Ruth Noonan

Photos

VA22302_002_a.jpg

Title

Ruth Noonan

Identifier

VA22302-002

Interviewee

Ruth Noonan

Interviewer

Evelyn Salinger

Interview Date

12/11/02

Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics

Location

Alexandria, Virginia

Transcriber

Ruth Duncan

Transcription

Evelyn Salinger (ES): Hello, this is Evelyn Salinger and I'm conducting an interview with Ruth Noonan today from Cardinal Quilters in Alexandria, Virginia. Today's date is December 11, 2002. Our scribe is Ruth Duncan. This interview is for the project of Quilters' Save Our Stories. That's the way we will begin. Hi, Ruth.

Ruth Noonan (RN): Hi.

ES: How are you today?

RN: Oh, I'm fine.

ES: It's a pretty rainy day, isn't it?

RN: Sure is. [laughter.]

ES: I want to ask you about the quilt you have in front of you here. It seems to be a--what is it called?

RN: Grandmother's Flower Garden. And it was made by my aunt in 1927. I grew up watching her make quilts. Every winter the women from the small town would come to various houses and we'd have--the quilting frame would be put up in the living room and they'd sit around. As they finished one quilt, they'd go to the next house and work on the next quilt. So, I grew up seeing that, but I never participated, really.

Ruth Duncan (RD): Where? Where was this?

RN: Wisconsin. Small town in Wisconsin. And there are some of my dresses in this quilt--this is one--[indicates one block.]

ES: That's an orange and green and light mauve on a black--

RN: Yes, and this is another that has another patch that came from my dress that I remember and at that time--

ES: Who did the sewing for your dresses? Did your mother sew?

RN: I guess my aunt, and as I got to be 12 and 13, I did it. I made dresses. There wasn't much to dresses. They were just straight. Maybe a little flounce on the bottom.

ES: Let's describe this quilt now. You have a center of the Grandmother's hexagon is orange--

RN: Orange, then a solid color round, usually in different colors and the next round would be a floral in different prints and the last round, green and I guess then the round putting them together is white.

ES: Lovely. You say this was 1927.

RN: Yes, I had the quilt so many years and finally just this year saw the tag on here that says, 'Minnie Becker, 1927.'

ES: Minnie Becker. And that was your mother's sister?

RN: That was my father's sister.

ES: Father's sister. Very nice.

RN: This quilt--when we first moved down here, we were-- I use my quilts. We were using it on the bed. And we went down to the mall to one of the festivals in the summer and here they were selling those quilts for two and five hundred dollars. I came home and I took it off the bed. [laughter.] And packed it up in the closet! [laughter.] So, it has survived, but it needs--oh, this was my dress, too. [indicates another block.]

ES: Red and blue.

RN: I had it--I gave it to my youngest daughter and so I have it now to--to patch it because some of these [indicates a particular fabric.] are giving out.

ES: You're going to replace some of the squares.

RN: Yeah, I'm going to just appliqué over--

ES: What sort of material do you have? Are you going to--

RN: I'll try to match up the--this was a dress of mine, too. [points it out.]

ES: Do you have some of the old materials still?

RN: No. No. So, I'll just take new material and try to get as close to the pattern and the color as I can.

ES: So, you've slept under quilts your whole life?

RN: Yeah. Oh, yes. I remember in winter. It's cold in Wisconsin. We didn't have central heat. We had stoves. I had a bedroom way back and I had a--it seemed to be quite thick--log cabin of wool--made of woolens. They tied the quilts, many of them. And then in the spring, they'd snip it all open and take everything out and wash it and tie them again.

ES: Oh, I never heard about that.

RN: Yeah.

RD: That's more hygienic than a lot.

RN: They didn't get too dirty because they'd tie'em and take'em apart and wash'em and tie them back up again.

ES: What was inside? More wools? Or did--

RN: I don't really know. Maybe a pad. We didn't have much batting. May have been an old blanket, I don't know. I really don't. We had quilts. They were all utilitarian. We didn't hang them on the wall or--or take them to the fair to get prizes. They were just useful quilts. Then when I guess I was about 16 or about then, I made a quilt. I made the top. It was a wedding ring quilt with orange--uh, peach-colored background and colored arcs and the squares pulling it together were green and yellow. I remember.

ES: And you did it for yourself? Or somebody else?

RN: No, that was for myself. And then the women quilted it. I just did the top.

ES: Was your family a farm family?

RN: Well, we were. Not--sort of. What they did-- the farmers--after the farmers got a certain age, they would buy a house in town, the small town, and they would be like sort of semi-retired. Maybe they'd keep the farm and rent it. And then well, they'd--actually living expenses weren't too much once you'd bought your house. You had your garden, and my aunt would--she would grow everything and then in the winter they'd either can it or keep it in the cellar. So, there wasn't--there wasn't a lot of stuff you had to buy.

RD: Did your aunt live with you?

RN: I lived with my aunt. Uh, my mother died when I was 3.

RD: Oh.

RN: So, one aunt took me, and I lived with her until I was about 9. And then--she lived in a bigger town and then I moved with my father. He remarried after I was about 9 years old. And then she didn't live long. She died oh, maybe two years. And I was in this same town, so my father's other sister lived in that town. So, then I went to live with her. But then when I got to be about 12, I decided I was old enough to go live with my father and keep house for him.

ES: My!

RN: [laughs.] Well, I was running over to my aunt's a lot! [laughter.]

ES: That was a lot of responsibility!

RN: 'Aunt Minnie, how do I do this? How do I do that?' Well, then, that was--then after that I was more or less, you know, living with my Dad or going to school.

ES: Did you go--you went to high school in town?

RN: The high school was in the bigger town. Not where my father lived--where the other aunt lived. And then I stayed with her during the week and went to high school.

ES: And did you go on beyond high school some place?

RN: Well, after I got out of high school, it was the Depression and jobs were very scarce. Well. Then I stayed home a year and then I went into teachers' training. Well, I did teachers' training that year I stayed home. And then I got a job teaching in the rural school. Fifty dollars a month.

ES: Wow.

RN: [laughs.] I paid $10 a month room and board.

ES: I was going to say, did you live with a family?

RN: Yeah. I would go to school in snow and cold. I walked to school and then we had a stove and I had to get the stove fired up and the kids would come with their little jars of soup and we'd--had a water bath--water container on the stove and they'd put their soup in there and then at lunchtime, they'd have hot soup. [laughs.]

ES: Oh, that's good. And what were you teaching? All the different grades?

RN: I taught, yeah. I didn't have all the different grades, but it was a sparsely populated area. I had--I had first grade and second, and I think fifth and maybe seven. I didn't have all the grades. But the kids would listen. The first graders would listen to the geography class. [laughs.]

ES: And did you ever teach sewing?

RN: No. At that time, I wasn't into too much sewing. I think I made myself a few dresses, but nothing in the quilting. Well, I tried knitting. I remember knitting there. I was knitting a sweater and mittens and stuff like that.

ES: So now the question is when did you start quilting?

