Ann Pitcher




Ann Pitcher




Ann Dykhuizen Pitcher


Evelyn Salinger

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Del Thomas


Albuquerque, New Mexico


Evelyn Salinger


Evelyn Salinger (ES): This is Evelyn Salinger, and I am conducting a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save our Stories interview with Ann Dykhuizen Pitcher. Today's date is December 11, 2008. It is 1:50 P.M. and we are at Ann's home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Hi, Ann. It is nice of you to do this interview today. Let's talk about, first of all, the quilt that you have chosen to represent what you have done. What kind of quilt is it?

Ann Pitcher (AP): It's the Log Cabin quilt. It's done in blue and beige, different shades of the blue, or prints of blue and beige. And I made this and put it in the Prime-Time Quilt Show, and it won the People's Choice Award in that show.

ES: What is Prime Time?

AP: Prime Time was done in Albuquerque at the State Fair grounds, and it was a big doing basically with people and companies exhibiting. They also had an art show and a quilt show in conjunction with this big Prime Time show.

ES: Can you approximate what year that was?

AP: Maybe '94, '95.

ES: What size is it?

AP: It's a queen size.

ES: Did you piece it by hand?

AP: No, I pieced it on the machine.

ES: And then the quilting?

AP: Hand quilted.

ES: Will you tell us about the hand quilting?

AP: I took it up to the Bear Canyon Senior Center and our quilting group all worked on it up there. We have between fifteen and twenty members in our quilting group, and we usually work on each other's quilts. That's what we do.

ES: Were you a founding member of the group?

AP: No.

ES: Were there some founding members there then?

AP: There's still, I think, maybe two who were there in the very beginning that are still with us.

ES: Who would that be?

AP: Madge is one and I think Ona is the other one--and Jo. But Jo doesn't come any more.

ES: And how did you hear about this quilting group?

AP: The first year that we moved here, my daughter came from South Carolina for the Balloon Fiesta. And she and our youngest daughter that was living here at the time decided that they wanted to go over and see the Prime Time show and the quilt show. And when we went over there, they just happened to go past the table where the Bear Canyon Quilters were selling raffle tickets on their raffle quilt that they made every year for the Senior Center. And the girls looked at me and said, ' Well, Mom. We've got something now that you can do when you get everything settled in at the house. You need to come over and start quilting.'

I had never quilted in my life. I've done all the sewing from day one. I made my own clothes when I was in school, made the children's clothes, but I had never quilted. And finally, about in February--this was in October--our youngest daughter said, 'Okay. Nola is very upset that I haven't been pushing you. So, I came over this morning to go over to the Senior Center and sign you up for the quilting.' And I said, 'You can't do that without me.' She said, 'Oh, yes I can.' I said, 'Just a minute. Let me get some clothes on and I'm going with you.' I went with her and that was the beginning.

ES: At this point you are essentially the leader of that group. How long have you been doing that? Or how did that happen?

AP: I just got stuck with it. [laughs.]

ES: And your chief responsibilities are--

AP: Make sure that things run smoothly, as smoothly as possible with a group of women. [laughs.] Our group is wonderful, so I don't have any trouble.

ES: It seems as though you spearhead these raffle quilts every year.

AP: Yes.

ES: Will you explain that a little bit.

AP: Well, the city of Albuquerque has just a small budget that goes to the senior centers. That doesn't supply everything that is needed and that can be used and so we make a raffle quilt every year. We sell the tickets and all the money that is made from the raffle quilt is turned back to the Center to be used by the Center for whatever needs to be purchased, not just for the quilters, but for anyone in the Center. Right now, the Friends of Bear Canyon decide who gets the money and how it's going to be used.

ES: And the themes for those quilts?

AP: They vary from one year to the next. The bestselling raffle quilt is the Southwest design and that really goes over very big. But when we have one of our quilters that passes away and the children or the husband have no use for the material, they bring it over and say, 'Can you use it?' We make a quilt out of that material using it to make the raffle quilt for the following year--in memorial.

ES: That's very nice. And what are the patterns you generally use?

AP: We have to do something that is in appliqué when we do the group quilts and so it depends.

ES: Tell us why it has to be appliqué.

AP: If you are doing piecing quilts, every machine is a little bit different, and everybody pieces just a little different. And if you are just an eighth of an inch off or a quarter of an inch off, it can really make a mess and you have to either rip it out or start all over and cut it all down, whatever. And so, if we cut the squares and then people have to appliqué and not everybody does appliqué, but everybody has a part in the quilt because they can all do the quilting afterwards. The quilt is put in up at the Center after it is put together and then the members all take a turn at quilting on it.

