Sarjane Cohron Goodwin




Sarjane Cohron Goodwin




Sarjane Cohron Goodwin


Evelyn Salinger

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

National Quilting Association


Washington, D.C.


Evelyn Salinger


Evelyn Salinger (ES): It is August 23, 2005. We are interviewing Sarajane Cohron Goodwin, number 20002-014. The interviewer is Evelyn Salinger. Hi, Sarajane.

Sarajane Goodwin (SG): Hi, Evelyn. [laughs.]

ES: It is good of you to submit yourself to an interview today and we are at the Calvary Episcopal Church in Northeast DC, and in a little private room off the big hall during the Daughters of Dorcas Meeting. First, I would like to discuss with you the wall hanging that you brought today. Now, what made you choose this piece in particular?

SG: After I did not have any memories of myself as to—I was making other quilts that other people have designed, and nothing that spoke of me. So, I wanted to keep my memories and something for Maria, my daughter, to have eventually in later years. So that's why I made the quilt. And since they taught that--the Library Quilt--at G Street, it gave me the opportunity to present a lot of things and yet not make it too large. There's a lot missing, but that was enough at the time.

ES: This is really a very interesting quilt. It does look like real library shelves with pictures and ornaments and so forth hanging. Did you do this by hand or by machine or combination?

SG: By machine, because it would take me too long by hand. As growing up, I was too small and I helped them put up the frames and they were teaching me to quilt, and my stitches were so big that they kept making me take them out. And so, I was glad when the invention of the machine came along [laughter.] to help me to sew, that I didn't have to take it out. So, most of my work is by machine and very little by hand.

ES: And the design, you said that you got it at a G Street Fabric Store program?

SG: Yes, how to assemble the bookcase idea. How you take one strip at a time. It looks hard to do, but you take one square, one 12-inch block at a time, and then you graduate from there, then you put them all together.

ES: It is done so asymmetrically that you would never notice that they are 12-inch blocks. Some things are horizontal, some things are vertical, and then you have a picture--whose picture is that, in the middle, in the frame? [laughter from church meeting in background.]

SG: In the frame. That was me.

ES: How old were you at the time?

SG: I don't quite know.

ES: Looks like in your twenties, maybe?

SG: No, I was just about seven or eight years old.

ES: No. You look more grown up than that. [laughter.] With the big hat.

SG: With the hat. It seems as though the little hat I am wearing there, every time I buy a hat and come home, and I go back and look at that picture, it's almost the same style of that hat.

ES: Because it becomes you so well.

SG: I don't know about that.

ES: It does. Now, I see the various things on the books: Model T Ford and cast-iron stove and things like that. Those were things that existed when you were growing up.

SG: The Model T Ford is what my brother taught me how to drive when I was about--He put me on the road and all the cars would see it coming. He would stand--in those days they had bumpers--runners. So, he would stand on the bumper and of course the cars would just split, because they knew we were coming. I was too young.

ES: How old were you when you started to drive?

SG: I guess about 10 or 11 years old. I grew up really in the city and not in the country part of the metropolis.

ES: We did not get actually the name of where you were born and where you were brought up.

SG: St. Louis, Missouri. I was born in 1921. It's a long time. But those are pleasant memories we are allowed to keep. The horse up there--my grandfather used to tell stories on Halloween. And it wasn't until I got old enough to read that he was talking about the Headless Horseman.

ES: The one from Tarrytown, New York?

SG: Yes.

ES: The Washington Irving stories?

SG: Yeah. So, St. Louis had, you see one, I think I have it about the tornado in 1927. It was a huge one. The tornado came and tore several houses down. However, I had to walk past those houses and so I would just run. I could run real fast because of the stories he told, I could see that horseman coming over the ditch, but he never did.

ES: Thank goodness, you're still alive to tell about it. There's Mississippi Steamboat, of course.

SG: That's on the Mississippi River. In later years, after I grew up and about ready to go to high school, I guess, Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey used to play on the river boat. We could go down on the levee, as they called it then, and listen to the music as they went by. I grew up listening to the Big Band era.

ES: Isn't that nice. And were you familiar with Mark Twain stories?

SG: Yes. We were familiar with Mark Twain, and I loved to read. My grandfather was a minister, and the doll looks almost like the little doll I had.

ES: Is this a Raggedy Ann?

SG: I named her Corky. It was out of a comic strip that named Corky back in those days. They don't have that today. That picture was my grandmother. [inaudible phrase.] And I couldn't make the star. I wanted to make a block of the Missouri Star, but it was too—I couldn't get it together. So, what I did was, take a picture of the Missouri Star block and then put it in. Those pictures, we did that when transferring to fabric first came out. So that method that we used there was not as technical as it is today when you can take your camera and download it into your computer. We had to use paper or fabric. And now we know what to do to use it and it comes out real nice.

