Audrey Sacharkiewicz




Audrey Sacharkiewicz




Audrey Sacharkiewicz


Julie Henderson

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Marlborough, Massachusetts


Julie Henderson


Julie Henderson (JH): [tape starts in mid-sentence.] ...Garden in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Today is December 29th, 2001. We're interviewing Audrey Sacharkiewicz. Welcome.

Audrey Sacharkiewicz (AS): Thank you.

JH: You're welcome. Now you've brought a quilt for us to look at today. What's it called?

AS: It's called Summer Dreamland.

JH: Let's see--for the tape, do you want to describe it? Because it is very pictorial.

AS: It depicts a woman on vacation alone, but you don't see the woman. It's just one towel, one dress hanging on a clothesline with a drink and a book on a blanket. And a little cottage with the door open, almost like she's gone in to get a sandwich. There are shoes outside the door.

JH: It's amazing, it's really--

AS: It's somewhere I might want to be.

JH: Did you have a particular place in mind when you were doing it? No?

AS: No, just to be alone.

JH: Just to be alone on vacation.

AS: On vacation! [laughs.]

JH: Terrific. Would you say this is representative of your usual style?

AS: No, this was totally new for me. I'd never worked with brights. I'd always worked mostly with scraps. For this I bought the fabrics and bought a group of brights and put them together. I kind of built it as I went.

JH: Do you often work with a pictorial image, as this one is?

AS: No, I had done another one, which was totally in scraps, which was a forest scene with a river. One of the scraps happened to be a man sitting on a horse and I built that into the quilt.

JH: I don't really know--is this appliqué, parts of it, or is this--

AS: Yes, there is some appliqué. This is hand pieced and hand quilted. I did appliqué some pieces but because I was hand quilting I cut away on the back. These pieces, the bigger pieces, I just put together with hand piecing.

JH: Great. Let's see, you've added--there's some stitching on top, and a little bit of beading. That's great. I like the way this ball goes outside of the quilt, and the kite, and the towel. They all go outside of the rectangle.

AS: Yes, that was to draw you in. It gives it the light and airy, trying to get away feel.

JH: Great. Are a lot of your quilts--this is like a wall hanging?

AS: Yeah, this is a wall hanging. I tend to keep it small because I want to get it done. Anything bigger I usually piece by machine, which is something I've started to do now. I've just recently mastered, semi-mastered, machine quilting. So now I might go big a little faster. [laughs.] This was about one of the first ones that I actually finished, because I made a list last year of anything that was outstanding at home, UFO's. [unfinished objects.] I had like thirty-six. Anything I had started in a class, I had done the class and worked on it, but never finished it. But then I noticed from my list that anything I had designed or created got finished a lot quicker. So then I tried to turn that around a little and get some stuff finished. Right before the show, we had a quilt show at the guild last year in October, I did get a lot of stuff finished around that time. It wasn't finished in time to get the paperwork in for the show. On the day, they weren't taking any extras. In fact, they had to turn people away. But I got two pieces in the show. This wasn't one of them.

JH: What inspired this quilt, do you think? Do you think there was something?

AS: My children, my three teenagers. At the beginning of the summer--not this year, the year before, 2000--I said to them when they got out of school, 'Well, what do you want to do?' 'We just want to watch TV.' You know, make a list of the stuff you want to do this summer. They handed me just a blank piece of paper each. They wanted to do nothing. So, I came up with a couple of things to do but then they didn't want to go. It was torture. So I just said, 'Fine, then we'll stay home.' They had stuff like summer school and places to go that were not places they wanted to go. So I stayed in my room and I said, 'Well if you don't bother me I won't bother you. Just make a sandwich, clean up, and as soon as I start seeing you fighting or getting unruly then I'll make plans.' They kept out of my way and I kept out of theirs. [laughs.] And I did this.

JH: Now this wasn't in the show…

AS: This wasn't in that show. But it did hang at the Women Who Run with Scissors show that they had down in the community house in Southborough [Massachusetts.]. One of the reasons--the Women Who Run with Scissors was right before the other show, and Mary [Walter, from Women Who Run With Scissors and owner of quilt store A Quilter's Garden.] was the judge of the other show. I didn't feel that it would be politically correct to have it hanging in her show and then put it in the guild show where she was judging.

