Maxine Groves




Maxine Groves




Maxine Groves


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Janet White & Friends


Columbus, Ohio


Kim Greene


**This transcript was created by QSOS volunteers and was reviewed and, in some cases, edited by the interviewee. It may not exactly match the audio recording. For citations and interview quotations, please refer to the audio-recorded interview.**

Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am doing a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Maxine Groves. Today's date is June 18, 2008. It is 3:16 in the afternoon, and we are in Columbus, Ohio at the National Quilting Association's Quilt Show. Maxine, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you. Please tell me about the quilt that you brought today.

Maxine Groves (MG): It has my name for it, it is called "Autumn Night" and the fabric is the thing. The leaf pattern and the starry background, the dark background, I just thought those two fabrics should go together. It is very modern compared to what I usually do. I'm more interested in traditional patterns or interpretations of traditional patterns, but this was fun to make. I noticed that men notice it. At Malabar Farm Festival, northeastern Ohio, it was hanging and more men would stop to look at it than women.

KM: Why do you think that is?

MG: I don't know. I think probably it is so bold, the statement that it makes. That I enjoyed making it. It was quick compared to some patterns. Of course hand quilted. All of my quilts are hand quilted. I don't have any machine quilted. I take that back, I do have two old ones that were just given to me before the 1900's that are machine quilted. This is one of my latest efforts, 2006, and I really enjoyed doing it.

KM: When did you start making quilts?

MG: I learned quilting when I was a child. My mother quilted and her mother lived with us and I learned from them. Then quite a long time, growing up, went to college, getting married I didn't quilt. The oldest quilt that we have is a doll quilt of Donna's that I made, do I dare say in the fifties [laughs.] for her doll crib. [laughs.] Then in the mid-seventies, 1970's, I got interested. I lived in Xenia, Ohio at the time and my mother had died and she was a farm woman, made her own dresses and I had two bags of her dresses that I brought home with me rather than see it go to the dump, and they sat around for a long time and finally I decided to do something with them. I made two quilts, two Wedding Rings. One for Donna and one for my son and that got me started again. After my husband died I did more of it, and then when we moved to Adams County, I really got into it. [laughs.] It just kind of grew and grew so that it really is a large part of my life.

KM: How many hours a week do you spend working on quilts?

MG: It varies. In the winter time a lot more than summer. I used to quilt with the stand up frame, but I don't do that anymore. I had the big frames I would quilt eight, ten, not continuous, nine, but anymore it is not that much, four or five or six. The summer varies, but in the fall it will be more.

KM: What do you do in the summer?

MG: [laughs.] Just came back from a nature workshop on writing. Birding, birding is a big part. Reading, genealogy. Just enjoying. I am piecing a Charm quilt right now and it goes very slowly. A Charm quilt has no two pieces of fabric alike and I have maybe two hundred pieces together and it will be done maybe in the winter.

KM: Do you machine piece or hand piece?

MG: It depends. If it has a lot of curves and set in points I do hand piecing. Used to do a lot more hand piecing than I do now, but anything that lends itself to machine I do it by machine. Strip piecing, you name it. Foundation piecing, it goes faster and it doesn't show. I like the hand quilting to show.

KM: How do you use this quilt?

MG: Got so many of them I don't use them very much. I alternate them on my bed. Donna, my daughter, takes them home and she uses them, but mostly they just decorate the shelves or the balcony. I have a big balcony where you can hang about four and that makes a nice change. I then have one that hangs in the living room so just move them around and enjoy.

KM: What do you find most pleasing about quiltmaking?

MG: The tranquility, the serenity that it gives you, the peace you find. That is the biggest point. It is the calming effect of, more so of quilting rather than the piecing, very, very satisfying. You sit there and quilt and think about all sorts of other things. But also the composition, the colors, the fabric, the pattern, you just find that you are progressing more and more. I have found that with our quilters too, we have a number of new quilters, three to five years, and it is amazing, amazing how they have developed in their use of color and what it does. A lot of us realize that we are artists even though we didn't think so before.

KM: You do define yourself as an artist.

MG: Oh yes I do. [laughs.] I didn't use to, I defined myself as a quilter but that has changed.

KM: Why did it change?

MG: Because of the depths and the threads and the development that you saw that you were making. The one thing I regret about it is that you, if you are going to do anything in depth you have to specialize and I specialized in traditional patterns, Patchwork, appliqué, all of those other things are out there and I do very little of them but I would love to be able to do all of them. [laughs.]

KM: Is there any aspects of quiltmaking that you don't enjoy?

MG: Probably the cutting out. But even with that, with rotary cutting especially with straight pieces or strip piecing you just tear it and go. That is the least desirable aspect to me. One more even than that is washing the material and pressing it, getting it ready. [laughs.]

KM: Do you do that all at once or do you do it as it comes in?

MG: I try to do it as it comes in, but sometimes I go to the shelf and find one that has that new stiff feel and what I'm working with are old pieces or fabric that has been washed, so you have to go do your thing.

KM: Describe the place where you create. Do you have a studio?

MG: Yes. I call it my playroom. [laughs.] It is upstairs; it crosses the end of the house. It has two double windows in the back over the woods and I'm in the trees then on the second floor and can see the birds come by, and bird watching. On either end there are shelves all the way across that for fabrics and so on. Of course, they are filled up and it runs out on the floor. I have two machines, three machines at the moment. Two Featherweights, one that belongs to my daughter, I keep one with black thread and one with light thread. [laughs.] That is one thing I don't like is filling bobbins, redoing the needle and I have an old Sears that I use if I've got really heavy material. I love the Featherweight because the stitch and it sits on an ironing board. There is room for it on one end and I iron on the other and I can work without moving, just turn from one to the other. I have a big table behind me for cutting out, another table over in that corner for quilts and accessories and that sort of thing. The beauty of it is when I leave it I can just close the door. A lot of women have to clean up, clear out, but it is always there waiting for me just like I left it, which isn't good sometimes, it gets kind of stacked up.

KM: Are you a messy creator?

MG: Yes. When I first started out I was very neat. I would work with something and put it back in its place, but not anymore. I have to shuffle and push and find sometimes until I straighten it up again.

KM: What does your family think of your quiltmaking?

MG: My daughter [Donna Sue Groves.] thinks it is great and she is my family. She is always bringing me fabric or patterns or suggestions. I'm hoping one day that she will spend more time doing it.

KM: That is very nice. Tell us about some of your quilt adventures.

MG: Festivals are probably the best. The people you meet, the questions they ask, the stories they tell you. Also, talking to a group of women, a group of quilters especially. I remember one in eastern Kentucky where the women had some of their things on display and you went around and talked to them about their quilts and their story, the stories behind the quilters are the things I like best of all. I can't think of any really great adventures that I have had of quilting per say, other than the people and the quilts and the stories. Our involvement in the Graveyard quilt has been probably one of the best stories related with quilts. We knew about the Graveyard quilt and knew there was, there are two copies of it. One top and one quilted version. The quilt top is in Ashland Museum. The quilted one is in Frankfort. They wanted us to come to a workshop and speak and we told them we would come if we could see the quilt, because it was stored away. Since that time, they brought it out, they put it on display once and now they have a grant from Kentucky to restore, not to restore it, but to stabilize it and they have also painted a version of it on the flood wall in downtown Ashland, and it is beautiful and that is probably most satisfying. We have also had Linda Lipsett who wrote the story of the Graveyard quilt. She has been to Adams County a couple of times and to get to know her, all of that research she spent from Pennsylvania to Ohio to Kentucky was quite rewarding. That is probably the best quilt story.

KM: Share a little bit more of it.

MG: [laughs.] Well.

KM: How did you find, how did you become involved?

