Anne Rolfe


MI49016-005 Rolfe.jpg


Anne Rolfe


Anne Rolfe was interviewed as part of the South Central Michigan QSOS. She shares her experience making quilts for friends and family and how she learned to quilt.




Anne Rolfe


Estella Spate

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Vicki Coody Mangum


Battle Creek, Michigan


Estella Spates (ES): Good afternoon. This is Estella Spates and I'm interviewing Anne Rolfe at her home in Battle Creek [Michigan.]. Today is May 18, 2009 and it is 2:13 p.m. Anne tell me about the quilt that you selected for this interview.

Anne Rolfe (AR): This is a quilt that I made at The Quiltery. I took the class. I think it was 1996. It's called Star of Wonder and each block has sixty two pieces. It was a big challenge to me. So it took a while to get it finished, but, anyway, when I got it all done I had it machine quilted by Ruth Dean and I enjoy it and I get it out at Christmas time. I put it on the back of the couch so I can enjoy it and people that come in can enjoy it so I really like it.

ES: You've told me about it being a Christmas quilt. Does it have any other special meanings to you?

AR: No, not, just that I like it.

ES: And why did you choose this quilt as your interview piece?

AR: Just because it was such a big challenge for me. Because I thought I'd never get it done.

ES: How do you use this quilt other than just putting it on the couch?

AR: Oh, sometimes I'll put it on the bed in the guest bedroom. So people can see it.

ES: So do you have other plans for this quilt? Are you going to give it away? Or--

AR: Well, I only have two children and they both have their share of quilts, but when the time comes I might give them their choice of the lot that I've made.

ES: Tell me about your interest in quilting.

AR: Well, when I retired in the fall of 1989 the Kellogg friends of mine made me a quilt and it really excited me and really that got me started. So I took a beginners class at The Quiltery and Laurie Buhler, who's in our quilt guild, took that same class with me. I enjoy doing classes and I've taken a lot of them over the years.

ES: So you were retired when you started quilting?

AR: Yes, I was and I retired early. I was fifty seven and I joined the guild right away after I took beginner's class and I've always enjoyed the guild and being part of it.

ES: So you learned to quilt at The Quiltery? Or, did you--

AR: I had beginner's quilting there and I have taken a lot of classes there and I took some from Ruth Ann Dean and then different places.

ES: So you didn't start quilting at all before you retired or before you were fifty seven?

AR: Nope.
ES: How many hours a week do you quilt?

AR: Well, it depends on what I'm working on because if I start something I'm excited t\en I can't leave it alone. So, it depends if I'm working on something, probably a couple hours a day, maybe three days a week if I'm working on a quilt.

ES: What is your first quilt memory?

AR: Well, let's see, can't remember now. Oh, it was a sampler that we had to draft our patterns and cut it all out by hand. And then I think I enjoy machine piecing. Then, when I got it all together, then I layered it and I hand quilted it. The first one that was given to me was all layered and the binding was on but I had to hand quilt it. And two quilters came to my house to show me how to do that. Winnie Rambaugh and Eddie Bowserman.

ES: Are there other quiltmakers among your families?

AR: It goes way back. On my husband's side, his great grandmother. We happen to have three of her quilts and my mother and grandmother did some quilting. More my grandmother than my mother. When the kids were young, they made them quilts but I didn't know any better and we used them all the time. We wore them out.

ES: You have friends that quilt also?

AR: Yes, I do. Of course, I lost my friend Eddie Bowserman. Friends in the guild, Veronica Graham and all of you girls that I share the guild with that like quilting.

ES: How does quilting impact your family?

AR: They love it. They both have more than the law allows. [laughs.]

ES: Tell me if you have ever used quilts to get through a difficult time in your life.

AR: Well, not necessarily. No, I don't believe I have.

ES: Tell me about your most amusing experience that occurred when you were quilting.

AR: I've made mistakes where I've had to unsew. That's kind of amusing when you are not paying attention. How easy that happens. And you learn by your mistakes, so then you pay more attention.

