Wendy Reed




Wendy Reed




Wendy Reed


Jeanne Wright

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Artistic Artifacts


Bath, Maine


Jeanne Wright


Note: Wendy Reed is not a member of DAR. While this is a DAR quiltmaker documentation project, membership within the DAR is not required.

Jeanne Wright (JW): This is Jeanne Wright. Today's date is May 19, 2010. It is 6:55 p.m. I'm conducting an interview with Wendy Reed for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project at her home in Bath, Maine. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Maine State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Wendy is a quilter and a member of the Pine Tree Quilters Guild [the State of Maine's Guild.] and the [local.] Kaleidoscope Quilters Guild. Thank you for having me in your home today, Wendy. I've really been looking forward to this.

Wendy Reed (WR): Thank you; I have too.

JW: Now you have chosen a quilt for us and if you could tell me about that.

WR: The quilt that I chose--mainly because, well I chose it mainly because it represents where I'm from. The title of the quilt is, "My Maine Heritage." It is in a shape of what some people would call a T-shape with cut-outs for the four-poster bed, which is, we have found in our research, not indigenous to Maine, but very, very popular in Maine in the pre-1840 quilts because we had those high beds, and it was for the cut-outs around the four posters. So, I made it in that shape for Maine. Also, the fabrics themselves are reproductions of extremely early, pre-1840 fabrics and also some English fabrics which--my mother was of English descent and her family is from Nova Scotia. They came to Nova Scotia from England. So basically, I chose it because of my heritage, not my favorite quilt, but close to it.

JW: Not your favorite quilt because?

WR: Because they are more muted colors and I'm a wild, bright color person. Even my reproduction quilts--which I mainly do--I like the bright colors, the Pennsylvania colors, the cheddar oranges, yellows, the brighter colors.

JW: Would you say most of your quilts are like that?

WR: I would say most of my quilts are bright, yes.

JW: Do you make quilts for others?

WR: I absolutely make quilts for others. [laughs.]

JW: And are they also the bright colors, or is it depending on what the person wants? Or are you making it as a gift?

WR: I always--I don't think I've--well I made one commissioned quilt once. But mainly I make quilts that I like, and they are mostly bright colors, although if I know someone likes muted, soft colors, I will make it; it just is painful to me. [laughs.] But I make a lot of quilts for people as gifts and also donations to non-profits. I do a lot of non-profit quilting.

JW: Such as?

WR: Through Kaleidoscope [guild.] we have what's called Kaleidoscope kids and we make a lot of quilts for donations to fire departments or Project Linus. We've done those. I also make quilts--well donate quilts I have made--to museums and fund raisers. I just donated to the Maine State Museum, and they have it at the Blaine House. [Governor's Mansion, State of Maine.] They are doing a public thing there. Channel 10 Auction [local public T.V. station.] I've done for a lot--just about every non-profit I belong to I make a quilt for, so, I like doing it.

JW: That's wonderful.

WR: I really enjoy that a lot.

JW: What a gift, in more ways than one, these gifts are. What do you think someone viewing your quilts might conclude about you?

WR: You mean this particular quilt?

JW: Yes.

WR: That I am definitely a traditional quilter, that history means a lot to me and that I take great care in researching historical quilts and reproducing as accurately as I can. Because I do like that too.

JW: Do you ever try to find old patterns and follow them?

WR: I used to. I used to make--I would see a traditional quilt, an antique quilt, and have to reproduce that exactly. Now I will see an antique quilt and say, 'I love that. How can I make it mine?' You know, change it some, that's what this is, different.

JW: Where have you seen the antique patterns, how have you gotten those or where have you seen them?

WR: Well, though, is this a good time [laughs.] to talk about it?

JW: Uh-hmm.

WR: The Maine Quilt Heritage. I'm co-chair of a project called the Maine Quilt Heritage which is actually part of the Pine Tree Quilters Guild. [the State of Maine guild.] What we have done since 1986 is to hold different, what we call Documentation Days throughout the state. People will bring their quilts to us, and we look at them. I say we--Cyndi Black and I are the two of us who have done it from the start. We will analyze the quilt. We have a form that they make out. We have a form that we make out for the structure of the quilt itself. We will give an estimated date of when we think it was made. We've done over 2,500 quilts. So that's a good source and has been throughout the years. I just--every magazine, every book, every antique store I go to I just look at quilts all the time. If there is a quilt anywhere near me, I can smell it and I go right for it. [laughs.] And I just--I really, really like traditional quilts. I'm not much of an art quilter, even though I admire them. I could never--I tried making one and it just didn't [laughs.] work out. [laughs.]

JW: Do you find sometimes you stop and just start sketching out a quilt?

WR: Absolutely.

JW: See one idea and--

WR: Absolutely. I have probably at least 20 quilts going at any one time and more than that if I count the ones in my mind. I have a running list that--a 'to make' list I call it--and it changes periodically as I cross them off, but also, I will cross them off before I even get to them saying, 'What was I thinking? I'm never going to do that.' [noise was a rap on the table.] So yes, I definitely have a running--I have three projects just in the living room right now. You may have seen them. [laughs.]

JW: How do you use this particular quilt? Do you use it or is it for just display?

WR: Actually, so far, we have not used this quilt, although I do certainly use my hand-quilted quilts. People say, 'How can you--' especially when we had the dog, 'How can you do that?' But I think that quilts are made to be used. Unfortunately, this one--because of the shape of the cut-outs--the year I made this quilt we bought a brand-new bed with a footboard, so it really doesn't fit on the bed properly, [laughs.] which is too bad. But I have a quilt on my bed all the time, a handmade quilt. It doesn't bother me to use a quilt. That's what they are made for.

JW: How often are you likely to change the quilt to get a new look?

WR: At least three, maybe, well about four times a year. And there's one I like to use--one or two in particular--in the winter and then in the spring I change a lot.

JW: Do you ever use other people's quilts on your bed?

WR: I do. I have. My very dear friend Kathryn [Conway.] is 86 years old and has made me several quilts and the spare bed has hers on it too.

JW: What are your plans for this quilt? [touchstone quilt.] What would you like to see happen with this quilt? Any special plans for taking it to shows? Or just to use for yourself?

WR: It has been in many shows and it's won a couple of awards in years past, but when you enter the major shows, which I have done, there's usually--some shows are two years and some are five, so after a two to five year span they won't take a quilt that was made more than five years ago and this was made in 2005, so it has outlived its [laughs through comment.] usefulness in the contest world. But that's not why I made it, so that's fine. This will probably be donated to something someday, because it's not one that either of my children care about. My mother certainly doesn't have even a bed big enough for it, so it will probably go to some, I don't know, maybe even, I don't know, New England Quilt Museum, some quilt place that would want it because it is an unusual shape. It is hard to hang tough and it is hard to do things with that particular set-up. If the Maine State Museum wanted it, they could certainly have it; I do a lot for them. But I'm not sure what they would do with a contemporarily made quilt.

JW: Uh-hmm. Now tell me about your interest in quilting. When did that start?

WR: [cleared throat.] I was nine years old when I made my first quilt. I lived--I grew up in Edgecomb, Maine and my, at the time, 80-year-old neighbor [Arzetta Poole.] taught--I can say not only taught me how to quilt, but more importantly taught me how to appreciate the art of quilting. She was just amazing. She worked all day long doing her gardens and this and that and then she would sit at night and appliqué. I was in awe of her and that's what--also why I love the feed sacks and the Forties, the Thirties, Forties and Fifties bright fabrics because she always had a pile next to her treadle. They were just mounded up, but I can just remember that so clearly, seeing her just [laughs through comment.] throwing snippets around and I loved that.

JW: You said next to her treadle. Did she do mostly appliqué, which you mentioned, and just do borders, or did she do both?

WR: She mostly would stitch; in the winter she would use her treadle. She had a little tiny room in between her kitchen and her bedroom which I would walk through from time to time. And she would machine stitch in the winter and hand appliqué in the summer at night sitting on her porch with her son, which was really--I don't know, it was just out of a page out of a history or some movie. It was just the way it was. It was great.

JW: And she was just a neighbor, you met her through the neighborhood.