RN: Well, I always knew about these quilts. And I mostly went into crochet and knitting. And when the kids were little, I made them dresses and stuff but not quilts. And I didn't do much crocheting then--you know you're busy, taking care of these kids.

ES: You had, like, 2?

RN: I had 3, 3 girls.

ES: 3 girls.

RN: So, we lived--well, I went to Chicago to get a job after teaching. I didn't like teaching. And then I married when I was living in Chicago and the two children were born there. And then we moved to Detroit and my youngest daughter was born there. So at that time I didn't do much. So then we moved down here, and the kids were older, and I got into crocheting and knitting and did demonstration work to the various department stores. Crochet and knitting and needlepoint, which I didn't know much about, but [laughs.] I was a step ahead of the public. The Susan Bates Company would give me sample garments and I'd have to show them and show how to do it. So, they'd send it to me and I'd quickly learn how to do it [laughs.] but it was a fun job. You had your own hours, and they gave you mileage and I went to Baltimore, and I went to Woodies downtown and they had you go for demonstration, you know. They don't have much of that anymore. And then I got interested in quilting in the seventies, when the kids were in high school and that quilt was the first one, I made, that corduroy one.

ES: Oh, that's--see—that--

RN: And that one I didn't know anything about quilting. I had all these patches from their--from their corduroy skirts that I had made.

ES: That's beautiful!

RN: And so, I just put it together. I didn't know anything. I just sewed it together. I didn't know you had to match or anything, so I sewed it together, and it--

ES: Describe it a little bit.

RN: Well, it's sort of crazy quilt, I guess. I don't know.

ES: A lot of purple, and--

RN: I just fitted the patches, and--

ES: Large squares--and then there's a stripe--

RN: See when my kids were--They wore these miniskirts, and we'd get this corduroy and then I'd make a little skirt. This was a dress I made for my daughter.

ES: That's a turquoise.

RN: Yes. And--

ES: Very colorful.

RN: I don't remember all of these, but I remember this dress, for it was really pretty. [indicates a turquoise, patterned piece.] I think this was a skirt. [indicates another piece.]

ES: It looks like you did it by machine?

RN: Yes, I did it all by machine. I didn't know--I didn't have a walking foot. I didn't know anything! I just sewed it together. It's just a miracle! [laughs.]

ES: It came out beautifully.

RN: I gave it to my middle daughter, and she'd used it--she keeps it in her car. She keeps it in the trunk. They take it to games. They take it to picnics. She washes it and it's about 25 years old. [laughs.]

ES: Wonderful!

RN: And still hanging together! Isn't it a miracle!

RD: It's a lot more than hanging together!

RN: So, this is the first quilt I made by myself, and I didn't know a thing about it. I didn't know what I was doing. I just made it.

ES: Uh-huh.

RN: That's it.

ES: We need to know now what got you going into--

RN: Well, then, after I made this, then I was interested in quilting and I was still doing crocheting and knitting, but there was nothing--I remember going to the library in Old Town Alexandria, because I don't think we even had the libraries then [the Burke Branch opened in 1968 and the Duncan Branch opened in 1969.] and I found one old book about quilting. Just illustrations—no--no directions. Nothing. And I don't know. Then, well, then, my neighbor, she said, 'Oh, there's a class, somebody's having a class in quilting.' And I went to this class, and she showed us how to do flower garden and nine-patch. Basic designs. So, then I felt, you know, like I knew a little more.

RD: Where was that course? Do you remember?

RN: I don't know. It was--I don't know the girl's name, and I can't remember where we met or where we went. Maybe to a library? I don't know. I can remember that I got orange--I got yellow and red and made yellow and red blocks. [laughs.]

ES: Where did you--do you still have those? Or are those--

RN: Well, not really, I just--I had it up till about a year ago. I had all this stuff in a notebook that she had told us. She even gave us a pattern for the little--the girl--

RD: Sunbonnet Sue?

RN: Yeah, Sunbonnet Sue. And after that, then oh, I don't know what I did. Maybe I didn't do much quilting. But then I heard about the Cardinal Quilters. And that must have been, maybe early 80s. Whenever they had that--they had a demonstration, or they had a fair. It was down on Mt. Vernon at--at one of the churches. And I went there. Beth [Ford.] was demonstrating Seminole piecing, I remember.

ES: Oh, of course.

RN: And so, they invited me to join. So, I joined. And I--well then at that time I made a log cabin quilt. And I didn't know much. About every block was a different size. [laughter.] But, you know, joining that, and then later, Beth [Ford.] and June Southard gave a class, and Ruth [Duncan.] was one of them and Linda [Freeman.] and that was the beginning of where I really learned and knew what I was doing. Other than--before that I was just throwing stuff together. So that was an excellent class, and I can't thank Beth enough because she really told us how to do it.

ES: That's wonderful.

RN: So then after that I just--learned by myself--watched TV--learned a lot from TV!

ES: I remember I was calling it your magic box. But once you came to a meeting--

RN: I still have it.

ES: You told us how you collected these different techniques--

RN: Different ideas.

ES: Could you explain what you did and what got you started on that?

RN: Oh, I just watched TV and, and they'd show something, and I'd say, 'Oh, that's interesting,' but then I'd figure I'd forget about it after another week or so. So, I'd quick after the program was over, I'd quick got to the machine and make a little sample and write it down—how to do it and the directions and keep it in my little box. And I refer to that frequently.

ES: What were some of the things in the box?

RN: Well, some were mitered corners--

ES: Yeah, well--

RN: Don't need the box anymore for that and I can't think. Oh, how to make a star--I like--I like to make things that aren't too time-consuming. If you can make a decent looking block without too much matching and too many angles to--I like to do that. And a lot of the illustrations I have in there--like how to make wacky stars and what was the question you asked?

ES: I just wondered what were some of the things in your box. I remember you had all kinds of techniques--

RN: Yeah, I can't remember. Well, I don't go to the box much because I've been too--well, this is what I want to do. It's tessellations. [she shows a book from a pile nearby.]

ES: Oh, it's fascinating.

RN: It is fascinating. Each block you take a shape and you cut a piece off of it and you--you can turn it--[here Ruth launched into a detailed explanation of how to make tessellated shapes which is meaningless without the visual.] So, this is tessellation and I'm making--I'm trying to make a horse. [shows the horse shape and how it interlocks with three copies of the shape to form a triangle.]

ES: Very interesting, very, very interesting. So that's what you're into now.

RN: Well, that and the crazy quilt.

ES: Oh, yes.

RN: This I made. Stained glass window.

ES: Oh, yeah. Frank Lloyd Wright.

RN: I made one of these--this one [she points it out in a book of Wright window designs.] for my daughter. She's the one who got me interested in this. She's the one who sent me this book, too.

ES: Does she live locally?

RN: No, she's in California. She doesn't do any of this. She just gives them to me. [laughs.] But I made this one--it isn't bad. You have to patch these--these are fourth-inch black strips. You have to be pretty accurate when you sew them together. They tell exactly how to sew it together.

