Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Marjorie Elliott, March 8, 2007

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:04 - Journey to Virginia

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Partial Transcript: This is Ann Shibut and I'm conducting an interview today with Marjorie Elliott.

Segment Synopsis: Marjorie says that she grew up in Winslow, Maine, but moved to Virginia to attend college. When she completed college, Elliott says that she and her husband traveled to Alabama, but went to West Virginia. As of 1979, Elliott says she has been living in Midlothian, Virginia.

Keywords: 1979; College; Virginia

Subjects: Virginia

00:01:03 - Description of Elliott's quilt

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Partial Transcript: Well, tell me about the quilt you brought today.

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says that this quilt was made as a tribute to her father’s 70th birthday. She says that it is an Attic Window design, done in a first-person perspective. She describes the scenes and animals being depicted in the quilt. She says it is currently on the foot of the bed in the guest bedroom.

Keywords: Childhood; Family; Parents; Quilt purpose - Memorial; Quiltmaking for family; Quiltmaking inspiration

Subjects: Quilters; Quilting; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quilts; Quilts in interior decoration

00:02:57 - How the quilt was made

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Partial Transcript: And you, you made this?

Segment Synopsis: Marjorie says that the quilt was hand-pieced and hand-quilted around November 26th, 1993. She describes how the background is in black and white and resembles a Holstein cow background.

Keywords: Hand piecing; Hand quilting; Piecing; Quilt design; Quiltmaking style; Techniques

Subjects: Quilters; Quilting; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts

00:04:12 - How the design was learned and achieved

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Partial Transcript: Before we started taping the interview, I had precipitately asked about whether you used a panel for the background and you started to, to describe a little bit about that.

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says that she used a 24-inch fabric repeat for the water and the sky. She says that the fabric was not laid out in order. Elliott states that she took classes at a quilt show in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, where she learned the Attic Window perspective. She says she used a large sheet of paper, drafted it out in full-scale, cut it up, and used the pieces as templates for her quilt.

Keywords: Fabric - Reproduction; Learning quiltmaking; Pre-cut fabrics; Quilt patterns; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Quiltmaking class; Quiltmaking classes

Subjects: Quilters; Quilting; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts; Quilts--Design

GPS: Fort Washington, Pennsylvania
Map Coordinates: 40.138611, -75.191389
00:07:03 - Beginning and learning how to quilt

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Partial Transcript: When did you begi--when did you learn?

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says that a lot of people in her family are quilters, such as her grandmother and great-grandmother. She says that her grandmother used a sewing machine and preferred to top-stitch and incorporated grain-sack strings into her quilts. Once Elliott was in her senior year of high school, she completed her first quilt. She says she did not use books to teach herself how to quilt, but free-styled, which resulted in a crazy quilt.

Keywords: Crazy quilts; Family; Grandmothers; Home sewing machine; Sewing; Teaching quiltmaking

Subjects: Crazy quilts; Quilters; Quilting; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts; Sewing Machines

00:09:12 - The material of her first quilt

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Partial Transcript: Is it cotton, or was it wool?

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says that her first crazy quilt was made out of cotton. She would go to a sewing center shop in town and buy scraps of fabric to make her quilts. She also went to a shirt factory to buy fabric.

Keywords: Crazy quilts; Fabric - Multiple scrap; Fabric/Quilt shops; Fiber - Cotton; Scrap quilts

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

00:10:02 - Time spent on quilting

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Partial Transcript: Now that you have progressed further, do you get--still get to quilt a lot?

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says that she quilts from time to time. She says that sometimes she can go months without quilting, or spend every night quilting. She has a goal of quilting for twenty minutes for a day. She says she has not quilted in months.

Keywords: Hobby; Time management; Work and life balance

Subjects: Quilters; Quilting; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts

00:10:41 - First quilt memory

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Partial Transcript: They ask here, uh, "What is your first quilt memory?"

Segment Synopsis: Elliott's first quilt memory is watching her grandmother quilt on a treadle sewing machine. She says that her grandmother made quilts for the neighborhood, especially on special events like weddings and graduations. Elliott saved one of her grandmother's quilts from her father's house that got covered in soot after furnace issues.

Keywords: Childhood; Female quiltmakers; Grandmothers; Home sewing machine; Quilt conservation; Quilt memory; Quilt purpose - Gift or presentation

Subjects: Children's quilts; Flammable fabrics; Machine quilting; Quilters; Quilting; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts

00:12:20 - Quilting to alleviate difficult times

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Partial Transcript: Have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time?

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says that she uses quilting to help her keep busy, as enforced by her grandmother. She says she spends a lot of time hand quilting and listening to audio books.

