Candace "Cookie" Williams




Candace "Cookie" Williams




Candace "Cookie" Williams


Heidi Rubenstein

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Susan Salswer


Dundas, Minnesota


Heidi Rubenstein


**This transcript was created by QSOS volunteers and was reviewed and, in some cases, edited by the interviewee. It may not exactly match the audio recording. For citations and interview quotations, please refer to the audio-recorded interview.** Heidi Rubenstein (HR): This is Heidi Rubenstein. Today's date is March 26, 2012. It is 1:20 p.m. and I'm conducting an interview with Cookie Williams for Quilters' Save Our Stories project in Northfield, MN. The interview is taking place at Cookie's home near Dundas, Minnesota. Cookie, could you please tell me about the two quilts you have with you today.

Cookie [Candace] Williams (CW): These two quilts are the most special quilts I've ever made. The first one I'm going to tell you about I made for my husband. Fifteen years ago he was on the road and he stopped at a quilt store. He asked the storeowner to gather fifty blue fat quarters for me and he gave them to me for my birthday that year. I knew right away that those fifty blue fat quarters were going into a quilt for him. He spent 37 and a half years working for the National Guard as a full time person and I knew that this quilt was going to pertain to that career. I started with Flying Geese. I knew that he was an eagle lover and I actually tried to piece an eagle, and it sort of looked like a lame duck. So then I went to the Flying Geese. At the time for Northfield Quilters we were teaching each other classes and I elected to teach the Flying Geese block, but the hook was you need to bring me back one Flying Geese made in red and I handed the quilt club background fabric. They said 'well, it won't be the right color.' I said 'I don't care.' I did not have enough red in my stash to make this quilt that I had envisioned in my mind. So I got the Flying Geese together and I had red ones and blue ones and I had tried piecing the eagle. That didn't work, so I thought 'how about a flag.' So the next part of the quilt is an American flag done with a Log Cabin pattern. It came together and it was sitting on top of the Flying Geese and I thought, 'well, we still have to incorporate eagles into this quilt somehow.' About that time I went to a Minnesota Quilt Show and went to a stencil booth at one of the vendors and they had a stencil for an eagle and I thought, 'ok, here's the flag, on either side of the flag we can put a blue sky and I can quilt in the eagles.' Consequently, two days before my husband's 70th birthday last March, the 18th of March, I finished that quilt. This past summer I entered that quilt at the Rice County Fair and it won a grand champion ribbon. That quilt took me 15 years to get done so it's really special.

The other quilt that I'm going to tell you about is titled "Why This Quilt Reminds Me of You." Our son also belonged to the National Guard. In 2004 he was deployed to Iraq. He was gone a year. It was probably the toughest year we spent as a family. During his deployment I started putting this quilt together and every color in it reminds me of something he has done in his life. There's red, white and blue, of course. There's maroon because he was an athlete for Northfield High School and the school colors were maroon and gold. There's green in there because one of his first jobs was working for his dad's cousin baling hay. There is a blue cobblestone fabric in this quilt that reminds me of all of the travels he's done in his life including being deployed to Iraq. It's a star quilt and the star is because he's been a real star in our life. The golf fabric is because that is his current hobby. He's a golfer and he's pretty good at it. Every fabric that I chose during the piecing of this had something to do with him. In reality, the pattern for this quilt was not a hard pattern. But it was the hardest quilt I've ever pieced. So these two are near and dear to my heart. And I'm proud to say that they belong to the guys that they do.

HR: So the first one was Flying Geese and Log Cabin. You designed it yourself?

CW: I designed that quilt. There's not a pattern out that I know of with these elements. The process of making a quilt for me, for these two in particular, when I decided to put the flag on blue sky, well I had some blue sky fabric, but I didn't like it, so then it was a few months down the road and we travelled somewhere and we went into a quilt store up north and there was the blue sky fabric that I had envisioned in my mind. Usually when I make a quilt and give it away I will ask the person that I'm giving it to 'what's your favorite color?' But these two quilts are exactly what I designed from the bottom of my heart with every ounce of design element in my body that I could garner up. Every emotion that these quilts evoke, the other 200 plus quilts that I've done do not equate what these two mean to me. They are special quilts for special guys.

HR: The star that you chose for the second one. Do you know the name of the pattern?

CW: It's a Saw Tooth Star. It's not a difficult pattern at all, but it just fell into place. The other beauty of it was that after that quilt was done, it hung in the Northfield Quilt Show and every time we have a show we write a little blurb to go with the quilt. I was sitting at one of the tables and a lady came up and asked who I was and I said I was Cookie Williams and she says, 'I just have to tell you. The story behind the quilt for your son just touched my heart so. I feel like I know you even though I don't know you.' So that made me feel extra special that it touched someone else as well as just being something special to me.

HR: Do you have the quilts with you now?

CW: I do. I borrowed them. I'm hoping to get a picture of my husband's quilt published because it is a patriotic quilt and it has gotten a grand prize ribbon. Then my son said 'but will I get it back' and I said 'yes, you'll get your quilt back.' They own the quilts and they can do what they want with them now.

HR: Now I'd like to ask you a few questions about your involvement with quiltmaking. I'm wondering what age you started.

CW: I was twenty when I got married and at about 25 or 26 I tried piecing. I was a sewer to begin with. We were poor and didn't have a lot of money and so I would make garments for myself. We were in the Twin Cities at the time and one day I wondered if I could put together a quilt. It was a hodge podge of every fabric that I had a scrap of and it was horrible. I don't know how I did it or what I was thinking, but the corners wouldn't match. I thought 'well, that's not going to be much of an endeavor for this person.' And I put it aside. Then we moved out here to the country. We spent a winter in my husband's grandfather's house and the lady who lived next door came and visited me one day, introduced herself, a lady by the name of Fern Johnson. She said she was a quilter. Well, I remember sleeping under a quilt at my grandmother's when I was a little girl, but I never saw her work on quilts. Fern and I struck up a friendship that lasted for many, many years up until she died. A few years after we became friends, the minister from our church, she and I went to the same church, was going to leave and my husband and I had worked with the youth group and had gone on retreats with this man. Fern said she and two other gals from church were going to put together a quilt for Reverend Fliegel, would I be interested in helping? Well, I jumped at the chance, and as they say, the rest is history. That was before 1976. I actually completed my first quilt for myself in 1976 after we had built this house and it was a Dresden Plate quilt that I had made for our bed for this house.

HR: So first you helped with the minister's quilt and then you moved on to your own?

CW: Yes, I didn't know you were supposed to use quarter inch seams and some of this stuff and Fern was very patient and very kind. Even when I did my first quilt, I didn't know how to do the math. She was a retired teacher. She did the math for my first few quilts. To this day, I don't know what method she used or how she came up with the yardage, but she said 'ok, this is what you need' and she and I would get in the car and we'd go to Minnesota Fabrics or something like that. At that time there weren't quilt shops. Back in those days, about the best cotton fabric that we could find was calico. That's basically all there was so we used a lot of calico in the beginning.

HR: What made it the best quality?

CW: It was the best we could afford. She was a farm lady. She was a gardener and she shared plants with me. I think she taught me that the world is full of color. I remember as a little girl coloring a lot and liking to do that and I remember early in one of my quilts I said, 'I'm not just sure this color goes with that.' And she said, 'You know in God's world, it doesn't matter. It all goes together.' The other two ladies who helped us with this minister's quilt were Myrtle and Lorien. These three women basically used what they had. Yes, they may go out and buy one little piece of fabric to add to their conglomeration of fabrics, but they basically used what they had. That taught me a good lesson in frugality. To take a bunch of something and make it into something beautiful. So it was a creative outlet, which I didn't realize at the time. But some of those quilts, if you were to go to a color class today and you would say sky blue or pink doesn't belong with god awful green, they wouldn't buy into that. They would put those colors together and yet, as a whole, that quilt was phenomenal. They taught me early to love it.

HR: Was Fern retired at that time?

CW: She was, she was a white haired lady. I don't remember just how long she had been retired. Her mother had been a quilter. In fact, I have three or four blocks downstairs in my quilting room that her mother had made and that she shared with me. Again, the bottom line being, they used what they had. How fascinating to remember that these were old fabrics, but they had been preserved, had been kept. Fern kept them; she didn't know what to do with them. She passed them on to me and by the grace of God, I will get to them one of these days and put them into something that she and her mother would both be proud of because they are wonderful fabrics.

