Dorothea Stratton




Dorothea Stratton




Dorothea Stratton


Dorothy Crook

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Carolyn Mazloomi


State Boone, Iowa


Dorothy Crook


Dorothy Crooks (DC): My name is Dorothy Crooks. And today's date is January 30th, 2008, at 1:40 p.m. I am conducting an interview with Dorothea Stratton in her home in Boone, Iowa for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Iowa State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Dorothea is a quilter and is a member of the Deshon Chapter NSDAR. [pause for 7 seconds.] Dorothea, tell me about the quilt you brought today.

Dorothea (DS): The quilt that I have to show was one that I made my granddaughter for her high school graduation. She picked out the quilt pattern and some of the materials, the blues, and the white in the quilt, all the rest were scraps that I had on hand and already cut out in two-inch squares. I did this in 2005, 2006 and quilted it in the spring of 2007. [tape recorder accidentally set on record while transcribing, losing the word seven at the end of the last sentence.] She graduated in May of 2007.

DC: So it's been recently that you have done this.

DS: That's correct.

DC: Does she keep it at her home?

DS: She has it at her home, and since she's at college, it's on her bed.

DC: And keeping it safe at home?

DS: Yes, she's keeping it safe. Her parents told her she could not take it to college.

DC: So why did you bring this quilt, of all the quilts you have, to talk about today in this interview?

DS: Oh it's the most recent, and I had a reason to do it. Some quilts I just do because the scraps are there, but this one gave me a reason to do it.

DC: And a time line.

DS: Right, and I knew it would be appreciated.

DC: If someone, in the future, would look at your quilt what do you think they would, might conclude about you?

DS: That I take tiny, tiny scraps, that I'm one who doesn't believe in throwing things away if there is a use for it.

DC: So you use a lot of little pieces [Dorothy and Dorothea speak at the same time.] in your quilt.

DS: A lot of little pieces.

DC: How then is this quilt used?

DS: It's used as a bedspread.

DC: You have given it to your granddaughter and now she is sharing it with us today.
[DC and DS speak at the same time.] That was very, very thoughtful of her.

DS: Yes. I'm not even sure she knows she is sharing it, but her mother brought it to me.
[both laugh.]

DC: Tell me about your interest in quilt making. When did it start and why?

DS: It started in the late 1970s. My mother gave me all the quilt scraps that she had, and some that my grandmother had given to my mother, but my mother didn't have time to do it. She asked me if I would take them and make them into quilts because of her five daughters she said I was the one that showed interest in quilting.

DC: So why didn't your mother have time to quilt?

DS: She was taking care of--helping take care of my brother's children, and she just didn't have enough time.

DC: So that would be time consuming. [both DC and DS speak.] Quilting is time consuming.

DS: Yes.

DC: From whom did you learn how to quilt?

DS: I'm pretty well self-taught, although the process of quilting I had seen my mother and sister do, and when I was in sixth grade, I had to miss school for three days because I had the chicken pox. I wasn't very sick, so I had to do the dishes, and I remember stomping out of the room and saying, 'I'll never learn to quilt.' [both laugh.]

DC: You've changed your mind.

DS: Right, because they're beautiful really.

DS: How many hours a week do you quilt?

DS: Depends on whether I am pressured to finish something. I would say 15-20.

DC: Really?

DS: Yes, I do a--a lot of that.

DC: It does calm you and you feel good about doing it in your time you have and--

DS: Well, if we weren't recording this, I would say, as I tell my children, I do it to keep me out of the bars. [both laugh.]

DC: We'll put that in the interview.

DS: Okay. [laughs.]

DC: What is your favorite quilt memory?

DS: When I was a child, we always had a nice warm bedspread to bundle up in, in our upstairs bedroom which was very cold, and I received one of those quilts when my mother broke up housekeeping, and I brought it home and thought that I would make something out of it--stuffed animal or something out of it. I couldn't find enough of the quilt without it falling apart to do anything with it.

DC: It had really been used. [laughs.]

DS: Yes, it had been used that much.

DC: Are there other quiltmakers among your family? You have spoken a little about that. Or friends' Tell us about that.

DS: Well, as my one sister grew older, my younger sister who was six years younger, she is starting, or she started to quilt finally, but it is only because I could tell her what to do. She's not a very adventuresome person and she always wanted me to confirm that what she was doing was ok. But she's on her own now.

DC: Well, you were certainly the mentor for her.

DS: Right. Right.

DC: Well, that--and a family member as well.

