ID number: TQ.2014.027
Name of Interviewee: Linda Hayward
Name of Interviewer: Liz Savage
Name of Transcriber: Maxine March
Location: Linda’s home
Address: Swansea, Wales
Date: 5 September 2014
Length of interview: 0:20:37
Linda’s quilt was made using a pattern from the book ‘The Underground Railroad Sampler’. Some people think that anti-slavery supporters hung quilts on fences and in windows which featured secret messages signposting African American slaves to freedom along the ‘Underground Railroad’. Linda explains the research she did into the Underground Railroad and the alleged meaning behind the blocks. She explains how she got into quilting, including her mother’s link to quilting. In the second half of the interview Linda talks about trying different types of quilting, where she gets inspiration from, longarm quilting and why quiltmaking is important to her.
Liz Savage [LS]: Hello, Linda.
Linda Hayward [LH]: Hello, Liz.
LS: Nice to see you. Can you tell me something about the quilt you are showing us today?
LH: Well, this quilt is one I made, completed in 2008, started it in 2007. It’s a large quilt, it’s 84 inches by 84 inches, and it’s quite strong colours, not bright colours, but strong colours and contains a lot of Civil War type fabrics. It was made from a pattern which I found in a book called ‘The Underground Railroad Sampler’ by Eleanor Burns and Sue Bouchard and I was almost directed to that book and similar books by quilts I saw at the Malvern Quilt show in 2007, at the stand of the designer Mandy Shaw, who had run workshops on writing, on making these, this type of quilt. For those, for anyone who doesn’t under… know what the underground railroad is, it is purported to be a way of the African slaves in America in the nineteenth century or probably before as well, trying to make a bid for their freedom and trying to travel north as far as Canada where there wasn’t slavery. To help them on their way it is said that quilts were used as markers and signals by people who were sympathetic to their case and were placed over, fences and windows as if they were airing and each quilt contained certain block patterns which would indicate to the slave whether it was safe to stay, whether it was not safe to stay or where they could get food etcetera bearing in mind that majority of, of people who were in slavery weren’t able to read.
LS: So, can you tell me something more about the actual way you put the blocks together, that they’re in, it’s a sampler quilt, so they’re in, each block is different, isn’t it?
LH: It is, and it’s… [interruption] The story of the Underground Railroad is told in the quilt and the last block of all is, a description in, in words of what the quilt, what each block means. The slaves at this time and of course their main the main thing they knew about was religious matters ‘cause they were passed down from generation to generation and, they needed they needed the sort of reassurance that, they were going to get as far as Canada, by using religious significant patterns.
[Break in the interview]
LS: This is TQ.2014.027 again with interviewee Linda Hayward. OK, Linda, you were going to tell us something of the story of the, the quilt.
LH: Well it, it might be interesting for anyone listening to hear the story of the individual blocks passing a message on to people who couldn’t read. The block the ‘Monkey Wrench’ turns the ‘Wagon Wheel’ towards Canada which was the ultimate aim of the slaves. With help from ‘Jesus the carpenter’, that’s a Carpenter’s block follow the ‘Bear’s Trail’ through the woods. ‘Fill your Baskets’ block with enough food and supplies to get you to the ‘Crossroads’. Once you get to the crossroads dig a ‘Log Cabin’. In other words find a safe house that you could stay. ‘Shoofly’ told us to dress up in cotton and satin bowties to disguise themselves. Follow the ‘Flying Geese’ and the ‘Birds in the Air’. Stay on the ‘Drunkard’s Path’. Take the ‘Sailboat’ across the Great Lakes to the ‘North Star’ above Canada and that was the ultimate aim of all the all the escaping slaves. So each, each one of those is a block design and as I say they’re from the book called ‘The Underground Railroad Sampler Quilt’.
LS: It sounds to me as if this quilt was a quite important quilt to you in making it and in finding out about it as well.
LH: It, it was indeed .From the minute that I started to, had an interest in this I couldn’t resist doing some research. I did a lot of internet research. It wasn’t always pleasant actually because I was learning things about a subject that I knew nothing about and most of it was, was quite grim, but it was fascinating and it is part of American history and you know you could, you could bring that forward and say well you know slavery is still going on in 2014. It hasn’t really been eradicated but perhaps not on this scale.
LS: So those are your feelings about the quilt really. Do you feel it’s been a success in aesthetic terms as well?