JH: Oh.

AS: So I opted to keep it out and put a couple of things in that she hadn't seen. Two things that I had not brought up to the store ever for her to see, because I thought that was fair. Because people know I come here. They know that she sees a lot of my work so I didn't want anything said.

JH: Do you think a lot of people do that, [AS: No.] because a lot of quilters know each other, do you think a lot of people are careful like that? No? [laughs.]

AS: I mean, I don't think they do it deliberately, but I think that they don't think that way. I get in trouble for everything I do, so--[laughter.] I try and keep out of it as much as I can.

JH: Oh, you drew a little bit on this piece here.

AS: [inaudible. response is too faint to hear.]

JH: Oh, in the quilting, that's great. Wow. So now, when did you start quilting, how long ago?

AS: When I was a kid in school, I was about fifteen. I was in a sewing class and we had time, like study periods, and because I was behind on stuff like hemming, I was allowed to take it into the library, and sit next to the fire and sew. So I didn't have to go out on break or anything, you know, go out in the cold with the little kids. So I went and sat and I sewed and I got all my hemming done. The librarian was getting together a project where they were making hexagons pieced--and it wasn't a Grandmother's Flower Garden pattern, they were just putting them together randomly. I copied the pattern onto a piece of cardboard and took it home, and started cutting them out at home. We had a lot of scraps. Every parent was sending in scraps and sharing, and the teachers too were also bringing them in. So when I'd finished my hemming, I sat in the library and I basted the pieces of fabric to the templates, so that other people could sew them together. Then we started sewing them together when we had a huge box full. So we were making a quilt, but I forget what it was for. Maybe it was for the retiring headmistress or something. Then I had cut this template and had more scraps at home. So then I started making it at home, and that isn't anywhere near done. [laughs.] When my mother passed away a couple of years ago I brought it over here with me, and I actually pulled it out last week to look at it. It's a lot of memories and it's hard to actually work on because it was stuff from clothing when I was a child, pajamas and--so it's tricky.

JH: Yes. So that school, was that in this area?

AS: No, that was in England. So over here my quilting - I made a coverlet which was just pieced out of scraps randomly; any which way, any shape, any color. It was just what the children pulled on over themselves on the couch if they were sick or something, or cold. That one's pretty much destroyed, you know, Tide with Bleach. It got really gross and grubby; it was never meant to be an heirloom or anything. It was just a functional utility piece. I looked at it this morning and I said, 'Eh. Destroyed.' [laughs.]

JH: Do you use a lot of your quilts or are they mostly--

AS: They are currently still small. I'm working up and getting bigger. I have one that was a hand appliqué - tulips. I put it on the back of the chair in the living room, so that one is around and that's big enough to be used. But I also knit and crochet, so I have blankets and stuff around. I've never done a bed-sized, but I am working on a Welsh whole cloth quilt. I just pulled that out this week to re-mark parts of it where it had faded, the pencil line started to disappear. To go back a little bit--the hand piecing, the one that's trashed, I was making that when my son was a baby because I couldn't knit with the kids around. I could only use one needle. [laughs.] While I was knitting they'd keep pulling the needles out. I started to sew, and I found I could do that with them climbing over my lap and over my shoulder, you know, like a little family circus. Then I went to a show in Stow. The historical society had a show of old quilts. That's when I said, 'Well, gee, I can do that.' From then I started looking around. I knew somebody in the area must be quilting. Then eventually, I found this store.

JH: How long ago was that, that you--

AS: He was born in eighty-seven, that was when I saw the show. I've been a jack-of-all-trades in the sewing line, in knitting and crocheting, and wanted to kind of isolate myself to one area. So far, I've really enjoyed it. I've learned a lot, through classes and just from other people, just from different people around.

JH: And you're in a guild?

AS: I'm in a guild, the Wayside Quilters Guild. I haven't been to any of their workshops, but I pick up a lot of tips. There are a lot of people that bring show and tell every month. You know, they'll just hold up a quilt and just show you and you can go and ask them if you remember their face. You go and ask them, 'How did you do that?' You can pick up a lot that way. But I never could put more than two colors together. It's like putting your outfit together, isn't it? You know, okay, that looks good. [laughs.] Adding that third color, then adding a color that doesn't really go, but it looks good is very hard and I'm just getting it, just starting to get that. That's why I picked these out. These were in a bundle, these brights - the yellow, the green, I think this plaid was in there too. I picked those out. And this one. I knew they went together, but then I had terrible trouble trying to make the cottage. I didn't want to make it white-white. It did really tone the whole quilt down. This is very bright, but when you add the pale peach stucco in, it takes the edge off the brightness.

