Maria Elkins




Maria Elkins




Maria Elkins


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Columbus, Ohio


Kim Greene


Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave. I am conducting a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Maria Elkins. We are at the National Quilting Association Show in Columbus, Ohio. It is June 10 at 1:12 in the afternoon. So, Maria, thank you for agreeing to do this.

Maria Elkins (ME): Thank you for having me.

KM: Tell me about the quilt you selected for this interview.

ME: Okay, I brought a quilt that is called "Evening Star." It was made for the Aullwood Audubon Show [Dayton, Ohio.], and the theme was "Night Sky." It [the theme.] made me think of my daughters [Lydia and Bethany.] who both enjoy spending time looking at constellations and trying to pick out the ones they know. They and their father [Dave.] would lie on the grass and spend hours looking up at the sky trying to see everything. So, I knew that I wanted to do something that depicted that and reminded me of that time period. It was based on a photograph I took of my daughters, and it shows them from behind. There is a quilt that is wrapped around them, and they are looking up into the sky, pointing out certain stars. This was sort of an experimental quilt for me, because I wanted to try using the Tsukineko inks on fabric. This was the first time that I had done that. I used the inks on commercially printed fabrics and then just added the shadow areas to create their hair and to create the sweater that my oldest daughter is wearing. And then there is a quilt that is wrapped around them. I chose a quilt block that is called "Evening Star." This was the first time that I used a picture of a quilt within my quilt. I just used fused appliqué to create the stars and then once I had all the stars in place, I used Setacolor paint that was watered down to add shadows to create a more three-dimensional look to it. Its free motion quilted with different rayon and metallic threads. It was also the first time that I used the fusible rhinestones as stars up in the sky to give it a little bit of sparkle and interest.

KM: Very cool.

ME: [laughs.]

KM: It is. It's very cool. And, what do your daughters think of this?

ME: Oh, they are terrific. They are really supportive, and they love my stuff, and of course they tease about who gets it when I die. [laughs.] But it's fun, because we tease about how people will recognize them right away as long as they see them from behind. [laughs.] And sometimes they will come with me to show my quilts, and they will stand next to each other and let everybody look at them from behind.

KM: Very sweet. So, how do you use this quilt?

ME: This is an art quilt that is designed for hanging on the wall.

KM: Does this hang in your house?

ME: Sometimes it does. We are in a new house, and we haven't hung it yet. At various times it has hung in the house, but most of the time it has been sent to shows. It did win Best of Show at the Aullwood Show, and then it went to [the International Quilt Association show in.] Houston and it got an Honorable Mention, and it was in one of the Quilt Art calendars a few years back. So, it's traveled quite a bit and it has been published.

KM: Is this typical of your work?

ME: I do a lot of people in my work. I enjoy that, and usually several of them also incorporate an image of a quilt within a quilt. And so, I think it is typical of things that I do.

KM: So, what did you learn from making this quilt?

ME: I learned I really, really enjoy those inks. I like using the inks because they are very transparent and permanent, and they don't add any feel to the fabric like paint might. And they are much easier to handle than, for instance, dye painting. There are no chemicals involved or anything like that. I am basically lazy, and I want things quick and easy, and this was very quick and easy for me. I also used wool batting, which I really love because this thing can be crumpled up in a ball and you just shake it out and there are no wrinkles or creases, or anything left. And I just love the feel of it [wool batting.] while you are working, it is very soft, and it just feels nice when you are working with it. It is a real pleasure. This also was the first time that I tried doing these distorted blocks, where I drew the quilt that is wrapped around. I have a picture [photograph.] on the back that I used as my starting point, and so it gave me the basic squares of what a block would look like and how it would be distorted by the ripples and the curves as it went around the body. I used that as my basis to draw this distorted block, and then once I had those basic squares in place, then I was able to subdivide the squares to create thee Evening Star blocks. I think that was a real fun problem to work out, and it ended up being very effective.

KM: Do you plan your quilts out?

ME: I draw them full size on paper first. Sometimes I will do little thumbnail sketches, but not always. Usually, I just have an idea in my mind of what I want to make them. Most of my quilts right now are what I consider to be poster size. They are roughly forty-inch square or less. This one is a little smaller than that. I have only done one really large quilt, but even for that one I drew it completely out full size first, and then I use that as the pattern for cutting the fabric.

KM: Do you work every day?