HR: She probably made clothing also and had scraps from that.

CW: She did and she remembered one day being under her mother's quilt frame and she could see her mother's hand working across this quilt. She went from underneath the quilt and asked her mother if she could do that. Her mother said, 'no you can't, the needle is too sharp, you're too little." So at her tender age, and I don't remember how old she was, she already knew that she wanted to do what her mom was doing.

HR: So you mostly learned from Fern and maybe these two other women also.

CW: I've taken a few classes over the years. My biggest adventure in quilting came across the T.V. because Georgia Bonesteel, many years ago, a very famous, nationally known quilter had a series on Channel 2. I would try not to miss that because when I started quilting the primary magazine was Quilters' Newsletter, which Fern introduced me to. Once the Paducah quilt museum was started then she advised me about that and kept telling me for years 'oh you've got to go there.' In those days and ages, up until 1976 which was a big banner year for quilting because of the Bicentennial, yeah, there were quilters around, but there weren't quilt groups, there weren't quilt stores and there weren't quilt magazines. If there were a few quilt magazines out like Quilters' Newsletter, of which I have one of their early issues downstairs, it was printed in black and white. It was in the era of templates and doing it the old way, which was perfectly fine and the only way we knew how to do it in those days. The whole realm of quilting has changed so dramatically with the invention of the rotary cutter and computers and color and the wonderful technology that we have today.

HR: You mentioned that you remembered your grandmother having a quilt but you don't remember her making them.

CW: No, my grandma was a crafty person. She couldn't read instructions. She could look at a picture and crochet anything. I remember these quilts on the bed. They were tied. They had knobs where the yarn had been washed and they were every color. And I believe they were actually feed sacks. The reason I say that is when we would come into her house you had to wipe your feet. Well, she didn't have rugs. She had feed sacks. She would sew flannel in between, and that 'rug' would be on the floor and we were to wipe our shoes off before we could go into her kitchen. So I believe she made the quilts because I know my aunt, her sister who lived next door, was not a sewer at all. But grandma could crochet and in her retirement, she sent away for different craft things she would see like in the Workbasket magazine. She couldn't read instructions, but she'd duplicate the picture every time. My mother was also a sewer and the closest she ever came to anything in the quilt world was making yo-yos. She also sewed our dresses. I remember a peach coat that she made so I could go to kindergarten. She was a sewer, so I was exposed to the sewing end of the world, but up until I went into high school and learned how to sew for myself and then as a young bride taught myself how to quilt, I was not exposed to quilts much.

HR: Any guesses about why your mother didn't quilt?

CW: Well, my mom had to go to work. There were three of us girls for a long time then all of a sudden we had a set of twins and another brother. Once there were six of us, then it necessitated that she go to work. So I got to become the mainframe babysitter. So I would guess that would be a reason. She just plain did not have the time. She would work the kind of job that started at 4:00 in the afternoon, so I could get home to babysit my brothers and sisters. So, no, she didn't do any quilting.

HR: And what about your sisters?

CW: My sisters look at me like I'm something from outer space because I can quilt. My next younger sister is two years younger and she is right on the edge of getting into the computer world. She was a worker bee with her family for a long time. And for me to sit at home and be content to sit at a sewing machine and sew is not something she thinks is a viable thing to do when you can be at a computer doing something else. My other two sisters just never got into it either. Just the difference in their ages had a lot to do with it because when I was in high school we were still taking Home Ec [Home Economics Class] and two years after that, yes, my sister took Home Ec, but didn't take to the sewing end of it. She didn't really do the extensive Home Ec that I had.

HR: How does quilting fit into your days now? What time of day do you like to quilt or how often?

CW: I'm very luckily retired and I have all this time. Quilting is a huge part of my life. I'm blessed to have a sewing room that I thoroughly enjoy. I can go down there and shut out the world and I can lose myself in the color and the fabric and the design. The rest of the world is nonexistent. I try to at least get some quilting done each day. I'm a hand quilter and that takes time. My husband is a sports nut, so we watch a lot of TV with sports on it. It allows me to be with him doing something that he wants to do but it also gives me a chance to do what I want to do. So it's a huge part of my life. I tried crocheting, macramé, counted cross stich, embroidery work. I tried tatting. I tried all that stuff and I fell into quilting. Part of the quilting aspect for me is that it is a function. It's something I can use when I get through with it. When I give a quilt away I expect it to be used. I don't want it to be parked on the wall and admired, especially if it is for a child or a baby quilt. I expect that child to use that quilt. My niece who is now in her late twenties has two beautiful young daughters. And with her second daughter last year she brought to me the quilt that I had made for her and she said 'could you repair it' so her younger daughter could use it for a while. So her quilt was used for both of her daughters. That's why I quilt. That's why I quilt. It's a huge part of who I am.