Keywords: Grandmothers; Meditative; Quilt purpose - Meditation/relaxation; Quilt purpose - Personal enjoyment

Subjects: Quilters; Quilting; Quilting today; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts

00:13:07 - The most pleasing aspects of quilting

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Partial Transcript: What do you find most pleasing about quilting?

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says that the most pleasing part about quilting is that she can be creative with the fabric, as opposed to drawing and painting.

Keywords: Artists; Fabric selection; Female artists; Hobby; Quilt purpose - Artistic expression

Subjects: Artists; Arts and crafts; Quilt designing; Quilters; Quilting; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts

00:13:45 - Least favorite aspects of quilting

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Partial Transcript: Well, what aspect of quilting do you not enjoy?

Segment Synopsis: Marjorie argues that there are no aspects she doesn't like about quilting, even binding. She says that binding is her and her sister's favorite part of the quilt making process.

Keywords: Binding; Challenges within the quilting community; Quiltmaking process

Subjects: Binding; Quilters; Quilting; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts

00:14:37 - Thoughts on what is an appealing quilt

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Partial Transcript: Well, on a larger scale, what do you think makes a great quilt?

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says that years ago, she would have said any quilt with a traditional pattern makes a great quilt. She expresses that she has admiration for women who can machine quilt since she prefers to do things by hand. She further emphasizes that it amazes her that they use regular sewing machines, not long-arm sewing machines. Elliott also enjoys the piecing aspect of quilting.

Keywords: Female quiltmakers; Hand quilting; Home sewing machine; Long arm quilters; Long arm quilting; Long arm quilting machines; Quilt patterns; Traditional quilts

Subjects: Craft and art; Decorative Arts; Quilters; Quilting; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts; Quilts--Design

00:16:18 - How a quilt is artistically powerful

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Partial Transcript: What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?

Segment Synopsis: Marjorie says that the dramatic use of colors make intricate quilts artistically powerful. She says she likes story quilts and eventually wants to make a Wizard of Oz quilt. She looks at the books of Wizard of Oz and draws inspiration from the pictures to make into fabric. The quilt would be a collage of scenes from the story.

Keywords: Collages; Color balance; Quilt purpose - Storytelling; Story quilts; Wizard of Oz

Subjects: Quilt Design; Quilters; Quilting; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts; Quilts in literature

00:17:41 - Why quilts are displayed in museums

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Partial Transcript: What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or special collection?

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says that she believes there are different types of aspects to each quilt that makes it museum worthy. She mentions how some historical quilts that may not be well done can have interesting qualities like fabric and colors. She says that workmanship is what would make a quilt appropriate for special occasions and display in museums. Elliott also thinks that hand-pieced quilts should be preserved.

Keywords: Color balance; Color theory; Fabric choice; Fabric selection; Hand piecing; Hand quilting; Quilt conservation; Quilt history

Subjects: Museums; Quilters; Quilting; Quilting.; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts; Textile museums

00:18:47 - Machine quilting versus hand quilting

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Partial Transcript: And we've touched on this, um, how do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting?

Segment Synopsis: Elliott admits that she felt as though machine made quilts were not truly quilts if they were not done by hand. However, she says her opinion has changed over time after having tried machine quilting herself. She says that the process of machine quilting is difficult, and that she has appreciation for machine quilters now. She even says that she would use a machine for a quilt if she had to.

Keywords: Hand piecing; Hand quilting; Home sewing machine; Machine piecing; Machine quilting; Quilt patterns

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

00:19:53 - What makes a great quilter

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Partial Transcript: What makes a great quilter?

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says that a great quilter is one that is willing to share their knowledge. Elliott says that she has not encountered a quilter in the community that is secretive about their methods.

Keywords: Challenges within the quilting community; Knowledge transfer; Quilting

Subjects: Artists; Quilters; Quilting; Quilting.; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts

00:21:10 - How to learn the art of quilting

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Partial Transcript: Uh, now this, this question that they have here, I'm, I'm not sure...

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says that a great quilter should take classes and inherit information from other quilters. She says that some quilters, like her sister, struggle to harmonize colors and develop a color scheme. So, she helps her sister out during Christmas and gifts her a quilt kit with colors already chosen.

Keywords: Color balance; Color theory; Knowledge transfer; Quiltmaking class; Quiltmaking classes

Subjects: Craft and art; Crafts and decorating; Quilters; Quilting; Quilting.; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts

00:22:37 - Quilting's importance in her life

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Partial Transcript: Why is quilting important in your life?

Segment Synopsis: When asked about her hobbies and career, Elliott says that she always replies that she is a quilter. Quilting is a part of her vocabulary and personal life, saying that it makes up a significant portion of her identity. Elliott admits that she has trouble managing her time to make more room for quilting, since it frustrates her that she cannot complete more of it. She combats this issue by doing quilt challenges with other people.

