Isis Marshall




Isis Marshall




Isis Marshall


Joanne Gasperik

Interview Date


Interview sponsor


St. James City, Florida


Joanne Gasperik


Joanne Gasperik (JG): This is Joanne Gasperik. Today's date is April 9th, 2006, and it is 5:40 p.m. I'm conducting an interview with Isis Marshall for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories, and we are on Pine Island, Florida. Isis, thank you for allowing me to interview you today. Tell me about the quilts and the quilted items that you brought today.

Isis Marshall (IM): Well, my second one I ever made was my family. I decided to make this one because it would be the first one, I have ever made that was a huge one. My grandmother, she found this technique with crayons, and she thought this would be a great idea. I thought I could do it with my family, so I drew my whole family, ironed it on fabric and sewed the rest of it. The fabric on the outside with the suns and stuff that is St. Jude's Hospital fabric.

JG: St. Jude. You said St. Jude Hospital?

IM: Yes.

JG: Where did you get that fabric?

IM: I got it at Hancock's Fabric.

JG: Really? Okay. So, we're looking at a crayon quilt, and there are 12 blocks in it. Describe some of the blocks.

IM: The first one in the top corner is my great grandma. She lives up in Wisconsin. She is very old. The next one, that's my family, my dad, my mom, my two little sisters and me. [JG: Okay.] They are all doing their favorite activity. My grampa, he's riding his bike. My grandma, she's over in the corner sewing. My cousin, he's playing baseball. My uncle is scuba diving. My uncle Mark is fishing in his sailboat. My aunt Susie is playing in her garden. My papa, he is riding his Harley. And his wife is playing miniature golf. My other grandma, she opened a shop, and so that was her grand opening. [JG exclaims.] And my Uncle Erick, he just loves computers and little toys, so [JG exclaims.] he's playing on his computer.

JG: Wow, wow. And then you found special buttons with hands. And I see there is a ribbon on it.

IM: Yes. That ribbon was for participating in a [inaudible.] that I had done.

JG: Okay and that was the Florida, the Southwest Florida [IM: Quilt show.] Quilt show and that's in 2004, you got that ribbon.

IM: Yes.

JG: Well, congratulations.

IM: Thank you.

JG: That's wonderful. But you do all the piecing, right? [IM agrees.] You do all of your quilting.

IM: Yes.

JG: You have another really beautiful little quilt here. Tell me about this--the name of it.

IM: This one is called "Purple, Purple, Purple." It's got paper piecing, which is sort of like quilting, except backwards. And all the little blocks--when I was younger, I used to go into my grandmother's sewing room and just sew a little stuff together and I came up with these.

JG: So, they're little, they're like postcard size.

IM: Yeah.

JG: And then you took various kinds of yarn, and you stitched them on.

IM: Yes.

JG: And the other block is that paper or is that fabric? The small 3-inch block.

IM: Yes, this is a paper one.

JG: Those are paper. And then, again, you found embellishments and you put them on and that one has two ribbons on it.

IM: Yes.

JG: Wow. So, tell me about the "Colors of the Sun" ribbon on here.

IM: I got second place in that show.

JG: Again, that was the Fort Myers Show [Southwest Florida Quilt Guild show.].

IM: Yes.

JG: Second place. And "Colors of the Sun" was that a category?

IM: Yes, it was. I was up against some really hard competitors.

JG: Really. [IM nods.] Was that the theme of the show?

IM: Yes.

JG: And how did you come up with purple?

IM: Well, all my pieces are basically purple. So "Purple, Purple, Purple."

JG: Okay, okay. That's just stunning. That's an art quilt. I mean really, it's an art quilt. Your other one, your wall hanging is, too. But this is very, very unique. [IM: nods. Yes.] And second place. Congratulations. And that was not in the youth category, was it?

IM: No, it was not.

JG: That was against all of the quilters [IM: Yes.] in the whole guild. And we are how many in the guild? Two hundred?