MG: We read a book [Linda Otta Lipsett, "The Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell's Graveyard Quilt: An American Pioneer Saga."] and knew about it and Donna of course researched Linda on the Internet and found out that she was native of Dayton, Ohio and came back to visit her mother and grandmother, and she did shows. She was available in the summer in the Ohio area. She came back to visit her mother. Out of that, Donna got her to come to Adams County to do her show and then Monroe County, a second show another year, and they were hoping to get her to Ashland, but her mother was in poor health so she didn't get to come to that this year. Really remarkable woman and even more remarkable husband. He makes display frames for her, helped her with all that packing and moving and so on. Just a delight. [laughs.]

KM: Tell me about your Bob Evans Show.

MG: That is another one that just kind of grew. They were interested in starting their quilt trail in Gallia County and since they knew I was a quilter and part of it, they wanted to know the possibilities of a show and invited, well they asked to come over and see my work, and they came on one day but it was snowing like mad. [laughs.] They planned to come and spend some time, but they came and looked and went. [laughs.] Then said we would like to do a show and it opened the first of May 2008 and runs through December and in the old farmhouse and very well done and it shows a lifetime of my work. They had done some shows before so it was set up, in the kitchen part of it you see a life size person of Bob Evans and his wife and behind them is my Pickle Dish quilt that just catches your eye. Then-- the upstairs showcases open closets hangings, window sills, just a lovely, lovely exhibit and I never thought that in my time that I would have that kind of exhibit. I have had one in Ashland that had nineteen quilts that were hanging in the lobby of a hotel. Nice show, but nothing compared to this.

KM: How many quilts do you have at the Bob Evans Show?

MG: Probably forty-five and some wall hangings, foundation piecing, also crocheting and knitting pieces. Crocheted bedspread, two whole cloth white quilts, a lot of Patchwork.

KM: Is Patchwork your favorite?

MG: Yes, Patchwork is my favorite.

KM: Is there a particular pattern that you like the most?

MG: I like the old traditional patterns. I can do different things with them, interpretation, but I like the old ones. I like Drunkard Path. I have done at least five quilts, different versions of Drunkard Path itself, the sampler that had twenty squares all different using those same two pieces. After that I would say Nine Patch, there is so much you can do with a Nine Patch that are not just squares but are square. Those are probably my two favorite patterns. I should say Snail's Trail because that is what is on our barn [laughs.] but we do have one beautiful old Snails Trail quilt that is four squares for the entire quilt and is made out of mourning prints, little tiny gray and white prints, turn of the century and of course it is fabulous. Just a little fourth of a square the Snail's Trail is on our barn. That is probably my favorite quilts pattern.

KM: How many old quilts do you have?

MG: Probably fifty or so. Donna traveled quite a bit in Ohio and the Appalachian section. She brought me quite a number just the tops. One of my favorites is Cornucopia or Bride's Bouquet. The little squares are that are red are just as bright today as they were. I was able to match the reds with a border. What else? A number of them are already quilted. One that has great big trumpets, morning glories in orange and it was done in Alabama and it is a signature quilt, a family quilt. One that she found in the attic in Xenia, Ohio called. We called it the Borden quilt, probably the oldest quilt I have. It is just a one patch, and it wasn't quilted and we decided to go ahead and quilt it

KM: How old is it?

MG: I would say it goes back to at least the 1880's, 1890's.

KM: Have you ever used quilts to get through a difficult time in your life?

MG: The quilting itself, and a lot of times when you are worried about something or we had any deaths in the family and they have been used for comfort. I collect quilt stories and a number of them have been used in making quilts from some clothing that is left or even for the coffin, the liner for the coffin. Quilting has helped them through those kinds of times. As I said, it has gotten me through many a worrisome time.

KM: What do you think makes a great quilt?

MG: Great for who? For me or for the beholder?

KM: We can do both.

