Joyce Nixon




Joyce Nixon




Joyce Nixon


Evelyn Salinger

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Brenda Brinn


Washington, D.C.

Interview indexer

Anne Lafferty


Evelyn Salinger


Evelyn Salinger (ES): Today is October 26, 2004. We are interviewing Joyce B. Nixon; number [DC.] 20002-006 at the Daughters of Dorcas Meeting, Northeast D.C. This is Evelyn Salinger, interviewer. It is 12:00 noon. Hi, Joyce.

Joyce Nixon (JN): Hello.

ES: It is so nice of you to agree to be interviewed today.

JN: Thank you.

ES: I think it is very important that we get everyone's story for this quilting project. First of all, I'd like to discuss what you brought in today. You brought in a quilt. Will you describe it to us?

JN: Well, it's blue and white. Usually I have a multi colored quilt, so I decided to make a blue and white quilt. I'm not sure of the pattern, but it has squares and then we have a larger block. And they alternate.

ES: And when it's finished it has the effect of Irish Chain. It looks like a Double Irish Chain.

JN: It does.

ES: Did you piece the blocks by hand?

JN: No, I did it all by machine.

ES: And the backing is a beautiful color, I like that. It has various blues and it has little fans.

JN: Little fans, yes.

ES: You did not do the quilting yourself, you said.

JN: When I made this quilt [top.], I had a hard time deciding which way to quilt it with all the little squares and blocks, so then I just decided to put it aside and I'd think about it and then later on I was going to quilt it. I waited about four to five years and then when I did decide, I'd say, I got to have this top quilted. And so I decided to have someone else quilt it. And this is machine quilted. This is the first machine quilt that I have made.

ES: So in general you do your own quilting?

JN: I do my own quilting, yes, I do.

ES: For whom is this quilt for, yourself?

JN: For myself. I think I want to keep this one.

ES: It is very pretty--a beautiful royal blue and white. I would like to know, what are some of your earliest memories of quilts and quilting? When did you first hear about quilts?

JN: Well, this young lady, Selma Lee, asked me, 'Do you want to learn how to quilt?' And I was shocked. I said, 'Yes, I do.' 'Cause I've always wanted to sew and then when she said quilting, that was even better. So when I first came to Washington, I took sewing classes at one of the schools here. And just to learn how to use a needle and a thread. And so when she asked me did I want to learn how to quilt, she did help me start quilting. She even gave me the fabric to start my first quilt.

ES: And that was before [you joined.] the Daughters of Dorcas?

JN: Before we had known about the Daughter of Dorcas. And like a month later, she heard about the Daughters of Dorcas, and that's why we joined the Daughters of Dorcas. Yes.

ES: Oh. Do you remember when it was that you had that first start with Selma?

JN: Maybe around '82. 'Cause I had not too long retired. And so she just gave me these fabrics she had, and she cut them up for me and told me what I should do. And I did it. And then, she came to my house with a frame and put it on the frame, and told me what to do. And ever since, I have caught on and I've kept going.

ES: That's wonderful. What are the techniques that you like to do the most? What parts do you like to do the most?

JN: Well, I'd rather quilt. I'd rather do hand quilting. I like the machine quilting, too. I like to put the pieces together on the machine. And then hand quilt later.

ES: So, hand quilting is your favorite?

JN: Yes.

ES: Do you have any quilts in the Sumner School Show right now?

JN: I have a quilt at the Sumner School, yes.

ES: What is that?

JN: I took this class and it's called--[Machine Stained Glass.]. You cut pieces out, fifteen-inch pieces, and then cut them and then sew them together.

ES: Sort of Crazy Quilt?

JN: Yeah. And then we'd sew them together. So it is really machine [pieced.]. When I was finished with it, I did quilt the top by hand.

ES: When did you join the Daughters of Dorcas? Was it right near the beginning when it first formed?

JN: I think it was around 1983 or 4.

ES: Have you been learning other techniques since you have been part of the group?

JN: Oh, yes. I've learned pretty much. Like I said, people have given me patterns and I like them and have tried them. They look good.

ES: And where are all your quilts now? Do you keep them yourself?

JN: Well, I have a few at home that my daughter and daughter-in-law like and so they have them. But I have sold a couple of them. I have sold so many, I don't recall.

ES: To whom do you sell these? How does that come about that you'd sell them?

JN: Let me tell you, I sell them to people only if I know they wanted that. I mean, I have a feeling that they want it. For instance, a cousin of mine who lives in California was here, and I was showing her my quilts, and when she saw this particular quilt, she said, 'Now that is a quilt. I like that one.' She really wanted that quilt, I thought. I have to have the feeling that you are interested in a quilt. So I let her have it. [laughs.]

ES: Did you have any sewing skills when you were growing up? Or did you learn when you came here?

JN: I really didn't.

ES: Where did you come from before you came to D.C.?

JN: I come from New Orleans, Louisiana. My next door neighbor used to sew and make dresses and made clothes for me and she made them for her grandchildren. So I thought it was so neat seeing her use the sewing machine. And so I said, 'I've got to learn how to use a sewing machine.' So that's been in the back of my mind all the time.

