Jessie Taylor




Jessie Taylor




Jessie Taylor


Ronda Coleman

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Carolyn Mazloomi


Elkhorn City, Kentucky


Ronda Coleman


Ronda Coleman (RC): Thank you Mrs. Jessie for allowing me to interview you today. Would you tell me a little bit about the quilt you brought in for this interview?

Jessie Taylor (JT): It's called a Butterfly Net quilt and its Chicken Scratch and the colors that I put in it was picked out by me and my granddaughter. She's eight and she said let's make it look girlie so that's what we did. It's pink, mint greens, yellows.

RC: It's very pretty. Does this quilt have a special meaning for you?

JT: Yeah, me and her, me and my granddaughter, we worked on it, on the first square but she lost interest because it was kind of like in the summer when we started it, and swimming took more precedence over than this did. This was like a secondhand thing. [laughs.]

RC: How old is she?

JT: She's eight, so you know the age has a lot to do with sitting still.

RC: Why did you choose this one in?

JT: Because, where me and her worked on it, I think.

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

JT: Probably that I'm really feminine probably because, it's got the light purples and the pastel colors. It's just really, I think feminine, so I think probably that's what they would think.

RC: How do you use the quilt?

JT: Well, I just show it off to everybody right now [laughs.] because it's still kind of new and I put them on my beds.

RC: Is that going to be your plans for this quilt?

JT: No, matter of fact I've got this one sold. She's the lady over there at the doctor's office where my husband goes, she seen me working on it and she wants to see it done so I'm going to take it over there. I'm hoping she don't want to buy it because [laughs.] it's just too much work to put a price on.

RC: You're right. Tell me a little bit about your interest in quilt making.

JT: Patterns, colors, the more colors the better. And different colors even like on the back, even though this one is done in white, I done one that was red and white I put a red and white like a Swiss dot material on the back of it and it was really pretty. But anything that's got a lot of different colors in it, I like.

RC: At what age did you start quilting?

JT: Well, my mom used to quilt, and I remember seeing her quilt, but I really never got into it till after I was married and my mother-in-law Welthy Stiltner Taylor, she quilted and I would go over there and sit when I was pregnant with my children and sit and watch her quilt and she said, here let's make you one. She made me, the first one I ever made was a farmer boy and girl and it was made out of jean material, and she showed me how to appliqué and I really got into it. Then I picked up embroidery myself and then this Chicken Scratch I started about, I guess it's been about two, two and a half, three year.

RC: Did she hand quilt?

JT: Oh yes, everything she done was hand quilt. Oh yeah, she appliquéd by hand, she quilted by hand, she hemmed by hand.

RC: Did she have a frame that she used or a hoop?

JT: She had the kind like you use on sawhorses and you roll up on this big, long stick then rolled it out as you go. Tack it down with little carpenter tacks is what she used now, and she done real good with it.

RC: She's the one you learned to quilt from?

JT: Oh yeah. She's the one that got me interested in it.

RC: Do you do hand quilting also?

JT: No, I never really, just helping her once or twice. I just never really did get into the hand quilting part but I ain't saying I won't but I ain't yet. [laughs.]

RC: How many hours a week do you get to quilt?

JT: Lord, every time I'm sitting still, I quilt. If I'm sitting in a car, if I go to a doctor's office, if I go like, if my husband's driving, I'll quilt while he's driving. Sometimes I holler at him because I'll look up too fast and see we're going too fast. [laughs.]

RC: Good thing you don't get car sick.

JT: [laughs.] Yeah, and sometime when we go hunting, and I've took it to the riverbank fishing, sit in the middle of the river with the square. But everywhere I go, my Chicken Scratch usually goes with me.

RC: What is your first quilt memory?

JT: The one I made with my mother-in-law. It was the farmer boy and girl.

RC: Do you still have that?

JT: No, I give it to my baby brother and he's still has it.

RC: Does he use it?

JT: Yeah, oh yeah, he uses it. It kind of looks faded a bit but it's still all intact so I must have done a pretty good job [laughs.] and that's been twenty, let's see, we've been married thirty-five years, so I think it's probably like twenty-eight years old the quilt is. So, it's still in good shape.

RC: Are there other quiltmakers in your family?

JT: Oh yeah, my sister Paulette, she quilts, and I've got some nieces that quilt and I've even taught one of them, I taught Paulette how to do the Chicken Scratch, she taught her daughter Jeanette and I think Lisa her other daughter quilts a little bit. My granddaughter, I taught her, Keyla, she quilts. She does the Chicken Scratch.

