Cindy Verrill




Cindy Verrill




Cindy Verrill


Jeanne Wright

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Iris Karp


Gorham, Maine


Jeanne Wright


Jeanne Wright (JW): This is Jeanne Wright. Today’s date is October 17, 2010. It’s 6:08 in the afternoon and I am conducting an interview with Cindy Verrill. We are at her mother’s home in Gorham, Maine. We are doing this for the Alliance for American Quilts Quilters’ S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. Cindy had seen an article in the local newspaper about the Alliance and called me to set up an interview. Cindy, thank you for your interest and your time for this important historical project.

Cindy Verrill (CV): Thank you very much.

JW: You have a quilt; in fact, you had a hard time figuring out just what quilt to use. Would you tell us about the one you finally selected?

CV: This quilt was made by my grandmother Nellie Wing Crafts. My grandmother was born in the late 1800’s. As Jeanne and I were looking at the quilt, this was a surprise. When I pulled out the ones I did know existed, this one was underneath and it is, to me it is just beautiful. It represents my grandmother’s frugalness and the colors of the time, and I think it’s kind of ironic that both she and I seem to love the log cabin pattern. I had no idea that that was something she enjoyed too.

JW: So, finding this was just this week, right?

CV: Yes. Actually, opening it up when you and I talked, Jeanne, and I came over to Mom’s house and had started pulling this out and had not known this was around and opening it up for the very first time. It was wonderful and I’ve fallen in love with it.

JW: How exciting. It’s a real mystery and excitement and treasure.

CV: It is. It is.

JW: What special meaning does this quilt have for you now that you see it?

CV: My grandparents had three children born in the 1908, 1910, 1918 era, World War I. Hard times during the depression. Learning to do everything with nothing. My parents used to go out to their farm once a week to get potatoes just to make it through the week. So, looking at this quilt and knowing that Grammy made it at this time, she probably pulled everything that she had for reserves and boxes and strips and from friends and relatives so she could make this quilt so they could be warm. So just the history of farming, frugality, love, warmth, need--all about being a farmer’s wife.

JW: Where was the farm?

CV: In North Jay, Maine.

JW: North Jay. The red in the center of the squares, does that mean anything to you?

CV: It’s one of my favorite colors.

JW: Well, there. It really brightens up the fabrics in the choices of the pattern. Tell me what else you discovered once we took the picture.

CV: Well, when Jeanne took the picture and we looked at the photo afterwards, you can really, the pattern, the Log Cabin pattern stands out more so in the picture than when you look at it just with the natural eye. You can see that the dark colors are in the center and the light colors are around the edge and forming the, what would you call it?

JW: The diamond?

CV: The diamond pattern, yes.

JW: You have other quilts that you were considering. What was the final reason that you chose this one over the other both antique and contemporary quilts? [wall clock is chiming in the background and will do so intermittently throughout the interview.]

CV: Because I had not seen it before, and it just hit my heart.

JW: Very good. Now you found another surprise this afternoon as we were looking through the older quilts. What was that?

CV: Yes, we did. It is a very plain looking quilt. An unbleached muslin backing and a pink floral front and was just tied about every, I’d say, 4 to 5 inches, like horizontally and vertically. But as you and I looked at it Jeanne, you found a little corner that had been torn and inside was another quilt. It was another piece of my grandmother’s quilt that had seen better days and had used that to put another quilt on top of it. It was an amazing find. Thank you, Jeanne. I never would have noticed if it wasn’t for you. [both laugh.]

JW: I love the puzzles we can look at over the years. You have some of your own quilts that you have made here today. Tell me about your quilts.

CV: I’ve only been quilting maybe five or six years. I’m still a beginner, still learning all the rules of the road. I’ve always loved color and that’s a natural progression to quilting. I’ve always sewed, in fact learned on the treadle machine when it was time to make clothes for my daughter. Sewing has always been a part of my life. My mother sewed everything I ever wore to school--coats, I think she would have made shoes too if she could have. [both laugh.] So, it just seems natural that it would just follow to do the quilting. The love of color, coordinating and putting it together just seems a natural thing to do.

JW: You have one that’s got some purples in it. Tell me about that one.

