Anne Michelle Settle




Anne Michelle Settle




Anne Michelle Settle


Helen Kamphuis

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Iris Karp


Houston, Texas


Natasha Gaiski


Helen Kamphuis (HK): Ok. This is Helen Kamphuis; today's date is the fifth of November and it's 8:52 at this moment and I'm conducting an interview with Michelle Settle for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories, a project of The Alliance for American Quilts. Michelle and I are at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. Michelle, will you tell me about the quilt you brought today?

Michelle Settle (MS): Okay, the quilt I brought today is called "Bows and Arrows." It's a red and white quilt. The story behind this quilt is I saw a quilt like it on eBay for sale. It was an antique, and it was stained really bad, but I really loved the pattern of it. So, I thought 'I can make that,' so I drafted my own pattern and went to task at making it. I was really happy with the results. I love the contrast of the red and white, and it's a really simple pattern, but it looks complex, and that's what I really liked about it. I had a pretty easy time putting it together. Sheila Brockman longarm quilted it for me and I thought she did a beautiful job. It won third place in the Western Quilt Guild of Houston Show in 2003.

HK: And why did you choose red and white?

MS: I just love the contrast, and it had to be just the right color red. I went to so many quilt shops looking for just the right color red. It couldn't be too purpley , it couldn't be too orangey, it couldn't be too pinky. It had to be just the right shade of red that's pleasing for me. I made something that I just really like.

HK: And why did you choose this pattern with the hearts?

MS: Because red--Valentine's Day. It's called "Bows and Arrows," Cupid.

HK: Right.

MS: So, that's what I think of, I think of February, Valentine's Day--red and white. I'm really happy with it. I think it came out nice. It's the only red and white quilt I've ever made. I don't anticipate I'll be making any more, but I really like it.

HK: And why did you choose this quilt for the interview?

MS: I really had a difficult time choosing what to bring here today. I have a baby quilt that I made for my son that I was really tempted to bring. I brought it because I drafted the pattern off of a picture that I saw. It gave me the confidence to make my own patterns, and to go off the beaten track and to do something on my own So, I think that this quilt. brought me to another level of quilting. And after this, I felt, 'Well, I can draft my own patterns, and I can do something a little more creative.' I took extra time to get my piecing just right, to get my seams to match. I'm really proud of it too, of the craftsmanship that I put into it. So, I think that's why I chose it, and it photographs well.

HK: It really does. Is designing, drafting the pattern--is that something that you're doing now?

MS: Absolutely. I'm inspired everyday by things I see, and all these new creative techniques that they have out today. I just want to try everything. I want to do so many things. I don't think I'll ever be able to do everything I want to do. Yeah, I'm constantly creating new patterns every day and working on new stuff all the time. Being on this trip here, I was inspired by something I saw in a magazine. I can't wait to get home and try it. I haven't seen it done before, but I'm thinking it'll be a good thing. So -

HK: And can you tell me, because the quilt that's in the book--

MS: Uhmm.

HK: --is different to this one.

MS: Oh yes, absolutely.

HK: Why did this one come into the book?

MS: See, "Pineapple Paintballs"-- a miniature that I did. I did it because I got bored with my traditional big quilts. I ran out of space to store [MS laughs as she speaks.] all these quilts. Living in Houston, it's really hot. So, your kind of limited in how many quilts you can go through in a winter. I just wanted something different. I wanted the challenge of doing something on such a small scale, just to see if I could do it. Paper foundation piecing made it really easy. Not that it was a really easy quilt to put together, but it made it possible because there's no way I could have like hand pieced that. It just been a really--I can't even imagine. Yeah, it was something. I just wanted to go outside the box and make something to hang on the wall, something wall arty. Not utilitarian, like a bed-sized quilt. I kind of went wild with the colors because I just love color, and color gives me energy, and it's fun, and [MS laughs.] my sweater today is full of color [MS says, 'Oops sorry,' HK laughs. MS says, 'And I love to touch a microphone,' HK laughs, MS laughs.]. I think the more color the better, like the contrast with--

HK: Uhmm.

MS: -- the quilt that I brought. To me, the red just really screams work on me, and it motivates me to keep going on. I'd have trouble working on a quilt that was just pastels, traditional. Not that I have anything against those, because I love them. For me to have the energy to work on it, that's what I would need to do.