ES: Do you use the new techniques as well?

SG: Yes. I use the new techniques.

ES: What have you done with the new technique?

SG: Well, like Bubblejet 2000, you can make your own fabric to be printed on and now we're getting so many things to do, we end up buying it already pre-made so that you don't have to go through dipping it in the Bubblejet 2000 and drying it and then cutting it all. It already comes prepared. And of course, it comes out better. The house down at the bottom there, looked just the same house that we had, but the tornado came through and took off all that whole top area there. And we had a little wooden bank that sat on the mantel. And it had a little top on it. The tornado took everything out, left the bank, took the top off and the money was gone.

ES: Really.

SG: But it left the bank standing.

ES: It's amazing. Was it one of those cast iron heavy banks?

SG: No. It was the wooden bank that a friend of mine had brought back from California.

ES: You'd think it would have been whisked away as well.

SG: Uh-hum.

ES: And the vase? What does that signify?

SG: That was something that sat there on the mantel with the bank.

ES: Well, it is a lovely idea to do a memory quilt like this with a bookshelf.

SG: Now, I want to make one to upgrade to include my married life. This is my childhood.

ES: Yes, it is.

SG: But I want to continue it.

ES: That would be good.

SG: And the fabric there that is wood-like is difficult to buy. When we went to Lancaster this summer, we bought up as much as we could find. I don't know why they stop printing it because you still use it for different things.

ES: It's excellent for that. Ghost Stories [book title.]. Is that a continuation of something you enjoy?

SG: After the ghost stories that he used to tell us all to frighten us. [laughter.] And I believed all of it.

ES: Yes, I wonder today how much children believe of all these fantasy things. For whom is this, you say it is for your daughter, Maria?

SG: Yes.

ES: Would you tell us your earliest contact or memories of quilts or quilters? You mentioned a little bit before.

SG: I guess I was quite young, because I used to crawl underneath where the ladies would come and sit around. And I after I grew up, I helped them put the quilting frame together, but they wouldn't let me quilt. [laughs.]

ES: Who was the person that was quilting?

SG: It was my mother and the church ladies.

ES: Were they doing this for each other's quilts, or was it a project at the church?

SG: I don't know because in those days, they didn't purchase fabric as we do today. They used what they had of old clothes and old memories and even when I started back to quilting, I had thought of dresses and things that you liked, or memories, but that did not turn out too well. It didn't look right. [laughs.] But I had started using fabrics from clothes that I had wanted to keep, but I didn't like it, with all the new fabrics that are coming out.

ES: There are different kinds of quilts. I mean the memory quilts using all your old fabrics is certainly one way. What got you started in quilting yourself?

SG: When I retired in 1987 from the government, Smithsonian offered a class in quilting, I didn't want to take it because it, too, was hand work, but then afterwards I got so that I didn't mind the piecing together, and it turned out real nice. And that's what started, and I kept on going and of course then the beginning of the fancy sewing machines that did more than you could do by hand and in a shorter amount of time, and that's what started me back to quilting. It's something that you could do and when you do finish it you are surprised that when you put the pieces together individually that it turns out so nice.

ES: Uh-hum. Did you have sewing skills through school or family?

SG: I did take in school, I took up dressmaking and that was also, Maria, she turned out to have allergies to new fabrics. I had to either wash it when I bought it, and after having sewing classes why I made most of her clothes when she was little because I could wash the whole fabric and then put it together. And she wouldn't have any problem.

ES: Uh-hum. When did you join Daughters of Dorcas?

SG: Oh, that must have been 1989 that I joined the Daughters of Dorcas.

ES: And how were you introduced to them? How did you know about it?

SG: The Wellness Center in Washington was looking for someone to do quilting and one of the members there knew Viola [Canady.] And so that's how I got started in the Daughters of Dorcas. When I joined, there were so many people in the Daughters of Dorcas, that you could only come a month a time and not like here, like we sign up for the year. We paid monthly, because there were just so many people and not enough room. But today we can join by the year.

ES: When it was monthly, were you meeting here at the Calvary Episcopal Church? But you had so many people coming--

SG: Well, I guess the tables--and of course they were doing larger projects.

ES: Was the focus different then?

SG: Yes. Because each year, I think, Viola gave us a project that we could do. Like, for instance, Selma Lee had a project of seeing how you could improve your quilting skills by making a pillow. And that's what we did. And then we made a pocketbook. But we always had an assignment to do, and then we also had something that we all did together. I never got into working with Virginia Quinn on her quilt that I think it was one of the Raffle quilts. I did not get into one of those at the earlier days, but when Barbara [Brown.] came in, I did help out some. But I always warned her that I'm going by machine, so I don't know if she used my square or not. [laughter.]

ES: Now your output with machine is very nice from what I see here. What are your most favorite aspects of quilt making? What are your least favorite?

