Maribeth Schmit


Maribeth Schmit 1.jpg
Maribeth Schmit 2.jpg


Maribeth Schmit




Maribeth Schmit


Joanne Gasperik

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

A Friend of the Quilt Alliance


Cedarburg, Wisconsin


Joanne Gasperik


laughter.] Joanne Gasperik (JG): They're not hard questions.

Maribeth Schmit (MS): Well, I took a look. It was like 'Oh my gosh.'

JG: [laughs.] This is Joanne Gasperik. Today's date is May 21st, 2005, and it is 5:06 p.m. I'm conducting an interview with Maribeth Schmit for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. We're in her home in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Thank you, Maribeth for allowing me to interview you today.

MS: Oh, I'm glad it worked out. [both laughs.]

JG: Tell me about your gorgeous quilt. Who made it, I mean, I know you made it, but the origin the reason, its age, describe it for us please.

MS: The quilt is called "Album Legacy" and I made it, it's a couple years ago. [MS's son Alex is playing noisily in the background and can be heard throughout the interview.] I started it in the fall of 1996 and I finished it in the spring of 2001. It's a classic Baltimore Album quilt. It has 16 blocks in it and a lot of appliqué, as you can see. Traditional reds, greens and a lot of the blocks are from Elly Sienkiewicz. I need to tell you though, that I was not an appliquér when I did this.

JG: You could have fooled me.

MS: [laughs.] This was my very first appliqué quilt. [JG laughs.] My family and I moved here to the Cedarburg area in 1994 and I didn't really know anybody in this area. And I really moved under protest, because I had a wonderful career up in Appleton, Wisconsin teaching English as a Second Language and I had a wonderful guild there. There were like 250, 300 people in the guild. It was fabulous. And I didn't want to move here. [laughs.] I didn't know anybody. So, we moved here and subsequently my son Alex got very sick. So, we had to deal with his needs. And I quit sewing. It was very tough with him. We didn't know if he was going to live or die and as you can see he [laughs.] made it through, but as a consequence of that he required a lot of therapy. And I needed a project to drag along with me, because I would sit for hours while he was in with therapy and I am the kind of person who needs to do something with her hands. And I was a member of WQI, Wisconsin Quilters [Inc.] in Appleton, so when things kind of got settled here I went through my WQI directory and looked in the back to find a liaison in the Cedarburg area and I found a wonderful person, Kathleen Sweeney. She lives right here in town and I got connected with her and she's been my best friend ever since. Well anyway, she knew some quilters from North Shore Quilters [Guild.] and they needed somebody to fill out the rest of a class at Hearthside [Quilter's Nook in Hales Corners, Wisconsin.] in appliqué. And she said, 'You know, you really need this, you need to get out of the house. You need just to--you need something.' [laughs] So I joined with them. It was a class on Elly Sienkiewicz's "12 Ways to Appliqué" and I was hooked. Well, the follow-up to that was we were invited to do a Baltimore Album class and I thought 'I can do this.' And so that's basically all these blocks are from that class, but it also served another purpose in therapy for me, you know. [laughs.] Going through a really tough time and as you can see, I was also very interested in genealogy at that time, too. So, a lot of the inscriptions on the quilt are from this area. This block here [points to a block.] is the last covered bridge in Wisconsin. It's here in Cedarburg. And I did research on when it was built, where it is.

JG: It's an inked block.

MS: Yes it is, with the grape wreath around it. This block here [points to the second block.] I did some genealogy research on my family, which arrived from Luxembourg to this area, which I had no clue. Actually, the Port Washington/Belgium area, which isn't too far from here. And so, I put a little Luxembourg flag on it, for my family from Luxembourg and I found, through my research a ship that they came on, called the Antarctic, and the date that they came. So, I made this their ship. [laughs.] It has other information over here. I put all my kids. I have three boys. I put their birth dates on here. And my husband. So, it's very special to me. And I entered it in the [Wisconsin.] State Fair. And lo and behold I got Best of Show, which I was absolutely floored, because I didn't think it was--

JG: Nobody else thought it was--

MS: That fabulous. [both laughs.]

JG: Nobody else was floored. [laughs.] And it's beautifully hand quilted. Beautifully hand quilted.