WR: Yep, well, our neighborhood consisted of two houses, so it was very rural.

JW: What was the key thing, though, that she did that you went, 'Oh, gotta do that. Gotta be a quilter.'?

WR: Color. It was the color. And that's really, I guess, why I do love the vintage feed sacks of those colors. The bright--even the 1880's fabrics which are more muted, I always go for, like if it's Pennsylvania bright colors or, and that's what it was--those piles of scraps. And to this day, scrap quilts are my favorite. The more fabrics in a quilt the better for me. Absolutely. I do not match anything, as you can see.

JW: What about the patterns for some of these quilts? It sounds like you just kind of choose a color and then think, 'What am I going to do with it?'

WR: Pattern is definitely the least important thing to me. Yeah. Although I love appliqué and when I do appliqué, I usually design it myself. I don't buy published patterns. Ah, occasionally, well if I see a magazine that has a quilt in it that I like, I will rarely, in fact I don't think that I have even taken the pattern and xeroxed it or copied their pattern. I'll just draft it on my own. So, I see--generally my quilts come from a picture I've seen or a quilt I've seen, but never from patterns or books; I don't use patterns or books.

JW: Do you like the drawing of the pattern like that?

WR: No. It's tedious. [laughs.] No, as I said earlier [before the interview.] my mother is an artist and she draws, but it is very tedious for me to draw. I like the stitching. I like hand appliqué and hand quilting. It's relaxing.

JW: Does that mean you don't get much detail when you draw these out? You just kind of sketch an idea? Is that what happens?

WR: Ah, I can get detail. I do tend to do detail. I must say I prefer quilting patterns that have less detail. In other words, the Baltimore Album quilts that are very ornately appliquéd, they are not as attractive to me as something that's more simple and again, it's the color, I think. The simple pattern, but the burst of color. That's what I go for. And the Baltimore Album quilts tend to be more intricate in appliqué and they have color, but they are such tiny little concentrated pieces. I'm more of a big, bold--although you saw the grapes quilt. But that was, again, that big expanse of that cheddar orange color with the tiny little purply-red grapes that brings out the color of the orange.

JW: I've appliquéd very small pieces before and I know it can be somewhat difficult to get all those edges turned under. Do you always hand appliqué?

WR: I do. I tried machine appliqué. I bought a Bernina for machine appliqué. I won a Bernina for, oddly enough, as a prize in a contest for hand quilting. I won a Bernina. [both laugh through comment.] Yeah, I know, it was rather ironic, wasn't it? So, then I had two Berninas that did all this wonderful machine stitching, and I gave one to my neighbor because I didn't need two machines, number one, but I just couldn't--it's too stressful for me to sit at the machine and push things through. I like hand quilt work. And you can do more. You can have a conversation with someone. You can listen to a radio. You can do--I'm a 'do two things at once' kind of person. So, I don't like sitting at a machine. It's lonely at a machine. [laughs.]

JW: Do you find that when you are actually sitting down you've got a plan in mind, but as you are sitting there another little color pops up and, oops, the whole thing goes in a different direction?

WR: Absolutely. I have boxes of, 'Oops, what was I thinking?' Actually, I used to have piles of things like that. And at our quilt group--which I never thought I would join, but I did--we have what's called a UFO auction once a year and that's all of my unfinished things that I know I will never do again, go there, and we make tons of quilts. I have a lot of things going at one time and sometimes I think, 'What was I thinking?' and I either stop or I make it into something else.

JW: Do you feel you finish most of your projects?

WR: I do today. I do now. I didn't used to. I would go onto something else because it's sort of time-limited, but my time is so limited now that when I have something in mind that I--if I see that I really like it as I get going, I will finish that first because, like I say, I have less time now to quilt than I used to.

JW: Well, I know that you work full time and so it's hard to fit that in and you have a family who have graduated and left the home and yet they are still family--

WR: Oh, yes. [laughs.]

JW: --so that's part of your life.

WR: [laughs.] Yeah.

JW: I wanted to ask about your first--you said you started when you were nine years old. What is your first memory of your first quilt? What was that like? Why did you do it? What happened to it?

