Eva Colgate




Eva Colgate




Eva Colgate


Jean Rusk

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

National Quilting Association


Westcliffe, Colorado


Judy Wills


Jean Rusk (JR): Hello. My name is Jean Rusk. I am the American Heritage Chairman of the General Marion Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. [DAR.] Our chapter is headquartered in Canon City, Colorado. DAR is working in partnership with The Alliance for American Quilts to document the stories of American quilters. DAR's main focus is to record the stories of DAR quilters. Today with me, I have Eva Colgate. I am so happy she's here. She is a member of the General Marion Chapter and an outstanding quilter. I would like to thank you, Eva, for bringing us your favorite quilt today and for allowing us to interview you. It is August 17th, and this takes place at my home in Westcliffe, Colorado. Our scribe and photographer is our Chapter Regent, Judy Wills. Judy will also be transcribing this interview for submission to The Alliance for American Quilts. So, tell me Eva, you brought this quilt today, tell me about the quilt. Who made it, I know you did, and why and describe it.

Eva Colgate (EC): I made it from a calendar that a very dear friend of mine gave me for Christmas. Each month had a pattern. They are all stars, and stars are very difficult and totally all hand pieced and there is one particular block of fabric in it that I really, really like, and I said to my son, his daughter, my son's wife, 'If you ever find this fabric, buy me four yards.' And he said, 'Mom, go down in the basement and get it.' So, I did and all of the black print in this quilt is from the four yards of fabric that Jim told me to get out of the basement. I particularly love this quilt. The name of it is "Almost Amish" and I have put it in quite a number of quilt shows and the Fremont County Fair. [Colorado.] And it is just one of my favorite quilts.

JR: Is it cotton? Or?

EC: It is all cotton.

JR: All cotton. Oh, it is just beautiful. And how do you use it? Do you use it, or just keep it?

EC: On no. It is on our bed every winter because it is big enough to go over our down comforter.

JR: How wonderful and what year did you make it?

EC: 1997, what you read on the back.

JR: Nine years old. It is just beautiful. And you made the pattern from the calendar.

EC: Yes.

JR: And that wasn't easy either, was it?

EC: No.

JR: And then did you quilt it yourself?

EC: Yes, and each block is quilted differently, so the backside is as pretty as the front.

JR: And this is one of the patterns for the back?

EC: No, these are on the front and the back. Each one of these twelve blocks from the calendar I quilted differently.

JR: And you made that up, the pattern for each quilted block. That's wonderful. And how come you chose this quilt to bring? Is this your favorite quilt of all of them?

EC: It is my favorite. Well, most of my quilts are all cloth quilts because I love to quilt, and I hate to piece. So, I did not think an all-cloth quilt would show up very well and this is quite colorful, and it is one of my favorites.

JR: I see. When I first asked you for the interview, you said something about your very favorite quilt; you had given to somebody else.

EC: Oh, my very, very favorite one is the one that my uncle pieced when he was nine years old, and I gave it to my daughter, and she took it back to Maryland with her because I thought that is where it should be. It should stay in the family, and she loves quilts, so I sent it back to Maryland with her. It was a Dresden Plate and he pieced it when he was nine years old and I quilted it about 35 years, no more than that, about 45 years after he pieced it.

JR: How wonderful. Tell me about your interest in quilting. At what age did you start quilting?

EC: Oh, about 35. I just decided I wanted to do it.

JR: So, who taught you?

EC: Me, myself and I.

JR: You just taught yourself.

EC: I taught myself. I never had a lesson in quilting.

JR: So how many hours a week did you quilt as a rule?

EC: When I was quilting, I quilted all day.

JR: All day long

EC: All day long

JR: What is your very first quilt memory?

EC: My very first quilt memory was the quilt that my Grandmother Adams and my mother quilted, and they were a Double Wedding Ring, the Grandmother's Flower Garden Path, and the Missouri Dahlia. And I have them. They were for twin beds, and I have made them for queen sized beds, all but the Missouri Dahlia.

JR: How many quilts do you think you have now?

EC: I don't know, I have given a lot of them away and I sold one. I sold one for the unheard-of price of $1,400. I almost fainted when she said she wanted it and that she would pay that plus the shipping. So, I shipped it UPS and put $5,000 insurance on it.