ES: Do you do that--those long strips that have to be accurate. Do you do them by machine or by hand?

RN: This was all done by machine. I whipped this up in a hurry because she was going to be here for her birthday and so I just whipped that up. It wasn't perfect but it was--

ES: It looks like a tall Frank Lloyd Wright window.

RN: Yeah, that's what it is.

ES: Lovely. Yeah.

RN: These are all his windows. [indicates book.]

ES: Wonderful.

RN: So that's fun, but I don't think--like, you know, I--like I use my time to the best. 'Cause I don't know how many more years I can quilt. I wish I was you know--had another lifetime. [laughs.]

ES: I know. Once you get to know what you're to do then--

RN: I took a class from Margaret Miller. Do you know her? Are you familiar with her?

ES: No.

RN: Oh, she's just great! She has what she calls these block buster quilts. And you take a take any design that you want to make. Okay. And then you--where is--did I mark any of these? I guess I did. I thought I did. [Ruth is riffling through another book.] Anyway, you--Okay, here. You take your design and then you mark a heart and then you--what did she call it? I haven't done this for so long, but that's what she has.

ES: So, you have an abstract. You can make it more abstract.

RN: The blocks are huge.

ES: Mmm.

RN: These are blocks, but they're big. The quilt--see, here are the hearts. See the hearts? [she points out the heart shapes in the illustration.]

ES: Yes. What is it that excites you about this kind of thing?

RN: The 3-D--the shape, the--how do you say it?

RD: Depth.

RN: Depth, and the movement. Yeah.

ES: And when you're doing your own quilts, do you get inspired by something like this and then do your own design then?

RN: Well, I'm not that good. I have to sort of copy. But I put my little twist on it. But I don't--

ES: Your own color--your own--

RN: Well, I pretty much copy, but I wish I could--but these people are artists, that do these--I more or less copy. Copy the idea, anyway. I like working with color. I like--I don't like boring quilts. All beige or black. I like something--put a little red in it. Put a little blue in it. Brighten it up. Make it interesting.

ES: Right. Who--who has your quilts? You have several here, but do you give them mostly to your daughters, or--

RN: I give most of them away. Oh, babies get born, and I give 'em a quilt and for a while I was sending quilts to my daughter in California--she befriended a little girl, and so I was making her quilts. Not real great ones. This is one--like I sent. [Ruth shows a picture in her quilt album.]

ES: This is a photo album.

RN: Yeah. This is whole--whole cloth. And I just quilted around it. And I think I brought it to Quilters. This is one for the--the day care. This is for day care. This I made for my granddaughter when she was sick. [she is going through the album and pointing out certain quilts.]

ES: It has Scottie dogs on it.

RN: This one I made and gave away to a friend who was visiting. This is one I still have. Here are the Quilters--

ES: How--how many do you make for other people every year? Like these--

RN: There's no special--

ES: You just do a few every year, though?

RN: Well, after my husband died, I didn't quilt hardly anything for two years. I'm just getting into it now. I'm really into it now. [laughs.]

ES: So, you keep--you keep a picture of all your--

RN: I try. This is--I'm working on a crazy quilt. This is the crazy quilt I gave to my youngest daughter. This one I have on the back of the couch here, which I cover up with--

ES: The attic windows.

RN: That's all wool. That's all their skirts. I sit and look at them. I think, 'That's Elaine's [a daughter.] dress. That's Katherine's [another daughter.], and that's--Katherine had a lot of clothes. I don't know. This one I gave to Cristin. [granddaughter.] This one I wanted to do the--

RD: Prairie points.

RN: Prairie Points. After I did that that was enough. I got it out of my system. [laughs.] And the variable star. That was enough. [laughs.] I want to--I like to try everything. And this was the middle daughter's favorite skirt, so I thought, 'Oh, I'll make her a quilt out of that.' So, she has that. And then my youngest daughter liked parrots, so I saw this pattern that was--

ES: Toucans. Pretty color.

RN: That's all pieced. That was sort of fun. [laughs.] You had to pay attention. [laughs.]

ES: Un-huh.

RN: This I made. It was in a book, and I copied it.

ES: Looks like tulips and sort of abstract--

RN: And I gave that to my oldest daughter. This is Cristin, my granddaughter, when she went to college and said, 'I want a quilt.' So I whipped this one up for her.

ES: It's all triangular pieces.

RN: This is Tents of Armageddon, I think.

ES: Oh.

RN: Oh, this one is my friendship quilt.

ES and RD: Oh, my.

RN: And I sleep under it every night.

ES: And that was made by--

RN: This is the Quilters. Cardinal Quilters made blocks. That blue one is the one--

RD: Yes, I remember the light blue.

RN: This is nice and warm.

ES: This is light.

RN: This the Cardinal Quilters made all the blocks for me, and I have--

RD: What year was that?

RN: Oh, God, I don't know. These I guess I made. I put all the--Ruth Duncan--see that. [she points to a particular block.] This is--I told them, 'Make a 4-patch,' and I put it together sort of differently.

ES: Nine patch. And they're all shades of blue.

RN: I said, 'Medium blue,' so--

ES: They're probably what, a five-inch square? Or something.

RN: Three? It must be 4-inch. And here's all the people's names. Let's find the one Ruth Duncan made--that would be--this is Virginia. That would be you.

RD: Oh.

RN: That look familiar?

RD: No, but that does. [indicates an adjacent square.]

RN: Adina Russell. This is Odie Jenkins.

ES: Umm. Maybe I think all the ladies should be mentioned. I think it would be fun. Somebody might want to know sometime. Odie Jenkins. Adina Russell is still a member of our group. Virginia Conlon, Jean Milstead, Penny Rigdon, still a member, Ruth Duncan, still a member, Fran Ross, Joan Knight, Barbara Zygiel, still a member.

RN: Jane Johnston.

ES: Shirley Shelley, still a member, Nancy Lyons, still a member, Beth Ford, still a member, Martha Kiser, still a member, Nancy Gillis, Sue Ellen Duke, Bea Porter, and Linda Freeman, still a member. Several of these ladies are still living, but they are older now and not.

RN: Well, most of 'em our members--our present members are--

RD: Odie is still living. Bea Porter is still living.

RN: Yeah. I think--

RD: Bea is very elderly.

RN: Bedridden--

ES: Fran is around. Fran is around and Jean Milstead and Joan Knight, but they don't live here now.

RN: Yeah.

RD: So, yes.

RN: I slept under this for three--four years. It needs washing I'm afraid, but--[laughs.]

ES: Very nice and light.

RN: Yeah, I--

ES: I see you quilted it yourself.

RN: Yes.

RD: This one--this one could have been mine.

ES: Do you prefer--what part of quilting do you like the best? Do you like piecing or the quilting? Or the planning stages? Or--

RN: Well, yeah. The-- when you--I like the piecing and when you first start, all the excitement, and--and planning it out. After you've done it awhile and it gets too old, you want to start another one. That's why I've got all these around, half-made. [laughs.]