RC: Does quilt making impact your family do you think?

JT: Yeah, it gives you something in common to talk about, besides, Days of Your Lives and All My Children. [laughs.]

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

JT: Oh yes. When 911 was going on, I had started a, well it was the day after the 911, I started crocheting, well I was already crocheting but I got me this big, long chain and I think it was like three hundred and some chains long and I just started chaining different colors and I put them all together. I don't really know a lot about crocheting, but I double. What I reckon is called double stitch on it.

RC: Double crochet.

JT: And I made a king-sized afghan and I mean it's got different colors in it. My husband said, 'When are you going to quit that' and I said, 'When it gets big enough or when all this is over.' I stopped the day that my nerves calmed down from all that because that was real upsetting I thought, to me.

RC: Do you still have that?

JT: Oh yes. I still have it.

RC: Do you use it?

JT: Every now and then I'll get it out and look at it and then put it back. I put fringe around it so it's really, it's got a lot of hours in it but it's pretty. It's got every color crochet thread you can think of. [laughs.]

RC: Have you had any amusing experience during quilt class or while you've been quilting that you can remember?

JT: Amusing. Every time is amusing down here. [laughs.] All the girls is real fun to be around and I just enjoy coming and I enjoy our little dinners that we have and just the time we spend together. Really, I can't think of one specific one, just being together.

RC: It's like an old fashion quilting bee.

JT: Yeah. Just time to be together.

RC: What do you find pleasing about quilt making?

JT: Oh, it's nerve calming. Just nerve calming. It gives you something to do with your hands. It takes a lot of tension off me. That's the reason I believe I stick with it so much. It gives you like a way to get out, away from the worries and daily aggravations that you get sometimes when you've got grandkids that runs under your feet twenty-four hours a day. [laughter] But I love the grandkids, but quilting seems to calm my nerves.

RC: What are the ages of your grandchildren?

JT: My oldest one is thirteen. My granddaughter is eight, and then I've got Cain, he's seven, and Dylan is five, Aiden is three and my new little baby is a week and three days old.

RC: Oh, my goodness, congratulations.

JT: Yes, I've got a new little granddaughter, so we have two granddaughters now and Jeremy, he is five. He's a precious little thing.

RC: Are there any aspects of quilt making that you don't enjoy?

JT: No, I like it all. I think hemming is one of my hardest things that I have to do, and I do hem myself and I do find boo boos that I've done, and I try to go back over them and do them again but

RC: I think it's looks very nice, very pretty, very well done. Have advances in technology influenced the way you quilt?

JT: [three second pause.] Yeah, I think the machine quilting thing is good. It's a faster way to get it done and its pretty designs. Probably designs you wouldn't think to do if you were doing it by hand and God bless the sewing machine. [laughs.]

RC: What are your favorite techniques and materials when quilting?

JT: Favorite techniques in materials?

RC: Techniques and materials?

JT: Oh okay. Cotton. Which I have done quite a few on the silky gingham but cotton makes--well it don't fringe as easy, the cotton don't. But the silk kind of stuff does. It's just easier to use, the cotton is.

RC: Describe the studio or the place where you create.

JT: Oh, in my kitchen, at my table. [laughs.] In my kitchen, I guess that's a studio or as close as you're going to get to it. [laughs.]

RC: How do you balance your time?

JT: Okay, like of the morning, I get up, I make me some coffee first thing and then I sit and do chicken scratch. And then I do breakfast and then I do chicken scratch. [laughs.] Then I do dishes, and where my knees are real bad, I have to, I sit a lot anyway but use a computer chair in the kitchen, so I just push myself over to the sink and do a few dishes and then push myself back to the table and chicken scratch a little. [laughs.] But I do get out like when we go fishing or hunting and I take it with me, but I do more sitting than I do walking. Hopefully if I get my knee surgery and stuff done, I'll be doing more walking but for right now I do a lot of sitting.

RC: Do you use a design wall or how do you decide how the quilt is going to go together?

JT: Like when I started this one, I just laid all my colors down that I wanted to use in it, especially like the green, the mint green on the outside. Then when I want to pick this, I put this part which was already finished, the design itself, and take it to the fabric place, Jan's [loud bang.] or Mountain Crafts and I just match up my colors to see what looks good. I usually take all my squares with me though because that way even though some have got more pink in it and more yellow because the variegated thread shows up different on different designs.

RC: What do you think makes a great quilt?

JT: Colors. Definitely colors.

RC: What do you think makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or special collection?