WR: Well, I made it. A friend of mine and I had--it was actually the year my grandfather died, and we had a, we moved in with my grandmother for a few months, so that I had a whole new friend. We didn't have any friends in my--there was no neighborhood, as I said. It was a very rural area. So, I had nobody that could come over after school because it was six miles away. So, we had this friend at my Nana's house, and she came over and we built this little camp out in the back of my Nana's house, and we needed furniture. So, I decided--my mother gave me these scraps and said, 'Just make yourselves whatever you want.' I made this quilt. My mother is not a quilter, but she knew I would put something together. It had corduroy, jersey fabric from my brother's jerseys that my mother made, all this stuff. So, I guess my first memory would be that my 4-H leader at the time, when I brought it so proudly to show her said, 'You can't put all those fabrics together,' [laughs through comment.] actually 'materials' is what she said, 'together and make a quilt.' I said, 'Well, I did.' It didn't hinder me obviously from moving on to the quilt world, but it was a little disappointing because I thought she would say, 'Oh what a wonderful quilt you've made.' [laughs.]

JW: So many young people are stifled in their thinking because somebody makes a comment, but you don't feel that that changed your thinking about it.

WR: It clearly did not hinder me, and I really loved this woman. It wasn't, and she did not say it to be mean, she clearly wanted me to see the error my ways. I was, I guess, more independent and I said, 'Well I like it.' It was like the first and only workshop I've ever taken was a Baltimore Album quilt thing and she said, 'You can't put yellow in it.' And I said, 'Well, I am. [laughs.] Sorry.' So, yeah, that doesn't hinder me. [WR clears her throat.]

JW: So, it doesn't sound like you let others dictate what you want to do at all.

WR: That's right. [laughs.] Not never--but rarely, rarely. Yeah, I'm a pretty, I think, independent, I mean, I guess so. [looks back over her shoulder towards another room where her husband is sitting.] I know he's listening in there. [both laugh.]

JW: How far away would you go to find material, what you're looking for?

WR: To the ends of the earth. No. [laughs.] Well, the furthest I've been in quilt related, would be the American Quilt Study Group when I was on the Board, I flew to San Francisco [California.] three times a year. But that wasn't for actually the fabric, although I certainly came back with fabric. If I didn't have anything in my area, I don't think, I honestly don't know that there would be a limit. I've never had to think about it. My favorite shop is thirty-five miles from here and I go there at least twice a month--more if I have the time. Even though there is a shop right here in town [Bath, Maine.] and I do like it and she has wonderful things, just not my-- I like the reproduction fabrics and Busy Thimble has fabrics, that they are all me, everyone, and yet she doesn't have any of the 30's or the feed sack reproductions. She's more 19th century and I love those too. So, it's interesting.

JW: It becomes a family, doesn't it?

WR: Oh, it sure does. It surely does. [laughs.]

JW: Speaking of family, do you have anybody in your family that quilts?

WR: Not in my immediate family, however, the very first Quilt Documentation Day we did in 1986 in Damariscotta [Maine.], a woman brought a quilt in, and she happened to be my father's second cousin and she showed me a quilt that my great grandmother, my father's mother's mother had made. She was a midwife, and she would sit and sew when she was waiting for babies to be born. I had no idea. I had never met her. She died way before I was born. So, I had never known her. There was this quilt. I said to Cyndi [WR's partner in this authentication effort.] that day, 'This is why we are doing the project. It is so important.' I have just never forgotten that one. And I've seen--in the state-wide project--I've seen many quilts of not necessarily relatives, but people that I knew from years past and relatives. Cyndi has had the same thing happen to her that her relatives were quilters. That's really interesting.

JW: When you do these authentications, is it for a time period or is it for fabric used or the value?

WR: We don't put a value on them. We document quilts that were made pre-1960 and you can really pretty much tell from the fabric. We've gotten to the point where you can tell by fabrics used, construction of the quilt, the fiber content, all kinds of factors. You can pretty much give a twenty-five to forty year--I used to call it guess work, but it really is easier and easier as you go along to put that estimated date on it. So that is it basically, but what we started the project for, which was much more important, is to educate people to the value of what they have. To treat it carefully. We give out a care sheet, how you care for an antique quilt or for any vintage textile. So that was really our goal, to educate people to what they have and not use them for covers on their Uncle Joe's car, which we've seen so many times. [laughs.]