HR: Do you do machine piecing?

CW: I do machine piecing. I wanted to be politically correct. The second quilt I made was a Rail Fence for our son's bedroom and I decided at that time to be politically correct I should hand piece that Rail Fence and I did. And that's the last one I've done. It was twin size. It was red, white and blue. I was so thoroughly bored with hand piecing that I thought, 'there must be a better way,' so I generally machine piece. I have so many quilts that I want to do that for me to sit and hand piece just isn't an option. It just takes too long, but I can say I did one and I'm proud I did that one. There are times when if I'm piecing a difficult block and can't get the machine to do what I want it to do then I will bite the bullet and put in a few stiches that way. But to actually sit and piece a block by hand is not an option.

HR: So you do your piecing in your sewing room. And you do mostly hand quilting?

CW: I do 99% hand quilting. The wonderful women who helped me with that minister's quilt would rise up out of their graves if I did machine quilting. I know there is a place for machine quilting, and I have no problem with that. People are busy; they need to see a finished product, an end result. I understand that. But in the deepest part of my heart, the joy that I get from hand quilting far outweighs the fact that I can't get as many done as I would like because I'm a hand quilter. I think that hand quilted quilts have a different aura versus a machine quilted quilt. I have seen some beautiful machine quilting. If I was a machine quilter I would try to emulate what Diane Budinski does. She is a fabulous machine quilter. But again, I just think hand quilted quilts have a different aura, a different feel. A different sense of who they are.

HR: Are there certain fabrics or certain tools that you especially like to use?

CW: One of my early quilts was an Ocean Waves quilt which encompasses thirty some odd triangles in the block. I did that the old way. I cut a template out of cardboard. I drew around that template onto the fabric. I cut every one of those triangles out by hand. I machine pieced that quilt, was glad to do it, but the invention of the rotary cutter is like a miracle. I can't fathom going back to doing it the old way. The rotary cutter was such a marvelous invention. It not only helps the speed of cutting, but the accuracy increased a hundred fold as soon as I started to use a rotary cutter. There are tips and things you need to remember when using them. I just can't imagine any other gadget that we've come up with in the quilt world since 1976 that was as important to this endeavor as that rotary cutter. The beautiful thread that we have now and the colors of the fabrics and the designs on the fabrics and all that is so a part of what is quilting today, but that rotary cutter was the best invention ever. The rulers are fabulous. They've come a long way. The patterns that we have available. The instructions are easier to read and easier to work with. But that rotary cutter was a lifesaver for many of us because it allows us to do it quicker and produce more, so that we can go on to the next thing. I think like most quilters, about the time I'm working on quilting the last border of a quilt or I'm putting the binding on, my mind is already two or three quilts ahead and which one is next and how am I going to do that and I can't wait to get there to do that. I can't say enough about the rotary cutter. I wish I had invented it. [laughs].

HR: Do you have a favorite kind of batting or a favorite kind of thread?

CW: I generally use polyester for a number of reasons. I like that polyester is as strong as it is. When I first started quilting, I did a number of quilts for other people. They would bring me an old quilt. I would take it apart and put it back together with a new batting. I oftentimes ran into the old time cotton batting and it was just a pain to take apart this old quilt because the cotton had bunched up so badly. I remember requilting a top for my husband's cousin that had cotton batting in it. Because of the age of the fabric and the cotton that had seeded itself into some of the seams, there were spots on that quilt I could not push a hand quilting needle through. It was that strong and that stiff. So I really appreciate the fact that the cotton I have tried using has changed dramatically. It's nice cotton to quilt through. I like the fact that we have a choice of batting. When I started it was either cotton or polyester and oftentimes you didn't have a choice of the weight. It was just what was available. So I like the fact that the quilt world has expanded itself to have the different battings. I've quilted on wool. I've quilted on cotton. And I fall back to polyester every time. The ease of quilting is a big reason and the durability that I'm finding with it. The polyester has changed also. It's not as stiff as I remember it in the beginning so it's a little more breathable. It makes for a cozier quilt these days, so I prefer polyester.

