Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Shirley Johnston Shelly, February 13, 2004

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:15 - Shelly's background

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Partial Transcript: Today is February 13, 2004.

Segment Synopsis: Shelly begins by saying she was born in Cleveland, Ohio. She eventually moved to Philadelphia, to New York, and lastly, Connecticut. When she was seventeen, she went to Mary Washington College and then transferred to the University of Michigan after two years, majoring in music. She then pursued her master's degree and began to teach in Roseville, Michigan. By 1949, she had a child and moved to Boston and no longer taught.

Keywords: Art education; College

Subjects: Careers.; College students.; Occupations.; Professions.; Teachers; Teaching; Universities and colleges.; Vocation.; Work.

00:09:56 - Interest in quilting

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Partial Transcript: Would you tell us when you first got interested in quilting?

Segment Synopsis: Shelly says the first time she saw quilting was when she was in high school. Her friend's mother had made a quilt for her twin beds that were in patchwork style with Nine Patch at the bottom. Shelly was inspired by the beauty of the quilts and eventually had worn them out. Once she retired, she got involved with the Cardinal Quilters. She mentions that quilting gave her a hobby, and she learned how to quilt from meetings and workshops from the guild.

Keywords: Fabric - Printed patchwork; Fabric choice; Hobby; Quilt design; Quilt guilds; Quilting community

Subjects: Quilting; Quilting--Patterns; Quiltmakers; Quilts

00:13:04 - Discussion of Shelly's quilt

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Partial Transcript: Well, you've brought a piece here today. Maybe you would discuss with us what this piece that you brought.

Segment Synopsis: Shelly states that the quilt she has with her is a Log Cabin-designed wall hanging with autumn-like colors. She says that the Log Cabin design provided her with various ways to change the quilt. The quilt is strip quilted and strip pieced. A few years later, Shelly became a bobbin lace maker and took classes at a church. Once she learned how to make lace, she added strips of plain Torchon lace to the quilt. Her quilt has been shown in quilt shows.

Keywords: Design walls; Log Cabin (quilt pattern); Quilt design; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Quilting; Quilts; Strip/string piecing

Subjects: Log cabin quilts; Quilters; Quilting; Quilting.; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts; Quilts in interior decoration; Strip quilting

00:16:00 - How she obtains her quilts

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Partial Transcript: And, from where do you get those?

Segment Synopsis: After learning of Shelly's 28 top quilts, the interviewer asks where she got them. Shelly responds by saying that she got her first from Indiana at Shipshewana, a fabric place owned by Mennonites. She mentions that she got a lot from quilt shows and auctions. One of her quilts, the "Popcorn Quilt" was tied with embroidery and made with wool. It was washed so much that it is now puffy, hence the nickname, "Popcorn." She purchased a Wedding Ring Quilt from a quiltmaker in Alexandria that was shown at the Virginia Quilt Museum. She also has a quilt called the "Hat Band Quilt" that was made out of leftover hat bands from a factory in Connecticut. To preserve her quilts, she says that she takes them down every three months and provides a cotton back.

Keywords: Quilt preservation; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Quilting; Quilts

Subjects: Museums; Quilters; Quilting; Quilting--Patterns; Quilting.; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quilts; Virginia Quilt Museum

00:20:10 - Favorite quilting techniques and styles

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Partial Transcript: As to your own quilting, what are your f--uh, favorite techniques?

Segment Synopsis: Shelly shares that she is not good at applique but enjoys hand work and piecing. Her favorite pattern is the Nine Patch. However, as a child she practiced embroidery. Shelly says that she likes to work with color and make her own designs. Within her scenes, she mentions that she always includes a church because she is a lay leader and directs a hand bell choir. She also likes to depict Biblical stories in her quilts that are hung for the children. She believes that one of the greatest aspects of quilting is the companionship it brings with friends.

Keywords: Art education; Children; Children's quilts; Friendships through quilting; Quilt design; Quilt purpose - Cultural education; Quilt purpose - Story telling

Subjects: Applique--Patterns; Quilt design; Quilters; Quilting; Quilting.; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts

00:24:19 - Machine quilting experience

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Partial Transcript: Do you do things with machine much?

Segment Synopsis: Shelly says that she uses the machine a lot, but has not done much machine quilting. She took classes to learn about machine quilting, but got sick and was prevented from learning more. She also says that she got too involved in church and had little time to quilt.

Keywords: Home sewing machine; Quilting; Quiltmaking class; Quiltmaking classes

Subjects: Quilters; Quilting; Quilting.; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts; Sewing; Sewing machines.

00:25:30 - Position at Cardinal Quilters / Documentation of quilts

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Partial Transcript: Uh, would you tell us about, um, your positions at the Cardinal Quilters as officer?

Segment Synopsis: Shelly was vice president of Cardinal Quilters twice, and then president for two terms. She says that people that completed projects were given a moon or star as motivation for people to quilt. She taught Crumb Piecing and make a basket. She was a historian for the Virginia Quilt Documentation Research Project and had to document all quilts she could find in Virginia. She would train others on how to document quilts as well, which included photography, identification, and description. She found quilts from the Civil War and possibly the Revolutionary War period.

Keywords: Quilt documentation; Quilt guilds; Quilting

Subjects: Quilters; Quilting; Quilting.; Quiltmaker's club; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts; Quilts--United States; Quilts--United States--History--20th century.

00:30:50 - Hobbies outside of quilting

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Partial Transcript: Um, do you, do you do other crafts besides quilting at this point?

Segment Synopsis: Shelly reference her lace making hobby as mentioned earlier in the interview as her other craft. Currently, she is involved in the church due to the passing of a pastor. She has been working to gather her church together and enjoys making dried flower greeting cards. When asked if she finishes her projects, she says that she does but she has a lot of projects that are not finished.

Keywords: Hobby; Quilting

Subjects: Craft and art; Crafts & decorating; Quilts; Quilts in art

00:36:34 - What makes a great quilt

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Partial Transcript: One of the things I do usually ask is, when you see a quilt, what makes it great?

Segment Synopsis: Shelly begins with an analogy of how when she watches a movie, she is impressed with the scenery as well as plot and acting. When it comes to quilts and design, she considers that whatever she sees first, such as color, is what hits her. She says that she is a color person and also enjoys pretty fabrics in unique designs.

Keywords: Color balance; Color theory; Fabric choice; Quilt design; Quilting; Quilts

Subjects: Quilt design; Quilters; Quilting; Quilting.; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts