Barbara Campbell




Barbara Campbell




Barbara Campbell


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Karey Bresenhan, in honor of Jewel Pearce Patterson


Pine Brook, New Jersey


Karen Musgrave


Note: The quilt used for this interview is part of a book, CD and traveling exhibition called "Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece" which Ami Simms curated. The exhibition is to raise awareness of Alzheimer's. All of the profit from the book and CD is donated to Alzheimer's research.

Karen Musgrave (KM): I want to thank you for allowing me to interview for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. We are doing our interview by email and beginning on September 11, 2007. Please tell me about your quilt "Remember When."

Barbara Campbell (BC): First of all, I must say that it is a pleasure to be participating in the "Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece" project. I feel honored to have my quilt, "Remember When," traveling all around the country with this exhibit. Hopefully we will touch a lot of hearts and raise awareness about the need for funding research. When Ami Simms sent out a call for quilts that would have a meaningful message about this disease, I remembered a fabric I had in my stash with images of postage stamps and letters that would have been in use during the 1940's and 1950's. My mother, who is in early stages of Alzheimer's, met my father during WWII and corresponded with him before they got married. I remember stories they told about how they met and their whirlwind romance and marriage. They were married for 49 years when my father passed away. Mom has been suffering from Alzheimer's for about 10 years now. She is still in a fairly early stage and recognizes me and other close family members.

In addition to the fabric which reminded me of how we used to communicate, I thought back to happier days and memories of growing up. I thought of how my mom used to communicate and correspond with her friends and family members who were living at a distance. I quilted words depicting some of those happy memories and things my mom used to enjoy into the background of this quilt. The other words I kept repeating and think of as my mantra when I see Mom these days is "Please Remember", meaning I hope she will continue to remember me as other memories fade. It was difficult to quilt and I had tears rolling down my cheeks the entire time, recalling those happier days. This quilt has much sentimental value to me.

Since my mom was always one of my biggest fans, I am saddened today that she has no clue what I am involved in and what I have achieved. It took many years for me to find my passion in life and begin my quilting design career. I miss talking about and sharing my successes with my mother, but most of all hope that she will continue to remember me.

KM: Tell me more about the "Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece" project.

BC: Ami Simms sent out a call in 2006 to quilters everywhere to make quilts reflecting any aspect of Alzheimer's disease. Her intent was to put together a traveling exhibit to raise awareness and funds for research. Over 50 quilters responded and made quilts telling a story about their involvement with Alzheimer's. The project has grown to include a CD with audio statements by the participating quilters playing while images of their quilts are shown. In addition, Ami put together a book with the written statements and photos of the 52 quilts. Many of the participating quilters are promoting the sale of these items on their web sites and at other venues. The quilts are touring for a 3-year period, ending in July of 2009. They have been seen by thousands of people and are making a real impact on those who view them and read the story cards. I have purchased both the CD and the book and can only read or listen to a few stories at a time. They are heart-wrenching and very emotional.

I spent several hours white-gloving one of the exhibit venues in Pennsylvania last year and got to hear the comments of those viewing the quilts. The reaction is universal – people are very touched by the stories. They also tend to share how Alzheimer's is touching their lives. There is always a tissue box nearby on the table manned by volunteers. The books and CDs are available for purchase at the quilt shows where the exhibit appears. They are also available at Ami's website.

Many of the quilters involved in this project have also contributed mini quilts for the "Priority: Alzheimer's Quilts" monthly auction. These little quilts must fit into a Priority Mailing flat rate envelope. The last figure I heard is that almost $100,000 has been raised thus far by these combined efforts. (Please check with Ami for more accurate figures.)

KM: What is your plan for this quilt once it is done traveling?

BC: Once the tour is finished in July 2009, I will probably hang it in my local quilt guild show, which will be in October of 2009, with the story card and apply for a vendor table to sell books and CD's if they are still available. After that, I think it will hang in a place of honor in my Mom's room. She is in an assisted living residence only a few miles from my house.

I volunteer to do a "quilting club" there once a week. It's mostly show & tell and passing samples and pictures around. I have a few of the ladies sewing squares together, but for the most part, their attention span and memory problems do not allow for much detailed work. They are all very interested in seeing and touching the quilts, though.

KM: Tell me about your quiltmaking. When did start? Who taught you?

BC: I was inspired by a cousin to purchase a Bernina 180 sewing machine like hers. A close friend had been bugging me for years to try quilting, but I was working full time and had a very narrow view of what "quilting" meant (think patchwork calico). I left full-time employment in 2001 and opted to work part-time for health reasons and felt the need to justify this new expensive toy. I took a kaleidoscope quilt class with my friend and was astonished at the options available for quilt patterns and fabrics. I had always sewn. My mother taught me as a child and I made lots of clothes, starting with doll clothes, then graduating for my own wearables. After I got married, I used my sewing skills for home decor purposes. I even re-upholstered a sofa at one point.

Once I started buying fabric and exploring patterns and books I was hooked. I began attending local quilt shows and taking every interesting class that came my way. In 2002 I knew I was on the short list for an upcoming lay-off from my part-time work. Wanting to do something in the quilting area, but not having much experience, I contacted a local quilting magazine to see if they needed a pattern tester. I had a wonderful phone interview with the editor who explained that they used a technical reader instead of pattern testers. They currently had one on staff, but she suggested I send in my resume anyway. Ironically, a week later the tech reader gave her notice and I began working on a free-lance basis for them. I learned much about pattern reading and writing and began to design my own patterns.

The editor was generous in sharing her expertise and knowledge of the industry. I was offered a free-lance editorial position the following year and spent many hectic months on several issues of two different magazines. I never sewed a stitch during that time and soon found the need to return to my love of designing. I left the editing work behind and began to pursue my design career in earnest. I had met marketing directors for many of the fabric companies, and began designing projects to promote their new fabrics at Quilt Market. The rest, as they say, is history.