MS: Yeah. That too I did while my son was in therapy. It took a while. Actually, when I finished the top I had no clue how to quilt it. I put it away for about 9 months, because it just needed to sit a while. It's got the cross-hatching and I think it turned our great. After winning the State Fair then the judge asked if it could be shown in Nashville. They had a "Fairest of the Fairs" contest at that time. They had special showing of State Fair winners from I think it was like 2001, I believe. And so, it went there. And I've won a couple more blue ribbons with it, and I'm pleased. I love it. I like to have it out, show people.

JG: So, you have it, you display it periodically in your home?

MS: Yes. Well, not in my home. I display it at a lot of shows. Otherwise, it's in a pillowcase, out of the sun. I would like to--I really don't have any place to display it here. [laughs.]

JG: And they do suffer, when they're hanging for an amount of time.

MS: Oh, yeah. Also, it was here in the [Cedarburg.] Cultural Center. It hung for about 4 months in the Cultural Center. There was a special show in conjunction with the Wisconsin Quilt History Project here. And so, I was invited to have it hang there. It was very special because the kids in the fourth grade curriculum in Wisconsin need to know about, learn about their community and when it was hanging last year at the Cultural Center the kids walked through downtown at the Cultural Center and Alex, my son, took them in and said, 'Want to see my mom's quilt? It's hanging in the museum.' [laughs.] So that was very special. [JG says something inaudible.] So, yes. I'd like to have it in some more shows. I just haven't gotten around to filling out the paperwork--

JG: It's hard work.

MS: Oh, yes it is. It's incredibly. It is. And expensive, too and shipping and the worry.

JG: And nerve-wracking.

MS: And the worry that it won't come back home.

JG: Nerve-wracking. Absolutely. What are your plans for this quilt beyond exhibiting it, beyond the venues that you plan?

MS: Well, I'm hoping to have one of my children take as much interest in it as I have. [laughs.] And if they're not interested I know that the Wisconsin Quilt History Project might very well want it.

JG: So, nobody here is eyeballing it yet, propriety wise?

MS: No. [laughs.] They haven't asked to have their name on it. They're still young.

JG: It could jump a generation.

MS: It could. [laughs.] But I'm fairly confident that it'll go somewhere where it will be appreciated.

JG: Certainly, loved and appreciated, you bet. Tell me about your interest in quilting? When did you start quilting?

MS: Actually, at a young age I started sewing. My mom was a seamstress. She'd make curtains and kid's clothes and her own clothing. And I started embroidery, oh probably five, six or seven years old. I actually have one of my very first embroidery projects, still. My grandmother saved it all these years. [laughs.] It's a toaster cover and it's kind of special, because my grandmother is no longer with us.

JG: She saved it.

MS: She saved it. Can you believe it?

JG: Yeah, well.

MS: So, I had done high school sewing and I had a summer job one year working at a bakery. I worked with a woman whose name was Polly Witt and she was from Tennessee, and she was a quilter. When it would get really slow in the afternoon when I'd be working during the summers, she'd pull out her quilting and she's the one who taught me how to quilt. I learned how to quilt by hand first. I mean we had customers to serve out in front so it had to be something that you could pick up and put down. So, I learned how to quilt--

JG: Hand piecing.

MS: Hand piecing, right. And my very first quilt I finished in 1976. It was the day that [Richard.] Nixon resigned. [laughs.] I still remember because I was fixing the binding and he was on television resigning. That poor quilt, it had fabulous fabrics in it, because I had been a seamstress and it had all the scraps from many of the clothes that I had made, my mom had made. But it had all the--it was all wrong. [laughs.] I used a sheet on the back. I flipped the sheet to the front for the binding. [laughs.] Who ever knew that there was such a thing as a walking foot? I had no clue. [laughs.] I've come a long--a long, long way since then. And I still have that quilt and my children love to cuddle up with it on the sofa. And it still serves a good purpose.

JG: And if nothing else it's also a teaching tool.

MS: Oh, yes.

JG: It's like Ami Simms. You've heard her story.

MS: [laughs.] Yes.

JG: Well of course you used a sheet. Because it was there. Of course, hand quilting is a different story. But our first, our first quilts, our first efforts really should always have a special place because they are the beginning of a long, wonderful journey.

MS: Oh, it is, it is. Yes.

JG: So, your first memory is from this lady Mrs. Witt, from Tennessee?

