Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am conducting a Quilters'S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Dorine Douglas. Dorine is in Avondale, Arizona, and I'm in Naperville, Illinois, so we are conducting this interview over the telephone. Today's date is August 3, 2009. It is now 3:36 in the afternoon. We are doing this interview through the American Heritage Committee for the Arizona State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Dorine thank you so much for taking time out of your day to talk to me.
Dorine Douglas (DD): You are welcome.
KM: Please tell me about your quilt "Listen to the Drum."
DD: This is an entry that I entered in the Fiber Arts Contest sponsored by theDAR and some of the requirements for this were that it had to be an original design and it had to represent our American heritage. Some of the things in the quilt are rather significant. When I first started looking for patterns for this, I noticed that in all of the pictures during the early wars, and even into the Civil War, drums were connected. There were drums in front of the line of men in battle and there were drums in parades, so I thought I could make that my centerpiece, and coincidentally it is the symbol of our state regent. I had a little lapel pin of the drum and I did a lot of micro-measuring [laughs.]. Actually the drum is to scale. Once that was finished then I had to determine sizes for all the other blocks in order to get them to fit in a certain space. The second most important part of the quilt is a copy of the Preamble to the Constitution, which is at the very top of the quilt. I think that's so important to our country. Without that, we probably would be nothing. [laughs.] I enjoyed putting the designs together and used shades of reds, whites, and blues because that's part of our heritage, too. Some of the blocks are connected to our heritage. The Log Cabin pattern kind of indicates what the early settlers lived in, very crude. The gold stars in the corner are for all the service people who have died [in service to our country.] and the white ones are for the service people who still are serving. I had really a lot of fun, made a lot of mistakes, had to re-cut, and re-measure but it was fun, and when it won first at the State I was really pleased and when it won first in Divisional I was even more pleased [laughs.] because that meant it could go to Nationals. I did win second at Nationals and I was really tickled for that. It is one of my favorite pieces now and I have it hanging in my sewing room. It probably will stay there until I decide to pass it on to my daughter.
KM: You had to write an Artist Statement. You had to write something about thequilt. How was that experience for your, was it easy?
DD: It took a lot of planning because I wanted to include everything that I haveincluded in the quilt to give it a definite meaning. For instance, the Jacob's Ladder blocks indicated their faithfulness and the faith on which our country was founded. There is a Friendship block. There is a Schoolhouse block because they were real big on education. It wasn't always of the highest quality but they taught what they knew. The rest are just simple blocks that early settlers made, the women made because they really didn't have a lot of patterns until the mid-1800's. Putting them all together and having each block mean something was a bit of a challenge, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
MM: What techniques did you use for the quilt?
DD: All of the blocks are pieced. I have, the only appliqus I have is that Idid appliqu the drum in the center and the stars are appliqud, but everything else is just pieced and then I quilted it by machine with diagonal lines, with all of the diagonals leading towards the drum.
KM: Is it machine pieced?
DD: It is all machine pieced, yes.
KM: And your appliqu too?
DD: Yes. I used Wonder Under [fusible web.] under the pieces that I wanted toappliqu and then I satin stitched around them so that they aren't going to come loose or anything.
KM: Is this quilt typical of your style?
DD: Of my style, not really. Generally when I do a quilt I have somethingdefinite in mind to start with. I guess I have a rather logical mind. I like everything to match or to be connected in some way and so I stick to patterns mostly. Once in a while I'll do something a little different but that is not the norm for me. I find the pattern that I like then part of the fun for me is choosing the fabric or a group of fabrics that will blend and look well together, as well as add to the design itself.
KM: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.
DD: The summer before I started 5th grade we lived way out in the country and wehad no neighbors for me to play with. My mother decided I had too much time on my hands [laughs.] so she started cutting Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt blocks and that summer and the following summer I finished enough blocks, all hand pieced, for a full size quilt. I left them at home when I went away and didn't give any thought to it at all. When we got married we got this quilt in the mail. My mother had finished it for me and had taken it to her ladies' group at church and had it quilted and that was my wedding gift. Unfortunately, I didn't care for it like I should have. With three babies, it got used on the floor on the rug as a mat for each of the babies and after burps and spills and various other things [laughs.] it became unusable. That was my very first experience with quilting and I didn't do any more than for a number of years, till probably the mid-50's. When our daughter started kindergarten I started saving all of the scraps from her dresses, because I made all of her school clothes. I saved pieces of fabric from my dresses and I sewed dresses for my mother and I saved some of the scraps from there and from my granddaughter's dress and from her daughter's dress. I finally got it all put together in the form of a Grandmother's [Flower Garden.] quilt and I quilted it all by hand and I gave it to my daughter on her 40th birthday. The nicest thing about that is that she actually uses it, but she is very careful with it. She doesn't have it packed away in a box someplace, she does use it. She has a quilt made out of five generations of fabric.
