Pat Delaney




Pat Delaney




Pat Delaney


Jodie Davis

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Handi Quilter, Inc.


Providence, Rhode Island


Cori Heacock


Jodie Davis (JD): I'm Jodie Davis. Today is April 16th, 2010, and it is 9:12 in the morning. I'm conducting an interview with Pat Delaney for Quilters' S.O.S., Save Our Stories, a project of the Alliance for American Quilts. We're in Providence, Rhode Island at the Machine Quilters Exposition. Pat, tell me about the quilt that you brought with you today.

Pat Delaney (PD): The name of the quilt is "The Ancient Mariner at Sunrise." I started this quilt as kind of a paradox to my usual quilts, in that the coloration is totally opposite to anything I had ever done before. Usually my colors are clear, bright, and uh, scrap quilts. This somewhat is a scrap quilt, but, um, it's very greyed down. I started with the mariner's compasses in the quilt, and they're as grey as I could find in the quilt shops. Now they turned out to be more colorful than I thought they would be, um, and I looked for a really neutral background that wasn't off-white, but a little bit of color and that got very pink when, when it was put with the greys. So, there were some color surprises in there, um, but it was just to expand on my quilting. I hadn't done anything with marked feathers before, and I was learning how to do that. And I, so it has trapunto, it has, um, the um compasses have um, there, it's a very different block, it's not the four-segment block that's usual for the compasses. It, the whole, the whole circumference was done first and then the center circle was appliquéd on afterwards because um, in the background sections I didn't want seams because I was going to be doing, uh, machine embroidery, and I didn't want the cross seams for the square blocks so the, the, there are no blocks as such in this; it's circles and kind of cross shape pieces. It's kind of wonky. [JD laughs.] And so, it had its own mind on how it was going to flatten out - it didn't [laughter.] --

JD: What did you expect? --

PD: But I you know manage that alright. And so, it has machine embroidery. I think it's the first quilt that I actually put machine embroidery on the quilt. That matches the background color.

JD: Is that your own design, the machine embroidery?

PD: No, it's not. It, there's standard uh Viking, Husqvarna Viking um card embroideries. They're also in the center of the compasses, there's a flower motif and I matched the threads uh to the compass colors on each one of those, they're all different colors. And then it's also done in pink on the background, the same design. The fun of this quilt was finding all the colors. Each compass has three or four different fabrics that are very close and certainly not from collections by any means because I went everywhere looking for the colors. But, um, that was really fun and then to find those colors in the thread companies, because they're not colors that anybody really wants to buy [laughter.] They're, you know, really weird, greyed out colors. So, it, it was a little challenging to mix everything together and try and get the right colorations, and then each center of the compasses has a hand couched pearl cotton cording, and those are very weird colors. I'm saying weird colors because they were very different from what I usually work on. But I, uh, this quilt had a lot of different nuances to it. I had taken a class with Diane Godinsky and in Paducah and so I thought well you know, now maybe, notch it down a little bit and try some of that microstipling in there. So, I started going with the pink thread on the background and an hour into it, I'd done about…

JD: Oh no

PD: …two square inches. And it was too much to rip out, but I could see it was gonna be a long time.

JD: Months and months.

PD: Yeah, it took two years to finish the quilt, finally.

JD: Wow!

PD: And I did have to put it away for a while just because my eyes were starting to cross.

JD: But at least you picked it up again.

PD: I did pick it up again. I was determined. There was no underlying reason for the quilt particularly, other than just playing with the colors. But I call it fondly and I told this to Diane, my DYD quilt. And she looked at me and I said I'm saying this in the nicest possible way as a compliment, but it's called the "Damn You, Diane" quilt--

JD: [laughs]

PD: --because I had no choice but to continue. So, each of the spaces in between the star points, in there, and there are quite a few, took almost an hour, because I wasn't very fast at my quilting. I do all my quilting on a home machine.

JD: Oh really?

PD: Yeah, I don't have a long arm. So, it was all pulling the quilt back and forth, back and forth, and I believe it's 86, no it's 83 by 84.