MS: Oh yes, yeah. I don't know that she's still around, but yes. She was my very first teacher.

JG: Did your grandmother quilt?

MS: No.

JG: So, you're the first quilter in the family?

MS: My grandmother made Afghans. And I have several of those from her. And I always was very sad that I didn't have the quilts. [laughs.] There aren't any. So, I have to make my own.

JG: Yeah, yeah. Well then you're the beginning. You're the new generation of quilters in the family.

MS: Right. My grandmother had stories of her mother and her grandmother making quilts in the Fredonia/Port Washington area, but Lord knows what happened to them. Nobody knows.

JG: So, when did you make your first quilt?

MS: That was 1975, 1976.

JG: Oh. So, you're a pioneer, actually. [MS laughs.] You're right in, you're right in with the--

MS: The revival--

JG: The revival.

MS: Well, I think the bicentennial had a lot to do with that. But I quilted for a while, since then. Then I went away to college and then I kind of quit. Then I got married and we moved overseas for a while. And then I started up again, because we went to Indonesia for six years. And my husband was off in the gas field working and again I needed something to do with my hands, to keep busy. Especially being in a different country, and not knowing a whole lot of people. So, I started quilting again. Of course, I had all these fabulous fabrics to work with. [JG: The batiks there.] Well, the batiks are very different where we were, than what you see from Hoffman's and all that. We had more traditional Javanese batiks. Those are very different from what you see in the stores today. But oh, my gosh, the fabrics were lovely and I had no problem with cutting them up. I used to go to seamstresses there, because they didn't have store-bought clothes, and I'd go get the scraps. They thought I was crazy [laughs.] but it was fun.

JG: Yeah, well, we get scraps that are 20 by 20 [inches.] but there are some others of us, who do the miniatures--

MS: The tiny, tiny pieces, yeah--

JG: And then the scraps of the scraps of the scraps. That gets a little bit--but there are some people who do that. So how many hours a week do you think you quilt?

MS: I try and quilt every day. It doesn't always happen, but I try to. And be that, thinking about a quilt or designing a pattern or a quilting design or--

JG: When did you make the step to design your own patterns?

MS: Oh, I don't know.

JG: Who was influential in getting you to make that step? Was it a book that you read?

MS: I love books. I love looking through books. I'm very interested in historical quilts. Lately I've gotten more interested in the art quilting. And currently I am pursuing a Judge's Certification with NQA [National Quilting Association.] So, in that whole endeavor the paperwork requires you to be very knowledgeable about different trends and techniques and design and color and workmanship. So, I've become more and more aware of design.

JG: You don't have to deal with the antique quilts as much because you're really judging contemporary quilts.

MS: Yes, but there is a lot of history with those antique quilts and traditional patterns often show up in contemporary quilts.

JG: Tell me about some of the organizations, quilt organizations you're involved in.

MS: My husband thinks I'm in way too many. [laughs.]

JG: We'll interview him later. [both laughs.]

MS: I've been involved with Wisconsin Quilter's Incorporated for many years. I've been on the board of directors with them and held a number of executive positions. Currently, we just came from the Wisconsin Quilt History Project here. We had a Spring Fling today. I'm on the board with them, trying to develop a museum, doing fundraising with them, and I belong to a number of local guilds: North Shore Quilters, who are a little bit more contemporary quilters and I have small group of quilters I work with here in Cedarburg. We meet in each other's homes. And I'm also a member of West Suburban Quilters that meets in Brookfield and I've just finished a year doing programs with them, which was fun. Yeah, a very fun time with that. So, yes I am involved in more [laughs.] ways than maybe I should be.

JG: And knowing you, you're a worker there as well. You don't go there to be entertained.

MS: Oh, no. [laughs.] Like today. [laughs.]

JG: You give it your all. [laughs.] Do you teach as well? Do you teach quilting?

MS: I am a teacher, but I don't teach quilting. I really stayed away from that because I thought it would interfere with an amateur status. But now that I'm pursuing a judging certification I think I'm going to come out of retirement. [laughs.] I am a teacher. I'm a Spanish language teacher, and also an English as a Second Language teacher, so I do have the background in teaching. I've taught anywhere from Pre-K through University level people. So, it's not intimidating.