KM: That's wonderful.
DD: She really likes it, and when she shows it to somebody she's real eager topoint out, 'Well this was my shorts and this was my first dress,' and she knows almost all the pieces in the quilt and where they came from. She even remembers them and that is nice too.
KM: How many hours a week do you spend quilting?
DD: It depends on what I have going. Right now I'm making three throw sizequilts for three new grandchildren that we have. I'm spending several hours a day and hopefully I will get them finished by the end of August because they live out of state and I want to mail it to them for Christmas. I hate to wait until the last minute. But ordinarily if I don't have anything going I maybe spend two or three hours a week, not much more than that.
KM: Is it typical for you to work on more than one project at a time?
DD: Yes, yes. I don't get bored but I get anxious to do something else, so Iwill put something aside and work on the next project and then go back to the first one. I also have always a piece of knitting or counted cross stitch or something by my chair so that I can keep my hands busy while I watch television.
KM: What do you find the most pleasing about making quilts?
DD: I find it very relaxing. I think that aside from some of the frustrationsthat you have, there is also a lot of pleasure in it because putting the colors with the pattern, making sure that it is something that cooperates is sometimes difficult. Sometimes I will change my mind in the middle of the first block and that means I've got to start over, sort of, but I don't really mind because I do really enjoy it. I don't do a lot of hand quilting anymore. I did for a long time but now the quilts I make for younger people I do stitch in the ditch [quilting in the seams.] so they are quite secure and don't com apart at the first washing.
KM: Tell me about your creative process. How do you go about deciding what to doand how to do it?
DD: First I like to find something [a pattern.] that I think would be pleasingno matter what color you put with it. There are some patterns that you can put anything together and then there are other patterns where it really needs to be, the colors really need to be coordinated in order to have a continuity in the way the pattern flows. I recently made a Drunkard's Path quilt for my brother and his wife and I have one square in the corner where one of the pieces I got in backwards and I didn't notice it until I got it finished, quilted and everything. Then I found it. I went ahead and sent it to them anyway. Not long after that we were in one of the museums in Flagstaff, Arizona and they had on the wall a Drunkard's Path quilt with the same mistake I had made [laughs.]. I didn't feel too badly.
KM: Very interesting.
DD: They had a sign by the quilt and it said, 'Can you find the mistake?' It wasvery easy to find. I'm just hoping my brother and his wife haven't found their mistake yet. [laughs.]
KM: Is there any aspects of quiltmaking that you do not enjoy?
DD: I don't enjoy putting the sandwich together, where you put the backing, thebatting, and then the quilt top. I don't have a large enough surface to do it all in one place, so I usually start it out on the floor and then when I get it to where I want it I put it on the dining room table and pin it from there and then I can do my quilting. That is the part. It's a chore. I really don't enjoy it, but I know it is a necessity.
KM: How does your family feel about your quiltmaking? You mentioned yourdaughter loving her quilt.
DD: My daughter has made several quilts and so has her daughter, but none ofthem just yet are into really enjoying it I don't think. They both work and it's very difficult sometimes to find the time that is needed to do this and keep up with everything else. I'm sure that once they retire, my daughter especially, I'm sure she'll get involved in some kind of quiltmaking. I don't know just what, but I'm sure she will get there.
KM: Tell me about the quilt that you sleep under.
DD: The quilt I sleep under, it's called "Hugs and Kisses." It's X's and O's,alternating blocks of X's and O's and it has Prairie Points around the edge. It's yellow print with a beige print on a cream background and it's been washed a number of times. It comes out beautifully, hasn't lost any of the stitches yet, so that helps. We always have a quilt on the bed. In the summer, it comes off in the evening because it's much to hot here to sleep under a quilt. In the winter time, it stays on the bed all winter long.
KM: What does your family think about your winning, your quilt?
DD: They were all just so surprised, not surprised because they didn't think Icould do it, but surprised that there were so many other entries and I still won and that made me kind of proud because they were proud of me for doing all of that. They have always taken an interest in anything that I've chosen to do, whether it is quiltmaking or painting or whatever.
KM: What does your DAR Chapter think of your win?
DD: They were so tickled. At the next meeting I got a standing ovation, believeit or not [laughs.] and of course I got a certificate for it, which was nice too. They were real pleased and I was proud to be able to represent them in a good fashion like that.