CV: I love irises. I love the color purple, my mother’s favorite, and saw the fabric. I wanted to do something with irises, and I had seen a, from a longarm quilter, I had seen the iris pattern that she had at her shop. I said, ‘Someday I’m going to find the right fabric and we are going to do an iris quilt together. I found the right fabric. It’s Trip Around the World. The irises are bright and the colors for the internal pieces of the quilt are bright yellows, bright greens, just vibrant, I would say. The back is just a light peachy purple color. The gal who did the longarm quilting, did a fantastic job of stitching small irises, just the flower, the whole flower with the stem and in the very center is an iris pattern. She really went above and beyond in making it beautiful. So, I can have it on one side that is vibrant, and I can flip it over on the other side and see all the beautiful irises she put into it.

JW: It is a handsome quilt; it truly is. If I were to walk into a room and see that quilt, what do you think somebody, what do you think I would say about you as a quilter?

CV: On the bright side or on the back? [laughs.]

JW: If I look at any of your quilts. What would someone say about you as a quilter?

CV: Well, I can tell you that the lady who did do the longarm quilting for me before she couldn’t do it anymore, physically couldn’t do it, she always enjoyed doing the quilts because they were square. I’m a perfectionist [laughs.] and it made it easier for her to do. If you didn’t know that part and you were just walking into the room, I would say it would be the color, the coordination of it. The color of the one we are looking at here, [another of her quilts spread on the floor to view.] the greens and the maroons and the touch of black in it and our favorite Fusion [a brand of fabric we both like.] So, I think that would be it.

JW: Both of your [quilts’.] colors are vibrant, although one of them is the more subdued colors. But yet somehow it has a lot of light. That looks like what you are seeking.

CV: Right. Yeah.

JW: Now how to do you plan to use, let’s say the one with the irises? Do you use that?

CV: Well, I had thought I was going to put that on our bed and actually use it, but it was a little too vibrant for my husband. [laughs.] He said it would keep him awake at night. So, I don’t know, at some point it may find a home on another bed in the summer and then in the winter I’ll put something else out and we’ll change it.

JW: What about the other one you made; do you have any plans for that?

CV: The one that has the Fusion, the pink and the green and the flowered pattern--that quilt came about as my mother was at the end stages of her life. I had started it before she had fallen and kept sewing on it after she was in the nursing home, and we knew things weren’t going to turn out very good. It kept me going, almost as if I could make this, things would be okay. I could put my mind on the quilting. I could be somewhat organized in the chaos that was going on with the family, work and everything. What’s going to happen to that quilt is it’s going to be given to my daughter, Jennifer, at Christmas [an emotional moment.] because my mother and my daughter were very close, and I think it would mean a lot to her.

JW: I can see that this is difficult to talk about for you. Quilting can touch us in a lot of ways, whether it’s joy or just memories.

CV: Yes, and I know that she’ll pass it on to her daughter too. It will be around.

JW: So, this has really helped you through a hard time.

CV: It has, definitely has. The other quilts I have made too have also helped with some difficult family situations that have occurred and is a relief, it’s creativity, it’s getting your mind in a different place, something that’s enjoyable. I do love to sew. It is a really fun thing to do, and it helps a lot.

JW: What about the quilt you used today to talk about? This is brand new to you. What do you think you are going to do with it?

CV: Oh. I don’t know because it is so brand new, but it will be treasured and loved, shared with my children and we’re going to preserve it somehow. We are going to have to figure out how so nothing happens to that. As we looked at the quilt, my grandmother is a perfectionist too. The stitching is tiny, it is precise. There aren’t a lot of spaces between her running stitch and for the age that they are, they are in remarkable condition, I think.

JW: And the stitching, you mean the piecing of the, the pieces sewn together.

CV: And her edgework where she flipped the fabric over to the right side and stitched it. It’s remarkable. She was quilting right up until her death when she was 93 years old. So great for her.

JW: Tell me about your interest in quilting. How did that start?