HR: You probably use all cotton for your tops.

CW: I did. When I first started quilting, my first quilt for our bed I did a Dresdan Plate. I machine pieced the Dresdan Plates, machine appliqued them onto the background, which was a sheet, a polyester blend sheet, and the backing was a polyester blend sheet. That's what I was taught. And at the time you could go to a store in Faribault and get a double bed sized sheet for $3, so it was economical as well. Well, consequently, there was one cotton blend in the Dresden Plate and the other colors were cotton. Well, they disintegrated into nothing, but the background was perfect and so was the cotton blend. [laughs.] But the rest just went by the wayside. So right now and for many years since then for the piecing end of it, I've used strictly cotton. There again, the quilt world has evolved in the cotton industry. We've got much better cotton to work with these days. The dyes that they are using and the yarn they are using to create the cotton is just so much better than it used to be, much tighter woven. The quilting fabric that is available these days is remarkable.

HR: What classes have you taken?

CW: I took a Bargello class from Georgia Bonesteel. I've taken hand applique from Pat Cox. I've taken a dyeing class where we actually dyed fabric from a gal by the name of Elna. I've listened in on every class we've offered at Northfield Quilters. I have listened to numerous lectures on quilting at the Minnesota Quilt Conference every year.

HR: You've been a member of the Northfield Quilters?

CW: I'm very proud to say that I'm one of the founding members of that quilt club. We had a store in town called Jacobson's and they got into quilting in a big way and so consequently a group of town ladies, of course I'm from the country, but a group of town ladies decided they were going to start a quilt club and I went in to buy fabric at Jacobson's one day and the gal who was running the shop said 'Oh we're going to have a quilt meeting. Would you like to come to quilt club?' and I said, 'I would be glad to come to quilt club.' So I am considered one of the founding members of that club. I've actually been president of that club twice and it was a wonderful experience both times and the fact that this club is still going strong is a real bee in my bonnet because it was something the town needed back then and needs even more these days, so I'm really proud of Northfield Quilters.

HR: That's interesting that it got started out of the store. Would people gather there?

CW: The funny thing is once Northfield Quilt Club got established enough to have a quilt show, quilters are notorious for making friends with each other, but up until we had our first quilt show we were kinda individualistic. We would do our thing. We would come to quilt club. But once we got the idea 'oh, we could put on a quilt show to show what we're doing' then the club got more cohesive, even friendlier because we had a common goal to work for. Who can go to a quilt club meeting and not be inspired either by someone else's work or someone else's new technique or somebody's slant on a new quilt store. There is always something at quilt meeting to be learned if you are a quilter. I've often said since 1976 when I made my first quilt when I stop learning something with every quilt that I do then I won't make another quilt. Well, I'm still at it and I'm going to be at it for a good long time because they teach me something every time I make a quilt, as does quilt club, every meeting I go to.

HR: Do you remember what year that was when it started?

CW: I would have to go get my book to be sure. I think it was in the 1980's. I'd have to look at the scrapbook to know for sure.

HR: And how long do you think it was before you did the quilt show?

CW: We did a quilt show relatively soon. I would say within a couple years. Mainly because some of these gals had been taking quilt classes at another store in town, The Sewing Basket. So they already had a class or two under their belts. In the process of talking we realized that we could probably do a quilt show. One of the gal's magic number was we had to have a hundred quilts to do a show, so once we got to that point it was very simple to find a place and put on a quilt show and display what we've done.

HR: Have you ever made a quilt in a group?

CW: Often. Because of Northfield Quilt Club. We have a lot of worker bees and it's traditionally been that way. But then there were some of us who were blessed not to have to be worker bees out. So oftentimes the group of gals I get together with once a week, we often made the quilt top for the raffle quilt for Northfield Quilters Quilt Show. I can think of one quilt that was a house quilt. We all made a block with a house on it. The very first raffle quilt that Northfield Quilt Club did was a series of blocks put together by the store, Jacobson's. Once that quilt was put together then all of us quilted on that quilt. It was set up on a frame at the Methodist Church and left there and we would come once or twice a week and hand quilt that quilt to get it ready for our upcoming quilt show.