Keywords: Hobby; Quilt purpose - Challenge or contest entry; Quilt purpose - Personal enjoyment; Time management

Subjects: Arts and crafts; Quilters; Quilting; Quilting.; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts

00:24:38 - Quilt challenges with others

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned challenges. Have you done challenges with just one other person, say, as opposed to with a group?

Segment Synopsis: Elliott shares that she did mystery quilt challenges with her sister. She also has dabbled in internet quilting and has joined a group called Quilt Chicks. She says that she has done other things such as block exchanges, round robins, and fabric exchanges. She belongs to a guild called Richmond Quilters.

Keywords: Online quilt communities; Quilt competitions; Quilting communities

Subjects: Quilters; Quilting; Quilting.; Quiltmaker's club; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts

00:26:20 - How quilts reflect the community and region

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Partial Transcript: Uh, the last section of questions deals with the function and meaning of quilts in American life.

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says she is unsure whether her quilts reflect the community and region, unlike Hawaiian applique quilts. She thinks that because quilters utilize the internet and classes, their quilts may not be as regionalized. Elliott says that she has attended classes in New England, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, and that when she visited Maine the fabrics were not different. When the interviewer says that she has seen different fabrics and quilts at a quilt show in Santa Fe, Elliott says that it is a southwest influence. However, when Elliott visits a Las Vegas quilt shop, she says that the fabrics are the same as the ones back home. Regardless, she does most of her fabric shopping online, purchasing fabrics from states like Montana and California.

Keywords: Fabric/Quilt shops; Hawaiian quilts; Online quilt communities; Quilt shops; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Quilting communities; Quiltmaking class; Quiltmaking classes

Subjects: Hawaiian Quilts; Hawaiian quiltmakers; Quilters; Quilting; Quilting.; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts; Quilts--Southwest, New; Quilts--United States

00:29:37 - Quilting's importance in American life

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Partial Transcript: What do you think about the importance of quilting in American life?

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says that quilts had a significant impact on women's lives as a creative outlet during colonial times. She mentions the term, "utilitarian," believing that it is this aspect that also drove women to create quilts. As a child, Elliott recalls having rail quilts made by her grandmother to keep her warm. Rail quilting made it easier for her grandmother to embroider names onto the fabric, though she says it was much more convenient to do so on a treadle sewing machine.

Keywords: Embroidery; Female artists; Female quiltmakers; Home sewing machine; Quilt purpose - Bedcovering; Quilt purpose - Comfort; Quilt purpose - Utilitarian

Subjects: Artists; Craft and art; Craft and decorating; Quilters; Quilting; Quilting.; Quiltmakers; Quiltmakers--United States; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts

00:32:08 - The utilization of quilts

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Partial Transcript: How do you think quilts can be used?

Segment Synopsis: Elliott believes that quilts can be used for warmth, decoration, and gifts. She says she recalls quilts hanging around her house that served as decorative pieces. She also mentions that quilts are also used for clothing.

Keywords: Quilt purpose - Bedcovering; Quilt purpose - Comfort; Quilt purpose - Gift or presentation; Quilt purpose - Home decoration

Subjects: Quilted goods; Quilters; Quilting; Quilting purpose; Quilting.; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quilts; Quilts in art; Quilts in interior decoration

00:32:55 - Preservation of quilts in the future

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Partial Transcript: H-how do you think that quilts can be preserved for the future?

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says that museum's quilt collections are useful in preserving the future of quilts, but that it is also important for families to keep quilting alive. She mentions how her grandmother's quilt is falling apart as well as the quilt she made her son. When asked to repair it, she found it difficult to do, but it was only possible through re-binding the quilt. As a result, Elliott says that we need to look into learning as much as possible about older fabrics. Other preservation methods include seeing a professional or storing it with acid free paper.

Keywords: Childhood; Children's quilts; Family; Quilt preservation; Quiltmaking for family

Subjects: Museums; Quilters; Quilting; Quilting.; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts

00:35:30 - Status of her quilts today

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Partial Transcript: Well, this one is the last question they have here on the sheet is: What has happened to the quilts that you have made for those of friends or family?

Segment Synopsis: Elliott says that when she is traveling, she makes sure to know that her quilts are being taken care of. She talks about things such as where they need to go, and who will take them. She says one thing she needs to do is label quilts to make it easier to know when it was made, where, and by who. Elliott says she has two Australian quilts, a Bow Tie quilt, and a quilt made for a newborn. She further states that she does not own a lot of the quilts she made, since they were made as gifts.

Keywords: Quilt labels; Quilt purpose - Birth; Quilt purpose - Gift or presentation; Quiltmaking style

Subjects: Quilted goods; Quilters; Quilting; Quilting.; Quiltmakers; Quiltmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quilts