KM: What are you going to do with your certificate?
DD: I have it framed and hanging in my sewing room. My sewing room is our thirdbedroom. There is just my husband and I now, the children are all grown and moved away, so we have this extra bedroom and it works out quite well. My sewing machine is in front of a window and I can keep track of the neighborhood goings on [laughs.] and it's a good location to work. The light source is really good and I don't have any difficulty.
KM: What else do you have in the room?
DD: I have a worktable, two chest of drawers where I keep extra fabric, and abookshelf with stashes of fabric on it, some of which I'm sure I'll never use. Periodically I take the fabric that I know I won't use and there is a local group that I give it to and they make quilts out of it for Crisis Nursery or something like that. A lot of the scraps that I have leftover from my regular quilts, I put together in doll size quilts and donate them to the neonatal units at the hospital. They are 18 [inches.] by 24 [inches.] which is just the size for an isolet where the preemies are kept and they are so glad to get something like that. The quilt goes home with the baby when the baby goes home and it's kind of nice to know that you've helped somebody out.
KM: Very nice. What advice would you offer someone starting out in quiltmaking?
DD: I think the biggest piece of advice is don't get discouraged and buy a goodseam ripper [KM laughs.]. You're going to make mistakes but don't get discouraged over that and if you make something that you don't actually like, turn it over and use the back side. The back side is usually fairly plain and so it doesn't matter what's on the other side, and you have a quilt that you've made yourself. I think good utensils or good equipment is a necessity too. They now have excellent rotary cutters and large rulers with big numbers that you can easily see to mark your fabric. They have longarm quilters but I've never mastered one, but I think it would be a good thing to do. Take a pattern that you like for the very beginning and make it very simple so that you don't get discouraged too easily. We lived in a mobile retirement home and I had nine ladies that wanted to quilt. We started out with a basic Nine Patch and I had each of them buy an extra yard of fabric just in case, and it was a good thing they did, because learning to use the rotary cutter can sometimes lead to crooked strips of fabric. They really enjoyed doing it and they all finished their quilt. Sometime later one of the ladies lost her husband and after that she made about six quilts in a row. She said to me one day that she was so thankful that she had learned to quilt because that was her way of getting through a really rough time and I felt good about that.
KM: Have you ever used quiltmaking to get through a difficult time?
DD: Not really. If I have a down day I go to the fabric store and I look throughthe pattern books and I feel every piece of fabric in the store, and then I feel better. [both laugh.] That takes care of that. I think having an understanding family is necessary if you're going to be a quilter, too. My husband is always pleased with whatever I come up with; whatever I make he just thinks it's the best and sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. Sometimes you don't get dinner on the table at the right time if you're in the midst of sewing, you just get lost and time passes so fast that you just can't believe the day is gone and you don't have dinner, so that is a good way to get to go out for dinner sometimes too. [KM laughs.]
My grandmother, my father's mother, was a quilter. I have a quilt that shestarted in the 1890's. It's called A Star of Many Points and she made it with orange and red. I know that sounds terrible, but they were the right shades and they went together quite well. She had given it to my mother to finish and my mother never got it finished, so she gave it to me. About three years ago, I took it all apart because she had just set the blocks together without any sashing and they just sort of all blended together and I wanted to set them apart so that they each would look better. I took them apart, washed them, and mended the ones that needed to be mended because they were all hand pieced. I found some fabric that was a good coordinator and I cut sashing strips and put them back together. I hand quilted it. Our state fair has a category in their Arts Department for quilts started by one generation and finished by another. I entered my quilt and I got first place. I made a special tag to go on the back of it and I gave it to my daughter and she can pass it to her daughter if she wants or keep it or whatever she wants, but I wanted to keep it in the family because it is a beautiful quilt.
My mother also did some quilting. Mostly it was out of necessity because welived in a farmhouse that wasn't the warmest house in the winter. So every summer she would make and quilt at least three quilts. When I was about five I thought, 'I can do that.' I asked her to let me help. Well she couldn't be bothered at the time and I kept pestering so finally I got underneath the frame and she would poke her needle down and I would pull it through and poke it back up and this would go on for half an hour or so until I lost interest. Naturally I thought I was a really big help. As it turns out later, she told me when I was grown that I really wasn't helping because when I left she had to take out everything that I had done and redo it. I was trying anyway.
KM: What did you like about teaching your group?
