Peg Reagle




Peg Reagle




Peg Reagle


Amy Tetlow Smith

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Nancy O'Bryant Puentes


Fair Hill, Maryland


Amy Tetlow Smith


Amy Tetlow Smith (ATS): This is Amy Tetlow Smith. It is 9:45 on June 10th, 2003. I'm conducting an interview with Peg Reagle for the Quilters' S.O.S. project. Hi, Peg.

Peg Reagle (PR): Hi.

ATS: Could you tell me about this quilt you have with you today?

PR: Well, as I said, I've had this fabric forever. And I had yards and yards of it. I always wanted to use it. And I decided.

ATS: Now, that's the butterfly fabric, right?

PR: Oh. So, I decided to make a quilt for the R.V. which the bed there, you haven't got much tuck, so you have to be careful how big you make it. Anyway, I started to make it and I realized that I could use it to put our wherever we go in the R.V. as a memory quilt. So, I started to embroider that in the corners. Then I decided I might as well make it reversible since I had some more fabric that I liked but had never used. So, it's not together yet, but pretty soon, pretty soon by the end of the summer it will be quilted and out there and traveling, hopefully.

ATS: So, you'll take it on your trip this summer?

PR: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. That'll be Lake George.

ATS: Those are fabrics from your stash. Where do you usually get your fabric?

PR: Everywhere. Show me a quilt store, I'll find me a fabric. Actually this [the butterfly fabric.] came from Wal-Mart but I've seen it out in Lavail, Maryland. I saw it in a quilt store there. I think this [flowered fabric on reverse side.] might have come from Wal-Mart, too. I can't remember actually. I know this did, but I don't know that this did on the reverse side, so I buy it everywhere. Right now, I'm on a Fossil Fern [a line of fabric.] kick. Trying to get all the fossil ferns.

ATS: How many have you got of the fossil ferns?

PR: I've probably got about 45 of them now, I don't know, because I just love them. They are so easy to work with.

ATS: Do you have a project planned for them?

PR: Oh, yes. What did I just make with them? Oh, yes, the appliqué. I'm doing that, what's-it-called, string of pearls. Okay, I've got five squares done, four to go.

ATS: So, this is a pieced quilt.

PR: Right.

ATS: You also do appliqué.

PR: Right.

ATS: And do you usually work on the machine or by hand?

PR: I do both. If there is good TV on, I'm working by hand. If there isn't, I'm working on the machine. [laughter.]

ATS: That's a way to decide.

PR: Besides which, if my back hurts, I'm definitely working by hand.

ATS: So, you collect fabrics not necessarily with a project in mind?

PR: No, no. I never have a project in mind. I just know I'm going to work it in somewhere.

ATS: But when you find a pattern, do you usually get to your stash first or do you--

PR: No, I go to my stash--

ATS: --go to your stash first.

PR: It just happened those fossil ferns got to me. [laughs.] What can I tell you? [laughs.]

ATS: OK, you've been—when did you start making this quilt?

PR: Last year, 2002, probably, I think in the spring. And I got the Handi-quilter last spring.

ATS: Now what's a Quilter-quilter?

PR: To do the machine quilting on it. Where you use your machine to do the quilting but it's a system, you know, where it glides back around. And I had it up in the living room. It takes a tremendous amount of space because it's 12 foot long if you're using it for a big quilt.

ATS: To machine quilt a large quilt--

PR: Right. So, I took it down the basement and it hasn't been put up since. I had to get my husband to put lights up, which he just finished.

ATS: So, you'll use that on this quilt?

PR: Yes. This summer. I figure it'll be a good practice quilt.

ATS: That one's for you.

PR: Yes.

ATS: What do you usually do with the quilts you make?

PR: One's on my bed. String-of-Pearls is definitely mine. But I've made them for the grandchildren. Made them for a great grandchild just last week, she got hers. Well, she was just born. And, I suppose I'm going to have to start making them for my kids. [laughs.] You know, but it's hard to get four done in a year. And if I make one, I have to hide it until I got the other three done.