HR: So you all would do it together at the same time?

CW: Yes. I don't know how many quilts I've worked on over and above my own just helping people out for Northfield Quilt Club primarily. Even our show last year we did a hand quilted quilt and again spent time working on that too. So I worked many many many different times on quilts with groups. Even the weekly group I got involved with, there were block of the months that we were doing at one time and if you were lucky enough to win those blocks, then it was imperative that you get that quilt together and then we would get it quilted so we could show the rest of the club that that quilt had been taken care of.

HR: What is your favorite part of making a quilt and your least favorite part?

CW: My favorite part of quilting is the hand quilting. I think my hand quilting not only connects me to the women who taught me to quilt, but it gives me a connection to any woman who has ever quilted. When I'm hand quilting a quilt my thoughts and the thoughts that I have, the quilt knows. I don't just sit there and think about the next quilt I'm making. I'm also thinking about the world situation or something that's going on in our family or the fact that there is this new blessing in my life or that 'oh, that red fabric isn't quite the color I was hoping it was going to be but it's ok.' So these quilts know more about me than anyone else because it is my way of handling life. Every stitch I make is a stitch of love. If I could not do it that way, I could not hand quilt. I put everything I've got into these quilts because they are who I am. I want to share my color eye. I want to share the beauty that I see in fabric. I want to share the technique. I want them to know that this is done for them, specially. I want whoever gets this quilt to realize that for a time this woman sat in this place making this quilt for you. I've done over 200 quilts. I really only own 25. That's not saying that the tops I have to quilt yet aren't going to stay here, but for the most part, it's easy for me to make a quilt and give it away to someone special because that is my way of thanking God for my color eye for the fact that I can quilt, that I can look at a fabric and see it in a quilt doing this versus that, that I can share this with other women. I think it's imperative that we women who are so busy somehow find the time to do something for ourselves because in doing that for ourselves then we can make our family life better and the world we live in a better place to live because we can give it our best shot. Quilting does that for me. It gives me a chance to be who I am but it doesn't let me stay there. It lets me branch out into the world to share what I know, what I've learned, and hopefully something I can pass on that will be lasting and that will mean something to someone.

HR: That's wonderful. And is there a part of the process that you like the least?

CW: Binding. I think it's the least creative part.

HR: I'd like to hear more about the weekly group you are a part of.

CW: We are a weekly group. We gather on Tuesdays. Northfield Quilt Club started this weekly group. Some of us would say once a month just isn't enough. That's how we got started. We've been doing this weekly business for so long that we can't remember what year we started. We got it narrowed down; we think it was in the early 1980's. So we've been doing this for twenty plus years. These gals are my dearest friends. We have such a good time together. We talk quilting; we talk life; we talk technique for quilting; we talk new gadgets; we talk thread; we talk batting; we talk everything about quilting because it's our common interest. We go to quilt shows. We do quilt runs. We've travelled together. It's just been such a blessing. I think women in particular need other women because we all have families. We are all tossed and pulled and yanked here and there trying to be what we have to be for our families, and that's who we are too, but at the same time there is a part of us that is creative that needs to get together with another woman to say 'I wish I hadn't used that color. Next time tell me not to use that color.' Or 'why did I try that thread when I really should have been using that thread.' So it's that kind of interaction that keeps us together. Often on quilt day before the end of the day is out someone will inevitably say 'I've finally relaxed.' That's what quilting is all about, taking time to get yourself back to who you are. I wouldn't miss it for the world, and when I do I really feel strange, and I bet we probably act strange too.

HR: How many of you are there?

CW: The Wednesday group has merged with the Tuesday group. The Tuesday group was five up until one of our gals died and then we were four for a long time. Then one of the older gals decided not to join us, so then we were down to three. So we merged with the Tuesday group. And now we are back up to six or seven when the other two snowbirds come home. So it evolves again. Just like the quilt world keeps changing so does the weekly group. The neat thing about this weekly group is that from the beginning we have had gals in the 80's, the 70's, two of us in our 60's, so we've got a diverse age group and even with the merge with the Tuesday group we still have that age range and that's fascinating.

HR: You meet in each other's homes?