ES: How long were you in New Orleans?

JN: I came to this area in 1945.

ES: Did you work here?

JN: I came to work, yeah. I worked in the government.

ES: Do you mind telling us what you did?

JN: I worked several places. I worked as an assistant to the management, then I got a promotion and the last place I worked was in the Government Printing Office that was in the area where we sold books. It was a neat process. People would order the books, and then the employees will pull a card with the name of that book and then if they did not have it, they'd let the customer know. This was very interesting. I was the supervisor of that project, you know. Uh-huh.

ES: Very good. And when did you retire then?

JN: I retired in '81.

ES: You found quilting as something you liked to do. [background noise.]

JN: After that, the quilting really caught my eye.

ES: How much time every week do you spend on quilting?

JN: Well, not much now. But I used to spend a lot of time. I would hurry and do my work, organize what I needed to do, and then I'd just--and then I'd quilt. I used the table, my dining room table. So what I would do, I would just quilt, and if I didn't clean up, it was OK with me. Yes.

ES: That's very good. How has quilting affected your family?

JN: Oh, they're very--they enjoyed the quilt, and they know that it makes me happy and they're happy, too. [laughs.] Oh, when I say I quilt, it's okay with them.

ES: That's good. Have you entered into shows?

JN: Well, I have entered shows through the Daughters of Dorcas.

ES: Like the Sumner school.

JN: Yes.

ES: And have you won any awards, have you been into any other kind of shows?

JN: Well, I had a quilt at the Playhouse in Maryland. I had a quilt there.

ES: Oh. Was that a show, or was it during the plays?

JN: They used the quilts from the Daughters of Dorcas all around. [the play: "Quilters.'] They hung them in various places. And I had one there.

ES: Nice. When you go to a quilt show, what do you look for in a quilt? What makes a quilt really good?

JN: Well, I can look at it and I see--I like that quilt. It's just so fascinating. All are fascinating to me even though I didn't make all of them. But they fascinate me, really. That's how I feel about them.

ES: Good. Do you have any--have you collected any quilts of other people?

JN: No. I really haven't. I guess I haven't run into a possibility of collecting any.

ES: Do you keep track of your quilts? Do you have photos or an album?

JN: No, I haven't kept good track of them.

ES: Oh.

JN: I know. 'Cause I have sold several of them. Because at one time I had one in one of the representatives of the state office. I just loaned it to him. And since then, I have sold that quilt, you know. But I really haven't kept as close a track as I should have.

ES: Do you usually document your quilts? You put your name, the name of the quilt--

JN: I put the name, and name them and date, everything. But I don't have anything written down on paper, but I think I am going to start doing that. [laughs.] Yes.

ES: It's nice to look over later, and remember.

JN: Yes.

ES: Do you have any stories or experiences about quilts or quilting during the time that you have been quilting?

JN: Not really, other than--oh, what I have done is each of my grandchildren. I have made blocks like we used to give to the kids at the Sumner school, and made pillow tops. They were fascinated, even my grandson. He made one and just recently, my youngest granddaughter was seven years old. She made one and she was pretty good. Her corners were meeting.

ES: Did you work with them as they did these quilt projects?

JN: I worked with the older children. But the youngest one didn't want any help. [laughs.] And she was just threading the needles and doing everything by her own self.

ES: That's wonderful. Have you done any other teaching outside of the Dorcas? Volunteering, teaching?

JN: I took one class.

ES: I wondered if you did some teaching yourself?

JN: Just with the kids. Just going to the school and teaching the kids.

ES: That's what I wondered.

JN: We used to go like every week [volunteering.].

ES: Was that a public school? Or was that at the museum?

JN: We went to some of the various public schools [and museums.]. Yes.

ES: Was this a project of the Daughters of Dorcas?

JN: It was an outreach project of the Daughters of Dorcas. Yes, we used to go quite regularly.

ES: Uh-hum. Do you have any advice to new quilters? How they should start?

JN: Well, if they felt the way that I did, when someone wanted to introduce me to quilting, I sure they will stick with it, you know. Yes, because it is fascinating.

ES: It is. How it grows. Do you do any other crafts along the way?

JN: I have. I did needlepoint. I made a little picture and had it framed. But that was before I knew of quilting. But now, I do quilting only. [laughs.]

ES: Do you do quilted clothing at all?

JN: Oh, yes. I have made a vest and a jacket and they came out pretty good. [laughs.] Uh-huh. But other than that, I'd rather stick with the quilts.

ES: In what ways has quilting have meaning for the American woman?

JN: I really think it's an art that is beautiful and when the finished product just makes you feel like you have accomplished something.

ES: Definitely.

JN: Yes.

ES: I guess I didn't ask you about whether you felt you were mostly self-taught.

JN: I worked with Selma Lee.

ES: You had help there to begin with. I guess I have asked the questions that I have remembered about asking, is there anything else that we should remember to talk about?

JN: No, but I thank you for interviewing me.

ES: Oh, I thank you for coming to the interview, and making a special trip today.

JN: I did not mind. At least I got it over with. [laughter.]

ES: Thank you very much.

JN: You're welcome.

[tape ends.]


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