Clinton Belcher




Clinton Belcher




Clinton Belcher


Ronda Coleman

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The Nat'l Quilting Assn


Elkhorn City, Kentucky


Ronda Coleman


Ronda Coleman (RC): This is an interview for the Alliance for American Quilts' Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories identification number KY41522-011. The interviewee is Mr. Clinton Belcher. Ronda Coleman is the interviewer and the transcriber. The place of interview is Elkhorn City Public Library at Elkhorn City, Kentucky. Today's date is March the 20, 2008 at about 11:25 a.m. Thank you Mr. Clinton for allowing me to interview you today. Can you tell me about the quilt that you brought in for the interview?

Clinton Belcher (CB): It's an Amish Sampler and the reason I brought it in is the colors in it. I really like the colors in it. They caught my eye when I first seen it. I think it's one of the prettiest quilts I've got. I've got some pretty quilts, but I think that's the prettiest one I've got.

RC: Does this quilt have a special meaning for you?

CB: Not what you would say special. It's the different colors. I really like them.

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

CB: I hope they think I'm a good quilter. Anyway, that's about all you tell about a person.

RC: How do you use this quilt?

CB: We just keep it laying around to show people. [laughs.] It's a show quilt.

RC: This would be a wall hanging for you then?

CB: Yes.

RC: Can you tell me a little bit about your interest in quilt making?

CB: I love to do it. I took up an interest in quilting a few years ago. After I got hurt, I had to have something to do to keep me from going nutty, I guess. My mother had always quilted all her life. Ever since I can remember, my mother has always quilted and so I just decided to put one in one day and I mean it just come natural to me, quilting did. It was just natural. I guess from watching her all my life, for forty some years.

RC: Do you mind if I ask you at what age you started quilting?

CB: Forty-one. [laughs.]

RC: [laughs.] And do you mind if I ask you what age you are now?

CB: Sixty-one.

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

CB: I try to put in around thirty, thirty hours a week. I like to get out and piddle around a bit. You can't sit in the house all the time. I try to get in about thirty hours a week.

RC: Do you quilt on a frame, or do you use a hoop?

CB: I use a hoop. I tried the frame, the horses [sawhorses.] they take up too much room. To be honest, I put it in a hoop to start with. I never could get the hoop to stay where I wanted it to stay so I put it in a horse then in frames. That's the way my mother always done it. I had no problems. Well, they just kept taking up so much room I told my wife one day, I'm going to get me another hoop and try it and when I did, it still wanted to move so I got me a chair from the kitchen table that had a little overhang on the top of it so I put my foot in the bottom of the frame and hook it under that hook there and it stays there. I don't run it all over the house.

RC: That's great. So, about how many quilts do you think you've probably done?

CB: In 20 years. [three second pause.]

RC: Too many to count?

CB: Yeah. I mean right now my wife she's got over forty quilts at the house. Besides the ones that I've given away, I give my daughter and son one every year for Christmas and when someone in the family gets married, I'll give them a quilt. A lot of friends I've got, I've just given them quilts, they are good friends to me. I've got wall hangings, probably fifty to seventy-five wall hangings at my house. Baby quilts probably got thirty baby quilts. I've got a bunch put up that I'm keeping for my great grand young 'uns. I've got three grand young 'uns One's twelve, seven and six and I'm putting up baby quilts. If I find real pretty patterns, I'm quilting them separate, that I won't give away to someone else, for my great-grand young 'uns when they come along. Pass them on down to them. I give a lot of baby quilts away to people at church. When they have babies, I give them a baby quilt. They enjoy it.

RC: What is your first quilt memory?

CB: First quilt memory. I guess that's my mother quilting. My first is my mother. My mother always kept a quilt in. She quilted for other people cause she made extra money you know, quilting for people. I can't ever remember my mother not having a quilt in. She'd take one out, soon as she would take one out, she would put another one in. She always had quilts in her quilting frame.

RC: Do you have any of the quilts that she made?

CB: Yeah. I've got a couple of them. I've got four sisters and two brothers, and we just kindly divided up what quilts she had. My sister, the last quilt my mother quilted, she quilted about half of it, and she got to where she couldn't quilt anymore and I finished it up for her and I give it to my sister, one of my sisters has got it. She told me once, after I started quilting, she would never quilt another quilt for me. [laughs.] She said, 'You quilt better than I do,' so she never quilted another for me.

RC: [laughs.] You intimidated her.

