so that was his hobby so that's on there. That's the only way I've used the quilt, and to bring back memories, too.

BW: How did you get interested in quilt making?

MB: Well, I have always had quilts in my life. My mother had four daughters which she did all the sewing for us, and she had lots of scraps and so she'd make quilts for, but we used all those. They have all been used up. I don't have any of them. And then she used to take me along and my little sister along to her quilting bees at church. And I can remember that we played under the quilts while they were quilting, but what we liked most was the coffeecake they served at those quilting bees. [laugh.] And so then there was the little old lady that lived down the block, I say she was an old lady, maybe she was only in her 70's, I don't know, but she sat and pieced quilts in her rocking chair there and we would watch her, and sometimes she would give us scraps. So that's how I started.

BW: About what age did you start making your first quilt?

MB: I helped my mother quilt. I did the embroidery on a butterfly quilt when I was about, oh, 10 or 12 years old. But I didn't make my first one until 1943, when I went to Philadelphia to be where Art's ship was commissioned in the Navy and I was at a hotel, and across the street was a big department store, and they had quilt kits for sale and I bought a baby quilt kit, and I did that while I was there. But my mother did the quilting on it. So that's really the first one I did. Then I made a few others and my mother, and my aunt did the quilting until about 1974 when my aunt said, 'it's time for you to do your own quilting', so she did around the borders, she gave it to me, and I finished it in a hoop. That's how I got started. So really actually since around 1974 when I really started in.

BW: A little over 30 years. How many hours a week do you quilt by any--

MB: It depends [laughs.] on if I have a quilt ready. If I have a quilt in the hoop, I do up to 10 hours a day sometimes, but then I have a lot of other church work that I do, and so sometimes it's not that much, but I try to get one done in at least 2 months' time that I quilt a big one.

BW: I think you pretty well answered the next one, it's what is your first quilt memory.

MB: Well, I guess maybe the first quilt I remember; I have that quilt. It was made by my grandmother in 1876, and she made that, they say she was just 16 years old, because she was married at 18 and had twins who died at birth when she was 19 and then she had six more children and died at 48, so I don't think that she ever made any other quilt. My grandfather had that quilt, it's a cherry quilt and it was always on the bed, and I liked it so much. My mother never used it after grandpa died. I liked it so well she gave it to me - I do have that one and that is my first memory of a quilt.

BW: I know that you have been talking about your members of your family that quilted, are there any others in your family that quilted?

MB: Well like I say my aunt did a lot for me and after my mother passed away. Then I had a sister who got into quilting too but it's interesting because, she was really a better quilter that I am, and won numerous prizes, and was asked to send a quilt to a national quilting thing where they judged them to be a master quilter. And they didn't give her the master quilter, and she never made another quilt. [laughs.] She just didn't like to not have somebody like what she did. [laughs.] Now my daughter has done some, pieced and I'm very happy to say that my granddaughter now has started making a quilt. She's very interested in it.

BW: So, it's really impacted your family with several different ways and quite a few of the family are involved. Your son is a photographer; does he take a lot of the pictures of your quilts?

MB: Oh yeah, when I did my first bird and flower quilt that I did it was all hand embroidered in the colors and I researched a lot of books to do that one. He took slides of every block and so forth. So, I do have slides of all the blocks. He's taken different pictures all the time of my quilts.

BW: Good. I know the wedding anniversary quilt is very special, do you use it to look at once in a while to get through like you said your husband's recent death.

MB: I was quilting at the time when he was in hospice, and I had him here at home and took care of him. That really helped me get through that time because I could forget about everything. After he passed away, I didn't have to go to any therapy or anything because I used my quilting.

BW: Good, wonderful. You find pleasure in doing your quilt making.

MB: Oh yeah.

BW: That keeps you busy most days, ten hours a day, that would [laughs.] certainly be enough time. What particular type of quilting do you enjoy?

