Khristine LaChance




Khristine LaChance




Khristine LaChance


Jeanne Wright

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Iris Karp


Winterport, Maine


Jeanne Wright


Jeanne Wright (JW): This is Jeanne Wright. Today is August 25, 2010. It's 2:50 in the afternoon. I'm conducting an interview with Khristine LaChance in her home in Winterport, Maine for the Alliance for American Quilts Quilters' S.O.S.-Save Our Stories' project. Khristine, thank you very much for inviting me into your home. It's lovely and I know this is going to be a good interview.

Khristine LaChance (KL): Thank you. Glad to have you.

JW: The quilt that you brought in today is just a beautiful quilt. Will you tell me about it please?

KL: In the early 70's [1970's.] we had moved to Erie, Pennsylvania and at that time I had done a lot of knitting and I had done a lot of cross-stitch in my growing up years with my mother. It seemed a perfect way to start into quilting because I bought a quilt kit, it was either Kershner's or, I'm trying to think of the other company that was out at the time. They had it where it was stamped cross-stitch, which I was very familiar with. It even had all the little dots, so it helped me put the design on for the actual quilting part. I started on this project to make a quilt for my bed. There had been no quilters in my family on either side, my mother's side or my father's side, so this is kind of a first thing, and I was easing my way into it by being very familiar with cross-stitch. It took nearly two years to be able to finish the cross-stitch part of it, which was familiar. It was in strips and then I had to sew the strips together. I was familiar with sewing because in growing up my mother taught me a lot of sewing skills. But the real challenge came with putting the different layers together, the basting and then the actual hand quilting. I think I didn't even start in the middle, which I know now you start in the middle and work out. I started somewhere along it and I just made sure I always put so many stitches between every dot. I followed the dots, which I always loved as a child doing all those little dot-to-dots. This was fun. Again, it probably took me several years to finish all of the hand quilting on it because I was working full time, I had young children to take care of and I was going to graduate school. So there really wasn't much time to be able to spend on quilting at that time in my life. I followed the directions and I even put--sort of finished off the quilt where you would put a binding, like it said in the pattern. I had a friend whose mother-in-law was very much into quilting, and she wanted to see this once I got it done. So, I let my friend take it to show her mother-in-law and she came back with a suggestion. She said her mother-in-law would be very happy to take out all those little sewed stitches along the edge and put a proper binding on it for me because I had just sort of bent over the raw edges and sewed all along the edge, like it said. It didn't say anything about putting on a binding and I knew nothing about that. So she painstakingly took out all those little stitches around the edge of the quilt and I bought the binding material and she bound the quilt for me and entered it in a quilt show in Clymer, New York. It wasn't in the judged division. It was her quilting group that was having the show and it was displayed there. So, all the work was mine except for the binding. Now, one of the most enjoyable parts of doing a quilt is I love sewing bindings on. I know my friend's mother-in-law would be very happy to know that--that I came a long way.

JW: That was about 20 years ago you say?

KL: Well, it was actually closer to 36 years ago. Because in the early '70's when it got started, about 1973-74, but it was not until like the late '70's that it was finished. Then it was on my bed for about 20 years, almost, until I saw the wear along the top where the pillows and everything are. We slept under it all that time. It wasn't even folded over and put it on the bottom of the bed. We used it and then I decided it was time to let it rest for a while.

JW: Well, you have very fine skills then, because it still is in almost perfect shape. It's a lovely job. It's beautiful. What special meaning does that have for you right now?

KL: I chose it because to me it began my journey into quilting. It was the first thing I ever did, and I always think of myself as an adventurer. This was quite an adventure because I had never done it before, and I chose big for my first project. After completing it I knew I wanted to get into this area of quilting much more and I wanted to be able to do different types of things, not just something that came in a kit, that I wanted to be able to do the piecing, do a lot of piecing type of quilting. Maybe some appliqué. I found that there was a whole world of quilting out there and that it was just the beginning of a big adventure in my life.

JW: Looking at this one that you've had for some time must certainly be different from some of the things you are doing now. If I were to ask you what someone would conclude about you at that time, when you made it, what would they think about you as a person [quilter.] at that time?

