Connie Page




Connie Page




Connie Page


Nola Forbes

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Hyde Park, Vermont


Edna Curtin


Note: Connie is not a member of the DAR. While this is a DAR quiltmaker documentation project, membership in the DAR is not required for participation.

Nola Forbes (NF): My name is Nola A. Forbes and today's date is July 9, 2009. At Hyde Park, Vermont, I am conducting an interview with Connie Page for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Vermont State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Connie is a quilter and is a member of some local quilting groups. Tell me about the quilt you brought today.

Connie Page (CP): The quilt I brought today is a Mariner's Compass quilt. I love making Mariner's Compass. It originally started from something I saw at the Shelburne Museum. [Vermont.] I started making a quilt similar to it but I realized no, I had to put myself into it instead of just copying. So I made five large compasses, which my husband helped me design, by making a stick with a hole in it so I could draw the circle then made four smaller compasses. What took the time was quilting it, because it is a large quilt and I put a lot of quilting in it. It took me three years to quilt. Because I could quilt for a while and put it away and do something else, and bring it back out and quilt for a while. Three years in the making.

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

CP: I don't know that it has any special meaning. I love the Mariner's Compass. I don't know if it has anything to do with the fact that my father and his family were sea captains but it might.

NF: Why did you choose this quilt to bring to today's interview?

CP: It's one of my favorites.

NF: And mine, too. Did you have a particular plan in choosing your colors for it?

CP: Yes. Originally it was going to be for a nephew and they wanted green, and it couldn't have flowers it in. So that's the fabric I started searching for, but once it was done my husband announced that I should not give it away.

NF: So, did that other planned recipient get a different quilt?

CP: He got a different one, yes, he did. In green, with no flowers. [NF laughs.]

NF: What do you think someone viewing your quilt might conclude about you?

CP: I don't have the vaguest idea. [laughs.]

NF: How do you use this quilt?

CP: How do I use it? I've used it for display at quilt shows and that kind of thing. It is not put on a bed.

NF: What are your plans for the future of this quilt?

CP: Well, my sister-in-law says I must leave it to her. She may not get it. It depends on how she acts.

NF: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

CP: Well, I can remember going, years ago, my husband and I, on Labor Day were taking a ride on his motorcycle. We ended up in Northfield. [Vermont.] We stopped because there were things going on for Labor Day. They were having something called a quilt show. I didn't know anything about quilt shows then. I went in to the old Armory there. There were some old ones, beautiful ones. Then I went across the street and in the stores across the street. They were fabulous, I thought. I didn't know people could do that with fabric. That was the start.

NF: At what age did you start quiltmaking?

CP: I had to wait until I retired from teaching to have the time. So I think I was probably fifty three.

NF: From whom did you learn to quilt?

CP: There was a gal named Ginny Salter who had been a first grade teacher in the Williston [Vermont.] area. Several of us in this area found out about her. So we started taking lessons from her. I would advise it. It gives you some of the shortcuts. I do have a quilt that I made from a picture, and I did it because I sewed. I also hand quilted it but I didn't know about the knots. If you turned it on the back there's all the knots. [laughs.]

NF: How many hours a week do you quilt?

CP: Right now I don't quilt as much as I used to do. I do volunteer at the Shelburne Museum, which is great fun. Part of the reason for that is meeting lots of people. People come up to you and say, 'Oh, my grandmother quilted,' 'My mother quilted,' and one man came and said, 'Oh, my sister quilts.' I said, 'Oh, really?' He said, 'Yeah, her name is Mary Ellen Hopkins.' Mary Ellen Hopkins! [shrieks the name and laughs.] He turned to his wife and said, 'I think she knows Mary Ellen.' [laughs.]

NF: So, the volunteering there, tell us what you do as part of that time. [pause.] At the Shelburne. [Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont.]

CP: At the Shelburne? We sit and quilt. Basically we quilt. People have questions about quilts. We can show them the three layers. You can talk about a few of the quilts that are there, but most of them, they don't ask you about things most of it. Not the special display, because they have their guides who tell them about the special display. But they have one room that has several quilts in it. And those we can certainly talk about a little.

NF: So, you're guaranteed to get a little quilting done on your volunteer days?

CP: Oh, yes. Definitely.

NF: What is your first quilt memory?

CP: Probably, that Labor Day in Northfield.

NF: Are there other quiltmakers among your family?

CP: No. None.

NF: How about your friends?

CP: Friends now, yes. People I grew up with, no. People I've met through quilting, yes. [laughs.]

NF: Is there a special friend that you might want to describe?

CP: As a quilter?

NF: As a quilter.

