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Pam Biswas (PB): I am Pam Biswas, and this is [microphone noise, UPs speak.] Sandra McLeod. And today is November 3rd, and it is 4:30 p.m., and Im conducting an interview [unidentifiable noise.] with Sandra McLeod for Quilters S.O.S--Save Our Stories, a project of the [UPs shout until end of answer.] Alliance for American Quilts. Sandra McLeod and I are at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. Sandra McLeod, will you tell me about the quilt [microphone noise.] that you brought for us today?

Sandra McLeod (SM): Oh, I brought my Chicken Quilt, [SM laughs.] because I thought it was humorous [microphone noise.]. I have a [microphone noise.] very nice quilt [static noise until you.], I [static noise.] probably should have [static noise.] brought to you, but it's almost king-sized [SM laughs.]. I 00:01:00didn't want to have to deal with [laughs as she speaks, microphone noise.] the weight of it, and size [UP laughs, another UP says sorry in background.], and all that. And I thought this one was fun [unidentifiable noise, UP speaks.]--not the kind of thing you're going to see from a lot of quilters.

PB: [UP speaks.] How did you come to [unidentifiable noise.] make a chicken quilt?

SM: Well, my friend loves chickens [microphone noise.], and I found a chicken pattern [horn honks.] that I [UP speaks.] thought was cute. And I showed it to her, and she decided [UPs speak, unidentifiable microphone noise, SM says Okay. UPs speaking.] that we should all make chicken quilts. And so, we exchanged chicken fabrics wed gathered [unidentifiable noise.], so that we would have a lot of variety to choose from [UP shouts.]. So we roped in a third person [unidentifiable noise.], so there were three of us making these chicken quilts [unidentifiable noise.], and we just had a lot of fun with it, so. [unidentifiable noise.] I did it really for her, [laughs as she says the next 00:02:00phrase.] for my friend.

[unidentifiable noise.]

PB: What do you think someone could learn about you by looking at your [laughs.] Chicken Quilt [horn honks.]?

SM: Well, maybe that I have a sense of humor sometimes [laughs.].

[unidentifiable background noise.]

PB: Sandra, how did you get into quiltmaking? [unidentifiable noise.].

SM: [UP speaks.] Well, this chicken friend took me to the Greater Houston quilt guild style show, and we were teaching at the same school. And she took me to a style show, and I became interested. I don't really remember the times of everything, but I got into a wearables group [UP speaking.], and learned a lot of quilting techniques, and shortly discovered [UP speaking, unidentifiable 00:03:00noise.] sometimes I couldn't finish a garment in time [says It just wasn't right, unidentifiable noise.], but I could work on a quilt forever [ SM laughs.] When I finished it, it was the perfect time. So, I kind of switched over at some point and [UP says Yep, microphone noise.] enjoyed looking at wearables, but when I get really right down to it [UP laughs.], Im going to make a quilt [UP speaks, horn honks.], not something [UP speaks until end.] wearable anymore.

PB: So when you started, you were an adult, not a child?

SM: Oh, yes. I had a grandmother who quilted but I was never able to sew with her, and I slept under a quilt that she made, a wedding ring quilt from the 30s fabrics. As a child, that was my quilt on my bed. And I have wonderful memories of that quilt [UP speaks.], but my mother did not quilt [faint horn 00:04:00honks.]. I loved sewing, and so when I found quilting, I was just [horn honks, unidentifiable noise.] delighted [unidentifiable noise.]. I love to play with fabric, and stroke it, and pat it [laughs.], admire it, and sometimes I cut it up and use it.

[unidentifiable noise from the festival in the background, UP speaking.]

PB: How many hours a week do you think you spend quilting [UP speaking.]?

SM: Well, I belong to three groups that meet weekly [horn honks.]. One group meets for four hours; the other are two hour groups. So, either way, I've got eight hours there. And then [unidentifiable noise, UPs speak, unidentifiable UP noise, SM sighs.], at home it just varies so. If I get really involved in a 00:05:00project [unidentifiable crash noise.], I might put [horn honks.] everything else aside. But that time is just so hard [horn honks.] to come by these days [faint horn honks.]. [microphone noise.] But I do it as much as I can [unidentifiable noise, horn honks.].

PB: You mention guilds. Have you ever entered your quilts into shows?

