Leah Day




Leah Day




Leah Day


Alice Helms

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Iris Karp


Shelby, North Carolina


Alice Helms


Alice Helms (AH): My name is Alice Helms. Today is June 19, 2010. I'm conducting an interview with Leah Day for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We're at Leah's home in Shelby, North Carolina and it is 10:40 a.m. Leah, tell me about the quilt you brought today.

Leah Day (LD): This quilt is called "Release Your Light." I came up with the idea for the quilt in November 2008 and she really is kind of a product of where I was at the time. I was really wanting to create a quilt that would be inspiring and kind of showcase all of the creativity I felt locked inside of me. And whenever she came into my head, I knew I had to make her and so I got started on her in the spring of 2009 and she is constructed of a white bed sheet, then the body and the hair of the goddess were hand appliquéd on the bed sheet and then the whole quilt was quilted and then once it was quilted, it was then painted with Shiva Paintstiks. So all of the bright colors--the black and the red and the orange and the yellow--that is all paint, not fabric.

AH: What special meaning does the quilt have for you?

LD: The quilt is very special to me because she really--it was kind of an issue I was struggling with at the time--I had a web site and it wasn't getting very much traffic and I felt like I had this big ball of creativity kind of locked inside of me and I wanted to release it and I wanted to share that creativity with the world and when she came into my head, I realized that by making the quilt, I would be sharing. So together, we kind of got through that process and by the end of finishing the quilt, I kind of had an epiphany as to what the next step would be and that has launched my quilting business since then.

AH: Why did you choose this quilt for the interview today?

LD: Well she is kind of my--what's the best word for it? I've lost the word for it. Emblem, logo--there's another word for it. Trademark. She really is the quilt that, when people think of my work, I want them to think of her. Because she is the most dynamic and largest goddess that I've ever made. She is the fourth goddess I've made so far and this is a series of quilts actually, and there will be more. I actually have another one that I'm working on right now but she is the most important because she is the first one I've made that has been truly exactly what I saw in my mind and she turned out exactly the way I wanted her to and whenever I look at her, it still gives me chills because she is exactly the way I envisioned her, every single aspect of her and she is also my first Best in Show quilt, so far she's won two Best in Show ribbons and that makes her really special to me.

AH: How do you use the quilt?

LD: I use this quilt for stuff. She does hang on my dining room wall every day so I love looking at her on a daily basis but then she also is a show quilt and does travel around and competes in many shows and then I also take her off the wall and take her with me whenever I do lectures and workshops and use her as a teaching aid whenever I'm lecturing whether it's for quilting or I've also started lecturing for just general--kind of a positive speaker for women, so I use her for many of those different aspects.

AH: And what are your plans for the future for this quilt?

LD: I want to continue to show her as long as she can show. She has another year of show time that she can go around and then to continue to take her to lectures and workshops. She will probably stop hanging on my living room wall this year because another quilt will take her place but she is definitely a very important quilt to me so I imagine she'll hang at least most of the year.

AH: Wonderful. So, tell me Leah, about your interest in quilt making. When did you start quilting? How old were you?

LD: I started quilting when I was 21. My interest in quilt making has been--I've been very interested in the hobby since I was a child, but quilting is something that you really need to be taught. It's not easy and it's quite expensive and so it wasn't until I was in my 20s that I was able to learn because I was able to join a guild and that was just something that was not available to me as a child. And I was getting married, at 21, and I wanted a Double Wedding Ring quilt and so after trying and completely failing [laughs.] to make a first Double Wedding Ring, I decided it was time to join a guild and start taking lectures and workshops and that really has made the difference. And that is why I got into quilt making to start.

AH: Which guild was that?

LD: That was the Asheville Quilt Guild, in Asheville, North Carolina. Since moving to Shelby, I have joined the Foothills Quilters Guild.

AH: So you were basically self-taught.

LD: To a large degree I was self-taught but I have taken many lectures and workshops. I've never been formally taught as an artist, I've never taken drawing or design classes, but I have taken classes on appliqué and quilting and piecing, so there's definitely--I would say this is one of those hobbies that you absolutely have to take classes in order to get even--just to master the basics, you've got to take some classes.