JR: Good for you. Well, how many quilts altogether would you guess that you have made in that time?

EC: I have quilted. I have probably quilted a hundred. I have not made that many because this one, my Grandmother's Flower Garden Path and the Double Wedding Ring are the only pieced quilts I really have, but I have quilted for myself and for other people probably a hundred quilts. I started about in 1970.

JR: I remember hearing you say once that you had given one for a wedding present. What a wedding present that would be.

EC: Just this winter I gave a Double Wedding Ring to a very, very dear friend of mine and his wife for their wedding present.

JR: Wonderful. I hope they treasure it as much as they should when there is so many hours of work. Did, oh you did say something about your other quilt makers in your family.

EC: My grandmother and my mother, my father's mother

JR: And they loved to do it too?

EC: I think so.

JR: I can see the sparkle in your eyes when you talk about quilting. So, they probably loved it as much as you. Tell me if you have ever used quilts to get through a difficult time?

EC: No.

JR: No. I didn't think so. What do you find pleasing about quilt making? What do you find that you don't enjoy?

EC: Piecing. I hate piecing.

JR: You hate piecing.

EC: And the reason is because I am too particular. They have to be exact, or I rip until they are and pretty soon you don't have fabric. So, I'd rather quilt.

JR: And cutting out, you don't mind that? You don't mind cutting out the little bitty pieces?

EC: Well, that's piecing. That all goes in one

JR: But then you piece them by hand

EC: Well, I did this one and I did My Grandmother's Flower Garden Path and then my Double Wedding Ring which I also sent home to Maryland with my daughter. I quilted Storm at Sea for a lady, and she pieced my Double Wedding Ring.

JR: What do you think makes a great quilt?

EC: Whatever somebody loves.

JR: Whatever they love, and what makes a quilt artistically powerful? I guess that's the same.

EC: I suppose the colors, the quilting on it, just what people like.

JR: And what makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection? I don't know, but you do I'll bet.

EC: No, I don't know either, but I know there are lots and lots of beautiful quilts in museums, and then there are some quilts that I think should not even be there. So that is not a very good question for me to answer.

JR: What do you think makes a great quilter?

EC: Beautiful stitches. Tiny even stitches.

JR: Tiny.

EC: Tiny even stitches.

JR: I see you make really tiny, tiny even stitches.

EC: Well, on that black and white, I ripped a lot to make them smaller. If they weren't all the same size, I ripped out and then I would do it again until they were the same size.

JR: I think it is wonderful that you can do it. How do great quilt makers learn the art of quilting? Especially how to design a pattern or choose fabrics and color.

EC: Well now days, there's all kinds of courses and classes and people who teach courses. I have never taken one because as I say, I don't like to piece and so I don't bother to go to classes, but there are any number of places that you can learn how to put certain colors together and that sort of thing.

JR: Have you ever taught any classes?

EC: I taught I made some monsters out of some people by teaching them how to hand quilt. Yes.

JR: How do you feel about machine quilting as against hand quilting?

EC: I hate it.

JR: You hate machine quilting?

EC: My last thing for humanity was at the Fremont Fair when I got the quilts judged hand quilting and machine quilting and they were not judged against each other. They each had their own category, and I was very pleased this year at the Fremont Fair that I had finally succeeded.

JR: Because they should be that way.

EC: They should be. Two years ago, my hand quilted, hand pieced quilt was given a blue ribbon, but it was not a Grand Champion because a machine quilting was given that and I thought that, not the fact that it was mine, but it could happen to anybody's that was hand quilted that was put against a machine quilting.

JR: And what about long-arm quilting?

EC: They are okay if you know how to use them.

JR: I don't understand long-arm quilting.

EC: Well, it is a big, it's about 12- or 14-foot-long thing, and it rolls, then it sews as the quilt rolls, and some people do beautiful work and some people do absolutely ghastly work because there a big globs of backing and batting. As I say, if you know how to do it, and if they are good at it, they are fine. But not many people can do a good job.

JR: And do you belong to a quilters club?

EC: Yes, I do. The Old School House Quilters Club of Westcliffe.

JR: You belong to that?

EC: We are having, I think it must be our eighth or ninth annual quilt show over Labor Day. Which is always beautiful, because there are so many hand quilted quilts in it.

