Judith Baxter-Warrington




Judith Baxter-Warrington




Judith Baxter-Warrington


Marlene McDerment

Interview Date


Interview sponsor



Belmar in Lakewood, Colorado


Marlene McDerment


Note: Judy Baxer-Warrington is not a member of the DAR. And while this is a DAR quiltmaker documentation project, membership within the DAR is not required for participation.

Marlene McDerment (MM): My name is Marlene McDerment, and today's date is February 25, 2008, and it's 1:10 pm. I am conducting an interview with Judy Baxter-Warrington at Lakewood, Colorado for the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Colorado State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Judy is a quilter who belongs to the Lakewood Heritage Quilters. Judy, you have the floor.

Judy Baxter-Warrington (JBW): I guess I'll start out by talking a little bit about the quilt that I'm going to be bring in for you to photograph. This is a quilt that was made by three generations on my mother's side of the family. Every year for our family reunion, almost every year, I make some form of a quilt to auction off and it helps pay for the reunion expenses, and other things that the family does throughout the year.

This particular one I'd seen in a magazine, and I just fell in love with it, and I decided I would make it for that particular reunion. It was about two thousand and five I believe. I can clarify that when I actually bring the quilt. I worked on it for a long time. It's got lots of pieces in it. It's very colorful, but it's done in eighteen thirties fabrics something that I wanted. I pieced it all and the week before the reunion attempted to quilt it. This quilt is supposed to be queen size but, as most of my projects end up being, it's closer to a king size. [MM laughs.] So here I am, slinging this big quilt over my shoulder, trying to shove it through the machine, and the machine is giving way to the weight of the quilt. I think I got about six inches attempted to be quilted and decided I was not going to be able to get this one machine quilted. So, I said, 'Okay, I have to come up with another plan here folks.' I took the quilt with me. I packed it all up and we went to Indiana. On my way there I came up with a plan. I decided rather than just tying the quilt, which is one of the traditional ways of finishing the quilt sandwich, I would tie it with buttons. There are tons of buttons all over this quilt. It's tied with twill cotton sewn through the buttons. My mother, my daughter, and my granddaughter all helped me work with it. My granddaughter helped pick out the buttons and hand them to us. We were sewing the last buttons on the morning of the reunion.

I had a real trauma because one of my cousins was the successful bidder on the quilt, and I hadn't even had time to really, as most quilters will know that's themselves in that quilt, and they need to touch it, and look at it, and show it to other people. I never got that opportunity to do that. We packed it up and drove back to Missouri with it. I didn't get to see the quilt. It just went bye-bye.

Just to tell a little bit on the side here, he and his then wife, in the following year I believe it was, they divorced. He took custody of the quilt. He brought it back two years ago, 2007, and put it back up for bid. This ornery cousin likes to bid against me at the family reunions. We're near the same age. [MM laughs.] Everybody knew that I that I wanted to get my quit back. I had a budget because I didn't have a lot of money. I had two hundred dollars that I could pay for it, although I knew it was worth a lot more than two hundred dollars. He kept bidding against me, cause he was maybe going to give it to one of his kids who had liked it. I said, 'No, I wanted to take my quilt home and enjoy it for a little while before,' maybe, giving it back and into the reunion kitty. At any rate, it hit two hundred and I was gulping, almost in tears. Another cousin, who understands this little game that gets played at the reunions, bid on it for me and bought it for me. [MM gasps.] So, I have it now on my bed at home. [MM awes.] I love the quilt, although I've had it now for a while. Maybe not this year, but possibly next, I will take it back to reunion, let it travel on to another family to enjoy, now that I've had time to really absorb the quilt. [MM laughs.]

MM: Time to give your own love to it. [JBW laughs.]

JBW: Yes. And wrap myself under it. It is on my bed right now. So, I do sleep under a quilt.

I'm not quite sure when my interest in quilt making began. I do know I had a love for it as a child probably because during the post forty-four war stuff there were a lot of families that had quilts in their houses. When we visited people, they had them in their homes. I probably remember seeing them even in my great-grandmother's house. My own grandmothers, neither one sewed. My mother was a seamstress, but she stuck mostly to making our clothing, and a lot of it was made out of feed sacks. I'm not quite sure, but at the age of nine I do remember making my first line patch for my dolls. I do have an apron that I received from someone, that I still have, that was made out of little, what they call, postage stamp size squares that are about one and a half inches square. I've always had that, and I've always had a love of fabric, and the things that go around it. Through the journey of my life, I have done all most all of it. I've sewn for dress shops, and I've made clothing for restaurant chains, I've done all kinds of sewing. Most of it was around clothing though. Bits and pieces here and there, I've made all of my nieces and nephews quilts when they were born. It makes me kind of sad because my sister never appreciated it until most of them have worn away.