CV: Really, I think it was, well I sewed forever and made the rabbits [toys.] and the dolls and my daughter’s clothes and all kinds of things. Then I met a friend who also liked to sew. We had a common interest of horses. She had them; I didn’t. So, it seemed natural that we would get together because of the horses. Then we also found that we sewed and became as I’m putting my fingers together [to signify a very small amount.] that close to going into a business together. She kind of spurred me into the quilt portion of it. We did some wall hangings, and we did some woodwork. I would cut them out and sand them and she would paint them. So, it all started there and just kind of progressed until [I thought.] ‘Well, I’m going to make a bigger quilt, a real quilt.’ From there it has just grown. The first one I ever made; my mother-in-law has. [laughs.]

JW: What age were you, if you don’t mind telling me, what age were you when you started quilting?

CV: Oh, let’s see, serious quilting, the things we have here, these were all done in the past five or six years, but I’ve dabbled I’d say for ten.

JW: Mm-mm. And who did you learn to quilt from?

CV: I am self-taught. The book. [laughs.]

JW: Do you do hand piecing and hand quilting or machine or a mix?

CV: I have to use the sewing machine. The arthritis in my hands does not allow me to do the piecing or the hand quilting. I would love to do it, but it’s too painful.

JW: How many hours a week do you quilt?

CV: Right now, I am making dresses for my granddaughters so I am not quilting but would say prior to Mom’s accident probably two or three hours every night, sewing, putting colors together, and designing a pattern.

JW: How many quilts do you have in progress right now?

CV: I am finishing up one and I have another to finish for my granddaughter for Christmas and one to make for my mother-in-law. So, there’s two or three in progress right now.

JW: You don’t call them UFO’s [unfinished objects.]? They actually are in progress.

CV: They are WIP’s. [works in progress.] [both laugh.]

JW: What is your first quilt memory?

CV: My grandmother made each of the grandchildren a quilt. The first memory is the quilt my grandmother gave me when my husband and I got married. It was sort of a wedding gift. It never arrived on the wedding, but it came somewhat after, she would give you a quilt.

JW: How did that make you feel when she gave that to you?

CV: It was very special. My mother was the one who sort of filled me in on what Grammy did. I was born much later than my other cousins because my parents were forty when I was born so my sisters as well as my cousins are another generation ahead of me. This was all new information to me. I take very good care of that quilt because it does mean a lot. It has a lot of the fabric that I recognize of things that I wore, the red and white pedal pushers, the blouses my mother used to make me, the dresses that my grandmother wore, so again, her frugalness. She used everything. I do recall that my mother and grandmother taking the Wheaties cereal box and cutting out squares or diamonds from it to use as a pattern. I do not remember my grandmother doing this because she lived an hour away, but I do remember my mother cutting fabric around that little triangle and those squares and I’m assuming that she did give it to my grandmother to work on.

JW: That you know of your mother didn’t quilt, is that correct?

CV: No, but she could do everything else. She had grown up with quilts and wanted a blanket. She had had enough of quilts. But crocheting and knitting, everybody got mittens and sweaters. We all grew up with homemade clothes. I don’t know if you recall the Hathaway Shirt Company in Waterville [Maine.]. You could go down there and buy a bundle of the backs of men’s shirts for $2.00. You know how many blouses I have from those? [laughs.] It runs in the family. [frugalness.]

JW: How does quiltmaking impact your family?

CV: My husband tolerates it because he knows I love it. I think secretly he just is amazed at the finished product. But works-in-progress are annoying because cloth is laying everywhere, but once it gets done, he surprised me by saying, ‘You’ve got to show somebody this. You know, have somebody come over.’ I think he is proud of them.

JW: Is he the one who suggested this [the interview.]? No. Who suggested this?

CV: My manager, Roberta Morrill, at work. She lives in Windham, Maine and brought it [the newspaper article.] in and said, ‘You need to call Jeanne.’ [laughs.]

JW: Well, we are very happy you did. It’s important to collect these quilter’s stories. Thank you very much for doing that. Can you tell me about an amusing experience while you were quilting? Something that’s happened? Something that just cracked you up?

CV: Oh, I love to cut it too short. [laughs.] My seam ripper, let me see, how many have I been through. [laughs.] I think I make a quilt twice. [laughs.]

JW: What do you find pleasing about quiltmaking? What are the parts you like to do?