IM: Two hundred--

JG: Two hundred very fine quilters and you got second place. [IM: Yes.] That is phenomenal, just phenomenal.

IM: Thank you.

JG: And tell me about your jacket now.

IM: My jacket. When I was in Michigan, Detroit, everybody was making these, because I went up there to see a show, because I put something in. And everybody was making these, so I told my grandma I wanted to make one. Well, I started making it. I started right here [IM points to small pieces on the jacket.] And I told her I wanted to make little pieces like that, all the way around it. And she says, 'Well, that's going to take too long, if you're going to put it in the next show.' So, I'm like, 'Hmm, what can I put on to make it faster?' Well, I could do chenille for my hearts. This technique was used on my Purple quilt. It's called [inaudible.] Me and my grandma, we dye our own fabric. So, when the background has this huge piece it's dyed fabric and you can find flowers and [inaudible.] So, I outlined it with black markers, black filling markers, that wouldn't come out, and I did that.

JG: Wonderful. There are butterflies and roses on here and faces and oh, my goodness. Now tell me about this little pin that you have there. What's that called?

IM: It's called "strawby." It's a straw. You wrap it around fabric, glue it down and you can put yarn, beads, whatever you want on it. [JG nods.] And I pinned it on.

JG: Very good. And you made your own chenille?

IM: Yes, I made my own chenille.

JG: Excellent, excellent. So, you have the two chenille hearts on here [IM: Yes. Yes.] And so, the jacket, you made it complete? You set in the sleeves yourself? [IM: Yes.] All the curves and the bindings, all the curves around the neck, the set-in sleeves. [IM: Yes.] Fantastic. Wonderful. Wonderful. Are you going to show this jacket in a show?

IM: I already have. Up in Detroit. They have this model show, model show, where they make their own clothes.

JG: A fashion show.

IM: A fashion show, yes. I can't remember what it's called. And I made this along with the cat [inaudible.] And I got second place with it.

JG: Did you?

IM: Yes.

JG: Well, where's the ribbon on that one? You forgot the ribbon. [laughs.]

IM: And it came with this bag that had gift certificates. There are a lot of booths. So I went to the booth, and I got real prizes and stuff. And it was fun.

JG: Wow. That's amazing. Fantastic. So, Isis, tell me when did you start quilting?

IM: I started quilting when I was about seven or eight.

JG: And your grandma said you just turned eleven?

IM: Yes.

JG: When was your birthday?

IM: February 21.

JG: Oh, you really did just turn eleven. So, you got started how? What inspired you?

IM: I saw my grandma making these big, huge quilts and I said, I just thought to myself, wow, it would be nice to make one of those someday.' And so, I always went into her sewing room, grabbed scraps that she had used from her old quilts and started sewing them together.

JG: You had to learn how to use the sewing machine though.

IM: Yes, with her, yes.

JG: So, but have you done hand sewing or just with the sewing machine?

IM: Just with the binding on my quilts. [inaudible.]

JG: Wow, but first you had to learn the sewing machine. [IM: Yes.] Well, okay, so you got started with that. And you just kept on going. It was exciting for you.

IM: Until she decided that all these big little blocks that she had in her room, she said, 'Isis, why don't you and me make a quilt.' [laughs.]

JG: Okay. And that was your family quilt, then.

IM: Yes.

JG: I see. Do you have your own sewing machine now?

IM: No.

JG: You come to grandma's house.

IM: My grandma bought my mom one. My mom doesn't sew a lot, so I use her's occasionally.

JG: Well, that's perfect.

IM: But it's been breaking down a lot.

JG: Oh, dear, that's frustrating. [IM: Yes.] That's very frustrating. So, who else in your family quilts?

IM: I'm not sure about my great grandma, but I think when she was younger, she used to [quilt.] but not now. I think we're the only three in our family who quilt.

JG: Who is number three?

IM: Me, my grandma and possibly my great grandma, that's us three.

