Ruby Hawkins




Ruby Hawkins




Ruby Hawkins


Ronda Coleman

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Carolyn Mazloomi


Elkhorn City, Kentucky


Ronda Coleman


[background noise from a Chicken Scratch quilting class can be heard throughout the interview.]

Ronda Coleman (RC): This is an interview for The Alliance for American Quilts' Quilters - Save Our Stories, identification number KY41522-007. The interviewee is Mrs. Ruby Hawkins. Ronda Coleman is the interviewer and the transcriber. The place of the interview is the Elkhorn City Public Library at Elkhorn City, Kentucky. Today's date is March the sixth, 2008 at about 11: 15 [a.m.]. Thank you, Mrs. Ruby, for allowing me to interview you today. Can you tell me a little bit about the quilt that you brought in for the interview? What's the name of the quilt?

Ruby Hawkins (RH): It's a [Carpenter's Wheel.] and I done it here at the library. Well part of it. [laughs.] I done part of it at home. I just enjoy doing it.

RC: Great. Does this quilt have any special meaning for you? [RH shakes head to indicate no] Is this the only Chicken Scratch quilt that you've done?

RH: I've done twelve.

RC: Oh, my goodness. Is this the only one that you have?

RH: No. I've got six out of twelve.

RC: So, why did you choose this one to bring to the interview?

RH: [inaudible.] I like the colors. [laughs.] Cause they're bright.

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

RH: I have no idea [laughs.]

RC: How do you use the quilt?

RH: It's not been used.

RC: You store it? [RH indicates yes.] What are your plans for it?

RH: My kids.

RC: How many children do you have?

RH: Four.

RC: Four children. How many grandchildren do you have?

RH: Five [and seven great grandchildren.].

RC: Do they live here or do they live some

RH: One of them is living in Tennessee. [one in Versailles, Kentucky. She has twin boys.] She's got three kids. The rest of them lives around here.

RC: Do you see them often?

RH: No.

RC: No?

RH: No. [laughs.]

RC: Tell me about your interest in quilt making.

RH: I just like to quilt. It gives me something to do. I'm not able to do much work so I just quilt.

RC: At what age did you start quilting?

RH: Seventeen.

RC: So how long have you been quilting now? [laughs.]

RH: Long time [laughs.] I'm seventy-eight.

RC: Sixty-one years. You've seen a lot of changes in those sixty-one years.

RH: Right.

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

RH: [5 second pause.] I really have no idea. I just pick it up every time I sit down.

RC: Who taught you to quilt?

RH: My mother-in-law on the old-time quilt frames that you hang from the ceiling.

RC: That's neat. They used to do that so they could lower them and then bring them back up. You're right. What is your first quilting memory?

RH: Well, we'd go to her house, and we would all, the neighbors would all gather in, and we would quilt, all sit down and start quilting and she would get up and cook us lunch and we would come back to quilting and we just go together and quilted a lot.

RC: Did they call that a quilting bee?

RH: No, it was just neighbors, family and neighbors.

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

RH: No not really. A lot of them's old and the younger ones, they don't take up nothing like this. [laughs.] Now my daughter does. I've got a daughter that quilts, Vickie.

RC: Have you taught her how to Chicken Scratch?

RH: Oh yes, she can do it. [laughs.] She's teaching a class over at her church. Over at Meathouse. [Kentucky.]

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

RH: Yes, I have. I sold about all my quilts when my first husband died.

RC: How long has that been?

RH: Twenty some years ago. [3 second pause.] '81.

RC: What do you find pleasing about quilting?

RH: Well, it just takes your mind off everything else. It's relaxing.

RC: Have advances in quilting technology changed the way that you quilt at all?

RH: Yeah, some.

RC: Do you use a sewing machine, or do you hand quilt?

RH: I used to hand quilt all my quilts but since I've been over here [inaudible.] with machine.

RC: What's your favorite quilting techniques? [3 second pause.] What type of quilting do you enjoy most?

