Marguerite Cox




Marguerite Cox




Marguerite Cox


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Ruth Tillman


Marion, Indiana


Kim Greene


Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave, and I am in Marion, Indiana with Marguerite Cox. We are at The Quilters Hall of Fame. It is July 21, 2007, and it is 1:57 in the afternoon. Thank you for doing this interview with me. Tell me about the quilt that you brought today.

Marguerite Cox (MC): I brought a child's quilt, because I have several grandchildren and great-grandchildren and this particular quilt is a farm quilt. It is an embroidered quilt. I started embroidering when I was very young and it has always been one of my favorite things to do. This is a Ruby McKim--really sharp McKim pattern from 1930's, and she did lots of quilt patterns for children's quilts. This one I particularly liked because it was all farm and I live on a farm, so it is just one of those that I have always liked and I found some reproduction fabric that I joined it with. I was very pleased with the results. It is very serviceable, nice quilt that the children like.

KM: What are your plans for this quilt?

MC: So far I haven't given it to anybody. I have used it in quilt shows and this type of thing, so one of these days I take the notion I will probably give it to one of the great-grandchildren.

KM: It is hand quilted?

MC: Yes.

KM: Is that typical, do you typically hand quilt?

MC: Yes, I do all my quilting piece by hand and quilt by hand. Most of it I cut with scissors. I'm not into the modern thing, I'm too traditional.

KM: It has a very cute little fence around it.

MC: Yes. I'm not sure that was in the original pattern or not, but I had seen that in something and I thought every barnyard needs a fence.

KM: It is very cute.

MC: I have also used this type of pattern. My daughter teaches elementary school and we have taken the pattern and drawn the pictures on fabric and then given it to the children and then they color it and we iron it and then we made, I have made the quilts then, and she has taken them to her school to hang on her wall. She has first graders and second graders. They just love to color these pictures and see their work. We have done this and we have also done that with some other of Ruby McKim's patterns because they are very adaptable for kids.

KM: Is this typical of your work?

MC: Probably yes, typical. I don't piece these bright colored. I go more for the pastel. My favorite after this is the Tumbling Block and I have made a lot of baby quilts with the Tumbling Block and usually in pastel colors. Sometimes I appliqué things on them, because I also like to appliqué about second to embroidery. I have sewn all my life just about and my mother quilted, my mother-in-law quilted, so it just came natural.

KM: Very good. What is your first memory of a quilt?

MC: First quilt I ever made was, you know how they printed the flowers in the newspapers, and I made one with the state flower embroidered in. I did put it together, but I didn't quilt it, I knotted it. I still have it. When I look at my work now, it don't look too good, but I was about ten years old when I started doing that. I have always liked to embroider.

KM: Do you embroider anything besides quilts?

MC: Yes I have, but I have made tons of dollies and dresser scarves and stuff back fifty years ago when they were popular.

KM: Tell me about your involvement in The Quilters Hall of Fame.

MC: I have been involved with it almost, I think they had one or two meetings and a friend, well Carolyn Gorbel had invited me to go with her, and so I have been quite involved ever since then. Carolyn and I have worked together very closely. We started the first quilt show, besides the library show, we did that show for ten years and I have made lots of items for the gift shop. I volunteer at the house some, but not as much as I used to because my husband is in a wheelchair and I have to be home more, but I still make lots of items for the gift shop. Anything that needs to be done, if I can do it I do it. [laughs.]

KM: Why do you think The Quilters Hall of Fame is important?

MC: It is a coming together of people. When we started the Friends of Quilters Hall of Fame was basically a money raiser and we did everything to raise money. We weren't really into quilting, but some of the ladies who thought it was going to be a quilting group kind of drifted out, but others came in and helped and it is surprising how many people who once were money raisers can now quilt a little bit. I think it is very important to them, and some of the others, since we are not having to focus so much on raising money, some of those others have come back because we are having sewing groups and making joint quilts and stuff. It is important to have something to share. You know if you make something pretty you like to show it to somebody. It gives them ideas, so I think it is a good thing. We have people who drive quite a distance for our monthly meetings and do participate. There is a variety of ages. I'm probably the oldest one in it, but nevertheless, we have young people coming in all the time. So it is great.