JR: Over Labor Day, that will be in the Old Westcliffe School House.

EC: Yes, in the Old School House. This will be the first year in probably fifteen that I have not had a quilt in it, but I did quilt a wall hanging, so there will be something in it that I have quilted, but it is not much.

JR: More? What about prizes, have you ever taken a first or taken a lot of prizes?

EC: I have taken Grand Champion or Regional Champion practically every time I have put in, but my most favorite and my most prized one was when I won the Colorado Quilt Council's Award of Excellence. And that was a little medal. It was just beautiful.

JR: And where was this contest?

EC: In Fremont County, Fremont County Fair. That's my favorite, my most prized [JR: Possession?] award that I have won on my quilts. I have mended a lot of old quilts and have restored a number of old quilts. That is always very rewarding also.

JR: And does that take from the value of the quilt?

EC: Not if they are rags when you start.

JR: Rags when you start?

EC: When they are rags when you start and you come out with a quilt, it's kind of a phenomenon and it is hard to believe that you can do it, but I have done quite a few of those.

JR: Why is quilt making important to your life?

EC: I don't know, it is just my most loved hobby I suppose. I do tole painting and I do a few things like, but I just really love to quilt. Don't ask me why, I don't know why I love to quilt. I just love to quilt and as I say, I have quilted probably a hundred quilts for myself, my daughter and for baby gifts and wedding presents and then for other people, but I just like to quilt.

JR: And of all these hundred quilts, how many do you have in your possession?

EC: How many do I have in my possession?

JR: Besides this one that you sleep under every winter.

EC: Well, I sent two home to Maryland with Joan, so I probably have six or seven.

JR: Out of a hundred, you have six or seven.

EC: A lot of those quilts I quilted for other people. And right after I came home to Colorado from Minnesota, I quilted a lot for people who would come from Texas for their summer places, and so on, and then they would bring their quilts and I would quilt. I probably quilted twenty-five or thirty quilts that were brought to me, and I quilted them.

JR: In what ways do you quilts reflect your community or your region? Now this one, the name of it is "Almost Amish."

EC: "Almost Amish." That was the name of the calendar, so I just continued it. I just carried that on. I don't know, we really have a very active quilt group in Custer County. [Colorado.] We started out about ten or fifteen, probably about ten years ago. I think when we had our first show there were about ten members, maybe ten or twelve members, and now we are over forty-five. So, it has grown leaps and bounds and there are some very, very talented people in the group.

JR: And do you meet often?

EC: Once a month.

JR: Once a month at the Old School House?

EC: Well, actually, the show is at the Old School House, but we were meeting at the Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, but now we are meeting at your Valley Bible Church Fellowship Hall. We are too big for the Old School House.

JR: Well, that's great. What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life, preserving them and everything?

EC: Well, I think it's one of the arts we have in America that probably very few other countries have. And that was done by necessity because it was the way you keep your family warm and use your scraps. I just got through quilting a Double Wedding Ring for a lady that I had heard about, but I had never seen. This was made out of clothes that get so old that you can't wear them anymore; you take the best parts, you cut them up and you make a quilt and this Double Wedding Ring was made out of those kinds of scraps and it almost made me cry while I was quilting it, because it was just, you could just see the hardship, and the very difficult time that this lady had when she pieced this quilt. Of course I was lucky enough to get to quilt it but when she pieced it, it must have been a very difficult time in her life and for her children, her parent's life, because those little pieces were about like that [shows about 2 inches.], and they were all cut out of worn clothes, like the top of your sleeve, any place a dress or shirt had not worn. This is where the pieces were cut out of. And there were a lot of men's shirts, pieces in it. It was, as I say, almost made me cry.

JR: It was all odd pieces?

EC: Yes, in a Double Wedding Ring it doesn't matter because they are put together and they are just this little wedge and they just go around in a circle, and so on. But these were, in fact, one was so bad that I had to mend it before I could quilt it.

JR: You had to darn it?

EC: I had to darn it. I had to darn a hole before I could quilt it. But it was a very, very special quilt. You could just see.

JR: I was thinking you were going to say they were all odd shapes like a Crazy Quilt?