ES: It is interesting that you have these quilts at the Center. How are they stored?

AP: We have a big cabinet in our room. This is our room. It's used by everybody else, but the cabinet is ours. It is a locked cabinet, and we work on each other's quilts. Our names go on the list and then as our name comes up, we bring a quilt in and we sandwich it--that's putting the back, the batting and the top together--and then we put it in a frame, and everybody takes their turn quilting on it. And we all quilt on each other's quilts.

ES: About how many do you do at a time?

AP: We have seven frames.

ES: That's unique thing. I've not seen that anywhere else.

AP: It works real well. There are some people that really don't like to have other people work on their quilts, but those people don't need to bring them in. If they've got a very special quilt, then they don't need to bring it in, because they can just do that at home.

ES: How long does it take to do a quilt like that, with only once a week?

AP: It usually takes about--oh, well, it depends on the size obviously and how much quilting--but I would say your name comes up about every year to a year and a half. It works out pretty nice.

ES: We all quilt differently, I notice, but it somehow comes out all right.

AP: It does not show when you have a quilt, a big quilt, and you hold it up. You cannot see the differences.

ES: Well, that's a very nice system. Would you like to tell us about your early quilts? How did you get started on your first quilt?

AP: When I first started, I decided I was going to make quilts for my seven granddaughters. I was trying to find something, some kind of material that would be good for the girls to have. I didn't want to have things put away until later. I wanted them to be able to use them on their beds now. And so, I was trying to find some material that was appropriate for young girls and something that they could keep and use later on as well. And I finally decided to use the miniature Dutch doll material. Well, I got it home and couldn't figure out what I was going to do for a pattern, because that did not lend itself real well for squares or triangles or appliquéing on top of it. It was just something that was all over pattern anyway. And I finally came upon--well one of the gals in our group brought a quilt in that was called the Drunkard's Path pattern. And I thought, 'That's what I'm looking for.' So, I decided that I was going to do the Drunkard's Path using the little Dutch Doll pattern as one piece of the square and a plain material as the other part of the square. And then, after you get--I don't know how to describe it--there's a big curve in it, but it makes a square and then you can put the squares together in different patterns, which is exactly what I did. I made four different ones.

ES: And using a different contrasting color for each of them?

AP: Yes, using different colors for the different ones and different designs. I put them together in different patterns. And that's how I got started and I thought this was a crazy thing to start with, trying to do these fairly small squares. They're not big squares, but they're not real little squares and these curves, but I got it done and they looked all right when I finished.

ES: You had to have done that by hand, right?

AP: No, I did them on the machine.

ES: Oh, my. That would be harder.

AP: I tried it by hand, and it did not work by hand. I had a terrible time, so I finally decided, no, I'm going to do it by machine. Then the next quilt that I did, one of our girls had a get together at her home where she taught us how to do the Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt. And we were going to take a trip, a pick-up trip up to Alaska.

ES: Pick-up truck trip?

AP: Pick-up truck trip. [laughs.] Right. I wanted to have something that I could take along to work on, but I could not take a machine with me, so it had to be something by hand. At that point I did not appliqué yet. So, I thought when I got over to learn how to do this Grandmother's Flower Garden, I thought, 'That's perfect.' And so, I started making the little Grandmother's Flower Garden squares. It took me probably, oh maybe, eight years before I got the top done. I started with thinking I was going to make twin bed covers. We got rid of twin beds, so it became a queen size bed cover with a very, very wide border. [laughs.] But I got it done. It has not been quilted. It's still sitting in the closet waiting to be quilted.

ES: I hope that will come up to Bear Canyon pretty soon.

AP: You don't want that up there. [laughs.]

ES: Oh, really. I'd hear that Grandmother's Flower Gardens are notorious for taking a long time.

AP: They take a very long time.

ES: Unless you go on a long trip around the world. [laughs.] That was piecing and you have done some by machine and some by hand. When did you start appliqué?

AP: I started the appliqué when they did the first appliquéd raffle quilt up at the Center.

ES: And somebody else was in charge at that point.

AP: Yes. And then, I asked somebody how to do the appliqué and they were very gracious and told me that you just take small stitches and hide them underneath. I said, 'Oh, I can do that' and so since then I've been doing appliqués myself on some of my quilts.

ES: What part of the quilting process do you like the best?

AP: Probably figuring out what you're going to do--the colors and the patterns, putting it together. I think I enjoy that as much as any of it. But I do enjoy the quilting, too. I really do.

ES: Each process takes a long time. People don't realize that.

