Linda Uldriks




Linda Uldriks




Linda Uldriks


Eleanor Wilkinson

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Battle Creek, Michigan


Nancy Wilkinson


Eleanor Wilkinson (EW): This is Eleanor Wilkinson. This interview is being conducted for South Central Michigan Q.S.O.S., a project for the Alliance for American Quilts. Today I’m interviewing Linda Uldriks at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan. Today is July 20th, 2010, and the time is 9:45 a.m. Let’s talk first about the quilt that you brought out today. Why don’t you just tell me about it.

Linda Uldriks (LU): That quilt was actually a class I took at Country Stitches to learn to do a Dresden Plate and because that is kind of a thirties pattern, I have a collection, quite a collection of Marcus Brothers, thirties, that were all nicely folded in a box, and I could fawn over them and pet them, and I just loved my box of Marcus Brothers. And when I took that class, I took that box up there and I darn near cried when I had to cut them up, but the instructor said, ‘You know, if you cut them up, you can actually put them on the wall or your bed and you can look at them all the time rather than having to get a box out of your closet.’ And it really hurt me to cut them up, but I did, and I am so glad, and I don’t feel that way now about any other fabric, I can cut it up.

EW: You got over that?

LU: I got over that, but that was a hard one. Yeah, I just love that material.

EW: Does this have any other special meaning for you?

LU: Well, it’s my first award. I won Viewers’ Choice at the quilt show that year. We held it at St. Mark’s Church in Battle Creek. [Michigan.] We had to move and, yes, I won Viewers’ Choice and that was pretty special.

EW: That’s very special.

LU: It was the quilt that people liked the most and so, yeah, I was pretty tickled.

EW: Exactly why was it you chose to bring this quilt to the interview?

LU: Because that one was the hardest to make because I had to cut up that beautiful fabric and it’s like, well why would you buy the fabric if you’re not going to cut it up? And, you know, so that was the hardest quilt to make.

EW: That was a hurdle.

LU: Yes. It hurt to cut it. But now it’s like I hardly have any of that left because I’ve chopped it all and used it.

EW: You’ve found that you can look at it all the time now.

LU: Yes, because that’s my--I like those reproductions, those country muddy colors and that was my first [wind chime sounds.] first real collection I had of fabric was [car goes by on the road.] was those Marcus Brothers, and so then to cut my collection up--

EW: Had you been quilting for very long before that?

LU: Yeah. I actually started quilting when Country Stitches started in business. She’s in East Lansing [Michigan.] now, but Anita [Anita Covert.] started her business in Eaton Rapids [Michigan.] and a couple years ago she had her 25th anniversary, so I’ve been quilting 27 or 28 years. And I would drive over to Eaton Rapids; it was a 45-minute drive and took quilting classes. And we learned techniques I think, as she learned techniques. I don’t know how far you want me to go with this.

EW: Just however--

LU: Because our first quilt we brought, we cut the back extra big and we wrapped the batting and we used that fat batting and we tied them, you know. But you brought the back to the front for your binding and then the next quilt or so we made we learned to birth them and turn them inside out and then we learned to put binding on, and I think she was learning quilting techniques also. I don’t know how she happened to choose a quilting business--

EW: Well, that’s what I was just wondering.

LU: --how she chose that, but yeah.

EW: Is this Dresden Plate--is that the name of your quilt?

LU: Yeah, “Mini Dresden Plate.”

EW: “Mini Dresden Plate.” Okay. And how do you use it?

LU: [wind chime sounds.] I put it on the bed. I always keep like a cream colored, we have a king size bed, a cream colored, kind of plain jacquard spread on the bed and then I can lay my other quilts on top ‘cause I don’t make all my quilts king size quilts [laughs.] So that kind of frames them and I can change them out.

EW: Well, that’s a good idea. So, you get a change of view every once in a while.

LU: Yes.

EW: Okay. What do you think that someone viewing this quilt might conclude about you?

LU: That I’m a country mama [laughs.] It’s real scrappy.

EW: How did your interest in quilt making come about?

