Terry Comeau




Terry Comeau




Terry Comeau


Sandra Button

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Middlebury, Vermont


Sandra Button


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

Sandra Button (SB): My name is Sandra Button and today's date is December 7, 2009. It's 7:23 p.m. and I am conducting an interview with Terry Comeau in my home here in Middlebury, Vermont, 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. Terry is a quilter. Tell me about the quilt that you brought in today.

Terry Comeau (TC): Well, the quilt I brought in today I chose to make it for our daughter. The reason I chose this particular one was I thought it would be really interesting to see the two different color stars. The colors I chose are her favorites which are pink and blue.

SB: You almost answered the next question. Let's see. Why did you choose this quilt to bring to the interview?

TC: I think the biggest reason I chose this one was because I found it to be very colorful and just an outstanding pattern.

SB: And it's the latest one you've done, too, isn't it?

TC: Yes.

SB: It's the last one you've done. What do you think someone looking at your quilt might conclude about you?

TC: Probably that I tend to be a little perfectionist.

SB: Yes, and what do you think about your selections, your choice of colors? I think that's amazing.

TC: Well, I think they blend well. The only thing when I was making it--the square with all the colors in it that was a little out of my realm. When I first chose it, I really wasn't sure how it was going to work. After seeing it all put together, I think it just kind of brings all the colors together, and it makes a nice mix.

SB: Definitely. How is this quilt going to be used?

TC: Probably just in their bedroom on their bed, I would assume.

SB: What are your plans for this quilt? You're giving it?

TC: I'm giving it to our middle daughter who is in her middle thirties. She has a family of three.

SB: Does she know she's getting it?

TC: No. It's going to be a Christmas gift this year.

SB: Tell me about your interest in quilt making.

TC: Well, it started back in the early eighties, I guess. I've sewn pretty much all my life. I just thought quilting would be a fun thing to do. At the time I didn't realize how expensive it is, but I enjoy doing it and I enjoy seeing what comes out of these little swatches of fabric that you pick out.

SB: Since you sewed, did you start with scrap quilts, or did you always select colors?

TC: I actually [laughs.] started out with a Flying Geese quilt. When I started with that one, my grandmother really couldn't believe I was going to start with that pattern.

SB: Because?

TC: Because there are a lot of angles and stuff to it. It was a small Flying Geese pattern. Well, it was a queen size. Needless to say, I made a lot of flying geese. [laughs.]

SB: I bet so. That's not an appliqué?

TC: No.

SB: It was a pieced one. At what age did you start quilting?

TC: Thirty-one.

SB: From whom did you learn to quilt?

TC: I learned from my grandmother. She was an old-time quilter. As a matter of fact, all of her quilts she had hand quilted. Some of them she even hand-sewed all of the quilt.

SB: Was she still alive when you began or was this a memorial to her?

TC: No, she was alive.

SB: Oh, that's right, you said that.

SB: Do you quilt regularly, or do you quilt in kind of spurts?

TC: I quilt in spurts usually because I made one last year but this year, I've made two and I've made a couple of wall hangings. [works full time as well.]

SB: My. Is there a time of day, a season or an occasion when you especially like to work on your quilts?

TC: Usually in the summer or in the fall.

SB: Is there something that lends itself to that?

TC: Summer I think I have more time and in the fall, I like quilting because it's a nice, warm, calming thing to do.

SB: What I'm getting at is the place where you made this quilt this summer. Could you share a little bit about that?

TC: Well, I made it at camp. My husband and I have a seasonal camper where we spend a lot of time in the summer, so I have to have projects. I like to quilt and that's usually the project I work on.

SB: Now, what kind of area do you have in your camper to work on this?

TC: Ha. Very limited. [laughs.] I have a small kitchen and dining room but a regular sized table. It's very compact.

SB: Do you look out over the lake while you're resting your eyes from this?

TC: Sometimes, [laughs.] it all depends on where I am in the camper. Sometimes I look out at the back of the hill. But when I need to take a break, I go out front, sit by the campfire, and look down at the lake.

SB: What is your first quilt memory; when you first maybe realized what a quilt was?

TC: Probably when I was a little girl. 'Cause like I said, my grandmother used to quilt all the time. In the old farmhouse all the beds had a handmade quilt. When I was brought up, my mom taught me how to sew and I was brought up sewing, making dresses and skirts so I've always liked to sew. As I got older, I got more and more interested in the quilts.

