Margaret Asiello




Margaret Asiello


Margaret Asiello is a quilter from Portland, Oregon. She is a member of the Oregon State Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Beaver Chapter. Asiello enjoys most the fine detail and sense of accomplishment she feels when quilting. She values historical significance, color, and design in quilts. Asiello also believes in a variety of uses for quilting and does not condemn machine quilting. In fact, she says it expands the quilter's artistic arsenal.




Melanie Grear


Margaret Asiello


Carolyn Kolzow

Interview Date



Portland, Oregon


Carolyn Kolzow


**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.**

Note: Margaret Asiello entered her quilt in the 114th Continental Congress, 2005 American Heritage Committee's fiber arts - quilt contest. The contest theme was, "Proud Heritage of Freedom." Margaret placed third with this quilt.

Carolyn Kolzow (CK): My name is Carolyn Kolzow and today's date is September 2, 2004 at 9:45 A.M. I am conducting an interview with Margaret Asiello in her home in Portland, Oregon for the Quilters'[S.O.S.]-. Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Oregon State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Margaret is a quilter and is a member of Beaver Chapter [NSDAR.] National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Margaret tell me about the quilt that you've brought in today. Who made it?

Margaret Asiello (MA): I made it. It is all cotton red, white, and blue, kind of a flag theme pattern. It is a muslin background and it made of old men's shirts. So, it has tiny checks.

CK: That's interesting.

MA: And it is—[pause for four seconds.]

CK: Were the shirts family shirts that belonged to family members?

MA: Some of them were. A couple of them were old shirts, but mostly I bought them at a second hand shop for a quarter and fifty cents apiece and cut them up and made them into this blue, white, and red quilt. And it is a pattern that I had a picture of years ago. It is called Delectable Mountain but I had no pattern for it. Had to make the templates for the pattern. Put it all together.

MA: Then I decided to do the tiny flag border. It needed something to finish it off. So I used the tiny flag border on the edges. It is measured at 50 x 61 inches.

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

MA: It has special meaning because I am a DAR member of Beaver Chapter and it had a flag theme. It's not a-- A friend of mine gave me a flag pattern that was more of a traditional looking flag, and that wasn't me. So, I decided that I would do a pinwheel pattern which I absolutely love the pin wheel pattern and do it in red, white, and blue. And you can see it is not strong in the colors. They are very subtle colors and it is mostly a muslin or cream colored background. But it does have the red, white, and blue theme.

CK: And I assume that is why you chose to bring it to the interview?

MA: Exactly.

CK: [laughing.] Patriotic.

MA: Patriotic.

CK: How do you use this quilt?

MA: I use it as a throw in the living room. It can be used for grandchildren to snuggle up when they come to visit. I am a great believer in using, not putting away, saving for a rainy day or saving for your relatives to inherit it. I believe in using it. It probably eventually will be handed down hopefully to a DAR daughter or daughter-in-law or granddaughter. Wouldn't that be special?

CK: Wouldn't that be special for sure.

MA: [laughing.]

CK: Do you sign them in any way?

MA: No, I do not; but I probably should. I probably should do that. It is one of those things that I--I do. I did sign. I made four quilts for my grandchildren, for each of my four grandchildren and I signed each of those with their initials, their birth date, the weight and my initials. I should do this with my other quilts too, but I haven't done it with this one.

CK: And when you sign them do you sign them on the front or on the back of the quilt?

MA: I usually embroider them on the front.

CK: Oh. Interesting. Okay. Well, tell me about your interest in quilting.

MA: I have been quilting since I was. Let's see I have been quilting for 31 years, so almost

half my life.

CK: [laughing.]

MA: And I was inspired. I have always been a needle worker. I knitted as a child. I crocheted as a child. And my mother is my inspiration and my sisters who all do needle work too. So, I would say that I learned to quilt from my mother and my grandmother. And it is a family inspiration. One said, 'Oh, I can make a quilt.' 'Or I have made a rag rug.' And the other one said, 'Well, how did you do that?' So that's --We are an inspiration. One will do it, and the other will say, 'Show me how.' And so, one time you are the student. The next time you are the teacher.

CK: Oh, okay.

MA: So, that is an interesting family thing. And I probably quilt probably ten hours a week maybe more. In the winter I probably quilt more than I do in the summer time. And my first quilt memory, would be that my grandmother Baldau on my Dad's side. She made a light green quilt for me, and I still have it. It is one of those ones that I do put away. Talk about using things, but that one from my grandmother, I have put away.

CK: Are there any other quilters among your family?

MA: My sister quilts, my mother quilts, my aunt does a little. Tiny quilts. I think that is all.

