Sue Glen




Sue Glen




Sue Glen


Carolyn Kolzow

Interview Date


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Beaverton, Oregon


Carolyn Kolzow


Carolyn Kolzow (CK): My name is Carolyn Kolzow and today's date is February 5, 2007 and it is 11 a.m. I am conducting an interview with Sue Glen in my home in Beaverton, Oregon for the Quilters' [S.O.S.]-Save Our Stories Project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Oregon State Society, Daughters of the American Revolution. Sue is a quilter and is the regent of Astoria Chapter, [NSDAR.] National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Sue, tell me about the quilt that you have here today.

Sue Glen (SG): It is a sampler quilt.

CK: Did you make it?

SG: Of course I made it. It is all hand quilted. It is hand assembled, and it was made back in 1983 in Sitka, Alaska.

[CK and SG speak at the same time.]

SG: Yeah, Alaska. I was working in a quilt shop there at the time, and they were offering this class in lap quilting which is an entirely different process.

CK: Can you describe it for me? What does it look like?

SG: The quilt?

CK: Yes

SG: Well, it is a very unique quilt. It is a sampler quilt and each block is representative of a different month of the year. Therefore, it has lots of different colors in it. The January block is silver and white representing snow and ice. February is a Log Cabin, and it has heart shaped fabrics in it, or heart printed fabrics in it. March is Bear Claw but it is made out of shamrock fabric. April is Rebecca's fan, and it's yellows and whites and it has little tulips and little ducks, and it has a cross through the middle representative of Easter. May is Grandmother's Flower Garden and it is done in pink and blue. That's Mother's Day. June is Order Number 11, it is white on white with a gold ring for a June bride. July has strawberries, and it is red, white, and blue for the 4th of July, and in the center is fireworks. August is called the Honey Bee, and it is done in green and yellow and whites. It's what you see when you fly over the middle of our country and you look down in August and you see the fields, and of course too the honey bees to take care of the farmer's fields and the germination. September is blue and red. It is done in calicos and there are little school houses quilted into the blue blocks because September is when we go back to school. October is orange and black and it has a pumpkin in the middle, it is Dresden Plate. November is Churn Dash and in the center there is a turkey. It is done in browns and yellows and tans representing Thanksgiving. And December is a star done in Christmas fabrics of red and green. The whole quilt is put together with a sort of peach color and it is the same on the back. It has a polyester fiber filled center.

CK: I know that each block has a name. Does the whole quilt have a certain name that you have given it?

SG: Just Sampler.

CK: All right. It is lovely! What would you say is your favorite block of all? Do you have one?

SG: Not really. It was just a fun quilt to make.

CK: What special meaning does this quilt have for you?

SG: Well, it represents the time that we spent in Alaska, and there was a lot of thought put into it. The blocks are not in the order of the months. They are scattered in order to make the colors go together right. And of course Rebecca's fan is my daughter; her name is Rebecca which is why I put it in there. And, it was just a challenge to learn a new process of quilting. This lap quilting is done in an entirely different way from most quilting projects because you quilt each block with the batting and the backing, as you make it .And then all twelve blocks are put together after each one has been quilted.

CK: That is interesting. Did you find it difficult to do that?

SG: No, actually I think that it is easier because you don't have this gigantic thing to work with because most of the time I quilt with a hoop and don't use a big quilting contraption in the living room. This way I could take the block with me and have it all quilted, and there wasn't any excess that I had to haul around.

CK: Interesting. How do you use this quilt?

SG: It is folded up on the quilt rack in the guest room, and if somebody gets cold they can just pull it out and take a nap.

CK: Do you have any plans for this quilt in the future?

SG: No, when I am gone someone else will get some enjoyment out of it.

CK: You are not going to give it away before then, I can tell.

SG: No.

CK: All right. Tell me about your interest in quilting. From whom did you learn to quilt?

SG: Nobody. When I first got married, the kids, well as they came along they needed blankets or quilts, and I had pieces of fabric laying around and it started out just by sewing four inch squares together, and then friends and neighbors would be having babies, and I decided that this was something that I could do. I could make them quilts for their babies. So, it became an inexpensive way to have a baby gift being a military wife on a very limited budget at the time. Pennies were always pinched, so I started making quilts as baby gifts, and that is how the whole thing got started forty-two years ago.

CK: Do you still make quilts and give them away?

SG: Oh, yes.

CK: I hope that I am on the receiving end. [much laughter from both.]

SG: You can never tell.

CK: How many hours a week would you say that you quilt?

SG: Oh, at the moment, not very many because I am working on a book. In the past I would spend maybe six to eight hours, devote a day to it and then do other things the rest of the time.

CK: You said that you are self taught, but was there any one person that you learned from?

SG: No, because I have been sewing since I was ten years old. So, picking up and learning to quilt just was a natural progression.

CK: Do you have other quilters in your family?