ME: I work full time. I'm a secretary and I do computer drafting and accounting and the website. I do everything for an engineer.

KM: And then, how is your quilting fit into all of that?

ME: It fits in all the extra little bits of time. [laughs.] And actually, right now I'm going back to college to finish up my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, and so that is taking all the free time that normally would have been for quilting. But I will be finished in November and after that I will be able to do my quilting again. I am looking forward to that.

KM: So, you are going to go back to quilting?

ME: Absolutely. I went back to college partly to try to bring my quilts up to a higher level, or more complexity. I'm just trying to add something to it that I felt was missing.

KM: Do you feel that you have been successful at that?

ME: Well, I have only made one quilt since I went back to college. [laughs.] Other than the journal quilts. I have been doing those each year, just so I can keep playing with fabric. The last two classes I took were lithography classes and I was experimenting with using the lithograph technique to print on fabric. At the end of those two classes I took all of my samples and cut them up and created a quilt from those. That was put in the Senior Show, and I think that was the first time they ever had a textile piece in the show at that university.

KM: So, what university?

ME: Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. They don't really consider textiles to be art. They consider textiles to be craft, and so that just annoyed me enough that I wanted to make something that they couldn't refuse. [laughs.]

KM: How was it received?

ME: It was received very well. I was really excited about that, and my printmaking teachers are very supportive even though they have never printed on fabric themselves. Even silkscreen, they had not silkscreened on fabric. And so, for each of the different classes that I took, I did my assignment on paper, but then I also brought fabric in with me to print on fabric. I did the woodblock relief printing on fabric, and I did the intaglio. We did copperplate and we did etching, and I used that for printing as well. And then this lithograph technique worked really well.

KM: Very cool. How did you begin making quilts?

ME: Well, you know, it is funny thinking about it. I learned to sew very early. I was about five when my mother taught me how to hand embroider. She would sew dresses for us. When I was about nine, she taught me how to use the sewing machine and how to read a pattern. I made clothing for quite a few years, all the way through junior high and high school. My grandmother did not make any quilts until she was about sixty-five. She would just take anything that counted as fabric and put it together in every possible way with no consideration for color or matching points or anything, but she was very prolific. [laughs.] And I guess that is really the only background I have. But thinking of the seventies, there was Women's Day and Good Housekeeping [magazines.] there were lots of quilts that were shown, and they were starting to become very popular. I guess that must have had an influence. I remember in high school, by that time I had sewn a lot, I was sewing almost all of my own clothes and some for my brothers and my dad, and I remember taking all my blue and white fabric and cutting it into squares and making a patchwork blouse. I went to college, straight out of high school. I went for three and a half years. I was taking textile classes and weaving and printing on fabric and we did papermaking and felt making and different things like that. Right next to the books on those topics were the books on quilting, and so I would spend all kinds of time just looking through the books that were available at that time, which there weren't huge numbers of them like there are today. But I knew everyone that there was. I learned [quiltmaking.] by reading. For a long time, I just read about quilts, and I read how to make the quilts, and I read the parts in the back [of the book.] that nobody else ever reads. Then when I was expecting our oldest daughter [Lydia.], I decided I would make a quilt, and I bought a [baby quilt.] pattern that was a lion and made that for her. That was the first quilt that I made.

KM: What year was that?

ME: That was 1985. And, then nineteen months later I had our second daughter [Bethany.]. I didn't make another quilt until 1991 when we moved from California to Ohio. It [the pattern.] was called "Flowering Star", and it was a Judy Martin pattern. It was a star which was machine pieced and it had a feathered edge on the eight-point star. It had a wreath of hand appliquéd flowers that went around it.

KM: I made the same quilt. [laughs.]