JD: Wow, that's a lot of quilting.

PD: It's a lot of quilting. It's seven miles of pink quilting thread on the background.

JD: Wow, good for you for keeping track, all those empty spools, I guess.

PD: Well, I'll tell you how I kept track. Every time, the only store that sold that particular thread was 25 miles from my house and so I'd get my husband to drive me to the store and I'd buy one spool of thread, because a spool had, you know, 1,500 meters or something on it, so it was a lot of thread!

JD: Yeah, it can't be more than this.

PD: It can't be more than this! And, the second trip, my husband said get two, and I said no, no I think this will do it. So, and it, if you know a quilter, the day we use up the thread, we have to go to the store that day and get some more.

JD: Drop everything, honey.

PD: Exactly. And so, the second trip, he said get two and I said, well maybe I will. But, then by the third trip, I just bought what they had, and so I know I had the seven empty spools on the table when I was done. Plus, each of the compasses has other color quilting threads and embroidery threads on there, so there was a lot of thread on this quilt.

JD: Manufacturer's delight.

PD: Yeah.

JD: There's a picture you have with your quilt of a scene in a harbor and you're from New England.

PD: I'm from New England, um, this is after the quilt is all done.

JD: Oh, I was thinking it might be the inspiration.

PD: No, no it's not the inspiration, which is the interesting part of this quilt.

JD: Yeah

PD: Because I had no notion or any thought of what this quilt was going to mean. And it's turned out to be the most meaningful quilt that I have.

JD: Oh really?

PD: So, and it's just so opposite from what I do.

JD: Yeah, which makes it all the better

PD: So, finished the quilt, you know, the blue pen wouldn't come out, the background fabric was stretching. I was trying not to quilt pleats into it, I mean, this was to the top of my abilities, when I was making this quilt. Finally got to the end and it was puckery and wavy, and the compasses were going wonky, and I said it's just gonna have to be washed.

JD: Ohhhh.

PD: And I never wash my quilts. I never wash my fabric; I never wash my quilts. It had a wool batting in there and I said Well, it is what it is. And it went into the washing machine and came out and my husband and I used a laser light to stretch it out, squared as much as we could, but it shrank an inch. It was supposed to be square, but it shrank an inch, one direction.

JD: Oh, one direction, not the other.

PD: Yeah, so this way its 83 by 84 and we flattened it out. It pulled in the quilting just enough, so it looked halfway decent.

JD: Oh good

PD: Nothing ran, which I was very thankful for, and so I was happy with it. I put a little hand corded pearl cotton around the edge also. I don't do much hand work at all, so the cording and the back of the binding were the only hand work that I generally do. So, done and now I have to name it. And I have no name for it. The quilt show's coming up in a week and I know I've got to sit down and name the darn thing.

JD: Nothing like a deadline.

PD: Yeah, nothing like deadlines. So, at the time when we were finished doing this, everybody in their life gets to a certain age, you know their parents get older, you know, it's inevitable, but it was a particularly tough time for us. My husband had his father, who had throat cancer and it was long and drawn out. It was painful. He was hard to deal with. My husband was retiring that year, so you know, he had school issues. He was also transitioning into his new job, which was teaching online, so he was teaching three college courses, high school full-time, dealing with his dad, and it was pretty tough. Anyway, so his dad passed away in July and we had the funeral and three days later I got a phone call in the middle of the night that my dad had fallen and broken his hip.

JD: Oh no.

PD: Out of state. So, we were commuting back and forth to Maine to visit him in the hospital. He had every complication there was and he died three weeks later. So, we had the two dads right on top, and they were very similar personalities, challenging.

JD: Yeah [laughs.]

PD: [laughs.] So, you know, we were just about wrung out at this point and a friend of ours said 'Well, I have a cottage in Scituate [Massachusetts.], which is a little beach community near us. If you'd like to take it in September for two weeks, we'll give you a great deal.

JD: You deserve it.