JG: Maybe your great-grandma, okay.

IM: When she was younger.

JG: Yes, right. And do you think you're going to be quilting for the rest of your life?

IM: Yes.

JG: It's very exciting for you.

IM: Yes.

JG: So, you learned to quilt from your grandma. Have you taken any classes?

IM: Just in making little projects.

JG: Do you take classes from the guild or at a quilt shop?

IM: No. I think I only took one class and that was at a quilt shop.

JG: It almost sounds like you're self-taught. You just invent things?

IM: Yes.

JG: And you ask your grandma for advice sometimes?

IM: Yes.

JG: But I heard you say that you dyed your own fabric.

IM: Yes.

JG: How exciting is that.

IM: That's fun.

JG: And you take big yardage, or you have small--

IM: I just cut like little pieces, and it's called shaving cream dye. And I put shaving cream in a big, huge pan, put sun dye in it. Don't wipe the shaving cream off, leave it outside. Let it dry. Then wipe all the shaving cream off and I've dyed my own fabric.

JG: Great. Boy, you're ahead of me there. How many hours a week do you quilt?

IM: Usually on the weekends, so, like three times.

JG: Because you've got school and homework. So, you look forward to the weekends?

IM: Yes.

JG: And then when it's vacation time, [IM laughs.] then you really get to quilt.

IM: Yes.

JG: Quilt up a storm. What's the first quilt you think you remember?

IM: Well, I didn't actually make a quilt. I made like a little wall hanging. It was a Steam-a-Seam [fusible web product.].

JG: Okay. And how old do you think you were when you remember seeing your first quilt?

IM: [talking quietly to herself.] Toughy. Grandma's Circle one. Probably when I was about 5 or 6.

JG: And do you remember thinking,' I'd like to do that some day?' Or did that thought come later?

IM: I remember that, yes.

JG: What do you like most about quilting?

IM: Just having fun.

JG: So, you like every aspect of the quilting?

IM: Except at the part where you have to be perfect, perfect little points. I don't like to be original. I just like to do art. Throw stuff down and put it together.

JG: Okay. Alright. So, you like the design process. [IM agrees.] And then you like the piecing process. [IM agrees.] And do you do appliqué as well?

IM: No, I don't do appliqué.

JG: Not at all.

IM: Not at all.

JG: But if you did, you might do it with the machine? Do you do any hand work at all?

IM: No.

JG: Just the binding?

IM: Just the binding of my quilt.

JG: Do you like doing the binding?

IM: No.

JG: Even though that's the last thing that you have to do?

IM: Just little things.

JG: Then you look forward to finishing it?

IM: Yes.

JG: Do you document? Do you take photos of your quilts as you make them?

IM: Yes, I do.

JG: Is that important to you? How do you document them?

IM: I take pictures of them. Put them in a little photo album.

JG: I think I saw a label on the back. What do you put on your label?

IM: I usually just put my name and stuff, put my address.

JG: Do you have your own stash of fabrics?

IM: No, I don't.

JG: One of these days though, huh? [IM: Yeah.] So, your allowance doesn't go toward building a stash yet?

IM: And if I do, it's going to be organized, hopefully.

JG: [laughs.] Are you generally an organized person?

IM: Yes.

JG: You're neat and organized? Very good. You can teach some of the grown-ups something, then. [IM laughs.] Because I've seen quilt rooms where the fabric just flies.

IM: Up in ceiling fans, and--

JG: Yeah. What do you think makes a great quilt?

IM: Probably fun. That's just what makes it.

JG: Clearly you enter your quilts in quilt shows. Do you think that's important?

IM: Yes, it is, even if I don't win a prize or anything. I still having fun just being there, hanging it, letting everybody know that I have actually made some things.

JG: Yes. So, the idea of a quilt show is also to inspire people, right?

IM: Yes.

JG: And to be inspired yourself.

IM: Yes.