JH: Yes, so this was like a learning quilt.

AS: Oh, yes, everything becomes a learning--generally I use a lot of scraps. People want to give me their scraps and I'm very happy to take them. Because recently I've been collecting enough to make outreach quilts. I just make the top and then the guild, once a year, has a quilt-a-thon when we quilt the tops together to make quilts. We sandwich them and sew around them and put them inside out. So they're not quilted, and then they're tied. So I've been using whatever people give me to make quilts.

JH: So they're called outreach quilts? Are they given to people?

AS: They're given to charity. We work with Abby's House [an organization for homeless and battered women.] in Worcester, Mass. They're very happy to take them. They're looking for other places to take them. I think there might be something at Sylvia's Haven. They have low-income housing. They might be looking to bring some over there this year, because I've been prolific, if I do say so myself. [laughs.] Every month, I take a couple more. The first two weeks of summer this year I knew to let my kids alone, so I just sewed. I came home from the quilt guild with a stack of fabric. They were all looking at me like, 'Yeah right, she's not going to make quilts with that, that's going in her stash.' They were all wacky colors. So I did it. I made more than twelve tops, mostly baby sized. I used other people's fabric to try out a pattern, and if I find one I like I keep it going. Jacob's Ladder is a fun one to do by machine. It's just half-square triangles and four patches. That works out fine. I tried a Trip Around the World, but I don't think I'll be doing that one any time soon. A Railroad Crossing--I did it in browns, and browns are not my colors. It came out really nice, but I don't think I'll do that again any time soon. [laughs.] Maybe when I get to the bottom of the pile. [laughs.]

JH: Do you have a particular palette that you like--colors?

AS: No. I have some fabric picked out to make this pattern in purples. [Chinese Lanterns.] Another woman says, 'Those are my colors as I'm still buying purples for it-- it's going to be, like, a triple king.' [laughs.] But my bedroom has pastel curtains and I'm making a lavender whole cloth, but purple, I don't know.

JH: So, the purple cloth you're using one big piece--

AS: Yes, it's one big piece of purple. It's lavender. I think you call it orchid, so it's pinky lavender. It just has penciled in designs and you just quilt along those lines. That's going in my bedroom. That's been two years in the making. It might be done. It might be done for the next show [fall 2003.].

JH: Let's see. Do you have plans for this quilt?

AS: It's just in a drawer right now. Maybe when I paint my bedroom I'll hang it up.

JH: Is that how you store a lot of your quilts? Do you keep them in drawers?

AS: They were in a pile until my son decided he didn't want his bureau anymore. I said, 'Oh good.' I made space. I put it in the corner and I'm starting to store stuff in it and starting to organize it. I have done ones in one drawer, and undone ones in another drawer and then parts of done ones in a box in a closet. This summer, in the last six months really, I've been trying to get my room in order. It was out of control. I was doing too many projects at once. If I listed them now, I've probably got fifteen unfinished.

JH: How many hours a week do you think you quilt, in general?

AS: Solid quilting? You mean sewing and--

JH: Yes, just getting it together.

AS: A lot.

JH: A lot.

AS: I don't want to admit to that. As many as I can. But I-- like I was telling Stacy earlier, I have a phone that clips to my ear so I can talk on the phone and I can talk to my kids, I can watch TV and I can listen to a book and I can do a lot of things while I'm quilting. Then when my fingers get sore or it's not going right, I'll go fold laundry or do stuff like that. So I pretty much do most of the day. Most days, not every day. I can go the whole week without getting in there and doing anything and it doesn't thrill me, but--I have meetings in the evening so sometimes I don't do it into the evening.

JH: Is there a particular type of quilt that you prefer when you're looking around at other quilts, at a show or something? Do you think you tend more towards traditional or art quilts?

