Elizabeth Lindstrom Ford




Elizabeth Lindstrom Ford




Elizabeth Lindstrom Ford


Evelyn Salinger

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Falls Church, Virginia


Ruth Duncan


Evelyn Salinger (ES): Hello, this is Evelyn Salinger and today I'm going to conduct an interview with Elizabeth Lindstrom Ford, known as Beth Ford to all of us. This is the twenty-first of November 2002. It's around 11:20 in the morning in Falls Church. Our scribe is Ruth Duncan. We are doing this for the Quilters' S.O.S. Beth's number is 22302.001.

Welcome, Beth.

Beth Ford (BF): Thank you for coming.

ES: We'd like to know what you've brought today to give us a little start on something to discuss. Is it something you're working on right now?

BF: Let me see. No, this is something I put together some time ago. It's made of tiny hexagons, and they are put together with six sides and expanded outwardly with row after row of hexagons which make it get larger and larger. At various intervals I have added a row of black hexagons to divide it up a little bit.

ES: Can you describe the colors you are using?

BF: Well, they're bright, mostly. There's a bright pink, a kind of a maroon in a way, and then a dark pink or a bright pink, and there's one row of real true blue which doesn't seem to fit in with the others, but it's there! There's aqua and purple and pink as well as the blue and a bright red, a Christmas red, and a turquoise that's darker than the other one and these are divided into six-sided figures that have black ones in between them so it's divided into sections.

ES: At this point, it's a star. Are you going to keep adding to this?

BF: I haven't added to it for some time. I'm open to suggestions. [laughs.] I'm not sure what I want to do next. It seems to me what I ought to do is figure out a line of demarcation and then start with a larger hexagon to make it look like it's growing bigger. And then maybe after several, uh, chapters, shall we say [laughter.] make even larger hexagons. I don't know what it will end up eventually, but--

ES: Will you tell us what is the dimension of the side of your hexagon?

BF: I would have to measure it because I don't remember.

ES: 3/8"? ½"? As much as ½"?

BF: I think probably ½" or a little more.

ES: That's a remarkable piece. And what do you think you would do with it when you get done?

BF: Well--make a quilt?

ES: Oh, it will be a--

BF: Maybe a wall hanging would be more interesting, because then more people would see it.

ES: Lovely. Beth, how did you get started on quilting?

BF: Well, my husband's aunt and grandmother made quilts. My mother, I think, made a few quilts because we needed something for covers. We always called them covers. But after I married my husband, his grandmother and his aunt had been quilters and they had a number of lovely, lovely old heirloom quilts, which now we have passed on to one of our sons and they are out in Seattle, Washington. They have some hanging. They will take them. He made special hangers' things up at the ceiling level so they can be changed from time to time. And I feel they are being well taken care of.

ES: These are the heritage quilts. When were they made? The early 1900s?

BF: Some were made before the 1900's, as early as the 1880's, perhaps. And Jim [her son] and his wife have those.

ES: Do they have any of your quilts?

BF: No. [laughs.]

ES: Oh, Okay.

BF: I need to make each one of my boys a quilt, I guess.

ES: I just wanted to ask you: did you learn how to quilt from this aunt of your husband? Or did you use her example?

BF: I think I went to Ruth Duncan's library [the James M. Duncan, Jr., Branch of the Alexandria, Virginia Library.] and got out a book. [laughs.]

ES: Really. And you taught yourself?

BF: Yes. I knew that Aunt Gladys, my husband's Aunt Gladys, had made quilts and we eventually obtained her quilts and have passed them since on to the sons, as I mentioned. What did you ask me?

ES: I guess I wanted to know from whom you learned quilting, but you seem to have done it yourself.

BF: Well, I've always sewed.

ES: I see.

BF: I've sewed since I was old enough to hold a needle. I love to sew. My mother put me to hemming dish towels [made.] out of feed sacks. So, I knew how to sew, and I like to sew. Even when I was in high school, I made several garments. My mother guided me, or they probably would not have been quite as presentable. I'm not sure about that.

ES: So, you did machine work by that time.

BF: Yes, Mother had a sewing machine and even in high school I started making my own clothes and have always enjoyed doing that. And I think that was a natural lead-in to quilting.

ES: Now what did you choose for your first project, do you remember? One of the early ones?

BF: Why don't you ask me an easy question?