CW: We take turns hosting so that nobody has to do a whole lot of cooking. This is an all day affair we generally start at 9:00 or 9:30 and we go until 3:00 in the afternoon. So it involves making a lunch and just being together and hand quilting. All of us are hand quilters. We just keep that art going.

HR: You said you bring your own lunch?

CW: No, we don't. We tried that, but then one of the gals said 'oh, but I want to try this.' So we are kind off each others' goats. We try new recipes out. One gal said her husband doesn't like onions and another said her husband doesn't like beans. So we try different things like that. We are friends. Friends do.

HR: So you get to share cooking along with quilts.

CW: Absolutely. And I think we are honest enough. If we don't like what's being made, we let each other know. There are ways that we can tell. We try to cater to each other because we have some gals with food allergies, and that's just all part of it because it makes us more of who we are and what we are. I worked with young people for many many years in our school system and I thoroughly enjoyed it and one thing that I think the quilt group teaches that we should be teaching our children is just plain tolerance. The fact that we all have our likes and dislikes, but we can all get along and quilting is that common bond that helps us get along.

HR: We're running out of time but I'll look to see if there are other questions I wanted to ask.

CW: There was one question about who has influenced my quilting career. I can't peg down one person. What I get from quilting, the weekly group or the monthly group or going to a quilt conference or going to a quilt store. Every time I do one of those things something has tweaked me. Something has said 'ok, you need to try that.' Now I probably wouldn't have put those two colors together, but look how they work. I learned something from every exposure I've ever had to quilting whether it be my weekly group, my monthly group, the quilt conferences, the quilt stores, the magazines I pick up, the things that I read about what's new in the quilt world, the fact that there is so much in the quilt world that you can absorb like a sponge. I really hope and I pray that as I get older I try new things. I just recently challenged myself to try a new technique. It had been a long time. I've quilted for a long time. I got into this rut that said 'oh, you know it all.' And then I realized, 'no, maybe you don't.' So I tried a new technique. Am I convinced that the technique is worth it? I don't know. This baby blanket is the end result of that. But I needed the challenge. That's what quilting is all about: a challenge, keep your mind going, keep the love of this. This is my passion. Keep it going, share it with other people. Let people understand the history behind it because this is something we women do for ourselves, but we do it for other women as well. With today's technology and this kind of interview, we can keep this history going. It is a valuable part of who a quilter is, I believe.

HR: Ok, are there any other questions you wanted to be sure to get to?

CW: No, everyone inspires me in the quilt world.

HR: One question I think is really interesting is if you think there are things about your quilts that reflect your community or region?

CW: I believe that. I've been lucky enough to travel to the Southwest, Arizona, a few winters. I know when I walk into the quilt stores in Arizona that the coloration is entirely different than what we have up here in Minnesota. They are very southwestern oriented, very bright vivid colors down in that part of the world. For a long time, a very long time, you never ever saw yellow in a quilt. Yellow is that wonderful color your eye will pick up in a quilt right now. It's the first color your eye will see. So consequently, in the beginning, we were told not to use yellow. Well that is no longer the case. We can use yellow. I know friends from quilt club who have travelled out East and the coloration of the fabrics out there is completely different, again, from what we use in this part of the U.S. I've been to the Northwest, even been to Alaska and even the colors in the quilt store up there were different. It is amazing that even with modern technology you can still have these different color variations throughout the country. I look for that to continue happening, because that too is part of this quilt world. I think it's fascinating that my sister-in-law, who I love dearly, is very much southwest oriented even though she lives in Michigan half of the year. Her house in Michigan is a different color from her house in Arizona. They are different yet they are the same. That's fascinating to me. We live in a world of color. And the quilt world helps you see color in a different way. I tell new quilters don't worry about putting greens together. They say 'well, it doesn't quite go' I say, 'no, you look out at our world. You look out the window at any given moment during the summer and you will see a dozen greens, so don't worry about the greens. Yellow, that might be a little different subject.' Color. Quilting teaches us color and to be aware of what's going on around us that way.

HR: Well I think we better stop even though I feel like we could go on talking all day.

HR: I'd like to thank Cookie Williams for allowing me to interview her as part of the Quilters' Save Our Stories project in Northfield, Minnesota. Our interview concluded at 2:20 p.m.



“Candace "Cookie" Williams,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 25, 2024,