Melody Crust




Melody Crust




Melody Crust


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date



Kent, Washington

Interview indexer

Emily Bianchi


Kim Greene


Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am doing a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Melody Crust. Melody is in Kent, Washington and I'm in Naperville, Illinois so we are conducting this interview by telephone. Today's date is March 11, 2008 and it is 2:21 in the afternoon. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this with me. We are doing a special Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories because this one is based on an exhibit called "Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece." Melody, if you would tell me about your quilt that is in the exhibition, "Fade to Gray" if would appreciate it.

Melody Crust (MC): "Fade to Gray" came because while I have very little history with Alzheimer's, I'm aware that people forget things so I'm very much a colorist and most of my quilts are bright and beautiful and colorful and loud and almost gaudy, so when I started thinking about what I was going to do for the Alzheimer's, I thought at least for a quilter much less for anyone else what it would be like to forget about color, forget what color looks like or try to imagine or not know that that is red anymore. "Fade to Gray" is black and white, it is all black and white with the exception of the quilting which is colors and the binding which is red which was my plan for hope for the future that they would find some way to cure or prevent the curable disease.

KM: What are you plans for this quilt when it comes back?

MC: I've already donated it to the Art Initiative and told Ami that she can sell it at the end of the exhibition to raise more money.

KM: Have you seen the exhibit?

MC: No.

KM: It hasn't come to the West Coast.

MC: I haven't been where it has been.

KM: Okay. We had to do the artist statements, because there is an audio component to the CD that Ami produced. Tell me about that experience for you.

MC: I have to say it was reasonably unnerving because even though you try not to say ands and uhs and thes and hums. It does come out and because my personal life has very little history with Alzheimer's it was just different, just like doing this interview on the phone, it was just a different experience.

KM: Have you listened to the CD?

MC: Yes I have.

KM: What are your thoughts?

MC: It is very powerful, it is very moving, it is very difficult to listen to the whole thing all at one time. I think that Ami has done a great job and I really enjoyed listening to it.

KM: Interesting that she used her answering machine, she is very clever.

MC: It worked for her.

KM: She is very clever. Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

MC: Oh my goodness, I have been quiltmaking for twenty-nine years and the reason I know I've been quiltmaking for twenty-nine years is that the child who got the very first quilt was twenty-nine last August. I started out making very traditional quilts. I tell people all the time that while I certainly consider myself to be an art quiltmaker, I'm a quiltmaker first and an artist second. I like, I like to silk oil, I used to like the sew cloths and then I realized that quilts always fit, so I started making quilts. In my twenty-nine years, the first ten or so I didn't do much, I made a few quilts here and there but not a lot and in the last nineteen or twenty I have made a lot more quilts. I've lost track at how many for sure, but there is small, medium and king size and every size in between maybe six hundred and fifty quilts, that I finished. I don't finish everything that I start, but I'm pretty prolific and I really enjoy the process. Once I'm done, I'm not as interested in the piece, but I do enjoy the process and the thinking about it and planning it and I don't know the piecing and the quilting and the whole process, everything I like.

KM: Are you self-taught or did you learn from someone?

MC: I've taken classes over the years, not a lot. The last half a dozen years maybe or the last ten years even I've taken a few classes, often just to be sociable with my friends. I would say a little bit of both. I don't have a family history with quilting at all. My mother didn't quilt, I don't believe and I don't know that anyone in my family has ever quilted. I have my mother-in-law quilted but I didn't learn from her so pretty much self taught I guess.

KM: Do you belong to any art or quilt groups?

MC: I belong to a couple of quilt groups. I belong to my local, small local guild, Evergreen Piecemakers, I belonged there for about twenty years. It is where my friends are so I even actually go to meetings once in a while, and then I belong to a couple of the national organizations, AQS, American Quilt Society and one out of Houston, I'm struggling with the name.

KM: International.

MC: International Quilt Association.

KM: How many hours a week do you quilt?

MC: How many hours a week, boy that is a hard question. I do a lot of other things that are quilt related so I try to sew every day and if I'm on a book deadline and I'm writing I'm not sewing so much, but if I don't have some other deadline going on, I'm sewing every day so I would say if I'm lucky maybe twenty hours a week. Sometimes more.

KM: Tell me about your books.