CK: Do they tend to give theirs away to family or a--

MA: No. I think we keep most of our quilts. I have kept most of my quilts except those ones I have given to the grandchildren or my children. I did make a heart quilt for each of my children when they got married. So, those I have passed on to them. And they will eventually go to, my quilts will eventually go to family members but right now, I use them.

CK: Your immediate family, right. Okay. How would you say that quilting impacts your family?

MA: Mm, keeps us warm.

CK: [laughs.]

MA: A common interest for the women in the family to talk about. We inspire each other to do different quilting projects. Different needlework projects. They're a bond.

CK: Is there a time set aside during the week for quilting?

MA: No, I quilt whenever I have a moment free. If I am working on a project, I might do it in the morning for five minutes. Then I might do it for two hours in the evening.

CK: And, do you belong to a group of quilters?

MA: I do. I belong to a group that meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month.

CK: Now do they meet to quilt or to exchange ideas--

MA: To quilt and eat.

CK: Okay, [laugh.]

MA: Quilt, eat and we travel together. We like to go to the beach. We like to go to the mountains and quilt. We have a good time. It is a good bond.

CK: Your husband knows to be expecting you to be out doing your quilting thing.

MA: He is a golfer. I am a quilter. [laughing.]

CK: Have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time?

MA: No, no, I have not. I quilt because I love it. If I had a difficult time, I would keep right on quilting, I mean that might be a help, but I don't see that as a therapy or a--

CK: Okay, I wondered.

MA: It might be a therapy. Quilting and sewing might be therapy for me because it is relaxing, but I don't view it as that kind of a tool.

CK: What do you find pleasing about quilting?

MA: I like the fine detail. I like the sense of accomplishment. I like the friends I make. I think that is all. I like needlework, any kind of needlework.

CK: Are there any aspects of quilting that you don't enjoy?

MA: No, I like it all. I like the piecing part. I like the quilting part. I like the company part. I like the eating part. I like all that goes on with the quilting group. Even if I am doing it alone, I like it all.

CK: What do you think makes a good quilt?

MA: Oh, color, and design, quality, historical value. It can be a range. It can be a quilt made for a centennial. It would have historical value. And I have seen quilts that are done, a friend of mine did a quilt that is sort of an aerial view of where she grew up in Minnesota. And I love it too, it is just--The artist and the quilter come through, and that is what makes the value.

CK: What makes a quilt powerful? Artistically?

MA: Oh, color and design. I guess would be the best.

CK: So, you were thinking of designing your own rather than using a pattern.

MA: Yea, that would be the better avenue for an artist to do their own design.

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

MA: Hm, let's see. I would say maybe a timely made quilt. Maybe one that commemorate a birthday or a historic event for a church or for Beaver Chapter, if they were to do a quilt that would commemorate fifty years or that kind of thing or maybe something that had exceptional needlework value, fine detail, kind of stitches, special kind of silks, or that kind of thing.

CK: Margaret, what makes a great quilter?

MA: Oh, who knows. Probably the person viewing the quilt. The eye of the beholder kind of thing. Could be one person likes one color, another person likes another color, like art I think would be the best answer for that.

CK: How do you think that great quilters learn the art of quilting?

MA: Well, probably that old adage, if you don't use it; you lose it. So, you have to keep at it. It is like any needlework thing. You have to keep trying and expanding your horizons and learning things like design in one book and take a class and a needle work technique from another, or I know our quilting group shares quilting tricks, you know how to do a binding so that it turns properly or how to get the points to meet exactly. And experience, if you keep trying I think that it will eventually come.

CK: I see. How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting?

MA: Oh, that is another thing. It is kind of like if you were to teach a, tell an artist that they could only color in red. Or, a potter that she could only use red clay or you could only use certain colors for a quilt. I think that it is open to the artist. However their techniques. Whatever they wanted to use. I wouldn't want to limit anyone to just machine or just hand quilting. I think that there are so many opportunities that you would have to open the door. Let it be wide open.

CK: Have you looked into long arm quilting at all?

MA: I have seen the machine and have thought about doing some piecing and maybe trying that as a class. I think would be maybe at an aid, when my arthritis kicks in I might want to do machine quilting with that long arm quilting rather than have to do everything hand.

CK: Why is quilting important to your life?

MA: Quilting is relaxing, as is a lot of needlework for me. And, I get that sense of accomplishment. I love the product. I love to be able to hand down to my grandchildren

those quilts that I made for them when they were each born. I kept thinking that maybe they were going to treasure them, but I notice that they are kind of washed and worn, but I love that part of it too. That they have that soft texture that comes with washing and using a quilt and they are wearing out, but they are also very well loved.