PD: So, we just felt--and, I haven't been, I haven't stayed at the beach since I was a child. And I'm allergic to the sun, so I really don't go out in the sun that much. But we have a boat in Scituate, and we thought this would be great, my husband can sail a little bit, just to get away. It's only 20 miles from our house but it's a little getaway. Well, they were right on the harbor, I mean literally, you walked out on the deck and the water was beneath you. So, the first morning we woke up, they had a big window in the bedroom, no blinds or curtains, the sun came up at 5:30, woke me up, and I looked out the window and I swear that the sky, it was the color of the quilt. And the sun hadn't come up enough yet for the colors to really show so everything was the greys of the compasses.

JD: Wow!

PD: And it was just--it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. And I immediately got it, that's what it was. Well, the whole story was that my dad loved, loved, loved the beach. Anything planned in the summer was planned around him going to the beach on Saturday and Sunday. That was a given and then anything else was planned around it. So, as a child, I went to the beach every weekend. And he was in the Navy, and he was--

JD: --loved the ocean.

PD: --always loved the ocean, and so you know, kind of thinking through the quilt, and where I am, and you know, what, and I came back to that my dad is the one who taught me to quilt. He taught me to sew.

JD: He did?

PD: He did. As a five-year-old, my mom passed away when I was really little and we moved in with my grandmother and she had an old treadle machine and he was the machinist in the shoe factories, around our area, so he took care of the sewing machines. He was the one who sewed. My grandmother mended on occasion, but he knew the machines inside out, so I remember him sitting with me when I was five, making doll clothes. And that was our connection always. I have a huge scissor collection because he'd always buy me scissors at the, when the guy came around the factory, that was my Christmas present. He bought me my first sewing machine when I was in the 7th grade. He always did the tune-ups and the work on it. When I bought a computer machine, he was disgusted. He thought they weren't worth what you paid for them. But he'd still do the tune-ups and anytime I got a new machine, that was what he wanted to see. So, and I have, I don't have my original one, but I have a replacement toy machine, toy Singer machine, that's just like the one he brought me, which they used in the shoe factories.

JD: They did?

PD: Yes, they did. He always said it wasn't a toy, because he "borrowed it" from the factory when they didn't need it anymore. The old Commonwealth shoe factory, they made white bucks, remember white bucks?

JD: Yeah!

PD: And they made paper covers for them when they were in the factories, so they stayed clean, and they just needed something to hold it together and the chain stitch on the little machine was fine. So, they made the paper covers for the shoes.

JD: So, were those machines intended as toys or as...?

PD: They were intended as toys, but there were no bobbins, just a chain stitch and--

JD: So, it was perfect.

PD: --it was perfect for them. They didn't need to get a big machine, so--

JD: That is so wonderful.

PD: I have a little collection of toy machines now.

JD: What a story!

PD: Yeah, so anyways I'm laying there thinking well you know, after that sunrise, it was incredible and I said 'Well, you know it's a mariner's compass, duh, so I called it "The Ancient Mariner at Sunrise." I have a nice label on the back.

JD: Amazing.

PD: So, I've actually told the story at quilt shows and had people with tears in their eyes.

JD: Tears, I believe it.

PD: So, that's pretty powerful, when a quilt can do that.

JD: But that's quilts.

PD: Yep

JD: That is absolutely quilts for you. Well, I don't have to ask you the next question. What special meaning does this quilt have for you? Or why did you choose to bring this one? What do you think someone viewing your quilt might conclude about you?

PD: Well, I don't think it's the best representation of myself, really, because I--that's just a little hidden side, maybe, you know. That I didn't even know was there, so--

JD: How do you use this quilt?

PD: I don't really use it, I have it. Most of my quilts I just have. I do have one on the bed, but we have a dog, so--

JD: Yeah, other people have said the same thing. But you use them, they

PD: I use them in my trunk shows and this quilt, this quilt has gone up and down. It's done wonderful and it's been totally rejected. So, it's been rejected from Houston, rejected from Road to California, didn't do so well in Vermont, which was a little surprising because usually in Vermont I do okay. But one judge was way down. Critical of some of the technique in it and okay, and the other score was way up, so it was 15-point difference in the scoring. Usually, it's 3 or 4. That was okay-- so it got red ribbon in Vermont, but it got an embroidery award. But then it went to the World Quilt Textile [World Quilt and Textile Show.] and won "Best of World" out of all their quilts. And won first place in the Mid-Atlantic show, so won a sewing machine.