JT: I think probably if you've done your own design. I've never really done one that I could say was definitely mine even though when you do one it is yours. If you didn't design, it yourself from the start on out which my sister did this. [loud bang.] She made a swan, a forty-five inch in the middle, the swan was on a forty-five-inch piece, and then she put little swans around it and that was the first one that was ever done like that. So, she is the brain. [laughs.] She done a really good job. It's a beautiful, it's on blue, blue and white and then she even done the ruffle around the bottom and everything. It's really pretty. I brag on her quilt all the time to everybody.

RC: What do you think makes a great quiltmaker?

JT: Patience. Patience and somebody committed to give the time in because it does take a lot of time but mostly you have to be patient with it, you can't get aggravated which I don't. I just work on it and when I get tired, I get up. But really you have to have a lot of patience to work on them.

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

JT: Well, machine quilting, like I said a while ago, it makes it faster and a lot more different kinds of designs that you probably would put in. There's one lady that comes here, she hand quilts and I reckon her husband draws her out templates and she does all real pretty designs in hand quilting. But all of us ain't got that talented husband, which mine is but I've never asked him to make me, because I don't hand quilt, but she does real pretty designs. But I like machine quilting. I think they are pretty.

RC: Is quilt making important to your life?

JT: Yeah. Like I said it releases, gives you a place to go, do what you want to do, relieves tension. If you're kind of like nervous or something it kind of helps and just gives you something to do with your hands so you're not fidgeting all the time like I'm trying to right now. [laughs.] I should have my material over here working on it.

RC: That's a good idea. I'll have to remember that for future. In what ways do you think possible these quilts reflect our community or our region?

JT: Well, even locally you go to places like--I go to places like the doctor's office with my husband or for myself. They'll be these people that will say, 'What kind of stitch is that you're doing? I've never seen that.' And that in this local area like Ashland [Kentucky.] or Louisville [Kentucky.] or Lexington [Kentucky.] and that's close by places. Richlands [Virginia.] over towards Abingdon, Virginia. I took this and was working in a doctor's office I was seeing, and this lady walked up and she said that is beautiful. What kind of stitch is that? She said, 'I've seen embroidery and that's not embroidery.' And I said 'No, that's Chicken Scratch.' So, I had to show her how to do it and I even had an extra square and I give it to her so she could see how to do it. So, she probably--[both talk at the same time.]

RC: She probably showed someone else.

JT: I'd say she probably done it because it was already marked, and I say she probably finished it.

RC: What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

JT: Well, I say back years ago people depended on that for warmth in the winter. Even though we mostly, I think, in our society we're mostly making them for the beauty of them. Well, you know they are warm, throw them over you when you are sitting on the couch, but I say mostly right now people just makes them because they are pretty.

RC: How do you think quilts can be used?

JT: Well, like I said, just for wall hangings, throw over the back of your couch, or to put on your bed for warmth. I've made some for my grandchildren. I made a--it wasn't a chicken scratch quilt, but he wanted him a deer pattern and I camouflaged him a quilt. I put camouflage in between the blocks and painted and embroidered deers on it for him with fields, trees and fences. And I've made pillows for like my little next door neighbor little girl. I made her a cat pillow because she loves cats and I've made my grandsons camouflaged Jeeps because he's into Jeeps. You can just use it different ways. I've never made a baby quilt but I'm going to start me one for my little granddaughter. I just recently have a brand one so I'm going to try to make her a baby quilt.

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

JT: Well, I put mine in a cedar chest in plastic bags but if you use them, I don't think that takes away from them. A person needs to use them which I give most of mine out. I guess I've made about 15 in the three years I've been quilting the Chicken Scratch and I give them to my kids, and I just tell them, take good care of them. I put a lot of work into those.

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

JT: My kids have got them; my grandkids have got them.

RC: Did you keep any of your quilts?

JT: Yeah. I, if that lady doesn't buy this one, I'm definitely going to keep this one for myself and I've got a red one and a butterfly quilt that I have that is mine.

RC: The ones that you've given away, how do they use them?

JT: They put them on their beds. They use them. I've been to their house and the kids would have them on their bed, and grand kids.

RC: What do you think is the biggest challenge to a quiltmaker today?

JT: Making them sturdy to uphold the use. [laughs.] I reckon. Using good quality material. You have to have good quality material because if you don't, it's not going to take the wear and tear of people using them.

RC: Well, this is the end of our interview, Mrs. Jessie and I do thank you for participating.

JT: Okay. Thank you.

[note: the interview lasted 19 minutes and 53 seconds.]


“Jessie Taylor,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 13, 2024,