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Margaret Lau Simmons

Quiltmaker

  Sun City West, Arizona, United States    

Public Submission

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Margaret Lau Simmons’ mother, Lydia Doring Lau, was a prolific and talented seamstress who brought her treadle sewing machine when the family emigrated. With her mother’s guidance, Margaret learned to make doll clothes on this machine. After the death of both of her parents, Mrs. Margaret Boone Arnold, a friend of her mother’s, helped Margaret continue learning hand and machine sewing. The treadle machine was replaced with an electric Kenmore machine, and through junior high and high school, she sewed clothes for herself and for her sister. Because money was tight, Margaret learned to modify a pattern and thus, was able to invest in more fabric. It was then that she learned she had a sewing and design talent.

After her marriage, Margaret continued to sew clothes for the family which included her younger sister and two children. In the late 1960s, when polyester knit fabrics were the rage, she learned to work with these fabrics. She eventually became an instructor at a knit sewing specialty shop in the San Francisco Bay Area. Margaret taught fabric shop owners how to make and teach classes using the new fabrics. Classes ranged from sewing lingerie and swimwear to outerwear for children, men, and women.

When the family moved to Las Cruces, NM, Margaret opened her own business teaching knit sewing techniques. Scraps from the business’ samples became her first quilt, a polyester log cabin titled Blue Log Cabin (in the Index). Knowing nothing about quilting, she used a batting and backing as her foundation and ended up with very thick unbound blocks. She finally figured out how to assemble the quilt by butting the blocks and then seaming them together. 

After moving to Kennewick, WA in 1974, Margaret retired from the sewing business and concentrated on sewing family garments, raising her family, and going back to school for her undergraduate degree. After the family moved to Litchfield Park, AZ 1981, Margaret concentrated on continued education and her career until her retirement in 2006.

It was then that she decided to explore quilting as a means to resume her love of sewing and to make retirement friends. She joined Quilters Anonymous, a chapter of the Arizona Quilters Guild and took a basic quilting class at Estrella Mountain Community college. Margaret also discovered quilt history and joined the American Quilt Study Group and the Arizona Quilt Study group.

She became the grant writer for the 2012 Arizona Centennial Quilt Project (ACQP) which is a part of the Quilt Index’s Arizona Quilt Documentation Project. The ACQP commitment took over 3 years from inception to completion. As part of her responsibilities, she managed the financial relationship with the Arizona Historical Society’s Museum in Tucson, AZ, with whom ACQP partnered to host the “100 Years, 100 Quilts” exhibit in 2012. The responsibilities included contracting for the development and sales of the exhibit catalog and DVD.

As an active member of the Arizona Quilt Documentation team, Margaret assisted in the effort to document quilts in all Arizona museums. She transcribed documentation records from almost 800 quilts in the Arizona Quilt Heritage project into an Excel spreadsheet which was uploaded to the Quilt Index. Now (2022) that the Quilt Index has opened the “Add a Quilt” opportunity for individual makers, Margaret is speaking to quilt groups to educate members about this opportunity to add their own quilts and collections. This effort includes teaching quilt documentation.

After moving to Sun City West, an Arizona retirement community, she joined the Palo Verde Patchers, a 250 member quilting club. She served as Vice President of Classes for 2 years and is the author of News & Notes, the club’s weekly newsletter. During the COVID pandemic, when the club stopped physical meetings, Margaret authored and emailed a weekly Quilting Bulletin filled with quilt information including museum exhibits, tips and tricks, and history. She currently (2023) serves as a co-leader of the the Mod Squad Rebels, a special interest group focused on modern quilting. She is also an active member of the Phoenix Modern Quilt Guild.

In December 2023, Margaret was selected as the Palo Verde Patchers Quilter of the Year by the members for her "outstanding contributions to the club." Noted were the facts that in addition to publishing the weekly Quilting Bulletin during the COVID pandemic, she has published the weekly News and Notes for over 4 years. She designed, implemented, and manages the club's membership database, served as VP of Classes, set up and manages the club's private Facebook group, and founded and co-lead the Mod Squad Rebels Special Interest Group. She has educated the members about the International Quilt Museum by sharing her experiences as a volunteer at the museum and gives presentations to educate quilt clubs about the Quilt Index.

Margaret built and maintains the Arizona Quilt Study Website https://azquiltstudygroup.org/  and manages the mailing list for meetings for both for Arizona Quit Study and for the West Valley Quilt Study subgroup. She manages the technical aspect of the Zoom meeting for the groups and has assisted in hosting American Quilt Study Group Zoom presentations.

Margaret has made over 150 quilts and quilted items, many as gifts for family and friends. She is no longer driven to “finish a project” rather she enjoys traveling her quilting journey which ranges from learning quilt history, mastering new techniques, and pushing herself into the discomfort of new styles and methods.
 

When was the quiltmaker born?

05/27/1947

Educational background:

BS Human Nutrition, Registered Dietitian, MS Human Nutrition, MPH Policy and Administration, PhD Health Care Policy

Occupation (if retired, former occupation):

Retired: Registered Dietitian, University professor and Administrator, Health Services Regional Manager

Where was the quiltmaker born?

Frankfurt, , Germany

Where did the quiltmaker grow up?

Suburban

Spouse's/Spouses' name(s):

Simmons, Robert Lee

How did the quiltmaker learn to quilt?

From class, Self-taught

When did the quiltmaker learn to quilt?

Age 20-29

Why does/did the quiltmaker quilt:

Gifts

Other reasons the quiltmaker makes/made quilts.

For pleasure and learning

Name of quilting group(s):

Past memberships (prior to 2023)
Quilter's Anonymous, Litchfield Park, AZ;
Calico Cut Ups, El Mirage, AZ:

Current memberships (2023) is a member of
Palo Verde Patchers, Quilt Club, Sun City West, AZ;
Phoenix Modern Quilt Guild, Phoenix, AZ;
Arizona Quilt Study, Sun City West, AZ;
West Valley Quilt Study Group, Sun City, AZ
Mod Squad Rebels, Palo Verde Patchers, Sun City West, AZ

Estimate the number of quilts made by this maker:

more than 50

Does/did the quiltmaker sell quilts?

no

Does/did the quiltmaker teach quilting?

only informally

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