AH: What's your first quilt memory?

LD: Probably the first quilt memory I have is sleeping under some of my great-grandmothers' quilts. I grew up--my mother and my grandmother were not quilters, but my great-grandmothers were, so I grew up with 10 or 15 antique quilts that we still used on a daily basis on our beds and so I can remember, there were a Butterfly quilt, a Lone Star quilt and an appliquéd quilt, probably a Dresden Plate. Now that I actually know what quiltmaking is, I can actually name the blocks. And it's really interesting because when I go home, I always love to pull them out of the closet and look at them again. But that is my first quilting memory, sleeping under these wonderful, soft antique quilts.

AH: So what year do you think those quilts were made? About.

LD: They were made probably in the '60s or '70s. I can only guess but I know that most of them were constructed--the tops were constructed by my grandmothers, or great-grandmothers and some of them were quilted by Mennonite women in Tennessee and some of them were quilted by my great-grandmothers. The history of many of those quilts has been lost so I don't necessarily know where all of them came from.

AH: Right. You didn't know your great-grandmothers.

LD: No. No.

AH: The women who made the quilts.

LD: No, I did not. And unfortunately they did not tag their quilts. [laughs.] So I have no idea who made them. But that is something that I'm working on, trying to find the history of the quilts that I grew up with and record that history and tag the quilts so that the right quiltmaker gets credit for it.

AH: They're in pretty good shape?

LD: They are. Some of them are starting to wear out. One or two of them would have disintegrated already but it is really interesting, my great-grandmothers did not use regular batting, regular cotton batting, they actually would put a polyester blanket, a thin polyester blanket, as the middle layer and that polyester blanket is holding the whole quilt together. And that has kept them together really in a large sense, even now. The cotton however is starting to fray and break so one of the other things I'm starting to do is go back to these quilts and take the design and make a new version in, when I can find them, similar fabrics, so that way we have a record of that quilt and at least that quilt design doesn't get lost.

AH: So, are there any other quiltmakers in your family?

LD: No. My middle sister--she's two years older than me--my middle sister did a little bit of hand piecing but she never actually quilted the quilt that she made and then my oldest sister did get into patchwork when she was in college but neither of them have really gotten immersed into the craft. I keep hoping that I can convince them and addict them to it but so far I haven't been successful. But my mother and my grandmother--my mother especially--did not sew at all. My grandmother sewed but she did not quilt, at least whenever I knew her.

[pause for 8 seconds.]

AH: How many hours a week do you quilt?

LD: I quilt professionally so it is a business for me. So whenever I say that I quilt between 30 and 40 hours a week, it sounds like a lot, but all that quilting time is really--it's still fun, it's still enjoyable. Even though it is my job now. I do not quilt quilts for other people, but I do quilt and put You Tube videos--I record my quilting and put them on the Internet and then I also make quilts for show. So, the amount of time that I spend quilting is very important to me every week.

AH: So when you say 30 or 40 hours, that includes everything you do with your business?

LD: No. That is just the quilting part.

AH: That's just sewing.

LD: That's just sewing. That's just time at a machine. I don't count time that I'm doing anything by hand, or I'm ripping anything out because I see that as play time because I'm usually in front of the TV watching something, usually "Dr. Who" or "Torchwood" are my favorite things to watch while I'm doing handwork. I'm not counting the time that it takes to maintain an online business, e-mail checking, packing orders, all that good stuff takes a lot more time, so I would say I probably run about a 70 hour workweek.

AH: So, why don't you just briefly describe all the aspects of your business.