ME: Yeah. I think a lot of people made that quilt. So that was in 1991. I didn't make another quilt until the time the book on watercolor quilts came out. It was about 1993. I got that book, and I thought I wanted to make a watercolor quilt. I had a horizontal place above the piano that I wanted to fill, so I designed it to go above the piano. At the same time, country angels were very popular, and there was this little cute print of country angels, and I thought that I would combine the two ideas. The angel print had a Nine Patch border going around the angels, and I thought I would do that border using the watercolor [technique], and then I would have three of those angels next to each other to create a quilt. So, I did the watercolor border, and I really, I struggled. I struggled all my life with the fear of failure, so when I had gotten that part done and I just, I don't know. I just got so scared of it. I just stuffed it in a drawer, and I didn't do anything for a year or so. During that time, I started thinking about it and I realized in the Bible there are only male angels. There are no female angels, and so I thought I'm going to do a male angel and he is going to be a warrior angel because they are [often.] warriors [in the Bible.]. So, my husband [Dave.] modeled for me, and I drew a male angel, and I used Charlotte Warr Andersen's technique for the hand appliqué, and I put that on my watercolor background. About the same time a book on machine trapunto [was published] and so I used that [technique] for the wings to give it depth and the feathers without being too obvious. And so, it was sort of an experimental quilt, but it was definitely made over about a four-year period in bits and pieces, because each time I would get a little bit further and then I would hide it away and let it ferment for a while. [laughs.] And, then I would pull it out and I would do some more. Eventually I did hand quilt it, and I sent it to the NQA (National Quilting Association) show. It was the first quilt I ever sent to the NQA show, and it got an Honorable Mention, and I was thrilled. So, from there I think it gave me a little more confidence. I knew I was not interested in using [commercial.] patterns for quilts, so I started designing my own. I enjoy drawing people, so most of my quilts are usually have a person in them. They are figurative.

KM: Except for "Teacup".

ME: Except for the "Teacup". That was made for a [guild.] challenge. The challenge was to make a quilt with just blue and white and no other colors. They didn't even want green blues, teals, or purples, they just wanted blue and white. We were given this little, tiny calico print that had to be used. I like blue. That is my fabric color. Half my stash at least is blue and white, and so I was trying to think of how I was going to use it. I thought I would make a traditional quilt. My guild is very traditional, but they are also supportive. They are nice. But there were too many blue and white quilts I wanted to make, and I knew I just didn't have very much time. So, I started trying to think of other things that I like that are blue and white. I have a collection of calico buttons that are from about 1850 to 1875, and I thought maybe I could do something that would display these calico buttons but everything I came up with I thought was boring. So, I started thinking about my collection of blue and white teacups. I didn't work on Mondays, and so we [my daughters and I.] would have a tea party every Monday afternoon when they got home from school.

KM: Oh, how fun.

ME: With the blue and white teacups. We would each pick our favorite teacup and we would have a special tea, and we would have special cookies or candies and we would just sit and talk and have a great time. Sometimes they would dress up in [fancy.] dresses that we rescued from the thrift store. We even had lace gloves and hats and we just had a blast. So, thinking about that, I thought teacups would be good to use as an element in my quilt. So, I drew teacups from as many different angles that I could think of. When I got to drawing it looking straight down, I really liked the geometry and the repetitive shapes. So, I decided that I would work on a composition that would focus on repetition, focus on the curves, and so, that is how the "Teacup" quilt evolved. I had one fabric that was rows of blue and white plates, and so I cut around each of the plates and it created sort of a scallop. So, I used that along the teacup saucer. And I put flowers in the teacup because the tea would have been brown, and it had to be something that was blue. So, [laughs.], I decided that I would put flowers in the teacup. I looked on the Internet for all different possible [blue] flowers. I considered morning glories, and I considered roses, and I considered all kinds of things. But then I came across hepaticas. I have never actually even seen one to this day, other than on the Internet. But I liked the repetition, that same repetition of form, so I decided to put the hepaticas in there to echo the shapes, but also create a contrast where it was breaking the edges of the cup. [laughs.]

KM: You like that quilt.

ME: Yeah. A lot of people do. I think it is really interesting because many people respond to that quilt [more than my other quilts]. Then others are like, 'Why did you make that one? It doesn't go with anything that you have.' So, it is kind of fun. Today, I did a lecture earlier and I brought some traditional quilts that I had made, some hexagon quilts that I hand pieced and hand quilted, and they were like, 'You hand quilted that?' [laughs.] Yes, Maria can hand quilt. [laughs.] I just don't have a long enough lifetime to hand quilt everything. I've got to machine quilt to get it done faster.

KM: That is true. Very, very true. I wish, you know, we could live many lifetimes in order to do everything that we have.

ME: Yes, I have much more fabric than I will ever get to.

KM: Now, you also teach?

ME: No, I don't teach.

KM: Quilt making, you just lecture?

ME: I don't usually lecture either. It just happened.

KM: So, why are you here lecturing?

ME: I live close [to Columbus]. [laughs.]