JW: Are you then considered an appraiser?

WR: No. I don't--no I don't put a value. I'm an historian, a quilt historian. Yeah.

JW: Are you a judge in shows because you know--

WR: Never. I did it once at the Topsham Fair [Topsham, Maine.] and I would never do it again. It is so subjective and painful. I know what I love, but I don't want to judge someone else's quilts. Although I've entered so many contests and you have to have a really thick skin [laughs.] because it's very subjective.

JW: Uh-hmm.

WR: Yeah.

JW: Tell me about an amusing experience that you've had during your quilt making history.

WR: Hmm. Amusing.

JW: Like 'the quilt that went wrong' or--

WR: Oh, I have so many of those. [laughs.] Aaaooh. [sighs.] I have amusing stories from getting together with other quilters, or quilt shows, or quilt happenings, but I mostly quilt by myself. I mean I do belong to this guild that we meet once a month. We don't really quilt a lot there together. I used to have a Thursday night group with three or four people in it. After my friend passed away, it was kind of hard to do that. So, I pretty much quilt by myself, so it's hard to be [laughs through comment.] funny or amusing. So, the funny stories really are quilt show related and that's not really that--

JW: Have you ever used a quilt that helped you get through a difficult time?

WR: Absolutely. I quilted all through the eight weeks that my father was dying. He found out that he had lung cancer at sixty and within eight weeks he was gone.

JW: Oh. [nods in sympathy.]

WR: So I quilted sitting in the hospital waiting room and gave that quilt away. And you know I can't even remember who I gave it to. It was a fund raiser for something. I named it "Therapy" but I don't remember who I gave it to. That's weird. I can't remember. You see, [laughs through comment.] I give so many quilts away, I can't remember who it was.

JW: Now you called this one "Therapy." Was it anything to do with the style or pattern of it? Or was it just your time.

WR: My therapy.

JW: Your therapy.

WR: My therapy, yeah. Sitting in that waiting room quilting--kind of hard.

JW: It is hard. What do you find pleasing, most pleasing, about quilt making? What are your three favorite things?

WR: Three favorite things? Okay. That's pretty easy. Shopping for the fabrics. I really enjoy--and when I say that it's not just buying fabrics and smelling fabrics and touching fabrics and looking at them, but I usually do that with friends. I'm a solitary quilter maybe, but I shop with friends I meet at my favorite shop. The shop owner is a dear friend and we have so much to talk about it's hard to find time to buy the fabric. [laughs.] So, shopping for fabric is number one. Colors. I just love feeling the fabrics, touching the colors and just absolutely love designing and throwing things together and taking things apart. I don't take things apart. I shouldn't say that, but, moving something and using something else. And then hand appliqué and hand quilting are just extremely relaxing to me most of the time. Unless it doesn't go right and then I stop it. [laughs.] I just love doing that.

JW: Have you always hand quilted them?

WR: Well, when I was a teenager, I tried everything. There was a question you asked me [previous to the interview.] about being self-taught. Well obviously, I learned the appreciation and whatever from Mrs. Poole, but the hand quilting, I am pretty self-taught. I mean I looked at some quilting and my stitch is different. I've tried to teach it to others, and I use a small hoop. I don't--I've done it on a big frame, but because I do it on my lap in the living room, I use a small hoop and just keep it in it. And I'm a fast quilter, a very fast quilter.

JW: Do you know what your stitches are per inch?

WR: I used to, when I used poly, some very, very thin polyester batting, I could get 12 - 14.

JW: Wow.

WR: Yeah, well I now use almost exclusively cotton or wool and if I split a wool batt on a small quilt, I can still get 12, but they're usually 10, 8-10, depending on--if it's cotton it's usually 8-10. This one [touchstone quilt.] probably, I don't know. Let's count them. I'm not sure. [laughs.] I like small, it's easier to get an even stitch if it's smaller. If it's this new big stitch thing, I've tried it, but it's hard to get an even stitch when it's bigger, so I like to do smaller.