HK: Bright colors. How many quilts do you have at home?

MS: Ooo--Oh gosh, probably 25. I don't know if that's a lot or a little or--can I add one more thing about [HK says 'Oh, sure.'] this quilt in the book if you don't mind? In 2001, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I had a really bad episode where I lost my vision, and I lost my ability to hold things in my hand. It was a really tough time, and I thought that I would never be able to quilt again, that I wouldn't be able to hold a needle, that I wouldn't be able to see. It was really kind of a dark time, but it was also an enlightening time too because I thought if I ever get through this, what would I do, because when somebody takes that away from you, your ability to do stuff. You just get so angry-- and I slowly got better, and my MS, it went into remission. I was able to slowly get back into quilting again, and I thought, 'Well, this time I'm really going to work hard and go for my dream, which was to be in the Houston Quilt Show.' So, this quilt really came out of my rebirth into quilting, I guess, or my recharging--.

HK: It's a very special quilt.

MS: It is. It made me want to do my best. So, I've been going strong, and I've been symptom free for a while. So, I've been doing really good, I'm really healthy. So, I've been quilting as much as I can and doing the best job that I can, that I'm able to.

HK: So, it kind of helped you refocus maybe on [MS interrupt, says 'Absolutely,'] what wasn't very important for you?

MS: You know, you think you have all the time in the world and to have this like huge fabric stash like everybody else. And you just think, 'Well, if I don't get to it today, I'll get to it tomorrow.' And for me, tomorrow was sort of taken away. And so, I felt like I needed to jump on the bandwagon right away, because you never know what's going to happen tomorrow. So, I feel like if my time is limited, I'm going to really make the most of it.

HK: And does it influence you still? This time aspect? Or is it kind of becoming different now?

MS: It does. It's not as strong as it was before, because I've been symptom free for so long. You take for granted your health, and I have a teenage son who [MS and HK laugh.] requires a lot of attention. But I really do devote a lot of time to my quilting craft. So--

HK: How much time do you quilt?

MS: Let's see. For me, the way I work, it comes in creative bursts. When I'm in the middle of a creative burst, it's almost like a manic episode. I will go from day to night, 12-hour days, and I am just blowing through it. I've got fabric pieces shooting all over the room, my sewing room is a disaster. I am just like going to town, and it will go for weeks at a time, months at a time. Then, when I'm done, and I'm finished, I take a break, and I move on to other things. I like to write, so I'll be writing, still doing something creative. This is going to sound strange, but I'll feel it coming on, that creative flow. Like the inspiration that I was telling you I got yesterday from looking at a magazine something that I saw. And it's just bubbling up, and it's bubbling up, and I just know when I get home, I am just going to charge into my sewing room and start pulling out fabrics and seeing what's going together, what's going to work, what's going to fall in the right place. I'll be seeing if I can do it, it'll just be go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go. Because when I'm not in the flow, the creative energy flow.... I'm not disciplined like some people, where they can just like say, 'Ok, tomorrow morning at 6 o'clock I'm going to sew for two hours, and then I'm going to do dishes.' That's not the way I work. So, for me, if I force myself to do that, I find that I make more mistakes. Things don't fit together well, and I'm having to redo [HK says 'Yeah.'], and so I would rather [MS laughs while she speaks.] get it all right the first time, than have to rip, rip, rip, and redo. And I have a pretty short attention span. So, if I start to stumble in that way, I'll step back and say, 'Ok, now's not a good time. And I'll wait for the next burst.' That's just the way I operate.

HK: And if it works, then you have beautiful works [HK laughs.].

MS: Yeah, it seems to work for me. I wish I could work in a disciplined way, but that's just not the way I am, I guess.

HK: From whom did you learn quilting?