RH: I like the hand quilting. I do [laughs.] but I can't do it no more. There's too much stretching you know.

RC: How do you decide how you're going to put your quilt together with the borders and the sashing?

RH: Well, I just lay it down and start looking at it. See what size strips I'm going to cut and how I'm going to put them. [laughs.]

RC: How do you decide the colors for the border and the sashing?

RH: By just looking at the colors and trying to match them. [3 second pause.]

RC: What do you think makes a great quilt?

RH: The way it's made, the way it's sewn and everything. The handwork in it.

RC: What do you think would make a quilt appropriate for a museum?

RH: I would say a hand quilted, an old timey hand quilt.

RC: What do you think makes a great quiltmaker?

RH: You've got to want to do it. You've got to want to do it. You can't just sit down and say I'm going to do it; you've got to want to do it.

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

RH: I'd rather have hand quilting, but I like the machine quilting.

RC: Why is quilting important to you?

RH: It's a pastime to me. It gives me something to do.

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

RH: How do you, what do you mean by that?

RC: Another way, do you think that quilts are important in American life?

RH: Oh, yeah. Sure. Everybody loves pretty quilts. [laughs.]

RC: Do your quilts reflect the community or region here do you think?

RH: Yeah, I hope so.

RC: How can quilts be used?

RH: Well, they can be used in different ways, but I prefer them to be put on the bed and took care of. [laughs.]

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

RH: I don't know. Some people put them in pillowcases. I just fold mine up and put them in a closet.

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

RH: The kids got part of them. I've got part of them. They're just scattered. I've sold a lot of my quilts. The most I ever got out of one of them was $80.00.

RC: Oh, my goodness. Is this when you were hand quilting?

RH: Yes. They's all hand quilted.

RC: Oh, my goodness. How long ago was that?

RH: In '81 or '82. [laughs.]

RC: Those that you've given away to family, how do they use them?

RH: Well [three second pause.] most of them takes care of them.

RC: I think sometimes younger people are not educated into what it takes to make a quilt. If they'd ever made one themselves. [they would appreciate the work that goes into them more.]

RH: Clarence's youngest son, my second husband him and his wife divorced when he [the son.] was about two years old. This lady kept house for him and took care of the kids. So, one Christmas she gives me a set of quilt squares and it was cats. All big cats on a whole set of squares and I kept them for a long time. I took them to Florida with me one winter and I put them together and I quilted them, and I told Clarence, I said 'I want Tracy to have this quilt. He said, 'Well, we'll take it home and give it to him for Christmas' and I said, 'He's got to come and get it. You're not sending it to him'. That tickled that young'un to death. I told him, I said that was his mommy. Now to him, that was his mommy. I said, 'Hazel made the squares, I put them together and I quilted it'. He said, 'That will never go on my bed. It will be hung on the wall'. I hope he done that.

RC: And that's one way they can be preserved for the future is by passing them down, too, isn't it?

RH: He said, 'This is the best present I believe I ever got.' It just tickled him to death.

RC: What do you think is the biggest challenge today confronting the quiltmakers that you do know? [2 second pause.] What's the hardest thing for them to work with?

RH: Well, the younger generation just don't care for it. [laughs.] They don't. They're not interested in it. They like the quilts, but they don't want to do it.

RC: It's a lot of hard work. I think there's a lot of hard work involved.

RH: I've got a daughter in law right now that's wanting, I've already give her one, but she's wanting a green one [loud noise from knock on interview table.], more green than this but I don't have a green one right now, well, I've got one, but I don't want to give it up. [laughs.]

RC: Do you have another one started now?

RH: Yeah.

RC: What pattern is the one you have started?

RH: It's another Dutch Rose. I've made the big Butterfly and I've made the big Star. I've made about all of them. In all, I've finished twelve.

RC: Well, this is the end of our interview and I do thank you Mrs. Ruby for allowing me to interview you.

RH: Thank you for doing it. I was dreading it so bad.

[note: This interview was 12 minutes 51 seconds.]


“Ruby Hawkins,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 12, 2024,