AP: Yes. I've also done quilts for my two oldest granddaughters. When the oldest one graduated from high school, she came to me when we went for her graduation and said, 'Grandma, I have a special request of you.' And I said, 'What's that?' She handed me a stack of T shirts and said, 'Would you make me a quilt that I can take to college and have to wrap up in while I'm studying, out of my high school T shirts?' Well, I had never worked with T shirt material, but I looked at her and I said, 'Okay. I'll try.' We got it done and she is to this day still dragging that quilt with her every time she goes anywhere--on a plane, in a car, any place she goes she grabs that quilt. Finally, her mother had to do some mending on it. She told me last summer that there were a couple of spots that had started to pull apart. I'm not surprised.

Her middle sister asked me last year when we went for her graduation if I would do the same for her. And so, she now has her T shirt quilt as well. And she is thrilled with hers.

ES: How do you sew them together?

AP: You put a backing on them. You press the bonding material to hold it in place.

ES: And then it doesn't have any problem sewing on the machine? Do you put sashing or other things in between?

AP: I did on the first one that I did and on the second one, I did not. Her T shirt designs were so large that--it was a huge quilt anyway just using the designs. And so I did not want to put the sashing in to make it any bigger. It still covered her single bed. It was more than a wrap around.

ES: It sounds like your family appreciates your hobby.

AP: Oh, they really do. In fact, I should tell you about my grandson. He was playing baseball and so I made him a quilt, just big squares, nothing fancy, with baseballs and gloves and plain material in between. And I had a couple of pieces left over. I made it large enough for his bed. He was coming for us to babysit with him. And so, I said, 'Would you like to make a pillow?' because we had been teaching how to do the quilting in some of the grade schools. Some of the Senior Center quilters had been doing this in some of the grade schools through the city. I had this pattern that was very simple, but I said, 'Would you like to do it?' Oh, he would. So, he cut the pieces out, he stitched them on the machine. He did the quilting to put it together. His mother had a meeting and so she was not here to see it and was not arriving until midnight. He was determined he was going to stay up because he didn't want me to show it to her. But he was so proud of that and it's still on his bed. He was about maybe eight or nine when he did this, and it is still on his bed.

ES: What are you working on at present?

AP: I'm doing a quilt that is a big square and it looks like it's in frames. I've got it in my frame here at home right now. It's almost done, but I have been working on this year's Center quilt and I kind of got behind on my own quilting. And then you know what happened after that.

ES: You could say it if you wanted. This is a documentary.

AP: Well. My cancer returned and so I've been busy going for chemo and doctors' visits for various scans and so forth, but it will get done eventually.

ES: Now you have a quilt around you at the moment. Would you like to tell about that one?

AP: The first time that I had cancer, my quilting group--two of the girls made a quilt for me to keep me warm while I was at home recuperating following the surgery. And each one of the members wrote on the quilt and so I'm using that this time as well and it's keeping me toasty warm.

ES: It's so nice to have something like that.

AP: Yes, I treasure it.

ES: As you look at it and you read the different people's names and their little messages that they've written to you, that's very nice.

AP: Heartwarming.

ES: You mentioned that you have done some teaching. Will you elaborate on that?

AP: We just went to the--usually it was about fourth graders. We went one hour a week and worked with them. The students had to make their patterns and then they had to cut their material. It was interesting. They had used scissors to cut paper, but using scissors to cut material was an entirely different thing. And they would get so frustrated, but they all did it and when they finished, it was remarkable how proud they were and how good the pillow covers looked. Some of the color schemes that these kids brought in and picked out, you would look at them and think, 'Oh, my sakes. Are they sure they want to work with that?' But it was cute when they got it done.

ES: Did they do it on machine or by hand?

AP: No, they did everything by hand. They sewed. What we did was what they call the Hole in the Barn Door. It had the largest square in the center and two triangles on each of the four corners and two rectangles between the triangles that formed the square in the corner. The rectangles were in between. So, they brought in a little of their math along with having a good time.

ES: How did they get the fabric?

AP: Most of them brought it in. They had their mothers go out and help them and they picked out what they wanted. There were a few that either could not afford to do that or that forgot, so we always had some extra material. I believe that the batting and the backing came out of the city budget.

ES: Then who sewed the pillow together--the whole outside?

AP: We did that. [We bought premade pillows. We sewed 'envelope' backs out of muslin and then sewed the covers together. When they got home, they just needed to slip the pillows inside the covers.] They made them for their mothers, for Christmas, for birthdays, for their grandmas or if they had a special friend, an adult that they really cared for. It was interesting to hear their stories because they were so proud of them when they did them.