ES: You have UFO's? Unfinished objects around?

RN: For a while there, I was into Wonder Under. Remember Wonder Under? This is Wonder Under. [indicates quilt.]

ES: Oh, it's big strawberries.

RN: These are all Wonder Under strawberries. Glued--ironed onto the square. And--

ES: Is the--

RN: Well, I zigzagged around.

ES: But is the edge--is the edge--has it been turned under?

RN: I hand quilt. No, they're flat. They're zigzagged.

ES: There's no fraying at all.

RN: Well, it hasn't been washed. I just got it out to put on my legs when I was--

ES: This has the most beautiful backing which is all strawberries

RN: Well, this is what made me--my friend--I had a friend, well, she's still around but I don't see her much. She'd go to these thrift stores and she'd buy all kinds of stuff--so she found this fabric and she--so she said, 'Here's some fabric for you.' Uh-oh! [laughs.] What will I do with that?

ES: Bright white strawberries and red strawberries--

RN: So, I'll just make a strawberry quilt.

ES: On a blue background. Very nice.

RN: So that's that. Then, I have another Wonder Under one. I gave up on Wonder Under, but for a while, there, it was good.

ES: Which one is [inaudible as they move away from the microphones.]

RN: Where did that go? Here--this is Allison's. I made this when she was a baby. This is Wonder Under.

ES: Mmmm

RN: And I said to Katherine, 'I put it on muslin.' I said, 'This is a utility quilt. Use it as a sheet.' And it's been washed and washed and washed.

ES: So, it's a schoolhouse quilt.

RN: So, after a while it was just ironed on, and it started peeling off--after many washings. So, then I took it home and I zigzagged around all the [inaudible.]. Then when I'd baby sit with Allison, we'd make a flower and--

ES: [inaudible.]

RN: All the flowers didn't get embroidered, but--and she still takes it to sleepovers. Takes it to the movies with her--

ES: How old is she?

RN: She's 16. She says, 'I--Katherine said, 'Allison went to a sleepover and took her--took her house quilt.' I said, 'She does?' [laughter.] That is a true utility quilt.

ES: Sure is.

RN: Still holding together. I made that when she was a baby, so it's--15 years--it's been in use 15 years.

ES: Very good. Very good. We have a show here. Can you tell us about this one here? [indicates small quilt featuring cartoonish dogs.]

RN: That's for--Ruth can take that home that's for--for the day care.

RD: Main Street. Main Street Day Care. They are wonderful.

ES: Adorable little dogs.

RN: This was an old pair of slacks and had a pocket in it. I didn't want to put a button on it. They might choke on it.

ES: The little pocket is part of the square.

RN: Now Ruth can take that with her, then we won't have so much to take when we have--to our party.

ES: You might want to show this at the next meeting.

RN: I showed it before it was finished.

ES: You've got five different dogs on here. Two of them are large with cats and paraphernalia. One of them is a golfer. Then the three little guys, one with helmet and binoculars. This Dalmatian, I guess he's probably a fireman.

RN: Fire dog.

ES: Yes, fire dog. Then there is a--

RN: Boxer.

ES: Boxing champ. All kinds of bright blues and reds. That's really--some child is going to love this.

RN: I get a lot of fun. You see these people showing these quilts on TV, and they have, 'Oh, you can fit this block in and that block in' and they put stuff in between and I always wanted to do it, so here I got my chance, but I got it out of my system. [laughter.]

ES: You've got triangles here and--

RN: Yeah, it was fun. I laid it on the floor and turned it. [laughs.] I don't know how other people do it.

ES: Wonderful. Now this looks like your--

RN: This is one I've got in progress. This is Katherine's.

ES: A crazy quilt made out of all sorts of--

RN: This is two halves. As soon as I get other--this one finished, then I'll--

ES: Describe the process. How do you do this?

RN: Well, I like--I don't like a crazy quilt that shows blocks. I like a crazy quilt that looks all in one. So, I took a piece of cloth--well, at least--that one, I took half muslin. And then when I sew 'em together. I try to match 'em up so it looks like they're just one. I match this see--

ES: Overlap.

RN: Here well, when I sew this together, I want to overlap so these two pieces get sewed together and that's--that's going to be the quilt.

ES: Well, us the materials you use in here.

RN: Well, I'll--this is Katherine's dress and--

ES: A burgundy velvet--

RN: And this is a dress I made for Ann when she was little well, this is a dress Ann made for herself. This was Ann's skirt.

ES: These laces and things you put between--

RN: This was some of the antique--the quilters frequently share. Did you get some of the antique lace? Many years ago? That's what this is. I gather stuff. This was Katherine's dress. Do you remember, from before? [laughs.]

ES: Yes, the corduroy. I see. This is beautiful--all the different colors.

RN: This was Elaine's chiffon dress. This was my dress. Most of it is stuff I got at the Quilters, or I bought some of it. I bought this fabric. This is--

ES: Um-hmm.

RN: Then Shirley Nelson--she gave us a lot of stuff. Shirley got some started. I got--I can't keep track of all that stuff.

ES: What else do you have to show us here?

RN: This is one it's a cheater cloth.

ES: Cheater cloth. That means that it's all one piece. Christmas one with all kinds of things on it.

RN: I quilted stars on it it should be quilted more, but my hand quilting isn't--my hands get--hurt if I do too much. This I dug out--I had made this, and this is going to be finished someday.

ES: Christmas trees. Okay. All different green trees with brown trunks.

RD: I love the plaid.

ES: On the diagonal.

RD: Plaid sashing on the diagonal.

ES: Um hm.

RN: How do you like? This is another little gimmick.

ES: Piping.

RN: Yes, Piping. I like piping. It's so easy to do and it does so much for the quilt. Well, I didn't have enough of the fabric. That's the reason. Otherwise, I'd have done a border. I didn't have enough, but I did have enough for piping.

ES: What kind of batting did you use? This is unusual.

RN: This is some I had. I think--

ES: It's a charcoal gray color, and--

RN: Well, I didn't really want to use it--it makes it a little darker, but this isn't my favorite quilt, as you may have gathered.

ES: It's nice.

RN: This one is almost done. You've seen this, Ruth.

RD: I don't think I have. I must have been--

ES: You've seen the picture, but--

RN: I copied this on--it's a star and the last point of the star isn't on here. Each one is tipped a different way.

ES: Was this in the tessellations book?

RN: No, this is not a tessellation. I made these--I made the templates. I made the whole pattern, but I copied it from a picture in one of the quilters' magazines. I copy. I can't be the original [designer.].