LU: Well, I started sewing in ninth grade. We moved to Harper Creek [Michigan.] school system and they had an after school sewing program, kind of a 4H program. I never displayed anything at the fair, but I learned to sew. I made pajamas and a robe and just kept on from there and by high school I made most of my clothes. And I made most of my clothes until I started working steady and then it was, you know, too hard to get back to it. If I’d get it out, I’d want to leave it out and finish the project not have to put it away and get it back out and it just got, you know--and then I was in like my twenties and, yeah you know, your interests turned to other things. But then my mom took a quilting class from a Millie Payne through Adult Education. That program just started and she took some classes in the evening and was learning to quilt and, we’ve always done--my mom and I always did crafts, ceramics and different things and then my best friend taught in Maple Valley [Michigan.] and we wanted to do some craft shows and we needed hoops and one of her parents said there was a shop just opened up in Eaton Rapids that if you go there, I think if you buy in bulk she’d give you a break. So, we went over to Eaton Rapids, and they had this Block a Month taught by Hildred Whitten and it was a hand pieced block and every month you did a different block and learned different techniques. Well, I didn’t know anything about--you don’t want bias edges on the outside of your block, so I learned all that and we used sandpaper templates. And after like two blocks, I said ‘Okay, now you’re going to teach us the fast way, right? You’re just breaking us in the old-time way; you’re going to show us how to do the quick way.’ She says, ‘Oh no, no, if you’re going to hand piece this is the way you do it.’ [laughs.] And so, I hand pieced for a long time and now I really don’t do quilts like that, block by block, kind of thing, but I do enjoy hand piecing.

EW: So, would you say that you learned to quilt from Anita?

LU: Yes, yes. I learned to quilt at Country Stitches. And, then I’ve taught myself a lot. You know, you get a book, and you just figure it out. After I learned about the bias edges--I think that’s the major thing. But, yes, Country Stitches is my learning ground.

EW: So how many hours a week do you think you quilt now?

LU: Oh, geez, I must quilt, I quilt at least an hour a day. I mean, I’ve got days I might quilt three or four hours, but on average, probably an hour a day. Yes. [I do most of my quilting at my circles, anymore.]

EW: Do you have a first quilt memory?

LU: Well, it would be that, and I don’t have it anymore, is from my hand piecing class. And the first block, they had already been in that class a couple months when I joined and the block, we did was a Stamp Basket. And when I came back to class, that was my first block, I had put lace in the seam of the basket and that was like the big ta da moment, I didn’t even really--‘Oh my goodness, how did you think of that?’ and ‘You did that?’ and it was kind of like, yeah [both laugh.] I thought it was special.

EW: I think so too. Well, it comes from all your experience with your creative crafts, I suppose.

LU: Well, maybe.

EW: Are there other quiltmakers in your family besides you and your mom?

LU: No.

EW: How does quilt making impact your family?

LU: In a major way. We just had a quilt day. Our son returned from Iraq. And there was something about knowing he was coming back that just, I realized I hadn’t made them a wedding quilt. They got married and two months later he went in the service and so I needed to make them a quilt and I made all three of our adult children the same pattern quilts. They all got a Minke quilt, that’s just, and they all got a flannel Tumbler quilt. And pajamas for the girls [car goes by on road.] and it just, so they’re big receivers of my quilts and they understand my obsession, and it is an obsession. The fabric, you can see, I mean it’s just, the quilts, the fabric hanging all over the house. They understand it, they don’t bat an eye. [laughs.]

EW: So, everybody has three quilts now, at least.

LU: Oh, at least. Yes, they have other ones when they were younger, but now a bed for their adult life. Yes.

EW: Have you ever used quilt making to get through a difficult time?

LU: Yes. Yes. When my mom died. That was kind of, I’m still not over that. Yeah, because she enjoyed it, so, she didn’t do a lot of it. I think I ended up with two quilts, my brother ended up with two quilts and then she’d made some small projects, but, yeah, it kind of helped me get through that.

EW: Some things you just don’t get over.

LU: No. I don’t think the loss of your mother, ‘cause, no, it certainly hurt, yes.

EW: Can you think of any amusing experience that has come about through quilt making? After the sad question.

LU: Yes, after the sad question. Oh my gosh, there must be something funny that happened.

EW: Well, we can leave that and come back if it comes to you.

LU: Right offhand I can’t think of it.

[Added after the interview:

LU: My most exciting moment in quilting was being nominated and voted, the Quilter of the Year for 2004. And, that was such a thrill, I can’t even describe that people, to think that people even really noticed my work at Show ‘n Tell, that thought of me and it was just so exciting at that time and because I was working seven days a week, I actually took my items over to the show venue and my friend set my booth up for me, ‘cause I didn’t have time. And I took an easy chair, and my mother, who really got me started in crafting and quilting, sat with me in my booth on Saturday and her and I, because of her, I am where I am in quilting today. And so, it was a real thrill for me, and it was a thrill for her.

EW: I’m sure it was. I’m sure she was very proud of you.]

EW: What do you find pleasing about quilt making?

LU: It’s just calming. I’m not a real creative person. I use other people’s patterns, but I do my own color choices, that’s where my creativity comes into it is my color choices and it may change the pattern by my use of lights and darks and it’s very relaxing to me to bind a quilt. I know a lot of people don’t like binding, I love to bind, I could bind all day long.