DS: Then in the 1980s our church was doing quilting; there were a group of about five or six ladies that quilted, and we did this for other people, and we called ourselves the Calvary Quilters. Well, quilters move away or sometimes get too old and so it had to dissolve in the late '80s.

DC: Have you ever won an award for your quilt?

DS: Well, ya. I guess. My daughter has mariner's compass that I made for her and it's a king size quilt, and when I came to our local quilt show, it was second place.

DC: And that's out of a lot of nice quilts.

DS: That's right.

DC: To get second place is really an honor.

DS: Yes

DC: Have you ever used a quilt to get through a difficult time.

DS: Ya. My husband had Multiple Sclerosis and went to a nursing home in 1983, and there wasn't a lot of visiting when I went there, so I would take squares of my quilts and appliqué or embroider them , squares at a time, at the nursing home while I went to visit him.

DC: So quilting can be a time passing thing.

DS: That's right.

DC: It can help comfort. And you certainly found that to be true. In your--

DS: And it also makes a thing of beauty when you put it all together.

DC: Absolutely. [pause for three seconds.] Tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred for you in your quilt making.

DS: In my quilt making, let's see. Well, I made a star quilt, I don't know if it's amusing or not, but now as I look back, it is. I made a star quilt and I put it all together and I would've had a giant size bed if I had finished it the way it was, so I took it all apart and put it together a second time, because it was all hand sewn, and then liked it the second way and finished it and it's one of my favorite quilts.

DC: I'm sure it wasn't amusing when you were taking it all apart.

DS: No, it really wasn't. [laughs.] It truly wasn't.

DC: But it's fun to look at it now.

DS: And realized how much care I had to put into making it the right size.

DC: [pause for 5 seconds.] What do you find pleasing about quilt making?

DS: You can take scraps, almost nothing, and make something with it.

DC: And that's really valuable. [in audible.] In this day and age people just throw scraps away.

DS: That's correct. That's correct.

DC: But quilters make something of it.

DS: And sometimes even the dog, which is what we call things that aren't very pleasing to the eye, when they're put with something else in a quilt, look nice.

DC: Is there anything about quilt making that you do not enjoy?

DS: That I can't get my daughters interested in doing it. That it's going to be a lost art. I don't think my granddaughters will do it, although, they're starting to, my one granddaughter started crocheting, and another one came home and said she learned how to knit---so maybe eventually.

DC: I do think some of the younger generation is having an interest in it, and maybe your daughters will when they get a little older too.

DS: Well, the piecing, I think they might do, but the tedium of quilting it, maybe not, and now we do have quilt machines that are, make really, they can do marvelous things.

DC: That was just what I was going to ask you about the advances in technology in quilt making; have they influence your work in quilt making?

DS: Yes, to some extent. I made a Christmas quilt, a Log Cabin, and I didn't want to quilt it. So, I did take that to be machine quilted, and it looks nice. My ideas are changing. Probably ten years ago I'd have said, 'I never want to have a quilt machine quilted.', but now there are certain quilts that need to be machine quilted, either because the material is too heavy--or they just--the quilting doesn't show that much, and so machine quilting will be fine.

DC: Maybe that's how your daughter will be interested in it--to-- be able to use the --that technique.

[DC and DS speak at the same time.] DS: I'm thinking that. Right.

DC: [pause for 5 seconds.] My question is do you belong to any groups that do quilting?

DS: Yes, we have a group of quilters who meet every Tuesday and Thursday morning at the court house and we go up there and quilt--for the--each morning for other people and then the money that is earned goes toward the local R.S.V.P. [Retired Senior Volunteer Program.] Chapter.

DC: So you do it for others, but the money you do not-- gather it yourself, it goes to an organization.

DS: No.

DC: What does the R.S.V.P. organization do in Boone [Iowa.]?

DS: Lot--they work through the schools, people volunteer there, some people take, have what they call a respite care, and they go and care for people that might not be able to get away from home, probably other things, there's a grandparents association too that they work through.

DC: What are your favorite techniques in quilting? Do you do appliqué or cross--

DS: I can do both. Well, I can do cross stitch, I can do appliqué I can do piecing, but I really prefer the piecing.

DC: Why do you think you prefer that?

DS: Well, again, you don't throw anything away. And it is just a way to spend your time that's constructive.

DC: Tell me about how you create a new quilt. What are the steps you go through to make a new one?

DS: Oh, I subscribe to several quilt magazines, and I might see a quilt in there that I like, and often times they have a pattern there. Then I go looking for the material, whether I have it or have to purchase some. Sometimes if it is not complicated, I can just look at it and kind of take off from there.

DC: The quilt we are talking about today was that a pattern you found, or did you create it?