ATS: So, you usually give them away?

PR: Right. I also work for Project Linus.

ATS: How many quilts would you guess that you've made?

PR: Shew, man. Well, it's only been about five years that I'm quilting. I've probably made 30 and that's not counting the ones for Project Linus. I know I've made at least thirty for them.

ATS: You've only been quilting for five years?

PR: About that.

ATS: What got you started?

PR: I always sewed. Well, I didn't always sew. When I first got married, when I was pregnant with my second daughter, when I was just pregnant with her, I decided maybe the thing to do was to learn how to sew. So, we went and bought a second-hand sewing machine, and I had no clue how to work it. So, I took ten Singer lessons. And I started to make clothes for the kids. And that's how I learned. So, I always made their clothes when they were little. I made clothes like crazy not for myself but mostly for the kids. And then when I went back to work, I didn't sew for a long time except to mend and stuff. But about five years before I retired maybe a little longer. I thought when I retire, I'm going to do some quilting. I bought a quilt frame at a yard sale. It's still sitting in the closet. Brand new. Fifteen bucks. How could you lose, right? So, I really didn't know that I was going to quilt. I mean I knew I was going to, but I didn't know when. And after I did, and then I did one fence rail that's out in the RV on the machine. You know, teach yourself to machine quilt booklet. And I thought, well that wasn't so hard, just time consuming.

ATS: So, are you mostly self-taught?

PR: I like to go up to The Hive for classes sometimes, but I have so many things I want to do, that I don't have time to go to The Hive all the time. [laughs.]

ATS: What is your first quilt memory?

PR: Oh, Lord. My first quilt memory. Of something I did or something somebody else did?

ATS: Either one.

PR: I have no clue.

ATS: Did you ever sleep under quilts when you were children?

PR: No.

ATS: You do now?

PR: Yes, I do now, but I didn't then. You know I really don't know. It was probably something I read.

ATS: Are there any other quiltmakers in your family?

PR: Not that I'm aware of.

ATS: You're the first.

PR: I guess. Now my mother sewed my clothes, but she never did quilts or anything like that. And none of my girls sew. Well, my oldest daughter is working on a quilt here. In the deep, dark months of the winter, she says she's going to come back in the summer, but we'll see. I don't really think it's her thing. The grandchildren more than my children will sew.

ATS: What's your favorite part of the quilt making?

PR: Fabric.

ATS: Buying the fabric?

PR: Yes. Or collecting the fabric [laughter.] or deciding how you're going to use the fabric.

ATS: So, are you a designer then?

PR: No. I don't know. I guess once I--once I get started. I think every single quilt that I've ever done I've started one way and wound up with a different thing because I get some kind of a thought as I'm doing it and I change it. I think everyone.

ATS: What's your least favorite part?

PR: My least favorite part. Huh. I'd like to hand quilt better. But since I never did hand quilting, the one that I told you is on my bed, when I made that I decided that I wanted it to be warm so I double batted it and then wound up hand quilting--well I don't even call it hand quilting, I call it utility stitching because I really wasn't very good at it and I didn't care because it's that snowman collector. And I think it kind of looks better with the stitches big. That's what I tell myself anyway.

ATS: Have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time?

PR: Yes, I do now. I do now. I've got my mother. You know she's 94. She had a stroke in December. I really don't feel comfortable leaving her. So, instead of being on the road today, I'm home. Been there done that. Yes.

ATS: What do you think makes a really great quilt?

PR: Color. Definitely color. I like vibrant color. I really do. Well, that's probably why I like the fossil ferns, because so many of those have such great color.

ATS: What about a great quiltmaker?

PR: What do I think makes a great quiltmaker? Gosh. A great, I guess they have experience and time and money to put into it. You know. Mostly experience.