CP: Well, I belong to a little group. There were seven of us, including the lady who taught me to quilt. Three of them have died, but we've kept going. We meet every Wednesday in each others' homes. A couple Wednesdays we give to the Shelburne Museum. That's how I got there. Two of the gals do everything by hand. Everything. All the piecing, everything by hand. The other gal and I, for the most part, we would machine piece but then hand quilt. Or, if we're doing appliqué of course, it's all hand.

NF: How does quiltmaking impact your family?

CP: Late dinners? [both laugh.] I don't know. [laughs.]

NF: Tell me if you have ever used quilts to get through a difficult time?

CP: I don't think so. I don't think so.

NF: Could you tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred from your quiltmaking or your quilt teaching?

CP: Well, meeting Mary Ellen Hopkins' brother. [laughs.] She was just here and I had to tell her about it. She said 'Wait 'til I get back to California and mention it to him.' That was kind of fun.

NF: So, he didn't tell her--

CP: No.

NF: [both talk at the same time.] About the story, yet.

CP: No.

NF: What do you find pleasing about quiltmaking?

CP: I think part of it is, if you grew up my age, if you grew up during the war and you listened to the radio for example, you always had something in your hands that you were doing. Probably for me, at that time, probably would have been knitting. That kind of thing. So I think I still do that when I watch television, because I really listen to it instead of watch it, so much. So it gives your hands something to do while you're listening to television.

NF: Could you tell me about some of the wearable art that you have made?

CP: That is what I did before I started quilting. Once you start quilting you don't sew for yourself anymore, I noticed. Maybe other people do, I didn't, anyway. In college, I knew how to sew, sort of. You know home ec [economics.] courses. One of the gals in the dorm was a Home Ec major. The house mother had a sewing machine. So, it was a heck of a lot cheaper to go down to Pegton's in Burlington, buy the fabric and come back and make your skirts. My mother used to get very upset because I used the same pattern but nobody knew it because all the colors were different and the fabric was different. But my mother would say, 'You just use the same pattern all the time.' It's one that fit, hey. [laughs.]

NF: You may already have told me, what aspects of quiltmaking do you not enjoy?

CP: The bindings aren't my favorite. That's probably it. Yes, basically bindings.

NF: So, could you tell me the name of that quilting group that meets on the Wednesdays?

CP: Yes, we call ourselves the Quilt Teas. Teas spelled T E A S. Because two of us drink tea.

NF: Do you have tea while you are at your meeting?

CP: Yes. We start at nine in the morning, and people come to your house. You serve them food and drink. Coffee, tea. It started usually with like a breakfast type thing but quite often it's a pie or a cake or whatever. [laughs.] It's gotten into sweets a lot lately. In fact, just yesterday I was at someone's house on that Wednesday, we had Dunkin Donuts. They were awful good. [laughs.]

NF: Tell me about another quilting group the Common Threads.

CP: That one was one we started quite a few years ago. It started with six of us. Two or three people have died. Some just can't do it anymore. One is blind and one had carpal tunnel. So other people started talking about quilting. We did it on Tuesday afternoons, once or twice a month. Other people came along and said, 'You know, we'd like to quilt with you but we work. We can't do it Tuesday afternoons.' So we started doing it Thursday nights. That little group has now over eighty people. We meet once a month on Thursday nights.

NF: And not in a person's home any more.

CP: [laughs.] No. That group never met in a person's home.

NF: Where do they meet?

CP: They used to meet in the Town Clerk's office, downstairs. We outgrew that with this group. Now it's at a trailer park for senior citizens, but they have a huge community center which is big enough for all of us.

NF: What town is that in?

CP: Hyde Park.

NF: Over the years I know you've been very involved with the Green Mountain Quilters' Guild.

CP: Yes, that was again through Ginny Salter, the gal who taught me to quilt. At one point she was the president, so she insisted I could do the treasurer part. Then, she was only president for two years and for some reason I ended up as treasurer for six years. Then came a break and somebody said we need a Program Chair and I thought, 'Oooh.' Ginny said, 'Oh I'll do it with you.' So that was something we did for three years.

NF: Ginny left quite a mark, I think, on the quilting world in Vermont.

CP: Oh, she did. [both speak at the same time.] She helped a lot of us.

NF: I was sorry I wasn't able to get an interview with her--

CP: Yes.

NF: Years ago. You've also been very active over the years with the Vermont Quilt Festival. Since your first encounter, what have you had for experiences?

CP: One of the things I loved doing is going on Monday, staying right there and going home on Sunday. Seeing people that you meet every summer, the same people sometimes. Almost like summer camp. Then meeting a lot of new ones each year, too. I really have enjoyed doing that. I haven't been able to do it lately because my husband's not been well. So, I can't just take off for a week. But maybe I can get back to it again, sometime.