KM: Okay.

ME: They thought I could bring my quilts and do a trunk show. So, the lecture was just my own quilts, which is easy to do. It's not like you're teaching anything. I have not even taught my own kids to quilt.

KM: That was my next question. Do either one of your daughters quilt?

ME: They have each made a small quilt, but I'm not a teacher. Anything they know they have learned through osmosis. They have, of course, grown up watching me do all of these different things, and they both are artistic in their own ways. My oldest [Lydia.] loves doing sculpture with wire. She is a violinist, and she is a writer. My youngest [Bethany.] is majoring in special ed and then she has an art minor. She does oil painting and drawing and design work. They are both very creative in their own ways. But I have never really pushed them to quilt. I mean, certainly it is there if they are ever interested, but I'm not a teacher. [laughs.]

KM: That's okay.

ME: So, they will just have to come up with it on their own. They will figure it out, I'm sure. [laughs.] We play together though. We sometimes do some different crafts or hand painting. My youngest daughter is a resident assistant for the dorms at her college, and she is always having to come up with crafts and so they have done hand painted tee shirts. She will call me up and say 'How do we do this? What should we buy?' You know, so they are very interested, and they are very involved and supportive.

KM: So, how many quilts a year do you make?

ME: Before I went back to college, I was trying to do two small quilts a year.

KM: That's what I thought. Okay.

ME: I came to that conclusion when I was working on a quilt called "Wedding Dreams." "Wedding Dreams" is sixty-eight inches square. It was created for a guild challenge, and it is all curved machine piecing, and the faces are hand appliquéd. It was made over a ten-month period, and it pretty much consumed every waking moment. I would wake up at four in the morning before I went to work, and I would work on it, and then I would get home from work and I would work on it as soon as I got home, and I would work until eleven or twelve, until my husband said, 'You have to go to sleep.' I was trying really hard to get it done for the guild challenge, which I did not. [laughs.] I ended up just showing the top at the meeting where the challenge pieces were shown. Then I continued working on it, [machine] quilting it, and so it took about ten months from start to finish. But it consumed every bit of time that I had, and I just realized that with working full time and having a family, having kids, having a husband, that I couldn't take that much time away from them. So, I decided that until I'm at a place where either I'm not in a hurry or have more time, I've got to keep my quilts small. I know for AQS [American Quilter's Society.] shows, forty-inch square is the minimum, so most of the time I try to make them forty-inch square or forty-two-inch square, roughly in that size. That's worked out pretty well for me.

KM: So, you like that size?

ME: I like the size. I primarily make quilts to go to shows, but I don't think that size wins awards often. So, from that standpoint, it is probably not a good idea.

KM: So, what size do you think wins awards?

ME: Well, "Wedding Dreams" won a lot of awards. It is a larger quilt; it has more impact, I think. Even now people expect quilts to be closer to bed size.

KM: I had that conversation today at lunch.

ME: Yeah, and I think it is true, they expect big. There are some quilters that consider themselves art quilters and they are much more accepting of smaller quilts, but then if you are also trying to interest the traditional quilters they are used to big, so they are not exactly sure what to do with these smaller ones. I can't say anything from a sales standpoint because I've never sold a quilt.

KM: Do you want to sell a quilt?

ME: Do you want to buy one? [laughs.]

KM: [laughs.] I wish.

ME: I would not mind selling any of my quilts, but I really don't have the time to vigorously pursue marketing them. So, at this point, if something falls into my lap, yeah, I will sell it, but I don't have the time to try to develop a steady business, which some people do. They do it very successfully.

KM: So why is quiltmaking important to you? Why is the making of quilts important to you?

ME: I'm a very visual person, and I have always enjoyed artwork. I always have enjoyed drawing, but there is just something about working with fabric. I love the feel of it. I like the pliability of it. I took oil painting this last quarter. It's just not the same. I mean I might make a painting that is halfway decent, and I could learn if I spent more time at it, but I just couldn't do that for the rest of my life. I would be bored stiff. To me there are so many more possibilities of what can be done with fabric, you know as far as painting, or dyeing, or cutting, or fusing, or piecing, or folding, there are things that you can do that you can't do in any other way. I think I really enjoy that problem solving part of it. That is something that I have not experienced in other [art.] forms. Now after going back to college, I have done a lot of things. I have done photography. I have done printmaking. I have done sculpture. I've done painting. And whatever else there is, and it's just, to me there is no comparison.