EW: Well, it’s a sign also that the quilt is getting done.

LU: --it’s done.

EW: It’s always nice when something gets done.

LU: Yep.

EW: Is there any aspect of quilt making that you don’t enjoy?

LU: Nope.

EW: I’m going to invite you over to do my basting.

LU: Oh--[laughs.] No, I like it all.

EW: Oh, good. How about advances in technology?

LU: Oh, my gosh. Yeah, because when I first started quilting, and it wasn’t but like a year we were cutting with scissors and then rotary cutters came about and ‘what the heck’s a rotary cutter,’ you know and the mat and the rulers and, oh my goodness, how that’s really speeded up the process. Yeah. No more sandpaper and, you know.

EW: And you can be more accurate.

LU: Yes.

EW: Are there quilt groups that you are a member of?

LU: I belong to three groups. I belong to the Monday morning Stitch ‘n Brag that meets in Galesburg [Michigan.]. I belong to Ladies of the Lake and the Divine Quilting Divas.

EW: Are these all groups that come out of the guild?

LU: Yes, the Monday morning group, we aren’t registered with the guild, we’re all members but one gal comes from Kalamazoo [Michigan.] But Kathy Garmes and I are probably the only regular guild attendees, but the other girls belong.

EW: We’re talking about the Cal-Co Quilting [Quilters’.] Guild of Battle Creek, Michigan?

LU: Yes.

EW: Are there any other guilds that you belong to?

LU: I used to belong to Log Cabin in Kalamazoo and West Michigan Quilt Guild in Grand Rapids [Michigan.] and I want to get back to Grand Rapids. Their Show and Tell is just worth it. And if you don’t go for the program, their Show and Tell’s worth the drive.

EW: What are your favorite techniques and materials? You spoke about hand piecing. Do you still hand piece?

LU: No, not so much. I’ve had hand surgery and my hands bother me a lot. It’s really hard for me to bind, but I do it because I, you know. My favorite technique’s probably strip piecing, ‘cause it’s so fast. And what was your question?

EW: How about materials?

LU: Materials? I’ve always tended toward the dark, muddy fabric because I like the country flavor and look to quilts. But since we built this house, I now have green carpet and green walls. I never owned a green thing in my life. Our old house was red, white and blue. And you see a lot of patriotic stuff in my quilts, flags and those colors and in my wardrobe. But since we built and now, I have this green which, ‘cause we bought furniture before we painted and got carpet, that kind of dictated, now I suddenly took a liking to batiks and I’m doing a lot of different colors. I’m going to make a green quilt for our bed that’s like [laughs.] startling.

EW: Do you think that using batiks changes the kind of patterns that you might use?

LU: Oh, yeah, yeah. You go for a more modern, contemporary pattern. So, yeah. That’s changed. In fact, it was a modern pattern that I saw, that was like ‘yeah, I did that in batik’ so I’m going to try jelly rolls for the first time. It’s actually a jelly roll pattern of batiks.

EW: I think those are interesting.

LU: We’ll see. I wonder if you get bored with all those, but it’s kind of a block thing, when you break the top down, so--

EW: Well, how do you balance your time?

LU: Well, sometimes my house isn’t so clean [laughs.] I am driven and when I was making those, the quilts for the kids, it was like, I don’t know, it was just such a pleasure to set down and do and it wasn’t a chore. I didn’t sit there, day-in, day-out, but I was driven to do them. I mean, I literally went to Shipshewana [Indiana.] on the last one Tuesday and bought the fabric. I lost two days of working on it because we babysit our grandson and I had it to the quilter on Monday. So, and I wasn’t at it all the time, but enough, and--

EW: Are you systematic about the way you quilt?

LU: Kind of. My room’s a real mess. It’s enter at your own risk.

EW: Well, let’s talk about your room. Is this your studio?

LU: I have a sewing room. I did have, I called it the shed, out back when this original house, before my husband built it, was his grandparents farm. And there was an old farmhouse where my car sits there. And that shed back there was the one, the freestanding one-stall garage and we converted that, carpeted it, and dry-walled it. I have sliding doors and a little deck out there and that was my quilt shed. Well then, it didn’t have enough storage and then when we built this house, the plan was really I was probably going to go in the basement, but we knocked the wall out between two bedrooms down there and so I have that space, but still it’s the storage part, and I’m trying to get rid of fabric, ‘cause while I was doing the Tumblers to get rid of this flannel quilt I had, you know, so I am trying to hold out, it gets to be a demon to have all this stuff.