DD: I found that it was satisfying for me to be able to do that. Ordinarily I'ma terrific follower but I'm not a real good leader. They were all very patient and it was good to see the combinations of colors that they would put together for these simple blocks and they were so thrilled when they finally got their first block together. It was indescribable to see the look on their faces when they figured they can really do this. That was the big thing, just getting them to realize that this was something they could do.
KM: What are your favorite techniques?
DD: I don't really have a favorite technique. It's just whatever it takes to getit to look right is what I end up doing. I do mostly strips of fabric sewn into pieces and then sliced and complete a block that way. Sometimes it is not possible if you do triangles or hexagons, but I do like to use the rotary cutter. It is so much quicker and you get a better edge on all of your fabric pieces than if you had to cut everything by hand, then it would take you ages and ages.
KM: What other advances in technology have influenced you? Just like the rotarycutter, how have things changed over the years for you?
DD: I think that is the biggest change, that and the sewing machine. There are alot of purists that don't believe that quilting by machine is quiltmaking. In order to quilt something that's going to last a life time and have some value, they believe that it has to be hand pieced. This is fine if you don't plan to use the quilt, but I think that if you're going to use the quilt or give it to someone who does use it, I believe that it needs to be pretty sturdily put together and the sewing machine is the best way to do that. I'm not a big fan of longarm quilting. I find that too much of it makes a quilt stiff, especially if they do stippling so close together, I don't seem to get that same soft quilt that I had before I sent it to them. I've only had one of my quilts machine quilted that way. That is a big help for a lot of women who make a lot of quilts, and the easiest way for them to get them completed is to have them quilted by longarm.
KM: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?
DD: At this particular time I think the biggest thing is cost. The recession ishere and everyone is trying to get their priorities straight for spending the money that they have. When you pay $8.00 or $9.00 dollars a yard for quilt fabric, because with all the work you put in it you want a good fabric, and it adds up so fast that I think that is the biggest drawback right at the moment. There are a lot of guilds that teach quilting and that do a lot of charity quilting and things of that nature and I think that if you want to really get into it, that a good way to get started is join a quilt guild. You just make all kinds of friends and get all of your questions answered if you have questions about what you are doing.
KM: Why is quiltmaking important to you?
DD: Why is quilting important to me? [KM agrees.] I think it is a little bit ofmyself that I can pass on to my family or my friends or whomever gets the quilts. It keeps my mind active. I have to think a lot. It keeps me physically busy because my cutting table is about 6 feet away from my sewing machine so I'm up and down a lot. It does keep your mind active and you have to do a lot of thinking to make sure that you've chosen the right colors and patterns and so forth.
KM: What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?
DD: Artistically powerful? I think it goes to color. I think putting certaincolors together can be eye catching. It can be very bold or it can be something that is just so soft that it is very, very pleasing. I go myself for more of the softer patterns rather than bright, bright colors. I'm a pastel person at heart I suppose because a lot of the quilts that I have made have a cream background or a white on white background with pastel shades. To me that is what I like best. If someone wants something particular and I know that their colors are certain colors, then if I'm going to make something for them I will try very hard to do something in the color that they would like.
KM: Do you find that difficult?
DD: Sometimes I find it more difficult than if I did it for myself becausenumber one I want them to be happy with it, even if it is just a small quilt. It is something that I want them to know that I took the time enough to do it for them and do it in a color that they would like. I think probably some of my family members are getting tired of my quilting because every time I turn around somebody is getting a new quilt. [laughs.] It is fun to do and I really enjoy it and hope that my daughter and my granddaughters too, and even some of the men may learn to quilt and find as much joy in it as I do.
KM: Whose works are you drawn to and why?
DD: I don't have anyone especially in particular that I'm drawn to. I go toquilt shows and I'm drawn to things that I can see took a lot of thought and a lot of planning and a good technique for putting it together. I enjoy all kinds of quilts. I have no particular one that I enjoy.
KM: Which quilt shows have you been to?
DD: There is a quilt show here in the Valley at a place called the Saguaro Ranchand they have a wonderful quilt show. Then we have quilt shows in the northern part of the state in the summer and quite often we would go up there and I would go to quilt shows there. I don't buy anything generally, but I certainly enjoy looking. It is interesting to see a pattern that I have made in my soft shades and then see the same pattern that is very bold in bright, bright colors. I do enjoy going.
KM: How do you want to be remembered?
DD: Oh goodness that is a hard question, just so they remember me is amazing.[KM laughs.] I don't know, but I would hope that they would understand the things that I've done for them, have been done because of something I've wanted to do, not because it was something that I had to do. I think that if you can give a little bit of yourself and leave a little bit of yourself behind that's about all you can ask.