NF: So, have you volunteered as part of that--

CP: I still can volunteer, yeah. I volunteered this year at the Information Table. Then a new thing, I don't think they've done it before, I was one of the Bus Greeters. I got onto one bus and said, 'Welcome to the Vermont Quilt Festival,' and the bus driver looked at me and said, 'They only speak French.' [laughs.] So he translated.

NF: Did he have your same level of enthusiasm?

CP: Yes, he did.

NF: Good.

CP: He was good.

NF: And you've also worked for the Judging Committee?

CP: Yeah, that was through VQF [Vermont Quilt Festival.]. Yeah, I did that for several years. It's wonderful because you're looking at quilts through somebody else's eyes.

NF: Did you work as a scribe to the judges, for that?

CP: Yeah.

NF: Have advances in technology influenced your work?

CP: Not that much. I kind of plan to do the way good old Ginny Salter taught me how to do it. Although I do use some rotary cutting. But an awful lot of what I do is, maybe because I do more appliqué. I like fussy cut. Drawing a pattern right on a fabric and cutting it out.

NF: So, you don't use a computer?

CP: No.

NF: As part of your creative process?

CP: I don't use a computer at all. Although I have a computer with a program downstairs that helps to design.

NF: So, have you used that, at all?

CP: I use it as a game. [laughs.] I haven't used it to really design because, what I have for fabrics and what it shows there are not the same thing.

NF: What are your favorite techniques and materials?

CP: Techniques and materials, I don't know what you mean.

NF: Appliqué as opposed to piecing.

CP: I like them both. I like appliqué because it is hand. I can sit and do that, I don't have to be near a machine.

NF: What kinds of materials are you most likely to prefer?

CP: Cotton, obviously. Usually it has to do with color and design of the fabric.

NF: Could you describe your studio, or the place where you create your quilts.

CP: [laughs.] Right now it's in a horrible mess, so I am not going to invite you to see it, but it's down cellar.

NF: That's okay.

CP: It's down cellar. A few years ago, I bought one of those quilting tables. It's on wheels. It closes everything up so if I had company down there then I could close it up. At this point, I couldn't because there's too much stuff on it.

NF: Do you use a design wall?

CP: A little bit. I have one. The only time I really used it, and I really, really used it was when I had taken a class at VQF. I came home and I thought, 'How will I put this all together?' I really started using it then. That's the only time I ever did.

NF: Tell me how you balance your time among your varied activities, and how you can fit the quilting in.

CP: Well, there's no problem, I'm retired. [laughs.] I do volunteer. I volunteer at our local library. I volunteer with our local hospital group. And hey, aside from that it gives you all that time for quilting.

NF: And do you help teach others quiltmaking techniques or ideas?

CP: I have done some. I've worked in a couple of quilt shops and taught some, taught Mariner's Compass.

NF: What so you think makes a great quilt?

CP: It has to do, of course, with the design. The thing that catches my eye I think more than anything is color, though. I spot that quicker. Then just the overall design, how the color is used for the design, how the quilting is used.

NF: What makes a quilt artistically powerful to you?

CP: Same thing. Color, design, even the quilting. There was one quilt, it was at the Shelburne Museum. It was just a design of a house. It was like a log cabin, with a lady standing there, and a lot of water on the side. Whoever made that quilt really used the stitches of quilting to show the water, to show the logs, the house, the whole thing. Really, it was the quilting stitch itself really did the design in that whole quilt. [“Mountain Landscape Quilt” c. 1920-1930.]

NF: What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or special collection, in your view?

CP: I don't know. I guess it would have to be very special. Again, the way it's put together, the color, the design.

NF: What would make a great quiltmaker? What attributes do you think the people who've made some of those quilts would have had for characteristics?

CP: They had to have time. They had to have imagination. They had to have some skill. I guess imagination, mostly. There's one quilt there. It's Calvin Coolidge's grandmother's.

NF: What design was used?

CP: It really was--I can't think what you call it where lots of people make a block and put it all together.

NF: Was it a signature?

CP: It might have been, yeah. A signature quilt. From her time.

NF: Whose works are you drawn to?

CP: Jinny Beyer's in a second. I love her fabrics, I liked her designs.

NF: Did you take any classes with her?

CP Yes, I have. The first time she came to Vermont Quilt Show [Vermont Quilt Festival at Northfield, Vermont.] I took a class. I was just a very beginning quilter and should not have been in. I was way over my head but still loved every minute of it. I've taken, every time she's come, I'm right there.

NF: Are there some other artists who have influenced you?

CP: You mean quilters?

NF: Yes.

CP: Way back, when I started was when Georgia Bonesteel had just started. So we all realized that we didn't have to use those big frames to quilt with, we could quilt. That was something that she did for at least, me and my friends.

NF: So, do you use a hoop?

CP: No.

NF: It's just lap quilting without any frame.

CP: It's pinned. Pin, pin, pin, pin.