SB: Aside from your grandmother, are there other quiltmakers among your family or friends? Would you please tell us a little about them?

TC: My family, one of my cousins lives in New Haven [Vermont.] and she makes a lot of quilts. Usually, she makes the smaller quilts because she makes them for the kids in the hospital. She gets really excited when I take my big quilts over to show her, because like I said, she makes the smaller ones. My mom has always sewed but never quilted. My best friend quilts a lot. So, yes, I have quilters around.

SB: How does quilt making impact your family?

TC: [pause for 3 seconds.] I don't know. They like what I make. I think my husband likes that I'm doing something creative and something that makes me feel good.

SB: He works long hours, too.

TC: He works long hours. He's a carpenter, and he does projects that make him feel good, too.

SB: You're both busy. They probably don't keep your family warm.

TC: Yes. [both laugh.] I hope they do.

SB: Tell me if you have ever used quilts or quilting to get through a difficult time.

TC: No, I can't say that I have.

SB: They are more happy things for you?

TC: Yes, more happy and more relaxing.

SB: Tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred from your quilt making or your quilt teaching.

TC: Well, one could think about it amusingly. I took a class to learn to make this certain quilt. I got through the class and people chuckle because I've labeled that quilt the “quilt from hell” because the class was very unorganized. As you can see by this quilt, I have a tendency to be a perfectionist with my lines and stuff. When I say this class was very unorganized, it was that way from the get-go. I did get the top done, no thanks to the class, and I had to put it away for a while because, like I said, I called it the “quilt from hell.”

SB: You did eventually finish it?

TC: I have the top done and I just bought the backing to have it quilted. I'm going to use it actually for a lap quilt.

SB: Do you like it?

TC: I do like it. I like the colors. I like the patterns. But every time I look at it--[laughs.]

SB: You remember--

TC: I do. At least it has a label.

SB: What do you find pleasing about quilt making?

TC: Relaxing and knowing that--I mean, I'm hoping the people I give them to are going to enjoy it and use it.

SB: Even though you are a perfectionist, you still find it relaxing?

TC: I do. Because when it's all said and done and you've put the back on and the border on, you have to sit and hand-sew the border. To do that, for me, is a good time to sit and relax.

SB: Beautiful. What aspects of quilt making do you not enjoy besides disorganized classes?

TC: Well, I like picking out the fabrics, but they can be a challenge and the expense. It's very expensive. You can go to places like Walmart and JoAnn's Fabrics [JoAnn Fabric and Crafts.] and you can buy cheap fabric, but they do not last as long. So, it is expensive and sometimes that contributes to how many I do.

SB: In your travels or in your community, have you ever quilted with groups? Art groups or quilt groups?

TC: Just small classes. That's it.

SB: Have advances in technology influenced your work at all?

TC: Yes, when I first started you didn't have any templates for cutting a pattern out. When I made this star, there's a template that you make the stars with. It makes it so much easier because you can cut following the template and you don't have to worry about 'oh, is this the right angle' and whatever. As far as that technology, it works really well. When I did my first quilt there weren't rotary cutters and the rulers. That was all done with scissors. That's another thing that makes it easier.

SB: When you first started and did not use templates because they weren't invented yet, did you cut your own or did you tend to make quilts that were more squares and rectangles?

TC: Both.

SB: What are your favorite techniques?

TC: I don't think I have one.

SB: Most of yours are pieced? I haven't seen one that's embroidered.

TC: The only embroidered or appliquéd that I've done have been wall hangings. As a matter of fact, last year I made a strictly appliquéd wall hanging for my hairdresser. I appliquéd the curling iron, the scissors, the combs and everything on there. One of my dreams, when I first started quilting, was that I would love to have a room where I could hang a mat up on the wall so I could just piece. Whether it was photographs or animals or whatever I was feeling and walk up and piece it. Yes, it would take a while, but I've always thought that would be really neat.

SB: Definitely. What are your favorite materials?

TC: Cotton, one hundred percent.

SB: Cotton thread?

TC: Yes, because most of the other materials are hard to work with, especially if it's really stretchy.

SB: No velvets or anything like that?

TC: No.

SB: Batting?

TC: I like the 100% wool.

SB: Wool batting?

TC: It's warm. It's thin. Matter of fact, they look like a blanket basically, but you have a nice warm wool batting in the center.

SB: Backings?

TC: Backings. I like the 100% cotton and I like the all-one-piece. I hate to piece backings.