CB: Yeah. I tried to get her to quilt on mine. We were staying with her for a while at the time because she was sick, and we were staying to take care of her and I tried to get her to quilt on mine. She said, 'No.' She said, 'I'll just mess it up.' I said, 'That's all right. You quilt on it all you want to on it and when you get through, I'll just take them out.' [laughs.] She never would do it then though. She wasn't going to do it anyway.

RC: [laughs.] So, are there other quiltmakers among your family or friends right now?

CB: I've got friends that quilts but, in my family, no. I'm the only one that does it.

RC: What do you find pleasing about quilting?

CB: It's relaxing. And I enjoy it. I just enjoy quilting. It relaxes you and I like the reaction from people. [laughs.] I get a kick out of that sometimes especially the older ladies. They'll look at it and they say 'no.' [inaudible.]

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

CB: I enjoy all of it. I just wished over time I would have took the time to piece one but I just never did take the time to do it.

RC: Well, I guess you stick with what you do best.

CB: Yeah.

RC: So, do you do the binding on your quilts?

CB: No, the binding part of it, wherever it is here. [looking for edge of folded quilt.] I've got a lady that sews it on the back because I'm no good with a sewing machine either. I used to be now but I'm not anymore, then my wife, I let her hem it. She loves to hem, so she does the hemming on it for me.

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

CB: When I put it in?

RC: Uh huh.

CB: Pins. I use pins on it. I just go around the outside of it, pin it down where it can't move. And I kindly start right through the middle and push everything out. That keeps the wrinkles out of it. You start through the middle, I found that out.

RC: Do you have a favorite batting?

CB: No, just cotton.

RC: How do you decide the quilting design in your quilts?

CB: How do I decide? When I look at one, I like colors. The more colors in it, the better I like it. My wife picks out some, I quilt them for her, but I don't care much about them cause I like a psychedelic quilt, the more colors the better for me. That's kind of the way I pick them out. She picks them out for the looks of them, the designs. If it's got a lot of colors in it, bring it on home and I'll quilt it.

RC: What do you think makes a great quilt?

CB: Makes a great quilt. I think color, design and the stitches in it is really are what makes a great quilt. The stitches on the front and the back. You know you've got to look at the back. The back of the quilt is as important to me as the front of it is when you're quilting a quilt. I think it's the stitches you know. I've seen a lot of pretty quilts that have big stitches on them, it just ruins the quilt. To me it seems like if you're going to take time to piece a pretty quilt, you ought to take time to make little stitches. Most people the reason they make the big stitches is they just get in a hurry. They want to get done with it and go on to something else. I'm not that way. If the stitches are big, take them out, start over. I can't stand a big stitch in a quilt.

RC: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

CB: Colors. [laughs.] The colors in it.

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

CB: I had to think about that, here. Let me see what I wrote down. Stitching. The stitches and the overall look of the quilt, I guess it what makes it.

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

CB: I don't like machine quilting. I've seen a lot of quilts where the ladies have quilted and they done a wonderful job on the quilt, then to me they ruin it when they put a machine on it. They just ruin the quilt. I think if you're going to take all that time to quilt one, to piece one, to take your time to piece it, you ought to take your time and quilt it too. That just makes the quilt to me. Machine quilting, I just ain't got no use for machine quilting. [laughs.] Sure don't.

RC: Is quilt making important to your life?

CB: Yeah. Sure is. It keeps my nerves settled down. You know when you're disabled, you can't get out and do anything anyway, so you've got to have something. Everybody got to have a hobby and I guess this is just mine. It relaxes me. When I'm sitting and doing that, I don't think about anything else. You can't let you mind wander here and there; you've got to keep your mind on what you're doing so it takes your mind off the rest of your problems.

RC: Do you ever sell any of your quilts?

CB: No. Never sold a quilt.

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

CB: Say that again.

RC: In what ways do you think that your quilts might reflect this community or region, how they might represent the community?

CB: I don't know. That's not on here.

RC: [laughs.] That's fine. How do you think quilts can be used?

CB: You can use them for show, to put on your bed, to keep you warm. Different ways.

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

CB: My wife's got them. My wife's got eighty per cent of them. She keeps them put up.

RC: How does she store them?

CB: She stores them in pillowcases. Got them all in a closet, back in a closet, besides the ones she got, I think every room in that house has got a quilt in it. I know it does. Even one in the bathrooms. Got two bathrooms and either one of them got a quilt in it, kitchen, bedrooms they've all got quilts hanging in them.

RC: Very nice. Well, Mr. Clinton, I appreciate you sharing with me, and I appreciate this interview, and this is the end of the interview. Thank you.

CB: Okay.

[Note: This interview was 15 minutes 27 seconds.]


“Clinton Belcher,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024,