At the Iowa Quilt Museum
Doreen Speckmann Remembered
On Exhibit through April 5th
Remembering Doreen Speckmann
by Marianne Fons
One October in the mid-1980s, Liz Porter and I flew to Texas to serve on the faculty at the annual Houston Quilt Festival—a feather in the cap of any rising national quilt teacher back then; it still is. At the airport, we bumped into Doreen Speckmann, a fellow newcomer and fellow Midwesterner, on the faculty her first time as well. All of us on tight budgets, we shared a cab to the hotel. On the ride, she admitted she was nervous, as she was to deliver an evening lecture. In those days, Quilt Festival took place at the Shamrock Hilton Hotel & Convention Center, and everyone at Festival went to every single event. The audience was going to be huge.
Doreen’s lecture was hilarious. At home in front of a sewing machine since childhood, she admitted being afraid to make a quilt. She thought only little old ladies in church basements made quilts and every stitch had to be done by hand. But in 1977, at age 27, when she was expecting her daughter Megan, she intended to be the perfect mother, and knew that involved making a perfect baby quilt.
Doreen’s ability to poke fun at all of us by poking fun at herself—combined with formidable patchwork and design skills—quickly made her one of the most popular quilters in America. When her innovative work, The Blade, won a blue ribbon at the first American Quilter’s Society national quilt competition in Paducah in 1985, demand for her at conferences, quilt shops, and quilt guilds around the country grew.
Doreen’s patchwork genius was combining simple patchwork elements into never-made-before quilts. The method she used became more widely accessible with her how-to manual, PATTERN PLAY (C&T Publishing 1983). In true Doreen style, the text is conversational, addressing the reader personally on every page. “Let’s look at the basic components that are a part of our quiltmaking heritage,” she wrote, “and the basis of all the quilts I design.”
Having grown up in Wisconsin, one of six siblings, travel outside the state had not been part of her upbringing. Traveling nationwide with her suitcases of quilts—and getting paid to do it—was employment she embraced with joy, taking daughter Megan with her every chance she got. Soon she was heading up quilters’ cruises in the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Alaska, leading trips to England, France, Australia, New Zealand. Doreen made everything fun, and every quilter in America wanted to go with her wherever she went. Despite the stocky figure she bemoaned, she donned a bathing suit to snorkel in the topics and got out on the dance floor every chance she had.
In 1999, at age 48, at the height of her career, Doreen Speckmann suffered a fatal heart attack while on a quilting tour in Ireland. Some said she collapsed on the dance floor. Others say she had stepped outside. Her death was a shock and a tragedy for quilters everywhere. Because her daughter Megan was in her early 20s at the time, Doreen’s friend and colleague Gerald Roy put most of her quilts in storage at the Pilgrim-Roy facility in New Hampshire, where they have been until late last year.
At the Iowa Quilt Museum, we are pleased to exhibit these works by Doreen Speckmann for the first time in twenty years. If you are a longtime quilter, you will remember her. If you are newer to the club, prepare to meet a friend!
Saturday • March 7th • All Day!
Iowa Quilt Museum
On Saturday, March 7th, we’ll be holding a series of events celebrating our Doreen Speckmann exhibit. At 10:30 am, Marianne Fons & Judy Martin will lead a gallery walk through the exhibit. Marianne and Judy were both friends of Doreen’s and they’ll have some wonderful stories to share while they walk us through Doreen’s wonderful quilts. Admission for that event will be $10 and can be purchased at the door. At 5:00pm, we will host a reception in the museum. This event will be free and open to the public and light refreshments will be served. Doreen’s daughter, Megan, will be our guest of honor at the reception and will give short remarks at about 6:00.
That leaves over five hours of time in the day to enjoy Winterset and our lovely town square or…take our “Meet Peaky & Spike” class! Taught by long-time quilter and teacher and the owner of Piece Works Quilt Shop Joyce Franklin, this class will introduce you to Peaky & Spike, the fresh name Doreen gave to a simple, traditional, three-triangle patchwork unit she used over and over again in her quilts. She combined Peaky & Spike with other basic units she also renamed, such as Mutt & Jeff Right, Mutt & Jeff Left, Little House, Wingy Things, and Storm Center. The class will be held from 12:30 – 4:30pm in the brand new More Pieces retreat center less than a block away from the IQM.
The project will require three Fat Quarters, which are included with the cost of the class (you’ll get to pick your fabrics!). In addition, please bring:
- Tri-recs template set (available to purchase at Piece Works or bring yours if you already own it)
- Sewing Machine with neutral thread
- Rotary mat and cutter
- Straight ruler
The registration fee is $25 for this class. Call Piece Works Quilt Shop to register: 515-493-1121. Class size is limited to 24 participants.
Current Hours at the IQM
Tuesday – Saturday • 10:00 – 4:00
Sundays • 12:00 – 4:00
Mondays • Closed
Airing of the Quilts | June 6, 2020
Nominate a quilter to be featured in one of our displays!
We love dreaming up unique ways to display quilts all around our community during our annual Airing of the Quilts. One of those ways is through four bed-turning displays located on the steps of each side of our glorious 1870s courthouse. We’re looking for four quilters to feature in these bed turnings and we need your help! Who is a great quilter in your community? Nominate her or him to be a part of this year’s Airing. The nomination process is simple. Just click on the button below and follow the instructions. If you have questions, or have any trouble with the nomination form, contact our director Megan Barrett: director@IowaQuiltMuseum.org. Nominations are due by Wednesday, March 4th at Noon.
The Iowa QuiltScape
Collective Mending Session
Sunday • February 23 • 1:00 – 4:00
The Collective Mending Sessions is a socially engaged project centered around collaboratively mending a quilt. This project consists of a series of workshops which promote care for cloth and community. The act of mending is one that promotes healing and redemption, both processes which happen privately and communally. Artist Catherine Reinhart shares, “It began with a quilt from my adolescence which I told my mother to discard. Being wise, she did not. For the duration of this project, I will be inviting friends, acquaintances, and strangers to mend this quilt alongside me.”
You can learn more about the history and the scope of the project by exploring the Collective Mending Sessions website. The Collective Mending Sessions was awarded a 2020 Iowa Arts Council Art Project Grant. Micheal Morrain with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs featured the project in a wonderful article that you can read here.
The Collective Mending Sessions will be traveling to communities around Iowa and beyond, teaching mending, promoting shared space, and community engagement. On Sunday, February 23rd, Reinhart will lead a session in Osceola at the Clarke County Development Corporation located at 115 E Washington. The workshop is free of charge and open to anyone but registration is required. Register online here.
Historic Quilt & Textile Exhibit
February 27-March 1 & March 5-8
Living History Farms
There’s no denying it: winters in Iowa can be COLD! Living History Farms is dedicating to weekends to taking a look how historic Midwesterners used textiles to stay warm. Hand-quilters and textile artists (including some representing the IQM) will also be on hand throughout the two weekends demonstrating current textile arts! Take the kids or grandkids and visit Living History farms during their Historic Quilt and Textile exhibit!