ES: Because I want to know when you looked at the book, what got you started, what got you inspired--

BF: Well, one time, our boys were in college. Two of them went to the University of Illinois. They were four years apart. Each knew a young man who was half-way between their ages. After they were all out of school, this young man came to work in Alexandria in the library. The kids had him over to our house frequently. He started keeping company with one of the girls at the library and they came to our house one night and somebody said something about quilts and the girl said, 'Mrs. Ford, will you take us upstairs and show us the quilts?' I said, 'Sure,' so we went upstairs, and we saw the quilts and they convinced me that I ought to bring them to the library and show them. So, the first thing, I remember Ruth Duncan peeking through the window because she wanted to be in there to see and she had her duties she had to perform as the librarian. [laughter,] Now what did you ask me?

ES: By that time, you had already started some quilts, when you asked them?

BF: No, not many. No these were heirloom quilts from the family.

ES: I'm trying to find out when did you do your first one? What sort of thing did you do? Piecework, or appliqué, or--

BF: I'm sure it was piecing. And I can't remember.

ES: That's okay. Maybe it'll come to you after a while.

BF: Maybe so.

ES: Let's see. So somewhere along the line you began quilting.

RD: Could you tell us when you started organizing the Cardinal Quilters? Because that came fairly early in your career, did it not?

BF: Oh, yes. That was the beginning. I'm trying to think of the other lady who had the other quilts.

RD: Eve Harber?

BF: Eve Harber had a number of quilts that had come down from her family. She was not a quilter, but she had these lovely quilts. So, we decided that with my quilts and her quilts together, it would make a nice showing. So, we got permission from the library to use the meeting room and my husband came and put-up clothes lines. They let us. I don't remember whether we pounded nails in their walls, or what, but they let us string up the quilts. Eve's quilts were quite old, and she didn't know much about quilting, but she knew that these quilts were very nice, and I think her mother and grandmother, perhaps, had made them. It made quite a nice little showing. Well, there were so many people that came to that show, that we broke all the rules of fire regulations, I know. They had glass-paned doors to that meeting room and there were people with their hands round their eyes trying to peer in, but there wasn't room for them to get in. [laughs.] Oh, we had a wonderful time! Now, I believe I had met Penny Rigdon before that time and I invited her and her good friend, whose name I can't think of, who came with her husband and were there as people who knew what quilting was and could answer intelligently questions people might have. Because at that time I didn't know anything about quilting except we had these wonderful quilts.

ES: So, you have all this heritage behind you before you even started. Okay, tell us. So somewhere you started quilting and somewhere along the way you started teaching quilting. Was that all pretty much--

BF: I was teaching as I learned, I think because people were just hungry for learning how to do this. And it really isn't that difficult. I had always sewn since I was young and so it was an easy transition. And fun. I think I've always had a kind of a natural bent for communicating with people and teaching things, perhaps. I don't mean to be egotistical, but it--

ES: You definitely had a place there in the teaching world.

BF: So, we just learned together at first. Then, what is the name of the gal who lives down off of Ft. Hunt Road?

RD: Barbara Zygiel?

BF: Barbara Zygiel came. I don't know whether she knew about quilting before, but she jumped right in and joined the group and helped out and learned along with the rest of us.

ES: Interruption here. Barbara joined--what group?

BF: The group that met at the library.

ES: Okay.

BF: Now I believe that Penny Rigdon urged us to make it a chapter of the National Quilting Association. She and a couple who always went to Maryland to the meetings over there and they took me along. I always enjoyed that very much. So that was kind of the foundation of forming a chapter of the National Quilting Association.

ES: How did you come up with the name?

BF: Cardinal Quilters. Let's, see?

ES: Maybe you didn't come up with it, but somebody else did?

BF: No. You know, I don't remember, but there was a --

RD: Is it the Virginia State bird?

BF: I think that's it, yes, we're in Virginia. I believe that's right. And we became the Cardinal Quilters and sent in our application to be members of NQA.

ES: And I believe that was 1977, because last February we celebrated the 25th anniversary. So, who was in it--Barbara and Penny and you--who else were in the very beginning?

BF: Eve Harber was always there. She never entered in--she wasn't a needlewoman at all, but she enjoyed the company and I think she enjoyed taking a little bit of the credit for putting the whole thing together, and that was nice. It gave her something to talk about and be proud of.

ES: Now how about more of the teaching? Did you ever teach at a Senior Citizens' center or any other place besides the library?

BF: When I was invited, several different things. They had a group out off of old Telegraph Road at that community center. They had opportunities for people. I don't remember how it developed, but they asked me to do a class out there. So, there were a number of people in that area that took a needle to the quilt.