[From this point on, it was too difficult to make sense of remarks which referred to things people were seeing. We learned that Ruth had a quilt displayed at the Packard Center on Hummer Road in Annandale, which apparently faded from exposure to sunlight at that time. Her quilts are frequently made from family fabrics or materials given Ruth by friends and fellow quilters. After the recorder was turned off, the lively discussion continued, and a final quote from Ruth is: 'A well-made quilt is a work of art. Not all quilts are art.' This, we feel, sums up Ruth's attitude toward quilting, which she clearly feels is a combination of pleasant sewing and artistic expression. RD]

Evelyn Salinger (ES): Hello, this is Evelyn Salinger and I'm conducting an interview with Ruth Noonan today from Cardinal Quilters in Alexandria, Virginia. Today's date is December 11, 2002. Our scribe is Ruth Duncan. This interview is for the project of Quilters' Save Our Stories. That's the way we will begin. Hi, Ruth.

Ruth Noonan (RN): Hi.

ES: How are you today?

RN: Oh, I'm fine.

ES: It's a pretty rainy day, isn't it?

RN: Sure is. [laughter.]

ES: I want to ask you about the quilt you have in front of you here. It seems to be a--what is it called?

RN: Grandmother's Flower Garden. And it was made by my aunt in 1927. I grew up watching her make quilts. Every winter the women from the small town would come to various houses and we'd have--the quilting frame would be put up in the living room and they'd sit around. As they finished one quilt, they'd go to the next house and work on the next quilt. So, I grew up seeing that, but I never participated, really.

Ruth Duncan (RD): Where? Where was this?

RN: Wisconsin. Small town in Wisconsin. And there are some of my dresses in this quilt--this is one--[indicates one block.]

ES: That's an orange and green and light mauve on a black--

RN: Yes, and this is another that has another patch that came from my dress that I remember and at that time--

ES: Who did the sewing for your dresses? Did your mother sew?

RN: I guess my aunt, and as I got to be 12 and 13, I did it. I made dresses. There wasn't much to dresses. They were just straight. Maybe a little flounce on the bottom.

ES: Let's describe this quilt now. You have a center of the Grandmother's hexagon is orange--

RN: Orange, then a solid color round, usually in different colors and the next round would be a floral in different prints and the last round, green and I guess then the round putting them together is white.

ES: Lovely. You say this was 1927.

RN: Yes, I had the quilt so many years and finally just this year saw the tag on here that says, 'Minnie Becker, 1927.'

ES: Minnie Becker. And that was your mother's sister?

RN: That was my father's sister.

ES: Father's sister. Very nice.

RN: This quilt--when we first moved down here, we were-- I use my quilts. We were using it on the bed. And we went down to the mall to one of the festivals in the summer and here they were selling those quilts for two and five hundred dollars. I came home and I took it off the bed. [laughter.] And packed it up in the closet! [laughter.] So, it has survived, but it needs--oh, this was my dress, too. [indicates another block.]

ES: Red and blue.

RN: I had it--I gave it to my youngest daughter and so I have it now to--to patch it because some of these [indicates a particular fabric.] are giving out.

ES: You're going to replace some of the squares.

RN: Yeah, I'm going to just appliqué over--

ES: What sort of material do you have? Are you going to--

RN: I'll try to match up the--this was a dress of mine, too. [points it out.]

ES: Do you have some of the old materials still?

RN: No. No. So, I'll just take new material and try to get as close to the pattern and the color as I can.

ES: So, you've slept under quilts your whole life?

RN: Yeah. Oh, yes. I remember in winter. It's cold in Wisconsin. We didn't have central heat. We had stoves. I had a bedroom way back and I had a--it seemed to be quite thick--log cabin of wool--made of woolens. They tied the quilts, many of them. And then in the spring, they'd snip it all open and take everything out and wash it and tie them again.

ES: Oh, I never heard about that.

RN: Yeah.

RD: That's more hygienic than a lot.

RN: They didn't get too dirty because they'd tie'em and take'em apart and wash'em and tie them back up again.

ES: What was inside? More wools? Or did--

RN: I don't really know. Maybe a pad. We didn't have much batting. May have been an old blanket, I don't know. I really don't. We had quilts. They were all utilitarian. We didn't hang them on the wall or--or take them to the fair to get prizes. They were just useful quilts. Then when I guess I was about 16 or about then, I made a quilt. I made the top. It was a wedding ring quilt with orange--uh, peach-colored background and colored arcs and the squares pulling it together were green and yellow. I remember.

ES: And you did it for yourself? Or somebody else?

RN: No, that was for myself. And then the women quilted it. I just did the top.

ES: Was your family a farm family?

RN: Well, we were. Not--sort of. What they did-- the farmers--after the farmers got a certain age, they would buy a house in town, the small town, and they would be like sort of semi-retired. Maybe they'd keep the farm and rent it. And then well, they'd--actually living expenses weren't too much once you'd bought your house. You had your garden, and my aunt would--she would grow everything and then in the winter they'd either can it or keep it in the cellar. So, there wasn't--there wasn't a lot of stuff you had to buy.

RD: Did your aunt live with you?

RN: I lived with my aunt. Uh, my mother died when I was 3.

RD: Oh.

RN: So, one aunt took me, and I lived with her until I was about 9. And then--she lived in a bigger town and then I moved with my father. He remarried after I was about 9 years old. And then she didn't live long. She died oh, maybe two years. And I was in this same town, so my father's other sister lived in that town. So, then I went to live with her. But then when I got to be about 12, I decided I was old enough to go live with my father and keep house for him.

ES: My!

RN: [laughs.] Well, I was running over to my aunt's a lot! [laughter.]

ES: That was a lot of responsibility!

RN: 'Aunt Minnie, how do I do this? How do I do that?' Well, then, that was--then after that I was more or less, you know, living with my Dad or going to school.

ES: Did you go--you went to high school in town?

RN: The high school was in the bigger town. Not where my father lived--where the other aunt lived. And then I stayed with her during the week and went to high school.

ES: And did you go on beyond high school some place?

RN: Well, after I got out of high school, it was the Depression and jobs were very scarce. Well. Then I stayed home a year and then I went into teachers' training. Well, I did teachers' training that year I stayed home. And then I got a job teaching in the rural school. Fifty dollars a month.

ES: Wow.

RN: [laughs.] I paid $10 a month room and board.

ES: I was going to say, did you live with a family?

RN: Yeah. I would go to school in snow and cold. I walked to school and then we had a stove and I had to get the stove fired up and the kids would come with their little jars of soup and we'd--had a water bath--water container on the stove and they'd put their soup in there and then at lunchtime, they'd have hot soup. [laughs.]

ES: Oh, that's good. And what were you teaching? All the different grades?

RN: I taught, yeah. I didn't have all the different grades, but it was a sparsely populated area. I had--I had first grade and second, and I think fifth and maybe seven. I didn't have all the grades. But the kids would listen. The first graders would listen to the geography class. [laughs.]

ES: And did you ever teach sewing?

RN: No. At that time, I wasn't into too much sewing. I think I made myself a few dresses, but nothing in the quilting. Well, I tried knitting. I remember knitting there. I was knitting a sweater and mittens and stuff like that.

ES: So now the question is when did you start quilting?

RN: Well, I always knew about these quilts. And I mostly went into crochet and knitting. And when the kids were little, I made them dresses and stuff but not quilts. And I didn't do much crocheting then--you know you're busy, taking care of these kids.

