Elsie Campbell




Elsie Campbell


Karen Bennick interviews Elsie Campbell, an award-winning quilter and former educator. Campbell discusses a quilt she created for her son, called "World Peace", which she created to commemorate his world travels. She recalls how she first became interested in quilting and her extensive interest in fabric arts from a young age. Campbell talks about her quilting influences, particularly Mennonite and Amish patterns from her childhood as a Mennonite. She talks about her creative processes in creating quilt designs and executing the designs. Campbell also details her job as an editor and writer for the "Quilting Today" magazine, in which she has been published several times. Campbell discusses her personal beliefs about quilting, including preferred design and sewing methods, how to teach quilting to future generations, and the importance of proper care and conservation of quilts by the public.




Textile artists
Decorative arts
Crafts & decorating
Women's history
Periodical editors
National Quilt Museum


Elsie Campbell


Karen Bennick

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Pam Neil


Houston, Texas


Heather Gibson


Karen Bennick (KB): It's October 23, 1999 at the International Quilt Show in Houston, Texas. I don't have one of your quilts right here in front of us so what we will discuss is the articles that you've brought in and the stuff that you like. I know it is difficult when you don't know ahead of time when you are going to be interviewed and we would like to of had some pieces of fabric right here in front of us to look at. If you had a choice to bring in a quilt, what quilt would you have brought in today?

Elsie Campbell (EC): I would have brought in my son Kerry's "World Peace" quilt.

KB: Tell me about the quilt.

EC: It was started in September, near his 19th birthday. It took about a year and a half to make. Kerry is an international traveler. He traveled to Japan when he was only fourteen as part of a 4-H exchange and stayed with the family whose son we hosted two years prior. Kerry just loves to travel. After returning from Japan he saved his money from the newspaper route and working at McDonalds and instead of buying a truck like most 17 year old kids did, he went to Europe and toured by himself for ten weeks. He went to Switzerland and the Czech Republic, and visited friend and acquaintances we had there. There are flying geese blocks around the edges that represent the flying he had to do to go to all these other countries. These blocks were sent to friends, family, and places where he stayed and they signed them and sent them back to me. Here is his Japanese family in the left corner. His Swiss friends and family and his Czech Republic family and aunts and uncles, grandparents, and several other people that have since passed on have signed here. Teachers from high school, buddies, everybody I could find signed blocks then I made little people to represent some of the countries he has been to and some of the countries he would like to go to. This little fellow right here is Kerry himself.

KB: Isn't that wonderful. I see that he is on a bicycle there.

EC: His three most prized possessions are pictured. He's wearing his favorite "Free Wheel" t-shirt. "Free Wheel" is a cross-country bike ride that Kerry does every summer through Oklahoma. He has this one t-shirt that he likes to wear all the time and his plaid shorts that he loved. He is a photographer and he photographs all my quilts. Matter of fact, he took this picture that I'm showing you. So he has his a camera around his neck. He is holding his clarinet, which is also one of his prized possessions. He does cross-country bicycle riding and he has done some racing. He's won some trophies from his bike racing.

KB: Obviously, his mom is really impressed.

EC: I was really pleased with what he's done and with the quilt.

KB: The different fabrics that are in the globe itself in the center of the quilt, is there a specific--

EC: Earth tones. I just pulled everything out of my stash and sorted through them one night into lights and darks. I started about 5:30 in the evening and had the whole thing pieced by 10:00 p.m. Then I used freezer templates to draft one quarter of it right there [points to the quilt.] and I drew the lines and then cut them apart and ironed them onto fabric. I laid the fabrics light, dark face up and light, dark face down and then ironed a piece of freezer paper on the top piece and cut out one quarter-inch away then I laid them out in the globe. After removing the freezer paper I sewed them together in lengthwise strips. It worked really well.

KB: It is a very interesting print.

