Eloise Ratliff




Eloise Ratliff




Eloise Ratliff


Ronda Coleman

Interview Date


Interview sponsor



Elkhorn City, Kentucky


Ronda Coleman


Ronda Coleman (RC): Ms. Eloise, tell me about the quilt you brought in today.

Eloise Ratliff (ER): Well, it was made by Roberta, the star was [inaudible.] and I put it together. The name of it is Roberta's Star because she made the pattern of it.

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

ER: It's the prettiest one I've got.

RC: Why did you choose this quilt to bring to the interview?

ER: Because it is the prettiest one, I've got.

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

ER: Well, I really don't know, I just hope they like it.

RC: How do you use this quilt?

ER: I don't use it. I've got it put up for future giveaway for someone in my family.

RC: So, you don't have it on a bed right now or anything like that?

ER: No.

RC: What are your plans for this quilt?

ER: It will be given to my nieces or nephew one because my sisters have got one. I made them one just exactly like it.

RC: Tell me about your interest in quilt making.

ER: I really love quilts. I always have. I love sewing of any kind. I quilt summer and winter, all winter.

RC: At what age did you start quilt making?

ER: I was about 20-year-old before I started quilting. I started with my mother and Hettie Ratliff a friend of hers. They quilted in mother's basement. I started with them.

RC: Do you mind if I ask how old you are now?

ER: I am seventy. I'll be 72 in April the 15th. I'll be 72. I started to say 71 but I'll be 72.

RC: So, you've been quilting 50 years.

ER: Right.

RC: From whom did you learn to quilt?

ER: From my mother and Hattie Ratliff a neighbor of ours.

RC: How many hours a week do you quilt?

ER: Now I just quilt just when I find time because I work right now. I want to say 4, 5, 6 hours a week.

RC: What is your first quilt memory?

ER: Oh man, quilting with mother, Hattie down in the basement and I can't leave out Gertrude, Hattie's daughter. We all quilted together, and it was one big happy family. [laughs.]

RC: Are there other quiltmakers among your family or friends?

ER: Oh yes, my sister down here, Tava. She quilts but she doesn't quilt much. I make all of them. But, my grandmother, she quilted when I was young. That was my first memory I guess, of quilting, was my grandmother.

RC: How does quilt making impact your family?

ER: Oh, they love it. They just, and I do too, they all, when I make one, who's that one for, is that for me? [laughs.] First one comes by it, gets it. But they all love quilting, all of them.

RC: Do you ever sell any of your quilts?

ER: No, I give them away, but I don't sell them.

RC: Have you ever used quilts or quilting to get through a difficult time?

ER: Well, yes, when my mother passed away and my father passed away and my husband passed away that's what I done to occupy my time. When I feel sad, I can go pick up my quilting.

RC: Have you ever had an amusing experience occur from quilt making or teaching?

ER: No, not really, I don't believe I have.

RC: What do you find pleasing about quilt making?

ER: Its nerve settling. If you get nervous, or it is to me now, if I get nervous, I can just go pick up something and start sewing or start quilting or planning to make a quilt and it settles my nerves.

RC: What aspects of quilt making do you not enjoy?

ER: I really enjoy it all. There's nothing I don't.

RC: What art or quilt groups do you belong to?

ER: I belong to the Elkhorn City Chicken Scratch Quilt Group.

RC: Have advances in technology influenced your work?

ER: Not really. Cause I just pick it up and do it.

RC: What are your favorite techniques and materials?

ER: Favorite techniques. [an unidentified person says something to ER.] Really, my favorite technique is matching up the thread and the materials. I really like to do that.

RC: Is there a particular material you like to work with more than others?

ER: Well, it's just--yes, I don't like the satin, silk, I don't like it. I like all cotton fabrics.

RC: Describe your studio/the place that you create or quilt.

ER: My living room.

RC: How do you balance your time?

ER: How do I balance my time? Well, I work, I quilt, and just, I go camping.

RC: Are you familiar with a design wall?

ER: No not really. I don't know anything about them. I've seen them but I don't do it.

RC: So, you don't use a design wall. How do you decide how to put your quilt together?