ATS: So are you going to be a great quiltmaker ten years from now?

PR: I don't know. My mantra's on the refrigerator there in that poem. And maybe my grandkids will remember that. That's all you care about.

ATS: Are the quilts then a way to be remembered?

PR: I guess they are. Yes. The ones I've given the kids I know they'll keep and remember.

ATS: Oh.

PR: I used to have a list of the ones, I still have a list, but I don't add to it very often, what I've made. But I do take a picture of most of them.

ATS: That's good.

PR: Yes.

ATS: When you make quilts for Project Linus, the one that I told you, do you get together with other people to do that?

PR: Yes, yes. When do we meet [looking at a schedule she has posted.], what, the second Wednesday? Yes, the second Wednesday of the month.

ATS: And how does that work?

PR: Well, everybody just comes, we meet at the church. And they gave us a little place to store stuff if we want. Some of us bring machines and some of us don't. Depends on what you're working on. If you're in the middle of working on one, you can bring your machine and work on it. And if you're not, you can decide on what you're going to do. What's nice is to be putting a binding on there because then you can talk and sew at the same time. You don't have to think too much. [laughs.]

ATS: Binding doesn't take a lot of thinking?

PR: I know, but some people, well I mean one woman that belongs to it, I mean she brings probably ten quilts every time, at least. Now, a lot of them she does pillow-case style. But I'll bet she's made probably 200 quilts already. We get a lot of fabric donated.

ATS: Where do the Linus quilts go?

PR: Oh, they go to St. Francis. They go to Christiana. They go to--Christiana has one of ours hanging in the children's area there. A lot of fire companies want them. They use them if a house gets burned out. They give one right away to a child, so they have something of their own. There's a maternity clinic--I don't know whether it's affiliated with Christian or St. Francis in Wilmington for unmarried girls and we donate to them. They just go all over. And a lot of them go to nursing homes. You know depending on, they always need quilts. And some people like my mother used to crochet for Linus project. She would make afghans but since the stroke she's been having a problem doing that.

ATS: How would you recommend that a person interested in learning to make quilts get started?

PR: How would I recommend that a person interested- go to class. Find somebody that's already doing them. And go to class. Buddy up. That's what I would think.

ATS: What are the most important things to know when you are starting? If there is one thing that somebody could have told you when you were starting that would have helped you along?

PR: That would have helped me along. I have to think about that. What would have helped me along? I like a security blanket, for when I start so you don't get that snag.

ATS: What do you mean by a security blanket?

PR: You know that little scrap that you put under the needle first and then go on your quilting? Yes, I like that. I can't think of anything else. There's probably so many things that I do that I've always done sewing that I don't even think about them. You know, they're just applied to quilting now.

ATS: So, you had your sewing skills to start with.

PR: Yes, right. Plus, I have, you saw all the thread in there. Well, I've got my mother's stash, my mother-in-laws stash. You know it's part of the stash. Some of the material in there is probably 35 or 40 years old. So, I've got my own reproduction stuff. [laughter.]

ATS: But is it reproduction? [laughs.]

PR: Well, no, no. [laughs.] I know there's a piece of blue with strawberries in there that I made a set for Suzy, my youngest daughter, when she was six. I have always kept a piece of that material. Don't ask me why. I have no clue.

ATS: How old is Suzy?

PR: Forty. But she remembers it. And a lot of the times, I do have a piece in there that I add to sporadically- a six-inch square that I just add on to a quilt that has pieces of material that I've used for the kids or grandkids or whatever.

ATS: Have you ever done an entire quilt with just pieces from your daughters' dresses.

PR: No. My daughters' dresses got worn out because three girls and they got handed down.

ATS: Or pieces of fabric you saved from--

PR: I do have some pieces of fabric, but I never put them together. You know they probably ought to go in a collage in a frame on a wall, you know, because I don't have that many. I have some from my daughter who died but not too many of them either.