KM: Why is quilting important in your life?

MC: I would feel nuts if I didn't have something to do. [laughs.] Television. My husband likes to watch television because he can't get around and I will quilt. He doesn't care, so he says that every time I go to town I have to go to the quilt shop, but I have about quit going to the quilt shop because I inherited fabric from my mother-in-law, from the '30s and '40s, you know scrapes, and I have so much of my own, so at this point in life I am trying to use up my scrapes. I don't want my kids to say why in the world does mother have all this stuff up here. [laughs.] It is a great pastime and I totally enjoy it. I like to give people things. I have given quilts to young couples who have gotten married who have been close to us, to my grandchildren, to my kids, and baby quilts to the nephews and so on. I just liked it. I like to make them. I always get a different idea.

KM: Do you sleep under a quilt?

MC: Yea, I keep quilts on all my beds. Yes.

KM: What does the one look like that you sleep under?

MC: What.

KM: What does the one look like that you sleep under?

MC: Well basically right now it is hanging down in the library or in the, too many quilt shows, a Kendall. It is a flower garden. It is a variation of it. I saw it in an Antique Reader's Magazine and copied. I liked it. I could look at a picture and I can sit down and I can get my graph paper out and make my own patterns, so I got this antique style that is on my bed, except not this week.

KM: It was kind of fun to walk around town and seeing all the quilts in the windows.

MC: Yes it was. We don't have as many as we used to have, but a lot of our businesses downtown aren't there anymore. A lot of the windows have been closed up and so we don't have any space, but yes I think it is great that we got that many. A lot of people are hesitant to hang their quilts where the sunshine is going to hit them, because it does fade, but they are only there for a week.

KM: The community supports celebrations?

MC: Yes, people are glad to have us put quilts in their windows. They don't realize what a gem we have down here to be truthful. A lot of people in town don't realize how this reaches out so far and so on, they just have no concept that people are here from New York and Arizona and all this stuff. They don't bother to walk down the street. But nevertheless, it is nice.

KM: What do you think makes a great quilt?

MC: Something that you are not afraid to use. When I give people quilts and they say that they are going to hang this on the wall, I say, 'Hey that is not what I made it for.' I made it to use and to me this is the thing, if you see a quilt to, I want to use them. I want mine to be useful. I don't make masterpieces. I have made one Marie Webster quilt, which has never been on a bed, but outside of that, I think the great thing about quilts is being able to appreciate them and to have fun with them. My daughters and daughter-in-laws do have a few that my grandmother made or my mother-in-law made and they don't use those now, but they use the ones that I make for them. That is what they are for.

KM: Do any of your daughters or daughter-in-laws quilt?

MC: Yes, I have, my youngest is in Houston, Texas and she quilts. My oldest daughter is a school teacher and she is getting ready to retire, she is almost sixty, and she is, she once in a while, she is working on some quilted curtains right now. So I think she might get into it. But yes, my younger daughter, she makes lots of quilts. She is like me, she works at an oil company with a lot of employees and office people, she makes lot of baby quilts and they are just thrilled to death to get a homemade baby quilt. Some of the girls are. I'm trying to get my granddaughters to, but I don't think I'm going to make it. [laughs.]

KM: Not interested?

MC: They are too busy.

KM: That might change. Is there any part of quiltmaking that you don't enjoy?

MC: I don't know. Sometimes I get impatient when I'm getting about three-fourths of the way done and then I think I have to get it done. The only part I don't enjoy is having to stop and do everything else. [laughs.] No I like to do it. It is my spare time activity.

KM: Do you have a special place that you sew?