EC: It is adapted from one of Georgia Bonesteel's design. She used only twenty-six fabrics and mine has one hundred fabrics in it. I used the computer to print out the words: "Red and yellow, black and white. They are precious in his sight," from a children's hymn then I transferred that to fabric via paper-back web.

KB: So is this quilt like other quilts you have done or is this different?

EC: Totally different. I used fabric markers to add shading to the figures and I did some 3-D things. This one has ribbon-embroidered tulips

KB: That's the little Dutch girl?

EC: Yes, the little Dutch girl and there are actually gathers in her apron. I used fabric markers, pens and pencils and whatever else I could fine that would give the effect.

KB: It's very innovative but yet with a traditional look--.

EC: It was like playing paper dolls. I really enjoyed making it.

KB: It's enjoyable and you get so much pleasure from doing it.

EC: In the thinking stages is a quilt for Kerry's brother. I've accumulated fabrics and tried to get an idea that would be suitable for him because Kelly doesn't do all the world traveling so I have to come up with something unique for him. I am still working on it.

KB: Does he keep this quilt in his possession?

EC: Yes, he had until he went to France. He's in France right now. He flew out the first of September and he gave me custody of the quilt. And I got custody of the clarinet too.

KB: Did he take his bicycle?

EC: He tried but it cost two hundred dollars to ship it, so his Aunt and Uncle have custody of the bicycle until he gets back.

KB: Does he have any special plans for the quilt in the future?

EC: I am hoping to take it to Europe next spring with me and get some more of his friends over there to sign more places on the quilt. It's got plenty of room for more signatures.

KB: So it's an on going project. That's wonderful.

EC: The picture doesn't show it but on the back of the quilt is the label of an enlarged passport book with actual pages in it. I inked the cover with gold ink to make it look like a passport on the front and the fabric in the same color. Then I used fusible webbing to fuse the pages together so they are stiff. I am stitching little flags of the countries he visits and the families, dates, and the addresses of where he stays.

KB: This is going to be a life long treasure for him. He can do a lot more traveling and get a new passport. Now let's change the subject just a little bit. Tell me about your own interest in quilting. How are you connected to quilts and quilting? What types of quilting do you do? When did you start?

EC: I have always had a needle in my hand. I can't remember not sewing. My mom says I was about two years old and she would be sewing and I would sit at her feet and scream for a needle and thread. So she would double thread the needle and knot it and give me a piece of fabric and I would sit and play. I started making doll clothes probably before I was in school, just whipping things together. My sister and I each have a quilt made from blocks we stitched before we were in school. Mom would make a little two-inch cardboard template, and we were taught to trace around it onto fabric and then cut it out around the lines. We learned to butt them up so you didn't waste fabric. Then we would sit at Mother's treadle machine and we since were too little to reach the pedals on the treadle, one of us would turn the wheel while the other one would shove the fabric under the needle. We took turns turning the wheel and sewing. About ten years ago our mom found four-patch blocks in the closet and she turned them into quilts with plain alternate blocks between them. We each have a quilt made with four-patch blocks cut from fabric left over from our dresses.

KB: That is really special.

EC: Yes.

KB: Do you have any educational background towards quilting?

EC: I grew up with quilts on the bed. It was just a given fact of life. I grew up Mennonite in Deer Creek, Oklahoma where the ladies always quilted on Wednesdays, every Wednesday at the church. Even in the 1950s when quilting wasn't done in other places.

KB: So it has just been part of your life?

