Saturday, February 17, 2018

Quilters Through The Generations - Peggy McGee

Peggy McGee is an ambitious and outgoing person.  She is involved in many groups and organizations but she manages to slow down and find time to quilt and knit.  She utilizes her skills that she learned at a young age…

Tell us about how you learned to sew? 

I learned to sew when I was in 4-H first and then in home economics in high school. 

 I was able to make simple items for the County Fair. We lived in town so we didn’t have any animals to show but we sewed, baked, canned and knitted.  I even won several ribbons. I still knit and make canned peaches since they’re my husband’s favorite.

Peggy is on the right.

Tell us a story about your first quilt.   

The first quilt I made on my own was between 1980 and 1985 when I took a class with a co-worker. It was at a local woman’s house and the students were asked to pick a simple pattern so I selected a rail fence which I did in pinks and blues. I still have it and it is on the back of my sofa and used during the cold winter months to stay warm while watching tv.

I remember one woman picked a diamond shaped block which wasn’t easy or simple. Everyone else finished their quilts but this woman was still working on the piecing while we were finishing our quilts. This quilt doesn’t have a binding as we sewed the back, front and batting together and turned the quilt right-sides out.
Not too long after the class I got the “bright” idea to make Quillows for friends and family. They were made with polar fleece and flannel sewed together and turned with a pocket added so the quilt could be folded and turn inside out to fit into the pocket and place on a sofa or bed. The folded quilts looked like pillows. While each one was easy to make as usual I over-committed and probably made a couple of dozen for different people within a 2-month period. I even was crazy enough to let people pick the fabrics and I would do the sewing. I didn’t charge for my time and I have never made any more.

Does your mother quilt?

While I was growing up my mother, Martha Barnes, was too busy to quilt. It wasn’t until she was forced to retire in her 70s that she had the time so she made a quilt for her bed. She also made curtains and pillow shams to match. She sewed all the time.   She worked in a dry cleaners and did alterations and repairs every day. Even after she retired she still did the alterations for different people.

My mom lived in Kansas but would take a vacation every July and come to Colorado for a visit. Almost every time, the first thing she wanted to do was go to the fabric store and pick out a pattern and fabric and make me some clothes while she was here. She said it was relaxing to be able to make something from the beginning. She didn’t do easy things either, I remember she made a lined jacket which I wore in the summer to show horses. How crazy were we to pick a heavy corduroy and line it to wear out in the sun during the summer months? Of course, I never thought about buying a light-weight jacket for the summer and wear hers during the winter months.

Alchie, my maternal step-mother, was always making quilts and doing many other crafts. She was able to knit and crochet, she did tole painting, and Chemi-Art, etc. She taught me to knit and crochet during many of my summer breaks from school. I enjoyed the time I got to spend with my grandmother. Looking back I now realize my sister and I were basically free summer labor and our mother didn’t need to hire a baby-sitter. We got to “help” weed her large garden, feed all the animals (chickens, geese, turkeys and other exotic birds), bottle feed calves and piglets. They also had barn cats and kittens which didn’t play well with children who only wanted to catch them and put them in a bag and drag them around. I’m sure you get the picture of what happened when we open the bag.

My grandmother had a large living room/dining room combination in her house and she always had a quilt on a frame. It was pushed up against the wall unless she was hand-quilting. It was like a piece of art. I was even allowed to quilt a small portion one summer. What a great experience.

The first summer after my father died a neighbor who had kids the same age as my sister and I watched us while my mom worked. She belonged to a quilting bee at her church who hand-quilted for others. While they worked on each other’s’ quilts they also quilted for the community. The funds were then used to support their various mission projects. I can remember going to the church with my favorite toys and playing under the frame while the ladies visited and quilted. It was great fun and we got cookies and Kool-aid.

How many quilts have you made? 

I’m not sure about the number but would guess 10-12. And sadly, I have not taught anyone to quilt.

Do you have a favorite block? 

My favorite quilts to make are jelly roll race quilts (like the one to the left and below) but I also enjoy the 9-patch because it is quick and easy and can be made from jelly rolls.  I love to buy them on sale after the season.  I have rolls of Christmas fabric, Halloween, springs, batik, etc.

Do you have a favorite quilt? 

I love the Texas Star quilts but my skill level is not at a point where I feel comfortable making one for myself.   I’m always looking at different techniques and patterns so I’m sure sometime in the future I will be making one for myself.   

Do you participate in any quilt groups? 

Yes, I am in several groups. The biggest is Piecing Partners which has a couple hundred members and meets the 3rd Wednesday of each month at the Elks Club in Colorado Springs. I enjoy the speakers and learning about their quilts/techniques. I keep telling myself “someday” I will take a class. They also have a library of books as well as a “put and take table” where you can get small piece of fabric and some patterns. We always have show and tell so we can see a large variety of quilts.

There is a monthly sewing group at my church where several women get together to sew whatever project they want. Some make quilts while others are making clothes or household items. It's so fun to see what everyone is working on and to get help or support.

My friend and I also go to Wilson UMC to a small group of women who get together to show and tell their quilts and other projects. We can compare notes on what works and what doesn’t. This is where I learned about flange binding and mitered binding.

I recently bought a longarm quilting machine so I have just joined a longarm quilting group. The group only started in November and we have only met a couple of times but the purpose is to share ideas and resources. We also want to go to different members homes to see the different machines and how different members run their businesses.

Have you entered any quilt competitions or sold a quilt? 

No, I haven't done either... I just quilt for my own satisfaction. I have not sold any of my quilts but love to give them to friends and many charities. I don’t want to have a trunk of quilts which no one uses or sees. If someone tells my they have my quilts in storage, no more quilts for them—I would rather they use them and need a new one because it fell apart.

I have taken some simple scrap quilts, like the one shown here, to the longarm as practice.  They were given to charities. 

Where do you get your inspiration from? 

I subscribe to a couple of quilting magazines and I like to get books from the local library.  I also look on Pinterest for examples of the same patterns.  I try to go to a couple of quilt shows to see new products and other quilts.  There are many talented quilters out there.

What is your favorite part of quilting? 

Getting inspired and creating my own version of patterns.  I love putting my own twist on a classic pattern. 

Why do you quilt? 

I love the end product and it gives me an outlet for my nervousness.  It’s a time to slow down and focus on a single task.

What do you do with your quilts? 

I still have several which are on my beds though out my home.  My mother I made quilts and curtains for a vintage trailer I have been restoring (this is another of my passions).  

I have several quilt tops made by my grandmother which I would like to finish. I also like to repair or finish partially completed quilts. I have done a couple now and am working on one my grandmother gave me in 1972 or 1973. She overstuffed it with poly-fill and it is well used and needs a new back and had several wedges missing. Old clothes make great quilts but don’t always wear well.

I am a quilter much like Peggy in that when I give my quilts to family or friends, I give them with the intention that they are used... I refer to them as utilitarian quilts.  

And it makes sense that quilts made from clothing of a loved one or "upcycled" fabric may not last as long.  I had never considered that... Thanks Peggy for pointing this little tidbit out to me!

Do you give quilts as gifts?  
Do you prefer utilitarian quilts?  
Or Heirloom quilts - you know, the look, but don't touch quilts?

Leave a comment below.  I love to hear from my readers...

Quilt Happy!



  1. What a treasure to have some of her grandmother's quilts to finish. As always, I really enjoy this series. It is lovely to get to know and meet Peggy!

  2. Wonderful story. She is so lucky to have some quilts of her grandmother's to finish. I just finished a vintage quilt, as it was one that should be used, rather than sit in a bag. Looking forward to finding it a good home (not made by anyone I know).