SM: Yes, [UP speaks.] yes I have [UP speaking.]. The one I have in the Lone Stars Three [Geese and Feathers in the Garden] was juried into Houston, and [UP laughs.] this is the [unidentifiable crash noise.] third time they've shown it here [UP speaks.]. And I have a quilt that won Best of Show for a Quilt Guild Show [unidentifiable noise.] two years ago [UP speaks.], which just amazed me. But anyway, Im just thrilled. But I don't enter in a lot of stuff. 00:06:00I'm just [laughs.], I'm not very trusting. I carry my quilt down to Quilts' Inc. and give it to them. And when they're through with it, they let me know and I go and get it and take [UP speaks.] it from them [UP speaks, unidentifiable noise.]. I don't think I'd be very comfortable mailing my quilt off to things [UP speaking.]. I know a lot of people do, [UP laughs.] but I'm [UP speaks.] not going to crank out that many of them, and so theyre [laughs.] very precious to me [laughs again.], the ones I have [UP laughs, unidentifiable noise.].

PB: For you, [unidentifiable noise.] what is the most pleasurable thing about making a quilt?

SM: Oh, it's dealing with the color and pattern, making all those decisions [horn honks.] and deciding. [horn honks, then SM sighs, unidentifiable crash noise.] I don't like to plan things out [UP shouts.] that much. I like to start 00:07:00with a pattern, and then I like to get some fabrics [UP speaks, unidentifiable noise.] and start thinking about colors. Then, I like to look at the borders after I get the center [UP speaks.] done to decide what I would like to try out [horn honks.] with fabrics, kind of like you try on clothes. Then, [UP shout in background.] after I can't think of anything else to do with it, then I know it's done so I quit [SM laughs.]. And that's whatever size it is. I [microphone noise, horn honks.] tend to make lots of really big quilts [unidentifiable noise, horn honks.], just because I enjoy making the blocks, I think. The designing, or the appliquing, or whatever--I like it all.

PB: [UP speaks at same time.] Do you have any idea how many quilts you've made?

SM: No, I thought about that a while back, and I started trying to count [horn 00:08:00honks, UP laughs.], but it's over 50, but I don't know how many over. I make things [UP speaks.] for charity--[unidentifiable noise.] quilts. I give a lot of my quilts away [UP speaks.]. My grandchildren have a lot of quilts, and their parents have some [UP shouts, horn honks.], friends have some. In our Sunday school [horn honks.] class for a while we had a lot of women that were dealing with breast cancer, and I made each one of them a [UP speaks until end of whole answer.] quilt while they were going through their process of being treated and everything. I don't know. [rustling noise.] And I make things for babies, and I forget about them. I have fun making it, and then I'm done, and they can have them and do with it and whatever the want, so.


PB: When you're making quilts [UP shouts.], do you have like an entire room in your house dedicated for that?

SM: Yes I do, [UP shouts.], yes I do. I have a rather large room, I guess--it's about 10 [horn honks.] by 20 [unknown length.], I guess [sighs.]. I don't just work on one quilt at a [unidentifiable noise.] time, I like to work on--well, I may have 10 to 20 started, and if I get tired of working on whatever [horn honks.] that kind of stuff is on one quilt, well then I switch to something else sometimes. Sometimes, my brain needs to work on something, and I put that aside. So, sometimes that room is really full. Most people would be horrified, I suppose, [SM laughs.] but I find that I ca work in there just 00:10:00fine, with piles of this color and that color stuck on the wall. I keep two machines out. I have a little Featherweight [lightweight Singer sewing machine.] that I just love to piece with. And then, I've got a Bernina [sewing machine.] that I do other stuff with. I've got a Serger [sewing machine.], but I don't touch it [SM laughs, microphone noise.], every time I do it, I don't know. I have a friend that comes over and rescues me, [SM laughs.]--changes thread for me or something, nice friend [horn honks.].

[unidentifiable noise.]

PB: So you quilt on the [UP speaks until end.] domestic machine or longarm?

SM: No, I have a domestic machine, that's when I quilt. I also have a quilter, 00:11:00that just does beautiful things, and she's the one--for my little chicken quilt, for instance. I had her quilt words like cluck cluck, and peep peep, and cheep cheep, and cockadoodle doo, and all kinds of stuff like that in those chicken wire borders. We just had fun with that, and she'll do whatever I ask most of the time [unidentifiable noise, UP laughs.]. She's wonderful.