SB: Do you use a sheet?

TC: No, you can buy the one-piece backings now. They come 108 inches wide.

SB: Wow. Describe the place where you create in your home in New Haven.

TC: It's a ten by twelve [foot.] room. Once I have all the pieces cut out, I have a tendency to move my sewing machine out to the living room where the T.V. is so I can sew, watch T.V., or listen to the radio or something like that.

SB: How do you balance your time when you are in the middle of a quilt?

TC: I stop and think if I want it done by a certain length of time, how much time I've got and how much time I can devote on working on it.

SB: Does Richard cook? [TC's husband.]

TC: Oh yeah, Richard cooks. He cleans, [both laugh.] does whatever I need him to do. Even when I first started quilting, the first quilts I made for the kids I didn't have them quilted, I actually tied them. Richard made me the frame and he actually helped me tie.

SB: What percentage of your quilts are quilted versus tied?

TC: I would say seventy-five percent are quilted. I find they stay together better and they last longer.

SB: Now before the long arm machine, did you quilt them by hand?

TC: No, I've never. My grandmother taught me how to quilt by hand and I know how, but I don't think I'm old enough yet. I don't have the patience. [both laugh.]

SB: What you were describing, and it sounds like this, do you use a design wall?

TC: I don't.

SB: Is that what you were talking about?

TC: Yes, that's what I was talking about, one of my dreams.

SB: Yes, how that would enhance your creative process. How you go about designing your quilts?

TC: I basically look in a lot of magazines. Right now, I'm planning on doing my next one and I just know in my mind what I want the pattern to look like. So, I'm figuring up the yardage and I'm just going to go for it.

SB: Wow, that's wonderful. What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

TC: That's a good question.

SB: Talk about this one. [the one selected for the interview.]

TC: I think the angles; the way pieces are put together and the way the colors are put together.

SB: This one is very dynamic with the very dark and the very light, side by side.

TC: Yes.

SB: What do you think makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or special collection?

TC: The detail, because my husband and I went to the Amish. The detail in their quilts is unbelievable. The age of some of them. My grandmother has some she made in her thirties, and they still look just as good now as when she made them. I kind of chuckle. This one that I'm showing, some of the people that have seen it would say, 'Oh, what would you get for something like that? Two or three hundred dollars?' That makes me chuckle. [both laugh.] No. A little more than that, I think.

SB: What makes a great quilt maker?

TC: [pause for 5 seconds.] Patience and the time you put in it, I guess. And the love they put into them. These I'm making, I know how they are going to be handled, and I have to let that go.

SB: Yes, that's true. You are right. Or you would never give one away.

TC: That's right, that's right.

SB: Have you been influenced by any artists?

TC: I can't say as I have.

SB: Or any works you are drawn to?

TC: Well, Thimble--is it Thimbleberry? I think that's the name. It's an old country pattern, and they use the country fabrics. I really like those. Thimbleberry. [Thimbleberries, owned by Lynette Jensen in Hutchinson, Minnesota, produces fabrics and patterns.]

SB: Because of the materials?

TC: No, I think it's because of the old-time country. The fabric is country looking. I don't want to say they are deep colors, but more natural. More nature colors.

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

TC: I think it's a lot better. It makes the quilt last longer because machine quilting holds the pieces together better. I just think it's a better way to finish a quilt.

SB: What about longarm quilting?

TC: That's how mine are done. Mine are done with the long arm. You can do the meandering stitches like I have done, but you can also request that they be done in a specific order.

SB: Okay.

TC: I like the meandering because I think it gives it character.

SB: So, would you say the long arm doubles the value of your quilt especially because of the amount of money you have in it?

TC: I think so. But not doubling it as opposed to hand quilting. Hand quilting takes a lot longer and you have more time in it.

SB: True. Why is quilt making important to your life?

TC: It's relaxing, it's very rewarding to see what I've done and it's very giving.

SB: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or your region? Do they say Vermont?

TC: I don't think so. I mean the country one does. I've done a pattern called Trip Around the World and that is very country looking, especially with the colors that I've chosen.

SB: Yes, and she lives in the country. [laughs.] What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

TC: I think it's a great thing. This is going to sound funny but it kind of brings us back to nature.

SB: Certainly, natural fabrics. Fibers.

TC: And it brings us back to people making things out of love and not just going to the local store and plopping money down and buying.

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

TC: Well, some quilts can really talk about you as a person and as an individual depending how you choose to create it and what you decide to put in it of yourself.