AS: Contemporary. I like contemporary. I like art. I admire the traditional but I like them done with fun fabrics and turn the traditional on its head, you know, and do it differently. There are so many good fabrics out there. If you do it some ways it can look old and boring, so I tend toward the contemporary.

JH: What do you think makes a great quilt great? Do you think there is anything--

AS: Any one thing?

JH: Oh, no, not any one thing.

AS: The fabrics really make it or break it. I've seen several quilts done, hanging in a show, and they could have all been done in the same class, but they look totally different depending on the fabrics. If you pick up the wrong fabric, I notice it. I don't really like it, so I'm sure they don't. It's really noticeable.

JH: With your experience in this quilt, you've found that it's something that's kind of--I guess it could be different for other people--but for you, do you feel it's a learning process, each one you do?

AS: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I don't think even the most experienced, older quilters will dispute that that they're still learning. They see other people do it in a different way. I don't go with the cookie cutter approach at all. A kit is a kit but you can do it in your own special way and change things around.

JH: So, since you do a lot of quilting and you've been doing it a while, do you think quilting has helped you get through difficult times, because it's there, and it's nature, do you feel that?

AS: It's cheaper than a shrink. [laughs.] It really has been my tranquility. I can shut myself off and be away from the hubbub of everything else going on, but still be there with the kids. I can be there when they need me, and I can drive them here and there and whatever, but quilting is in my heart. I can look at somebody's wallpaper and go, 'That'll make a good quilt.' It's always there.

JH: Is there is anything you don't like about quilting?

AS: Sore fingers. There are so many things out there that can help, so many notions out there that make quilting easier that I don't even need sore fingers except--I was quilting yesterday and put pads on two fingers and ended up using the third one. [Laughter] I don't think there is anything I don't like. I was having trouble "getting" machine quilting, and finally the whole time I was machine quilting the first quilt I said, 'This is better than tying.' It was for a baby, for a child. A tied quilt, if it gets washed too many times it comes apart. I was beginning to hate it, but the whole time I was going, 'It's better than tying, it's better than tying.' [laughs.] So, I got over that hurdle of hating it that way. My family doesn't like it, because it makes a mess. It's like, 'Oh your room is a mess.' But their room isn't any better.

JH: Do you think quilting has had an effect on your family, in general?

AS: Yes, my girls really come in and I'll catch them looking. I mean they don't want to be seen to be or anything, but they do look. They go, 'Oh.' I have one daughter who's really going to be an artist, I think. She really enjoys drawing and coloring and constructing stuff. She doesn't much enjoy sewing, but she has made two Halloween costumes--pretty intricate, for a beginner. She did them step by step with me. Quilting--I think they're waiting for their quilts. I know they're waiting for their quilts. They haven't materialized yet. I've got the top pieced for one of my daughters and it was a piece of art that she had drawn in an art book. I brought it down and showed Mary and she said, 'That's a quilt.' So, I went down to the Nashoba Blueprint, and they enlarged it and from that I cut pieces and pieced it. So, I can't wait. I really want to quilt that, but I don't know how I want to do it yet. I have to embellish it a little with threads before I get to the sandwiching quilt stage. It could come up pretty soon.

JH: That's great.

AS: My other daughter would just be happy with anything with black in it. My son, I don't know what he wants. He's still at the age where he might destroy it or spill something on it. I don't know what I'm going to do for him.

JH: Were there quilters in your family?

AS: No. I don't think there were, not that I knew of. My grandmother on my mother's side died the day I was christened, the day after. I didn't know her. I know there were sewers, because with the frugal side of things, they couldn't afford not to be sewers. My mother was a sewer. She learned to machine sew when I was a child. I did have a quilt, which was a whole cloth quilt. I think it was silk, but it got thrown away when I had replacement bed covers as a Christmas present. They were old, but they were soft and that's what I wanted to replicate when I was making the whole cloth quilt, but I couldn't find the fabric that felt the same. I was going around feeling all the fabric in the stores and I couldn't find the feel I was looking for, of that quilt I had on my bed as a kid. It was only disposed of because it was the sixties, and everything was modern and new and shiny and white and crisp and clean and anything old went bye-bye. I complained, and my mother said, 'Well it's gone now.' It really was gone. Sometimes she used to tell me things were gone, and they weren't--they were just upstairs in the back room. But she had this shocked look on her face like, 'I didn't think you'd miss it.' [pause for about five seconds.]