JG: So, what kind of ideas do you get when you go to a quilt show?

IM: I don't usually get a lot because most of them are like this perfect little original thing. So, I don't get a lot, unless it's something that I really like, and then I just sort of change it a little bit and make it my own.

JG: Where do you get your ideas from?

IM: Usually from my own head. [laughs.]

JG: No kidding.

IM: Yes.

JG: So, something just pops in and sometimes do you start with a color?

IM: No.

JG: Not always?

IM: Not always.

JG: What is your next quilt going to be?

IM: It's not actually going to be a quilt; it's going to be clothing. I'm going to make a little vest thing. I want to make a little vest and put it in the fashion show.

JG: When is that?

IM: I think it's in a couple of years. So, I've got plenty of time to finish it hopefully.

JG: Oh, so nothing else is planned besides the clothing? [clock chimes in the background.]

IM: Maybe something might pop up, but I just like fun and I want to make because I'm bored.

JG: Is there anything about quilting that you want to learn?

IM: I want to learn how to appliqué.

JG: Is that hand appliqué or machine appliqué or everything?

IM: Machine.

JG: Machine appliqué.

IM: Yes.

JG: Well, are you going to take a class then or do you think your grandma can show you enough to make you satisfied?

IM: Me and her will take the class. She doesn't know how to do it either.

JG: Oh, well that would be a lot of fun. I think that's great that you and she would go to a class together. But figure out her schedule. We have a lot of nice quilt shows around here. What is your favorite quilt shop?

IM: Suzie Q's.

JG: How many quilts have you made now?

IM: About six.

JG: Six?

IM: Seven. Yes.

JG: Really. And where are they?

IM: My two quilts are here. I've got another three at home that I've made and my jacket.

JG: What are you doing with the quilts at home?

IM: They're hanging up. One is hanging up. The other one is hanging up and I've got another one that I'm going to take down when I get home tonight and let my sisters use.

JG: Really? [IM agrees.] It's a giant quilt? How big is that? Is it bigger than this one here?

IM: Yes. Not a lot, but yes.

JG: How are they going to use it?

IM: They're going to sleep under it. [laughs.]

JG: I see. The other three [quilts.] Or just or two of those, they're going to use.

IM: They're just going to use the one.

JG: The one in particular.

IM: Yes.

JG: Do you make gifts for people, quilt gifts?

IM: I've made cards for my people at school with paper. And that's kind of fun.

JG: So, you've actually made a lot of quilted items, they're just not really big. If you've made postcards, those are interesting to--

IM: Yes, I've made postcards too.

JG: Have you mailed them?

IM: No, not yet.

JG: Oh, you have to try mailing them. It really does work. You make a quilt postcard; you put a regular stamp on it and send one to yourself. [IM laughs.] Make it and send it to yourself. [IM: Yes.] And that way then you have not only the quilt, but you have the stamp and the whole works. And then you can prove that it really does happen. Do you think that people can make quilts when they're happy as well as when they're sad?

IM: Yes, I do.

JG: Have you made something when you were sad? Did it help you?

IM: Maybe a couple times.

JG: Did it help?

IM: Sometimes, yes.

JG: And when you're happy then you make a quilt too?

IM: Yes.

JG: Does that really work?

IM: Yes.

JG: Because you get a lot of ideas?

IM: Yes.

JG: What was the sad one? What did you make when you were sad?

IM: When I was doing my first one, my [inaudible.] I was on flowers, so I was just cutting up fabric and just cutting it up. Because when I was mad, I do that too. I had these little flowers and [inaudible.]

JG: Do you think that the quilts that you make here are really Florida quilts or--

IM: Hmm, it depends. Florida is like really bright down here and all my quilts are really bright. I think they are Florida quilts because they are so bright and colorful.

JG: Do you think you going to try other colors that you don't really like, but you're going to see how to work with those?

IM: Yes, maybe.