ER: I let them down on my bed and I take piece by piece and I lay them on my bed.

RC: How do you attach the layers of the quilt for quilting?

ER: How do I attach the layers? I take them, lay them on my bed. I take two pieces at a time, take them to the sewing machine and sew them together on the sewing machine.

RC: Do you do basting or pinning?

ER: No.

RC: How do you do the binding?

ER: I just--usually, I just sew a strip of different color material on or if the backing is the same color, I fold the backing up, hem it and bind it like that.

RC: How do you decide what design you are going to quilt on a quilt?

ER: The way it's made. I quilt it the way the design is.

RC: What do you think makes a great quilt?

ER: A great quilt. The looks, the way it's fit together, if the seams are matched up.

RC: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

ER: I don't know, just, what does.

RC: What makes it pleasing to you to look at?

ER: Oh, the way it's put together, the time you've got put in it, the colors, the color schemes.

RC: What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or special collection, in your opinion?

ER: It has to be done neatly. I don't expect to put mine in no museum, my family gets mine.

RC: What makes a great quiltmaker in your opinion?

ER: A great quiltmaker. I don't know. What does make a great quiltmaker? It's to enjoy quilting. You have to enjoy it before you can be a great quiltmaker.

RC: How do you feel about machine quilting vs. hand quilting?

ER: Machine quilting is for, in my opinion, to use everyday quilting. Hand quilting is more, how would you put it, more delicate and I love hand quilting better than I do machine quilting, but machine quilting will last longer.

RC: And you do have some of your quilts machine quilted?

ER: Yes, I do.

RC: Why is quilt making important to your life?

ER: Well as I say, it satisfies me. If I get nervous often, I can just pick it up and it satisfies me.

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

ER: My quilts reflect the community. I really don't know whether they reflect it or not. We all enjoy getting together and quilting. We have, you can hear out there now, we enjoy it.

RC: What do you think about the importance of quilts in America's life?

ER: In America. Quilting in, it's important to have, it makes a bedcover,

RC: What do you think?

ER: What was the question? [laughs.]

RC: [laughs.] What do you think about the importance of quilts, you could put it this way, what do you think about the importance of quilts in the history of America?

ER: Oh, they're handed down from generation to generation. It's what we're trying to do here now, to take our craft and hand it down from generation to generation. And if we don't, we're going to lose our heritage. This is our heritage and we're going to lose it if they don't take interest in it.

RC: In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history in America and you probably just alluded to that in the question before?

ER: Its, for the women it's enjoyable, it's also necessary sometimes for women as I said for covers, they keep people warm.

RC: How do you think quilts can be used?

ER: They can be used for decoration. They can be used for cover on the bed, and I guess just to show off. [laughs.] Just show them off.

RC: And how do you think they can be preserved for the future?

ER: I don't know. You just preserved them. You hand them down from generation to generation like my mother and all of them handed theirs down.

RC: Do you have any of your mom's quilts?

ER: Yes, I do. I have quilts she made, she hand quilted. Her and Hattie, mother, Gertrude and I all quilted on, I have them.

RC: What do you do with those quilts?

ER: I store them away. I've got them in storage.

RC: So, who, will someone get those?

ER: My sisters or my nieces and nephews. I don't have any children, so my nieces and nephews are in line for them.

RC: What has happened to the quilts that you have made?

ER: What has happened to them? I give them away. I give 5 away this Christmas. I just give them to my family. I give some of them to my friends.

RC: So, you have been busy.

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

ER: The biggest challenge. For us to find a new pattern. [laughs.]

RC: You're talking about the Chicken Scratch patterns.

ER: Right.

RC: So, is that pretty much what you do now, is Chicken Scratch?

ER: Right now, yes, it's what I do but I also embroider, piece them. I like to embroider. I love to.

RC: When was the last embroidered quilt you did?

ER: Last year. Last winter I done a Dutch Girl for my little niece. She wanted one for her bed, so I done her a Dutch Girl last winter.

RC: This is the end of the interview and I do thank you very much for being willing to talk with me about this and for helping preserve these stories.

ER: Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.


“Eloise Ratliff,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 23, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1770.