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

CP: I prefer the hand quilting, but some people today, have really gotten so good at machine quilting. Some times it's hard to tell that it isn't hand quilted. I can't do that. I can't manipulate my fabric like they can. [laughs.] So maybe I'm a little envious.

NF: Do you have thoughts about the longarm quilting as opposed to domestic machines?

CP: Actually, my last three quilts I've had that done because I was running out of time. It's a big time saver. There's a member of our group who does it. Do you know Anne Harmon?

NF: I do.

CP: You roomed with her.

NF: Yes. Why is quiltmaking important to your life?

CP: I really don't know. It was something to do when I retired. Something I wanted to do. And do, and do. I guess that's it.

NF: In what way do your quilts reflect your community or region? Do you think they do?

CP: Not necessarily. I think they could be made anywhere. [laughs.] Some of the patterns you do are patterns from people who live across the country. You know, you use their patterns.

NF: Do you refer to magazines for some of your ideas?

CP: Yes I do. I subscribe to two or three of them.

NF: Are they well worn?

CP: Yes, and usually what I've been doing, because we have these eighty members. Some of the members in our group of Common Threads are new to quilting. I have been trying to get my magazines over there for them to take. Because I can remember when I started I think about the only magazine then was Quilters' Newsletter and I thought that was an awfully strange name for a magazine. [laughs.]

NF: Do you still subscribe to that one?

CP: I still do, yes. [laughs.]

NF: What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

CP: Well I think some of them show what's going on. I just finished one of Jennifer, whose last name I never can say, Chiaverini, something like that? In her latest book, she talks about a slave. It wasn't only the patterns, the blocks that told if that was a safe house for the slaves who were running away. The slave also got captured. She wasn't sure she could find her way back again. She quilts. The quilt design she was using were things she saw along the way so she could find her way back.

NF: They were clues. How do you think quilts can be used?

CP: Well, their warmth and comfort. Our group does a lot of small quilts for nursing homes. We've done some big quilts for the hospital. We've done some baby quilts for the nursery. We've done quilts for people who have nothing, who've lost everything in a fire. I can just see them wrapping up in a quilt. I can remember making my first children's quilts and giving them to a niece and nephew and they both just took the quilts and wrapped themselves right up in them. Made me feel good.

NF: Have you worked on any quilts that have gone out of this country?

CP: I don't think so.

NF: To the Kosovo--

CP: Oh. I think one of the people in our group has a son, maybe in Afghanistan, maybe. So some people are doing those quilts for the soldiers.

NF: Is there a Camp Ta-Kum-Ta that I've heard you speak of? [summer camp for Vermont and New York children with cancer held in Colchester, Vermont.]

CP: Yes, we did. Used to. We used to do seventy-five quilts a year for those kids. Some people were a little annoyed because the campers could come back each year and get a new quilt each year.

NF: You mean the campers?

CP: The campers, yeah. Some people thought that they really should share more [laughs.] with other people.

NF: What's the purpose of that camp?

CP: Oh, it's a camp for kids with cancer.

NF: Which of your groups makes the quilts, or has made those quilts to donate?

CP: It was Common Threads. They don't do it any more.

NF: How many years would you say they provided them?

CP: Four or five.

NF: How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

CP: I was just talking to Jane Campbell, who is at the Vermont Historical Society. They were looking for money for rollers. That they needed to have rollers so they could keep them rolled up. It was one of the things that the Shelburne Museum people use, but they changed people on us, asked us what we would like to do, the four of us said we would like very much to see where you keep your quilts. So, I haven't done that yet. Hopefully they'll show us how they preserve them. [Vermont Historical Society fundraising project to purchase system to roll quilts for archival storage.]

NF: What has happened to the quilts that you've made for friends and family?

CP: Well, let's see. My niece has one and she moved all over the place. Now she's living in Lake George [New York.] and got married so she got a new quilt. My nephew's wife said, when they got married, that the only thing she wanted for a wedding present was a quilt. So, I took the quilt and I had them open it in front of me. She cried and she cried, and she cried. I felt so good. [laughs.] Not that she was crying but because she was so happy. And then making them for her kids, yeah.

NF: And they're actually using them?

CP: I'm sure. Well, she wasn't going to. I said, 'Yes, you're supposed to use this quilt.' 'But the cat might sleep…' 'That's okay if the cat sleeps on it.' [laughs.]

NF: Does your cat sleep on--

CP: Our cat loves quilts, yes.

NF: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

CP: Probably time. Probably time is the biggie. If you're not retired how do you manage working and quilting? I don't know. I couldn't do it when I was teaching.

NF: Connie, is there anything that you'd like to add to this interview?

CP: Can't think of anything.

NF: I'd like to thank Connie Page for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. Our interview concluded at 2:56 p.m. on July 9, 2009.

[interview concludes.]


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