ES: What do you find pleasing about quilting?

AR: It's just real satisfying when you get one all finished.

ES: What part of quilting do you most enjoy?

AR: Well, I guess putting the blocks together and laying it out and joining them, trying to get it done.

ES: What quilt groups do you belong to?

AR: Just the one at Christ United Methodist Church. We sew for charity. We do lap quilts and baby quilts and we have done larger ones. We only do it from the fall until the summer months and then we take a little break. But we do things at home we can turn in.

ES: What about Cal-Co Quilters?

AR: Well, I always help when they have their shows. And I used to help on the library, but then when my husband was alive we'd go away the winter months and maybe be gone for four months, so I hated to volunteer because I wouldn't be there to do my job.

ES: Have advances in techniques influenced your quilt work?

AR: Yes, it has.

ES: And how is that?

AR: Well, just by taking classes in different patterns you learn different techniques.

ES: Now, when--did you start quilting when, you know, they were making templates--

AR: Yes, I--

ES: And then you graduated to using a rotary cutter? Was using a rotary cutter hard for you to learn or--

AR: No, I enjoyed it after once learned how. I did an appliqué quilt where, and another one where you had to make a template.

ES: What is your favorite technique? And materials to use?

AR: Well, I can't think off hand. That appliqué quilt was fun while I was doing it, but it took me a long time because every piece you had to cut out and appliqué on the block and it took me two years to get it finished and it was all hand quilting.

ES: You like appliqué better than piecing?

AR: Not really. I think I like piecing better.

ES: Do you have a studio or a quilt room?

AR: No, I live alone and I don't have a separate room but I enjoy sewing in my front dining room and then I press in the kitchen. I'm here by myself so I spread out.

ES: How do you balance your time when you're quilting? Do you have to make time for other things because you're so involved with your quilting, or you plan to do so much each day?

AR: Well, I usually get my errands done and do what I've got to do if I'm going to sew and then come home and do that in the evening.

ES: Do you have a design wall? Do you--

AR: No, I don't.

ES: How do you design your quilt? Do you--

AR: Well, I either lay things out on the bed or I lay them out on the floor.

ES: What do you think makes a great quilt?

AR: Well, the design. That's most of it, I guess.

ES: What makes a quilt artistically perfect?

AR; I don't know. I can't think.

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

AR: I got one that my husband's great grandmother made and a cousin gave me the top and I had it hand quilted. And a friend of mine looked up the pattern. It's called the Garden of Eden. And that was, is interesting. It's quite old. It don't look like it because it's been well taken care of.

ES: What makes a great quilter?

AR: Well, somebody that's very dedicated and enjoys doing what they're doing and who gives of their time and their talent.

ES: Whose work do you like? Whose work are you drawn to? Quilt artists are you drawn to, or, I should say, do you like certain quilt artists better than others?

AR: Well, I like to watch the quilt show on Saturday on PBS. Kaye Woods and Nancy
[Zeeman.] from Wisconsin. That's interesting and gives you ideas. So, I can't think of any one quilter that I like but they're both pretty good.

ES: How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting? Versus the longarm quilter?

AR: Well, I was in a car accident and I broke my thumb and it bothered me so then I went to having people finish my quilts but if it's small I'll do it by hand.

ES: Have you ever done the machine quilting--

AR: No, I never do that.

ES: On a domestic quilt?

AR: No. My machine is just a Pfaff, but I really haven't got--I've taken a class on machine quilting, but it takes practice.

ES: Why is quilting important to you?

AR: Well, I do and my kids enjoy them, too. And I've made them for my all of my family, friends and my great grandchildren and they like them because Grandma made them.

ES: In what way do your quilts reflect your community?

AR: Well, I suppose what I've done for charity, through the church and like, the guild doing the baby quilts. Last year I did quite a few for them. And it makes you feel good to be able to participate.