SG: No, I'm monochromatic. I don't go for too many colors. I'm basically staying within three to four colors. And some people introduce a lot of colors, but five and six, nineteen colors, bothers me. I stick with the basic colors, and I sort of collect patterns more than I can do. I collect all phases of--I like Sunbonnet Sue. I don't care what they say about that, but 'cause they call you names, 'Oh, you got Sunbonnet Sue,' but I like Sunbonnet Sue. I collect her: her jazz patterns and skating patterns, anything that she looks like.

ES: That's interesting. Have you ever made anything, any squares?

SG: Just one. Just the traditional one, but I'm looking forward to designing my own Sunbonnet Sue that would fit into a Library Quilt.

ES: ES: Ah. Yes. That would be interesting. You have a preference then for traditional over contemporary or--

SG: More for contemporary than traditional, I think I am. But now I'm looking at it differently. And some of the traditional ones that I have the patterns to, I'm becoming—I think the fabrics now—they're making the fabrics fit the traditional patterns that are way back. So, I'm looking at that again. I don't have much time, because I've got additional things.

ES: You've got a lot of things. Do you have other hobbies, such as--

SG: Well, this one has turned out to be the most fun, except for touring and trying to do genealogy. They both have a lot of paraphernalia around them. The quilting, you collect. You see a fabric and you have to buy it now because you don't know when you'll see it again. And the genealogy, we have a lot of paperwork with it and time you spend. So, between the two--

ES: You said something about touring. Do you like to go on trips?

SG: We go on trips and see how other people do it, and especially how we don't appreciate that the time and effort started it to get where we are now. And I enjoy looking at that aspect of traveling.

ES: So where do you go for some of these? Quilt shows?

SG: Yeah, of course we end up going where quilts are. [laughs.] And quilt shows. If we see one, why then forget it. We haven't gone recently. We had never been in a Bed and Breakfast before. So, we thought we'd try a Bed and Breakfast. But then the Bed and Breakfast, they were telling us about all the quilting and then we find we were right back in quilt world. That was very interesting.

ES: Which state was that?

SG: That was in Lancaster. [Pennsylvania.] Then we went out of the touring area, and they showed us how to visit the Amish people and how they were interested in doing their quilts.

ES: Do you find their quilts are quite different from what you see in D.C.?

SG: Yes. Because it's done very well, and it looks like they enjoy their art. It's very well done. Here, now they are selling quilts that the stitches are bigger than the ones they wouldn't let me do. [laughs.] But I enjoyed what they do. And of course, they stick to my color. They don't have a whole lot of color. They are in my color range.

ES: I'm wondering whether if you went to another part of the country, then you would immerse yourself into a different set of quilts.

SG: I could imagine so. No matter where you go, we just end up what about quilts and we enjoy it.

ES: You say, 'We.' I think you mean your daughter--

SG: Maria.

ES: It's great that you do that together. Do you have some quilts that you have finished at home? Do you keep them?

SG: Yes. That's the problem. I've kept most of them because we're a small family, so most of my family are deceased. There are not many of us left. So that became a problem. Now I give them to friends. Actually, you quilt, and you stay there, and you figure it out, 'Let's keep this a little while.' So that's what I end up doing, a little while. And you accumulate quite a bit of quilting.

ES: How does quilting impact your family? Well, we have already said you travel. Did you pass this along to your daughter? The idea about quilting?

SG: She's gone off on her own. She also enjoys quilting, but she's taking a different aspect to quilting than what I do. She's taking the old Gothic and Egyptian patterns and languages, blowing them up and in addition to increasing their size, and making the patterns for them. She's interested in Celtic quilts, and so when we both spread out all of our quilting, when people come to the house and really it doesn't look too nice. [laughter.]

ES: On the other hand, it must be exciting to the eye. Do you enter shows?

SG: Yes, we do. We used to display more than we do. G Street [Fabrics.] had a community thing that we went to every Tuesday and so then we had the entire G Street and in cooperation with Daughters of Dorcas that hung quilts at G Street.

ES: Was this when G Street Fabrics was in town [D.C.]?

SG: G Street Fabrics in Rockville. [Maryland.] We had a section every Wednesday. It wasn't on my day of Daughters of Dorcas. But I don't know what happened. I think, they enlarged their store, then they just couldn't take the people, who I guess, went to the other stores, because it wasn't nice anymore. We'd have a chance to win prizes.

ES: Did you ever win anything?

SG: Yeah.

ES: Ribbons or money or what?

SG: Oh, no. In fabric. If you won, it would be in fabric. We enjoyed that.

ES: You had mentioned the Wellness group. I would like to know what that is. I've been very curious.

SG: It's Washington Seniors' Wellness Group. The members you see back there, [at Daughters of Dorcas.] Alyce Foster, Camille Gorham, Christine Bradford, Mary Washington, they're all from the Wellness Center.