KM: I agree. Are you feeling more confident, are you feeling more confident now?

ME: I think I am, [especially after] I took part in the Journal Quilt Project.

KM: Right, I was going to ask you about that.

ME: In 2002 it was the first year that they did it, and it was a result of a discussion on the Quilt Art email list. Karey Bresenhan came up with this idea of making a small, 8-1/2 by 11-inch quilt each month for nine months. The idea was [to work small so you'd feel free to.] experiment. Many people were journaling things that happened in their life in that month. I am not very introspective, so that didn't appeal to me, but the idea of experimenting appealed very much. So, I decided I would experiment with as many different products as I could. That first year, each quilt [that I made.] has 100% silk on the left-hand side and 100% cotton on the right-hand side. That way I could compare how each product responded, depending on the fiber content of the fabric. I also used two different battings, one batting on the top half and one batting on the bottom half, so I could compare the results after the quilting. I really enjoyed the experimenting, and for me it was a good exercise in stepping outside of what was comfortable, and coming to grips with the idea of experimenting, and that some experiments are going to fail and failing is okay. There were some things that I purposely tried that I thought would not work. For instance, I know people had talked about using Prismacolor pencils on fabric so I tried Prismacolor pencils, I heat set them, and then I washed them to see what would happen, and they are not permanent on fabric, no matter what they tell you. [laughs.] And so that was an interesting result I thought, and very positive for me to know. You know, if I'm at all interested in making quilts that last, that is not a product to use.

KM: So, what did that month look like?

ME: Well, it was the first month [and it was a single curved feather.]. After the first month I [decided to] use feathers as my theme for that year. [The Prismacolor experiment.] was the first one that I did, and after I washed it and it faded, I decided that since the feather has two sides, I colored over one side so that you could see the before and after, even though the before was colored over to be able to compare. It still created something interesting to look at, but at the same time it was instructive. One other thing that I did one month was using oil pastels on fabric, which had also been talked about on the Quilt Art list. I had drawn my image with these oil pastels, Sakura Cray-pas pastels, and heat set them, and there was an interval where I was not able to get to them, so they sat for about two months before I was able to quilt this piece. When I got it out to quilt it and started quilting it, the fabric, both the cotton and the silk, just shredded. The Cray-pas completely deteriorated the fabric.

KM: In two months?

ME: In two months' time. So, they are not a good choice for fabric. [laughs.] Obviously. That was not one of the journal quilts I sent in, but I did contact the Cray-pas Company and I sent them half of it.

KM: What did they say?

ME: Well, they were going to send it to their laboratory. Of course, I never heard back from them. But that doesn't really bother me. To me, it reinforced how important it is to experiment before you assume that something is going to work. And so, I had a lot of fun, and that is a good illustration of a failure that was a very positive thing. For me, what helped overcome that fear of failure is to expect that there will be things that will not work. I also tried Crayola crayons, just regular Crayola crayons, and they worked very well. I tried several different kinds of fabric paints. I tried the inks and dye. That first year I also used a different thread on each quilt, and I used a different embellishment [on each.]. So, I got to experiment with beads, fusible rhinestones, foiling. I used real feathers on one of them. I used the Mylar that you use the head gun on. It was a lot of fun. Then in 2003, I decided I would continue the project.

KM: Now did you just do nine months, or do you do twelve?

ME: I did nine and by then it was like, okay I'm done, I can't do any more. [laughs.] I went back to school [college.] in 2003, but I wanted to keep doing the journal quilts just as a way to still be involved in fabric and quiltmaking. In 2003, I also used a variety of products to experiment with, and I did a series of portraits, based on pictures of my daughters and their friends. I was trying different ways to quilt a face; ways to use the quilting lines to create contours. I did one with stippling, which is definitely not the way to go if you want anything to look three dimensional. If you want it to look flat, stipple the thing and it will look flat [laughs.] no matter how good the drawing is underneath it. I did one where I quilted the face with feathers, and it was really interesting, because many people responded to that. They really enjoyed that one. So, it was just another thing to see, what if I do this? What if I try something different? What if I quilt the contours up and down instead of across? You know. So, I think developing a more relaxed attitude and a more experimental attitude has been very positive for me. Even in going back to school, my motto has been to try things that I haven't done before and try to use colors that I'm not comfortable with. Try to draw something that I don't normally draw. It's just a way to stretch myself and hopefully expand my skills and learn something new.