LD: My business is an online quilt shop and that is at daystylesdesigns.com and that shop sells mostly tools and supplies for free motion quilting. I also sell some patterns of quilts that I have created and books and DVDs as well. The web site itself gains traffic, all the traffic that comes to it, all the quilters that come to shop, they pretty much all come from my blog, which is freemotionquilting.blogspot.com and on this blog I stitch a free motion quilting design--right now I do about two or three a week--and I share a video on You Tube, all for free, and I do this because I really think there needs to be a lot more information on free motion quilting, especially for domestic machine quilters and so all of the traffic that comes from the blog, if someone realizes, 'Oh I'd really like to quilt like this, but I need some tools,' they come to my shop and buy some tools and then they have everything that they need for free motion quilting. So my daily workweek really involves checking e-mail, blogging daily--so even if I don't post a new design I do blog about either what I'm working on or sometimes I do a feature where I feature a specific product or I just do a random nonsense day where I take some funny photos from around the house and post that too, but all of those posts do take time and then there's video editing takes time as well out of the day and then my husband has started helping me a lot, packing orders, so thankfully that's kind of been taken care of but whatever extra time I have I spend quilting and trying to finish the projects that I'm making, mostly for the web site and the blog.

AH: So how many original free motion quilting designs have you come up with so far?

LD: Right now, on the blog, we're on Day 193. I always stitch ahead of myself, so right now we have 207. And it's actually kind of funny, by the time this is produced--I have also done nine more designs for Quilting Arts and their e-magazine so technically I've stitched somewhere around 220 designs so far. But they come to me very, very easily so I know that I will have no trouble coming up with 365 of them.

AH: I think it's amazing that you've come up with all these different designs. What are some of your inspirations?

LD: I find inspiration absolutely everywhere. I cannot be picky with it or stuck up. I have to find inspiration from everything, everything from wood grain on hardwood floors to the texture that knit clothing makes. If I pick up a comic book, I'm looking at the textures that are created by the comic book. I play video games too and video games have an enormous amount of textures because they're trying to do exactly what we're doing with a quilt and taking a 2-D flat screen and make it into a 3-D image and there's many textures and shadings and shapes--textures--that are created and it's just simply a matter of looking at it and tracing the texture in my mind and if I can do it in a continuous line, then it can be stitched on a machine and that's the wonderful thing about it. It's actually very easy once you open your mind to all the possibilities.

AH: Have you seen some of your designs on other peoples' quilts?

LS: Yes. Actually very funny--I've started getting e-mails from quilters who are competing and they are giving me credit on their descriptions and so more people are learning about the project that way and more people are competing with a variety of fillers--not just stippling--and I think that's really wonderful that they're starting to see new types of fillers being used in show quilts.

AH: How does quilt making impact your family?

LD: Well it is our family business so it supports us, it basically is our life and it's going to impact my family even more so as the business grows. My husband is going to lose his job in January 2011 and he will start working for me so this will be a completely self-supporting business hopefully. It will support our family and my son has already shown an interest in quilting and so I will sit down and he'll say, 'Mama, make a quilt, make a quilt,' and I'll put him on my lap and we'll free motion quilt together for a while so I definitely think that quilting is in his future as well and I'm hoping that as he grows up, I can teach him aspects of the business and he can go to trade shows and quilt shows with us and help run the business.

AH: And how old is he now?

LD: He's three. [both laugh.] He's only three but he's definitely very interested in quilting and he wants to hang out, he loves fabric. I can hand him four fat quarters and he'll play with them for an hour. [laughs.] So it's a wonderful amusement for both of us.

AH: That's great. Have you ever used quilts to get through a difficult time?

LD: Most definitely. Most definitely. In fact the quilt that's hanging on the wall here, "Release Your Light" has been a quilt that has helped me through figuring out where I was taking my life, figuring out where I was going to go with my business, and really making the decision that quilting was number one, that I was going to let creativity and not just striving for money kind of run my life and be the dominant thing in my life. I actually was running another business at the time and I still run it, it's a skin care business and everything I was being told was 'Oh we're headed for a recession, focus on the skin care, do what's safe,' and by making this quilt I really looked at it and said, 'You know, I can't do this anymore. I can't deny what is inside of me, what I want to do, where I want to take my life,' and I am so happy that I made the quilt and that I made that decision because skin care tanked during the recession but the quilting business took off and I will absolutely say it's recession-proof because we built the business essentially in the hardest part of the recession, during the fall of 2009 and it's continued to grow every single month since. I'm also working on another quilt, another goddess, the next in the series, and she is actually completely about a very difficult aspect of my life and by working on her and by creating the design, I absolutely overcome that issue. It's amazing.