JG: You're a teacher by nature, not just by profession. [MS: laughs.] You enjoy sharing. [MS agrees.] Well, I suspect that people looking at this quilt will not really assume that you're an amateur anyway. [laughs.] You've passed that stature.

MS: I failed to mention I did have it at Paducah.

JG: Was it juried in there? Oh, my.

MS: Yes it was. And there again, I was totally naïve and unsuspecting that anyone would ever want it to go to Paducah. And when I got the letter I was floored. And then my problem was 'Oh, well if it's going to be on display, I've got to be there with it.' I had no clue. I had never been to Paducah before. And that letter comes, I don't know like in--

JG: Early March.

MS: Well, yeah. And the show is when? [laughs.]

JG: Five weeks later.

MS: So, I had to punt. I had to find a ride. I had to find a place to stay--

JG: 1-800-PADUCAH.

MS: And you know what? It all worked out. It did. I was blessed.

JG: Oh. How lucky. How lucky. When was it in Paducah?

MS: That was in 2002.

JG: Wow. Congratulations.

MS: Yes. It was fabulous.

JG: It's the big league.

MS: Oh. I didn't win anything, but you know what? It was just being there and having it up and being able to talk to people over it, seeing the curiosity in their eyes, and like, 'Oh, how long did that take you?'

JG: First question. [MS laughs.] It's always the first question. [both laugh.]

MS: It was fabulous.

JG: Oh, golly. Well, you have told me that you've used quilting to get through a difficult time and this was your project. Do you find that it's a great comfort for you when your thoughts go in different directions that you fall back to quilting?

MS: Oh. I think it has a special place. Yes.

JG: So, what aspects of quilting do you most enjoy?

MS: Fabric. [laughs.] Fabric.

JG: We'll inspect your stash later.

MS: [laughs.] I love fabric and when we lived in Indonesia, oh, what a fabulous place to have fabric. I mean you don't see fabric like that everywhere. I enjoy the books of antique quilts. I can't afford antique quilts, [laughs.] so I buy lots and lots of books.

JG: Beautiful pictures.

MS: Yes. Yes. I enjoy the design, the composition of quilting. It's very special.

JG: Are there any aspect of quilting you don't enjoy?

MS: Marking. [laughs.] Marking a quilt. I have gotten into machine quilting. This quilt here is all hand quilted, but I've gotten into machine quilting and I really don't like to mark. So, I just like the free-form quilting. Another thing I don't like is the basting. I'm getting too old to be on the floor [laughing.] and pinning the quilt. Those are the things that I don't care for. But they've got to be done.

JG: Yes, yes, so important. What do you think makes a great quilt?

MS: What makes a great quilt? Something that has--as you walk by it you stop and you look and you look some more. And it draws you even in closer, because there is something of interest in there, whether it be color or the design or the workmanship. Something extraordinary.

JG: But that is the art of the quilt. It did draw you in. Then you want to discover what it is that you like about it.

MS: Right. You want to figure out what the story is. How it all works together. And it goes back to the fabrics, too. There are so many wonderful fabrics that contrast each other and compliment each other and it's just fascinating to me how quilters just make those decisions of what to go with what. And part of that ties back into the design and what draws you into a quilt. Makes you want to visit a little bit longer.

JG: Yeah, rediscover their journey, how they reached that point to make that quilt. Well, what makes a great quilter do you think?

MS: Patience. [laughs.] And a desire to experiment. Not all of my quilts have turned out the way that I've wanted them to. I think it's a big experiment.

JG: And a lot of them were great surprises. I'm sure. [MS laughs.] Wonderful surprises.

MS: Yeah, yeah. Sometimes things turn out. I really shouldn't say I've made a bad quilt. They're all learning experiences and my family loves them just fine.

JG: That's the main thing. Do all your children have quilts from you?

MS: Oh, yes they do. Yes they do.

JG: And they're used on the bed? And they're displayed here, [MS agrees.] so you do enjoy. Do you rotate your quilts in the house here? You like them and you want to look at them all the time. Are they hanging in the same place all the time, the same quilts?

MS: Yes, usually. Sometimes I take them down, because they're going to go into a show, but then when they come back, I put them right back up.

JG: Do you have seasonal decorations in your quilts?

MS: Yeah, I have a couple of Christmas quilts that we use during Christmas season. More springy florals for in the spring.