KM: Keep it fresh.

ME: Keep it fresh. After a while, you look at it [your art.] and everything just looks boring and static and there is just something not there, so it has been sort of an exploration of how to improve my quilts.

KM: So, what is your journal quilts this year?

ME: I can't tell you.

KM: Oh, I'm sorry. [laughs.]

ME: Well, I don't know, when is this going out?

KM: As soon as you approve it.

ME: [laughs.]

KM: [laughs.]

ME: I'll tell you in November, but I can guarantee you that people will stop. They won't have seen anything like it before.

KM: Very cool. So, you are really, really gone outside of your box?

ME: Well.

KM: Or not?

ME: It, let's say, [I don't think] you haven't seen anything like it in any of the years previous [of journal quilts].

KM: Very cool. And it makes you happy, because your face lit up.

ME: I'm very excited about it. [laughs.]

KM: Very cool. So that's a good question even if I can't get an answer.

ME: Yes, yes. So, see me back in November and tell me if you can pick them out [without looking for my name].

KM: Are you going to continue doing the journal quilts, even if Karey [Bresenhan, creator of the Journal Quilt Project.] doesn't have them?

ME: I don't know. You know, I think it is funny that so many of my quilts have been made for specific shows or specific challenges, and so I don't know if I would, if she wasn't having the challenge [laughs.], although they have been invaluable for me.

KM: So, does it, I mean, do you do this entering of shows because that gives you a deadline, that gives you parameters, or?

ME: A lot of times it is the initial idea. I hear the theme and my mind just starts clicking and I start thinking of all these possibilities, and it gets exciting when you start thinking, I could do this, I could do that, or this would work, or this. I think it [challenges.] makes me do things that I wouldn't normally have made. I probably never would have made "Teacup" without the show, or "Flight of Fancy", which is celebrating the hundred years of flight and has airplanes on it. I don't have boys, but it has a little boy pretending he is going to fly, and I never would have made that quilt otherwise, and yet I love it, now that it is done. And so, I think I use it [a challenge.] as a jumping off point for trying new things, trying something that stretches me a little. It gives you a focus. I do work well for deadlines, generally. The only one I missed was "Wedding Dreams" and that is because I tried something way too big for the time that I had. But I don't know. It will be interesting where my art making goes from here. I know I will still continue making quilts. I have made that clear at college, and they were like 'Why are you making quilts?' and they don't understand. [laughs.] They just don't understand.

KM: Do you have a studio?

ME: At home?

KM: Yeah.

ME: Well, I do, yes. [laughs.] We moved last summer, and it was a little bit of a surprise for me, because we had lived in the previous house for almost fifteen years, and I was basically feeling like I would die there. I never intended on moving. Then through a series of events, my husband came home and said, 'Honey, we are moving, and this is the house'. [laughs.] And I had not seen it. He says, 'But the good part is, they converted the garage, and we are putting your studio in there.' [laughs.] And so, after he said that, I decided I could go with the flow, it will be okay.

KM: So how far did you move?

ME: About three miles. [laughs.] So, we ended up moving into that house and it ended up being really good, a positive thing. It is much smaller, but I have a studio. Before that I was on the dining room table. We crammed all kinds of stuff in that poor little, tiny [dining] room, along with the dining room table. The kids were not allowed to sit at the table and eat; they had to sit in the living room on the couch. [laughs.] Especially if a quilt was in progress, there was just no room. So, this has been great.

KM: So, you like having a studio?

ME: I do. It is a studio/family room, because I don't like working alone, I don't like being in isolation. I would never want to be where I go in a room and close the door and I'm away from family. I want to be part of what is happening. And so, I'm in half of it, and my area set up with nice tables and we bought cabinets to store all kinds of things, and I have my bookcases, and we hung a track for those sliding closet doors. We hung one of those on the ceiling so that I could have a design wall that would move in front of the bookcases. Then in the other half of the room we have a couple of couches, and we have the television, and we have a computer, and we have a family room. So, it has worked out real well.

KM: Very cool.

ME: Yep, I'm blessed beyond measure, spoiled.

KM: So, do you have lots of fabric? A large stash?