AH: Hmmm. Tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred from your quilt making.

LD: Well there's a really funny story, actually. "Release Your Light," whenever I show her, whenever I do a lecture, I always cover her up because usually if she's revealed, and she's showing herself off, no one will pay attention to a word I say. So, she's very bright and people just stare at her and drool and they don't pay attention to what I'm talking about so I cover her up and then I have a big reveal at some time during the lecture and so the very first lecture, I was doing was in Concord, North Carolina, and as I revealed her, there was a woman in the first or second row, she made the most terrible face. It just--an absolute grimace. And it really almost cracked me up because it just lets me know that some quilts to some people, the colors are just not appealing. But I completely laughed about it because it was such an open and honest response and I always look for another quilter to do the same thing at all of my lectures. So far, no one has. It was really funny.

AH: That's so interesting.

LD: Differences of opinion.

AH: Right. What do you like most about quilt making and what do you like least?

LD: I like free motion quilting and playing with different colors of fabric the best. There are things you can do in quilting that you can't do in any other medium. You can't achieve that level of texture and color in a painting and that's what I really love about quilting. As far as things I don't like about quilting, I don't like the really finicky techniques, like paper piecing or really, really complex appliqué techniques. It just seems like a lot of work to get a quilt together to produce--mostly I'm just wanting to have a certain image. I have a certain image, a certain design in mind and I try to find the easiest method of getting there and I don't like to play with a lot of itsy-bitsy pieces or a lot of finicky techniques in order to create that image that I'm wanting.

AH: One of the questions is about advances in technology and how that has influenced your work, but you're a relatively new quilter, you've been quilting--

LD: --five years.

AH: Five years. So, have there been any advances in technology [laughs.] since you started?

LD: Well, I mean if you look at it in a scale from what a hand quilter would do compared to what I do, then yes because I do use a machine, however, I do not use a computer-guided machine, I do not use a longarm--those are advances that other quilters do use, especially professional quilters. I do use a computer program whenever I'm designing a quilt. I don't actually design the quilt in a computer program, I just simply use the computer to enlarge the design and that has made my design process a lot easier, and I really like doing that. So, I sketch the design on an 8 by 11 piece of paper, scan it into my computer and then enlarge to whatever size I want. The scale stays the same and that produces a beautiful quilt in whatever size I want.

AH: Describe your studio.

LD: [laughs.] Actually, there's some debate as to whether my studio takes up three rooms or four rooms at this point, but I'll describe each room. My studio--the main part of my studio is, I have a basement kitchen and so that is the room, it's very big and very open, so I have two large tables set up to create one big surface and then I also have a light box set up in that room so that is really where I do most of my design work and then if I ever need to stretch out the quilt on big tables then that's where I do it. That is the room where design and cutting and large scale pressing--any time I need to fuse something, I'll do it in that room. Then I have a little room off the side of the kitchen downstairs and we call that the overflow room, but really it's the sewing room and I have just my sewing machine set up there and a few small tables and my entire fabric stash and I actually hang my fabric stash up on hangers just like I hang my clothing so that way I can browse it and it's all organized by color, not by type, just by color and then also downstairs we have our office, our business office which is where I do more cutting and of course all the design process and then house all the products that we sell on the web site. So technically that room I guess should count, but it is an office so it's more business oriented. And then upstairs I have another room that I have tables set up for free motion quilting specifically and I really do think it's important to have one machine set up for sewing and one machine set up for quilting because there's different needs for both tables as far as shape and the amount of space you have and the table upstairs is specifically set up for free motion quilting on a domestic machine.

AH: Leah, I don't think when we talked about your business, you really talked about your lecturing.

LD: Oh okay, I'm sorry.

[AH and LD talk at the same time.]

AH: Maybe you could just, you know, talk about that.