KM: Do you plan to enter another quilt?
DD: I've been asked to, but I'm not certain what the topic is going to be thisyear and I'm just not certain if I'll do it again. I'm not sure I could come out as well as I did this time and I figure I'm a little bit ahead of the game, now I might just stay that way. [laughs.]
KM: Were you able to go to Continental Congress and see your quilt?
DD: No I didn't, I didn't go. I wish that I could have. I would like to haveseen the quilt that won first place, not because I'm envious, but because I would like to see what he or she did that made it so good.
KM: You haven't had a chance to see it?
DD: No, I haven't had a chance to see it. One of the members of our chapter whowas at the Continental Congress was going to take photos, so I'm hoping that when we have our August meeting she'll have her photos with her and I can see the other things that were involved.
KM: What do you think makes a great quilter?
DD: Somebody who first of all enjoys it because it will show in your work if youreally enjoy what you're doing. Someone who has an eye for color and doesn't mind trying something different once in a while. Someone who can take a pattern and re-arrange it so that you have the same pattern but a totally different look. I think you just have to be willing to experiment and try different things, and do what you do best.
KM: In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history?
DD: I think most of the quilts that were made in the early part of the 19thCentury; I think they told a story. They had what they called Friendship Blocks and before the people from back east would move to the Wild West, the neighbors would each make a block and put this all together as a quilt for the woman to bring to the new country with her so that she could remember all of her neighbors. I think that is a real good way to keep in touch, whether you keep in touch physically or by writing or whatever, you have something that someone else has made because they wanted you to remember them.
KM: What do you think your mom would think of your quilts?
DD: I think she would love them. She would always admire other people's work.She sewed and did all kinds of things like that for years and years and I think if she could know what I have done, I think she would be real tickled, real pleased. I had made several throw quilts and sent to her just as a gift or something to do and she loved them, and she used them. That to me, that is the best honor you can give someone who makes something for you is to use it and don't say, well I'm going to put this away and save it; that's not why it was given, they gave it to you so that you could use it and that is what you need to do.
KM: How do you think quilts should be used?
DD: Depends on the size of the quilt. If it is something afghan size perhaps itmakes a nice added touch in your living room if you have the colors that will go well with the furniture that you have. I've seen a number of quilts hanging on bedroom walls as part of the decoration and I think that's a nice way to do it. I have several quilts on a quilt rack that you can tell what the quilt is and see all the colors, but they are not hanging literally, they are folded and hanging on a rack. There is any number of ways that you can use them. I think it is always nice to have a quilt to snuggle under on those days that you don't feel real good. It's a real comforter.
KM: Is there anything that you would like to share that we haven't touched upon?
DD: I can't think of anything more at the moment. [laughs.] I just hope that Ican keep quilting and pass on my knowledge to someone else, whether it is in my family or a friend or whoever. I think it is so nice to be able to share what you do. Even if the person that you give it to can't do the same thing, they can enjoy what you have done and I think that's a very, very good thing.
KM: What is your very first quilt memory?
DD: My very first quilt memory is being scolded by my grandmother for jumping onher bed and getting her quilt dirty. [KM laughs.] I guess she got over it because we did get invited back. She had a feather bed mattress on her bed and they are very nice and fluffy and she always had this beautiful Double Wedding Ring quilt on her bed. My two brothers and I thought it looked like a nice place to play, but she didn't agree and we got sent to the other room.
KM: That is a great memory.
DD: Yes it is. She is the one that made the blocks that I took apart and putback together.
KM: Great connection.
KM: I'm trying to think if there is anything else I would like to ask you.
DD: Well, I can't think of a lot of other things that I have to say. [KMlaughs.] I find it difficult sometimes to discuss work that I've done because what you think might be extraordinary, to me is just something I do and so I sometimes don't see what all the fuss is about, but, sometimes it is kind of nice to be fussed over too.
KM: I was going to definitely say I think you're worth fussing over. Idefinitely think that is the case and I hope you continue to make quilts.
DD: I plan to keep making quilts. As a matter of fact, I kind of dread when thetime comes that perhaps my hands get arthritic or my eyesight fails or something, and I won't be able to do that, but as long as I can do it I'm going to do it, and if I can't find anyone to give the quilts to while I'm here, they can dispose of them when I'm gone.
KM: I want to thank you for taking time out of your day and sharing with me andtalking with me.
DD: I've really enjoyed it. I hope I've been some help to you at least.
KM: You have been great help.
KM: We are going to conclude our Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interviewat 4:17.