EW: So, your stash is burdensome in some ways?

LU: Yes, yes. And I tell new quilters that. ‘Don’t buy fabric unless it’s for a project.’ I mean, you might buy that piece once in a while, but you’re going to find out it’s going to overgrow you. And, then in a few years you’re going to say, ‘What did I think when I bought that? What was I going to use that for?’ And you don’t want to use it anymore because you want to use the current trends.

EW: That’s an interesting idea. I haven’t thought along those lines.

LU: Yeah. Well, and the color ways change. You know, you may have blues, but the blues change and then try to work your blues in, or you don’t like those tones of blues anymore. You know, you like the new tones, so, yeah.

EW: Do you have a design wall?

LU: No.

EW: How do you view your quilts as you go? Are you able to envision them in your mind when you have the block in mind?

LU: I do, but I lay them on the floor. I bring them out here and lay them on the floor.

EW: Do you have changes in the borders that you plan as you proceed in your quilting?

LU: Usually the borders don’t even come into it until it’s done. Like this bed quilt I want to do. I haven’t bought borders for it because until I get the quilt done, I can’t envision the border. What it’s going to look like. So, I do want a design wall. I have a spot I want one, I’m just waiting for the carpenter, [clears throat.] if you know what I mean.

EW: [laughs.]

LU: You know who I mean, to put it up

EW: Have you found yourself branching out any from other people’s designs as you go along? Have you found yourself changing the design itself any more than the color?

LU: Not a lot. Usually that’s what attracted me was the pattern, but I guess I’ve had in my mind some of that more lately. When I worked so much, I didn’t have the ability to do it. I just, the mental capacity, ‘cause it was just all about ‘I have x amount of time to get things done.’ [taps on table.] I’m more relaxed at it now.

EW: What do you think makes a great quilt?

LU: For me, it is probably color, tones, warm. And that you can, the person who made it, you can feel what they maybe were envisioning. That they got out what they were feeling in their quilt.

EW: What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?

LU: For me, it’s color. It’s the color impact.

EW: That’s really your main emphasis, then, isn’t it?

LU: Yes. [motorcycle approaches.]

EW: Well, I don’t know if this--you’ve probably already answered this. What do you think makes a great quiltmaker?

LU: I don’t know. I think anybody’s a great quiltmaker. If they can make the quilt that they envision and it says what they want it to say, and they’re pleased with it then they’re a great quiltmaker.

EW: Thank you. I think that’s a good idea.

LU: Yes.

EW: Well, are there any quiltmakers whose works you are particularly drawn to?

LU: Maybe not one in particular. You know it’s funny because I really like Alma Allen, that primitive look, but then I like Amy Butler, the really modern look, so I have such a variety and like I said, this house has really changed my outlook, modernized me a bit.

EW: Are there any artists that have influenced you?

LU: Probably P. Buckley Moss. I like her colors. She’s an Amish artist, what would you call her--illustrator. I like the country colors in her pictures, her watercolors.

EW: How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting?

LU: They’re both an art and to be judged separately probably, but they’re both as artistic. There’s as much work in either one.

EW: How do you feel about the longarm quilting?

LU: It’s an art because I have things longarm quilted and I know there’s people I want to do it and people I don’t. And there’re people that have a technique as a person who hand quilts or machine quilts, has a technique that, yeah--

EW: It defines their quilts?

LU: Well, let me take that--longarm quilting should be in a category of its own. Machine quilting, that’s in a different, between longarm and machine quilting.

EW: Okay, when we speak about machine quilting, we’re using the home sewing machine?

LU: Home machine, yes. You’re going to roll your quilt top and manipulate and do this small area and then go on.

EW: Well, do you--

LU: No. You don’t have the vision of the whole quilt, you’re only seeing this small window, so actually, it’s probably more difficult, where a longarmer has the whole picture in front of her.

EW: When you send your quilt out to be quilted, do you decide how it should be done or do you let the professional quilter decide?

LU: It’s half and half. We talk it over and a lot of times, half of the time I’ll let them because they have a vision and let their artistic side come through and they haven’t let me down. But a lot of times I have my own idea of what I want it to look like too, so it’s a half and half thing.

EW: Why do you think quilting is important to your life?