LD: Yeah. The lecturing is kind of an aspect that I've gotten into in the last six months. Because of the blog--I would have to say the only reason anyone really knows about me as a quilter is because of the blog. I was competing but it's a very slow process to wait for a quilt competition. You can produce a show-worthy quilt and it can take two years for it to really pass through the whole quilt show circuit and that can be very time-consuming, so starting the blog is really what got my name out there and what got people starting to talk about me and wanting me to come and do lectures and workshops. And so in January, I did my first lecture and I take the quilts and usually I'll do a trunk show where I share my quilting journey from the very beginning to what I'm working on currently and then sometimes I lecture specifically on free motion quilting and it's called "The Third Dimension of Design" because truly I think that quilting adds not just--we have color and we have shape and those two things are the first two things we see in a quilt but with the stitches we have on a quilt we also have a third dimension, which is texture. You can't get that anywhere else. So those are the things I lecture about and then I also, of course, teach workshops where I share information on free motion fillers and I'm working on a new workshop, a painting workshop to teach actually how to use the Shiva Paintstiks that I did in "Release Your Light."

AH: Okay. What do you think makes a great quilt?

LD: The best quilts, I think, are quilts that absolutely take your breath away, that when you see a quilter look at these types of quilts, they do a double take. Those, in my opinion, are the absolute, most wonderful quilts in the world. Not to say though that bed quilts and normal non-show quilts are not as good, but those are just simply my favorites. I love to have a quilt that I can just stand and stare at for an hour and still wonder, 'How in the world did that quilter do that?' It's just fun, it's just wonderful, and I love to see something that's new and slightly different from everything else I've seen.

AH: And makes a quilt artistically powerful?

LD: Well, pretty much exactly the same things. Something that really stands out and is slightly different and we are--you know, this is a hobby that's completely evolved from a very traditional hobby, hand quilting. And now it's coming into a whole new avenue with machine quilting and new tools and new supplies, painting and textures. I've started seeing wool roving and needle punch fabrics on quilts and it's amazing, the different textures. I would say that anything that would make an art quilt different is just something new and innovative that a hand quilter would probably look at and go, 'Why in the world would you want to put that on a quilt?' It's just really any of the above.

AH: What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

LD: This one's tough because I think that we can fill museums with all the best quilts, all the show quilts, and that won't necessarily show the true nature of quilt making for all people because if we only keep the show quilts, and the outstanding quilts, and just the jaw-droppers, in the museums, then people won't be able to see what quilters were making, let's say for charity projects. They won't see what quilters were making for their children, the baby quilts, the draggers, the one that you're just going to wear out and put on the bed and wash a million times and I don't think that that's a good thing, I think that we should have a variety of quilts in our museums, so that way in a hundred years people will be able to see all of the different types of quilts that are made and not just the outstanding, amazing ones.

AH: What makes a great quiltmaker?

LD: Anyone can be a great quiltmaker. You can be a girl, you can be a guy, you can be straight, you can be gay--it doesn't matter. Anybody can be a great quiltmaker. You just have to try, and it sounds corny, but not give up. Quilting is a difficult hobby. There are many steps and many challenges to it. If you find someone that will teach you, whether it's a guild or a workshop, a teacher, that really makes it a lot easier. But I think a willingness to learn and step out of your box is absolutely essential.

AH: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

LD: There are two quilters that I really must credit as being my absolute inspiration for the level of quilting I'm now doing in my quilts. One of them is Sharon Schamber. She is an amazing quilter and produces just outstanding quilts. Typically, they win the Best in Shows in all the big shows and she has more of a traditional bent on her quilts, but they are jaw-dropping, outstanding, amazing quilts that just make you do a double take and stand there and drool [laughs.] all over the quilt for an hour if you have the chance to see them, they're wonderful. The other quilter that really inspires me is Karen McTavish and she I can credit for totally taking me from an intermediate level quilter to an advanced quilter. She has four books on machine quilting, she does teach on a longarm, but you can easily apply the information on to a domestic sewing machine. And her design style, the way she explains how to use quilting motifs and elements in quilts, and then also her wonderful free motion design, McTavishing, really inspired me and let me see how far out of the box you could go with this thing called quilting.

AH: Have you ever met either one of them?

LD: I have met Karen McTavish. She came through Asheboro, North Carolina in 2008--no actually she came through in 2009, sorry--and I had made a quilt inspired by her called "The Duchess" and I took it with me and showed it to her and let her know that she absolutely could be credited for not only the design but the inspiration to make it because I never would have thought that making a whole cloth quilt would be that much fun. It was a wonderful experience.