PB: So you tell your quilter [UP unidentifiable noise.] how you want it quilted?

SM: Yes [microphone noise.], usually.

[Pause for 6 seconds, unidentifiable noise.]

PB: What do you think makes a quilt great [siren like noise.]?

SM: Well, I think [UP shouts.] the color and design, piecing, and appliqu 00:12:00[unidentifiable noise.]. I like a quilt that has some of it all [microphone noise, UP shouts.]. A lot of times, when [UP shouting.] a quilt is very geometric, I think that the appliqu softens it and adds a nice nuisance to the quilt [UP shouts, 6 second pause.]. That's what I think. That's not [unidentifiable noise.] what everybody thinks [laughs after she says this.]. I think I'm more traditional, I like [UP shouting.] traditional patterns [horn honks.], although I [rustling noise.] print pictures off on fabric. I've got a collection of my mother's valentines I'm working with now that are from the 20s. I've made these heart blocks, and I put the valentines on top of that 00:13:00heart block, and they're so cute I decided I'd make one for each branch of the family [rustling noise.]. So, I'm making four of them. But they're just little small wall hangings that I'm just putting sixteen blocks in [UP shouts.] each little quilt. But, I had more than sixteen valentines. I don't know who gets the collection when I'm gone. But anyway, they all get a quilt, so.

PB: [UP shouts during question.] Of all the quilters you know that are famous, not famous, who do you admire the most? Whose work do you admire the most?

SM: Oh golly, they're lots of people that just do fabulous work. Sometimes, it's not a well -known name to me [microphone noise.], I just wander up and down the aisles [unidentifiable noise.]. I don't always agree with the judges [microphone 00:14:00noise.]. I'll say, This quilt doesnt have a ribbon? [microphone noise.] It's just to me; it's beautiful [microphone noise.]. [horn honks.] People put a lot of time into the wonderful things that are here [UP speaking/shouting.] lots.

PB: Do you feel like any particular person influenced you [unidentifiable noise.] more than others [music like noise, UP speaking.]?

SM: No, I can't say [UPs speaking.] I used to watch [unidentifiable noise.] Alex Anderson, and I learned a lot by watching the show and just hearing all the different people. And sometimes, I would think oh my goodness; I would never do that [crash like noise.]. And then, after I got more experienced, maybe that 00:15:00segment would rerun. I'd watch it again, and I'd just get so excited. Id think, Oh yes [microphone noise.], that's exactly what I need to do on this quilt, because you grow as a quilter. As you learn, then you become interested in doing and trying different things, I think [microphone noise, UP speaking, UP says nice, microphone noise.].

[6 second pause.]

PB [hard to hear.]: Why do you think [microphone noise.] quiltmaking [horn honks.] is important to you or in life in general?

SM: Oh, I think it's a way of passing on a little bit of who I am to my family, perhaps [unidentifiable noise.]. We'll see.

[UP speaking, 9 second pause.]

PB: Do you think [UP speaks in and out until end.] there are ways that the quilt reflects your community or your region [UP laughs.]?


SM: [SM sighs.] I'm not sure. I hear them say Texas quilters like brighter colors than [unidentifiable noise.] other parts of the [UP speaks.] region. I just like it all [UP speaking.]. Sometimes, [horn honks.] I use just [unidentifiable noise.] in your face colors. And other times, I go for more subtle things [UP shouts.]. Sometimes, they're old-fashioned colors [UP shouts.], and sometimes they're 30s colors [unidentifiable noise, UP speaks in background.] So, I can't say [UP laughs.] that they would be able to look at my quilts [UP speaks.] and say Oh, [SM half laughs as she says next phrase.] she lived in Texas [UP unidentifiable noise.]. I don't know.

[unidentifiable background noise and pause for 7.4 seconds.].

PB: How do you think quilts [UP shouts until end.] can be preserved in our future?