ES: Do you feel successful as far as your students have come along?

BF: Oh, my, yes. Look at Joan Knight.

ES: Joan was one of your students?

BF: She took her first lesson in my house, in my basement.

ES: And who else? Barbara?

BF: Barbara Zygiel. And my niece--

ES: Oh, Linda Freeman.

BF: Linda Freeman learned from me. She's a master.

ES: She sure is.

BF: She's a smart woman and she picks up quickly and she's a good instructor. I'm very proud of her.

ES: How about Ruth Duncan?

BF: Yes, Ruth finally decided she didn't have to peek through the window anymore [laughter.] and she has turned out to be a marvelous quilter.

ES: What is it that inspires you when you start a new project? Do you get something from a magazine or someone else, or just from your own mind? I can think of so many creative things you have made.

BF: It could come from anywhere. I haven't launched anything fresh or new since we've been here [Goodwin House West.]. My husband hasn't been well and so I'm just sort of sloughing along and doing little things.

ES: Bur you're still doing a little bit every day, aren't you?

BF: I keep things in his room, so when I'm sitting there, I can stitch.

ES: I was thinking about all the different techniques you've used over the years. One of the things that I remember that maybe you could talk about is some of your wearable art. Some things you've made, some clothing.

BF: Ooh, that's what I was first, was a clothing maker.

ES: But a quilted clothing person.

BF: Well, not right away. I just always from a teenager made things. My mother helped but I could have better clothes by buying the fabrics and making them than going to the store and buying ready mades.

ES: I'm thinking of some of the things you've done in recent years, like the jacket that uses all the recycled materials on it.

BF: Yes. Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

ES: I think that's so great.

BF: It's also got junk on it.

ES: Well, recycled and junk. Hair curlers and I don't remember what else. Now what inspired you to do that? It just grew.

BF: Well, you know if you're a good girl, you--[laughs.] there's not much mischief you can get into, but if you can think of something that nobody else would do--[giggles.] Maybe you can be a little bit naughty. [laughs.]

ES: Yes.

BF: I was always a good girl.

ES: Yes. Well, I'm thinking of another of your projects, -the one with the ladies on it. The beautiful ladies. I forget what was the beginning of that.

BF: Penny Rigdon gave me these black and white prints. They were traditional. Is that a good word, ladies? We had talked about them and the possibility of dressing them, so I dressed them. So, I guess they are kind of three-dimensional. They hung here [Goodwin House West.] on a wall for about a month.

ES: Oh, great!

BF: So, everybody could see them, and they thoroughly enjoyed them.

ES: What kind of comments did you get?

BF: 'Who did that?'

ES: Can you describe some of the stuff that you put on just because we can't see it?

BF: I should have it in front of me, because I haven't looked at it in a while. It's got shiny fabrics in it, it's got--oh, I guess I should have it in front to tell you about that.

RD: You started that project, I think, when we were talking about embellishments in Cardinals. The prints Penny gave you. I think we decided they were by Aubrey Beardsley.

BF: That's right.

RD: So, they have that very ornate, turn of the century, faintly decadent look to them. And they become gloriously so, when you put on the satins and silks.

ES: And feathers and beads--

RD: And feathers and beads. They were much naughtier than you ever were. [laughter.] I can tell.

BF: Well, Penny gave me those. I felt like I had to do something special with them--

RD: For her. But you were an inspiration to the rest of us in the field of embellishment, because this was kind of taking it to a higher plane than we had--

BF: Well, you know when you make a quilt you stick to cottons because they work and they don't shift on you, or shrink, if you prewash them, so this gave an opening to whatever-feathers, silks and satins, buttons--

ES: Has it ever been printed or published in something like Quilter's Newsletter [Magazine.]?

BF: No.

ES: You have had some things published in Quilter's Newsletter [Magazine.] though in the past?

BF: They printed my sign 'Quilters are--' I should have brought that down. Now I can't remember what it says.

RD: It says something like, 'Crazy'--

BF: 'Kind.'

RD: 'Crazy, kind'-- and several other things, and these were all crossed out and then it said, 'WARM people.'

ES: So that was in Quilter's Newsletter [Magazine.]. Thinking back, what is your favorite technique?

BF: I suppose appliqué because that gives you a chance to be a little creative and different and I don't like to copy other people's things particularly. I'd rather introduce some of my own thought or talent or whatever.

ES: That's being creative!