JD: Oh great! Great! Well judging is subjective.

PD: I said that to a judge once and she almost took my head off.

JD: Oh really?

PD: Yeah. [laughs.] We won't go there.

JD: We try not to be, but you know [laughs.]. These questions are about your involvement in quilt making. Tell me about your interest in quilt making.

PD: Well, quilt making was a surprise to me. So, I told you I've been sewing since I was five, making my own clothes since I was ten. When I got married, I made my husband's jackets, pants,

JD: Really?

PD: I made wedding gowns for a little while. Just at home, you know, and not a lot, but I made my own and made everything you can imagine for myself. I made bathing suits and every type of clothing. My husband and I met because we both had little motorcycles. I made a leather motorcycle jacket on my old 7th grade sewing machine. I don't know where I missed quilting. It just wasn't on my radar. Nobody in my family quilted and I'll tell you later, I slept under quilts, but at one point during the bicentennial when everyone was interested, I thought well, I'd like to make a quilt maybe. I like the Lonestar. But I didn't even know where to go to get a pattern for it and I looked around for a little bit, just there were no books, and--

JD: It's hard to believe there was a ever a time like that.

PD: Yeah, yeah, and I just, it never crossed my path and I guess I didn't pursue it so much that I just never saw a pattern for it and never got to it.

JD: That's surprising because your skills were such with your sewing, I would think you'd just be able to.

PD: Well, I made a patchwork.

JD: Yeah! Okay.

PD: Out of Marimekko fabric, if you remember what those are.

JD: Yeah! I do.

PD: Left over from my bathing suit. [both laugh.]

PD: So, I did do the patchwork one and I actually machine quilted it. And uh, when I went to, there was an outlet store, and they really sold mostly upholstery fabric, because it wasn't even that many fabrics, it was going into the polyester.

JD: It was polyester and there were no cottons.

PD: Right, so you know some of the fabrics were heavier, they weren't really drapery weight, but they were heavier and this place I went to was run by a man. I said, 'I'm making a quilt', he said 'oh, you hand-quilting it?' I said, 'oh no, I'm doing it on a machine' and he looked at me and he said 'well, you must be very good then to be able to do it on a machine'. And I thought, well how else would you do it. I did it in thirds and it was stitch in the ditch, and it's still not finished, by the way.

JD: Really?

PD: My daughter actually dragged it out because it had all the oranges, and you know--

JD: Oh, because it's those colors, yeah.

PD: --and used it for a little while, I still have it. It's pretty bad. But so I did put one together but didn't go any further and never saw any books and then kind of stopped sewing for a while. Went back to it and decided to buy a new machine, just to have one, and when I was in the store, they had a book on watercolor quilts. And that really caught my eye because I'd never heard or seen anything like that before where it was blending and you know, some artistry to it. And so, I bought that book, and it was strip-pieced watercolor quilts. So, if you're gonna make one, make two. So, I made two the first ones out and finished them very quickly but had to join a guild because I didn't have the variety of fabrics. So, I could beg fabrics from other members. I just need 2 inches square, if anybody has any. Yeah, so that's what hooked me in and then I found this whole world that I had no clue about. Never been to a quilt show, I made little patchwork things when my daughter was born out of sheets, because that was what was available. So, here I am.

JD: Yay, yay! So, what age did you start quilt making then, would you say?

PD: About ten years ago.

JD: Okay, and we know who you learned, oh you're self-taught.

PD: Yeah, I started out as self-taught.

JD: Okay.