JW: You've mentioned Mrs. Poole a few times. I saw here in your home a quilt you did based on Mrs. Poole.

WR: Mmm, Arzetta.

JW: Would you tell me the story about that?

WR: She was my neighbor growing up and I feel--let's see, the very first queen-sized quilt I made for my husband when we were dating, I made him a quilt of--appliquéd--of all the boats he had worked on or owned up until the time we got married. [Her husband is a boat builder.] That was his gift when we were getting married. That was 1978. I took it to Mrs. Poole. She had been moved from her home where we lived to a trailer next to her son's house. She--I get so emotional--she was just thrilled. She said, 'Oh, you are so much better than I am. You're just, you're--' I was just--I was crying. I couldn't believe how thrilled she was. There is a little piece of her in every quilt I do. For sure. I know I get emotional.

JW: Well, the story, though, at the top of the stairs.

WR: Oh, the story, I'm sorry, that quilt. That was made for an exhibit at the Maine State Quilt show that was called 'Westward Ho' I think, and they do a theme thing at the show every year and that year it was that, so I made this quilt. I made up a story of these two, a couple that traveled from Boston to out West. They started--they went to Missouri and joined a wagon train from Missouri and went to California. This story is basically what the couple went through. It is hand-written in little vignettes on the quilt [they look like pages from an old journal or diary.] with teeny tiny little scrap pieces because in the story it told how Arzetta, the young woman, was making this quilt on her journey as something to do at night and how they traded their little scraps at night and every little scrap of fabric was saved, nothing was wasted. And that's why.

JW: And her name was Arzetta and that's the name you used in the story.

WR: That's the name. I dedicated it to William and Arzetta Poole, my neighbors. Yes.

JW: Tell me about the space where you quilt.

WR: Where I do my hand work is in the living room and I have a little light. I have to have a light on my left side. It's a very small area where I actually do hand quilting. My sewing room upstairs has my machine. I only have one machine set up at any one time, but I do actually own four machines. I have a little Featherweight that I use for traveling sometimes. But I prefer working downstairs because it's sort of the center of the family, I don't like to--that's like as I said before, machine work is sometimes lonely, and I like to sit at night, and I quilt and he's [her husband.] either reading or on the computer or watching T.V.

JW: Well, I've seen that you have two rooms upstairs that you use.

WR: [laughs.]

JW: I particularly like the feed sack quilt material. Tell me about all the Thirties [WR clears her throat.] material you have up there.

WR: Well feed sacks, I guess, the vintage feed sacks, are my passion. I started collecting about 20 years ago, but actually some of my feed sacks I've had since I was a child because I have scrap baskets and bags left over from things. I still have a few of Mrs. Poole's fabrics, although I have had dreams that I wake up in the middle of the night thinking that I've found all the fabrics that she had in her sewing room and I'm sure they threw them out when she moved, but I do trade feed sacks with collectors. There are a few of us out there that are passionate like I am. We collect and trade and buy and sell. eBay has a big place for people to buy and sell feed sacks. I have over 1,200 different prints, but in small pieces. Full sacks I have probably over 300.

JW: I notice you tell me that quietly, [WR laughs loudly.] because your husband is in the other room.

WR: [continues to laugh through these comments.] He knows. You know I can't hide it; he knows. But they are getting more and more expensive because they are rare, and they are vintage and it's hard to find. There are different sizes, the 25-pound sack is--the full sacks are what I usually collect because it's really a full yard of fabric. It's 36 inches wide, selvage to selvage, and usually 40-45 inches long, so it's a good yard of usable fabric and it's hard to find it in really good condition.

JW: Do you find it hard to actually use the fabric once you get it? Or do you just kind of like to enjoy it?

WR: Ah,

JW: You've got it arranged [WR laughs.] so nicely up there that it's just the beauty of it just being there, but is it hard to use?