JG: What do you think makes a quilt interesting for a collector?

MS: [5 second pause.] Well, I don't know.

JG: You're the collector. Tell me what would draw you? What you would want to collect and why?

MS: I've thought about that. I love basket quilts and I thought if I had money to spend would I tend toward, would I want a sample of each style, like a log cabin and an appliqué, a wide broad assortment. Or would I want to specialize for example in two-color quilts, you know blue and white or red and white or would I just want basket quilts? I don't know. It's really tough. I want them all. [laughs.]

JG: Decisions, decisions.

MS: [laughs.] I know. I just want them all.

JG: [softly.] I just had a thought. Oh, you mentioned that you machine quilt and hand quilt. Do you think they're equally important? Which would you rather do?

MS: I love machine quilting. I do enjoy hand quilting. I just don't have the time for it. I still enjoy seeing, when I go to a quilt show I enjoy seeing the hand piecing, hand quilting rather. I think it's an art unto itself just as machine quilting. I think machine quilting has come so far in such a short period of time and it is so much more acceptable these days than it was twenty years ago. I think they are equally important. I have a quilt now that I'm hand--actually I started hand quilting it and then I decided 'well this is going to take forever', so I started machine quilting. And you know what? I ripped out the machine quilting. [laughs.] and I thought, you know, this quilt, it's a more traditional quilt, it just spoke to me, that it really needs to be hand quilted. So, I am taking out the machine now and replacing it with--

JG: It deserves. It deservers that.

MS: Yeah, it does. And I need a project, another project to, a drag-around project.

JG: Well, you know now, of course the other discussion is longarm quilting. Where do you--

MS: I have not explored that at all. I have no interest in that.

JG: Do you think it has a place anywhere?

MS: Oh, sure it does. It takes s a certain amount of skill, actually a whole lot of skill to be able to operate a machine like that. And I have seen some fabulously quilted longarm pieces as well. So, I think they all have a place.

JG: If you were over your head in quilt tops, would you resort to having one quilted?

MS: It's interesting you'd say that. I have thought about that. I've entertained that idea. But then again you have to find someone that you feel confident with, who kind of thinks along the same lines as you do, has the same feeling for the quilt. Because the quilt top that you surrender to somebody to work on, that's a difficult decision to make.

JG: It is, because then it's not your quilt anymore. Someone else put their very strong signature on it.

MS: Exactly. Yes. I haven't tried it yet. I'm still thinking about it.

JG: Why is quilting important in your life?

MS: It's a hobby that speaks to me. I love fabric. I love color. I am a person who always needs to be doing something and that just happens to be my gift.

JG: Do you think your quilts somehow reflect the area where you're living, Wisconsin or maybe historical Cedarburg? Do your quilts tend to be more traditional? Well, no you did say that you were exploring art quilts.

MS: Yes I am. I am exploring art quilts, but this quilt for example this is really a product of the area where I am living. [MS coughs.] Excuse me. The historical blocks that are in this quilt really are of my time here in Cedarburg.

JG: Do you think you'll always jump back and forth in the quilt that you make, traditional versus art quilts? Or do you think you'll take one direction more.

MS: Well, there is one group I didn't tell you about. I visited a group called the Milwaukee Art Quilters last month. They really are art-type quilters. I think I might stay with them. I might join them, because I need to explore all of it before I can make--I don't think I'll be stuck in one group. I'd really like to explore with all different aspects.

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

MS: Oh, I think every quilt tells a story. And as you know I'm involved with the Wisconsin Quilt History Project and it's our mission to save the stories behind the quilts. So, I think they're a very valuable and important part of American life.

JG: How do you think quilts put their stamp on women's life in particular?

MS: What do you mean?

JG: Well in women's history in America, why do you think quilts were important?

MS: Well originally to keep your family warm and safe and in later years when, after the Pioneer years using fabrics that--well like sugar sacks and flour sacks and things like that during the Depression, there really wasn't anything. I think that's terribly important, to preserve all that, the stories, the history, the background.

JG: Where do you think quilting will go in the future?

MS: Oh, I don't know, you know it's a multi-million dollar business. And I don't see it slowing down any time soon. [laughs.] I hope it doesn't, because there is so much out there. And people are so creative. There is always going to be a place for it, I think.

