Salinda Ash




Salinda Ash


Salinda Ash is quilter from Michigan who began in 1988 when she switched from apparel to quiltmaking. She learned to sew from her mother and finds fabric choice the most pleasant part of quiltmaking. Ash belongs to the Cal-Co Quilters Guild, and a sewing circle called Ladies of the Lake.




Melanie Grear


Salinda Ash


Pam Schultz

Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Hastings, Michigan


Eleanor Wilkinson


**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.** Pam Schultz (PS): It is Saturday, Sept. 10 [2011.] at 10:08 a.m. I'm interviewing Salinda Ash at Quilt Camp, Camp Michiwana in Hastings, Michigan. This interview is being conducted for the South Central Michigan Quilters' Save Our Stories project of The Alliance for American Quilts. Good morning, Salinda, how are you?

Salinda Ash (SA): Just fine, Pam. How are you?

PS: Good. Tell me about the quilt you brought in today.

SA: Well, I started it a year ago. I made it during quilt camp, same camp, last year. It was a fabric that I chose. I found a pattern and chose the fabric and went from there. I chose brights.

PS: What special meaning does this quilt have for you?

SA: I made it and I made it in a special place where I met a lot of good friends.

PS: What do you think somebody viewing this quilt might think about you?

SA: I think they would think I was a vibrant, happy person.

PS: And what are your plans for this quilt?

SA: Well, it's on my bed more than not. Me and my five dogs sleep under it.

PS: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

SA: It started in 1988. Before that I had made a couple of quilts, nothing actual quilting as you would per se nowadays. It was just patchwork blocks cut out of fabrics whoever donated them. In 1988 I started working at a quilt shop and got interested in what everyone else was making. Quilt fabric had just basically showed up back on the market, so hard to find. That's how I got started and that's how I just fell in love with it. Went from apparel making to quiltmaking.

PS: What was the quilt shop?

SA: The Sewing Basket in Coldwater. [Michigan.]

PS: At what age did you start quiltmaking?

SA: Oh, I'd say I was probably sixteen when I started and actually made my first quilt. But it wasn't until '88 that I actually started, which, I don't know how old I was then.

PS: And from whom did you learn to quilt?

SA: My mother. To begin with we had sewed on a treadle sewing machine. Then I got my first sewing machine when I got married and started garment making and went into quiltmaking.

PS: How many hours a week do you quilt?

SA: I try to stay in my sewing room three to four hours a day and then actually my quilting room, probably three hours every other day. Actually quilting quilts.

PS: And you have a machine?

SA: Yes, I have a long arm machine and I only quilt for my sister and myself and for charitable causes.

PS: Which ones?

SA: I do it for VA charity for the Sew 'n' Sew group and then I do quilts for Project Linus. I do quilts for the Kimball Camp, children with cancer over in Reading, Michigan and then I try to do one quilt a year for, oh, gosh, I can't think of the organization right off hand.

PS: So you do a lot of quilts?

SA: Yes.

PS: What is your first quilt memory?

SA: First quilt memory. I guess the very first log cabin quilt I made. I gave it to my mom for her retirement. I made it on a Tuesday. Friday I quilted it on a regular sewing machine in two-inch spread, the entire queen sized quilt and gave it to her on Saturday for her retirement. [both laugh.]

PS: Are there other quiltmakers in your family or among your friends?

SA: My sister is a quiltmaker. I started her on quiltmaking several years ago. She was a dollmaker before that and my mother did some quilting when she was younger, but due to having to work in those days to support a family she kind of lost track of quilting and went to buying blankets. That was the period of buying blankets. Quiltmaking died off.

PS: How does quiltmaking impact your family?

SA: I think in a positive way. It makes everyone in the family quite happy. It evens out the family tone. Finding me in the sewing room and people are in a bad mood, they come in there and they kind of equal out because I don't allow violence or aggression in my sewing room. I want it to be mellow and low key. So I kind of think it kind of evens out the family.

PS: The family time-out room.

SA: Yes it is. The family time-out room. Yes. And sometimes fights over who is going to get that next quilt.

PS: I would think that would work, though. It's the fabric in the atmosphere. It's comforting.

SA: It is. It's comforting.

PS: Have you ever used quilts to get through a difficult time?

SA: Yes, I have. In fact I made a memory quilt for, I had lost three children and I made a memory quilt with three children involved in the quilt. So, yes, I have used it, and a great loss of time to get through that depression.

PS: Oh, yeah. Tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred from your quiltmaking.

SA: [laughs.] It was the very first time I went to quilt camp. That was when we had it at the other camp site. I don't remember the name of the quilt camp, but a friend of mine, Mary Lee came to quilt camp and we didn't know anybody. We had just joined guild, like three months before and we didn't know anybody. She got there and she had started her period and so she didn't know anybody to ask for any feminine products, so we had diapers in the car because we had babies and she had a baby so she made her own feminine product during quilt camp. [both laugh.] So that was the most memorable experience I've every had.