ES: And you did it over a series of years?

AP: Yes, we did several years, and then they discontinued the program through the city.

ES: You are also quite active in the charity quilts that you work on.

AP: We do the Ronald MacDonald quilts and they hand them out to the children who stay at the Ronald MacDonald House here in Albuquerque. We do various quilts for that. And then we do Christmas stockings that we take over for that.

ES: And what do you do with the stockings?

AP: We take them over to the Ronald MacDonald House and they have other groups that fill them. We just bring them in. We used to make them by hand but then we discovered that we could buy them for a dollar at the Dollar Store and they were prettier than what we were making. And so we've been doing that lately because our ladies, a lot of them are getting too old to do some of this extra stuff.

The other thing we've done, we've made the dolls for the Children's Hospital. These are just muslin dolls--a head, two arms, two legs and a body. No face, no nothing. And they hand them out when a child comes in and is expecting to have surgery or whatever. And the nurses and the doctors work with these children and show them where they're going to have a shot. They have the toy shots, so they give the doll to the child and the child can give his doll a shot while he's getting his shot. And they show where if they're going to have surgery, they show where it's going to be, and they either will draw the line on the body or wherever it is going to be. Or they will let the child do the drawing and then the child can go ahead and draw a face on it, whatever they want to do. It's their doll and they use that as a teaching tool so that the children know what to expect when they go into the hospital and have to have something done.

ES: Do you make those dolls yourself?

AP: We've done that three times now. We make maybe two hundred and fifty or three hundred at a time. There are several groups that do that. And when they get low, and the other groups have taken their turn, they give us a call. They furnish the material and all we do is just cut them out, sew them up, stuff them and then take them over. They come out with big wagons to pick them up.

ES: That's pretty nice. I haven't seen that yet. Do you have a preference of machine quilting versus hand quilting?

AP: Hand quilting.

ES: Why is that?

AP: I don't know. I think it's because you see these machines that they've got now. And if you do the machine quilting and you've got a big quilt, it is very difficult to maneuver on a regular machine. That would be the second best. But these huge machines that they have that are computerized and they put the material in, they put the thread on it and then they push the buttons, and they walk away and do whatever they want to do, and they come back, and the quilt is quilted. That's not quilting. That just is not quilting--not in my mind.

ES: Is there any other quilting story or some things you enjoyed over the years that you'd like to tell about?

AP: Since I've gotten started, I've done so many wall hangings. I did a wall hanging for my husband three or four years ago, Southwest design. We had done that one into a quilt size for the raffle quilt and I did just the wall hanging size for my husband that year. It is a nice wall hanging. And I've done smaller ones. I've done a quilt for my daughter-in-law, for my daughter, for three of my grandchildren. I've got a couple more done, but I haven't given them to them yet. I've done small quilts for the boys. I've got two grandsons and I've done smaller quilts for them and various wall hangings.

ES: Have you kept track of what you've done? Do you keep photos in albums?

AP: I've got pictures of most of the quilts, but I do not have pictures of the wall hangings. I did one square for each of the grandchildren with a black cat and a white cat and you turn it one way and the black cat is on the top and the white cat is upside down on the bottom. And you turn it around the white cat is on the top and the black cat is on the bottom. And I did one of those for each of the nine grandchildren.

ES: Oh, my. Are they wall hangings or are they pillows?

AP: Some of them had them hanging up. One of them used it as a blanket on her doll and took it outside and it got rained on and muddy. That was when I decided I think I'll wait and give that group their quilts when they get just a little bit older. But the other ones have got their quilts.

ES: Do you quilt almost every day?

AP: I do when I can.

ES: How many hours can you put in, in a day if you want to?

AP: It all depends on what I'm doing.

ES: Some of our friends go from eight in the morning to eight at night.

AP: I know they do. I don't really do that. I have to stop and get dinner because I have family here. But I enjoy my quilting. I really do.

ES: Do you do other crafts? Did you do other crafts, before?

AP: I've done sewing. I did paper flowers when that was the craze. I did macramé when that was the craze. But really my quilting is my big thing, sewing and quilting. I've done quite a bit of knitting. When the children were small, I did all their mittens and sweaters.

ES: With five children, you've been very busy. Now how many grandchildren do you have?

AP: Nine.

ES: Do you have any advice for new quilters?