SG: My mother-in-law is a quilter. And my grandmother belonged to a church quilting group, but I never got to watch her. I have two quilts. One that was done by her church group, and another one that she gave us as a wedding present. My mother-in-law, I have never gotten one of her quilts, but I watched and she did predominately appliqué until I got her started piecing.

CK: What's your first quilt memory? Do you have any memories about a quilt? Did you sleep under any as a kid?

SG: You know, I did sleep under a quilt at my grandmother's house because I remember that we used to go upstairs and in order to go asleep, we tried to find all the pieces that matched that were the same fabric.

CK: Oh.

SG: So, that had to be back in the 50's. And, I know that my other grandmother lived in a house that was a part of a museum up in Hampton, New Hampshire, and there were quilts in there. But, I never got to sleep under those. I just got to see them.

CK: How would you say that quilting impacts your family?

SG: Probably quite strongly because they all have several of my quilts, and my daughter has one of her grandmother's quilts. And, they all sleep under them and when my son and daughter-in-law bought their new motor home, the first thing out of their mouths was, 'Could we have a quilt for the motor home?' So, they have three.

CK: Well, that is fun. Tell me have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time in your life?

SG: In a way, the quilt that is in the picture was a part of what got me through a difficult time. I had a lump and had to have a biopsy, and it was during that time that I was working on that.

CK: Oh, wow! What do you find pleasing about quilting?

SG: I enjoy putting the colors together. I enjoy looking at what might be possible with the fabrics that I have in my stash.

CK: Is there some part of quilting that you do not enjoy?

SG: I don't enjoy having them in contests, that drives me up the wall because I don't feel that it is right to compare a machine done quilt with a hand done quilt, and that is what so many of the quilt shows and the quilt contests now do. There is so much more work in a hand done quilt and hand done quilting. It just isn't right to put them both n the same category.

CK: All right. What do you think makes a great quilt then? Does that kind of influence the way that you think about that?

SG: A great quilt is one that is hand done and has a lot of thought behind it. A great quilt is one that you can actually feel, just by looking at it, the warmth and the love that is in it. I think that is what makes a great quilt. It is not having every single corner exactly perfect or having every single color perfectly matched.

CK: And so, what makes a quilt artistically powerful then?

SG: It depends on the type of quilt. When you walk up to a quilt and it jumps out at you and it says, 'Look at me,' that is an artistically powerful quilt.

CK: All right. What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

SG: Several things. Detail, the workmanship, the age and the uniqueness of the quilt. At the same time, if a quilt was done by someone who might be historically connected, it will also make it of museum interest even though it may not be the quality of something else.

CK: Okay, what makes a great quilter?

SG: It depends on who you are asking. Some people say that somebody that turns around and teaches it or writes a lot of books is a great quilter. I think a great quilter is someone who has the patience to pass the technique on. I don't think that person needs to be recognized or written about or it could be somebody's grandmother who takes all the neighborhood kids in and teaches them how to quilt. It could be a math teacher who uses mathematics or uses quilting as a teaching tool to a math class and in doing so brings about a love of quilting in the boys as well as the girls. There are a lot of things that can make a person a great quilter.

CK: All right. Do you belong to a quilting group?

SG: Yes, I am part of the Peninsula Quilt Guild in Long Beach, Washington.

CK: Tell me about it. It is a large group of people?

SG: I think that we have about 40 to 45 members now. And, we meet on the second Monday of the month in the afternoon. On Tuesday some of the members of the group meet at Anna Lina's Quilt Shop in Long Beach, [Washington.] and they work on raffle quilts, or they help one another with problems that they are having with quilts, or you can go and have your quilts pinned on a large table. We have speakers that come; we help one another with problems. We have a sub group that makes quilts for organizations and hospitals.

CK: Very interesting. [pause for 10 seconds.] I suppose that I have gotten off the subject a bit there, but back to our great quilters. How would you say that great quilters learn the art of quilting especially how to design a pattern or choose the fabrics and the colors?

SG: A lot of it comes from what they are exposed to. Whether they read in books or they have a natural artistic talent for color, or whether they grow up around people who are quilting. And, a lot of it is just watching and looking and being aware.

CK: I suppose that those are ideas that are shared in your quilting group too.

SG: Yes

CK: How do you feel about machine quilting vs. hand quilting?

SG: We're back to that again.

CK: Yes. [both laugh.]

SG: I think machine quilting serves its purpose, and it can be very nice.

CK: Just don't judge one against the other as you said before.

SG: That's right. You can't judge one against the other. I mean with hand quilting you end up with holes in your fingers. You end up sometimes with blood spots on the quilt, but it is a labor of love. There is no love in machine quilting. You push a button, you guide the template, and that is that. It is not you.

CK: Okay. Do you have a personal collection of quilts?

SG: Oh, boy. [laughter.] I have scads of quilts.

CK: Oh.