DS: No. It was a pattern in a book called Scrap Quilts by Judy Martin, and when my granddaughter told me she wanted, or when I said to her I wanted to make her a quilt, and told her to look through this book to see one that she might like and she saw the quilt pattern called Tennessee Waltz and decided she liked that but she didn't like the colors it was done in. [DC agrees.] And I liked it too, because I could use patchwork, it has four patches in it. But it also needed some material that we purchased, and, or that I purchased, and she got to pick the material out.

DC: The coloring makes quite a difference--

DS: Yes.

DC: --in your, a, your quilt and the one that is pictured. [DS agrees.] So there is a lot of variety in what you can do even from a pattern.[DS agrees.] That's right.

DC: What do you think makes a great quilt?

DS: One that's done by somebody who has a wonderful sense of color, and I'm not sure I do, but that's why I stick to scrap quilts, because they do ok.

DC: So color is really important to you--

DS: Ya.

DC: In the quilts themselves. [DS agrees.]

DC: How about the long arm quilting, are you familiar with that?

DS: Yes, but I have not done it or investigated it much.

DC: Why is quilt making important in your life today?

DS: Well, because I went through some difficult times and it really helped me through it; it's a connection with the past. The quilt frame that I use to do my quilting was my mother's, and I just, I guess I just enjoy doing it.

DC: Do you have a collection of quilting or sewing memorabilia?

DS: Some, not a lot. I have several things my mother had and I have my grandmother's quilt basket. I'm not sure you'd call it a basket, but it's what she kept her quilting supplies in. I have some old patterns that my mother used.

DC: The basket, is really a box---

DS: A box.

DC: A wooden box--

DS: With a handle--

DC: That your grandmother used. How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

DS: Well, keep them out of sunlight, refold them, don't store them in plastic bags. But rather, keep your old pillowcases and store them in that. Don't leave them for years at an end without refolding them, and just being a little more careful with the way you launder them. My father-in-law had made a quilt when he was a young man, and when I was young, I washed it too often and in too much hard water and it disintegrated, and when it fell apart, I did too, that day. [laughs.]

DC: So washing can be done with quilts.

DS: Yes, but carefully.

DC: Carefully. When you are preparing to make a quilt, such as the one we are talking about today, did you wash all the fabric before you started?

DS: Yes, I did, because if you tend to use any red in a quilt, it has a tendency to bleed, so you want to know that before you put it in your quilt. And you find that out by laundering. And then they put so much sizing in the material sometimes. They are just easier to work with if they have been laundered.

DC: How about your stitches, do you have a certain number that you put in an inch? [laughs.] I've heard about that.

DS: Ya, I think maybe 10 - 12.

DC: I'm not a quilter, so I don't know the technique really, but I do appreciate hearing all the things you're telling about it.

DC: What has happened to the quilts that you have made or those of your family?

DS: Several I've given to my granddaughters and my grandsons have gotten some. I made all of them quilts when they were young. My two grandsons, I made what we called a transportation quilt and it showed various modes of transportation that were appliquéd on to squares and of course I did those at the nursing home. So I said, 'I've made a lot of quilts at the nursing home.' And then my granddaughters got quilts. My youngest granddaughter is a sophomore in high school now, and I made a quilt for her, and every time I'm there, she just loves that quilt. But I did say to her, 'Tell me what you want for another quilt', and she says, 'Grandma, I don't need another quilt. I've got the quilt I like.'

DC: [laughs.]

DS: But I'm going to have to convince her, she will need another one. [laughs.] Some of the first quilts I made my other two granddaughters have gone to college with them. Nobody would want them because they are faded and wearing out. But they love them.

DC: That sounds like my husband with his old shirts.

DS: Ya. [laughs.]That's right.

DC: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing quilt makers today?

DS: Let's see, the biggest challenge facing quilt makers. Finding the time, to do it, especially if you're younger, which is I think why the younger quilters, there's a lot of them who do the piecing, but when it comes time to do the quilting, they don't have time for that. But there's an example of when machine quilting has been helpful to them. Now for me, I like to sit at a quilt and quilt it. But I've got time to do it.

DC: [pause for 5 seconds.] Dorothea, is there anything else that you would like to add to this interview?

DS: I think we've pretty well covered everything.

DC: You've been very interesting in your comments and your beautiful quilt you've shared today. And I'd like to thank you, Dorothea Stratton, for allowing me to interview you today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 2 o'clock p.m. on January 30th of 2008.

DS: You're welcome.

[interview ends.]


“Dorothea Stratton,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024,