Kay Jones




Kay Jones




Kay Jones


Barbara Beck

Interview Date


Interview sponsor



Houston, Texas


Heather Gibson


Barbara Beck (BB): [tape begins mid-sentence.] ...Houston International Quilt Festival and I'm interviewing Kay Jones this morning. It is Saturday, November 4. Hi Kay, I'm glad you're here. Tell me about yourself.

Kay Jones (KJ): I live in Fort Worth, Texas. I'm a grandmother. I have four grandchildren, only one granddaughter. I've been a Texan almost all my life. I had a career in education, and I was happy with that, but after I retired, I decided that I'd like to make lots of quilts. I don't make a lot of quilts, but the way I started was my husband said I had to have a hobby. I had a job that was pretty stress provoking. I was director of special education for the Fort Worth Independent School District. I did very little except job, family and church so he thought I should get a hobby. Nothing appealed to me until one day I was in a bookstore, and I started thumbing through the quilt books. I found one by Georgia Bonesteel, a lap-quilting book. So, I thought, 'This looks like something I could do.' I decided to make a sampler quilt. I bought fabric and I bought all the wrong fabric. [laughter.] I got some polyester and some heavy fabric. I don't know the fiber content, but anyway it was totally unsuitable, but I did make some blocks. I ended up with a sampler quilt, but it didn't have blocks that were all the same size. [laughter.] To sew it all together I had to do an exercise in math. I put the bigger blocks at the bottom and tapered it toward the top. [laughter.] The difference in the rows, I think there were five rows of four, and the difference in the rows only added up to a little over an inch.

BB: Oh, that's not bad.

KJ: It wasn't noticeable.

BB: Tell me about your second quilt.

KJ: I think my second quilt objects were table runners for my daughter and daughter-in-law. They were simple Ohio Stars.

BB: Do you belong to a guild? Do you take classes?

KJ: I do. I do both. The Trinity Valley Quilters' Guild, a large guild but before I joined the guild when I had been director of special education, there had been a lady in the records room, Mildred Coleman, asked me one day if she could have the day off, she had some personal time, to attend some quilt classes. That came home because she saw me one day at a quilt shop or a quilting-related activity and she invited me to her bee. I joined the bee first and then the guild.

BB: That is nice. That is lovely. Did anybody in your family quilt?

KJ: My grandmother. One of my earliest childhood memories is running by where the ladies were quilting around the frame that lowered from the ceiling or sitting under it or in general making a nuisance of myself.

BB: Listening to everything.

KJ: Yes, listening to the ladies talking.

BB: Has this been a good hobby?

KJ: It's been wonderful. We travel. My husband and I travel. In the last six years we've visited about thirty-nine states. I got the book. I can't recall the name of it. Anyway, it has quilt shops listed with directions to them.

BB: I know which one you're talking about.

KJ: When we enter a state or a campground, I immediately look to see what quilt shops are nearby. We have visited a number of quilt shops and a number of quilt shows. I've been to Paducah and seen all those lovely quilts. BB: That's lovely. What do you think makes a great quilt?

KJ: When we walk around here, we see some great ones, don't we?

BB: Yeah, what is it do you think?

KJ: Eye appeal, certainly. When you walk up and down the rows here, almost every quilt is a wow quilt. You want to stop and look, but we all have different tastes and different colors appeal to us. The great quilts, there's something about them that makes you stop in mid-stride and just soak in how it looks so they'll have eye appeal. When you get up close the workmanship is fine. It's consistent. It's beautiful. It's intricate. Well, not always intricate. Sometimes simplicity speaks to you. The workmanship is always really, really fine in a great quilt. And there's something timeless about a great quilt. It's not one that will be faddish or will follow a trend that's going nowhere. There are some great quilts that I think are cutting edge, but they set long-time trends, not fleeting ones.

BB: Do your quilts reflect your community? Are you traditional?

KJ: Traditional quilts, I've decided, appeal to me. The avant-garde, the new cutting-edge kinds of patterns and techniques are interesting, but they're not the ones that I'm going to try. I think that's generally true in our guild and in our area, although I've noticed in the Dallas show that there are more new, cutting-edge kinds of techniques used than in ours. Ours tend to be more traditional. The quilts, even the finest ones, you would not mind putting on your bed when company's coming. You wouldn't want to use them every day! In terms of color and theme, we have a lot of country colors and themes in our quilts, but we also have some of the bright colors and some of the interesting geometrics...

BB: Tell me about the quilts in your house.

KJ: I really don't have very many. I give them away. I have some old quilts. One was at my mother-in-law's house, and I think probably it was made by an aunt who belonged to the Eastern Star because it's a star quilt and it's in Eastern Star colors. It is so old and dingy and faded that I only bring it out to show people who are interested in quilts. We don't use it by any means. We have a wall hanging that I made from an Elsie Vredenburg pattern of a lighthouse. My husband loves lighthouses, so I made that for him. We have a jewel box quilt that we use and really that's about it because I give them away.

BB: Did you make quilts for your grandchildren?

KJ: Yes.

BB: Everyone?

KJ: Not yet. [laughter.] My granddaughter designed her own quilt when she graduated from high school. I took quilting magazines, and I had a couple of books, and I asked her to pick out a quilt. When I came back the next day she said, 'Grandmother, I like this part of this one and this part of this one.' I said, 'Well I think I can integrate those.' And I came back the next day and she handed me a drawing off the computer and said, 'This is the quilt I want.'

BB: Oh, that was lovely.

KJ: It even had the colors. We went to the quilt shop that day and picked out the fabric. She lives in Arizona, and we were just visiting. I brought the fabric home and figured out how to make the quilt.

BB: How long did it take?

KJ: That only took about three months. It was machine pieced and hand quilted.

BB: Do you teach any classes?

KJ: I haven't, no. I'm still in the learning curve.

BB: Well, how do you think quilts should be used?

KJ: I think they should be used except for the very few that are works of art. There are some quilts that I think it would almost be sacrilege to put on a bed even though they're bed size quilts. I think they were probably made to be heirlooms and made for display. But the tradition of quiltmaking is one of comfort and warmth and 'making do' and using up, so I really think that part of our legacy as quiltmakers is quilts that are used and used up. I encourage anyone who gets one of my quilts to use it, use it up.

BB: Tell me, what have I not asked you that you'd like to tell me about?

KJ: I touched a little bit earlier on the bee, but I didn't say how deeply grateful I am to those ladies in the bee and how much I think that that's a part of the quilting legacy. We're hardly ever strangers to each other if we find out that we're quilters if you meet a quilter, no matter where, you have something to talk about. You find that you have common interests, not just the fabric and not just the patterns and the techniques, but family and the whole idea of pattern and design and all those wonderful things that you can talk about. Quilters, as a group, seem to be helpful. You'll find cooks and other folks that won't share. They don't want you to have their technique or their recipe. But you'll rarely find a quilter that won't say, when you ask, 'How did you do this,' that won't say exactly how they did it and even offer to teach you how. I think that's a really wonderful part of being a quilter and being a part of a quilting community.

BB: Anything else?

KJ: I think that's about it.

BB: We're finished with the interview with Kay Jones. This is Houston, Texas, November 4, 2000, at the International Quilt Festival. Thank you very much.



“Kay Jones,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1272.