MC: Yea. I have a daybed in what use to be a parlor and my sewing, I don't have a sewing room per say, I have a card table and I have a featherweight sewing machine, [laughs.] and I also have my mother's treadle sewing machine that is one hundred years old in perfect order. I use it sometimes to just keep it in working order. I also have a computer in there and I play games once in a while, but that is where I sew is in my parlor. [laughs.] My husband doesn't care, it is not in the living room and he don't care. It keeps me occupied. I don't have one of these fancy sewing rooms like a lot of the ladies do.

KM: That is alright.

MC: I'm old fashion.

KM: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

MC: I don't know. Part is the selection of fabrics. I guess it is just the change. I don't know what the challenge is. Finding time to do it with a lot of people, but to me it is a time filler when you get older. You don't have to go to work every day and so on.

KM: How many hours a day do you spend working on quilts?

MC: I will usually start quilting at 6:00 at night and go to bed at 10:00. A lot of nights I will, sometimes if I'm piecing I will do it in the daytime, but not a whole lot. Probably the days that I work is four hours a day, but I don't do it every day. I like to read also, so I have to read a book now and then. [laughs.]

KM: Do you have a lot of quilt books?

MC: No. Well, yea I do. I have got more than I will ever use. You can always sit down and look through them. I want to make that some day, I want to do that some day, and I won't live along enough to do half of it. [laughs.]

KM: I think that is true of most of us.

MC: We have to have ideas to fill those voids when what am I going to do, what am I going to do next. Watch Eleanor Burns and I get an idea from her. [laughs.]

KM: Have you taken any workshops or classes?

MC: Not lately.

KM: Who have you taken classes with?

MC: I have never taken classes. I would love to. I went to Sauder Village in Ohio and took a class on making watercolor quilts one time, but I'm not one of these people. I don't go to retreats. I guess I'm enough of a loner, I have always been used to working alone and I don't go to classes and so on. I know I could learn things, but I just haven't, it is just not my thing.

KM: Have you ever entered the International Quilt Festival in Houston?

MC: No, my daughter in Houston goes to it. She has gone for the last four years. She said she didn't know why we didn't start going to this when you came down here, because know I'm at the point where I can't travel to Houston. I think she has gone the last five years. She loves it. I just never got started, but I should have. That is the way it goes.

KM: Do you think you will ever go?

MC: No, because of my husband.

KM: Do you like to study quilt history?

MC: Do I quilt history?

KM: Do you like to study quilts?

MC: I have some books at home that I read quite often on. I have one that I'm particular interested about, about a quilt that traveled across the prairie or something like that. The wagon train days and stuff, and yes I do have some quilt history books that I read and I like them. They are so, how did they do it? Sitting up there on a seat of a wagon as you were traveling along through the hilly ground, how did you sew, but they did beautiful work.

KM: Tell me about your Marie Webster quilt.

MC: The one that I made is a French Basket, and it is reverse appliqué. I guess I just decided I had a Marie Webster book and I needed to make the quilt. So I did make that one, and I have made several of the Marie Webster blocks. Several years ago we had a lady, Mrs. Waltz, who would dress like Marie and go and give talks. You know, 'I'm Marie Webster.' She came to our women's group at church one time. She was Marie Webster the minute she walked in the door. She wasn't Mrs. Waltz. I made her I expect a dozen of Marie's patterns, just one block, so that she would have something to show. I have made, I expect a dozen for her that she could carry with her. A big quilt won't be. That was interesting.

KM: What do you do with your Marie Webster quilt?

MC: Nothing. I just look at it once in a while. No it is stored away. [laughs.] I think maybe I have put it in a quilt show. We keep having quilt shows, so we keep having to drag out other quilts so I probably got twenty quilts at home that I haven't given away. I alternate, you know when you have a quilt show, this or that. A friend and I go to the nursing home and put on a quilt show or something like that, and it is fun to bring those quilts out and show.

KM: What is people's reaction like?

MC: Most of them say, 'I had one of those,' or 'yeah grandma had that,' and it is good.