ATS: In what way do your quilts reflect your community or the region that you live in?

PR: The community or the region that I live in? I have no clue.

ATS: Do you pick up ideas from other people?

PR: Yes, sometimes. I love the magazines for ideas. But then, like I said, I embroider on them or whatever. But that's alright. I figure it's my quilt, I'll do whatever I want with it.

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

PR: You know, now that you mention it, I do have that quilt that was my husband's great aunt's. It's a hundred years old. A hundred and six now. That was made for her birth. In what way do I think they, well I think they show a lot how women spent their time. That's for sure. And they do keep a history, too. They depict a history, a lot of them. I'm not clever enough to do that I don't think.

ATS: You have one piece of history then, is it your husbands' great aunt's--

PR: Great aunt. Yes, that was made for her. And I have the documentation too for that because she gave it to my sister-in-law who was going to donate it to Goodwill. So, I shrieked at her, 'What do you mean you're going to give it to Goodwill? Now give me that thing.'

ATS: Where--who will it go to after you're gone?

PR: One of my daughters. I haven't decided which one. They're just going to have to pick, I guess. I don't know.

ATS: You are going to keep it in the family.

PR: Oh, yes. I keep meaning to call Winterthur because there's a little bit of damage to it. And I'd like to take it up there and see what they say to do with it and have it hanging. I have a nice, dark hall there. I could hang it. You know the sun wouldn't hit it at all.

ATS: You would like to display it.

PR: Yes. I'd like to get it enclosed in something; I think. But I don't know whether--our quilt guild did a quilt for a church over, not in Oxford [Pennsylvania.], I don't think it's Nottingham either, somewhere around there. Anyway, and it's a big quilt and they put it in a glass case, hanging. And they drilled holes so that the air would get in and everything. And the colors are bleeding already and now they're going to have to take it down and figure out what they did wrong. And they're not sure. So, I don't want to do that to it. It's a hundred years old already. So, yes, they were sick about it because a lot of time and work went into it.

ATS: So, tell me about your guild.

PR: My guild? Friendship Quilters in Oxford? Really nice group of women. Really nice.

ATS: What do you do at your guild meetings?

PR: Oh, well. We have the old business meeting. Then we have show and tell. Then we do block exchanges every other month. Every other month they give us a square of fabric and tell us make a block. This month it's a birdhouse. So, you have two months to make it. Anybody who participates gets their name in a bag, we have a drawing and whoever wins gets all the blocks which is really cool. I won the first one. I was amazed. Just amazed, but that's where the other two blocks are, or the other two quilts, they are in a drawer in there waiting to be put together.

ATS: So, you haven't put together the blocks that you won yet?

PR: No! Of course, they told me, 'Have it ready in two months.' Well, that dreamer. And then at Christmas we did bowtie with Christmas fabric- just my thing. And we had to make 25 and everybody exchanged them so that's another quilt that I haven't completely put together.

ATS: How many things do you usually have going at once?

PR: Oh, Lord. Well, if you count the unquilted ones [laughs.] there's three right off the bat. And let's see, I have that flannel quilt that--I'm doing string of pearls, that's five. I should be finishing my appliqué quilt, that's six. But then if I get a magazine and there's something neat in it this month, it'll be seven. But I just finished, like I said, the baby quilt for the grandchild. So, I do occasionally get one finished. [laughs.] It's a struggle, but I do.

ATS: Do you feel accomplished when you do?

PR: Oh, yes, oh, yes.

ATS: Do you prefer quilting with a group, with other people, or do you like to quilt by yourself?

PR: I guess I pretty much enjoy sitting by myself and doing it. I mean, I don't mind being with other people at a class or something, but I get more done. I'm easily distracted. [laughs.] It must be the ADD or whatever. I don't know. Cause a lot of the time I might sew on the machine for an hour and then sit and appliqué for an hour. Just want to do something different. Pretty day like today, I'd be out weeding the garden.