LU: Quilting is who I am. I am Linda Uldriks, the quilter. It’s what I do to keep my sanity, maybe. Everybody has their thing in life. And I was Bag in a Box Operator at Post Cereals for twenty years. I worked there for thirty-five. That was my job. That’s what I was. Well, I’m not a Bag in a Box operator--when I retired, I told my husband, I said, ‘You know, I’m a nobody.’ He said, ‘You’re not a nobody,’ he said, ‘No, you’re a quilter.’ And that’s the first time I ever heard him say, you know, ‘You are a quilter.’ Never referred to me that way and it’s like, ‘Yes, I am.’ And, really, that’s what I do. We travel. We have to go to at least one quilt shop. You know, I don’t drag him to all of them. But that’s my interest, and you can see that in my house. You know, people do ceramics, or they’re potters, or they’re gardeners, I mean, yes, quilting is what I do.

EW: What ways do you think quilts, your quilts, reflect your community or region?

LU: I make simple quilts. I’m from simple background. I’m not from an artistic family, so you can see my quilts aren’t overly artistic, original, but just from, they just reflect my life, it’s just a simple life.

EW: What ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women’s history in America?

LU: Well, because they took, women took a functional task, they had to quilt to stay warm, to make the blankets for their beds to stay warm and they evolved it into the art that it is today. It’s not all about making a quilt for your bed, it’s an artistic expression, as painting is.

EW: So, do you think that the importance of quilts in American life has changed over the years?

LU: Oh, yes, yes.

EW: How do you think quilts should be used?

LU: My quilts should be used. And I told my kids, use them, put them on your bed. They aren’t a blanket, they’re a bedspread. You know, you can’t wash them like a blanket, but use them. Because they won’t be special to you if you don’t use them. My grandkids, if they don’t use their quilts, then grandma’s quilt’s not special, if you’re just going to fold it and put it on the end of the bed and that’s all they can ever see of it, then how special is that. If they can’t use grandma’s quilt and snuggle up with it, then it has no meaning, you know, when they get older, that won’t mean a thing to them, but if they can use it and they’ll remember ‘My grandma made that for me,’ that makes it special.

EW: What has happened to the quilts that you’ve made for your friends and family?

LU: I see them. My kids have them on their beds; my grandkids cuddle up with them. I, yeah, they’re all used.

EW: What do you think the biggest challenge for quiltmakers is today?

LU: Probably time. We’re now in an era that the stay-at-home mom is kind of, that’s a harder thing to do and women have to go out and work and put as many hours in as the men, plus come home and work and take care of the family. They’re, you know, doing two jobs. And then, trying to fit in whatever medium they choose to for their artwork, art release. It’s harder to do than say the generation previous, you know, it wasn’t all about work as much, you know. More women were able to stay home with their kids or work part-time.

EW: Back when we could depend on one income, wage earner to support the family.

LU: Yes.

EW: Let’s talk about the meanings of the small groups that you belong to. How would you characterize these groups? [car goes by.]

LU: My sisterhoods. [truck goes by.] My group that met here yesterday, we stopped meeting for the summer because it’s just too hard, you know. Everybody’s on vacation and then there’s so much to do, but I just missed my group, so I called them and said, you know, ‘Can you guys come on Monday and sew? I miss you guys and we just need to catch up.’ And five out of the seven gals showed up. And they all told me in the end they were really glad that I pursued it, because I tried to get together last week, and so, ‘Can you come this week?’ and they were all really glad they came ‘cause they were kind of hesitant ‘cause they had other things to do, but glad we got together.

EW: So, it’s comforting to be together and--

LU: It is. You know, it’s just a girl time and if we want to man-bash we do, but not often, it’s just, it truly is a sisterhood, you know, and it’s just a different friendship there.

EW: A very comfortable group to be with?

LU: Yeah, yep.

EW: Well, I think we’ve reached the end of our questions. Is there anything you would like to add to this?

LU: No, I just hope that I can get my daughter [car goes by.] or either of my daughter-in-laws quilting. I gave my daughter-in-laws two of my old machines and the one daughter-in-law really gotten quite excited. She’s made a couple of little cheater aprons, panels that she got from Joann’s and stuff and the other one, they have a new baby, so she doesn’t have time, but she’s interested.

EW: Oh, but, that baby’s going to need a quilt.

LU: Oh, he’s, [laughs.] that baby got two quilts that day on quilt day and then I just had to make a bear quilt. I saw a bear panel, so I just put some borders on it for like a drag around quilt because he sees my bears and he says ‘beah, beah,’ he’s a year. You say, ‘What’s a bear say?’, he says, ‘urrh.’ [both laugh.] And then we bought a big stuffed bear the other day, we found one out at Sam’s, I said, ‘Oh grandpa, we have to have that bear.’ So, yeah, they’ve got plenty of quilts, believe me.

EW: All right. This concludes our interview. The time is now 10:18 a.m. Thank you very much, Linda.

LU: You’re welcome.


“Linda Uldriks,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 12, 2024,