MM: Judy, you mentioned that your mother made clothing out of feed sacks. Were you raised in the county?

JBW: Not really. We lived in a small town of about ten thousand in southern Michigan. So, it was small, but there were rural areas around. I do know, when I was a young child, when I was around two or three, my mother lived on a farm during that time. So, I had some exposure to farming but not for long periods of time. That may be where my farm stuff might have been on my first quilts. I don't really recall that.

My mother does quilt now and that's a whole other story we'll talk about.

I've exposed my family to it, and gotten people interested in it, and a lot of them are doing it now. A few have brought some lap quilts and stuff to the reunion as well, besides the things that I've done.

Like I said, I was about nine when I got started and I've gone through my teen years, and my young adult years, I made mostly things that were baby stuff. I got really back into it about twenty-five years ago when another friend that I work with, who is also into quilting, we kind of paired up and shared our knowledge of things. I have good sense of color, which she didn't, and she had a good sense of technique which I really appreciated having more exposure to.

I learned quilting from lots of different places. From friends, I read and read and read, and I watch television shows that involve quilting. I pick up stuff all the time from different things. I like all new stuff, but real gear is towards older quilts. Civil War is the period I like the best.
The history behind the quilting of that time always fascinates me. Also, the nineteen thirties' quilts have a resurgence and there are some real interesting prints and stuff that came out of that. I've been playing around with that.

How many hours a week do you quilt? Ah, that's interesting. It can be anywhere from one to all week. [both laugh at the same time.] Depending on the particular circumstances of my day. Right now, I'm taking care of my grandkids for about forty hours a week. Between taking care of them and being fatigued afterwards I sometimes don't have the energy to do it. But I have a room that's set up all the time, so if I can sneak away for fifteen minutes sometimes, I do. I have it down now. I've quilted long enough to know about how long it will take me to do a particular block and multiply that times something to come up with a length of time. And then I try to back off of that and figure how long it's going to take me to make something. [MM laughs.]

I'm kind of one of those quilters that likes to see things finished, or the top. Let me back up there. I'm famous for my tops. Right now, I have about sixty of them [MM laughs.] that need to be turned into quilts. But, my tops, I love doing them for the most part except for some that become repetitious.

A couple of years ago I was at a garage sale when I was home for my reunion. Somebody had quilt there that was pretty tattered. There was not much of it salvageable. It was an unusual version of an Ohio Star that I hadn't seen and didn't realize until I got it home that that's really what it was. It had black, white and red in it. It was very intriguing to me. I decided I was going to duplicate that quilt. Well, it's still in process because each block is the same except for the fabric you put in it. So, it gets a little boring working. [MM laughs.] It was fun looking for all the different blacks and reds to go in. The white is just one white all through it. Someday, it will be fun to get that finished. I have an actual shop here that's interested in seeing it when I get done. So at least I have a direction. I'm happy to have picked out some of the blacks and reds that were used for it.

MM: You mentioned that you have about sixty quilt tops. Do you think that's why you're at the Lakewood Heritage Center? You finish so many quilts for people as others are, like you, just make the quilt tops.

JBW: Either that, or quilt tops end up being their aunt donated them, or something, or stuck them away in a trunk, and now they want to turn them into something usable for their family. That happens a lot, too. That carries me, sometimes, into my next project here because I actually get to. It's kind of a joke around here because I don't want to finish my own quilt and nobody here really likes to put the binding on the quilt, but I love doing the binding because that means it's finished. [laughs.] [MM laughing.] That's the final hurrah. It's done! And I really actually have enjoyed that final process of getting the binding on, so I'm a binding fan.

MM: You mentioned that you do machine quilting. I know you do hand quilting, and you do tie quilting. Of those three techniques do you have a favorite?

JBW: When I was younger, I didn't like doing hand quilting because seemed so confining and tedious. But I've got over that, and find it pleasing, and you can take it with you. So, it's pretty portable, too, unless it's so huge that you can't take it.