KL: Well, I think they would know that I like the color blue, which I still do 'til this day. They would know that I like to do fine detail work. That I think I inherited from my mother, who taught me how to sew and she taught me step by step, very carefully and she loved to do finish work. She did all kinds of little handwork and detail work. I think somehow that rubbed off on me. So, when I do all this fine-hand quilting, I think of my mother. I'm very grateful she taught me how to sew.

JW: If this were hanging on your wall today, do you think the same conclusions would be made? Do you think that's what people would think? How would they see you through this quilt today?

KL: They would see, one of things that, how I've changed in some ways. This is a very early American type of quilt. It's sort of country. They would see that I still love trees. I love the nature because I chose that the home is the center of things, which I firmly believe. I think it feels welcoming and people always feel very welcome in our house. Yet I am a very much a person about detail and harmony. There is a lot of that in that quilt. I think a lot of nature.

JW: Nice attributes. What are your plans for the quilt now?

KL: Generally, it just comes out every once in a while, to show people. I like to show them where I began and once in a while, I hang it over our railing if we are having a quilting meeting here. But most of the time it gets to stay folded gently and placed in a pillowcase and just brought out on special occasions because it is getting very thin in some spots.

JW: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

KL: After this particular quilt I went, and I knew I had to take a basic quilting class. Quilting at that time was not very big, a big hobby in Erie, Pennsylvania, but I found a quilt shop about 45 minutes away from me and I signed up for a 9-week "Learn How to Quilt," all the basics. I still have the piece that we made, which was about 45" square. It had some things with round things in it and it had some things with squares. We learned all the things, rotary cutters just came out at that time and rotary mats, but not with any lines of them. I did things with a rotary cutter and mat and some rulers. I started and took the class for 9 weeks and learned the basics. For many years, even after moving here, I had that first piece that I took the class with, as a reminder to myself and to my friends with whom I share quilting and I am very happy to teach people the beginnings of quilting, who have never quilted before. They come to my sewing room. When they are a little discouraged sometimes, I would take them over and show them the piece where I took my first quilting class and say, 'Now take a look at this and look at yours. Now look how much better yours is than my first attempt was when I started taking this quilting class. I can make pretty even, fine stitches now, but look what they were when I first started.' I took the class, and I made some pillows for my sons, when I learned a little bit about appliqué. Then I wasn't able to do much with quilting for a number of years until we came to Maine. I was able to take an early retirement in my mid-50's and we built this house and this room. It was not finished off for a good two or three years, but it very quickly became my sewing room. I just started learning everything I could about quilting through friends who were quilters that I met while I was up here. I was fearless. I just, I would go try to learn that and I, if it doesn't come out really good at first, I say, oh prototype, and then I enjoy making different things several times, often times. I try, when I learn something new, maybe through a pattern or a class, I'm very true to what it does. Then I start looking for ways to change it and make it a little different. Often times I'll make it three or four times because I just enjoy the process.

JW: Would you make different colors or for different people, or just simply make them?

KL: All, probably. I do make a lot of presents for people, as gifts. I'm asked by friends to make things for them sometimes. I had a friend's daughter who really wanted me to make her a piece and I did that. Sometimes I'll make something for somebody else and say, 'Oh, I need one too.' So, I just put it up and that piece usually stays hung up somewhere in my sewing room. It may not go out into the other parts of my home, because maybe colors don't quite fit, or the mood isn't quite the same. But in my sewing room, it's allowed just to be just hung there for itself.

JW: You mention about in your home, when I came in here today, you have gorgeous quilts hanging throughout your home. Tell me about your philosophy about what you do with those.

KL: I know that some people feel like with art, and I think of quilts as fabric art really, that it doesn't matter where they are; they can be anywhere. But I truly believe that the best will be brought out in a quilt, if it is in harmony with where it is being hung or used. The reverse being true, I feel I need a lot of harmony in my house, so I want whatever piece I put out there to feel as though it belongs there, not like it's something you walk by and you kind of take a second look because, oh, it doesn't feel right. So, I am very careful with where I put pieces throughout my home, that they are in harmony with the house and the house is in harmony with them. My husband laughs when I sit down in a chair somewhere and I sort of stare off into a certain space in the house and he knows I'm thinking that something needs to be there and I'm trying to decide what it would be that would enhance that space and that space would enhance it.

JW: With a new home, you have a lot of possibilities. Your mind must really be reeling with ideas.

