Margaret Blandford




Margaret Blandford




Margaret Blandford


Kate Kleinart

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Carolyn Mazloomi


Louisville, Kentucky


Kate Kleinart


Kate Kleinert (KK): This is Kate Kleinert, and I am interviewing Margaret Blandford for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project in Louisville Kentucky and it is 3 o'clock on November 8th, 2005. So, first Margaret tell me about this quilt that we're looking at today, who made it, and can you describe it for me?

Margaret Blandford (MB): This particular quilt is the very last one that I made and quilted. And the way I got started, [inaudible.] the way I got started in quilting I was over at my sister-in-law's one day and she was showing me all the pretty quilts she had made, and I just made the remark, 'I sure wish I could do that.' And she said, 'Well the way you sew there's no reason in the world why you can't do that.' So, she said, 'I'd be glad to show you how if you'd like to get started.' And I said, 'Oh I would love to.' So, she came over to my house one day then and brought the materials and things and got me started doing just little, little pieces as a practice project. And then I guess the very first one I did I bought a quilt kit. And the first one I did was cross stitch and that was all marked out on a big beige or white I don't remember which. And all I had to do was make the little cross stitches to make the design on it. And then it was also marked off in little blue lines exactly where to make my little stitches to quilt it. And of course, my first one my little stitches weren't exactly little they were a little on the long side [laughs.]. But the more I did it the shorter they got so by the time I started my next one then it looked much better than the first one I did. That's the way I actually got started.

KK: Okay.

MB: But I was glad to get started anyway.

KK: So, you want to tell me, describe to me this quilt here.

MB: This one that we're talking about now is the very last one that I made and there is a big improvement on it from the one the very first one I did. So that is the one that I am using on my bed today because it is the one, I prefer. My oldest daughter already has her name on it. And it is an appliqué quilt, and it is quite different from the cross stitch in fact it takes much longer to do an appliqué because you have to cut out all the little pieces and then turn the little edge under and whip them down on all these little spots on the big white background. And then it also is marked off with the little blue lines where to quilt it. And like I say the stitches on it are much shorter than the ones on the first one because I had had more experience doing it. And it is being used on my bed and the plans for it, goes to my oldest daughter. Each one has picked out the one they would like to have, and she said it didn't matter to her which one she got so she ended up with this one. And it is the one I would have picked in the first place. So, I think she ended up getting the better quilt by waiting last and taking the one that was left.

KK: Can you talk about the colors and the pattern?

MB: The colors naturally it has green leaves and I think it's considered a Dogwood and of course most of the other colors are pink and then the green leaves. And it makes a very colorful quilt. The stems of course are green, and the flowers are mostly pink.

KK: And the background?

MB: The background is white. And then of course all in between is quilted in between the appliquéd pieces on the quilt is all white.

KK: Okay.

MB: And it has a white backing, the backing is also white. And then it had very thin like a cotton in between it for the filler.

KK: Okay, now let's talk about how you started quilting. What first made you interested in quilt making?

MB: My interest I guess was when I saw all the pretty ones that my sister-in-law had. And she had some beautiful quilts. And she was quite an expert on quilting. And I think seeing hers and knowing that she could do it I thought well I think maybe I could do that. So, she convinced me that I could. [laughs.] So that's what actually got me started was her help and influence on the quilting.

KK: So, when did that happen? How long ago?

MB: Oh, that must have happened at least 35 or 40 years ago when I actually started quilting.

KK: Ok. And what age did you start making quilts? Like did you do it when you were younger?

MB: Yes, I started when I was a child. But of course, back in those days they didn't quilt they tied quilts. And we lived out in the country, and we didn't have money to buy new material so we cut up old skirts and old dresses and just any kind of material we could find and get a hold of. And cut it up into little squares and we called it making a nine-patch quilt and we would put enough squares together to make a big square and then we'd sew the big squares all together. And then back in those days I don't know if anybody quilted or not, but my mother didn't. We tied ours with thread. We had a big frame we called it our quilt frame and we would attach the quilt to that frame and then use a thread and tie it in each corner to hold the top of the quilt to the bottom. And we used for the bottom just any kind of material we could find. In fact, a lot of times we used like an old blanket because that made the quilt warmer. And back in those days with living out in the country in the cold and one stove in the whole house we needed a lot of quilts. So, we made just plain old quilts for warmth was the idea back then where now today the ones that I'm quilting are made more for beauty and wall hangings. So, it's all together a different reason for making them.