KM: Have you ever used quiltmaking to get through a difficult time? [long pause.] Are you working on anything right now?

MC: Actually the next one that I have to do is a design by Eleanor Burns. I bought Eleanor Burns, "Egg Money Quilts" book last year and I have the top piece and I have the batting and the back. It is the next thing I have to do.

KM: Do you quilt on a frame?

MC: No. I quilt in a big oblong hoop. It belonged to my husband's grandmother. I use it. I have the big frames in my attic, but they are, I can't. [laughs.] They are not as versatile. I have to turn my quilt and quilt just right, so no I use a hoop. I just finished up a table runner for my granddaughter for Christmas. I'm working on Christmas stuff, so I got her Christmas table runner and four matching placemats. She is getting married for the second time, and so I've given her two quilts, and I decided she could get placemats and table runner this year. [laughs.] I hope this is the last marriage. Whatever makes her happy.

KM: What do you think about the importance of quilts in America?

MC: It is a heritage that we shouldn't let die. I don't think it will. I think about in '75, before that, hardly anybody quilted. Grandma quilted, but I didn't. I did, but. I think that revived it and we got so many fabric stores now where you can buy fabric without having to worry about it. I think quilts are here to stay. [laughs.] They have been around a long time. I think that put Marie Webster on quilt history and so, it is so great.

KM: Tell me about Marie Webster in case somebody doesn't know who she is.

MC: She was just one of these ladies that was like a late bloomer because she started. She got tired of the old dark quilts and she had this beautiful flower garden and she started using pastel colors with her flowers and it caught on. I think it caught people at a time, with the depression. I lived through the depression I know what it was and it was a time that you needed joy in your life. When Marie started here, she sold kits and she sold many, many quilts, but we had a lady retirement home here in town called Emily Flynn Home and a lot of those ladies did her quilts and they got paid a little bit. They got a little pin money. I know one lady who was alive and quilted for Marie, but you had to do it perfect because she had to approve of everything, but a lot of her quilts were quilted by ladies in that home or other good quilters at home, because she was the designer, she didn't have time to quilt all those quilts. Of course she had several in her collections and stuff, her sisters and so on were beautiful quilters. She was in the design business. I think her coloring and her designs and everything came along just at a time when everybody needed a lift, because the depression was pretty depressing. Her son, he made blueprints, so he could do all of her patterns. Her patterns were on tissue paper and each pattern had a tissue paper pattern in it in the color she suggested you make it, so but her son actually drafted the patterns that she had the inspiration and the ideas. It is a beautiful home. She was born over in Wabash, but when she married she lived her. I guess they used to entertain a lot down in the one room. They had lots of parties. She had money and servants and he was a banker, so they were well off. When the trains go through here at night, they have the old coal engine ones, they had to cover everything up, you didn't leave anything out, because you know the soot from that. I understand they had to pack away all their fabrics and everything, everything had to be covered because that would get in your house and they are close. [laughs.]

KM: There are tracks right behind you.

MC: Yea they are right here.

KM: My interview yesterday had to be shortened because of the noise.

MC: They whistle a lot. They want to make sure people stop.

KM: Yep. Is there anything else you would like to share with me?

MC: Not that I know of.

KM: You have been wonderful.

MC: It is one thing I enjoy doing.

KM: You do it well.

MC: I'm typical. I can look back at quilts that I made ten years ago and the quilts that I make now, and my quilting isn't as good. But they are still presentable.

KM: You look like a spring chicken to me.

MC: Thank you.

KM: You are very energetic and articulate.

MC: I keep busy. I raised six kids on the farm, milked cows and all that ton of stuff.

KM: May I ask how old you are?

MC: Eighty-two.

KM: Eighty-two, you look good for eighty-two.

MC: I feel good.

KM: We will conclude our interview. It is now 2:25 in the afternoon. Thank you very much.

MC: You are more than welcome.


“Marguerite Cox,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024,