BF: Sometimes they don't work out as nicely as you might have thought. I'm looking at this [refers to the star of tiny hexagons.] and this line of blue does not go with the rest.

ES: I wouldn't be critical of it. I think it's fine.

BF: I think I'd like to cover it over with something else.

ES: I wouldn't change a thing especially after you got those little bitty hexagons together.

RD: I think that's the kind of thing that is put in to make the eye see the bigger hexagon.

BF: I don't know why that got in there.

ES: That's okay.

BF: There's a couple in here, too.

ES: I know in recent years you've learned how to do quilting by machine. Do you enjoy that?

BF: Sure, why not? It's fast.

ES: Yes, but it's amazingly difficult, it seems to me.

BF: Well, if you're used to sewing already and have done a lot of clothes making--

ES: Do you, when you do it by machine, do you usually do the whole quilt or do it in pieces and put it together?

BF: Either way really. Whatever. I haven't made a lot of machine-made quilts but if you've already learned how to sew and I was a fine seamstress. I knew how to handle the machine and I got a new machine, and I knew how to handle that. And if you know how to handle it, you can do whatever you want with it.

ES: Great. When you go to a show and you see other people's quilts, what turns you on? What do you think makes a great quilt?

BF: I think the ones that are created by the maker, not copies of what someone else has made. Not that there's anything wrong with copying something that's very nice, but if you can create your own and call it yours, it means more to me, as an individual. Now maybe some people wouldn't feel quite as strongly about that as I do. But that makes me feel good when it was my own thought that went into it.

ES: Yes. I was going to ask, what do you think quilting has done for American life? Is it something important, part of our heritage?

BF: Certainly, it is part of our heritage, when you think of all the old quilts that were made for utilitarian purposes and they have survived and have a certain amount of beauty to them. Because I think some of our early settlers, they didn't have paints where they could do art things and this was an outlet for them to express some talent, perhaps, or thought or whatever makes a woman feel like she's accomplished something on her own without being told what to do. How's that?

ES: That sounds good! What's happened to all the quilts you've made? You haven't kept very many here, have you?

BF: I haven't made that many. [laughs.]

ES: It seems like you did a lot.

BF: I've taught a lot of lessons.

ES: Okay.

BF: I really haven't completed hundreds of quilts, like some quilters have.

ES: But each of yours is unique.

BF: Yes, I think maybe so. I like to do things differently than what someone else has laid out. There's nothing wrong with what other people have laid out, but that's theirs. I want to do mine. That sounds selfish, I guess.

ES: Somewhere in the conversation earlier, you said that you also helped Madeline Shepperson get started in her new store?

BF: Well, she came to me before she opened her shop.

ES: And that's Quilt 'n' Stuff.

BF: She had worked for somebody else, and I had met her there. She called me and asked if she could come out and talk to me. I said, 'Sure, come on.' And we had a nice visit. She asked a lot of questions of me as a quilter. I think she wanted to learn to put herself in the place of a quilter so she could supply to quilters things that they would appreciate and be made available to them. She was very sincere in her wanting to have a store that would answer the needs of all quilters. If I was a help to her, so be it.

ES: That's great. Another thing in the area. At some point you helped document Virginia quilts?

BF: Well, I was on the very perimeter of that. I think Joan Knight and my niece, Linda Freeman, spent a lot of time on that project. She's a marvelous quilter. She's very inventive. She picks up all the new techniques, works them out and presents them at our next meeting. And she's just absolutely wonderful. I'm so proud of her.

ES: Your niece. We'll have to get her on one of these tapes.

BF: I wish my mother could have known her better. She would have loved the fact that she sews so beautifully.

ES: It's an inherited talent, coming down the generations. Yes. Let's see. Is there anything else we could ask at this point? Is there something you would like to talk about? I see you have something there in your hand.

BF: Not really. I just piddle around and do what comes along.

ES: You're showing us a little Christmas band around a tea towel?

BF: Yes, a guest towel.

ES: Oh, they're very intricate.

BF: I like to make things. Maybe they're exactly like what somebody else made, but I didn't copy them.

ES: Lovely. Little strips of Seminole quilting. And I see there a patch that you're doing. Is that a Log Cabin patch?

BF: I think I made this as a teaching sample, to start out--

ES: There's definitely a dark half and a light half. Reds and blacks, whites. Very nice.

BF: My husband's family were seamstress type people. They made their own clothes. One of his aunts made a dress one time, a patchwork dress. This is a chunk of it.