ATS: You'll get there. Do you hope that you'll get to teach one of your grandchildren to quilt?

PR: Oh, yes. The girls, oh, four of the girls used to come when they didn't have high school things going on. They used to come on Mondays or Tuesdays. But they made sweatshirts, and they made small quilts. And my oldest granddaughter made a full bed sized quilt. And the youngest one made a doll bed sized quilt, which she just turned 14 and she still has, and she's thrilled with 'cause she made it. And the girls, when they made the sweatshirts, all wore them to school the next day--they made fleece sweatshirts. And they wore them to school the next day. And, of course, they all went to different schools. And they all came back the next week and said, 'Nobody believed that I made it.' And they had to look and there wasn't any label in it, and they said, you cut the label out. We need labels. So, I made them labels and put them in them.

My one grandson made a sweatshirt. He made a table runner for his mother for Christmas.

ATS: How nice!

PR: What else. He made something else for her for Christmas. Not a shirt, though. I forget what it was, but I have a picture of it.

ATS: So, is this the family stash here in your sewing room?

PR: I guess. You might as well say so. Well, my son, I swear, every time he comes, he has something for me to mend or to put together. You know he just told me last night, Mom, can you mend the--it's probably fake leather on the scooter seat that's starting to come apart? And do you have a curved needle? I said, yes. Well, I want you to do that with extra heavy gray thread. I said, right. He said, 'How much is this going to cost?' I said, '$10/stitch because I don't like working on scooters.' [laughs.]

ATS: Now, if it had been a quilt would you have--

PR: Oh, yes, if that was a quilt, I'd do it for free. [laughter.] On the scooter, you're paying through the nose.

ATS: Are there any topics that we've missed or anything that you'd like to add?

PR: No.

ATS: So, you'll have that quilt finished by the end of the summer for us?

PR: I hope so. I do. I hope so. And I probably will because it will be nice and cool in the basement, and it will be easy to work down there when it gets real hot. I just hate the idea of working down in the basement My husband's said for a long time, 'Oh, I'll make you a big room down there to sew in.' I don't want to sew down there no bathroom, you've got to have beaucoup artificial light, you're running up and down answering--well, there's a phone down there, but anyway.

ATS: You'd rather--

PR: No TV.

ATS: --quilt up here.

PR: Yes, I'd rather be upstairs anytime. And I have a friend that had a sewing room that her husband made her in the basement. All real nice. She makes dolls. And she was down there all the time and I saw her about--I took her to her first quilt show about six weeks—well, I took her to Lancaster. She'd never been to a quilt show, and she said to me, since I moved upstairs, I get so much more done. I said, 'What do you mean, I thought you liked it down the cellar?' 'Hate it,' she says. [laughs.] 'Hated it!'

ATS: You'll pick your small room upstairs over a big room in the basement.

PR: Oh yes. But the quilter has to go down there. Wouldn't it be nice to have a Gammill Quilting Machine--cost about $18,000 but you have to quilt a heck of a lot of quilts to afford that.

ATS: Yes. Would you ever consider selling your quilts?

PR: No, no. Somebody just asked me that at my niece's baby shower. I made her a quilt. Somebody said, 'Would you make one.' I said, 'No, no.' [laughs.] Because I know how I am. It would have to be absolutely perfect. And I'd spend more time tearing things out and rearranging. If I do it for myself, if I make a mistake, it's my mistake and it's my choice if I leave it in or out so, no I wouldn't do it for anybody else.

ATS: Well, thank you very much for agreeing to be interviewed.

PR: Oh, you're welcome.

ATS: It is about quarter after 10.

PR: Close enough.

ATS: And we are in Fair Hill, Maryland on a beautiful sunny day and I think Peg is going to go out and weed the garden.

PR: Oh, I don't know.

ATS: Thank you very much.

PR: You are quite welcome.



“Peg Reagle,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 24, 2024,