MS: And that's an interesting question. My grandparents quilted. My mother sewed all our clothes, and drapery, and stuff like that. But my mother never quilted. I never saw my grandparents quilt, but I received a quilt for my wedding, and I didn't start quilting until I was in my twenties. A friend of mine had a quilt that I thought it was really cool that she had made, and I kind of thought in the back of my mind, 'Well, maybe I'll try that someday.'[MS laughs,]. And I saw a show on PBS by Sharlene Jorgenson, and she put together a nine patch, and I thought, 'Oh wow that looks pretty easy. I think I can do that. Maybe I'll give that a try.' So, I didn't write anything down, didn't have any instructions, went to Wal-Mart, bought some fabric. I didn't have a sewing machine, and I thought, 'Well, I'll just go to the local--well, it was called Wilson's back then--'and I had a coupon, so I bought the cheapest sewing machine I could. And I thought I was so clever, arranging my color choices on this nine patch that I didn't square the blocks, I didn't use a quarter inch seam, because I didn't know [HK laughs.]. I was just kind of winging it. I wanted it to be really fluffy like a comforter, so I put in Fatt Batt [thick material used to thicken a quilt.], which was really difficult to quilt [HK laughs.]. So, then I thought, 'Well, I'll tie it, and I tried to tie it, but even that was not easy.' So, my first quilt, I still have it. I look at it now and it's really--it's really bad. I mean, it is really bad [MS laughs, HK chuckles.]. But the thing of it is I learned so much from it, it's kind of what not to do, it's everything I did [microphone noise, MS says 'Oops, sorry.']. So, I kind of learned from PBS at first. I didn't even know how to use the sewing machine. That was kind of a trial by fire. I tried doing one of those Lone Star quilts with the little diamonds, but the machine kept sucking up the points of the diamonds into the bobbin case, the bobbin hole. I couldn't understand what was wrong with me. I'm like; I just am not very good at quilting here [HK laughs.]. But I had no idea that a really nice machine would make a big difference--and technique, of course too. If I had known then what I know now, things would be different.

HK: How many machines have you had now?

MS: Well, I sort of went against the grain, [against] a lot of the people in my guild, and I got a Pfaff [sewing machine.] --I had a lot of Bernina [sewing machine.] friends. But the Pfaff just seemed to work for me, the way it operated. Well, I'm not going to say what my very first one was, because it wasn't very good [MS laughs, HK laughs.]. Also, [later] I got a Bernina--(I've got dual loyalty, I've got a Bernina and a Pfaff) --because it's got a BSR [Bernina Stitch Regulator, allows more control], and I've been trying it out and working on my machine quilting. Oh gosh--my husband always tells me, 'Can't you just show the machine a shirt and tell it to make it?' Well, we're getting close to those days, it won't be long.

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

MS: I love that question. I've done both. If you have quality hand quilting, it's beautiful. Quality machine quilting is beautiful. I tried longarm quilting a couple of weeks ago for the first time, and it's a lot harder than it looks. I tell you what, I got on there and I had some difficulties. They make it look easy, but for me, it was hard [ HK chuckles.]. So, I have a really new appreciation for the long armers out there that quilt. Some of the most beautiful work I've seen is all longarm. I've seen some gorgeous hand quilting. I was fortunate enough to take a class with Hazel Canny, who's a hand quilter and she's consistently here at the Houston International Quilt Show and she just does amazing work. So, I can appreciate the expertise on both sides. And I can't say I feel that one's better than the other, just because they're so --I think anything that's done well, someone's taken the time, perfected the skill, I can appreciate that in any form.

HK: What aspects of quilt making do you not enjoy?

MS: That's interesting. On some level, I feel like once I get the quilt top done that I'm done. Which is totally not right. You have to have all three pieces to make a quilt. I think the hardest part for me is the binding, and I've been told that I do a fairly good job on binding. I don't dislike doing the binding. It's sort of bittersweet, because you put the binding on and it takes a while, and I try to be really careful, and I try to do a quality binding, and then it's over. You're done with binding--Oh, with the exception of the quilt label, can't forget the quilt label [HK laughs.]. Then your project's over, and you're done. So, it's kind of bittersweet, because it's over. But you've got this finished product. I don't know, I guess I'd have to say the binding [HK says 'Ok, right. Ok.']. But not because it's like so hard or because I just don't like binding or whatever.

HK: It's because of finishing something that you've been working on for such a long time [MS says 'Yeah, yeah.']. Ok. What makes a great quilter, according to you?

MS: What makes a great quilter I guess I would have to say, 'What makes a great quilt?' if you're going to ask me what makes a great quilter, other than personally if I like a quilter or not. If a quilt has a visual impact, if it's well composed. I like a lot of color, if the quilt tells a story. If I can tell the quilter spent a lot of time, is careful with detail. And I'd be willing to let the detail go by the wayside if there's more of a visual impact. If there's something that draws me to the quilt that says come, look at me or come check out the smaller aspects. You see the bigger picture but come see it up close. That really draws me in. Workmanship. To me those are important aspects of a quilt. On the flipside of that, I consider my grandmother a great quilter. Her quilts were not perfect by any stretch; they did have great visual impact though, so I have to throw that in there. Quilter separates from the quilt, kind of two different ways of looking at that question.