AH: Was it a workshop?

LD: No. No. She just had a lecture, but they did have some workshops in Greensboro, North Carolina but they were already booked up, so I did not have a chance to take a workshop with her, but I did meet her in person and managed to shake her hand which was great, and she really is a very real person. You know, she's an outstanding quiltmaker but she's definitely not let it go to her head or anything. She's still very easy and personable and she said that she was very happy she wasn't competing against me, which was really funny. So, she thought the quilt was worthy, which was great.

AH: Which artists have influenced you?

LD: I really haven't been drawn to traditional artists. I do remember growing up with a little cartoon book on Van Gogh which was his art but it was all illustrated with cartoons, silly cartoons making fun of him which was really funny but truly my family was never very supportive of pursuing art in a traditional standpoint, because one of my sisters was the family artist and because of that, I've always moved more in a craft circle and it's only recently that I've been allowing myself to really look at traditional art in an inspiring way and kind of let go of that, kind of thing in my head. But Georgia O'Keeffe--I love her big giant very dramatic flowers and I've also been looking again at Van Gogh's "Starry Night," which I find very inspiring. I love bright colors, I love drama, so any artist that produces that is inspiring to me.

AH: How do you feel about machine quilting vs. hand quilting vs. longarm quilting?

LD: This is really interesting because I think that the hobby is evolving, and we can't get too stuck in any one thing. I absolutely respect hand quilters and I think what they do is absolutely gorgeous, but I also think that they have stagnated. For many years it was only as important as how tight their stitches were, not that they were producing a pretty design or an innovative design or something creative and so that lead to a whole lot of stippling on a whole lot of quilts and that's not very creative, that's not pushing the edge of the envelope of the hobby. Machine quilting then--domestic machine quilting--got started and I think that definitely has room to grow but the longarm market is the one that I have a little bit of trouble with because--I think it's wonderful that people are buying longarms and are quilting quilts for people, but I think that the longarm market is also kind of working against us in a little way. Because people are buying longarms, they're starting to think--because the advertising is so successful in longarms--people are starting to think that they cannot produce show quilts without one and I completely disagree with that. I produce all of my quilts on a domestic machine, and I think that free motion quilting on a domestic is not only more affordable, it's actually easier on a domestic. Of course, different quilters will disagree with me on that standpoint, but I do think longarming is wonderful if you're in the business to do that type of business, but I don't think it's something that a regular hobby quilter should feel pressure to buy. That just makes it kind of a situation where only the rich make the beautiful quilts and so I focus my business on teaching domestic free motion quilting, not longarm.

AH: Why is quilt making important to your life?

LD: Quilt making, I would say, is my life. I work through my life making quilts. I realize now the importance of--if I have an issue, that I'm struggling with, if I have something that's running through my head and just knocking me down, all I've got to do is design a quilt on it and the design process will help but actually seeing that quilt in living color really can just take that problem and make it seem like nothing. So quilt making, I absolutely love being able to get up in the morning and quilt, every day. My father-in-law keeps worrying that I'm going to burn out one of these days and I just tell him that there's absolutely no worry about it because there's so many quilts to make and so little time that I just have to do it every day.

AH: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or region?

LD: I wouldn't say that my quilts reflect North Carolina at all, or my region of kind of the Central North Carolina region. I would say that my quilts do speak to women, the goddess series in particular is designed for women because I think--I'm not a feminist and I kind of disagree with many feminist ideals, but I do think that women have specific issues different from men and that by creating quilts specifically on those issues, maybe I can help someone.