EC: It has been a big part. I didn't have a lot of respect for quilts. We had them on every bed and we used them up. That is what they were intended for, to keep us warm. And I still do that occasionally. I grew up around it. I majored in home economics. I have Bachelor's Degrees in Home Economics and Physical Education. I taught Home Economics three years before I had children. I didn't actually start quilting by myself. My mother and I made some quilts for the boys when they were tiny. I've got quilts we made in August of 1981, they are dated and the boys still have them but in 1987 I received a Velveeta cheese box full of diamond points that my Aunt Grace had cut out in 1967 intending to make a quilt out of them. She had pieced two of the star points for an eight-pointed star and the rest of the diamonds were still in this cheese box. It became my heritage from Aunt Grace. I decided that over my Christmas vacation, I was teaching Special Education then, 'I am going to do this.' I pieced together all the star points and then had to figure out how to set in all the squares and the triangles and put enough borders on it. It had to be king size; every first quilter has to make a quilt that is king size. So it was huge. I added enough borders so it fit the bed. The only two colors I could match in 1987 from 1967 were the lavender and the yellow. So when I laid it out on the bed, the first thing Ken, my husband, said was, 'I guess we are going to have to change the colors scheme in this room?' I said, 'Yeah.' [laughter.] I marked the quilt and the Deer Creek Mennonite ladies, quilted it for me that following summer. I drove down on Wednesdays and quilt with them. And we sat around the quilt frame; I had my ninety-two year old Great Aunt Marie on one side of me. Everybody is related who is sitting around the quilt frame. So we are quilting away and another ninety-year-old lady across the way, Marie Wickie said, 'You know Elsie, I think I remember quilting one like this for your Aunt Grace.' That was how I found out that there was a sister quilt. I went looking for it. At another cousin's house, she and I were looking through old pictures one night. There was a photograph of the ladies at the church quilting the sister in 1967. So that was verification that there actually was a sister quilt. I went to my Aunt Grace's only son, and asked about the sister quilt. Sure enough he had it in his closet. It was tattered and worn.

KB: Wonderful.

EC: I was really excited about that and asked to buy it. He refused to sell it. But I own the one that I made and the Mennonites finished. It is very precious to me. And that got me really interested in quilt history and quilting. At that point I started quilting by myself.

KB: Great. What do you enjoy about quilting?

EC: The process I enjoy most is the hand quilting. I have a tendency to do that for hours on end, and I have developed carpal tunnel syndrome. So I have to back off. I have found out that B vitamins really help. And I have got the little Handeez gloves. I have to make sure to limit myself to two hours and then wait and do other things for a half an hour or so before I can go back. But I have to alternate my activities.

KB: Is there anything about quilting that you dislike?

EC: That is a hard question to answer. There is nothing I dislike doing. Everything about it intrigues me. Probably the most difficult thing for me to do is machine quilting; I am trying to learn but is very frustrating because I am a good hand quilter. It is hard for me to sit at my machine and try to make it do what I can visualize in my head. I am learning.

KB: What do you think makes a great quilt?

EC: There's a group of about one hundred quilts out there [The Twentieth Century's 100 Best Quilts special exhibit.] and you can't pick out just one thing.

KB: In your opinion what makes a quilt great?

EC: The quilts in the exhibit are breath taking, every one of them. They are all unique and utterly different. I think the first thing that I am attracted to is color and then the design. The interplay of the two are extremely important. Size does not have a lot to do with it.

KB: What about workmanship?

EC: Workmanship, I think is way up there in my opinion because I pride myself on good workmanship. I mean it doesn't have the initial impact that color or design do. That is the first thing you see.

KB: So if it has a good color and design you add the workmanship.

EC: In 1994, I attended the AQS [American Quilt Society.] Show in Paducah, Kentucky. I walked into the museum of the American Quilt Society and there in front of me was Carol Bryer Fallert's "Cosmic Pelican." Tears rolled down my face. I have never seen or imagined a quilt could be that beautiful. I had never seen an art quilt before. Traditional pieced, traditional appliquéd, but I'd never seen anything like that in my life.

KB: That's a long way from the Mennonite's work, right?

EC: I was moved to tears and her work has inspired me throughout. The colors are spectacular. The lines are flowing and beautiful. And that's what I aspire to, but I am still stuck in traditional because that is where I am comfortable right now. I think I might have to do a little stretching. I have made a few attempts at art quilts but they are not the ones that are getting the attention that my traditional quilts do.

KB: What do you think it would take to make a quilt that would be museum quality? The workmanship I assume, like we just discussed.