KL: Yes. [laughs.] My husband thinks it's sort of gotten out of control, but it's fun.

JW: Especially in this room, tell me about the white walls.

KL: I was in education for many years, and I was on a committee to build some new schools and one of the things when people would first get together about designing the school, they would say, 'Ooh, the art room should be very colorful.' The different architects there would say, 'No, no. The art room should be a blank canvass. It's what the children produce and that is displayed on the wall that are to be the stars. You do not want this room competing with the artwork. It is just a backdrop to what you make.' So, when I designed my sewing room, which was a gift from my husband for my 60th birthday, we went from just rafters and insulation and hanging wires up there. We had it totally designed and professionally finished off, except for the boards on the slanting walls up here, which I was able to hand pickle, called pickling. I hand pickled every one of them with a whitewash before they were hung. We had it done, and I did all the painting and everything. But is it purely a very soft, light color. It is my color of white, which actually has a tiny, tiny pink tinge to it to soften the harshness of the white. It matches throughout the house. I have quilts hung on all the walls in different spaces and draped in difference places. Again, it is a very colorful room from the quilts that are displayed. Some quilts are finished. Some the tops are all made, but they have not been hand quilted yet, but I hang them because I want to enjoy them until they get their turn to be hand quilted. Then things that completed even, I change them out because I have several closets hanging full of just different kinds of pieces I've enjoyed making over the years. I rotate them through. I get to see them at different times. Then I'd always put [them.] away.

JW: Tell me about how you are hanging these wall hangings here.

KL: Well in my sewing room here, we have a wooden strip all the way along where the walls slant downward. I basically use white and clear thumbtacks. I just hang them, and I just push the thumbtacks through the quilts and onto the wall. I try to put enough of them in so that there's not a real strain on that. I have that and then I have some other boards that have clamps on them. I have them clamped underneath that. I have them draped over some chairs and a quilt on my sofa. Sometimes I take a nap up here in the wintertime, if I've been sewing a lot. I lay down and cover myself with a quilt.

JW: You don't have to worry about holes in your walls or what size the rods are or anything, because these strips of wood go the entire length of the room--

KL: Right.

JW: --so you could just change them [the quilts.] out and enjoy the beautiful colors, the seasons, that type of thing?

KL: Yes.

JW: While we are talking about the room, let's talk a little more. You've got a lot of natural light in here. You've got a lot of special lighting here. It's an open, breezy room, nice windows. Tell me a little more about the setup.

KL: Yes. When we had the room designed, it was going to be very expensive to have built-in tables with these drawers and things for containers. I have a double window that looks out on the river and in the wintertime, you can see the river very well. The trees kind of hide it in the leafing season. Inside, so I would be able to maximize my space, and I wanted to do this right away and inexpensively, I went to like a Home Depot or Lowe's type store and I bought the tallest, widest, hollow sliding doors [wooden.] that they use for closet doors. They are 42" wide by 8' long. I had my husband paint them on both sides with a semi-gloss. I have two of those, so I have a 16' space along one wall that is 42" deep, that I sit two sewing machines on. I have one for white thread and one for dark gray. One always keeps a walking foot on it too. And then I have some plastic containers where I have things in progress sitting on there. Each of these doors is supported by three 2-shelf high little bookcases, white bookcases. I put one on each end of the door and one in the middle for support. So, I have six of them there, in which I can just put all sorts of plastic containers underneath, see-through containers. So, I have tons of storage underneath where I sew. I have two of those. Then I have another piece of furniture. It is a little higher. It's actually like a little island cutting board type thing, for a kitchen I guess originally. I use that and my husband built me a special board to go across it. That is my ironing surface so that I can put big pieces of fabric on, and I can iron and press up. Then coming around, because is sort of like in a U-shape, I have another board, not quite, another closet door that he painted, and it sits atop three 3-shelf ones. So again, it's higher and I have cutting mats on that, so I do not have to bend over to cut. So, there's no strain on the back. I have three different cutting mats on that, so I have a huge cutting surface that is high up. Then I have a higher-type chair that I can sit at, and I do a lot of hand quilting with things laying on that.

JW: It's a fascinating room. It's so well thought out and you have comfortable chairs here, an old-fashioned rocker and some wicker furniture. It's just very delightful, very comfortable. I understand you have people quilting here with you sometimes.