ES: Very old-looking.

BF: By the time I got it, it was worn in various places. You can see the zipper was in that part right there.

ES: And it has black feather stitching.

BF: Yes. But she did it in all silks and satin-type things. This was my husband's aunt. She was a professor of Home Economics at the University of Wisconsin. This was a dress she had made for herself. I would imagine she was not a regular quilter, but she may have made this quilted dress to present to her class so they would see what could be done with quilting other than just quilts.

ES: These are just little crazy scraps, one color after the other--

BF: But they're all silky types. And it was a dress.

ES: And now has this inspired you to do your crazy patches? I know you're working on something.

BF: Well, partly, yes.

ES: Are you going to incorporate it in here?

BF: You can see this is where the zipper was--

ES: Are you going to incorporate this into your crazy quilt that you're making?

BF: I think I already have a chunk in there. [laughs.]

ES: Well, you can chunk up a few more, right--

BF: I really didn't bring anything else of any--I haven't done anything much since we moved here because my husband hasn't been well and you have to be organized to--to have something ready to pick up right now and I think I'm finally organized to do that, but I'm a little bit late. But maybe there'll be a result one time.

RD: What did you do with the quilts that you did make? I know you sold some jackets.

BF: Yes, oh, yes, down at the shop in Alexandria, I can't--the name escapes me right now.

ES: Was it Elder--an Elder--

RD: Elder Crafters?

BF: Elder Crafters. That's exactly what it was. Uh, but after we moved, I just didn't have time. There's so much going on here that's loads of fun. We have a great time.

ES: Do you have a quilting group that meets here sometimes at Goodwin House West?

BF: A sewing group.

ES: A sewing group, un huh.

BF: Now, there's a chapter of Quilters Unlimited that meets here but they don't have anything to do with the people here. As a matter of fact, when I had my Ladies quilt hanging, I don't think any of them came up to see it. They're just interested in having a place to meet and they meet down in the auditorium or upstairs if it's not available or something. And they have a great time and we--

ES: It's too bad they don't incorporate some of you. [laughs.]

BF: Well, there's two people who go regularly to it and they have joined it.

ES: Oh.

BF: And I started to join and then my husband got sick and so I thought I don't need this right now. Maybe I'll join sometime. I can go to their meetings anytime, and when they have a special program a lot of us go. They invite us to come, and they do have nice programs.

RD: I wanted to ask you about quilts it seems to me that you made some to order for people at one time.

BF: Yes. [slowly.] I didn't do that very long.

RD: It must have been hard to make your--your design ideas march with what they wanted.

BF: Well, and when you do something for somebody else, you have to do what they want. And I didn't particularly like having strangers come into my home. Now it could be different here, because I could meet them down here.

ES: There was a time when you had people meeting [at your home.] at a quilting bee on alternate Fridays?

BF: Yes.

ES: I've just remembered that.

BF: Yes, I guess. Did we bring sandwiches?

RD: Sometimes. Sometimes we just met to quilt. Brought our own projects—

BF: Yes. Sat around the dining table--

RD: Show and Tell--

ES: That was just at the beginning when I moved here.

BF: Oh, Okay.

RD: Well, before that, it was bigger, and a lot of people came, and we sat all around the living room and everywhere and brought our own projects and had Show and Tell every time.

BF: [laughs.] Oh, let's see, what else did we do? Oh, we had our Christmas party there one year.

RD: More than one year.

BF: And everybody brought their dishes and we had them all around the table--had the food on the kitchen table. You fill your plate and get your drink and go sit down. And we had a good time.

ES: You made a lot of friendships through quilting, haven't you?

BF: Yes.

ES: You consider them--

BF: Quilters are kind of down to the earth people. A lot of them, anyway.

ES: Yes. Any other memories you'd like to share with us?

BF: Should have thought of this two weeks ago!

ES: Well, I think we've really enjoyed very much hearing about what you've done and I hope we've covered all the things you'd have liked to talk about.

BF: Well, I think two of the people in quilting that I have enjoyed very, very much are sitting right here.

ES: Well, thank you. It's been a pleasure.

BF: You're both very ambitious and work hard and produce--you produce beautifully.

ES: Well. You have been an inspiration to all of us and the fact that you founded the Cardinal Quilters 25 years ago we're very proud of that. And we thank you very much for all your help to us over the years.

BF: Thank you for listening to all my little things.

ES: Well, we'll sign off here.


“Elizabeth Lindstrom Ford,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/2027.