LH: Oh it has. I’m very happy to loan the quilt if anyone wants to give a talk on this subject and I have given talks myself but I normally keep it hanging in my house for short periods of time because I like to rest the quilts. I don’t hang them all the time and it’s always a talking point and it looks quite nice on the wall because it’s, well it’s colourful and if people are interested then you can tell them the story of it and people are usually quite amazed at what’s gone on.
LS: Right can we talk about your involvement in quiltmaking, when did you first start making quilts?
LH: Well I first started making quilts I suppose about eight years ago when I retired from my, from my job. I was looking for a new social group and neighbours encouraged me to come to a quilting group with them. When they stopped going for various reasons I continued to go and I got quite gripped with the idea of being able to create something from pieces of fabric and I found it quite therapeutic after a lifetime of working, to do something purely for myself.
LS: Um, were there any other quiltmakers or people who sewed in your family?
LH: Well my mother could always sew and I suppose I learned to sew by watching her. I was never formally taught. I don’t actually ever remember her saying that she made a quilt, but after she died I found a quilt, amongst her possessions which I would think must be dated from 1930s, 40s, quite a simply made quilt, but it is quite definitely a quilt and I really can’t think of anywhere else it would have come from except from my mother’s hand itself.
LS: I think you’ve answered the question about how you started quilting by joining this group and you still belong to a group now don’t you?
LH: I do. I belong to Swansea Quilters and the Quilters’ Guild.
LS: What are your preferred styles of quilt?
LH: Well if I’m honest I suppose I, it’s traditional styles I like. I can understand them. They’re easier to understand… I like…styles that I would put on my wall or on my beds, which probably excludes a lot of very modern quilts which are perfectly lovely and some of them are beautifully made but for me personally and perhaps in my age group I like traditional quilts.
LS: What sort of techniques do you prefer using… do you do wholecloth quilts? Quilt-as-you–go? Or, and quilting as well.
LH: Well yes I think quilt-as–you-go is brilliant because, it takes away that daunting task of quilting a huge quilt when you’ve actually just finished the patchwork. I mostly machine quilt because I have arthritis in my hands and I would love to hand quilt but it’s difficult for me.
LS: Do you do applique, not for the same reason?
LH: Not very often. I will do it but not very often.
LS: What do you enjoy, specifically enjoy about quiltmaking?
LH: I think it’s the… the idea that I’m actually creating something visually pleasing from just rolls of fabric or pieces of fabric, and to me it’s like painting a picture. The end of my quilt I’m looking at it and it looks like a picture to me.
LS: Is there anything you don’t enjoy… about quiltmaking?
LH: Well when I’ve finished a patchwork top especially if it’s if it’s a large quilt I don’t enjoy the prospect of then putting it together and having to start all over again and quilt it but once you start quilting it and the contours of the piece of work start to change, then that makes it makes it worthwhile. No I don’t think there’s anything else I don’t like about it except that I really don’t have enough time to do it.
LS: You use a sewing machine obviously for quiltmaking [Both talking together] [LH: Yes I do] Do you use any other sort of technology?
LH: Well I use a computer if I want print to off images onto cloth, but that’s the only technology I would use.
LS: Do you have a special room for quiltmaking or for piecing?
LH: Yes I do. I’ve I’m lucky enough to have a room in my house where I keep all my sewing things, and where I can go and shut the door.
LS: [laughs] How do you go about making a quilt, at the beginning?
LH: Well I usually have the idea in my, I don’t often copy quilts that I’ve seen with other people. I can admire them but I don’t necessarily copy them. I usually have an idea in my head of size of colour, particularly colour to start with and sometimes I will look around for a pattern and I only like quite straightforward patterns, but sometimes I will just draw out a pattern or an arrangement of blocks, and just do it myself.
LS: You, how much time do you spend quiltmaking?
LH: Well not enough. The as I said the most difficult thing is finding time. Although I’m retired I’m not really retired. I’ve taken up taken up another occupation so I don’t have a lot of time for quilting, but I do try to do a bit every day during the day.
LS: When you see other quilts in shows or with other people in your group what do you notice about them? What surprises amazes delights you about other people’s quilts?
LH: Well in the quilting… well locally at our Show and Tell and at the quilting shows that I’ve been to I’m always constantly amazed how clever people are, how skilled they are at sewing how clever they are at putting colours together, and how beautiful these objects are.
LS: The same sort of question really. What do you think makes a good quilt then? Is it the same sort of thing it’s how they put the colours and the fabrics together?