KL: Yes. Very frequently I have at least one or two, sometimes three friends, where maybe we want to make something the same pattern together, with different fabrics and things. Or maybe one of us has made something and will be teaching the others. I have a number of people that have said they wanted to learn how to quilt. One particular friend had never threaded a sewing machine, never had done any sewing whatsoever and she ended up making a small baby quilt. It took us about eight months because I told her I would not make any of it because she needed to have the satisfaction that she made this for her first granddaughter. It was very special because the night she completed the quilt, was the night her daughter went into the hospital. She had just finished the quilt when her daughter called and said that she was a grandmother of a little girl.

JW: Isn't that--

KL: That's a special, that's a very special memory. I have another friend who, again, she had never sewed anything and she's way off into the quilting world doing all kinds of things now. So, it's fun to see people get caught by the passion that you have for something and share that with you. It just makes for a very good friend.

JW: So, do you teach classes here, regular classes?

KL: No. I just teach people who want to learn something or, either to get started in quilting that have never quilted before or who have done very little. Or if I have a friend who wants to try something new, I say, 'Okay, we'll try it together. We'll just learn from each other.' No, I don't do that. I do teach at the Waldo County Extension [county in Maine.]. I taught some classes for them in the past as a volunteer, you volunteer to do this.

JW: What type of class is that?

KL: I taught them in how to make purses and things like that. They just asked me again if I would like to teach this Fall and I said that I wasn't able to because I have to go have this hip surgery. I certainly would do a "cabin fever" day for them, that's what they call them, come springtime.

JW: How many hours a week do you quilt?

KL: It's very hard for me to say exactly, but I do try to quilt every single day. I would say it would probably average five out of seven, but I really try to quilt every day. That's my goal. I sometimes come up early in the morning and I'll quilt for a little while. Then I go off and do some other things and then I'll come back, and I usually quilt almost every evening that I'm home. I'm not a big television watcher. I can listen to some news or whatever it is on TV or Home and Garden Television, something like that in the background, but mostly I like to listen to music. I can be up here for many hours. That's the beauty of being able to do the thing retired, because I don't have to go to bed at any certain time. I don't have to get up at any certain time, usually, and I don't. I don't worry about that. I don't set the alarm unless I'm going to the airport at 6:00 a.m. I have it as insurance. I wake up usually before that. But I quilt sometimes in the evening perhaps three, four, or five hours. Some days I feel like looking at quilting books. Some days I feel like I need to just re-look at all my fabrics. Some days I just feel like cutting. I love to cut fabrics. Other days I want to sew on my sewing machine. Other days I just want to do the hand quilting. Some days I'm not just sure which one I want to do. [laughs.]

JW: How fun!

KL: It is, because I think of this as fun. I've had a number of people say, 'Well why don't you sell more things?" and something like that. Then it's not fun. I do this when I want, how much I want. On rare occasions I will make something for somebody who has come to my sewing room and says, 'Oh, will you please make me one of those?' I will do that. That's as much pressure as I really want. Usually, I like to make something for a gift for someone. And it's where I haven't even told them many times, but I know what they like or something and I will choose it and make it on my time schedule and get it to them.

JW: Oh, that's nice. What's your first quilt memory?

KL: Oh, I have a very fond memory of a quilt. I was probably about four and a half or five years old, and I had a little doll crib. I had an aunt named Munsey, who had made a little quilt for that cradle. It was a tied quilt. It was actually embroidered. I think it had like six or eight blocks, the best I can remember now. They were hand embroidered and then it was tied. I have no idea whatever happened to that quilt. I can remember it until I was about eight or nine and my mother probably thought it was worn and torn and threw it away.

JW: How sweet though; how sweet that must have been. How does quiltmaking impact your family? You said you have a couple of boys and you're married. How does that impact them?

KL: I tried talking with my sons saying I wanted to make something very special for them, some type of a quilt. I made some flannel quilts, they are called raggedy quilts for them, as very practical things for on their sofas and they liked those but that wasn't very special and then my youngest son, they come up and visit every summer, I wanted to do a wall hanging type that would last a long time of something he would like. I said, you can look through my books and just tell me what it is that you might like. He said, 'Well how about if we design it together?' That summer there were some things that were important in his life and between he and I, we designed the quilt. I even took him out shopping and found the fabric and I started the quilt. It hangs above his piano in his home now.