WR: It is hard to use. Two years ago, I did, at the state [Maine.] show. I had a whole antique room, and I did an exhibition of all feed sack quilts and feed sack things. It was--yeah, I will give you more information on that too, but I have feed sacks with labels. And people don't realize how versatile they were. It was a marketing genius that figured this out. You make them in prints and people will come. And they did and they bought. They had pre-printed tablecloths and all you had to do was hem the edge. They had little play suits for children and dolls. I have a pretty good collection of them, but they are just such happy colors and happy prints and that's why I like them. I think I'm genuinely a happy person. I don't like dull and drab colors.

JW: If I could sit in your sewing room, I would be a happy person.

WR: [WR laughs loudly.] If I could sit there all day, I would be happy, instead of working 45 hours a week.

JW: If you didn't work at an outside job, how many hours a week do you think you would quilt?

WR: Forty-five more than I do now. [laughs through answer.] There is no question about that. Now that's the absolute truth. I can tell you that I've been working at the same place for over 20 years now and last winter I was laid off for five months and it was the most glorious time of my life. That's why I was able to get that last one done so quickly. I made dozens of donation quilts, dozens of them. Yes, I would be--as it stands now, I quilt, I probably put at least 20 hours a week in now, so I think I would be--off and on I mean.

JW: Right. What do you think makes a great quilt?

WR: Spirit. Yeah, definitely. I would say to me the first impression is everything and if it's not perfectly executed, it doesn't--I guess that's not bad in my mind. I mean I personally like to strive for excellence in quilting and appliqué and I like an appliqué stitch you that can't see. But if I--I've seen many antique quilts that just take my breath away. And you get up close to them and the stitching is, you know, 5-to-the-inch. The appliqué stitches are visible, but it doesn't take away from that first impact. Wow. Color and placement--that's me.

JW: What about a quiltmaker? What makes a good quiltmaker, what type of person?

WR: Someone who's willing to share the joy of quilt making to other people, for sure. I mean someone who enjoys what they are doing, and it comes out in every stitch that they take. I know some people like that. I know people that make quilts that I would never make, and I am in such awe of what they do, and it brings out their spirit, it's who they are. It's like you said, you like pastels. I'm not a pastel person. I saw your quilt [online at Pine Tree Quilters Guild, Maine Quilt Show 2009.] and I thought, 'Wow, that's beautiful.' So, it's just who you are.

JW: So, you can appreciate a wide variety.

WR: Absolutely. I can't make an art quilt. I tried. [laughs.] I shouldn't say art quilt because I actually wrote a story once on that, "Are you an artist or are you a quilter?" Well, I'm both. But I don't see that there's a major difference. I just don't--it's so hard for me get away from what I like to do, the tradition.

JW: Does your daughter quilt? I know you said you have a daughter.

WR: No

JW: She doesn't quilt.

WR: No, she made a quilt when she was six years old. It was in the Waldoboro [Maine.] Quilt Show and she was so proud. At six years old she wanted to be me. At seven she didn't want anything to do [laughs through comment] with me. So, no, she doesn't.

JW: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

WR: I'm drawn to, I guess, all the hundreds of quiltmakers before me, because they--and I actually wrote an article for American Quilter Magazine about this quilt here [touchstone quilt.] and one of the things I said in that, because they wanted me to do an article on making an antique quilt, or making a quilt that looks old. One of the things I said in the article is what possesses people like me to make a quilt, make something that was done so well before. Why would you want to reproduce something that has already been done, even though this is uniquely me? If something's done right, why not add to it and make it your own. Some of the more contemporary quilts are just wonderful to look at, but too painful to come to for me [laughs.] I guess, I don't know--I don't know. I can't think of any, although I love Therese May. She has a really wild, crazy, ah. I'm trying to think of contemporary quilters' names. And here again, my favorite one--I do remember her name--was Helen Giddens. She made this fabulous snake quilt, but it looked very, very vintage, so maybe that's why I liked it so much.

JW: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or region? Do they?