EC: I think everything has to be working together to be a unified whole. I'm sure workmanship, I don't want to downplay workmanship, but I think there is a lot more to it than workmanship. Each quilt is unique. I don't know if this one is in the one hundred, the one with the quarter inch hexagons, is that in the one hundreds? The first thing that calls you there is the spectacular, linear design. And the colors are great, but for some reason it appears to me that the thing that is most spectacular and unique about it is the size of those little pieced hexagons. And that is a good reason to have it there even if the color, line, and design weren't as spectacular as they are. But it does work together for a unified whole when you back off from it. It calls you up close and says, 'Look at me close because I am special and unique,' and each one of them do that. I had a girlfriend in college who was an art major and I picked up a piece of her sculpture she had sitting on her desk. I just instinctively went over to the desk and picked it up and started stroking it and she came over, and I expected her to say, 'Don't touch my stuff.' She said, 'You know that is a sign of good art.' I said, 'What are you talking about?' She said, 'That you're compelled to pick it up and touch it.' I never thought of that. She said that's what says to her it is good art, that you are moved to be closer and to examine every aspect of it. And these quilts do that. They have tactile qualities that you want to touch and that's why quilt shows have all these signs "Do not touch," because you feel compelled to touch.

KB: You want to touch them.

EC: You want to very much. You are not supposed to, but boy, is it tempting.

KB: That is why we have the white glove ladies.

EC: Love to have those white gloves, but you know you don't get the same sensation with those white gloves on while you're handling those quilts. You want to know if the quilt is stuffed or not. You just want to feel it. You want to touch it. You want to be close to it and snuggle. I think that is important, too.

KB: Other than the actual quilting itself and the things that you have done, what is it about quilting that you really like?

EC: The people. I love the quilt shows. I never imagined the rapport you could have with a total stranger immediately because, 'Oh, you are a quilter?' 'Yeah.' All of a sudden you are a kin.

KB: Now I have looked at just the one for your son, but what ways do your quilts reflect your community or your region? Are you connected anyway that way?

EC: Well I grew up Mennonite. I am most attracted to Amish quilts. I am not positive it's because I grew up Mennonite because we didn't make quilts like that. Black was never in a quilt. The Mennonites wanted to use white background and if you brought in something with black on it they just rolled their eyes, 'Do we really want to quilt this? I don't think so.' They want something plain and easily quilted. The first time I saw the Amish quilts, I was in Dallas and took a class with Catherine Anthony and she had brought in, no it was Kansas Quilter's Association, KQO, and she had brought in her Amish quilt collection and was discussing Amish quilts. I recognized quilting designs that I had seen all my life. The pumpkin seed, another little one with a little curve point with points at the end. My mother called it "egg-and-dart." I recognized all these designs and I realized a kinship I had. I was very much attracted to the black. Black makes other colors pop. They sing on black. I have been attracted to black quilts and the color schemes that the Amish use. I made a quilt that I call "Pennsylvania Duchess" in 1996, I believe it was. This quilt here has a little history, too, this red and green appliqué one. In 1990, I became aware of a quilt-hat my great-great grandmother had made in 1857 documented. It was owned by my mother's cousins. I was allowed to trace the appliqué pattern and photograph the original quilt. Then I went home and made my own version. It was exhibited in Paducah in 1993. It won some awards, too, and has been published in books. In 1994, I had the privilege of hanging it side by side with my great grandmother's quilt in a quilt show in Arkansas City, Kansas, where I lived at the time. And that was a thrill to have those two quilts hanging side by side. My great grandmother had made her quilt in Ohio. I am still researching history of that design.

KB: What is the name of it?

EC: I just call it "Great Grandma's Goebel's Red and Green Appliqué Quilt."

KB: We are discussing the quilts that are in the magazines, Quilting Today, the December 13, 1999 issue, October 11, 1999 issue. She is also published in Traditional Quiltworks,

November 8, 1999 issue.

EC: I have just begun to write and edit with Chitra publications. I joined the staff on February 1st of this year.