PS: See, you guys can do anything.

SA: Yep, you can do anything with a quilt.

PS: What do you find pleasing about quiltmaking?

SA: Choosing the fabric. I love to choose the fabric. I love to go to the store. I feel the fabric and choose the fabric. People say their fabric speaks to them. I don't think it speaks to me per se. I think it just catches my eye. This one here, the big floral, I came out with that one first and just went from there. Exploded. I can do that and the next thing I know I'm off in a whole fabric thing and I forgot about the whole first choice I ever made.

PS: They work well together, though. What art or quilt groups do you belong to?

SA: Right now I only belong to the quilt guild in Battle Creek, Cal-Co Quilt Guild [Cal-Co Quilters' Guild, Battle Creek, Michigan.] I belong to Phyllis's Friends in Union City, [Michigan.] which is a small sewing circle and I belong to Ladies of the Lake.

PS: What aspects of quiltmaking do you not enjoy?

SA: Binding. I don't do it. My sister does. I do all the machine quilting and that's my job, machine quilting, and she hand binds all that's done because I can't stand it.

PS: Have advances in technology influenced your work?

SA: Yes.

PS: How?

SA: Well, the rotary cutter for one thing. I think the rotary cutter and the speed cut, the rotary, the plastic mat, the plastic ruler that's spelled shape-cut or something like that where you cut several pieces at one time without lifting up your ruler. So, yeah, I think the advanced technology has really sped it up. And the more things on your sewing machines, you don't have to set less tensions and less, you know, widths and stuff. You just push a button, it's right there.

PS: You're right. The machines have improved a lot, too. What are your favorite techniques and materials?

SA: Different techniques and materials. Probably the favorite technique would be chain piecing. That makes things go a lot faster. My favorite materials are the best on the market, a hundred percent cotton, that you can find because of the wear ability and the vibrance of the colors. You're not going to get them out of cheaper fabrics.

PS: And they last. They last better. Describe your studio or the place where you create.

SA: My fabric studio? Okay, it's got a TV on one wall with a DVD-VCR player [light plane is going by.]. It's got two sewing machines, one side, they're identical. My husband bought identical one for me and my sister one year. We were both quilting machines, which I have one with me today. And on the other side we have two sergers, one on each side which are identical. There a [inaudible.] each one of us so we have sergers on one side and sewing machines on the other. The ironing board is in the bay window so we can see out the street. So, yeah, it's a very nice, calm atmosphere in there.

PS: How big is that room?

SA: Oh, I'd say it's about 12 x 14. It's not that big.

PS: But you're using your space well.

SA: Well, space. My husband, when he was working at the factory they were throwing out an antique drafting table, which is exactly the right height for cutting, solid oak. That thing will stand anything. And then I've got a mat that fits the top that was the right perfect height, not hurting your shoulders to cut. So it sits right in the middle of the room.

PS: What a good man.

SA: I know.

PS: Do you use a design wall?

SA: Yes, I do.

PS: Okay, and how does that affect you?

SA: I think it works great. [inaudible.] like this. You know, the ones I'm working on right now I have to lay it on the floor, which is a lot harder than if you just pop it up on the wall and it stays there. I have heavy flannel. It just stays there. I'm amazed that that sticks to fabric, but it does.

PS: It's different on a wall. You see different things.

SA: It is and you can get away from it and go, 'Oh, no, I don't like that color with that,' or that blends in too much and looks all the same.'

PS: Tell me how you balance your time.

SA: I'm retired so I pretty much do what I want. I have a grandson I do babysit but he's in Headstart in the morning and so I have that three and a half hours in the morning without him so I'm pretty much in my sewing room then. And when he comes home to take his nap, that's when I do my housekeeping.

PS: What do you think makes a great quilt?

SA: The person behind it.

PS: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

SA: I think any quilt can be artistically powerful. I think it's just the person that designs the quilt and the message it sends to the next person, how they view your quilt.

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

SA: Oh, my gosh, that's just in the eye of the beholder. I mean, the one we are setting on is antique. That could be, as you know, artistically for a museum where the line is made. It just depends on what they are looking for. They may be looking for one of the twentieth century, the one of the twenty-first century. Depends on what they're looking for. A lot of times it's not even the quality. Look at the Gee's Bend Quilts. I mean, those things are made by slaves and they're not anything to look at but it's the background, the people that made them.

PS: That's right, and what they made them out of and how they got there. And is it really okay for us to sit on this? It's beautiful too. What makes a great quiltmaker?

SA: Makes a great quiltmaker. I think everybody that makes a quilt is a great quiltmaker. It just depends on, I don't know, I think everybody is. If you make a quilt you're a great quiltmaker. Because it's one more quilt that's being made. I don't think that anybody can label a person, you're a bad quiltmaker and you're a good quiltmaker. I don't think those labels should be given. It's just like labeling a child, you know, you're bad in school, you're not bad in school. That's just another label, labeling a person. Those labels shouldn't be going around.