EC: Oh no. No, no. These were out of clothes, that they take the best part from a dress, aprons were probably never used because they got too much service, but a dress that still had good parts on it, a pocket, or a sleeve, or something. Then they would cut out their pieces out of this. That was the only one I have ever quilted, but it was wonderful.

JR: Historical.

EC: Very historical. And I have no idea whether she even realizes what she has, because I don't think she does.

JR: So, it has special meaning for women's history in American when you think of a quilt like that.

EC: Oh yes.

JR: How many different ways can you use a quilt?

EC: Every way. You can use it as a wall hanging. You can use it on your bed. I don't know. It is better to use them than to fold them up and store them away. If you do, you should refold quite often, so that you don't get a permanent fold. The very best way is to just to stuff them into a pillowcase. Not fold them at all.

JR: That's the way you brought this one. How do you think is the best way to preserve them?

EC: Just take good care of them. Keep dogs and cats off of them.

JR: What about laundering them? I heard you say something about

EC: I wash mine all the time, but they say you should do it in a bathtub. But you can't get water out of them if you do them in a bathtub, so I have a very large, wonderful washing machine. I fill it up with cold water. I put my Orvis Quilt Soap in it. Then I put my quilt in and about every five minutes I go by and use my arm as a plunger and I do that for about a half hour, every ten minutes or so, then I spin that water out, then I let the cold rinse water come in, and then I do exactly the same way, then I spin that out and I hang it outside on a clothes line. And my mother, the two quilts that my mother had, she had them cleaned. Don't ever take a quilt to a cleaners because it turns everything yellow and much harder on them than if you washed them, because the cleaning solution is so much more harsh than your plain old water. As I say, the Orvis Quilt Soap is wonderful. You can buy it at any quilt/fabric store.

JR: Well Eva, we've enjoyed this so much. We've been so interested in all your quilts. I know you could talk and talk for hours, but is there anything else you want to say about quilts?

EC: Just that I love them.

JR: You love them.

EC: Just that I am very fond of quilts, and I think they are wonderful. I think every woman in the United States should have a quilt. I don't mean the ones that you go and buy in a store, but one that someone cared enough about you that they made you a quilt. Because let me tell you, I have a little picture that a friend of mine gave me that says, 'When you sleep under a quilt, you sleep under a blanket of love.' I guess that's the way I feel about it.

JR: Have you ever taught any little young people? Teenagers?

EC: No, not really. No, I don't think so.

JR: Just inspired you.

EC: I guess so. I am the only one in my family that quilts now since my grandmother and my mother, and my mother never did after my grandmother died.

[George Colgate (Eva's husband) prompting: Recent quilts.]

JR: Recent quilts that you've made. Is this the most recent? It says 1997.

EC: Oh no. I think the most recent one was the last one. I went to Washington DC, and I went into the Smithsonian, and they had an all-cloth quilt and I thought this is really special if I buy this quilt top from the Smithsonian Institute, then I quilted it. That's my newest one. It is a very large queen-sized quilt, I bought the quilt top from the Smithsonian, and then I brought it home and I quilted it. I think I did that in about 2000, 2001 maybe...

[George Colgate prompting: Tee shirts.]

JR: What about tee shirts and quilting?

[George Colgate prompting: Quilting tee shirts. Sports.]

EC: I have a very dear little friend who is marrying my cousin's grandson next July and we took her tee shirts that she had used in all kinds of sports starting out when she was six years old. We she used her tumbling shirt all the way to her senior in high school volleyball, basketball, and track and we made this wonderful, wonderful quilt. It is very, very nice.

JR: Just out of the front of the tee shirts?

EC: Actually, we used the front and the back and then we didn't have any backing. This is a very heavy quilt and we tied it, we did not quilt it, cause there was no way, and it came out very, very nice.

JR: And that was your own idea?

EC: No. There is one lady in our quilt group at the Old Westcliffe School House Quilters who has made many of these tee shirt quilts. So, I had to find out. 'Donna, how did you do that?' you know 'Do you have to put stiffening?' 'No.' Well, I did the first one, but now I just use the front and the back of the tee shirt, and it worked very well.

JR: Thank you so much for this interview. We've just enjoyed it so much. Thank you very much.

EC: You are most welcome Miss Jean.


“Eva Colgate,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 16, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1562.