WR: Ah, reflect. Well, I guess they don't, except for this particular one [touchstone quilt.] which is why I picked it, with the Maine shape and also the pre-1840's fabrics, reproduction fabrics. That's another thing. When I went to California the first time--we do a show and tell out there with the old quilts that they have and papering out these 1890 and 1900 [years.] quilts and I had to laugh. They said, 'Your old quilts are really old, aren't they?' I said, 'Yes, in Maine our quilts are old.' [laughs.] So no, I don't think that regional--I would do more other regions, more colorful regions, like I said, Pennsylvania has these great bright traditional colors. I donate a lot to my community, but I don't think they influence my quilts much.

JW: You don't think that perhaps your quilts look more New England than perhaps a California quilter does?

WR: No. I say that because New England vintage quilts--I mean, I create traditional quilts and traditionally New England quilts are more muted in colors. Well, this particular one, [touchstone quilt.] that's about the only one I've done that's very New England or even Maine, per se, colors. The muted madder browns and reds, whereas the cheddar colors and the bright yellows and bright, bright colors are more me.

JW: What do you think about the importance of quilts in America? What is it, what part do quilts play in America now?

WR: Oh, now?

JW: Uh-hum.

WR: I was going to say--well now, I think the importance in history in America, I think are very important for women because that was one way that a woman could express herself without over-stepping her bounds in the artist community. But today I think it's extremely important to keep traditions alive. And I think it's also important that the new techniques in quilt making will also become tradition eventually. So that's important too. I am absolutely in awe of machine quilters. I wish I could do it. I can't. I tried. I'll continue to try somewhat. I do machine quilt baby quilts when I give them away, so I'm not totally against that. But I'm just not that good. I think it's very important to keep those traditions alive, the American quilting.

JW: Well, how to you think that the quilts can be preserved for the future? In fact, I noticed that you, what do you call it, bundle your quilts--

WR: Yes, I bunch them. Yes. [laughs.]

JW: --bunch your quilts to store them.

WR: Yeah, yeah.

JW: I've never seen that before.

WR: That's mainly because I don't like fold lines. That can ruin a really good quilt, obviously, we've seen that. But it really doesn't do anything to degrade the quilt by folding it, except for that fold line. The rest of the quilt is usually--I think that preserving is extremely important. Today, with the Internet and whatever, people can see easy ways to preserve and take care of their quilts and they don't store in plastic anymore and they don't hang it in the sunlight for days and months and years. So, I think actually all of these projects that we are doing have really helped to open people's eyes as to how to take care of that. Without being, you know, you don't have to wear white gloves to touch your quilt in the living room, but you know, but to be a little more careful.

JW: And what do you think is the biggest challenge today? We are just about at the end of our interview, so what do you think is the biggest challenge for quilt making today?

WR: Keeping those traditions alive. Keeping them going. Because I think we are very fortunate today in that it's a big industry and it's bigger than it certainly was when I started quilting. It was harder to find fabrics and certainly almost impossible to find cotton batting and the things I use today. Interestingly enough and oddly enough, to keep those traditions alive now we are making cottons and we are making battings and things that are more traditional, which was really hard to find in the Seventies when I was quilting. So, yeah, I think that's the challenge--to keep it going, and the industry, because that's the only thing that's going to keep it alive, you know, keep people interested in it.

JW: Is there anything else you would like to add to what we talked about today? I think we could go on for a long time.

WR: [laughs.] I know. This is fun and it is--there are always things in the back of my mind. Someone asked me once--what was her name? Kristin Langelier. She was at the University of Maine, and she asked once, 'Why is it that,'--and she was so cute--'that women have no problem showing what they have done, you know, getting up at show and tell, the shyest person in the world, showing what they've made with their hands?' I think about that in terms that it's sometimes easier for people like me who are very creative in that way, to show something or to build something, create something that I've made with my hands and my heart, more so than even my head. I guess that's why I don't write. I quilt. [laughs.]

JW: Well, you do a beautiful job at it. Thank you so much--

WR: Thank you.

JW: --for letting me come in and speak with you today. This was part of the Quilters' S.O.S.--Save Our Stories project. We've had a good visit and our interview is now over and we've just about the right time. It's 7:40 [p.m.] right now. Thank you very much.

WR: Thank you so much. It was great.

[Interview concluded at 7:40 p.m.]


“Wendy Reed,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed February 24, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/2160.