KK: So, did you usually make the nine patch quilts, or did you make any other types?

MB: Well back then we usually made either the nine patch or we also made what we called a crazy quilt we'd just take the material and just sew it together any which way and then cut it out and make it into a square and then sew the squares together. We also used old neck ties. We'd turn them wrong side out because the top side was a little soiled and when we turned them wrong side out, they were pretty and clean. And they might not have been as pretty as they were on the top side, but the pretty bright colors were still there. And then we would sew that together and cut it into a big square. And then we used embroidery thread and embroidered around each one of the seams of that necktie and that made a beautiful colorful quilt.

KK: So, who did you learn to quilt from?

MB: I learned to quilt from my sister-in-law.

KK: Ok. But when you were little did your mom teach you how to piece?

MB: Yes, my mother is the one who taught me how to piece and how to tie. But like I said back in those days I don't know if anybody quilted then or not, but my mother didn't.

KK: Can you think of your first quilt memory either making or using?

MB: Well, I'm sure I don't exactly remember it but I'm sure it was the little nine patch. And we also made a lot of what we called baby quilts to go on the little baby crib. And of course, those were about a third the size as a big quilt, so it didn't take long to make them or tie them or put them together either. But we made a lot of baby quilts too. Just out of old material and anything we could find.

KK: Are there other quiltmakers in your family or your friends?

MB: Well, my oldest daughter [Carol Ford.] has done a little bit not a whole lot. She kinda likes to quilt and most of what she has done has been wall hangings. I think maybe she might have done one or two big quilts, but she hasn't gotten into it real big. And my youngest daughter [Susan Diemer.] would like to get into it but so far, she hasn't had the time so maybe one of these days when her kids get older, and she has more time she'll get into it. It's a good thing to get into.

KK: So how many quilts have you made?

MB: I have six that are quilted. And I have some others that I have made out of polyester and just cut out the squares and they have been tied like the old-time way. But I only have six that are what I call my good quilts and are quilted. And they have been each one of the kids have their name on those. My three boys and three girls they each have a quilt.

KK: Okay.

MB: They wanted to know when I was going to start on the grandkids, but I said, 'No there's too many. I'm getting too old and there's too many.' [both laugh.]

KK: Okay. What do you find enjoying or pleasing about quilt making?

MB: Well for me I can be a nervous wreck and go in there and sit down in the chair and start quilting and it relaxes me and calms my nerves down. So that has helped me a lot. And the biggest problem though was making up my mind when to quit. I'd get so far, and I'd think now when I get on up to here, I'm going to quit. And then when I'd get up there, I'd think well I think I'll do a little more and I ended up sitting up to midnight many a night then quilting when I should have been in bed. [both laugh.]

KK: So, did you hand piece and hand quilt everything that you've made, or did you use a machine?

MB: Everything has been hand made. No machine. No machine at all. Because that way we can say it was handmade and I think that means a whole lot. Especially if it was being handed down to me like from my grandmother or great-grandmother and she said she made it. It would mean a lot more to me than if she had sewed it on the machine. Because when you think about the time involved why you have to think about all that time that was spent. Now whether these kids are going to appreciate that or not remains to be seen. [both laugh.] But I would appreciate it.

KK: Okay are there any aspects of quilt making that you don't enjoy?

MB: No, I enjoy every bit of it. I mean there's not a thing that I don't enjoy. My hardest part was the appliqué turning that little edge down and getting it perfect. That was I mean I got to where I was doing pretty good with it but when I first started doing that that was my biggest problem was getting that turned down so it wouldn't stick out. But I finally accomplished it and the last two or three that I made then look pretty good.

KK: Okay. What do you think makes a great quilt?

MB: Well, I guess the time and effort you put on it and knowing that you're making it for somebody and hoping that they're going to appreciate it and make well of it make use of it.

KK: What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or special collection do you think?

MB: Well, I enjoy going places and seeing how other people have made them. And you always see something that you've never seen before as far as the design and that sort of stuff. And some of these quilts that I've seen in the museums are I don't know how many of thousands of pieces are in them, but they are tiny little pieces and it had to take an awful lot of time to cut out all those little pieces and then to quilt around all those little pieces. Now I don't know whether my patience would have lasted that long or not. [laughs.] But I admire the people that took the time and did those kinds of quilts because I can appreciate it because I know the time that was spent on them. Where the majority well people that don't quilt have no idea the time that is spent on one quilt? Because it is quite time consuming.