KB: You have a whole new door opening in your life.

EC: Yeah. I am really excited about it.

KB: Did you freelance these or were you commissioned to write them?

EC: These articles, no. I am an editor. I write for the magazines. I moved to Pennsylvania in January and started this new job.

KB: So this is another aspect of your life, writing and editing. So how did you get into editing?

EC: In 1992, this quilt was in Paducah, [Kentucky.] this is "Broken Hearts for Daddy." This was a tribute to my father who passed away June of 1990. I started this right after he died from his heart attack. At the time my mother was undergoing a heart test because she has a heart condition that is very severe. I am looking at my hand work and appliquéing hearts. They are in four pieces and I think, 'This is just what I experienced. Our hearts are broken.' So I called it that. This quilt was shown in Paducah. It was the first quilt I had juried into a show and Rodale Press spotted it and asked to publish it. And it was in a book. The next year the red and green appliqué quilt went to Paducah and Rodale Press once again wanted to publish my quilt, so it was in. I then started corresponding and started to know some of the editors there. Then I did some freelance writing for them in 1995 for another book. Then they had an editorial position come open and I applied for it and at that time I had two children at home and a husband and we would have had to relocate to Pennsylvania. And we had debts so I didn't interview for that one because it was just not feasible to do that move. Then in the summer of 1998, there was a letter arrived at my door. I was on a national teachers list and Chitra sent this letter to some people on the list. I went to their website and read profiles of the people who worked there and their mission statement. It just felt right. I called my husband over to look at it and he said, 'Wow, this is scary, this sounds like your kinda of place.' I said, 'I know.' I asked, 'What do you think?' and he said, 'Go for it.' At that time he was unemployed, so I went out to Pennsylvania and spent three days with the editorial staff and it was a really good fit. I was really comfortable and I wanted the job so badly. In the meantime, Ken had gone for an interview in Dodge City, Kansas, and he was offered a teaching position so he actually moved from our Arkansas City before I did. It wasn't a real difficult choice to make. It seemed like the Good Lord was willing because I was offered the job in December and had six weeks to pack up our five bedroom, three-living area house and move into a two bedroom apartment in Pennsylvania. It all went very smoothly. We listed our house on Saturday and sold it on Monday. We got more money than what we anticipated getting and it was like it was intended to be. So far, so good.

KB: I wonder if your aunt ever realized what she was giving you when she let you inherit a box of diamond pieces.

EC: Aunt Grace had influenced my life quite a bit. I majored in Home Economics and Physical Education and planned to get my Master's Degree in Special Education. Aunt Grace was heavily involved with the Association for Retarded Citizens in Oklahoma. She had a profoundly retarded daughter and I had worked at the Enid State School and stayed with Aunt Grace quite a bit when I was in Enid, Oklahoma. It was her influence that had encouraged me to work with special education. I have done voluntary service with the Mennonite church working in an institution for retarded people during my college years. I did go on to get my Special Ed. certification, although not to work with retarded people but with people with learning disabilities and behavior disordered children. Then, just last December three days after I was offered the position with Chitra, I finished certification to work with gifted children. I had been teaching gifted children for three years at that time, and that was a good fit, too. I liked that. But, Aunt Grace influenced me to go into special ed. early on.

KB: Speaking of children what do you think we should do for the future quilters of the world? Do or did you teach quilting at all regionally or do you teach young children?

EC: I have taught lots of young children. I was in the public school system teaching kindergarten through twelfth grade, gifted the last three years. We always had a quilting project. Kansas Day celebration, classrooms would be set up for the kids to go from classroom to classroom experiencing different aspects of Kansas's history. I would do the quilting part. I showed quilts and I set a video camera over my work so they could watch how hand quilt stitches were made on the video monitor. Both years that I did that, I had over seven hundred students come through. I taught kids at Cowley County Community College one summer. I had twelve little girls in the group one week and we did a lot of textile art related projects and then quilting the next week where we made little quilted items. The second week these twelve girls brought in friends and sisters and we had a huge class of little kids. I had to recruit a helper. We did tie-dyeing and we dyed fabric. We talked about natural dyes. We did some sun printing. We did actual stitching and making of projects. You can really stimulate little minds in a hurry. I had one little seven year-old girl who was so fascinated you could hardly get her out the door. She wanted to finish her project. So she would take it home and work on it.