I also like the fact that machine quilting can get done quickly. [both laugh at the same time.] Much more quickly than doing it by hand.

They all have their place. I like the beauty of hand quilting, actually, as I've gotten into doing it. I've been doing hand quilting for about ten years, and I find it very pleasing. I love to go to quilt shows. I've gotten easier on myself, and I try to be easier on other people when they're hard in themselves. If you look at old quilts, they're not perfect. That's the difference, I think, between hand quilting where it can be very nice and look, what they call museum quality which is really tiny and precise. It's still not as exact as doing machine quilting where the stitches all end up being kind of the same size. Although, there is something in the design of it, that even the actual design you do the quilting with; if it's the feather, flowers, or if it's just something simple like outline stitching. I think the simpler of stitching I would probably prefer to do that by machine because it's quick. And what's the point. The beauty of hand quilting is doing the fabulous designs that they can get. To me, it's kind of tedious to do just straight hand quilting where you just do straight stitching.

I think I told you about my first quilt Marlene. I made if for my doll.

MM: You did mention your mother having gotten interested in quilts.

JBW: Yes, when my grandfather died, I believe about twenty years ago now, he had all these double-knit pants, ugly plaids, checks and all this stuff. My mother actually was able to take those ugly pants and turn them into a very nice-looking quilt. She is making another one now out of all the strips she cut. It was done in the Rail Fence pattern. It's actually kind of nice. She gave it to my grandmother to have for a while and when my grandmother was ready to let it go, because she told my grandmother she had made it for me, that I would get it back. I do have it now and the kids love sleeping with it wrapped around them. I couldn't believe you could take something that ugly and pull it together. [MM laughs.]

One other time, she worked on the Indian Reservation in Arizona. There was a church group there. They made quick lap quilt things out of everything, including upholstery stuff as well as the double knits, for mostly the Indians and some of the people that wandered the deserts, for whatever reason. They made quilts for these groups of people. Sometimes they would be immigrants that had come into the county, and maybe were in between jobs or something.
This was a way of keeping them warm. Her quilt making is totally utilitarian and not for beyond that. She doesn't really like the art quilts.

MM: But it's different. Do you like the art quilts?

JBW: I like it all. I think there's room for all. I have a tendency toward the whole quilts. I like the names that they gave their blocks and its' fun to think of the history and how they keep up with the various quilt ideas that they did. The Kansas City Star [newspaper.] was famous for putting in quilt patterns that people had bought in the paper every week, and made that particular block, or whatever. There's actually a whole book of the Kansas City Star patterns.

I like the history behind the old quilts. The people in the Civil War time, and all the war times, made quilts to carry them through the times of war. There's so much history in the quilts. We're doing it so quickly now, even though that's a two-edge sword.

There's a project that I'm starting right now called the Dear Jane quilt. It's something like two hundred fifty, [MM coughs.] four and a half inch blocks. I don't know exactly how many. There are thirteen by thirteen blocks. She made this during the four years of the Civil War while her husband was away. All these blocks are different that she did. There is actually documentation [MM coughs.] of a good percentage of the quilt blocks of the era in a miniaturized style. I've been thinking about doing this for a long time because it is a historical type of quilt. I must be crazy to want to be doing this. But, to me, it's a process. I joined a group so I would have some inspiration on how to go on my particular project. I may, or may not, make the whole thing. Who knows. I started my first one yesterday, so we'll see how it goes. [both laugh.] We're committed to one block a week, but if you do that it will take me the four years to do it. [MM laughs.] I told some of them I'm getting to the stage in my life where I think I can dedicate four years to one project.

As far as quilt makings impact on my family, [laughs.] sometimes they eat, sometimes they don't. When I married my now husband, he knew I was a quilter and he's had to learn to live with my hordes and hordes of fabric, and paraphernalia that goes with it. He gave up his basement for my quilting. [both laugh.] For a while we had a pool table in there and I took it over, but it's now gone, [MM laughs.] and now I've just taken over the entire space for all my quilt paraphernalia.

MM: Seems to be a prevailing theory with married couples and the basement being taken over.