ES: You had, like, 2?

RN: I had 3, 3 girls.

ES: 3 girls.

RN: So, we lived--well, I went to Chicago to get a job after teaching. I didn't like teaching. And then I married when I was living in Chicago and the two children were born there. And then we moved to Detroit and my youngest daughter was born there. So, at that time, I didn't do much. So, then we moved down here, and the kids were older, and I got into crocheting and knitting and did demonstration work to the various department stores. Crochet and knitting and needlepoint, which I didn't know much about, but [laughs.] I was a step ahead of the public. The Susan Bates Company would give me sample garments and I'd have to show them and show how to do it. So, they'd send it to me, and I'd quickly learn how to do it [laughs.] but it was a fun job. You had your own hours, and they gave you mileage and I went to Baltimore, and I went to Woodies downtown and they had you go for demonstration, you know. They don't have much of that anymore. And then I got interested in quilting in the seventies, when the kids were in high school and that quilt was the first one, I made, that corduroy one.

ES: Oh, that's--see—that--

RN: And that one I didn't know anything about quilting. I had all these patches from their--from their corduroy skirts that I had made.

ES: That's beautiful!

RN: And so I just put it together. I didn't know anything. I just sewed it together. I didn't know you had to match or anything, so I sewed it together, and it--

ES: Describe it a little bit.

RN: Well, it's sort of crazy quilt, I guess. I don't know.

ES: A lot of purple, and--

RN: I just fitted the patches, and--

ES: Large squares--and then there's a stripe--

RN: See when my kids were--They wore these miniskirts, and we'd get this corduroy and then I'd make a little skirt. This was a dress I made for my daughter.

ES: That's a turquoise.

RN: Yes. And--

ES: Very colorful.

RN: I don't remember all of these, but I remember this dress, for it was really pretty. [indicates a turquoise, patterned piece.] I think this was a skirt. [indicates another piece.]

ES: It looks like you did it by machine?

RN: Yes, I did it all by machine. I didn't know--I didn't have a walking foot. I didn't know anything! I just sewed it together. It's just a miracle! [laughs.]

ES: It came out beautifully.

RN: I gave it to my middle daughter, and she'd used it--she keeps it in her car. She keeps it in the trunk. They take it to games. They take it to picnics. She washes it and it's about 25 years old. [laughs.]

ES: Wonderful!

RN: And still hanging together! Isn't it a miracle!

RD: It's a lot more than hanging together!

RN: So, this is the first quilt I made by myself, and I didn't know a thing about it. I didn't know what I was doing. I just made it.

ES: Uh-huh.

RN: That's it.

ES: We need to know now what got you going into--

RN: Well, then, after I made this, then I was interested in quilting and I was still doing crocheting and knitting, but there was nothing--I remember going to the library in Old Town Alexandria, because I don't think we even had the libraries then [the Burke Branch opened in 1968 and the Duncan Branch opened in 1969.] and I found one old book about quilting. Just illustrations—no--no directions. Nothing. And I don't know. Then, well, then, my neighbor, she said, 'Oh, there's a class, somebody's having a class in quilting.' And I went to this class, and she showed us how to do flower garden and nine-patch. Basic designs. So, then I felt, you know, like I knew a little more.

RD: Where was that course? Do you remember?

RN: I don't know. It was--I don't know the girl's name, and I can't remember where we met or where we went. Maybe to a library? I don't know. I can remember that I got orange--I got yellow and red and made yellow and red blocks. [laughs.]

ES: Where did you--do you still have those? Or are those--

RN: Well, not really, I just--I had it up till about a year ago. I had all this stuff in a notebook that she had told us. She even gave us a pattern for the little--the girl--

RD: Sunbonnet Sue?

RN: Yeah, Sunbonnet Sue. And after that, then oh, I don't know what I did. Maybe I didn't do much quilting. But then I heard about the Cardinal Quilters. And that must have been, maybe early 80s. Whenever they had that--they had a demonstration, or they had a fair. It was down on Mt. Vernon at--at one of the churches. And I went there. Beth [Ford.] was demonstrating Seminole piecing, I remember.

ES: Oh, of course.

RN: And so, they invited me to join. So, I joined. And I--well then at that time I made a log cabin quilt. And I didn't know much. About every block was a different size. [laughter.] But, you know, joining that, and then later, Beth [Ford.] and June Southard gave a class, and Ruth [Duncan.] was one of them and Linda [Freeman.] and that was the beginning of where I really learned and knew what I was doing. Other than--before that I was just throwing stuff together. So that was an excellent class, and I can't thank Beth enough because she really told us how to do it.

ES: That's wonderful.

RN: So then after that I just--learned by myself--watched TV--learned a lot from TV!

ES: I remember I was calling it your magic box. But once you came to a meeting--

RN: I still have it.

ES: You told us how you collected these different techniques--

RN: Different ideas.

ES: Could you explain what you did and what got you started on that?

RN: Oh, I just watched TV and, and they'd show something, and I'd say, 'Oh, that's interesting,' but then I'd figure I'd forget about it after another week or so. So, I'd quick after the program was over, I'd quick got to the machine and make a little sample and write it down—how to do it and the directions and keep it in my little box. And I refer to that frequently.

ES: What were some of the things in the box?

RN: Well, some were mitered corners--

ES: Yeah, well--

RN: Don't need the box anymore for that and I can't think. Oh, how to make a star--I like--I like to make things that aren't too time-consuming. If you can make a decent looking block without too much matching and too many angles to--I like to do that. And a lot of the illustrations I have in there--like how to make wacky stars and what was the question you asked?

ES: I just wondered what were some of the things in your box. I remember you had all kinds of techniques--

RN: Yeah, I can't remember. Well, I don't go to the box much because I've been too--well, this is what I want to do. It's tessellations. [she shows a book from a pile nearby.]

ES: Oh, it's fascinating.

RN: It is fascinating. Each block you take a shape and you cut a piece off of it and you--you can turn it--[here Ruth launched into a detailed explanation of how to make tessellated shapes which is meaningless without the visual.] So, this is tessellation and I'm making--I'm trying to make a horse. [shows the horse shape and how it interlocks with three copies of the shape to form a triangle.]

ES: Very interesting, very, very interesting. So that's what you're into now.

RN: Well, that and the crazy quilt.

ES: Oh, yes.

RN: This I made. Stained glass window.

ES: Oh, yeah. Frank Lloyd Wright.

RN: I made one of these--this one [she points it out in a book of Wright window designs.] for my daughter. She's the one who got me interested in this. She's the one who sent me this book, too.

ES: Does she live locally?

RN: No, she's in California. She doesn't do any of this. She just gives them to me. [laughs.] But I made this one--it isn't bad. You have to patch these--these are fourth-inch black strips. You have to be pretty accurate when you sew them together. They tell exactly how to sew it together.

ES: Do you do that--those long strips that have to be accurate. Do you do them by machine or by hand?

