Joann Threet




Joann Threet




Joann Threet


Kathy Hall

Interview Date



Owenten, Kentucky


Kathy Hall


Kathy Hall (KH): My name is Kathy Hall and today's date is Thursday, November the 5, 2009 at 1 p.m. I am conducting an interview with Joann Threet in Owenton, Kentucky for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Kentucky State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Joann is a member of the Susannah Hart Shelby Chapter. Joann, tell me about the quilt you have shown me today.

Joann Threet (JT): This is one of my favorite quilts because it has appliqu├ęd work and different techniques of piecing and designs and especially the colors of fabrics that I have chosen.

KH: What special meaning does this quilt have for you?

JT: When I took care of my mother, I worked on this quilt. She enjoyed watching me and I would ask her advice as to what colors of materials to use. This made her day more pleasant and took away some of her pain. [clock chiming in background.]

KH: Why did you choose this quilt for the interview?

JT: Because of the memories of watching my mother's joy and happiness. This brought back memories of my mother and to me when she would give me advice when I was growing up. She even reminded me of this one day while we were working on the quilt.

KH: What do you think someone viewing your quilt might conclude about you?

JT: That I have a lot of patience and that I do good work and I always strive to do my very best in anything that I do.

KH: Joann, how do you use this quilt?

JT: Sometimes I use the quilt for display in my home. But I have so many quilts I change my display, so the quilt is kept in the closet sometimes.

KH: What are your future plans for this quilt?

JT: I have only one child, no grandchildren, no brothers or sisters so I have told my husband and my son to do whatever they want to with all of my quilts.

KH: Tell me about your interest in quilt making.

JT: Quilt making is very relaxing just as sewing is, but I know you have to enjoy doing this. Quilt making goes back many generations and I believe we women need to keep that tradition. This is what my grandmothers taught me to do.

KH: I understand you have won an award. Tell me about that.

JT: At the Owen County fair, I won the Grand Prize and Best of Show, plus blue ribbons on all my quilts and at the Kentucky State Fair I won the Sweepstakes Blue Ribbon. One of my quilts hung at My Old Kentucky Home.

KH: That's very impressive. I understand you are self-taught. At what age did you start quilt making?

JT: Maybe 6 years old or before. My grandmothers and my great grandmothers and my aunts always wanted me to sew with them. Even the older ladies in the little, small town that I lived in always sewed and would invite me over to sew with them.

KH: How many hours a week do you quilt now?

JT: Just about every day, especially in the wintertime. I am a farmer's wife, so I do work on the farm. My summers are busy on the farm, so I don't quilt as much.

KH: Tell me if you have ever used quilts to get through a difficult time?

JT: Yes, during the care of my mother, I was really confined to my home to be with her. So, I quilted every day for 5 years, but I enjoyed every minute of this, and this brought back joy to my mother as she watched me quilt.

KH: What do you personally find pleasing about quilt making?

JT: The patience, the quietness, the relaxing, sitting on my porches listening to the birds and the frogs. Watching the farm animals and feeling the breezes. Also knowing that you are making a quilt that someone else someday will enjoy. Sometimes I wonder where or whom will this quilt be in the hands of. I always date my quilts, so I think about someone looking to see when the quilt was made just as I do today when I look at an old quilt.

KH: I'm glad you are thinking that way. There are too many people who don't label their quilts and things. Then you have no idea. What aspects of quilt making then do you not enjoy?

JT: When the phone rings. When I have to fix something to eat or when somebody knocks at the door.

KH: [laughs.] That's a big interruption, isn't it? What art or quilt groups do you belong to?

JT: I belong to a quilt club called the Kentucky Cover Lovers in Shelbyville, Kentucky, and I've just joined the Louisville Guild.

KH: Then how have advances in technology influenced your work?

JT: Some of the new technology I do not like. I don't like the new quilting machines because I'm a hand quilter. The quilting machines are nice because they are much faster, but I really like the embroidery machines because you can add to your quilts that you are making. And I don't believe a quilt done on machine has as much meaning as a quilt done by hand.

KH: What then are your favorite techniques and materials for quilts?

JT: My favorite quilting technique I guess is my quilting frame. I like the new types of measurements that they have- the supplies, the quilting ways of marking, the new types of pins that they have, the different kinds of pencils that you can mark right there on the fabric, dark, whatever. And I like the cottons, the satins and velveteens, but I really like the old men's ties for crazy quilting.

KH: I noticed the crazy quilt over here on your sofa. That's lovely too.

JT: And I like cutting my fabric out with scissors because I was taught to save every little piece of material, so I still cut with scissors and not the new techniques they have of cutting out materials.

KH: Tell me how you balance your time. You seem to get a lot done.

JT: My time is never really balanced that's because I live on a farm. I've got many pets - donkeys, cats, dogs that need feeding just like my husband and my son and myself. I do a lot of yard work. I am a deer hunter. I travel for antiques. I do church work. I belong to the historical society, the DAR, the Eastern Star, and the quilt club but in the middle of all this I find time for quilting.

KH: You make wearable art too. Tell me about that.