PS: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

SA: [whispers.] Whose works are you drawn to. You know I guess I could say I used to be drawn to the people that did all the Civil War quilts, back then, and all the people that did the dark, dark colors. I don't really know designers, per se. I don't know, like Alex Anderson and I know who they are but I don't really know what they do. That doesn't concern me. What I do is what concerns me. Now I can take a dark quilt and turn it into a light quilt and people that looked at that quilt couldn't think beyond the picture on the pattern.

PS: And you have changed from those dark quilts [inaudible, both speaking at once.] to a very bright, bright palette, yeah. So you've grown?

SA: Yes.

PS: Which artists have influenced you? Quilters, people in your life?

SA: I guess I don't have one. I don't. My sister influences a lot of my artwork. She's the one that gets me encouraged to go out and do the shopping, get out, and encourages me to finish a quilt that I started. Or, she takes it away and finishes it herself.

PS: Oh, that's nice.

SA: Well, then it's hers.

PS: Well, that's not so nice. [laughs.]

SA: Yeah, I guess that's not per se artist, but then everybody is an artist in their own way, with cooking skills or through crafting skills or raising a child.

PS: How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting? And what about long arm quilting?

SA: Well, I have a mid arm quilting machine. It's not really a long arm and it's not a short arm. It's a mid arm, and I like it. I like it. I like the idea that I can load it and quilt it and get it off the machine faster than my sister can hand bind it down. I really, really appreciate the hand quilters. I think they're phenomenal. I tried it for twenty minutes and got three inches done and I said this is not for me. I cannot do that. I can do it. I don't choose to do it. But I appreciate it. I really, really, really do and I think when they are judged in a quilt show they should not be judged together because long arm machine quilting is much different than hand quilting.

PS: Oh, yeah.

SA: I know in some shows they're still judging them together and they're not any way close to being judged together. So, yeah, I'm all for machine quilting. I don't see anything wrong with it.

PS: Why is quiltmaking important to your life?

SA: It gives me a center. It centers me.

PS: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or region?

SA: Well, I guess the donation. You know, I donate so many quilts that I think it affects the community. It makes the community that one quilt better a day, you know. It just improves each day that another child gets a quilt.

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

SA: I think the 1970 revolution is when quiltmaking started back up again, when the bicentennial hit. I think that more women have got together. More from all walks of life, from the rich to the poor. They all walk in that same line, now, whether they can afford to buy the best of the best or they can't afford it. They all seem to come together as a community or as friends from all over the walks of life. It doesn't matter who you are. You're still a quilter.

PS: In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history in America?

SA: I don't know. I don't think it's just women of history in America. Someone told me that George Washington made a quilt. I think it has affected the men in America just as well as it has women in America. You can't just gender associate that per se as one gender in America as impacted.

PS: What's the impact? Oh, I see what you mean, so you think it has meaning for both?

SA: Uh huh.

PS: How do you think quilts can be used?

SA: They can be used, anyone with a child's tent to a bed quilt, to a wall hanging. It's the imagination. It's just the total imagination of a child, of a child because of a hundred and one things to do with a quilt versus what a mom can think of what to do with a quilt. Yes, not only to keeping you warm, it's to entertain you.

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

SA: I don't think, I think people worry more about preservation of quilts, like the quilts that are being made now for the future, than they are of the ones that, they've got so many now that are being preserved, I think that there's just so many out there on the market, I don't know how they pick and choose and I think that they overly worry about it more than what I think is concerned because there's--I'm not a heirloom quilter, so if somebody can find something that is a heirloom quilt and want to preserve it I appreciate it, totally appreciate it. But I think they're more concerned about it than what they should be.

PS: You'd rather see them used.

SA: Yes. I said I'd rather see them used than preserved as you can see.

PS: Uh huh. I do. I see that when I see you. What has happened to quilts that you've made or those of family and friends?

SA: What's happened to them? Well, I've found totally different things like my sister respects them and takes very good care of them. My brothers thought they were for sunbathing and with baby oil. [laughs.] So I guess when I give them to somebody it's theirs to be used as they want to use it. Even though it hurts your feelings to think that they can do that, that they can just take a quilt out and sunbathe with it and not even respect it, all the work and time that went in to it. But, you give it as a gift and how they use it is up to them.

PS: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

SA: Cost of cotton, the biggest cost of cotton in the low economy. There's too many people out of work and the prices of our products that we use has gone up. In just the last few months I've seen I've seen an increase of some places, four dollars a yard, increase on cotton. That's going to be a big impact, especially for people like me. We're on a fixed income and if you're on a fixed income you have to start prioritizing where you're going to get that money for that quilt or why you're going to continue to buy the high quality cottons.

PS: Is there anything else you'd like to talk about?

SA: Nope.

PS: It's been a wonderful interview. Thank you.

SA: Thank you.

PS: It is 10:27 and we're finished.


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