MG: For me the greatest quilt I've got is the one I made from my mother's dresses. For other people, pattern and color has a lot to do with it, the Pickle Dish that I mentioned is really an eye popper. Some are just kind of tranquil and blend in, but others just really catch your eye. I've got a Burgoyne Surrounded in blue and white, traditional. First of all I made one that is modern, several colors and a black background and I liked it, but it wasn't what I wanted, it is contemporary.

KM: Do you have a large stash?

MG: Yes. [laughs.] On those shelves I have a lot of fabric on them; I have fabric that has been given to me, sixties, a woman who was a seamstress in Charleston, West Virginia. A friend in Lucasville, Ohio she never left home. She was born there and she died in the same house. She had a marvelous stash that she had from her mother and her grandmother and I inherited that. I have another person in Jackson, Ohio - Barbara, who is much more into the art sides and really spectacular fabrics. I have a lot of feed sacks. I've made two or three quilts using feed sacks. One Irish Chain, the same lady I was telling you about, Lucy, had given me a top. I was going to quilt it for her and I did and then she gave it to me finally. I liked the pattern so well that I made one out of feed sacks. I had enough of the yardage of the total feed sacks to make it really great quilt. So I have two of those. The other I think is a Pinwheel. The other one went for a lottery prize at the Appalachian Studies Association in Dayton. It went to Kentucky so it had a good home. I hate to let them go, but it had a good home. [laughs.]

KM: How many do you let go?

MG: Several. I have also done some on commission. A good friend, I've done two for him. Those aren't too bad to let go because you know you are making them to let them go. Not too many of the ones that I have made myself. Gave one recently to our good friend in Ashland, she admired it so. She was the one that did the show in Ashland, all the work. It was small, not very big; probably sixty by sixty inches.The squares were completed using old quilt parts. It was fun to make, I didn't mind too much since she had been so nice. Most of them go up on the shelf. [laughs.]

KM: What are your plans for your quilts?

MG: That is a big, big puzzle. We don't have any place in Adams County to take them. Ohio University used to have a collection of fabrics, but they don't have anything. We are hoping some day to find some place for them to go as a group rather than being broken up. What do you do? After dying and after I'm gone there is no one who? We don't have relatives to give them to so what do you do? [laughs.]

KM: Tough. Whose quilts are you drawn to and why?

MG: I like Nancy Crow's early work. I've not too enamored of her later things. The quilts of Gee's Bend, oh I love those. What is her name, black woman who started the international?

KM: Carolyn Mazloomi.

MG: Carolyn Mazloomi, who she pictorial quilts. They are fantastic. She has one of the Billie Holiday with that white orchid in her hair, I just love that one. I admire that kind of work, but it is not something I would do myself.

KM: That is okay.

MG: I like the Amish quilts, the old Amish quilts are the best, but the new ones that they do for the English don't have the pizzazz that the old ones do. I have an Amish friend, Susan Hochstetler who made me a wall hanging. It is a large size wall hanging of the mountains in the background and the sunset and the horse and rider in the front with cactus on either side and a coyote down in the foreground. She put it together and I quilted it and I like that. Can't think of any other quilters per say. Those are the ones that I admire most particularly Mazloomi. She is a self taught quilter that amazes me. She tells the funniest story about batting. She came from a family of teachers who didn't quilt and when she got ready to quilt she went to the drug store and got medical cotton roll. She said she went back so often and got more rolls and more rolls, and the druggist finally said to her, 'You really should go to the doctor.' [laughs.]

KM: That is a good story. What kind of batting do you use?

MG: Depends on what you want, if you want it fluffy you use high loft, I use mostly traditional and if it is really a special quilt, cotton. It has a feel that you don't get with the synthetic. Just depends on what the use is going to be.

KM: What do you think about machine quilting?

MG: It is alright.

KM: What do you think about long arm?