MB: Well, I guess really, I like all types, but I do a lot of appliqué, and lately I've been doing piecing too, so I guess I like all of it. I don't especially like to mark a quilt for the quilting, and I'm not too happy to do the binding, but I do that too. Because if you enter anything at the Illinois State Fair, you have to have made everything yourself. You have to have made it and quilted it. So, I've always done that.

BW: You have been showing at the state fair for how many years?

MB: Well, I have been showing in the textile department for almost 60 years. But I've just been showing quilts since I did the first one, I think in '63 and I didn't do another one till '74, a good many year.

BW: You have any idea how many of those blue ribbons you've got?

MB: Well, I have - I think someplace I wrote it down here - I have about 83 blue ribbons, no not blue, 50 blue ribbons I have 80 quilts entered in the fair, of those I have gotten about 50 blue ribbons. But the others have had ribbons.

BW: What do you think makes a great quilt?

MB: Well, I guess I look at the workmanship the most, and then like when they judge a quilt, they'll look at first, they'll look at the overall, if it's pleasing to the eye. And then they'll look at the workmanship, and I remember the first time I went to a quilt show, and I saw some of the binding on quilts, we just thought they were awful. That's why we started our quilt guild, really because we called it Quilter's United in Learning Teaching and Self-improvement [Q.U.I.L.T.S.]. Because we thought if we could help others really make a nice quilt that was our goal.

BW: And you were one of the first starters of the quilt guild.

MB: I was one of the founders of that quilt guild in Springfield.

BW: Remember how long ago that was?

MB: We started it in '84, 1984.

BW: About 23 years, good. What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

MB: Well, some people have said I'm a quilt artist, but I don't think I am, because I don't really design a whole quilt. I usually take patterns and I adapt them and use my own colors and sort of redesign them a little bit. There are so many on the market now today in quilt books, when I started quilting there were only about 2 books available to get anything, you know.

BW: What makes a quilt appropriate for special collections and museums?

MB: Well just about what I said, you know, whether they have any history to them. Like my Great Americans quilt. My husband always believed you should get something educational out of a quilt so that one was all the Great Americans from the Indians to, at that time when I made it was the spacemen who were the--

BW: What makes a great quilter?

MB: Oh, I don't know, lots of perseverance, I think. One of the things that people ask me the most when I'm demonstrating quilting or anything is 'how long does it take you' and they don't even ask the cost of it, but 'how long does it take you to make it.' They say, 'My grandmother did one like that' or they will say, most of them will say, 'I don't have the patience.' So, I think it takes quite a bit of patience to finish a quilt.

BW: I do too. So that makes a great quilter?

MB: I think it helps, and then practice, you have to keep at it. I'd hate to show you my first one that one that I made way back in 1943, and awful big stitches on some of the appliqué and the quilting, not the quilting cuz my mother did that but, so, I you know--

BW: How do great quiltmakers learn the art of quilting and especially on how to design a pattern or choose fabrics and colors?

MB: I don't know how some of them do that but--

BW: Did you ever take a lesson?

MB: Oh, I have taken quite a few lessons especially like I think I've had 5 or 6 different times when I took courses from Elly Sienkiewicz, and from Nancy Pearson, she was another quilter who finally put a book out. I learned a lot from her. But otherwise, most of the time I learned just by trying and reading different books on quilting.

BW: Well, here's one we all, we all have to check on, how do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting? [laughs.]

MB: Well, I'm a hand quilter. I have only ever quilted two of them out of 100 and some by machine. And it would go a whole lot faster but, a lot of people will bring old quilts. I quilt with a group at our church every week. We quilt quilts that somebody's grandmother maybe has made, and they bring it to us for quilting because if they had had it machine quilted it wouldn't look as good or nice as hand quilted, so I don't really believe much in--

BW: There is a place for machine quilting.

MB: My daughter just did one that she did the whole thing on the regular sewing machine so that would be too much for me to handle so I stick to the hand quilting.

BW: Why is quilt making important in your life?