PD: So, you know, I'd put the patches together before and I had stitched in the ditch but then this quilt book kind of gave me a little idea of the free motion and I had the new machine and so I asked them, well I use the embroidery foot, which wasn't so bad, but I bought the thickest batting that they had, basically upholstery batting, so it was this big fat polyester batting, so you can imagine how easy that was to quilt.

JD: Yeah.

PD: But I did two of those and then found out, oh this other batting, that's better for quilting, [both laugh.]

JD: Doesn't have to be so difficult.

PD: Yeah, yeah, so you know, gradually moved in, but I still didn't have anyone to ask, you know, still doing it out of the book. So, I hadn't quite found, that group. Then I found there was a local quilt group, so joined that and started listening to what they were doing. I knew I didn't want to hand quilt but picked up a little more and you know they'd say, use this kind of batting, it worked really well. So, that was helpful and then I started really going to the conventions and taking a lot of classes. And tried to take from the teacher, you know, that I am interested in. So, I've taken a lot of machine quilting classes with all the name teachers. But I like the process of the whole quilt. The piecing, the quilting, the design, the color, especially the color.

JD: So, you like every step of the process?

PD: I do, I do. And I still like to do it on my home machine.

JD: So, you're not tempted to get a long arm?

PD: Oh maybe. You know, we start collecting machines and fabric and threads and--

JD: I just, physically it's easier.

PD: I'm sure, it must be because when I get to the end, and if I have a deadline and I have to, I do sometimes 12, 14-hour days.

JD: I don't know how you do it, physically.

PD: Yeah, I don't. And then I say that I feel like I've been beaten with a baseball bat.

JD: Yeah, yes.

PD: And even though I'm not pulling the whole quilt through, I explain that I'm not pulling that whole quilt through. I'm only quilting on a little spot but that's an hour, then you move it down. But it is, I've kind of timed, my machine will time how long, how many minutes the needle goes up and down. I will time how long I have been sitting at the machine as compared with how long I've been sewing. And it's about four times, so for every four hours I sit there, I might get 60 minutes of quilting done--if I'm really moving along.

JD: Yeah, yeah wow. So how many hours a week do you quilt?

PD: Actual sewing? Quilting?

JD: However, you want to? Because with business, there's other things you do. So however, you want to define it.

PD: Yeah, yeah well, I teach three classes a week in my home.

JD: Oh!

PD: So, those are two and a half hour classes. I'm in my quilt room every day, maybe, depending on where I am in the process. I have one competition going and then other projects here and there. So, I'm usually at my machine sometime of every day.

JD: That's good.

PD: Yeah, yeah, I love it.

JD: What is your first quilt memory?

PD: Well, this, I guess, you put all these things in the back of your memory bank and at some point, they cash out. I told you I lived with my grandmother, I was two when I moved in with her, and she lived in a, she never owned a house, so she always rented, and this was a cape style with the center stairs and two rooms upstairs and four rooms downstairs. Well, it was my grandmother, grandfather, father, me, and an uncle when I first moved in. My aunt and uncle were building a house, but we were all there. Little, tiny house and it didn't have central heat, which makes me really sound antique. It was an older house, and it was a rental, so--

JD: Fireplaces?

PD: No, space heaters, stoves. So, the kitchen had a gas stove, with a kerosene thing but my father rigged it up so it went automatically and then the dining room and living room had these little parlor stoves and depending on whether they would be lit or just the kitchen stove would be on and in the summer, no stoves were on. So, no hot water. So, no shower--we had a bathtub. You, know, a sponge bath. But anyways, my grandmother--once my father moved out to my aunt and uncle's--it was just my grandmother and I--she was nervous having the stoves on at night. So, she always turned those off, so--

JD: I don't blame her.

PD: So, she would get up early in the morning and turn them on so whenever I came down for breakfast it was warm and I didn't notice, you don't know what's normal, but I remember sleeping upstairs and the frost was on the inside of the window. And so, I remember having five quilts on my bed. I don't know why I remember specifically five, but I did. It was heavy, so you know there wasn't much thrashing around in the night. I don't remember what four of them looked like, but I do remember one. And I don't think they are what we call quilts, I don't think they were really, one or two of them might have been patchwork, but I don't know. But the one that I liked was always one on top and around my neck and it was really what you would call a comforter, but it must have been old because my grandmother didn't make them and her mother, she said, had made a couple, but I remember the tops unfinished in the closet. So, they're just patches of clothing, old, nothing fancy.