JBW: It was either that or he had to put up with it on the dining room table. I think he would much rather have me in the basement. Although I do drag things up, and I have hand projects that I work on. so, I won't fall asleep in front of the TV. I have several projects going. There are two schools of quilters. There are idiots like me who, like me, like to have many things going at once, and having almost no control over that. And there's some that just buy the material for one project, they finish it, before they go on to the next. Perhaps it would have been nice if my genes [laughs.] would have been more along that line. I might actually have more finished projects rather than sixty and waiting. [both laugh.]

MM: Do you have the materials for the backing and the filling?

JBW: Oh, sure. [laughs.]

MM: Do you?

JBW: I always buy. I may not have enough bats for all of those quilts. I buy them when they come on sale. I'll get a coupon and go get my half off or whatever. Although, if I send some of them out, which is part my plan for this next year, some people will do it fairly reasonably. I need to get some of these done. My daughter is nagging me, and I'm nagging me. I want some of them done. I'd like to actually see them, instead of having them wrapped up in the box. Everybody knows, and it's kind of a joke.

My daughter is the manager of a thrift store. A haven for quilters! Fabric! It's amazing. People bring in old quilts. Thrift stores sell them for ten dollars because they think they are blankets, so they sell them for ten dollars. Usually, whenever she can, she'll give me heads-up when one is going to hit the floor, and I go flying to the store. She's a little further away from me now so I can't quite do it. Before I was like ten minutes away and I'd know they were coming on the floor, and I was going to run around the store until they hit the rack. [MM laughs.]

MM: And follow the cart?

JBW: Yeah, and she's literally dug things out of dumpsters because the people that work for her don't understand quilts. She picked one out. The blocks are all there. One of these days that's one of the things on my to-do list. It was made in nineteen ten and it even is autographed by the people who worked on the quilt. And they threw this in the dumpster. My daughter was out there digging it out for me, and called me, and they sold me all the blocks to put this quilt together, which I will do one day. It's the history of somebody.

MM: Right.

JBW: And even if I can't find out who that was. It's amazing, for instance, how many people go through divorces, and somebody is mad at somebody, and they'll donate all their stuff. I've gotten some very nice things. I go on eBay, and I buy quilts on eBay when I see something I can't live without. I do have a few. I have some tops that I have inherited from various different things that sometime, they are not part of the sixty, but I must have about ten tops, that I want to turn into quilts as well. Some of them, I'm not sure I'll be able to, because the fabric is so thin.

MM: When you talked about the blocks that you retrieved, were there dates on those blocks.

JBW: Yes, nineteen ten.

MM: There is a good possibility that we can work together and look at census records, and maybe find out who those people are.

JBW: That would be good. I bought one off of eBay, similarly done, that I also have the name. The problem there is that the lady bought it, people go around to estate sales and buy quilts, and she and the people said they didn't want to give the history of the quilt even though they knew about it. It just breaks my heart because these people worked on these things, and they loved them. I know, as a quilter, just what it feels like to put your love into something, and then to just have it disappear into never-never land. But it is loved by a different quilter.

MM: Good

JBW: I have a day bed in the basement for my granddaughter. It's got four or five different quilts piled on it. She gets to get all comfy and roll up those quilts that I've acquired from various places. [MM laughs.] I've never let one disappear that I've run across, if I can afford it.

MM: There's nothing quite as lovely as laying under a nice heavy quilt.

JBW: Yes, and they are very warm, they're comforting, and the older ones are even more comforting, to me, because somebody's love went into that. And, it's being passed on, and I feel that love.

I'm pretty much addicted to this thing called quilting.

What I like most about it is being able to choose so many different fabrics which is different from sewing clothing. And, coming up with something. We joke about cutting up fabric to sew it back together to make another kind of fabric. It is kind of a joke, but on the other hand some of them are so beautiful when they are done. I almost never run into a piece of fabric that I hate. In fact, it's the other way around. Fabric is like chocolate for me. I have to touch it. I've worked in fabric stores. I have to touch it, smell it, look at it, touch it, feel it, and look at it some more. When I worked in the fabric store, I almost never took a paycheck home because I ended up spending it on fabric which a lot of it, I still have. [MM laughs.] I think working with the fabric is what I like the most. There's something artsy about it no matter if you are doing the most simplistic old type quilts to the more artsy quilts of today. There's an art to it. You are watching these fabric pieces that you've whacked up into other shapes become something new, and different, and interesting. They talk to you. That's why I'm impatient so I like to sew by machine because I want it done quickly, but then there is something to say for doing it by hand and giving it precision. There isn't a technique that I am aware of that I haven't tried.