MB: Well, I would say it's just about the thing that keeps me going. And as soon as I get through with one quilt, I am thinking of another one I have all kinds of patterns that I think I am going to make that someday. My somedays may be running out so I have to be really selective. Now just yesterday, I ordered a new book for an appliqué one, because the last couple quilts have been pieced, and so I think I'll get back to doing some appliqué next.

BW: How do you think your quilts reflect on your community and region? You show in a lot of shows.

MB: Yeah, and it seems like a lot of people are interested in it. I think we've gotten a lot of people into quilting that never did it before just by having the new quilt guild and they've been showing more quilts now too.

BW: Do you think of the importance in quilts in the American life. You think young people appreciate the quilts these days?

MB: I think some of them do, but maybe some of the younger ones. My one granddaughter is taking an interest in, maybe it's because I did it too that she follows in my footsteps, but I can't tell you anymore about that.

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

MB: Well to begin with most of them did it just because they needed the bedding. It gave them an opportunity too if they had any artistic ability in them, it gave them an opportunity to use that because they were out on the prairie, you know, and that's all they had to work with. Later on, why when they were able to buy more material and then they were able to try more different things and become more artistic, I think.

BW: How do you think quilts should be used?

MB: Well, I make some what I call--I make some for 'blow' and some for 'show.' Because I would hate to see some of my appliquéd ones on a table or on the floor someplace. Otherwise, if they have them. I gave my sister a nice one and she uses it on her spare bed because she says every time, she goes in there she thinks of me, so I like that part. I've made one for all my grandkids and great grandchildren I should say. So that they will remember me. I want them to remember me for what quilts I have made and not what a housekeeper I was. I don't consider myself a very good housekeeper.

BW: How do you think they can be preserved for the future?

MB: I tell them if they don't use them, they should keep them in a pillowcase, never in a wooden box or a cedar chest. I know that my aunt kept all of hers in a cedar chest, and they have done pretty well. If they come in contact with the wood, why that endangers them. I'm not afraid to wash mine either. Some people don't think you should, but I do.

[tape shut off for break.]

BW: Can you tell us about some of the special awards that you've received?

MB: I suppose the one that I got the biggest thrill out of was I won the Best of Show of a Mountain Mist quilting contest back in 1985 and that was a quilt contest where you had to make a quilt from a Mountain Mist pattern, and you could adapt it anyway you wanted. So, I made a Grandmothers Engagement Ring quilt from their pattern. That was about the time when you started using a lot of scraps. So instead of one solid fabric for the rings in the quilt, I used little pieces of different material, and I guess that's one thing they liked. But anyway, I sent it into the contest. They had over 100 entrants and they had them at a special quilt show in Houston. And that one night I got a call, and somebody said, 'I'm calling from the Houston quilt show, and we want to tell you that your quilt did win a prize.' I said, 'Oh what?' By the way, the prize was $1250 and a cruise for two. I said 'Well what happened, did I get second? No. First? No, well what?' Then she said, 'You got the best of show,' and I just couldn't believe it. It felt like it was like a dream until several days later I did get a letter of acknowledgment. I guess that was the biggest. Another thrill I had was when I entered my bicentennial quilt in Quilters Newsletter Magazine. You just sent a picture of your quilt and here they sent me an advance copy of [of the magazine.] for December 1976, and here my quilt was on the front page of that magazine. That was a big thrill for me. And then I've had several different shows. In 1993, they had a show in Peoria. They showed all of the quilts I had made so far, and they called it 'in retrospect.' Then later on I had a quilt show here at one of the local art museums. Those are places. My latest thrill was, I made a quilt for Rod Buffington. He was an artist here in town and he would draw pictures of quilts, and I made a quilt. I called it Logging Lincoln, and it has ended up hanging in the cafeteria at the Abraham Lincoln Museum. So that's some of my biggest achievements I would say.

[tape shut off for break.]

BW: Marian, I know you have won a lot of awards, are there any that's really special to you that you can tell us about.