JG: So, you don't think there will be a need for a second revival.

MS: I hope not. I don't think so. [JG laughs.] I think it's hot. And you know you've got Paducah and you've got Houston and just even here in Wisconsin, every small community has quilt shows and I think people are taking more of an appreciation of quilts these days than ever before.

JG: Do you think that quilts should be used, or should they be preserved or are there some in each category?

MS: Yes, yes. There are quilts that I've made for my kids that go on their beds and I know that they're going to get used and I make them specifically for that purpose. And then I think there are other uses for quilts, such as something special like this Baltimore Album quilt. I think, yeah, there are different purposes for different types of quilts. I mean, there are quilts that people make for putting up on a wall and you know that's the use it's going to have.

JG: Preserve them in museums or--those are questions. Those are important questions; how should the quilts be preserved and where should they be preserved. You know if the family has chests of quilts, is it fair to keep them there or to share them in museums?

MS: It's lovely to share them with a museum, but you know another part of that is, museums aren't always equipped with the money and the resources to keep your treasure. So, I strongly advise people, if they're making a donation of a quilt or other textiles to a museum that it certainly would be nice if they also donated money or an endowment to provide for the upkeep of your gift, [JG: Making a gift.] and that's tough.

JG: Yes it is. Now the endowment part, you can't make demands if you don't have the money to back it up. [MS: Exactly.] That's a tough one, that's a tough one. How are the ways that quilters can be reached? To learn, how can a quilter learn anything? Where should she go?

MS: If there's someone with interest in quilting and where should they go? [both are talk at the same time.]

JG: Someone with interest in quilting.

MS: Well, they can go to fabric stores and ask the questions, go to friends and neighbors and see if they know anyone, do some networking. I would hope that people would seek out a state-wide organization, such as WQI, Wisconsin Quilters Incorporated. [5 second pause.] Oh, what else? We don't have a lot of museums here that specialize in quilts. I would love [laughs.] a grandma, to use a grandma as a resource for learning how to quilt.

JG: Not everybody starts working at a bakery [MS laughs.] with someone to teach them. That's a unique story. So, what's next on your agenda, in the quilt world?

MS: What's next? I will, during the next two years I hope to get more involved in different aspects of judging, being an aide or a scribe or actually shadowing with certified judges. NQA puts a time-limit on the number of years that you need to--from the time that you are accepted into their program. Because actually there is an acceptance process. You don't just say 'I'm going to do this.' And they say 'Okay.' It's almost like going to grad school, where you have to apply and then they decide that you have enough credentials to start working on it. It's at least a two year process. So that's where I see a lot of my time and effort right now, going into aiding and scribing and working with guilds who would like to put on shows, but don't know how. To be a facilitator in that way. And of course, I'll be working on quilts, my own quilt.

JG: What drew you to judging?

MS: I don't know. I really like the artistry of it and I'm just so interested in how people put together a quilt and I'm curious about how the quilt was made and how certain decisions were made in the making of a quilt. I'm just fascinated by it. And who knows I may not be certified [laughs.] but the journey's going to be a fun one.

JG: Well, you know we're all amateur judges when we're sitting in the back rows, but when it comes to the tough decisions then we say, 'Oh, well, no, I'm not a judge.' When you're picking two elite quilts.

MS: Well, I love to go to State Fair every year and watch the judging. And when you're 3, 5, 10 rows back you can't see what the judge sees up front.

JG: True. We're really lucky in Wisconsin to have the open judging.

MS: Fabulous.

JG: There is only one more state--

MS: Really. I didn't know that.

JG: That has open judging at the State Fair.

MS: Oh, then we're spoiled.

JG: We are. We are. I think Carol Butzke told me that. I think it's another "W" state, I think it's Wyoming. And all the other states have closed judging.

MS: I had no clue.

JG: Well, is there a question that you thought I would ask you that I didn't? Now is a good chance. [MS laughs.] You could elaborate. Or what did we glance, gloss over that you would like to elaborate on?

MS: [6 second pause.] I don't know. [laughs.]

JG: Any special message for quilters in general, other than 'Try it, you'll like it.'