CK: Would you say that your quilts reflect the community you live in? Or the region we are in?

MA: I don't think so. I think I. I do quilts that I love. Like the one we have today. I have had this pattern, a picture of this pattern for years. So, I think that I see things in books and magazines or maybe someone else has done or inspired at our quilt show and that maybe--influenced by where I am. It may be. It may be.

CK: Or perhaps that they reflect you, would you say?

MA: Yes, probably they reflect me rather than our community or the region.[airplane heard overhead.]

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

MA: They are probably not as important as they were to early American lives because they needed to make them for warmth. I think those as more of an artistic outlet at this point. They are more of an art form than used or as a decorated accent. They are important to me, but you could buy a quilt too and it would have the same use.

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

MA: Oh, they document all the trials and tribulations that the early settlers went through. Did you see the books on old quilts and how sometimes they will have a patriotic theme or they'll have a travel theme or they will use silks from an old cigar box that was--fascinating, that they used what they had. And, they recycled. They recycled old clothes. Just think about it if they had to make the wool from, for maybe like a batting or they had to grow their own cotton and then spin it into cotton and they didn't want to throw those pieces of fabric out, they wanted to reuse them. So they were great recyclers. Which they are today too, I think. I know we buy used fabric. We cut them up. I think it started as recycling.

CK: How do you think that quilts can be used?

MA: Oh, they can be used as art. They can be used for warmth. They can be used for picnics. They can be used for tablecloths. They can be used for wall hangings, bed covers, lots of things.

CK: Many, many things.

MA: Many, many things.

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

MA: Oh, you need to think about acid free paper for storage for one thing. If you are going to store them you need the right kind of a box and the right kind of papers to store them in. And maybe roll them rather than fold them so that they are not creased. And keep the stains off them. You have got to use them too. So, even if they are preserved and they have a few stains they still have historic value, I think.

CK: I did not realize that they have quilt boxes. They have specific acid free boxes now?

MA: Yes, they do at museums. At the Washington County Historical Society that would be. I know a little bit about how they store their needlework and they have to touch them with white gloves, and they store them in special papers.

CK: And preserve it that way.

MA: Preserve it that way. Yea, I think that you should be careful. The thing about preserving a family heirloom is that you need to keep it in the right kind of box.

CK: What has happened to the quilts that you have made or given to family and friends?

MA: Oh, some of them have been used for picnics. Some of them are, for wall hangings. Some of them are used on the beds. The grandchildren all have them for snugglies. They use them every day. They are getting worn and loved. I think that probably the ones that I have kept back, ones I will pass on they maybe will preserve these a little more carefully because they will have a –these are a little more work to them than the other ones that I have passed on to them. But they are careful with them.

CK: Are they?

MA: Yes.

CK: Well, that is good. Can you think of anything that you we haven't covered that you'd like to include in this interview?

MA: Hm, let me think.

CK: I wanted to ask you if you don't mind, about your quilting. You do that by hand do you?

MA: I do it by hand. I don't use a hoop. I put it on my lap and stretch it out. And stretch it on my lap and kind of quilt it close to me.

CK: I wondered about-no hoop.

MA: No hoop.

CK: Even with a large one you don't use a hoop?

MA: I think that is how you learn. Some people learn with a hoop, some people do hoops. I never learned with the hoop. I think that I tried one time and because I had already had the habits of not a hoop then it was not easy for me. So, I use the machine to piece and then do the hand quilting. I love it. I love it. I love all of it.

CK: What is your thought about hand, of the piecing it on the machine?

MA: I have known friends who have hand pieced. And I have known, and they can do beautiful work. But, machine piecing is just the way I go. It is easier for me. I think that if I had to do it all by hand, it would be dark, and I then would say, 'No'. Maybe I would not do as many.

CK: Because of that. I see.

Then they are easily transportable if you want to work on it.

MA: If I am going to go in the car, I can't do this needlework in the car, and so I will take my knitting or my crocheting. I will take a piece that I can work on in the car.

CK: Once you get to your destination then you can [CK and MA speaking at the same time.] just work on that.

MA: Then I can work on it.

CK: Do you keep busy doing something like watch TV or?

MA: I can watch TV or quilt or knit and if I am counting stitches on a knitting project, I might have to stop, watching what I am doing and count. Or a commercial.

CK: Okay, I would like to thank Margaret Asiello for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' [S.O.S.] - Save Our Stories Project. Our interview concluded at 10:15 a.m on September 2, 2004.


“Margaret Asiello,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024,