1) How do you
prefer to be described as, within the field of textile history?
you have a business, please tell us about that.
"I consider myself a writer, and researcher in quilt history. I
love the journey of uncovering new information. I am also venturing
into the art quilt arena – I am drawn to creating smaller –
wallhanging-size pieces that have an emphasis on historical themes
or subjects such as presidents, historical events, or eagle motifs.
2) When and where did you begin your serious interest in the
history of quilts, textiles or garments?
"While I appreciate textiles and garments, my interest is really
the history of quilts. My focus in that area has narrowed down to
eagle motifs, but I also have an appreciation for the Star of
Bethlehem/Lone Star quilts. I began quilting in 1985, but my
interest in quilt history did not come until I attended a quilt
documentation day in Bishop Hill, Illinois and sat next to a senior
lady (whose name I never learned) and we talked about her baskets of
antique and vintage quilts. She encouraged me to learn more about
the history of quilts and quilt making."
3) What “known” individual (or group) influenced you most and
"I don’t know if I can point to anyone or any group and say I am
at this point on the quilt history path because of them. I do know
that I was influenced by reading the early issues of Uncoverings –
the 1980s ones. Then I would say it really blossomed when I joined
QHL and found other women who were interested in quilt history like
I was. It allowed me to meet other-like minded people."
4) Who became your personal mentor as you began your learning?
"I don’t feel like I had a personal mentor. There were lots of
people who were encouraging and who I grew fond of because of quilt
history, but to point to one person and say it was them – I can’t.
Each person I met in the quilt history field helped broaden or
enlighten me in some way."
5) What aspect of study were you most passionate about at first?
How has this changed over time and why?
"Signature quilts – I loved them – I suppose it was because I
could trace the names on the quilt – maybe tell their story with the
use of genealogy, but I have drifted away from that. Now my focus
has become eagle motif quilts - I am and continue to be fascinated
6) What is your current “Pet project”
"My eagle motif
decade by decade wallhanging project. I commission quilt artists
and/or quilt historians to choose a decade and then create a 24” x
24” or smaller wallhanging which has an eagle motif and will give a
person who sees the piece a glimpse of the decade being represented.
Remembering Grant - Susan Wildemuth 2010. Eagle Motif Decade by
Decade Wallhanging - Decade 1870s
(Click to enlarge.)
"Telling the quilt history story of Collingbourne Mills and LeeWards
was a nine year project for me, but I feel that I have done my best
to “save that story” and it is time to move on to a new project.
"My study of antique, vintage, and new eagle quilts. I want to learn
everything I can about them and then share that knowledge with
7) What aspect
of your research or contribution to textile studies has satisfied
you the most?
"Discovering new information that enhances what is already known
about a subject. I also like the “saving stories” part of quilt
The creative process – my friend Louie recently told me, “Sue - you
live to create; whether it is through your writing, your cooking, or
your quiltmaking – creating feeds your soul."
8) Within this arena, what would you like to do, but haven’t done
"I would like to write a book on eagle quilts – that is one of my
bucket list goals."
9) Any further comments are invited.
"The reason decided to do a web site about Illinois Quilt History:
I had been working on my Virginia Snow Studios, Collingbourne Mills,
and LeeWards research since 2001, but it wasn't until 2007 I started
thinking about a web site completely devoted to Illinois Quilt
History. With the exception of the Elbert book and a few magazine
articles no one appeared to be studying and researching Illinois'
contributions in the area of quilt and art needlework history. I
thought those stories needed to be saved and so I decided to start
my web site. I had also learned a lot from my VSS, CM, and LeeWards
project about how to gather information in the State of Illinois
that I thought would help others with their own research or
genealogy projects - I added that information to my site as well.
"What I did not know when I started the site was how I would
reconnect people researching their art needlework ancestors to
ancestors they did not know they had? I have been able to do this
many times. e.g. I was contacted by a German Buettner relative about
the T. Buettner & Co. Chicago, Illinois information she found on my
web site - she could not speak English and my German comes from
three years of HS German which bascially consists of conversational
German and the Our Father I had to memorize in my German III class,
but we spent months exchanging information and photographs. I posted
the new information and photograhs she shared on my web site and
then a Wisconsin Buettner contacted me on the information found on
my site. She added her own and was overjoyed to find she had
ancestors who still resided in Germany -- I introduced them to each
other and they have taken it from there. I have done this several
times with other art needlework companies -- reconnected ancestors
to each other. It is a reward and a bonus for me to be able to do
that and also save a quilt history and/or art needlework company
"I love books, but a web site allows you the freedom to update your
information as new information surfaces so interested parties or
researchers have the most accurate information available on a
10) Please describe (in a list) the contributions you have made
via books, presentations, exhibits, contests, articles, fabric
lines, research papers and the like.
Susan Wildemuth is an author, historian and quilting aficionado.
Her research, writing and photographs have been published in
national, regional and local quilt and textile history publications.
She was one of the tri-founders of the Iowa-Illinois Quilt Study
Group in Kalona, Iowa.
Her web site
Illinois Quilt History: Quilt History
from the Midwest was established in 2008, and her blog
Eye of the Needle: Quilt History Conversation
from the Midwest followed in 2009.
Her area of expertise is Illinois Quilt History and Antique,
Vintage, and New eagle quilts. She is also the author of a
non-quilting blog called
Life Lessons from Movies (http://lifelessonsfrommoviesandliterature.blogspot.com/)
and Literature which was started in 2010. She lives on an Illinois
grain farm with her husband and a “rescued” red beagle-mix.
Thank you very much,
Susan, for sharing your self with us and for the insights we gain because of your efforts in this field. Continued success to you.