JH: Is there anything else that you'd want to add?

AS: I don't think so.

JH: This has been a fabulous interview. Thank you so much.

AS: Well, thank you for doing this, put the word out.

JH: Actually, we have more time. I was looking and there was a reflection, and I thought it was a little later. So, if you don't mind, I could ask you a few more questions. I'm not used to this watch. Let's see--on our checklist, the question: Have you ever participated in quilt history preservation, and you say yes.

AS: Mary had a quilt documentation day down here. I came down and helped out, doing the photocopying, I think, and the stapling. Everything was done in triplicate and people filled out a questionnaire on the documentation of their quilt. Some they had received from family members; if they knew any history it was also written down. The fabrics were dated and there was dating of the whole quilt. The youngest fabric in the quilt was the date of the quilt, unless you could prove it's later. It's not going to be older than the youngest fabric in it. It might have been started but it was never finished, unless it was repaired. I was here and we were hanging quilts and photographing them for the museum.

JH: Which Museum was it?

AS: In Lowell.

JH: Oh, the um--is it just called the Quilt Museum?

AS: Um--I'm not sure of the name. Mary will know. I haven't made it up there to visit yet.

JH: Really.

AS: I really want to go.

JH: Let's see here. Now, you've given some quilts as gifts.

AS: Yes. I actually got a picture from a friend yesterday. It was a late Christmas card from a friend who had been sick in England. I had sent her daughter--well, I had sent my friend, Jill, a baby quilt to be used for all of her grandchildren, because I'm not making one, for everyone, that her three daughters have. So, I said, 'This is Grandma's quilt, to have at Grandma's house for when the baby comes over,' figuring that she'll only have one baby over at a time. So, she thought that was a great idea. She sent a picture of the baby--what's his name, Lewis, I think--on the quilt. It's a flannel one, that's made out of Moda flannels. I had quilted it really badly. That was really what I hated, the early pieces of my machine quilting.

JH: It's Moda flannel? M-o--

AS: M-o-d-a. It's a brand. [JH: It's a brand.] It's a brand of fabric. They have fabric and they have flannels. They're beautiful fabrics.

JH: They are?

AS: Yes, yes. They come out with a range that coordinate. This was a little pack of fat quarters. There was a panel. It was different. It was obviously a child's print, but it didn't have too much white in the background. I always hate white on a child's quilt because it shows all the stains. This was all pastels, but strong pastels. It was like a Jack-in-the-box, and he was very stylistic in the design. There was an elephant, imagine an Indian elephant with the rope they have over it. It's kind of like that but printed in a kid's design.

JH: Oh, that's nice.

AS: With pictures all over it, and one of the pull along ducks, a drawing of that. It's really pretty. It was kind of unisex because it was a lot of pastel green and yellow and a little pink, and a little blue and orange. The whole range--even though it had pink in it, it wasn't so much pink in it that you wouldn't give it to a boy. So, the range was really nice.

JH: That's great. When did you come over from England?

AS: I came over in eighty-four.

JH: Oh, so very soon after that you started to get into quilting over--

AS: Well, I had done the hexagon stuff at home, a long chunk of it. I had sewn in between then; I'd been sewing stuff. But I'd always made stuffed animals and cushions and stuff like that.

JH: Did you join a guild right when you started?

AS: Here? That's just been recently. I didn't even know there was a guild--they don't list them in the phone book. [laughs] I had seen it in a little free paper. Mary had said-- I had come down here and she said I should go. I had been to a show. I had the seen the show advertised and I went to the show and asked how to join. So, it's only been a year that I've been going.

JH: So, when you started quilting before that, did you have a sense of a community before you joined or before you started--

AS: No. I figured they were out there somewhere, but I didn't realize how many were out there. I've spoken to people since, and they don't realize there's such community. They just think they're doing it alone. I had lived in Texas for six months when the kids were little and tried to find some kind of sewing group. There wasn't much going on, but it was a very small town.

[pause for about five seconds.]

JH: Did you have any more to add?

AS: I don't think so. You've picked my brain. [laughs.]

JH: this has been a great, great interview. This is Julie Henderson concluding the interview with Audrey Sacharkiewicz. It's 12:15-ish and thanks a lot.

AS: Thank you.



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