Today I am honored and proud to introduce you to my very special friend, Evelyn Ridgeway Nall.
I first met Evelyn when she requested a quilt appraisal many years ago. The very first time we met, we just 'clicked'. There was something special about our relationship and we both felt it. We always ended our time with a hug. Over the years I looked forward to getting a call to appraise yet another of her masterpiece quilts. The more I got to know her, the more she inspired me.
The Save Our Stories program of the Quilt Alliance, is dedicated to documenting, preserving and sharing the stories of American quilters. I knew that Evelyn's story must be saved, too!
I asked her if she would be willing to sit down sometime and let me interview her. Last December I went to her home with my little hand-held cassette tape recorder (I taped over an old Linda Ronstadt tape!) and after a wonderful soup and salad lunch, complete with apple pie, all homemade by Evelyn, we sat down to talk. With her permission I am pleased to share with you just a bit of her story. (link to full interview transcript at the bottom of this post)
In her eighty-nine years she has made both pieced and appliqued quilts - she estimates over two hundred. She likes traditional quilts best - quilts made to be used on a bed. She does fine hand applique and hand quilting. She especially loves appliqued borders - on either pieced or appliqued quilts. Failing eyesight does not stop Evelyn from having several projects going at a time. She has rigged up a magnifying glass that helps her with machine piecing.
She started making quilts by making a cardboard template and tracing around it; cutting with a scissors. There was no rotary cutter. There were no quilt shops. You bought your fabric at the Five and Dime. Today she calls herself a 'gadget person'. She told me she recently bought a Precision Trimmer and some papers to make half-square triangles without stretching your fabric. If there is something that makes it easier she says, "Why not?"
She taught her daughter, Sandra, to quilt. They attend retreats together several times a year attend quilt shows, including the big show in Houston, Texas.
She showed many of her quilts in a bed turning at a local quilt shop and a crowd of over eighty people came. It was so popular that she received more invitations and traveled to several other cities and guilds across the state for encore presentations.
She begins her talk with the quilt she is holding in this picture. It has a very special place in Evelyn's heart as it is one of the few surviving quilts made by her dear mother, Bessie Lee Tanner Ridgeway. She was a an excellent seamstress and quiltmaker and a major influence and inspiration to Evelyn as she was growing up.
Then she shows her quilts, starting from the first quilt she made - a Sunbonnet Sue - which she laughs about. It was not at all square! She paid a woman $25 to quilt and bind it. She describes how the binding was tucked at the corners and how the family loved it but 'knew something was wrong! Even so, her granddaughter Erin loved that quilt and used it for many years. Evelyn laughs as she tells the story. She calls that quilt a 'hoot'!
Showing her quilts from the earliest efforts to her most recent creations allows her to share her philosophy about this craft that she loves so much. She tells her audience, "...in quilting there’s always something to learn...and you grow by doing it."
Evelyn makes a label and takes a photo of each quilt she finishes. Unlike the fate of so many quilts, future historians will know who made it and where and when. She is proud of her work and believes it is important for people to know who made it.
All of her four children have quilts she has made. She has fourteen grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren and believes that all of her quilts will be passed along and cherished by her family in years to come.
A few examples of her beautiful work:
I hope Evelyn as been as inspirational to you as she has been to me. I believe she personifies the creative spirit of quiltmakers everywhere; learning, growing, sharing and loving the whole process.
I intend to follow her footsteps and still be learning and quilting when I'm 89!
Have you compared your earliest quilts to more recent projects?
How have you grown and evolved?
To read the entire interview Click here