MC: My first book was called the "A Fine Line: Techniques and Inspirations for Creating the Quilting Design" and it was about designing the quilting. I wrote it with my friend, Heather Waldron. It was an experience I have to say that I loved. I liked working with someone, I like someone to share the ideas with and that book is still in print even though it is seven years old now and people are, a man called and asked me about it this morning. My second book is "Quilt Toppings: Fun and Fanciful Embellishments." It is all me, I did it by myself. I wrote it, made all the quilts and I loved, I liked having the book but that process, quiltmaking is very solitary experience and I'm okay with that to a point, but the writing, making that solitary is quite a bit more difficult for me. My third book is going to be "Eye Candy Quilts: Focus on the Beads" I think and I have another writing partner, another Heather a different one. Heather Austerman is doing the writing and I'm making the quilts and we are just now to the tale end of that manuscript so hopefully it will be out by fall.

KM: What are you favorite techniques and materials?

MC: What are my favorite techniques? Well I suppose painting is my current favorite technique. I really like to paint on fabric. I like to embellish. I tell people if it will stand still long enough in front of me I will bead it, so I like that too. I think that I really enjoy the quilting process and I enjoy playing around with different kinds of threads to quilt with. I enjoy--I like cotton fabrics. I piece with commercial fabric and fabric I dye myself. I like to piece. I don't know, I like it all.

KM: Is there anything you don't like?

MC: Miniatures. Oh and piecing points, I don't like piecing points and I struggle with piecing on a foundation because my brain doesn't work that way, it is usually odd to me. I can do that but I struggle. Yeah, no I love most of it.

KM: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

MC: Heather Waldron, her work just fascinates me. It is very delicate, elegant and she was a traditional quiltmaker with an art background and when she moved out of traditional quilts and into the more art things I've really enjoyed that. I suppose the quilts I enjoy the most are the ones made by people that do things I wouldn't do. Ruth McDowell is another one. Her beautifully pieced and quilted quilts are just spectacular, just really draw me. Like I said, they are things I wouldn't do.

KM: Describe your studio.

MC: Studio, well my husband and I built our house twenty years ago and in the planning process, more than twenty years ago, if I would have known then what I know now my studio would have been different. However, I didn't and I love my house and my studio is very small, I think I would like it to be bigger but I don't have it bigger because it is not going to happen. It is different. It is eight feet wide and thirteen feet long, it is light and airy, it has two large picture windows, it is not a bedroom, it was never designed to be a bedroom so the windows start, they are picture windows so they start eighteen inches from the floor and come up. I store all of my fabric in my fabric cupboard which looks like pantry cupboards. I store--I have a thread rack with thread, I have a counter work surface that I work on and a sewing table and a bookcase. What I didn't know all those years ago that I wished I would have known more than anything else was about a work wall. So my work walls are not in my studio because there is no place to put them, they are in the hall. There are two of them, one is on the hall as I sit at my sewing machine I look the long way out the door and it is a small work wall and the large work wall is on the other side and I sort of have to stand at the other side of the hall to see it. I sometimes wish that my studio was in a room where I could shut the door, but the truth is my friends and me too and my husband we all enjoy seeing whatever the heck it is that I'm working on, and when people come over they enjoy seeing the progress of the work, so I don't know, I kind of like my space it is light and has lots of light. I live on a small fishing lake and I sit at my sewing machine and I watch the ducks on the water do their thing. We have a nesting pair of Bald Eagles and I enjoy them. My favorite time of the year to sit in there is fall because the first wind comes and the leaves all fall and land on the water and the second wind comes and more leaves fall and now they don't stick to the water so they go up and down and sideways and sometimes I forget to sew, I really enjoy my space.

KM: Sounds wonderful.

MC: It is. April issue of Quilters' Newsletter Magazine is now doing the My Space feature and April has my studio, April 2008.

KM: Very cool. What advice would you offer someone starting out?

MC: Well, take a class, find a class, I don't know about the rest of the country I just know about western Washington where I live and we have many, many quilt shops and they all offer really great classes on how to make a quilt and every aspect of quiltmaking. So I would recommend, if you are a person that can buy a book and follow it fine, if not take a class. I think one of the things I enjoy most about quiltmaking is the quiltmakers. It would be a really great place to meet them.

KM: I agree with you about community. What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

MC: The biggest challenge. I suppose like everything else the cost of the materials for regular quiltmaker, especially the younger ones, the cost of quiltmaking is, it is not an inexpensive hobby by any means. The tools and the sewing machines and the fabric even are getting very expensive, so I would say probably the cost.

KM: What do you think makes a great quilt?

MC: I know that I like, I've educated myself to understand good design when I see it, so I really enjoy seeing a well designed quilt. The technique part of it, I think it is equally important, but on a really well designed quilt what I would expect is not to notice the technique, as in I don't want to see bad technique. If I don't notice it, it is well done and if it is well done I don't think it is. Something that is well designed. I don't know if I have a specific, can be anymore specific than that.