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

LD: Well, quilting is an American hobby, well I should say piecing because quilting is really a hobby that has spanned the continents for hundreds and hundreds of years, but I would say the piecing aspect is very important to American life and I really wish that quilting would take more of a dominant role in the lives of Americans today. I think it's very, very important to start teaching our children--not just our daughters but our sons as well--how to quilt, how to piece, that playing with fabric and fiber is a fun thing. Crafting really skipped my personal generation so I was the weird kid in class who was knitting [laughs.] when I was supposed to be taking a test and so I was that weirdo and no one else was really on that same wavelength that I was on. But fortunately, there seems to be a new wave of women--young girls and guys who are very into crafting. There is a web site called threadbanger.com and it's for that kind of teenage to young adult group that want to just sew until they drop and it's both sewing projects and home dec projects and it's all kind of funky and grungy and I just really hate that it wasn't around when I was in high school because you better believe that I would've been a contributor to it. I'm a little too old for it now though, I think. [laughs.]

AH: How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

LD: I really don't know how easy it is to preserve something that is stitched in fiber and thread and that makes me a little worried because we still have beautiful paintings but as far as quilts go, the history only goes back so far. We don't have very much of a record of it because they get worn, they get used. Even on a wall, a quilt can get worn and damaged and so I think it's very important to find new techniques but then there's that side of me that--I use polyester thread and cotton fabric and polyester batting and I just hope that the quilt will outlast me; I don't really care much what happens to it after I'm gone so I guess my best advice would be, 'Take a really darn good photo of it and the photo will probably last longer.'

AH: So you believe quilts should be used.

LD: I think they should be enjoyed and appreciated. I don't think they should be locked in a box in the dark. I think that if the best way to get the use out of a quilt is to take an image of it and share that image, then that is what needs to happen.

AH: What has happened to quilts that you've made for friends and family?

LD: The first three years of my quilt making journey, I made a lot of quilts for friends and family, and they've pretty much gotten used and I've borrowed a few of them and taken them to lectures and workshops with me and then I give them back. So that's always kind of nice, to revisit and borrow a quilt that I've given away. A couple of quilts that I've given to my parents hang on their walls in their house. I've had one quilt that I've donated to the American Heart Association for their annual ball here in Shelby, North Carolina. And then of course I've made many baby quilts for other friends who have children. I have had one quilt, one show quilt, that was shown and then has become unshowable. It was the one quilt that was damaged. And it wasn't damaged at a show, I should specify. I damaged it, by treating it incorrectly. It had gotten dirty, and I treated it with hydrogen peroxide because I was told that it was the same thing as Oxy Clean and it's not. So don't do that, please. And so, the quilt has actually gotten burned, it's a chemical burn and it's falling apart but I do plan to remake her. That kind of thing is a learning experience, it's always a learning process. So, it was a necessary lesson.

AH: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

LD: I would say the biggest challenge is time because quilt making has always been a time-consuming hobby, but it seems that today, women especially want to spend their excess time watching television rather than sitting there and producing something creative. And I think that is horribly, horribly unfortunate. If people would only see how much time there is in a day when they don't spend three hours watching TV, they would see just how much more time and energy they would have to produce beautiful works of art or beautiful quilts. So I would say, more than anything else, it's time management and then also it's just simply, we need to get the word out that quilting is not just something that great-grandmothers do, it's not just traditional block sets, you know it's not just the traditional bed quilt, that you can make a quilt that's 12 inches by 12 inches square and it can still be counted as a quilt and you can have that creative journey on a small scale. It doesn't have to be huge. I think that's one of the biggest challenges.

AH: Okay, well we're almost out of time, but just one quick question: you're young, you're younger than the average--

LD: Twenty-six. [laughs.]

AH: --quilter [laughs.] Do you meet a lot of other quilters your age?

LD: No. Absolutely not. And there does seem to be--at quilt shows and I recently attended North Carolina Quilt Symposium--there does seem to be kind of a me-and-them kind of situation where quilters don't really know how to take me, they don't really know how to respond to me and I would say if you're an older quilter and you're struggling with the same question, I can just simply say, 'Treat a younger quilter like everyone else. Evaluate her skill just the same way you would evaluate someone your own age. Don't treat them special, don't give them special congratulations just for being young and being in the hobby because really, this is a hobby for everyone, and I really hope there will be more young people getting into it because I do get tired of being the youngest one in all the crowds.' [laughs.]

AH: I agree. And I'm afraid we're out of time now, so this concludes our interview. It is now 11:25. Thank you Leah.


“Leah Day,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 14, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/2208.