JG: But your first preference is bright, really bright--your family quilt is really, that's great. Who helped you pick the colors? Who helped you pick the fabrics?

IM: My grandma helped me pick the fabrics. She is the one who actually helped me find the St Jude fabrics.

JG: That's remarkable. So, part of the proceeds goes to the St Jude Hospital?

IM: Yes. I think it's like every yard you buy a dollar, or something goes to it. Every two yards maybe.

JG: Where did you find those hand buttons?

IM: I found them at JoAnn's on the rack.

JG: What made you decide to get the hands as opposed to maybe something else?

IM: I don't know. They're colorful and I like color, so I just grabbed them.

JG: The colors work with them. All the colors, the oranges and the blue, the green, so you found all the colors that are in your quilt. And I can see why that would be the most important. And you have a pieced colored binding on it too. Isn't that exciting? Not just one color. Did you do that? Were you running out of fabric, or did you decide you were going to make those.

IM: I decided I was going to make it that way.

JG: Great inspiration. That's fantastic. So where else have you displayed that? Have you displayed it in another quilt shows?

IM: No.

JG: Just at the guild show?

IM: Yes, actually one, up in Detroit, the Michigan show.

JG: That's wonderful. That's just great. So where do you think you're going to go from here as far as quilting is concerned?

IM: I hope that I can make bigger ones, together with those little art quilts.

JG: That purple one is very exciting. It really is. I don't want to say this to belittle it, but it is so adult. It really is. It is worthy every bit--that second-place prize that you won, that is so deserved. It is just a real, real phenomenal piece. It's got a lot of exciting things to discover in it.
Lots of little blocks. Have you been to a quilt museum? Have you traveled to see it?

IM: No.

JG: Do you know where there is a quilt museum?

IM: No, I don't.

JG: There is one in Paducah, in Kentucky.

IM: Oh.

JG: There is a very famous quilt museum there and they have rotating shows and the best quilts that won the first prizes at Paducah. A lot of times they are hanging there. Would that interest you sometime to go there?

IM: Maybe.

JG: Maybe on your way up to--do you drive to Detroit, or will you fly?

IM: I usually fly, but when I go see my great grandma it depends.

JG: Actually, if you drive to see your great grandma in Wisconsin, you're driving right past Paducah. You could easily, easily just stop in Paducah for a few hours. You would need two or three hours and go to the museum. [IM agrees.] That would be very inspirational. Do you buy quilt books?

IM: My grandma does, but I don't.

JG: Do you look through them? Do you look through your grandma's quilt books?

IM: She gets art quilt books. And I just sort of flip through them sometimes, to see what I like, don't like.

JG: Don't you think that you get inspiration from looking through those?

IM: Sometimes, yes. There is this one little doll, they have these little stuffed dolls that I really like, and I wanted to make one of those.

JG: Did you?

IM: No, I haven't got to it yet.

JG: Not yet.

IM: Not yet.

JG: You probably need instructions on how to make them, right?

IM: Yes. Yes.

JG: Because, dolls, some of those dolls are just to die for.

IM: I know.

JG: Have you seen Cindy's [Goodwin.] dolls?

IM: Yes. The one she had at the last meeting was kind of cute.

JG: Yes, it was. She said she made it for her daughter. And I think it was an anniversary or birthday present for her daughter. And it had different poses. [IM agrees.] The legs would move in different-- [IM laughs.] It was a ballerina.

IM: Yes.

JG: That was special. She might be able to help you and teach you. What do you want to tell me about quilting that I didn't ask you yet?

IM: I don't really know. Purple used to be my favorite color, that's when I did that, but now it's blue.

JG: Ah, so the next one will be blue blue blue?

IM: [laughs.] Yes.

JG: But you won't be blue when you do it?

IM: No, no.

JG: You won't be sad and blue. Are you going to try the different shades of blue? What do you think it's going to be like – your blue one?

IM: Maybe a little bit bigger. More creative stuff on it.