KM: Now you have judged, is that correct?

MC: Yes.

KM: Tell me about judging.

MC: In my other life before I became a quiltmaker, I was an inspector and you learned to make decisions, so I think I enjoy, I really enjoy the judging process because, and it is not a hardship for me like it is for other people because I'm okay with making the decisions. I think it is an education tool that people like because they get most of the time when you judge they get feedback telling them what they are doing right or what they are doing wrong, and I really applaud those people who put their quilts up to be judged because it can be a very personal thing.

KM: You have also curated correct?

MC: Yes.

KM: Tell me about curating.

MC: I'm a founding board member of the Association of Pacific Northwest Quilters who does a juried and judged show every other year in the Pacific Northwest called Quilt Fest. Early on like all other organizations we were looking to raise funds and awareness so Heather Waldron and I decided that we would curate a traveling exhibition, the quilts would be donated to APNQ [Association of Pacific Northwest Quilters.] and then sold at the gala and the proceeds all going to the organization. It was my job to solicit places to exhibit the quilts and I kind of, I guess I liked the challenge of doing something new and different, especially in the business side. We kind of selected who we wanted to solicit, we solicited, she solicited the quilts and I was the one who made sure the quilt got from point A to point B and figured out how to ship them and all of those kinds of details and it was a good experience, I enjoyed it a lot.

KM: What does your family think of your quiltmaking?

MC: My family, I have no children. I have step-children and a sister and nephews and grandchildren and all that kind of stuff, and I think all of them like it because they all get quilts. Some how or another it seems to work out that someone gets one every year for Christmas. I have noticed that it is usually one for somebody else and one for my sister, and one for somebody else and one for my sister. I'm not quite sure how she has managed that, but I think she has more quilts in her house than I do. So they all think it is great. My husband, he is happy if I'm happy. I like what I do and that makes me happy so he thinks it is great.

KM: Why is quiltmaking important to you?

MC: I'm not sure I can answer that question directly. It has become the way that I make my living, which is something I certainly enjoy. I like to travel, I like to meet people, I like the process, it engages my brain, the process of thinking about a quilt and making a quilt and just the whole process fascinates me. I think it is a new adventure every time I begin one and maybe it is that exploration part is what I like.

KM: Why did you choice quiltmaking over any other creative endeavor?

MC: I don't know it ever occurred to me there was another creative endeavor.

KM: Okay. Why fabric?

MC: Why fabric, well I guess I can, I can remember my mother teaching me to make doll clothes when I was about five and she used to tell the story that she taught me to sew because she tried to teach me to crochet but I didn't have the dexterity for that yet at five. I have always made clothes and I have always done stuff with fabric. I like fabric, I like the texture, I like the qualities of it, what is not to like. Like I said, I used to make clothes but someplace along the way figured out that quilts always fit.

KM: Share with me some about your travels. Where have you been, where have you taught, what have you done?

MC: I have been in a lot of states in the country. Recently back from Wisconsin, and I'm heading for Michigan this week. I've taught in Maine and California and Texas and Illinois and North Dakota and everywhere and Canada. I've taught quite a bit and I've traveled a lot. I've taught in Houston, just a lot of places.

KM: Do you have a favorite?

MC: Favorite? I like teaching at Houston.

KM: Why do you like teaching at Houston?

MC: I like the energy, I like the excitement, I like that there is so much to look at and so much to see and so much to think about and so many more ideas, I just think it is just a wonderful experience and I like, I like that energy I think that I get there.

KM: In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women?

MC: I think it goes back to taking care of a family and if we think about the history of the world cloth in some way shape or form has always been part of the history. I think it is a way to look back at our, the people who came before us and hopefully leave something for those that are coming some day. It is an opportunity to keep our families warm and to remind them that we love them.

KM: Do you think that your quilts reflect your community and region?

MC: I think that is just about always the case. I know that because I live in Seattle or in the Seattle area it is gray here a lot. It can be overcast a lot anytime of the year so that could be why my quilts are so brightly colored usually, so yah I would say probably does affect and I think that is typical.

KM: Usually I allow people to add anything that they would like before our time comes to an end so here is your opportunity, is there anything else that you would like to share?

MC: I just thank you very much for inviting me to participate in the [Quilters' S.O.S -] Save Our Stories, I think this is really interesting and really a great project, and other than that I think you have covered it all.

KM: Cool. Thank you very much. We are going to conclude our interview at 2:45.


“Melody Crust,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 19, 2024,