SB: How do you think quilts can be used?

TC: What do you mean? They can be used for warmth. They can be used for decoration. They can be used just for display. I've done a quilted table runner for a Christmas gift this year. They can be used for all sorts of things.

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

TC: Keep doing them and passing it on. Passing the craft on to your children.

SB: What has happened to the quilts that you have made for your family or friends?

TC: Most of them are being used. Our kids really use them. [laughs.] Some of them are wall hangings. I did one wall hanging a couple of years ago for my boss, who retired. When I did that one, I had a picture of her original office sign. I had a picture of her original staff. I did a kind of through-the-years thing. It was a wall hanging. When I gave it to her, she was in tears.

SB: Now did you put the pictures on fabric?

TC: I did.

SB: How did you do that?

TC: There's a special fabric or you can just buy a real sheer white fabric and you actually scan the picture. You feed the fabric through your scanner and scan the picture onto the fabric.

SB: And it was in color?

TC: Yes. So, something like that they have it to cherish for however long as they want to put it up.

SB: That's great.

TC: This year I just did one for one of the co-workers that I have. She doesn't have any children; she has six cats. So, I decided to do a wall hanging for her with cats. There are four cats with bow ties, button eyes and appliquéd tongues. I've made it so she can hang it on the wall with a dowel. I think she will really appreciate it.

SB: How do you pick and choose your colors?

TC: Well, first I keep in mind who I'm making it for. What they like for colors. Like the Trip Around the World that I did. I know my son likes greens and yellows and stuff like that. I'm not sure if he's going to appreciate some of the flowers in it, I made. But heck, [both laugh.] a lot of it has to do with their color schemes and what I think they would like.

SB: I don't know who's got the good taste, them or you. [TC laughs.] But your colors are spectacular. How many different quilt patterns do you think you have done throughout the years?

TC: Probably five or six. The one that I did that I really like. I have a tendency to go back to that pattern, the one you can see I almost did that pattern for this one. Then I thought, 'You need to stem out a little bit and do something different,' but I really like doing the Nine Patch. But, like I said, I've gotten where I don't want to do the same one all the time.

SB: Are they usually the same size Nine Patches?

TC: Yes, they are the same size Nine Patches. I usually make queens because most of the people I know have full sized beds or queens and if they have a full-sized bed, they just hang over a little more.

SB: Do you sleep under a quilt?

TC: I do.

SB: Is it a special one or is it one that you don't mind wearing out?

TC: Actually, the one we were sleeping under before I put my Christmas one on, I got talked into the colors that were chosen. I didn't like them. So, I'm not crazy about that quilt. Matter of fact, the one I said I was planning to make coming up after the holidays. I'll probably like it a lot more because I'll make sure I like the colors.

SB: Do you have other quilts in your home you haven't made?

TC: No.

SB: You don't have one of your grandmothers yet?

TC: No.

SB: Ah, you'll have to get one. Tell me about teaching your granddaughter. How old was she?

TC: She was fifteen and I actually taught her at camp.

SB: Oh yeah?

TC: Yes. She came to camp a couple of summers ago and said, 'I want to make a quilt!' Of course, being her first one, my girlfriend and I took her to Ben Franklin. [Department Store.] We just got her fabric from Ben Franklin. She was also taking sewing at school which helped. At least she was familiar with some of the terms. She finished that quilt, and she has made a second one.

SB: What pattern did she use for that quilt?

TC: The one. Matter of fact both of them that she has done, have been small square blocks quilt.

SB: Did she show creativity in her color choices like you do?

TC: Yes.

SB: What did she choose?

TC: Her favorites are pinks, so she chose a lot of pinks, flowery pinks.

SB: What size did she make?

TC: She made a full.

SB: Did she? She still using it?

TC: Yes. Matter of fact, we were up there a couple of months ago and she was on the couch when we got there, all wrapped up in it.

SB: That's pretty special so she's made two now. She made one totally by herself.

TC: Yes.

SB: Good teacher.

SB: Is there anything that you would like to add to this interview?

TC: [pause for 3 seconds.] Well, I think if you really like to work with your hands and you have got the time, and you like to sew, I would highly recommend quilting. You can be however creative that you want to be.

SB: I'd like to thank Terry Comeau for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. Our interview concluded at 8:00 p.m. on December 7, 2009.
Thank you.

TC: Thank you.

[interview concludes.]


“Terry Comeau,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/2083.