JG: You'll go shopping and find some fun embellishments and some interesting yarns?

IM: Yes.

JG: Well, you've got dozens and dozens of yarns on your purple one.

IM: Yes.

JF: That's got to be fun to go shopping.

IM: Well, there are these big, huge bags. Me and my grandma went to, I think it was Michigan. We went to this quilt shop, and they had these big, huge bags full of yarns and fabrics cut every which way. So, there are yarns, I used yarns on it and fabric. [a cardinal sings in the background.]

JG: Do you know anything about quilt history? Have you studied that?

IM: No.

JG: No? But you know that quilting in America has been around for a long time.

IM: Yes.

JG: Would that interest you some time to study that? You're into making your own quilts.

IM: Yes. [cardinal sings.]

JG: I can see why. I can understand that. Can you think of anything else to talk about?

IM: Not really.

JG: No?

IM: No.

JG: Well, we've talked about your next agenda.

IM: Oh. When you said about anything else planned to do, there is a show that I'm going to put in this little wall hanging, and you lift up the toilet seat to see water, and there is a little frog sitting in the toilet of water.

JG: Well, tell me about that.

IM: My grandma said. 'Well, Isis, what can you think of for the theme water?' And I was thinking and thinking. Well, there is always the ocean, and then she said, 'What about ice?' And I'm like, 'Yeah, but that's not really what I like.' I'm funny, so, I thought of a toilet.

JG: Is it a challenge?

IM: Yes.

JG: This is a challenge. Who is the challenge from? Where did it originate?

IM: I think it's for the APAQA Quilt Show challenge traveling show (theme: water).

JG: And when is that due?

IM: I have no clue.

JG: No clue? [laughs.] But you've got this great idea.

IM: Yes.

JG: Tell me more about the idea.

IM: She just started talking about it and my cousin was there and he's just a little coocoo. There was always something about toilets that fascinate me [laughs.] And there's water. I thought of a cat playing in the water with the frog, and I thought, 'Well, some cats really don't like water.' And then I thought about a frog. Frogs like water; you know water, and a toilet.

JG: So, is the frog going to be in the toilet?

IM: Yes. [both laugh.] He's going to be in the toilet for me.

JG: Oh, that sounds like it's really funny. It sounds like you have a great sense of humor.

IM: Yes. [JG laughs.]

JG: Well, it could be for the next quilt show if it's a challenge from the guild. The next quilt show is in less than two years, so you almost have two years to work on that and to perfect that idea and to make it.

IM: I don't know if it's that [Southwest Florida Quilt Guild.] guild but I think it's that one.

JG: Anything else that popped into your head just now?

IM: No not really.

JG: Not really? Well then maybe--I think I've run out of questions too. Oh, do you sleep under a quilt?

IM: One that my grandma had made me when I had turned, I think ten or nine. It's got little fairies and gardens, picking berries and stuff, with little bunnies and rabbits, little deer.

JG: [Oh that sounds pretty. I bet you have sweet dreams under it but not during summer.

IM: No.

JG: Not during the summertime, in the winter when it's cooler even on Pine Island you need a quilt sometimes.

IM: Yes. My mom keeps the house freezing, like at 60, so I need a blanket.

JG: Then a quilt sure feels nice. Then it feels nice. Absolutely. Well. Isis, I think at this point we've come to a close. I certainly thank you for this wonderful opportunity to talk with you and to see your stunning pieces, your absolutely surprising, stunning pieces. I know that everyone in the guild loves you.

IM: Yes.

JG: They have adopted you. [IM laughs.] And I know you're a great helper at the guild. You are one of the holders for Show and Tell but you just keep it up. You are very inspiring. I know you are inspiring to some of those older quilters. [IM agrees.] And they wish that they would have started as young as you. [IM agrees.] So, I am going to end the interview now. It is 6:13 pm. and thank you very much.

IM: Thank you.

[tape ends.]



“Isis Marshall,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 21, 2024,