JW: So not only the quilt, but the story behind it; one is as important as the other.

KL: Right and it's something that he and I were actually able to do together. My other son, I've been making him a quilt. He didn't say anything special he wanted or anything like that. I had a small wall hanging of a Mariner's Compass in his home that I'd given him that he liked. But he recently adopted two Maine Coon cats and I found the wildest cat material I've ever seen--very colorful, very active. I went out and bought it and I'm making him a pretty good-sized quilt with all the cats on it. When he saw this fabric this summer, it really did make him chuckle, so I think he will have it for a long time.

JW: Have you ever used quilts to get you through a difficult time?

KL: Not really. I tried thinking about that. I've had a very fortunate life overall. Many things where things could have happened and gone the wrong way, but they went the right way. It's not that I haven't had difficult times, but things always seem to work out. Because I've, in the last, I've only been able to do quilting a lot in the last 8-12 years or so. It's just such a big part of my life, I'm not sure, but I find it very calming to be in my sewing room because I'm a very active person in a lot of ways. I find quilting very relaxing, or I love the rhythm of hand quilting. It's just very soothing, so maybe it does. I'm not sure, but I can't think of a stressful event that I went to quilt because of that event. But it's just a very calming influence in my entire life.

JW: What about on the other side, an amusing experience, something that quilting provided, something you could still chuckle about?

KL: I'm trying to think. Well, I have two friends and we go down to New Hampshire for a week every year to sew. There's two of us that are experienced quilters. My friend Fay has been quilting a lot longer than I have, then myself, then our third friend who had sewed a lot, but had not done any quilting. About four or five years ago she decided that she wanted to learn to quilt. She had a timeshare down on Lake Winnipesaukee, so she said, 'I'm bringing my two quilting teachers down and we're going to go and quilt several days.' We visit quilt shops, and we'd quilt, and we'd teach her how to do things. This year we went for our fourth summer of doing that. My friend Sandy, she loves--she is very impulsive. She has a good eye for color, and she wants to hurry up and get things done. She likes to try very hard things. Fay and I sometimes take turns at who will be guiding Sandy through something. I was trying to help her on something, and my friend Fay looked at her and said, 'Oh, Sandy. You are making it painful to listen to!' because she was making something that was very simple very hard, and she wasn't listening. She would sew and then think. [JW laughs.] We would just laugh with my friend Fay saying that. We both looked at her and just burst out laughing because it was true. [laughs.]

JW: You talked about so many things that you like about quilting. Is there anything that you don't enjoy?

KL: I can't think of anything.

JW: Do you belong to any quilt groups?

KL: I belong to two quilt groups. I belong to the Winterport Clippers, which is a group I started five years ago. I should back up a little bit. When I first moved here, I joined a quilt group called Hampden Highlands. I was a part of that group off and on a little bit for two years. Then I met my friend Fay and she belonged to Bedtime Quilters in Bucksport [Maine.] area and I went to theirs a few times. But I didn't want to have to drive to Bucksport and for some reason I just-- they were doing different kinds of things that I wasn't interested in at Hampden Highlands at the time. So, I decided that I knew enough people who lived in Winterport, and I got eleven of us together one night and asked if we wanted to start our own little quilt chapter here. Everybody did. I sat with some sample bylaws. We wrote out our bylaws, submitted them to the state and we've been strong ever since and we have about thirty-four members now.

JW: Very nice.

KL: So now technically, now I belong to two, plus being very active within the state guild.

JW: You are a member of the state guild then?

KL: Yes. I'm actually one of their area reps for this particular region. I love doing that job because I get to go out. I think we have at this point now, fifteen [guilds.] in Area Six. I go out and visit them all the time. I love seeing what different people are doing and sharing with other chapters, what groups over here are doing, because it reminds me of my job that I did before I retired. For most of my working years I went, and I watched teachers teach classes and things. I would help them, and I would do demonstration lessons and then I would also share with other teachers what other teachers were doing that was similar to what they needed to do. They would say, 'Oh I have this class, or I have this lesson and I'm not sure what to do.' I would say, 'Well, I saw so and so at this place do this. Why don't you give that a try?' Sometimes I would say, 'I'll take your class, now you go and sit and work with that teacher for a couple of hours and see if that'll help out.' It was that the whole sharing idea. This reminds me of that. I think it's a wonderful thing for quilters and to be able to share. I learn so much and meet so many wonderful people. A number of them have become very good friends.