JD: So, your grandmother's grandmother?

PD: Maybe. I don't know. I don't know where they came from. We had this old trunk that was under the eaves, we called it. Which was the little closet, and the unfinished patchwork top was in there until I was in high school, and it was, you know, utilitarian, it was probably made of old men's shirts. I remember it not being really colorful. But this one was a paisley, and like beigey, deep, olivey, not real attractive. It was tied and had thick cotton batting inside. So, it was puffier.

JD: So, comforter?

PD: Yeah, more comforter type, that's what I called the quilt. So, as I went later, it never occurred to me to actually quilt a quilt because what I called a quilt was not quilting.

JD: Oh! It was tied!

PD: It was tied, it was string, not yarn, it was string. But I kept that quilt when I went away for college, I had apartments, and it went with me and when I got married it was embarrassingly icky, so I replaced it with a new one, but I always had that quilt. I've outgrown that since, but yeah so that's my quilt memory is that freezing, cold room and having all those heavy quilts, so they must have had really heavy cotton batting in them. So, that's where it all went back to, I guess. And also, the other quilt memory: my other grandmother, who kept in very good touch with me, I would go to visit her one day a week, at least, she had an old crazy quilt that I thought she told me that she had worked on with a friend when she was young, but my aunt said that her aunt made it. So, I'm not sure exactly on the story, but I remember looking at that and it having an embroidered peacock and spider web and it was all the maroons and black velvets and all the fancy stitches on it and whenever I stayed overnight at her house, I had that quilt on the bed because I loved it and my mother's youngest sister, who was quite a bit younger, is the only one left now. She had cut the top and framed part of it. She said it was torn and so she had that framed in her house for a while. She doesn't have it hanging in her house and I keep asking her for that frame. And she said my name is on it, but I haven't seen it yet.

JD: Well, maybe just as well, it's out of the light.

PD: Yeah, yeah, yeah

JD: In a closet somewhere. Oh, that's neat! How does your quilt making impact your family?

PD: Well, my husband's learned to cook really well. He has the apron. "He cooks, I quilt." He's retired now for three or four years and I said 'Well I did 35 years of cooking; I don't mind if you do the next 35.' So, he's good, he's very good about it. He goes away on business trips, rarely, but he'll search out a quilt shop and bring me home a nice little array of fabric quarters.

JD: Awe what a good guy.

PD: He is, he's very good. He's gone to great lengths. One trip he actually had to walk 5 miles to the quilt store, and he did it. [both laugh.]

PD: So, he's very good like that and he loves coming to the shows with me. He loves the, he was an art teacher, so he loves the quilt shows for the graphic artistry of the quilts. I lose him in the vendors, not too thrilled with visiting the vendors, but he's great and I just had a quilt in Pennsylvania 2, 3 weeks ago and they called, and I didn't plan to go. They called and said that I'd won a prize, and I said OKAY. We jumped in the car around 4:30 the next morning and drove down and drove back the next day. So, he's great like that. And my kids are surprised that I know how to do anything, because I was a stay-at-home mom and didn't do any creative things like that. I have an art school degree, but you know, they hadn't seen any of that. So, they're kind of amazed.

JD: Yeah, to see you blossom. Tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred from your quilt making. It can be your teaching.

PD: Ah, let's see. This, you know, well I thought this was cute. Last month, when I won the award, I, you know, always had hoped to win an award from AQS, so that's kind of the pivotal moment. I've gotten into the Paducah shows before, but never won anything. And so, ended up winning "Best Machine Quilting" and I think the ribbon thrilled me more than the prize. You know, to be able to say, I finally got an AQS ribbon, and I was only going to be at the show for a few hours in the afternoon and then two hours the next morning and then we'd have to drive back. So, I made a quick pass through the vendors and the jewelry lady was there and I said, 'You don't happen to have any tiaras, do you?'