HK: It is. What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

MS: I think quilts have a new importance today than they did before. I think quilts are a creative outlet, a creative expression for women, for men. I think it's an art form like painting, pottery, sculpture. That's kind of the league I put it in now. I know some people still do utilitarian quilts, and I think that's fine. I think it's evolving into an art form. It is an art form; it's evolving into more of an art form. People are appreciating it more as an art form. I think it's important because I think it tells about where we are today, how what's available to us resource wise. Quilt artists like Hollis Chatelain, she quilts with themes in mind to express their conditions of-humanity and human nature. I think quilting's taken a whole another stretch of the imagination. People are doing things with quilts that they never thought of doing before. I think that's wonderful; I think it just gives us more avenues to release our tension and our creativity.

HK: Do you know what happens to the quilts that you've given to family or friends? Have you given--?

MS: Oh, I have. Yes, I have, and I hope they're used and loved and washed. I really hope they're washed. The ones that I give to family are utilitarian. I have no control over what they do with the quilt when they have it, and I relinquish that control when I hand it over. But I would hope that they'd use it, and let their babies throw up and spit up, whatever. I don't have any problems with taking them on a picnic, and that kind of thing, so. Whatever they choose to do with them is fine. I'm not in the habit of giving them art type quilts. Not that I don't think they wouldn't appreciate it, but it's just--it's not everybody's bag, so.

HK: I'm going to ask you a completely different question [MS says 'Ok.']. When you were asked to come for an interview, which message did you really want to bring across during the interview?

MS: Oh, wow-- about myself or just in general or--?

HK: What's your first response?

MS: Wow, ok. Well, I guess I would like people to know about me that I love color, and that I'm starting to be more risky, taking more risks with my quilting, and the patterns that I do, and I'm starting to branch out. I would want them to know that about me. I would want people to know that quilting is a viable, real, living, art form. That it's important and that it should be respected just as any painting or other form of art. That even though you have traditional versus contemporary that they each have their place and neither one should exclude the other. They all are valuable in their own way. And that's all I would like to say about that.

HK: What are your plans with this quilt?

MS: I don't really have any plans for that quilt. I drape it over a quilt rack in my bedroom, and it inspires me when I see it. It inspires me to keep doing what I'm doing, to do quality work. And hopefully my son will see it, and my family will see it and just appreciate it. Although, I don't know if they "fully" appreciate it. Although my husband does appreciate it. He knows how much work goes into a quilt. I don't have big plans for it.

HK: Ok, ok. Are there certain things that you still want to mention? Or should we kind of close the interview?

MS: I can't really think of anything off the top of my head that I haven't already said. I want to continue doing what I'm doing. Hopefully, produce something else that people will appreciate. The thing I love about miniatures, that I really get my selfish satisfaction from is when you walk by the miniatures section, and people always go, 'Wooh, oh my gosh. How did they get that so small? That's crazy.' And I just love that--that just really gives me that charge. I don't know. It makes me proud. Like I said, it gives me that selfish satisfaction to hear them just fascinated about that. I'm hoping to do some more miniatures before my 40-year- old eyesight, my close-up eyesight totally goes. I've got my bifocals on order as we speak.

UP: Me, too. [HK and MS laugh, MS says 'Yeah.'].

HK: So, miniatures is the thing that you'll be doing a lot more in the future?

MS: I'll probably do some more miniatures for sure. I haven't totally drifted away from that yet. I want to do some more modern types of quilting, more expressive. Something that tells more of a story. I've got some stuff in the works, you'll just have to wait and see what comes out of it. I'm going to have to wait and see what comes out of it, because I don't have it totally figured out yet.

HK: But you want to be more a storyteller through your quilts?

MS: Yes, I do. Well, I appreciate you taking the time today to interview me.

HK: Well, then I would like to thank you Michelle for allowing me to interview you today at the Quilters' S.O.S.-Save Our Stories Oral Histories Project. Our interview concludes at 9:20 [a.m.], and thank you very much.


“Anne Michelle Settle,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024,