MS: Try it, you'll like it. You'll get hooked. And it will become a passion, as it has with me.
Joanne, we spent this afternoon watching 3 bed turnings of beautiful quilts in the Wisconsin Quilt History Project dairy barn here in Cedarburg. We saw some older quilts as well as some contemporary ones. Any one of them could come home with me! But did you notice, unfortunately, that not very many had any provenance? I mean who made them, where, when? What's the story behind them? Why were they made and for whom? I'd like to encourage quilter makers and or owners to document their quilts. That means add a label to the back of the quilt with the maker's name and any other information you might know such as where it was made or when. That information is so valuable. Don't trust your memory on this one. Believe me, I speak from experience. I was really "good" when I made my first quilt, the one I finished in August 1974 when Nixon resigned. I embroidered that information right on the front of that quilt. My husband and I are lucky enough to have his blue-work baby quilt made by his grandmother Vogelgesang. My in-laws were downsizing and asked us if we wanted it. Of course, we did and I quizzed them on the spot- who made it, when, where. How fortunate that they remembered and were able to tell us! But, I've been guilty, too. I'll finish a quilt and think that I'll get around to putting a label on. Sometimes it just doesn't happen. So, please take the time to document your quilts. They all are worthy of an author and a story.

JG: Do you have a big stash?

MS: [sighs.] Yes. [laughs.]

JG: How do you organize it?

MS: I try. Sometimes I have landslides and I have to start over again. [both laugh.] I tried a long time ago to get tubs. And I would put green in one tub and red, you know, separate out the colors, but you know, sometimes it always doesn't get put back in the right spot and then of course I have the tubs stacked on top of each other, so of course I always need the bottom one. So, you have to pull that out. And then my closet where I keep the fabric has a sliding door, so it sometimes is difficult, because I always want the fabric on the other side of the sliding doors. So, then I started in the piles on the floor [laughs.] and that's where we get the landslides.

JG: You add more fabric. Do you have a favorite tool?

MS: A favorite tool. Other than a sewing machine? [JG agree.] Well, a rotary cutter I think. When I first started with my friend Polly it was cardboard templates and scissors. We did not have a rotary cutter. We did not have all the wonderful tools that we have today. And as I mentioned I don't think that sewing machine that I used even had a walking foot. It was a Singer sewing machine that actually had the cogs that you had to unscrew and you put the cog in and that would change the stitch that it was doing.

JG: I had a Viking like that.

MS: I think this was a Singer. It was my mother's and it weighed a ton. It was a darn good machine, but that's what I sewed on. And to think now that Bernina for example has the 440 that will just quilt, the stitch regulator – oh we've come along way haven't we?

JG: Yes, yes. Do you have a special favorite quilting needle that you use or do you just use all of them?

MS: On my machine?

JG: No, your hand quilting.

MS: My hand--oh, yes. I really like the Roxanne needles. Yeah that's like I've tried some of the John James and I've tried several different brands and at least for me anyway I find that the Roxanne needles just work for me. I used to bend a lot of needles. Those I have a good track record with.

JG: Did you have a hard time learning to use a thimble at first?

MS: No actually Polly taught me how to use a thimble too. [laughs.] I subsequently have lost that thimble and gotten a couple other different ones. No using a thimble isn't a tough thing for me.

JG: Do you use the closed end or the English tailor thimble.

MS: It's a closed end.

JG: A closed end.

MS: It has a little bit of a ridge around it.

JG: A ridge, yeah. I've decided I like the open end ones.

MS: I've thought about it. But you know it's like, when you get comfortable with something, it's difficult to change.

JG: Have you used a thimble yet?

MS: No. I don't know what that is.

JG: It's on your thumb. You quilt away from you.

MS: Okay.

JG: Well, we're actually coming very close to the end of the tape. Have you thought of anything to add? [MS laughs.] You can always add it later on.

MS: [5 second pause.] I don't know. [laughs.] I hadn't thought you'd ask that question [both laugh.]

JG: Well, in that case, Maribeth, thank you very much for your time. Thank you for allowing me to interview you.

MS: Oh, it was a pleasure.

JG: Good.

MS: And it was at the end of a long day. We saw so many wonderful quilts today.

JG: The bed-turning.

MS: Where else can you go for a bed-turning?

JG: Your house. [laughs.] Well, thank you again. And we'll close. The interview is over at 5:52 [p.m.].

MS: Okay. Thank you.



“Maribeth Schmit,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 23, 2024,