LH: Yes I think well a good quilt is a good quilt in the eye of the person who made it and I often tell people that. If it suits your eye it’s good, it’s good. It doesn’t have to be perfect because what is perfect to one person to another person is not necessarily perfect to another person and if your corners don’t match etc., etc. does it really matter? If you like it, you know, so I would say to anyone make what you want to the best way you can and enjoy it because what’s the point of spending all these hours sewing and quilting if you’re not going to enjoy the end product?
LS: Where do you get your ideas and inspiration for making a new quilt? Books? Other people?
LH: Well no mostly I would say yes quilt quilting magazines or… occasional books. I don’t buy many books now because I’ve got lots of books, but usually from fabric I get my inspiration. I’ve, I’m I’m lucky enough to have access to a lot of fabric, and sometimes I see fabric and I just have to have a piece of that fabric whether it’s a half metre or a metre or I don’t usually bother with less than half a metre. But from that piece of fabric then will come perhaps an idea to incorporate it in a quilt or a cushion or something like that and it’s yes it’s from the fabric and the colour I get my inspiration.
LS: I think you’ve told me already that you prefer machine work [LH: Yeah]. Rather than hand though, machine quilting is obviously your preference, do you make it quite a simple process, machine quilting, or do you do a lot of free motion quilting which is with the, I better explain, is with the feed dogs down and the pressure foot with a different, a darning, a quilting pressure foot or what sort of machine quilting do you normally do?
LH: Well I usually do very simple machine quilting… yes I can do a bit of free motion but I wouldn’t say that I’m wonderful at it, Some of my quilts I send to a longarm quilter because I really like longarm quilting I think it’s a skill and an art all of its own and I think it does enhance, even the most ordinary patchwork top. It can improve it, but for myself I usually do, machine quilt but quite simply.
LS: Let’s think about what you do with the quilts that you’ve made. What you what do you where are they most of them?
LH: Most of them are not here. They’re given away to my family, for my granddaughter and my two daughters. For gifts I give a small lap quilts for Christmas and which reminds me it’s about time I started them now but, no they’re mostly given away but I do have some hanging on the walls in my house over the backs of chairs because I actually use my quilts, lap quilts particularly in the winter. I find them very cosy very comforting and, why not? That’s what they’re there for.
LS: Exactly. Do you face any challenges as a quilter today? And what is the biggest one if you have one?
LH: Well the only well the only the challenge that I face is that I simply don’t have enough time to quilt and it’s, it’s a huge challenge for me because when I do have a few hours I can always find something else to do which seems to be essential and I think we are very poor at putting time aside for ourselves to enjoy our own hobbies. Perhaps it’s a woman thing but they can always find practical things to do. So yes being disciplined and putting time aside is the biggest challenge for me.
LS: Is there anything that you’d like to add that you’ve forgotten to mention during the process of this interview Linda before we finish?
LH: Well about this particular quilt it probably was the most adventurous quilt I made because there was a real story behind it. It wasn’t just something that I thought would be nice to look at. It taught me a lot. It taught me a lot about American history. It taught me a lot about… well about how awful it must have been for you know the slaves to, to be enslaved. It was quite a salutary lesson actually and I’m, you know, I’m quite happy to as I said loan my quilt if you want to give a talk on it, because I’ve made the quilt now and I’ve learned the lessons from making the quilt so for me now I just enjoy the quilt for what it is, a quilt.
LS: Thank you very much. Last question Linda. You, you more or less answered this already. Why is quiltmaking important in your life?
LH: It’s, my previous occupation I was a nurse and on a day-to-day basis you tend to be involved with people who have problems, people who are ill, not very pleasant I think sometimes. When I first came to a quilting class I was overwhelmed really by the sense of colour. Colour is a tremendously therapeutic medium to lift your mood and I find on a day-to day-basis now I find that because I now have a quilting shop and people come into my shop not necessarily to buy but because it’s somewhere to go and it ends up where they’re telling me all their problems and that’s fine because when they go out of the shop their shoulders are up they’re marching out with a good step and I feel that quilting is only a little bit about sewing. It’s a lot about socialising, companionship and support and that’s why there are so many quilting groups ‘cause people go to them for various reasons. Quilting is only a small part of that.
LS: Thank you very much Linda for sharing your story.
LH: Thank you for asking me.
[General laughter and talking over each other]