JW: You called me for this interview.

KL: Yes.

JW: I was very excited about that. I love doing the interviews, but I usually call the people. How did that come about?

KL: Well because the person who is our contact person in our Winterport Clippers sent out this email to all of us. Almost everybody is on email now. Quilters are really quite computer savvy [now.]. She said that you were looking for people. I said, 'Well, I'll help you out.' [laughs.]

JW: You did.

KL: So, I'm not shy. [both laugh.] Anyway, I'm very adventuresome and I thought it would be a neat adventure. So, I just contacted you and said, 'Yeah sure. I'd love to talk.'

JW: Well, I'm so glad you did. I've had a delightful time here. I wonder about the technology. You talked about some very simple, simple meaning the type of quilting people used to do and the hand quilting and so forth. But how about technology? Has that influenced the way you quilt?

KL: I think it's had a tremendous influence on the entire quilting world. Fortunately, when I was working, our school district was very much into computers, long before most people even thought of computers. We were a pilot school for many things. I could see how computers could really enhance a lot of things. I think that technology in the quilting world, first of all, the kinds of fabric that we have. We would not be able to have the variety of fabrics if it were not for computers and technology and being able to come up with a lot of those designs. Quilters can communicate back and forth with each other instantaneously. They are sharing ideas and different things that they are doing. Even as an Area Rep I know how I can be in contact with 15 chapters and back and forth and get information out and back. The different patterns and things like that, again, technology has really, the kinds of patterns that you can do, the types of tools that we have is because of a lot of things with computers and being able to do things in designing those. When you're doing something, you can make it bigger or smaller. There are these programs for designing quilts on Electric Quilt 5, I think it's EQ7 now. And there's many others of them, wonderful programs to help you do that, the internet and all those quilting programs where you can watch videos online and how to do it and everything and the CD's. I think that's why there has been a resurgence in quilting that there is today. Because in the early '60's and late '50's it was very meager. It went from something out of practical necessity to become an art form.

JW: What do you think makes a great quilt?

KL: I think, and I say this to my friends, I think the first thing a quilt has got to do is, it has to make you stop and want to look at it. It can be the most technically perfect quilt in the world, but if you walk by it and don't look closely to see it [inaudible.] So, it must somehow appeal to you, make you want to stop and pick up the quilt to take a closer look. I think that boring quilts that are technically correct are going to be like wallflowers. People are not going to notice them, and they are not going to rate. So, I think you have to somehow, and for me I call it my goose bump rule. Because when I see a fabric that I really like or I see a quilt pattern or something that I really love, I get goose bumps up and down my arm. They all laugh at me. We go out shopping together and we are looking at fabric and I go, 'Oooh,' and they know I've got goose bumps and they know I cannot leave that fabric on the bolt in that store. It has got to come home with me, or if I see a pattern, because I know I will regret it. Or if I see a quilt that I just love, I will stand there and just enjoy it. So, I think you have to have the quality of attraction for you. I think that is through color and design harmony somehow, of some type. You can see, and like for myself, I can see that in an Early American quilt, I can see that in a Primitive quilt, an Oriental, appliqué--it doesn't matter what it is. If it's got those right combinations duo to draw your attention, it can take many forms. So, it's not for me to say that I personally like a certain type of quilt. I can feel that essence of whatever it has in most any kind of style. Then once it can make you stop, then you can look closely and see how well it was done. So, of the two qualities, I think an outstanding quilt has to have both. But first and foremost, it has to make you want to look at it. Then the technical comes through.

JW: What about the quiltmaker? What makes a great quiltmaker?