MB: Well one of the quilts that I entered at a quilt show was seen by an editor of Quilting Today and she asked me to send that in for photographing for her magazine. It was a bird quilt. I call it Birds of the Midwest. My daughter had designed the quilt with a tree in the center and then I had all different embroidered birds all the way around it from around this territory. It was more or less an educational quilt too. So, I said, 'Well I'll send it in to you.' It was maybe a week or so later I had a call from this editor, and she said something happened to your quilt. I said 'well, what?' Well, she said when the photographer had it out and was photographing it, a bird do-do'ed on it. She said the photographer said, 'Well it knew one of its kind.' And so that's what happened to it, but she was very apologetic, and I said, 'don't worry about it.' And so, they sent it to a quilt restoration place, and they did take most of that out of there. But if you look real close at the quilt you can see one part that's just a tiny bit faded. I always get more pleasure out of telling that than I did that my quilt might have been ruined.

BW: Do you ever teach any classes?

MB: I never teach, mostly just one on one, somebody will come and ask me when I demonstrate at quilt shows and anybody that come and asks me questions, I'm glad to help them. I never do it for pay, just to help somebody out when I can.

BW: OK can you tell us how many quilt clubs you belong to?

MB: I belong to 2 of them right now. I used to belong to Land of Lincoln Quilters, but they meet out of town, and I don't do much highway driving at all. I belong to the Q.U.I.L.T.S. guild in Springfield, but I don't get to all those meetings because I no longer drive at night because I am 85 years old now. You can see to quilt but you can't really see to drive at night. And then I go every week to my church, Trinity Lutheran in Springfield, and there we quilt for other people. Lot of the quilts are from quilts their grandmothers have made or they have made them, and they don't want to quilt them, but they like hand quilting so we do the quilting for them. We use the money we make we help support a student at a seminary that's going to be a pastor and for other worthwhile projects. Those are the quilt guilds I belong to right now. And right now, our group is making world relief quilts which is a departure for the type of quilts I usually make because you don't have to worry about your sewing. Most of the work I do on them is machine quilting, I mean machine sewing together, we do that every week too so that takes away from my quilting time, but I'm happy to do it because I enjoy the companionship of the other girls who are working.

BW: Why do you enter your quilts to be judged?

MB: One thing is that once you get into that, then you think well maybe next year I'll do a little bit better which happens sometimes. But every time I make a quilt if I think I'm going to do it for judging if I don't like something, I will sit there and tear it, take it out because I think to myself a judge would see this and they wouldn't like it. So that's what keeps me on my toes. I guess one reason why I got into entering contests was that one of my mother's favorite sayings was 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' so that's what I sort of go by. It's always when I know the state fair is coming up and I'm going to enter something there it gives me another purpose in my life.

BW: Do you have a certain way that you think about designing a quilt, or do you have something that inspires you, you see a certain picture that you like--

MB: All the quilt magazines and catalogs that I get I'll look through, oh I like that one, you know, and that makes me want to do something like that. I've been to a number of different workshops. A lot of people think well they don't like to go to workshops but usually I'll go to any of them because no matter what you always learn a little something from them.

BW: How many quilts have you made in your life, any idea?

MB: Well not all of them are bed size, then I made quite a number of other ones I never counted, but quilts and wall hangings and baby quilts I think I'm on number 115 now. I always aspired to make 100. But now I keep praying that the Lord will give me my good eyesight, and my use of my hands, and that I'll be able to make a few more yet before--

BW: How may are Baltimore's?

MB: I've made 9 different Baltimore type quilts. When Elly Sienkiewicz first did her books, she thought it was great if you ever made one in your life. So, I still like those type.

BW: Okay, well Marian, we really appreciate you spending your time with us and helping us with this project. Marian is there anything you would like to add to this interview?

MB: Can't think of anything now except that that I do hope that I'll be able to still keep quilting.

BW: Well, we certainly hope you can too because you do beautiful work, and we enjoy seeing it. So, we would like to thank you again for allowing us to interview today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 2:25 on January 23, 2008.


“Marian Brockschmidt,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024,