KB: Quilting today is immense. What do you see for the future for quilting? Do you think it is going to level off? Has it reached a pinnacle?

EC: Not that I can see. I just can't imagine the IQA [International Quilt Association.] festival getting bigger and this year I think there are 50% more booths and the quilts are incredible. The competition is much stiffer than I have seen it here. Paducah has outgrown their little town. You have to go has far as Sikeston, Missouri to find housing. We had to stay in Sikeston and had to drive in an hour every day to go to Paducah. I just see more and more interest. Even if people aren't actually making quilts, there are so many people involved in it in other ways like what you are doing here, oral history. American Quilt Study Group doing research. There is a tremendous interest in women's history and how women have contributed to history. Since women didn't have time to keep a lot of diaries or to write books, their history is recorded in quilts. So there is a lot of that sort of thing going on. I think it is important.

KB: I think so, too.

EC: I don't know where it is going to go from here. I see more and more men getting involved in it, too. I think that is important.

KB: The quilt that is in the show, would you like to discuss that?

EC: Sure.

KB: Tell us what inspired you to make it.

EC: In the spring of 1996, my son Kerry went to the show in Paducah with me and we had a blast. He was seventeen. We just had a great time. He and I went to an After-Hours party and there was a storyteller there and we kinda kicked back. We were in the back of the room, cutting up like a couple of kids. People were always razzin' him, 'How'd she get you here?' You know. A seventeen-year-old male is kinda unusual at this quilt show. He said, 'Oh, I got out of three days of school.' So we are there and they asked the mother and daughter teams to stand up. Bonnie Browning, I know her personally, and they did and they gave all these prizes to these mother/daughter teams so I screamed out, 'Bonnie, what about mother/son teams?' And so we got to stand up and we got a gift certificate to spend at the AQS booth and I got a book by Deborah Wagner called "Strip Plate Piecing." Her method just seemed so unique and so nice I thought, 'I've just got to try this.' So I designed this Whigs' Defeat quilt using her strip plate piecing method. It ended up being a kind of an exercise in tedium because there are so many tiny little diamonds. Her method is kind of a hybrid of strip piecing and rotary cutting techniques combined with scissor cutting pieces.

KB: What a fascinating technique it sounds like. What about the colors?

EC: The colors are peach, green, and white typical of the 1930s. I own a book called "Oklahoma Heritage Quilts." It is one of the state project books. In the book, I don't remember the lady's name, but there are two Whigs' Defeat quilts. One she made in 1870 and one she made in 1930 and they were both in shades of orange and green. Her 1930's one had peach, a deeper peach, green, and white and that is the color scheme I chose so I went looking for fabrics. The lady in the "Oklahoma Heritage Quilts" book only had six or seven diamonds in her fans and of course I had to do better than that. I have twelve. One is split so there is eleven and one is split. This design has lots of nice open spaces for quilting which is what I really try to concentrate on.

KB: How did you pick your design for quilting?

EC: I design them all myself but I like feathers and hearts so I try to include those in every design I make.

KB: What do you consider when quilting, how many quiltings per inch or what it covers?

EC: I don't think the number of stitches per inch matters as long as stitches are even. You get them as small as you can get them. This particular quilt is the first time I used wool batting and I found I could quite a few more stitchings per inch using wool batting than with cotton. And I think I will stick with wool except for black quilts because of the bearding. I have been talking to other quilters here and I have a couple of ideas now how to cut down the bearding to use the wool with black quilts.

KB: Is there something that you would like to discuss? Some topic that you would like to pick out?