KM: Is "Remember When?" typical of your style? Tell me about the fabric you choose for this quilt and the design?

BC: I don't know if I have a particular style. Since I worked for so many different fabric companies and am now partnered with a textile designer, the fabrics used in my designs have been pre-chosen by others. It has been a great learning experience for me, stretching me out of my comfort zone and favorite colors. Some of my favorite designs have been created using fabrics I thought I could never work with. I enjoy a challenge and this type of quilt designing has certainly offered that. The focus fabric for "Remember When" was the pattern showing stamps and handwritten letters from the 1940's and 50's. As I said in my intro for the quilt, this reminded me of my mom's former communication skills and inspired me to remember happier times. Therefore, I included words referring to those times in the quilting of the wall hanging.

KM: Have you learned more about Alzheimer's since making your quilt?

BC: I have continued to learn more about Alzheimer's since getting involved in this project and reading all the stories from all the other quilters involved. In addition, my mom's residence offers educational seminars on a regular basis. Sharing and talking with other family members affected by this disease has been especially helpful. I try to keep up with research done and new medications or treatments becoming available to discuss with my mom's doctor.

KM: Have you made any Priority Quilts?

BC: I made two Priority Quilts so far and both have been auctioned. Dragonfly #397 sold for $95.00 and Circle of Life #396 sold for $50.00. Both were little art quilts where I was experimenting with painting, stamping and various types of embellishments. I hope to find the time to make more of these little quilts in the next few months. I have also been a successful bidder on two of these auction quilts. The first was #720, Biscuits Anyone by Betty Donahue. Betty has contributed many quilts to this auction – Ami could give you an exact number. I am waiting on delivery of the latest successful bid and am very excited to have won the auction on Bonnie McCaffery's "Fantasize", #1438. Bonnie is a member of the same Fiber Art group that I attend in Pennsylvania.

KM: Do you collect quilts or did you simply purchase these quilts to support Alzheimer's research? You mentioned experimenting with painting, stamping and embellishments with these quilts. What are your favorite techniques and materials?

BC: I have begun collecting some small art quilts, mostly from artists that I know personally. I have purchased two through the Alzheimer's Priority Auction, as I mentioned, and also a few postcards from the Fiber Art for a Cure effort, supporting cancer research. In addition, I have purchased several vintage quilts from eBay and flea markets. I am also accumulating some vintage quilt tops and unfinished pieces, with hopes of finding the time to finish them. One of the pieces I purchased was a hand-embroidered tea table cloth from the 1940's, which I hand quilted to create a wholecloth wall hanging. I don't normally hand quilt, but this piece seemed to dictate it.

I enjoy playing with all kinds of techniques and have done some flower pounding, painting, stamping, needle felting, beading, bias tape designs, wearables, etc. You name it and I have probably tried it. I especially enjoy creating dimensional and textural pieces, with fabric folding and pleating. My favorite kind of design work involves creating coordinated settings for the home. If I had time to only play and not have to produce projects for books, magazines and patterns, I would probably spend more time painting and dyeing to make my own fabric. For now, I depend on my partner, Yolanda Fundora, to design our fabrics, which are being produced by Lyndhurst Studio. She is slowly teaching me about how she designs fabrics in the computer, using PhotoShop and Illustrator. Simply put, I want to do it all!

KM: Why is quiltmaking important in your life?

BC: Since I discovered quilting at the age of 53, I have found my passion in life. Before I got involved in quilting I held boring, dead-end jobs. Now everything I do feels like play. It doesn't matter if it's designing quilts, writing and editing patterns or books, sewing samples, collaborating with my partner, Yolanda, tech reading for other designers, etc.. I am happier than I have ever been in my life. Yolanda and I have formed a design partnership in our "Love in Stitches" business ( Through quiltmaking, I have met wonderful people, taken classes with many of the "super stars", made some very dear friends and am excited about my life every single day. There is absolutely nothing else I would rather be doing and I hope I get to do this for many more years to come. How lucky I am to be able to make some money doing something I love so very much.

KM: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

BC: I have always been in awe of Jinny Beyer. It is my dream to attend one of her seminars at Hilton Head. She is such a talented quilter and designer. I have all of her books, including some of those out of print that I was able to find on the internet. Though I don't do much hand work, I admire her skills. You might say she is my idol. Her sense of color and design are awesome. I am in love with border prints and enjoy playing with them, so her fabrics are also very attractive to me.

The other personality I really enjoy is Ami Simms. I have been attracted to her wonderful sense of humor for years. When I was editing the short-lived Quilts & Coordinates magazine, I had Ami contribute a quilt using her pizza line of fabric. Her marketing sense is superb. I ordered one of her kits and it came delivered in a pizza take-out box! She has a remarkable energy level and I admire the way she has pulled this concept together to raise money for Alzheimer's research. Her efforts have resulted in a good deal of money already raised and the quilt tour still has another two years to go. If she gets this story booked on Oprah, as is her goal, the exposure would be wonderful.

KM: Is there anything else you would like to share?

BC: The only comment I would like to make is how happy I am to be involved in an industry with so many wonderful, caring, sharing people. I never saw so many people willing to share information, ideas and supplies with others, even their competitors. I don't think you will be able to find this in any other industry. Yolanda & I are currently designing fabrics and quilts for Lyndhurst Studio (division of Northcott), have co-authored two books for Krause Publications and are developing a line of patterns. Life is good!

KM: Barbara, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with me. I wish you all the best. Our interview concluded on September 13, 2007.


“Barbara Campbell,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 23, 2024,