MG: Oh, we have a lady in our quilting group that is an artist with it. Years ago I went down to a friend's shop who had the long arm quilt and you just went across and across the same pattern, but Carol does free hand. She can follow the design. She can create designs and just does beautiful work. It has its place, there is not a thing wrong with it. It is just not my cup of tea.

KM: Where do you see quiltmaking going?

MG: I think it is growing and growing, it is getting bigger and bigger. Young women are getting interested in it. It is a million dollar industry right now. It has grown so much and the new techniques, all of the different kinds of quilting, that appeals to a lot of women, like Stack and Whack, [registered technique by Bethany Reynolds.] slash and dash. All of those sorts of things and there are millions out there to try out. I keep going back to the old patterns and the old more conservative ways of creating. I love the foundation piecing and I still do a good bit of that. Animals, you can get an effect that you can't get any other way, although I have one tea towel that Donna brought me that is a butler and a maid and he has his nose up in the air and she has on little high heeled shoes, best piece of appliqué I have ever seen on a tea towel.

KM: In what way do you think your quilts reflect your community and region?

MG: The patterns. They reflect particularly the thirties, the patterns of the thirties. Those are the ones that mother used, those are the ones you see mainly in southern Ohio, northern Kentucky or throughout Kentucky really. They are the old tried and true. Although the Dairy Barn, Athens has been very innovative in contemporary quilts, art quilts with Quilt National. They are the old tried and true. I think my quilts and the quilts of those around me reflect our background. In traditional quilts, we use patterns that came to us in magazines, newspapers, from our neighbors. That is completely different from Gee's Bend for example. They have some of those traditional patterns and you may see a touch of them. You also see complete innovation which has nothing to do with artistic training, but they come out wonderful. My quilts are just a reflection of where I live and my background.

KM: Tell me about your quilt group.

MG: Quilt group. [laughs.] It started because I went to another quilt group and I wasn't pleased and satisfied [laughs.]. It was a project of the month, block of the month, who could entertain, serve the best food or go out at the end of the business meeting. So, we had a chance to move into our community building, which is free to anybody who lives in the township. It has nice big tables, a kitchen area, restrooms, and we decided to start our own low organization. We don't take notes. We don't keep minutes. We do sign in and if you want to do something and there is interest in it, next time or two we will show them how to do a certain technique. Every time someone brings show and tell. That is always a big part of it. Maybe something they got at a garage sale. They bring their children and they are running around. One little boy, his grandmother was making a racecar quilt. He had a hand in that quilt and would stand there when she was showing it and tell you, 'I chose this and I like this, and this is car so and so.' The membership comes and goes. We may have ten, fifteen, twenty, not the same ones every time. They bring in new people and that's the beauty. We have one woman that came from a mental health group workshop. I had about ten, including two men, that were mostly non-quilters. She sewed but she didn't quilt. Her problem is depression and since that workshop she has been coming to the group. She has made at least four quilts and is not hesitant now about asking if she needs help with something. So that to me, to see those women who come and learn and progress and enjoy, and enjoy each others' company is important.

KM: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quilters today?

MG: Time. Demands, particularly if you have a family, children, small children. The distractions, TV, computer games and so on. The Internet can draw you away from it, but I think the biggest thing is time to enjoy it, which I do. That is what I like the best of all. I can go out and sit on my porch with a quilt on my lap and listen to the birds and enjoy the sunshine, maybe a deer comes by and even a fox. Those are the things that are important to me. I think we have lost a lot of that in our society. The time, time to enjoy.

KM: We have almost talked forty-five minutes, believe it or not. Is there anything that, I always like to give people an opportunity to share anything. Is there anything you want to share that we haven't touched up?

MG: I can't think of anything other than I would recommend it to anyone who wants to slow down, enjoy, learn, create, and that is about it.

KM: I want to thank you for coming, spending some time with me and doing this interview. We are going to conclude our interview at 3:57.



“Maxine Groves,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 23, 2024,