CV: I love to put the colors together. It’s almost as if it talks to you. There could be a piece of fabric on a bolt in a store and you could look at it and say, ‘Yes. I see you. You need to come home with me.’ [both laugh.] Then begins the ‘Now let me see. What can we do with it? What colors do we think will go with you?’ And I do. I honestly spend hours finding just the right color combinations. And I won’t cut it until I find just what I want.

JW: Do you choose the color before the pattern?

CV: Sometimes. More often than not, yes.

JW: What do you not enjoy about quiltmaking?

CV: Well, it’s not really what I don’t enjoy about it. I wish I had more time, if I had more time. But I understand that when I’m 65 in five years I will have more time. [laughs.] That’s why I’m looking forward to that.

JW: That’s what you think now.

CV: Yeah, I know. [both laugh.]

JW: Now you don’t belong to any guilds, is that correct?

CV: No, I do not. When I’m 65 like the song. [both laugh.]

JW: You haven’t been quilting for very long, but what do you think about the technology in quilting? Do you see it changing quilters? Tell me how you think technology has been involved in quilting.

CV: I have succumbed to a sewing machine that does embroidery. I did buy one and I am so excited about it because I have another one of those works-in-progress that is a beautiful Asian print that is gorgeous. In my mind I visualize a light square in the middle. I want to use my embroidery machine to put the peacock there, because the colors that would go with it would just be phenomenal. So that is in my future once I get a couple of more quilts done. A friend of mine has asked me to make one for her first grandchild that is coming in March. So, after that.

JW: So you do quilts for others sometimes?

CV: Once in a while I will do that, if asked. I’ve only done it a couple of times, but I am more than happy to do that.

JW: What are your favorite techniques and materials? What type of material or even thread do you like to use? You said you had a little collection of threads.

CV: The thread, I would not use it. It’s threads from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s that are 100% silk on the wooden spools. They are very tiny and they’re still in the box. It’s just a treasure I could not use and only would if I could hand quilt so that the stitches would show.

JW: What about some of things that are so different than what your grandmother, how your grandmother sewed?

CV: The machine quilting. Grammy’s quilts are tied together and mine are all machine quilted. I would love to own one of those expensive machines but right now that’s not in the picture. Machine quilting really holds it together. You can wash it in our washing machines, and it will come out okay. And I do like the embroidery, how you can design a quilt and embellish it. Tackling a Victorian Crazy Quilt could be really interesting with all the stitches you have on your machine if you are unable to actually do them with your hand. So, you are not limited by disabilities so much now as you could have been, as my grandmother at 93 trying to hand quilt and the pain that must have been in her hands. Now, even though the machine can do it and it’s not done by hand, you as a person are not restricted. You can still be more creative than you could have then.

JW: Where do you sew? What part of your home? What’s it like, your quilting area?

CV: I’ve taken over the living room. The living room. [both laugh.] My husband does not venture out there. [laughs.]

JW: Now you work. You have a job outside the home.

CV: Yes.

JW: How do you balance your time between quilting, family, work?

CV: I do it at night and it is a great stress reliever. It gets your mind off all those things that happen during the day and also allows you to sort through things as you sew and think and relax and things make sense.

JW: When you say sort through things you mean think things out.

CV: Right. Whether it be, ‘How am I going to stitch this quilt together?’ to ‘Hmm, what am I going to do about this problem at work?’ or a family member has asked for advice, you get what could be the logical answer on how you can help, or whatever. It gives you that opportunity to just think through things.

JW: You talked about works-in-progress. Do you have any UFO’s? Something that’s just not going to be finished?

CV: Yes.

JW: What’s that?

CV: It is a quilt I can’t stand. [laughs.] I love the bright flowery colors in the charm pack. I picked the pattern that went with the display. It said, here’s the charm pack, here’s the pattern you can use with it. It is not my style for colors once I got into the ticking and other prints that were with it. But I do have a plan for it. I do have a plan. I understand, when I was at a quilt shop this weekend, we were standing in line. The lady in front of me said, ‘Well I know a lady that you can rent her longarm for so much an hour and you can quilt your own quilt, which is a lot less expensive than having someone do it for you. I thought, ‘You know that would be great and I could use this disgusting quilt as my first practice so I would [laughs.] not ruin something I had worked so hard on.