EC: I can't think of anything. I want to branch out and do art type quilts. I have got lots of ideas this time. Because I have the media badge on I can go from class to class to see what is happening in different classes and take some notes to take back for articles. The class by Ricky Timms has got me really thinking about art quilts now. He is a personal friend. So I am real excited about that.

KB: That is part of quilting too, the camaraderie that quilting teachers--

EC: And you know nearly everybody is willing to share their quilts with other quilters free of charge. There are some that are very protective of their ideas and so you have to be conscious of that and you have to accept that. But most quilters are very open to share ideas.

KB: How do you think quilts could be preserved for the future?

EC: Well, I do a workshop on the care and conservation of quilts. I think that it is very necessary for the consumers out there, especially people who are not quilters, be aware of the time and energy and effort that goes into the quilts, so they can have a little more respect for them. We need to educate the public and public speaking, lecturing is one way. I am trying to get an article in every one of our magazines about the care and conservation of quilts including cleaning. People are totally confused about wet cleaning their quilts. They are going to attempt it, so we'd better give them some safe methods and let them know which quilts can be safely wet cleaned and what should be never wet cleaned. If they are determined that they want to wet clean a quilt, then they'll know how to do it without damaging the quilt. That is really tricky; some quilts should never be--

KB: Before you go on, let me add here, your new job, your quilting, the ideas that you have--

EC: One thing about my new job is that it is involved with quilting. When I was teaching there were some days I felt like I had to check my soul at the door when I walked because my students and other teachers quite understood my involvement with quilting especially my administrator. She was a dear, and I liked her a lot. We had known each other since 1980. But she didn't understand my involvement and my love for this art form. And there was no way I was going to get that across so I gave up. I just had to make sure I didn't take it to work with me. That was hard. Now it is my work. Jack Braunstein wrote about this in his profile about me. I mentioned this like the first day on the job as we were reviewing magazines. As I was reading quilt magazines, somebody walked in the door and I felt like I had to hide the magazines. You know, like what kids do in school, shove it under the desk or something. Like the kid reading a comic book in class and having to hide it behind his textbook. That was how it was for me and quilting magazines. If I had them at school I had to have them underneath something or hidden from view.

KB: And now you don't.

EC: No, it is part of my job.

KB: Part of your life.

EC: So that is really something being able to think quilting all day long. And I like that part. Sometimes it is difficult to edit other's work because sometimes you feel like you want to rewrite the whole thing, but it is somebody else's work. So that is hard for me, editing other people's work. I am still learning.

KB: Is there anything else we should talk about, touch on. Well, we have touched on family, friends, and methods--

EC: Yeah, just about everything.

KB: Yeah, just about everything. How would you encourage a new quilter?

EC: I have taught beginners and stuff like that. Just have fun with it. I get so enthused about stuff and it doesn't have to be perfect. Absolutely not, I try to encourage workmanship but I am not going...you can't squelch someone's enthusiasm. You have to get them making something that is fun and tell them what they have done best. I had a school psychologists say once, 'Use the sandwich technique.' And I try to remember sandwich, which is to tell them something that is really, really great, then you can hit them with that little bit of something you would like changed then tell something that they have done really, really well again. So you have sandwiched the criticism in the middle. Between the white soft bread that kids like, you put in some broccoli or something in the middle.

KB: So that is the batting between the top and the backing.

EC: Yeah, yeah, the stuff that has to be there. That works real well.

KB: OK. Thank you so much. You have been really pleasant. I feel like I know you now. I feel like the girl next door. It has been really nice.

EC: Do you want a picture of the quilt I have here?

KB: Yes, we would like go over and take a picture of that quilt. It is now 10:40 and my name is Karen Bennick.

Interview Keyword

Traditional quilts
Art quilts
Magazine editors
Quilt designs
Amish quilts
Mennonite quilts
Creative processes
Older women
Women and quilting
Quilting Today (Magazine)
Quilting publications
Museum quilts


“Elsie Campbell,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 19, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/2478.