SG: I have one quilt that dates back to the 1800s that was a wedding present, a Pennsylvania Dutch crazy quilt done with velvets and all kinds of hand embroidery on it that my grandmother gave us as a wedding gift. I have another quilt from the 1920's that I found in an antique shop with a hole in it and I repaired it. It is a Sunbonnet Sue, with bubble gum pink. I have a quilt that my aunt made when I was born. She made it back in 1945. It is a Nine Patch, but the patches are one inch squares. And then I have scads of quilts that I have made and another one that I picked up in an antique shop that is from about the 1930's. Oh, yes I have quite a few quits.

CK: I guess you do. What about sewing memorabilia? Do you have any other items that you have collected besides the actual quilts?

SG: Oh, yes. I have my husband's grandmother's button box full of buttons all the way from the 1800's on up. The old needle packets that you used to get when stores were opening and things like that. Tons of thimbles, but I refuse to use them. Some that were my mother's and my grandmother's.

CK: Oh, how nice. Have you ever owned or worked in a quilt shop?

SG: Yes, I have worked in a quilt shop up in Alaska. When the salesman would come in with the trunks of fabric, I would help pick out what was going to be purchased in the store. I worked there for almost a year.

CK: How fun. Why is quilting important to your life?

SG: It is a good pastime. It is something that you can do and just block out the rest of the world. It is something that is just yours, and you do not have to share it.

CK: Very interesting. In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or region?

SG: Everywhere that we travel, I go to quilt shops. So, my quilts reflect more than just my region. They reflect the entire United States and in some cases the world because where ever I have gone outside the United States, I have also bought fabric. My husband and I have a deal. He stops at airports, and for every airport that we stop at, I get to go to a fabric store.

CK: [laughing.]

SG: So, he is a pilot and

CK: [talking over Sue's voice.] I was going to say what happened.

SG: [laughing.] I have fabric from Africa, Germany, Czechoslovakia which is now the Czech Republic, Mexico, Antigua; all over.

CK: Oh, that is fascinating. Have you ever put a collection of those foreign fabrics in one particular quilt?

SG: No, they have to be in their own.

CK: Their own unique one, okay. What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

SG: Quilts tell a story of America. If you go back to the beginning when America was just a colony, you saved every scrap, and that is how you had bed clothes. So they have always been important. They have always been part of the way that we are. I have a rocking chair that I found on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and for stuffing in the rocking chair there were cut up pieces of an old quilt.

CK: Oh, my.

SG: Unfortunately, I didn't save them. I wish that I had. Of course with moving around you cannot save everything. Quilts have always been important especially in our country and of course quilts have been important around the world. It goes all the way back to the Chinese and Egyptian times.

CK: In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history in America?

SG: Well, if you go back to the time of the Underground Railroad because the slave population for the most part could not read, quilts provided them with the map to go from the deep South all the way up to New England and Canada. When women were going across the country in the covered wagons, it was often a gift that they were given by all of their friends and neighbors before they left for their new home; friends and neighbors signed the squares. And so it was a keepsake, and in both of those respects quilts were very important to women. And, we are still doing the same thing today, making friendship quilts.

CK: All right. How do you think that quilts can be used?

SG: They can be used on the wall to cover cracks. They can be used on a table as a table cloth. They can be used for warmth and comfort in bed. They are wonderful when the power goes out and you don't have any heat. They can be used to swaddle a baby when it is new born. They can be used almost any way. Then of course they can also be used to cover up holes in the upholstery in your living room.

CK: [laughing.] Do you think that quilts can be preserved for the future?

SG: With proper care quilts can be preserved.

CK: How would you go about that? Any hints on preserving?

SG: I keep cedar blocks in my house. Now you do not put them on the quilt. My quilts are out in the air away from the sunlight. The cedar blocks keep the moths out of the room. You just have to use proper care. You don't throw them in the washer with a bottle of bleach. You treat them as you would any other fine linen.

CK: Have you followed your quilts in that do you know what has happened to the ones that you have made for friends or family?

SG: Some of them. I had one gal tell me about one that I made for her daughter when she was born. It was an elephant quilt and the ears flapped and it had tails that dangled, and the little girl is now in her thirties and she has the quilt that she had that I made her when she was a baby, but the elephants don't have any tails [both laughing.] and the reason for it is Ann says that her daughter would walk around and pull the quilt by the elephant's tails.

CK: Oh.

SG: It was all gingham, and it was really a cute quilt. Some of the other ones of course ended up in shreds and tears, and I know one baby quilt that I made for somebody and all that is left is a little square, and that is in a person's baby book.

CK: My goodness, what a fun thing. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

SG: Well, there is one thing that I didn't mention is that I also make quilts for preemies and stillborn babies for the hospital. Even though they are not really big, they have a special meaning because it is something that I know goes somewhere to remind people that even when they are in their toughest hours with their new baby that might not have made it that somebody cares.

CK: What a wonderful thing to do. Any other thing that you would like to mention?

SG: I don't think so. I just enjoy quilting.

CK: All right, I would like to thank Sue Glen for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Oregon DAR, Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 11:30 a.m.

[end of recording.]


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