KL: I think you need to have attention to detail, but before that you have to have an eye for color and balance. I talk to a lot of people who are new into quilting, and I always say when you are choosing the fabric, you need a star--some type of focus fabric. You need a star. Usually in a movie there's one star. Then you have to have supporting characters. They have a major role, but they have to support the star. Then you have to have a walk-ons. That's the background that you hardly ever notice, but they are very important. A quilt has to have all three in its fabrics. If you have, like my good friend Sandy, she loves stars and she has some beautiful color combinations, but usually she gets done with a quilt and goes, 'Oh, it doesn't look like I thought it would.' It's because at the last minute she likes to put another star into something, somewhere. They become very busy and active and unsettling. Because stars, if you get too many stars in the movie, they fight [laughs.] and they do in a quilt too. I think that you have to have that balance of the stars and the supporting characters and the walk-ons in your fabrics. Then, fabrics have a feeling to them. They will evoke an emotion from you. Some are sort of, very much, they have to be at one with the design that you put them in. If you think something that is a fabric that is very much, let's say, a very primitive fabric, and you put it into a modern quilt, somehow the fabric's personality doesn't fit the design. Now some fabrics can be in several different types of things. They sort of change with whatever they are put in. But some actually will fight the quilt then, because you just know something is wrong because the personality doesn't fit. I think you have to find the balance, you have to have the fit of the material to the design, and you have to have the attention to detail to doing fine quality work.

JW: So, in completing the quilt, what do you think about hand quilting, machine quilting, longarm quilting, tying?

KL: Well, I think there is room in the quilting world for everything. Everybody finds their niche of what they like to do. I have a personal bias for hand quilting. I will machine piece. There are purists who won't [do.] them. There are very few who will hand piece and it's a wonderful thing. But I will machine piece, but I love to hand quilt. I just, the time will come probably, that maybe I will machine quilt, but I don't think I'll, or maybe send it out to do it longarm. I know I won't buy a longarm quilting machine. I still love the look, for me personally, of a hand quilted piece. They have different looks. They have different kinds of beauty, but they are all beautiful. Whatever brings a person pleasure as far as whether you want to be a piecer, somebody who does appliqué, hand quilt, machine quilt--there's room for everybody.

JW: I see around the room you have clusters of Blue Ribbons. So, you evidently have been in a lot of fairs and that type of thing?

KL: I enter things in the Blue Hill Fair here in Maine every year. I put a pile of things in. If I made a piece for somebody, I usually give them the ribbon that goes with it. They love to have a piece with a ribbon attached.

JW: That's nice. How to you think quilts have a special meaning in women's history in America?

KL: I think they tell a lot about women in that quilts usually tells you a lot about their families because they were made from what they had on hand. You can tell where maybe a person has lived or what materials were available at the time, whether the materials were heavy. They had to use just everything. They didn't throw things away. Things kept finding new purposes all the time. Their personalities came out. Even though they had to work a lot more quickly, they didn't have the freedom to take as long as they wanted to make something because somebody needed something to keep warm. But again, people's personalities come out in their choices of colors, even from what they do have and the kind of work that they do. I think it tells you a lot about the women of those days.

JW: Do you have any tips, or what's your best tip for a brand-new quilter, a beginner?

KL: I tell people, color seems to be the thing that a lot of people are afraid of. People who struggle with that, like my friend Fay, who always struggled with colors, I said go to the paint store. All those paint companies pay people hundreds of thousands of dollars to come up with color combinations. Go and get all those freebies off the rack that show three or four different colors, how they work in a room. Then take those pieces of information and go to the fabric store. You know which ones you like because, oh, those look pretty in that rack. Well go buy one of those, one of those and those. Buy those fabrics--one real busy, one not busy at all and one plain. Then let them help you overcome your shyness or your lack of confidence in choosing color combinations.

JW: That's a great idea, a simple and inexpensive, free idea. That's great. Now lastly, what do you think is the biggest challenge facing quiltmakers today?

KL: Choices. We have so many choices. In the past you didn't. There were so few, even in my lifetime of quilting, which hasn't been long compared to most, I can see the few choices I had when I began in the mid-70's there. Now, if I go in there, there are choices in fabrics, in patterns and everything. So being able to choose is the real challenge.

JW: Is there any last quick comment that you have that you haven't said yet?

KL: I just hope everybody can find something in quilting that they like to do and just have fun with it.

JW: Okay. I want to thank you for having me in here today. It's really been fun. I would like to spend a lot more time with you. We are working with the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. Our interview has concluded at 3:47 [p.m.] on August 25, 2010. Thank you very much.

KL: Thank you.

Interview concludes.



“Khristine LaChance,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 18, 2024,