RN: This was all done by machine. I whipped this up in a hurry because she was going to be here for her birthday and so I just whipped that up. It wasn't perfect but it was--

ES: It looks like a tall Frank Lloyd Wright window.

RN: Yeah, that's what it is.

ES: Lovely. Yeah.

RN: These are all his windows. [indicates book.]

ES: Wonderful.

RN: So that's fun, but I don't think--like, you know, I--like I use my time to the best. 'Cause I don't know how many more years I can quilt. I wish I was you know--had another lifetime. [laughs.]

ES: I know. Once you get to know what you're to do then--

RN: I took a class from Margaret Miller. Do you know her? Are you familiar with her?

ES: No.

RN: Oh, she's just great! She has what she calls these block buster quilts. And you take a take any design that you want to make. Okay. And then you--where is--did I mark any of these? I guess I did. I thought I did. [Ruth is riffling through another book.] Anyway, you--Okay, here. You take your design and then you mark a heart and then you--what did she call it? I haven't done this for so long, but that's what she has.

ES: So, you have an abstract. You can make it more abstract.

RN: The blocks are huge.

ES: Mmm.

RN: These are blocks, but they're big. The quilt--see, here are the hearts. See the hearts? [she points out the heart shapes in the illustration.]

ES: Yes. What is it that excites you about this kind of thing?

RN: The 3-D--the shape, the--how do you say it?

RD: Depth.

RN: Depth, and the movement. Yeah.

ES: And when you're doing your own quilts, do you get inspired by something like this and then do your own design then?

RN: Well, I'm not that good. I have to sort of copy. But I put my little twist on it. But I don't--

ES: Your own color--your own--

RN: Well, I pretty much copy, but I wish I could--but these people are artists, that do these--I more or less copy. Copy the idea, anyway. I like working with color. I like--I don't like boring quilts. All beige or black. I like something--put a little red in it. Put a little blue in it. Brighten it up. Make it interesting.

ES: Right. Who--who has your quilts? You have several here, but do you give them mostly to your daughters, or--

RN: I give most of them away. Oh, babies get born, and I give 'em a quilt and for a while I was sending quilts to my daughter in California--she befriended a little girl, and so I was making her quilts. Not real great ones. This is one--like I sent. [Ruth shows a picture in her quilt album.]

ES: This is a photo album.

RN: Yeah. This is whole--whole cloth. And I just quilted around it. And I think I brought it to Quilters. This is one for the--the day care. This is for day care. This I made for my granddaughter when she was sick. [she is going through the album and pointing out certain quilts.]

ES: It has Scottie dogs on it.

RN: This one I made and gave away to a friend who was visiting. This is one I still have. Here are the Quilters--

ES: How--how many do you make for other people every year? Like these--

RN: There's no special--

ES: You just do a few every year, though?

RN: Well, after my husband died, I didn't quilt hardly anything for two years. I'm just getting into it now. I'm really into it now. [laughs.]

ES: So, you keep--you keep a picture of all your--

RN: I try. This is--I'm working on a crazy quilt. This is the crazy quilt I gave to my youngest daughter. This one I have on the back of the couch here, which I cover up with--

ES: The attic windows.

RN: That's all wool. That's all their skirts. I sit and look at them. I think, 'That's Elaine's [a daughter.] dress. That's Katherine's [another daughter.], and that's--Katherine had a lot of clothes. I don't know. This one I gave to Cristin. [granddaughter.] This one I wanted to do the--

RD: Prairie points.

RN: Prairie Points. After I did that that was enough. I got it out of my system. [laughs.] And the variable star. That was enough. [laughs.] I want to--I like to try everything. And this was the middle daughter's favorite skirt, so I thought, 'Oh, I'll make her a quilt out of that.' So, she has that. And then my youngest daughter liked parrots, so I saw this pattern that was--

ES: Toucans. Pretty color.

RN: That's all pieced. That was sort of fun. [laughs.] You had to pay attention. [laughs.]

ES: Un-huh.

RN: This I made. It was in a book, and I copied it.

ES: Looks like tulips and sort of abstract--

RN: And I gave that to my oldest daughter. This is Cristin, my granddaughter, when she went to college and said, 'I want a quilt.' So, I whipped this one up for her.

ES: It's all triangular pieces.

RN: This is Tents of Armageddon, I think.

ES: Oh.

RN: Oh, this one is my friendship quilt.

ES and RD: Oh, my.

RN: And I sleep under it every night.

ES: And that was made by--

RN: This is the Quilters. Cardinal Quilters made blocks. That blue one is the one--

RD: Yes, I remember the light blue.

RN: This is nice and warm.

ES: This is light.

RN: This the Cardinal Quilters made all the blocks for me, and I have--

RD: What year was that?

RN: Oh, God, I don't know. These I guess I made. I put all the--Ruth Duncan--see that. [she points to a particular block.] This is--I told them, 'Make a 4-patch,' and I put it together sort of differently.

ES: Nine patch. And they're all shades of blue.

RN: I said, 'Medium blue,' so--

ES: They're probably what, a five-inch square? Or something.

RN: Three? It must be 4-inch. And here's all the people's names. Let's find the one Ruth Duncan made--that would be--this is Virginia. That would be you.

RD: Oh.

RN: That look familiar?

RD: No, but that does. [indicates an adjacent square.]

RN: Adina Russell. This is Odie Jenkins.

ES: Umm. Maybe I think all the ladies should be mentioned. I think it would be fun. Somebody might want to know sometime. Odie Jenkins. Adina Russell is still a member of our group. Virginia Conlon, Jean Milstead, Penny Rigdon, still a member, Ruth Duncan, still a member, Fran Ross, Joan Knight, Barbara Zygiel, still a member.

RN: Jane Johnston.

ES: Shirley Shelley, still a member, Nancy Lyons, still a member, Beth Ford, still a member, Martha Kiser, still a member, Nancy Gillis, Sue Ellen Duke, Bea Porter, and Linda Freeman, still a member. Several of these ladies are still living, but they are older now and not.

RN: Well, most of 'em our members--our present members are--

RD: Odie is still living. Bea Porter is still living.

RN: Yeah. I think--

RD: Bea is very elderly.

RN: Bedridden--

ES: Fran is around. Fran is around and Jean Milstead and Joan Knight, but they don't live here now.

RN: Yeah.

RD: So, yes.

RN: I slept under this for three--four years. It needs washing I'm afraid, but--[laughs.]

ES: Very nice and light.

RN: Yeah, I--

ES: I see you quilted it yourself.

RN: Yes.

RD: This one--this one could have been mine.

ES: Do you prefer--what part of quilting do you like the best? Do you like piecing or the quilting? Or the planning stages? Or--

RN: Well, yeah. The-- when you--I like the piecing and when you first start, all the excitement, and--and planning it out. After you've done it awhile and it gets too old, you want to start another one. That's why I've got all these around, half-made. [laughs.]

ES: You have UFO's? Unfinished objects around?

RN: For a while there, I was into Wonder Under. Remember Wonder Under? This is Wonder Under. [indicates quilt.]