AP: Just be very patient. And your stitches--it's very interesting. When you look at your quilts that you have completed, you can almost see, 'I did this in the early morning when I was fresh, and the light was good. I did this area later on in the day when I was probably a little more tired and it was darker. And I couldn't see as well.' And you can tell when you were really following the lines, you have to mark your quilts with a design and you follow the markings, usually. And if you did not mark it so that you could see it well, your lines are not going to be straight. And if you use a crooked needle, your lines are not going to be as straight. So, it's interesting. Be patient and don't worry about it, because when you finish, it'll look beautiful. That's the main thing.

ES: Have you ever sold any of your quilts?

AP: No. I've just given them away.

ES: Any preference for patterns?

AP: No. I just like a variety. I've done two duplicates. One is the Drunkard's Path. And I did that in different colors and then I put them together in different patterns. But the squares were the same. Then the other one that I did is the one that I'm working on now. It's almost like a square within a window. And then you sew the larger square, the frames together. I've done two of those--two different colors. One of them my granddaughter has and the other I'm working on. Then I did a duplicate of the Center quilt that we did with the flowers. Instead of doing two of those the same, I did a larger flower on a larger square and I'm doing the flower then a plain square then a flower then a plain square. But it's basically the big flower that's in the center of the other quilt.

ES: Is there anyone in your family that has quilted before you?

AP: My great aunt, my grandmother and my aunt, they were a farm family.

ES: On which side of the family?

AP: They were on my mother's side. And they all lived on the same farm. My great aunt lived in the homestead and when my grandmother married my grandfather, they built a home just across the driveway on the same farm area. And my aunt and uncle moved in with my grandmother after they got married because my grandfather had passed away and my uncle was going to take over the farm. They pieced quilts but they tied them. They did not quilt them.

And as a child, they all did it at my great aunt's house because she had the frames and the chairs that were just the right level to put the frames on. They would sit at the frames. The frames were large enough so that they set them in the center of the dining room, and they would all sit around. Different ones would come, and they would have their typical old fashioned quilting bee, but it was while they tied them. That's when I first learned about it.

It was when we got the twin beds for our first two kids, I made quilts for them, and I just pieced them very briefly and then I put a back on them and I bound them all the way around. And I took them back. We were out west at the time. I took them back to New York State one summer when we were going back and told my great aunt that I had brought a couple of quilts and I would like to have her tie them and I would like to help and learn how to do it. And I said, 'Can we set up the frames, and do it?' Well, my aunt came over, my grandmother came over, and they took one look at me, and they said, 'You've got to be kidding. You don't do it this way.' I said, 'What do you mean, don't do it this way?' They said, 'You put the back, the batting and the top and then you tie it and then you put the binding on it.' I said, 'Oh, no. Have I got to take all that apart?' And they looked at it and they said, 'Well, normally we'd say 'yes.' But you did do a good job and it looks like it's going to work fine. It's not going to have wrinkles and so forth. You must have been very careful.' [laughs.] That was my first experience.

As a child I used to go and as you've heard a lot of people say, play under the quilt while they were doing the quilting. And I used to do that because they used to come over and have a regular quilting bee.

ES: Great. That's a good story. You've lived in lots of different places. Did you do crafts or gather ideas from different places that you've lived?

AP: For the most part, I kept busy with children. I did the sewing and I made curtains and drapes when we moved and the knitting. That was basically what I did until when the children were in school. And then I could have more free time to do some other things.

ES: When you talked about your grandmother and great aunt, where was that?

AP: That was in upstate New York, just outside of Saratoga.

ES: And what made you all to move to Albuquerque?

AP: We were transferred here from Milwaukee when my husband was in the Forest Service. We went from here to Brazil for two and a half years. And then came back and spent four years here. And then we were transferred to other places. And when Jack retired, he said, 'I know where I want to retire.' And I just looked at him and said, ' That's fine with me.' Because after being with him all these years, I certainly wasn't going to go someplace else that he wasn't going to be at. So, that's why we came back.

ES: Would you have chosen Albuquerque, yourself?

AP: Yeah. I love it here. We had lived in the Pacific Northwest; we grew up in the Northeast. We lived in the North central states, lived in the Southeast, and Southwest, and so we knew different areas. That's why we just knew, he knew.

ES: Do you have kids here, now?

AP: Yes. We came and one by one, they've all arrived either here or Colorado.
[tape stopped.] We have one here in Albuquerque with us, one in Santa Fe and then we have two up in Colorado. One's in Colorado Springs and one's outside of Colorado Springs just beyond Pike's Peak. And then our oldest daughter is in South Carolina. She married a veterinarian. While we were in Mississippi, he started his practice in South Carolina, and so she is stuck all by herself out there.

ES: This has been interesting. I have enjoyed hearing your story and thank you very much for doing this.



“Ann Pitcher,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024,