MM: Oh, wonderful.

JBW: I paper piece. I use templates. I find that very fussy, but you have to do it that way if you are doing it by hand. I try it all and see if it comes out. I like to see quick methods. I think some of the old quilters would just envy the tools that we have.

When I first started quilting, for instance, the rotary cutter was never even in existence yet. Now, we can cut fabric like whipty-snipty, and layers and layers and layers of stuff. All at once we can cut out a whole quilt in thirty minutes or an hour. And they used to take days and days cutting out these meticulous little pieces and having to mark them to not lose their place on the quilt. I love new gadgets.

MM: Can you talk a little bit about your experience with the Lakewood Quilters?

JBW: I've been with the group, I think we figured out, since about nineteen ninety-nine. So, almost ten years. The first year or two we quilted in the old schoolhouse. The Lakewood Quilters meets in a historical site that has old homes. It was a fully contained farming community that had its own schoolhouse, it had houses for various groups of people; the family of the people that owned the farm, as well as some of the workers. The schoolhouse was where we probably ended up quilting for a long time. Probably, four or five years that I was with the group. Then they decided to build a more modern building and asked us if we would like to move there. Of course, most of us are in our older years, and on that side of the mountain, and our eyesight wasn't as great, and lighting in the schoolhouse was horrid. The temperature was too erratic. Sometimes it would be so cold, sometimes it would be so hot. It was a nice thing for us to have this new building that they built. We have a group of women, the bulk of which have been here before I started. I think they have probably been together, we don't know exactly the date, but probably something like twenty years.

MM: Wow.

JBW: They quilt for the public. The money that is raised goes right back into the programs for the Heritage Center. Plus, we get volunteer hour time that they get from the local funding source that gives money back to different entities so they can carry out their programs. On top of raising money, as far as I know we are the only volunteer group that actually raises money for the Heritage Center.

It's been a fun thing. We're like a family. It's like the old quilting bee where everyone gets together, and we sit and talk about green beans. [laughs.] We have debates over about how to cook a green bean, to somebody dying. We have the whole thing just like family. We've lost, while I've been here, a member who has passed away. She's a sweetheart and we really miss her. Most of us are retired. We have one or two that aren't. Most of us are and so this is our home away from home where we can come and feel safe and carry on the tradition of hand quilting.

I do enjoy doing that. Technology has definitely influenced me. My stepfather was a cabinet maker for the Singer sewing machine company. My relatives have spun off from the Coats and Clark family. So, it's in my blood somewhere. I've decided I've got the sewing genes because my sister can't even sew a button on.

MM: She's the cabinet maker side.

JBW: I guess, or something. She's sort of the admirer side from afar. She doesn't really get it either. My mother made her a wall hanging, one year, for Christmas. We spent the whole time my mother was with me working on the quilting design of it. It was one of those pre-bought panels, but we did all the quilting design on it, and didn't do just the outlining of the thing, but added some stuff. When my mother went to visit her, found it on the floor, with the kids crawling all over it. My mother was kind of upset about it. My sister doesn't completely get it. She's waiting for her quilt and one of these days I'll get around to getting it done.

Right now, I have five sewing machines. I have a treadle. I have one of the early Singer Feather Weights, which is the most amazing little machine that you can take with you. It does the straightest stitch. The tension on it is awesome. So, for straight stitching, and for taking along with you to go to a class, or something, it's just the best. I have and old Nechi that's sitting, right now I'm using it to do long stitching, on a long frame. I have a embroidery machine. And I have, what was the latest and greatest of the Singer line, that does everything but clean. It threads itself, it has a continuous bobbin, if you so choose to use it, which is just an awesome thing. That's my downside. I hate to thread a needle, and I hate to mess with bobbins.

MM: [laughs.] Me, too.

JBW: Even though the machine was six thousand dollars, originally. I did not pay that for it, but I said, oh, I would pay six thousand dollars for [laughs.] those features. It does so much more. It's computerized, and about anything you can run through a PC you can get into that machine and make it do. I do embroidery as well. I'm still learning it. I haven't had it long enough. I've bought it in June. It took about four years until I got it.

MM: I'd like to thank Judy Baxter-Warrington for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 2:00 pm on February 25, 2008.

[interview concludes.]


“Judith Baxter-Warrington,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1559.