ES: Oh, it's big strawberries.

RN: These are all Wonder Under strawberries. Glued--ironed onto the square. And--

ES: Is the--

RN: Well, I zigzagged around.

ES: But is the edge--is the edge--has it been turned under?

RN: I hand quilt. No, they're flat. They're zigzagged.

ES: There's no fraying at all.

RN: Well, it hasn't been washed. I just got it out to put on my legs when I was--

ES: This has the most beautiful backing which is all strawberries

RN: Well, this is what made me--my friend--I had a friend, well, she's still around but I don't see her much. She'd go to these thrift stores and she'd buy all kinds of stuff--so she found this fabric and she--so she said, 'Here's some fabric for you.' Uh-oh! [laughs.] What will I do with that?

ES: Bright white strawberries and red strawberries--

RN: So, I'll just make a strawberry quilt.

ES: On a blue background. Very nice.

RN: So that's that. Then, I have another Wonder Under one. I gave up on Wonder Under, but for a while, there, it was good.

ES: Which one is [inaudible as they move away from the microphones.]

RN: Where did that go? Here--this is Allison's. I made this when she was a baby. This is Wonder Under.

ES: Mmmm

RN: And I said to Katherine, 'I put it on muslin.' I said, 'This is a utility quilt. Use it as a sheet.' And it's been washed and washed and washed.

ES: So, it's a schoolhouse quilt.

RN: So, after a while it was just ironed on, and it started peeling off--after many washings. So, then I took it home and I zigzagged around all the [inaudible.]. Then when I'd baby sit with Allison, we'd make a flower and--

ES: [inaudible.]

RN: All the flowers didn't get embroidered, but--and she still takes it to sleepovers. Takes it to the movies with her--

ES: How old is she?

RN: She's 16. She says, 'I--Katherine said, 'Allison went to a sleepover and took her--took her house quilt.' I said, 'She does?' [laughter.] That is a true utility quilt.

ES: Sure is.

RN: Still holding together. I made that when she was a baby, so it's--15 years--it's been in use 15 years.

ES: Very good. Very good. We have a show here. Can you tell us about this one here? [indicates small quilt featuring cartoonish dogs.]

RN: That's for--Ruth can take that home that's for--for the day care.

RD: Main Street. Main Street Day Care. They are wonderful.

ES: Adorable little dogs.

RN: This was an old pair of slacks and had a pocket in it. I didn't want to put a button on it. They might choke on it.

ES: The little pocket is part of the square.

RN: Now Ruth can take that with her, then we won't have so much to take when we have--to our party.

ES: You might want to show this at the next meeting.

RN: I showed it before it was finished.

ES: You've got five different dogs on here. Two of them are large with cats and paraphernalia. One of them is a golfer. Then the three little guys, one with helmet and binoculars. This Dalmatian, I guess he's probably a fireman.

RN: Fire dog.

ES: Yes, fire dog. Then there is a--

RN: Boxer.

ES: Boxing champ. All kinds of bright blues and reds. That's really--some child is going to love this.

RN: I get a lot of fun. You see these people showing these quilts on TV, and they have, 'Oh, you can fit this block in and that block in' and they put stuff in between and I always wanted to do it, so here I got my chance, but I got it out of my system. [laughter.]

ES: You've got triangles here and--

RN: Yeah, it was fun. I laid it on the floor and turned it. [laughs.] I don't know how other people do it.

ES: Wonderful. Now this looks like your--

RN: This is one I've got in progress. This is Katherine's.

ES: A crazy quilt made out of all sorts of--

RN: This is two halves. As soon as I get other--this one finished, then I'll--

ES: Describe the process. How do you do this?

RN: Well, I like--I don't like a crazy quilt that shows blocks. I like a crazy quilt that looks all in one. So, I took a piece of cloth--well, at least--that one, I took half muslin. And then when I sew 'em together. I try to match 'em up so it looks like they're just one. I match this see--

ES: Overlap.

RN: Here well, when I sew this together, I want to overlap so these two pieces get sewed together and that's--that's going to be the quilt.

ES: Well, us the materials you use in here.

RN: Well, I'll--this is Katherine's dress and--

ES: A burgundy velvet--

RN: And this is a dress I made for Ann when she was little well, this is a dress Ann made for herself. This was Ann's skirt.

ES: These laces and things you put between--

RN: This was some of the antique--the quilters frequently share. Did you get some of the antique lace? Many years ago? That's what this is. I gather stuff. This was Katherine's dress. Do you remember, from before? [laughs.]

ES: Yes, the corduroy. I see. This is beautiful--all the different colors.

RN: This was Elaine's chiffon dress. This was my dress. Most of it is stuff I got at the Quilters, or I bought some of it. I bought this fabric. This is--

ES: Um-hmm.

RN: Then Shirley Nelson--she gave us a lot of stuff. Shirley got some started. I got--I can't keep track of all that stuff.

ES: What else do you have to show us here?

RN: This is one it's a cheater cloth.

ES: Cheater cloth. That means that it's all one piece. Christmas one with all kinds of things on it.

RN: I quilted stars on it it should be quilted more, but my hand quilting isn't--my hands get--hurt if I do too much. This I dug out--I had made this and this is going to be finished someday.

ES: Christmas trees. Okay. All different green trees with brown trunks.

RD: I love the plaid.

ES: On the diagonal.

RD: Plaid sashing on the diagonal.

ES: Um hm.

RN: How do you like? This is another little gimmick.

ES: Piping.

RN: Yes, Piping. I like piping. It's so easy to do and it does so much for the quilt. Well, I didn't have enough of the fabric. That's the reason. Otherwise, I'd have done a border. I didn't have enough, but I did have enough for piping.

ES: What kind of batting did you use? This is unusual.

RN: This is some I had. I think--

ES: It's a charcoal gray color, and--

RN: Well, I didn't really want to use it--it makes it a little darker but this isn't my favorite quilt, as you may have gathered.

ES: It's nice.

RN: This one is almost done. You've seen this, Ruth.

RD: I don't think I have. I must have been--

ES: You've seen the picture, but--

RN: I copied this on--it's a star and the last point of the star isn't on here. Each one is tipped a different way.

ES: Was this in the tessellations book?

RN: No, this is not a tessellation. I made these--I made the templates. I made the whole pattern, but I copied it from a picture in one of the quilters' magazines. I copy. I can't be the original [designer.].

[From this point on, it was too difficult to make sense of remarks which referred to things people were seeing. We learned that Ruth had a quilt displayed at the Packard Center on Hummer Road in Annandale, which apparently faded from exposure to sunlight at that time. Her quilts are frequently made from family fabrics or materials given Ruth by friends and fellow-quilters. After the recorder was turned off, the lively discussion continued, and a final quote from Ruth is: 'A well-made quilt is a work of art. Not all quilts are art.' This, we feel, sums up Ruth's attitude toward quilting, which she clearly feels is a combination of pleasant sewing and artistic expression. RD]


Citation

“Ruth Noonan,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/2028.