ME: We have a friend that goes to the university where they have weekly junk sales, and he picked up a microscope cabinet. The microscope cabinet has thirty cubby holes, and it has glass doors on the front. It is about four feet wide and seven feet high. Well, he brought this huge thing home and he didn't know what to do with it, poor guy, and he said, 'Do you want this?', and I said, 'Fabric!' [laughs.] And so I have this wonderful case that holds all my fabric so that I can still see it.

KM: Yeah, still see it.

ME: And it doesn't get any direct sunlight. I'm sure there will be some things that fade a little bit, but I'm not too worried about it. Usually I am using small pieces, so it's not something I can't cut around it. It is the visual enjoyment that is more important to me.

KM: I agree.

ME: Yeah, and so about half of it is blue and I have been collecting skin tone colors since I do people so much, and it is difficult to find a good skin color, so I have lots of tans and browns for hair, and those kinds of colors. I like using prints. I know a lot of quilters don't like using prints, they use a lot of hand dyed fabric, but I prefer the prints. I just love calico fabrics. And that is an awful word now. [laughs.]

KM: You have a lot of very nice blueprints in the ["Evening Star."] quilt.

ME: And none of them are duplicates.

KM: I noticed that.

ME: [laughs.]

KM: I was sitting here looking at them. I was also realizing how many of them I also own.

ME: Yes. You like blue too?

KM: Yeah, I like blue too. But this is very, I mean you have batiks, and you have calicos, and you have--

ME: And I love that eclectic mix. I just think it just adds some interest and excitement. And, you know many people will just use batiks, or just use hand dyes, or just use one type of fabric, and I like mixing them. I love the patterns. I am very drawn to patterns.

KM: Do you dye at all?

ME: I have done a little bit of hand dying. I'm a reader and I learn by reading, and I really just haven't read enough about it. But partly also I just don't like all of the chemicals and the steps involved. You know, having to have it sit for a certain length of time and not get dry and not do this. And to me painting with the Tsukineko inks is just so simple and direct and I like that. But I'm going to take a dye painting class in August, just because I want to know it. I want to know everything. I want to try everything. I am a curious person.

KM: And I think that is a good thing.

ME: Yeah.

KM: So how do you like the rhinestones? Have you done that again?

ME: I only used it on journal quilts and this quilt.

KM: I was wondering.

ME: The rhinestones, I think they had to be on this quilt.

KM: I do too.

ME: For the little sparkles in the sky. And it is really interesting because you can move to some places and not see them at all, and then all of a sudden you get this tiny glimpse, and it is just like stars in the sky. It works very well for this quilt. But generally, I will use metallic threads on some of mine, but even that I don't use extensively. I like using silk thread. And I have some rayon threads, and I like the variegated threads. I like thread too. I have a lot of thread. [laughs.] I'm a collector, like most of us are, and if I'm going to get thread, I want one of each color. [laughs.] Not that I necessarily get that, but I like that. I suppose that if I had a quilt that asked for it, you know, that needed that, I would add that touch, but generally I don't go for the real glitzy.

KM: I have never used them, so that's why I was kind of asking.

ME: They are so simple to use. They are really, really easy, and I didn't have the special attachment. I just used my regular iron. All you do is just set them in place and you hold the tip of the iron for, I don't remember how many seconds. But you just count to a certain number and that is it. So, it was very simple to use.

KM: That is a wonderful quilt, and it would not have been the same if you used hand dyes. It would not have been as interesting.

ME: Although, the interesting thing with this is that the fabric on the back of the quilt is actually what the background [of the front.] is too. [But I felt.] it has too much of the blue showing, it was too busy. So I decided I would paint it over with a wash of Setacolor paint.

KM: Oh, interesting.

ME: But I actually I went too far. I did it once and I didn't go far enough and there was still too much of the contrast blue showing.

KM: But you can still see the blue.

ME: You can see it some. But the second time I did it, I mixed my paint too concentrated and so by then I couldn't get it out again. [laughs.]

KM: Oh, no. But I think it is fabulous. I can still see the blue.

ME: You can see it, if you are told it is there, but I think that most people don't notice it.

KM: Oh, I noticed it immediately. No. And I am assuming that the binding is the same fabric or not?

ME: Right. So I end up using a mix of techniques on a lot of quilts.

KM: That's wonderful.

ME: And this one shows that--

[tape ends.] [Note from KM: Right after the tape ended, ME did share what she did with her journal quilts. It's definitely worth checking out if you get a chance.]



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