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

AR: I think it's wonderful. I think at one time they thought it was a dying art, but I think it's really alive because when you go on trips and stop to quilts shows. Twice, now I've went to the national quilt show in Chicago. Oh, my, it's mind boggling. It really makes you excited.

ES: In what way do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history, women in history in America?

AR: I think it's wonderful how it goes way back to the--here in Battle Creek [Michigan.] was it the Underground Railroad? Then they used quilts for signals and I think that is terrific. Just, it really goes way back and it's part of our history and I think it's marvelous, wonderful.

ES: How do you think quilts can be used?

AR: Well, they can be used on the bed or they can be used like, as a wall hanging, or just for friendship, or you can give them to a friend. There's all kinds of ways.

ES: And you've mentioned before about the charities that you give your quilts to. You want to tell more about that?

AR: Our church, Christ United, we have a lot of older people and they give them to ladies that belong to our church in nursing the homes. The baby quilts, once a year they have a baby shower and so that's, I think give them back to the Charitable Union and they dispense with them.

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

AR: Well, by letting them breathe and not sealing them up where they can't breathe and maybe airing them once a year. Refolding them and keeping them so they don't get worn where they're folded. I guess that's it.

ES: And you do that to all your quilts?

AR: Well, usually, now I aired one yesterday because I hadn't had it out, but once a year maybe I'll string a line in the backyard and hang some outside for a while.

ES: And does that bring your neighbors over to talk about your quilts--

AR: Well, all my neighbors work and our neighborhood has changed because I've lived here so many years. They don't run over.

ES: What has happened to the quilts that you have made? For your friends and your family.

AR: Well, I made one specifically for a good friend of mine and her daughter got cancer and she passed away about four years ago. So the quilt I gave her, my friend passed it on to her son that had children. So it's continued being used and it's in her memory because I made it for her. So, it makes you feel good.

ES: Any other quilts that you've given away that have a history or a story?

AR: No, I can't think, off hand. Oh, my cousin, Barb, when she lost her husband, she had some quilt tops that were unfinished and her husband's grandmother made them. So I had one of those finished and gave it back to her. She gave them to me.

ES: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quilters today?

AR: I just don't think--there's always a lot to think about. There's so many designs.

ER: Tell me about the last quilt project that you worked on.

AR: I can't think, probably baby quilts. Probably for the Church and the guild. Other than, oh, when I went to camp and I made a purse and I like it. Turned out nice and everybody's is different.

ES: Do you use that purse a lot?

AR: Yes, I have. I've already, yep.

ES: Will you make other purses?

AR: I got, I already got the fabric and I hope to make one soon.

ES: And will you give purses away as--

AR: Yes. A gift?

ES: Gifts this year?

AR: I think so.

ES: Are there other crafts, projects and any other, any other type of art work that you participate in doing?

AR: Well, at camp one year we did the chenille jackets. And I enjoyed that class.

ES: Did you make any more chenille jackets?

AR: No, I didn't. And then I made this quilted tote to carry supplies back and forth. And then I made, one year went on a shop hop, and I made some table runners. I can't think. I got wall hangings that I've made.

ES: Now do you make lots of gifts, quilts as gifts to friends.

AR: I have if I go away to Florida. This winter I made baked potato bags for my neighbors and then made pot holders and the year before last we had quilt classes down there. A lady from Pennsylvania. And we made a lot of small projects. It was fun.

ES: Anything else you would like to share with us, about your quilt experiences?

AR: Well, I can't. I've made a lot of them. This here was a challenge. It was from camp. We start everything there, but then we finish it at home.

ES: And what is that called?

AR: Well, I think it was called Baker Bars. Baker Bars.

ES: Did you have that quilted?

AR: Yes, I did.

ES: Okay, Anne. Thank you for the interview. This has been Estella Spates interviewing Anne Rolfe at her home in Battle Creek. Today is May 18, [2009.] and the time is 2:35.

Interview Keyword

Quilts as gifts
Social quiltmaking activities
Learning quiltmaking


“Anne Rolfe,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed March 1, 2024,