[UP says theyre, UP unidentifiable noise, 5.6 second pause before SM speaks.]. SM: [UP unidentifiable noise in and out during whole answer.] Well, I think they're doing pretty good right now [unidentifiable noise.], really [UP speaks.]. And I think [UP shouts.] that there's a greater appreciation for the work. Of course, people making art quilts now, [UP shouts, unidentifiable noise.] they've brought a lot to people's minds, I think. People look at the art quilts and think about them, in a [UP shouts.] different way perhaps than something [unidentifiable noise.] you put on a bed, not underneath the bed spread maybe [horn honks, UP unidentifiable noise.]. [horn honks.] I think the future's really bright for quilts. And I think so many women [unidentifiable 00:18:00noise.] are finding it's a wonderful way to relax, get away from the stress from whatever your life brings [unidentifiable noise.], and it gives you a lot of pleasure, I think. The more skill you bring to something [UP laughs.], the more you enjoy it [microphone noise.]. So I think all those things work together. And I think [unidentifiable noise.] also you can kind of justify making a [unidentifiable noise.] quilt for yourself if you're working and really busy and everything, but you can think, Well, I'm really making something for the bed or for the wall. [SM laughs.] I'm not just wasting my time [horn honks.], just because I enjoy it [unidentifiable noise.]. So, there's a lot of that too, I think.


[5 second pause with unidentifiable noise.].

PB: What do you think the biggest challenge is for today's quilters?

[SM pauses for 5 seconds, sighs and then answers.].

SM: Well, finding money for all the toys that you [UP shouts.] want to use is perhaps a challenge and finding the time to use them. [UP shouts.] And theres [UP shouting.] so many different ways of doing things, to find something that you would like to do in all this. Sometimes, people come to the quilt festival for the first time, and they're [SM sighs.] overcome with everything [UP speaks.] they see in the booths, and the quilts of all different kinds. It would be really tough to know where do you start [unidentifiable noise.]. So [UP 00:20:00speaking until end.], I think that can be something. I think but if you just start a little bit at a time, [SM laughs.] its no problem [SM laughs.]. You just keep going [microphone noise.].

PB: [microphone nose.] How do you feel about men [UP shouts.] getting into quilting?

SM: Oh, it's great. We've got a bunch of men in our [microphone noise.] quilt guild [UP shouting, unidentifiable noise.]. I don't think most of [UP continues until the answer ends.] them do as well as we women do [laughs], but its [microphone noise.] okay, I love it [microphone noise.]. Oh, don't tell them that [microphone noise.].

[SM laughs, then unidentifiable noise].

PB: So, we've talked a [microphone noise.] lot about a lot of different things [microphone noise.]. Can you think of something just like [UP speaking ntil end.] maybe I didn't mention it, didnt cover it [microphone noise.], that you would like to add to the interview [UP speaking, rustling noise.]?

[UP speaks.].

SM: [UP noise in background during whole answer in and out.] I am teaching my 00:21:00granddaughter [microphone noise.] to quilt. She's eight [static noise, UP laughs, another UP shouts.] And we have finished two quilts now [microphone static noise.]. I have her doing little blocks, I just [UP shouts.] pick up scraps [unidentifiable noise.] from my quilt room, and I make strips a certain width [microphone static.]. I have her sew two together, and then a fat strip on the end [microphone static, UP speaking/shouting.]. We just put it in rows, and it's [microphone noise.] just cute. [microphone static.] Then, she picks out the border [unidentifiable noise.]. Now, I've got her working on a charity quilt. Now [unidentifiable noise.], her seams aren't always straight, but she likes to turn on the television while she's working. So, she looks up at the TV at the same time she sews [inaudible word, laughter from SM, says Look at this.]. So, those come out. But I don't say anything to her, I just [horn honks.] take it out, and pretty soon I slip that to her again [UP speaks.] and say [unidentifiable noise.] sew this. I don't get to play with her all that often, but I am hoping [UP speaking until last sentence.] that this is teaching another generation the pleasure that Ive had in this.


[SM says so and UP speaking.]. SM: [UP shouts during answer.] I guess thats it. [UP speaks, UP laughs.]. PB: That's a great way of passing it on [UPs speaking.], a great way of preserving [UPs speaking.] our quilting. [horn honks.] No, no better means than work now--[unidentifiable noise.] one generation to the next [unidentifiable noise.]. I really enjoyed hearing your story, and [microphone noise.] if there's [UP speaks.] nothing else that you would like [microphone noise.] to add, last opportunity [microphone noise.].

SM: [UPs speak during answer.] Can't think of anything.

PB: Well, I would say it is 4:48 ish [microphone noise, UP speaks.]. Id like to thank Sandra McLeod for allowing me to interview her [horn like sound.] for the Quilters' S.O.S.--Save our Stories Oral History Project. This [unidentifiable noise.] concludes our interview [UP shouts.] for today.