JT: When I was young, I made about all of my clothes. I would look in a catalog that we used to get, and I would sit down and see a picture and I would say, 'Oh, I like that dress.' But then my mother would give me a hand-me-down dress of hers and I would cut it up and make me one like the one I found in the catalog. I would design my own and even today I design my own jackets, my pantsuits. Whatever comes to my mind that I want to make, I will make.

KH: What do you think makes a great quilt?

JT: The pattern, the design and of course, the correct types of materials, the correct thread, the color, the way you put the colors together, the way you cut out the pieces especially triangles. If it's supposed to be pointed, it needs to be pointed. And I think if you do all of that and get it all together, that's what makes a great quilt.

KH: Why is quilt making important in your life?

JT: This is my favorite thing to do. I was taught many years ago to do this. This has continued in my life. My favorite way to spend the day is going to a fabric store, seeing all kinds of fabrics and colors and new ideas of quilting and patterns. This is my way of enjoying myself any day, any time. I am using my talents and what I was taught many years ago.

KH: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or region?

JT: I grew up in a little, small community farm town. The ladies were never in a hurry there and had a lot of peaceful time. Me being a little girl, the ladies liked me and would invite me over to their house. Most always they would be sewing or mending. So, I began to take my sewing basket. There was a lady that sold house dresses to the farmer's wives in the community, and she had these little pieces of fabrics on cards with the type of dress that she was going to sell us, and she would save me all of these little pieces to put into a quilt. Then there was a lady in the community that had a shop. She sold lace and thread and buttons, and hats and I spent many a day in her shop buying things to make doll clothes. I still have cards of buttons, some of the lace and the embroidery floss. And I just recently found out she was the grandmother of one of my good friends.

KH: Sounds like you had an interesting childhood. In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history in America?

JT: Living on a farm that was once an Indian reservation, the buffalos even stopped here on their way, and they drank from the little spring that's still here. I believe many pioneer women sat on this farm and made quilts for warmth. I know my grandmother and great grandmother did. They saved all their pieces of material and strings and threads to later put into their quilts. Today I have one of my great grandmother's quilts and it has special meaning to me because they are a part of history of what the older women did years ago.

KH: How do you think quilts can be used Joann?

JT: They can be used in many ways in this day and time. They can hang on a wall. They can be displayed on beds, on a blanket rack, hanging on railings from your stairways, curtains, pillows, stuffed toys, displayed on sofas and on chairs.

KH: How do you think quilts then can be preserved for the future?

JT: I think we need to have trustworthy people who know how to care for the quilts. They need to be in a climate-controlled building. If in a home, they should be cared for correctly also. The light should be correct - no sunlight. Also, the temperature is very important. And then if people keep them in an attic so you have to be careful that there's no leaking in the roofs.

KH: I want to inject a question here about your barn out front. It appears to have a quilt pattern on it as do many barns in Kentucky. Is that a pattern that you use in quilts and who did that barn for you?

JT: I made that quilt for my husband about 5 or 6 years ago. That quilt pattern is Tennessee Waltz, and I made that quilt for my husband because he was born and raised in Tennessee so that is for his memory is Tennessee and that's the reason.

KH: I think that's very nice. I see that all over Kentucky and I think that's really neat the way they've done that. I haven't talked about that in interviews before, so I wanted to bring that up.

JT: I really like it and I made a beautiful quilt for him for the Tennessee Waltz pattern and it's really pretty so that's the reason I put that on the barn.

KH: I see. That's very nice. What has happened to the quilts that you have made?

JT: Most of them are in the closet laying on the shelves. Some are in trunks; some are displayed on the railings: some are on the beds, chairs and our quilt cabinet that I display my quilts. And then I decided that I have so many that I wanted to give some away. So, I have three sisters-in-law. I gave each of them a quilt and then I have good friends in Campbellsville [Kentucky.] that I made them a doll quilt for their little doll bed, and I gave them this quilt that I had made to match their doll bed. [clock chiming.]

KH: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quilt makers today? I'm kinda competing with the clock here so-- [both laugh.].

JT: The biggest challenge I think now is everyone's in a hurry and they don't have patience. I know in - just in this area - and they get bored working on one thing. If it's a large quilt, they get tired. They get bored of it; they lay it aside. They don't finish it. Then there's the TV. There's the computer. There's the internet. And I just think that that it's a challenge for quilt makers today. That's the reason the younger generation, the young teenagers now, the young people, back even 10 years old, they don't want to be bothered with quilt making or sewing up doll clothes. They just don't do those kinds of things, so I think that is time is going by too fast.

KH: I think you're right about that. Is there anything that you would like to add about your quilt making that we haven't already covered?

JT: I wish there were more hours in the day and then I could get all of my work done and then I would have all this time that I could sit down and quilt but there's just not enough hours in the day for me.

KH: I think that's true for everybody.

JT: [laughs.] It just seems like that it's just going by so fast, and the days are so short that by the time you get up, fix breakfast, wash dishes, and then it's time to eat lunch and by the time you sit down to quilt, the phone rings or you have to get up and stop. So, time is just too fast.

KH: I think you're right. I'd like to thank Joann Threet for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. Our interview concluded at 1:30 p.m. on November the 5, 2009.


“Joann Threet,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 19, 2024,