JW: Now that’s an idea.

CV: So, I think I will do that.

JW: Then if you don’t like the quilt when you get done, there are a lot of people who would like it.

CV: That could be. It could be donated or whatever. [laughs.]

JW: Yup. Do you use a design wall? Have you devised a design wall?

CV: No, no. Coffee table. [laughs.]

JW: People are very divided on that. They either love a design wall or they see no need for it. No kidding. That’s not you, then, to use a design wall?

CV: Well, there’s no place to put one either.

JW: Yeah, yeah. What do you think makes a great quilt?

CV: The love you put into it. It doesn’t matter the colors, the pattern. It’s the love you put into it, and I think you can feel that. It has to feel right.

JW: What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful? [pause.] If you were to walk into a room, what would it be that would really make it look artistically powerful?

CV: I would say the color. It wouldn’t matter the pattern, but it’s the combination of colors. I’m hooked on colors. I’ve seen some beautiful things that are done 24” by 18” and they have been hand done, but it was the colors that she used, the pattern was in her head, she just made a scene. I still can see that frog on the lily pad and the cat-o’-nine-tails. It’s just amazing, just amazing.

JW: So, it creates a memory perhaps you might say.

CV: I would say.

JW: What makes a great quiltmaker, the person?

CV: A great quiltmaker shares; shares their love of quilting, their knowledge, helpfulness, giving. I think that makes a great quiltmaker.

JW: Do they share their patterns and their scraps?

CV: Could. [laughs.] Could. I’ve shared mine. [laughs.]

JW: There you go. Are you drawn to anybody’s works particularly? You mentioned books. Have you got somebody’s style that you really like?

CV: It’s kind of funny. For fabric I seem to be homing in on Timeless Treasures. Ginny Beyer right now, I love her dimensional work. In fact, I ordered one the other day. Got to do that. I’ve got to see that tube sticking out. I have to say, “Quilt in a Day,” what would we do without her? She got me going. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to do it. The gal at the sewing store said, ‘Try Eleanor Burns, Quilt in a Day.’ It’s in theory--in a day. [both laugh.] But it was, it kept me going.

JW: Why is quiltmaking important in your life at this time?

CV: Right now, it’s carrying on what we did. My grandmother was on a farm, my mother was brought up on a farm. Quilts were a part of their life. Quilts do tell a story. If I quilt at some point when my daughter is not trying to raise two rambunctious little girls who are quite extraordinary, she may pick it up too. She has wonderful taste. She has inherited it from my grandmother, from my mother. So, I’m hoping that she will feel inspired later when she has time.

JW: You have excellent examples [quilts.] here and now you know secrets about two of them, so it’ll give you something to think about.

CV: And I’m sure she will be just thrilled to see them too.

JW: Do think your quilts, do you think quilts define a particular area, like say, the state or the area where your family came from, which was in the western, northwestern part of Maine? Do you think designs or fabrics speak to a different area?

CV: Well, I think with the type of fabrics that we are seeing now, you can tell regions. The northeast is definitely country style with the blues and the greens. If you go south into Florida, you need brighter pastel colors and out west in Arizona the turquoises and the browns. And the fashions of today have interesting combinations which do not draw my eye, other than, ‘Oh, wow.’ [laughs.] They seem to be more ‘circly’ quilts now rather than the linear quilts that I am used to. So, I think it can define our country, but it can also define the time period.

JW: Mm-mm. What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life, now, contemporary American life?

CV: American life. It’s necessary to have something that you belong to. You know this is part of your family. Search for genealogy. What did they do? How did they live? How should I live? Should I emulate that? I think it’s very, very important to keep our history.

JW: So, preservation is quite important.

CV: Mm-mm.

JW: You’ve got some treasures here so you will want to take care of those. As you think of women’s history specifically in America, what special meaning would quilts have had over time in women’s history?

CV: Have you read the book, “The Farmer’s Wife,” the new one that has come out?

JW: No.