JD: Ohhhhh!

PD: And she said 'No.' She said 'I have one back at the hotel. If the woman doesn't come and pick it up, I'll bring it tomorrow if you want it.' And I said 'Okay, I'll, you know, try and get by and see it.' So, by the morning, I went down, and she said 'No, I have it'. So, tried it on, said 'I don't know, do you think it's too much?' and she goes 'No, I think you need it'. So, I went down and stood in front of my quilt, day before I went down nobody noticed me. Went down with the tiara on and just got all the attention. And so that was pretty funny. I'll show you, it's my cell phone wallpaper.

JD: Oh, is it! She's showing me on her cell phone on her iPhone that she's wearing it in front of her quilt. [both laugh.] Oh, that's precious.

PD: So, very unlike me.

JD: Yeah, yeah, but good for you.

PD: Yeah.

JD: Well, but you obviously are competitive, or you wouldn't be doing this and so yes, so you're a little, you know this New England thing, I'm a New Englander, of being like oh no I'm not gonna make a big deal over myself but it was your moment.

PD: Yeah, it was. It definitely was. And I did enjoy it, I have to say. [both laugh.]

JD: You should! Look how much effort went into it. What do you find most pleasing about quilt making?

PD: Oh gosh, for me it's the visual, you know, its, I always say it's the color first--I just--there's nothing better for me than just sitting in my sewing room. I have a whole shelf wall of--I buy fat quarters, I don't buy yardage, I only buy fat quarters and so I have shelves of, and I have folded them and arranged them by color and by category and just to sit there and look at those or to open the thread drawer and I have 400 colors of embroidery thread and they're arranged by color. You know, sometimes I'll go down and it'll feel like nothing better than the rainy afternoon to rearrange the thread drawer. [both laugh.] But I love choosing the color and I actually thought I was gonna be an art quilter and you know do kind of modern things and I've drifted back to the traditional blocks and they're just a vehicle of you know, using the colors. So, I use the color in a very contemporary way, so I'd say I'm a contemporary quilter rather than an art quilter or a traditional quilter.

JD: Oh, okay.

PD: So, I update the colors, but I'm happy with the traditional blocks too, so and I love the combinations of straight lines and curves and I find blocks that'll do that. And you know. I'm having fun with my embroidery machine, trying to not make it look just like they were plopped on there, but incorporate them somehow and I enjoy it all. You know, you get to the quilting phase, I get in the middle. I start out, I love the first block, I do. Oh, I just love that color, it's so delicious, I could eat it. And then I get to the middle, and I go, I don't know, this is looking really ugly to me.

JD: Second guess yourself?

PD: Well, it's a--

JD: Are you tired of it?

PD: I've realized that's my phase. That that's my cycle.

JD: Ohh.

PD: So, I love it at the beginning, getting tired of it in the middle. I start quilting. I do a lot of thinking on the quilt. I don't have anything planned out ahead of time, I start with the one block and then I build from there and then I see if I want to put a border on it or not and then I decide that border's too plain so I add something else to it and then build that out and then start thinking about the quilting and I'll do one section at a time and I don't go ahead of myself. So, I found that's the way I progress and when I get to the end, I'm loving it again.

JD: Oh, good. Okay.

PD: So, I just had to realize that that's how I work.

JD: And not to get upset at that middle stage, not let it bother you.

PD: Right, right and stop it.

JD: Yeah, yeah, got to trust yourself. Do you use a design wall?

PD: Yeah, I have, I have a good size room in my, we did the basement over for me. So, it's totally my space. I have a probably 18-foot wall that can be blank. I have hangers so I can hang up finished quilts. Then, I have enough for a large batting that I can put up or I can hang all finished quilts or so I switch it up.

JD: Oh okay, so it can be a design wall or a display wall.

PD: Yeah, so it's just got clips on the ceiling and the batt, I just use the batting, and--

JD: --things stick to it.