ES: Do you have to be a senior citizen to join it?

SG: Yes. You have to be at least sixty. They got in because our former director--we don't take up the space that we take up if it does not interfere with the space that they use. And of course, at first, I was really teaching that group. This particular younger group, some of them are sixty and some of them aren't, they're faster than us. [laughs.] They're moving faster than I moved. So, I always share my ideas and the new methods that I have learned, because I really like newer methods of anything. I want to know. So, I would teach the others for a while before they came, and there are not more than 12 to 15 people in the quilt class. But this group is younger and more energetic, and I think they have more time to quilt.

ES: When you joined that, had you already retired?

SG: Yes.

ES: What got you started in the teaching aspect? Were you a member first before you taught?

SG: I was a member first. That's when we were looking for one and that's how we met with Viola Canady.

ES: I was wondering how you got to be teaching at the Wellness Center? You brought in new things?

SG: Well. Nobody was doing anything, and so I just can't come here every day, so they--It just developed. Because I eventually taught them the basics and it just grew from there. We do take classes in quilting. We just came back from Hershey [PA.] Quilt Odyssey. And you take quilting. A month ago, we had a couple of teachers. They are generally the people that write these books that we learn from.

ES: Do you stay more than one day?

SG: Yes. We usually stay up the whole time. I think it was Wednesday to Saturday. We try to take the classes where they furnish the machine. We don't have to lug that machine if we go other than by train. If we go by car, we don't mind bringing our machine. This time we were taking beading and working with different fabrics and all that. We get a chance to see the new machines that have come out that you can go on Internet with the machine. They record it. It's really fantastic the way they're taking off with the machine. But I don't want to buy a whole lot of machines if I'm not going to use them. But whatever embroidery is on that particular machine, that's what I'm going to use.

ES: I think you used the embroidery perhaps on some of this quilt.

SG: Yes. But the main things we did. We also took a hand stamping class there. Scrap booking is coming into play now. And so that's why you can hand stamp with it and the inks are permanent. They're basically made for fabric. They are not like the other that was time consuming.

ES: But it's nice to have the words indelibly on there and not to embroider each one. That takes lots of time.

SG: That's why I like hand stamping.

ES: Uh-hum. You said you worked for the government. What sort of things did you do?

SG: Oh. Well, I was printing. I was a printing specialist. I worked for the Census Bureau for the major part of the time, wherein we took--you know we take the census every ten years--or the population census--I was in charge of printing the forms that you make out on the every ten-year population. I was in charge of that. I think it also helped in quilting because we had to be able to match in correcting a typed page with words, when I first began, before they had the computers, we had to put a dot on top of a box. It helped in putting my squares together. Some of the coworkers would say, 'Don't tell me if it's not straight. Because if she tells you, it's not straight, it's not straight.' [laughs.] It carried over and helped me in the quilting that I could know when it wasn't matching.

ES: Very good. And you worked there many years?

SG: Yes. I wanted in order to get full benefits from retirement, 80 percent of your--I had forty-two years of working.

ES: Oh, my. That's many years.

SG: It does help.

ES: That's wonderful. Do you collect other people's quilts?

SG: Yes, I do. I have bought some from the quilters here, like Carmel Washington.

ES: Oh. How nice.

SG: They are very well done. I would like to hang them, but I don't have the room. But I do take them out. I do what they say to do. I don't bunch them. I shake them and change positions.

ES: Good. [turn over tape.] Do you have advice for new quilters?

SG: Yes. When they come in, I try to tell them that most of our quilters when they come in, they want to do big work. [background noise.] And I tell them to start off small and at least learn how to do hand quilting and hand appliqué. Most of the people that came to the Wellness Center, they had done quilting back like when they were using clothes or what have you to make their quilt, but they were not anxious to learn the new method. It was difficult working with them, but I wanted them to know that things do progress.

ES: Good. How has quilting had meaning for the American woman?

SG: Hmm. I think the quilting of today has taken her to higher salary making, because what she has done, she has taken her quilting skills, her quilting ability and taken it to other fields. And I think quilting has helped us. Like, who was it? One of the quilters, she applied for one type of job which was not related to quilting, but they looked down and saw that as her hobby, quilting was part of her hobby, and they thought the methods she used in quilting would aid her to do the job which she's applied for. And also, another thing my doctor told me, that quilting is one of the things that keeps Alzheimer's away because you have to find your way out of the situation or what to do while you are working on it. I think young people should keep quilting to relate to other things in their job and older people need to do it so that they can keep their minds active and stave off other diseases. [laughs.]

ES: Good idea. I think I have run out of questions. Is there anything else?

SG: That's good. [laughter.]

ES: You have done very well. Thank you so much.


“Sarjane Cohron Goodwin,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 13, 2024,