KK: Do you have a favorite pattern or colors or what do you think makes your favorite quilts?

MB: Well, I think the brighter the colors are the prettier they are because they show up better. But of course, that depends on the person. Because now the one quilt that my daughter-in-law chose is a light lavender, but she loves purple and lavender and it's not the brightest quilt of the six that I made but that was her favorite color so that's what she chose.

KK: What makes a great quilter?

MB: [laughs.] Time and patience. Cause it is time consuming very time consuming especially if you take the time and make the stitches little like they should be made. Cause I've seen quilts at places that they were asking an enormous price for that I would have been ashamed to put on my bed. [both laugh.]

KK: Why would you have been ashamed?

MB: Because the stitches were so long. I mean maybe they thought that was didn't matter. But it makes all the difference in the world in the length of those little stitches.

KK: Why has quilt making been important to your life?

MB: Well, it has helped my nerves for one thing tremendously and it gave me something to do that I thoroughly enjoyed doing. And I don't regret one minute or one hour that I have spent in doing my quilts. And I hope these kids appreciate them. [both laugh.]

KK: Do you think your quilts reflect your community or region?

MB: Well, I don't know about that because they're different designs. I don't know whether they'd reflect anything like that or not.

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

MB: I think it's wonderful. I think it's one of the better things that people could do and pass on through the generations. But I don't think there's enough of it being done anymore because for one thing it is so time consuming and people in this day and time don't have that kind of time that I had. Even though I had six kids I was I stayed at home, and I had more time to do it but the majority of the young people today they both work and they don't have the time to do it. So, it to me being able to do the quilting was to my advantage because I did have the time, or I took the time.

KK: In what ways do you think that quilts have special meaning for woman's history in America?

MB: Well, I just think the people that have done it, it has been such a part of them that it stands out. And like I say in this day and time it is very outstanding because there's not that many people doing it anymore. A lot of them are machine quilting and machine quilting is nothing compared to the hand quilting. I mean it's nice but to me it's nothing compared to the hand quilting.

KK: Why do you think so?

MB: Well, it's just thinking about the time that was put in them I guess is what I would refer back to.

KK: How do you think quilts can be used?

MB: Well, most people today are using them like for a wall hanging or like having a quilt rack and hanging them on their quilt racks. I think they're using them more for display and more for beauty than they're using them for warmth because they're really not all that warm because the batting in between these is not as heavy as what people used back in the old days when they made the little nine patch. Back then a lot of times we used a blanket on the back of it to make them that much warmer well you don't use blankets on these pretty ones. [laughs.]

KK: So how do you use your quilts?

MB: Mine I have one hanging up on a quilt rack [on the wall.] and I have three hanging on a floor one and I have one on my bed and then one of my daughters already has one. [laughs.] And she uses it on her bed what times she makes it up.

KK: So how so each of your children get a quilt?

MB: Each one has their name on one already. I mean they know which one they're going to get.

KK: Did they so they've already picked them out? Did they all come over one day or how did they pick them out?

MB: Well, they came in at different times and I just say, 'Now you all make your choice,' and I said, 'If the same choice is made by more than one then you'll have to draw a number or draw for it.' But I don't know how it happened but luckily out of the six they all picked a different quilt. [laughs.] So, we had no problem there whatever. Carol did say, 'I'll take what's left,' so that helped. But I had no problem in cause I told them I said, 'Now I'm not making up your minds or giving you, you know the one I think,' I said, 'You're going to have to do your own picking.' And it worked out fine because they all picked a different one.

KK: And let's see. I guess that's about all the questions I have. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

MB: Well, I'm just thankful that I got in with my sister-in-law and she convinced me that I could do this because after seeing what she had done I thought well if she can do that, I don't know why I can't so I'm just happy that she got me into it and that I got the experience from her and spent many a happy hour doing it. It was a great day for me [laughs.] when she got me into it.

KK: Okay. Alright well thank you. That concludes the interview with Margaret Blandford for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project in Louisville, Kentucky. [tape stopped and then started again.] It is 3:18 p.m.



“Margaret Blandford,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 24, 2024,