PD: Yep, and then I have another wall that I have usually display but that can come down and be a design wall too.

JD: Good and it sounds like you're a neat--you have a neat studio.

PD: I like to know where my things are.

JD: Yeah, so you can put your hands on it.

PD: I don't like to be looking around for things, so I do have nice storage and I pretty much know. But I like, yeah, I can put my hands on a piece of fabric, if I need it.

JD: What, are there aspects of quilt making that you don't enjoy?

PD: Well, I don't do them if I don't enjoy them. Which would be handwork, I don't do handwork appliqué or hand quilting. It just would be too much time and not that I don't spend a lot of time quilting, I do, but yeah, I don't enjoy the handwork.

JD: Nothing wrong with that. What are your favorite techniques and materials?

PD: Gee, I like a lot of different techniques, so I can't say that I like, I love paper piecing. A lot of my quilts are paper pieced. The "Ancient Mariner" is paper pieced.

JD: I don't know how you do it without it.

PD: Right, yeah, I couldn't even imagine doing that. But even my log cabins I paper piece. I'm doing a pineapple quilt right now and that's paper pieced and so I like the precision of the paper piecing. I love all the machine appliqués; I use all different ones in my quilts. Turned edge and blanket stitch and satin stitch. Love them all.

JD: What do you think makes a great quilt?

PD: Oh gosh, you know, it's, there's just something magic that happens. The quilt is more than its parts, you know, there can be a beautiful quilt if one component isn't just right, it's okay. But, you know, the workmanship has to be good. I think sometimes the quilt can override a little bit of the technique, for me. I think the visual has to be very strong. The color has to be good. So, it's all the art things, you know, design, lines, color, visual impact. It's all those things.

JD: And what makes a great quiltmaker?

PD: Well, I think some people are great teachers and, but they may not be the greatest quiltmaker. They may have one component that they're wonderful at, but the other parts are not as strong. That's a very tough question because there's a lot of subtleties, and I mean certainly you know with any art form, you can do three great ones and then another one's a real dog. You decide to put it away or whatever, but you know we all did those. So, I love to do just the utility quilts and I love, I make them for close friends, for wedding gifts. So close friends, for their children, for wedding gifts. I think that is a neat thing to, at that age, to get something that's special for them.

JD: Yes!

PD: More so than an older person for a gift for Christmas or something like that. I think you know, that's a great gift.

JD: Mark the occasion.

PD: Yeah

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

PD: Well, certainly there's, you know, a tradition of the, you know, the wagon trains with the handmade quilts and they needed them to keep warm and certainly myself, I know, they were pretty essential when I was growing up until the electric blanket came.

JD: Ohhh!

PD: Then I just had the one quilt around my neck after that. But, you know, that's, it's great that there are resources that keep those traditions and it's great to have the stories. But I do have an aunt, she was my mother's sister-in-law, and she started making quilts about the same time I did and she's 20 years older than I am and she said oh I had my brother's quilt that he made in high school. And I went 'oh my gosh' and she brought it over and showed me and it was all symbolic things of what was going on at the time and what he was involved with, and you know, just very primitive little appliqué things on there and words and I said, 'oh you've got to go to the quilt museum and have this documented' and so she finally did.

JD: Oh!

PD: Which is great, so I've only seen it that one time and you know, it's not something I would see, but things like that, because those stories are lost. Like I say, I don't even have anyone to ask, more now that I'm interested in the quilts that I had as a child.

JD: People who know are gone.

PD: The stories are gone.

JD: And that's sad, when we lose our stories. Well, that's what this project is all about.

PD: Which is wonderful.

JD: Yes, is there anything else that you would like to add that we didn't touch on?

PD: Probably, but not that I can think--

JD: I know, you always think of it later. Good, well our time is about up, so I want to thank you, Pat, for allowing me to interview you today as part of Quilters' Save Our Stories, a project of Alliance for the American Quilts and we're here in Providence, Rhode Island and our interview is concluding at 9:58.

PD: Well, thank you very much

JD: Oh, thank you!


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