CV: I recommend it. It was back in the 1910’s, somewhere in there. There was a magazine, The Farmer’s Wife. They had a contest, “Would You Want Your Daughter to Marry a Farmer?” They’re just lovely letters that these women sent into the magazine about what it was like to be on the farm and whether or not their daughters should [marry a farmer.]. They do talk about the quilt thing. They talk about everything about being on the farm. It seems so natural that it’s nature. We are a part of nature, not fighting against it, or for it, or changing it. We are part of it. Quilting is part of our being. Whether it was woven by someone or just purchase the cloth at the store. It just is important to keep it going and keep our history going.

JW: What has happened to some of the quilts that you have made for family, friends? You give some away. What do you think about these quilts you have given away? What’s happened to them? Do you know where they’ve been? Have they been a long way away?

CV: One has gone to Florida for my mother-in-law. It was the first one I made. It was a learning experience. Another one was made for a friend’s baby, so I know it will be loved. Another quilt was made for a friend. We did it as a team, organized it, got everybody to do a piece of it and sewed it together. That girl is now a senior in high school and still has it, will not give it up.

JW: What a nice treasure

CV: And I still work with her mom.

JW: Mm-mm. Do you have any tips or advice for beginners?

CV: Just try it. Just do it.

JW: You did that with a quilt you don’t like. You just tried it and that one didn’t work out, but you kept going and you came up with some other beautiful quilts.

CV: Mm-mm.

JW: Good advice. What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

CV: Trying to decide what to do. My gosh. There is so much. Jumping in with both feet you could be so overwhelmed. To do baby stuff with how you want to do it, what do you want to use for a pattern, want do you want to use for fabric. When you walk into some of these quilt shops, it’s just, oh my word. There’s a section over here of batiks. There’s a section over here of Orientals. Another section of repro’s from the 30’s and then there’s a Civil War section and ‘Where do I begin?’ Then you can embroider on it with a machine, or you can do your own. I would think someone brand new would find it so overwhelming they would find it difficult to get started. ‘Oh, I can’t do that because it’s too much.’

JW: What do you recommend to help them?

CV: I would have to say that finding a friend who does it to go with them, just to get them grounded or even have a friend put something together for them to just try and do it.

JW: What about classes? Have you been to any classes? Would you recommend that or do you think one-on-one is the--[talking at the same time.]

CV: --another person. There are Adult Ed classes that sound good. That didn’t work into my schedule so I couldn’t do that, but I think that is a great way, an excellent way to get your feet wet.

JW: Now is there anything else you would like to add to this interview? We’ve got a lot of your quilts around here. We’ve got some, one here you don’t have a backing on, that your grandmother made. The pieces, the squares, are only 1inch big and yet they are made out of two triangles, so there’s a lot of fabric there. But you don’t want to put a backing on.

CV: No, I don’t. I think my grandmother was probably working on this before she passed away. It was one of her projects, because she quilted forever. What I intend to do with this piece, it looks more like the bed runner, what do I want to call it? You just have a quilt that is maybe 24” wide and it lays over the bottom of the bed. I think that’s about the size of what this is. I just want to take some voile and preserve the back of it so you can see all of those tiny, tiny stitches and enjoy the front of it with all of the colors from fabrics that I know that I used to wear, some blouses and pants and things, and just keep it. It’s so vibrant. We spoke about the colors are still, they are not faded. They are glorious. So, I just intend to be able to show the backside, which is just as marvelous as the front.

JW: Mm-mm. I have a quilt like that too. Okay. Is there anything else that you’d like to mention?

CV: I am all set. I’ve talked too long. [laughs.]

JW: No. It’s very interesting, very interesting to get your story.

CV: I want to thank you, Jeanne, for doing this. I can’t say how important this is for everyone across America--

JW: Thank you.

CV: --to save the stories.

JW: Thank you very much. Thank you for allowing me to do this today. I love to come in and see the quilts that people have created, whether it is now or whether it was then. Good stories. So, we are at the end of our interview today for the Quilters S.O.S. – Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 6:45 p.m. on October 17, 2010. Thank you very much.

CV: Thank you.

Tape concludes.



“Cindy Verrill,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 24, 2024,