Ivel Hunt




Ivel Hunt




Ivel Hunt


Ronda Coleman

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Le Rowell


Elkhorn City, Kentucky


Ronda Coleman


Note: There are background conversations from a quilting class in session during this interview.

Ronda Coleman (RC): This is an interview for The Alliance for American Quilts, Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories, identification number KY41522013, Ivel Hunt is the interviewee. The interviewer is Ronda Coleman and Ronda Coleman is the transcriber. The place of interview is Elkhorn City Public Library at Elkhorn City, Kentucky. Today's date is March 20, 2008, and it's about 12:40 p.m. Thank you Mrs. Ivel for allowing me to interview you today. Would you tell me a little bit about the quilt you brought in today?

Ivel Hunt (IH): Well, the quilt I brought is called Blazing Star. It is Chicken Scratch and I machine quilted it myself and it is done in an ivy vine. When I first started with Chicken Scratch, I came to the library to check a book and the book they had was worn and they wouldn't release it. It so happened that Roberta [Bartley] was here and starting a class. So that's how I got started with Chicken Scratch.

RC: So, is Chicken Scratch the first quilting that you have done or had you done quilting before?

IH: No, I have done patchworking and I have done some appliqué and I used to hand quilt with my mom but that's been forty years ago. [laughs.] Mostly what I do now is not hand quilted, its machine quilted.

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

IH: Probably, the first one for myself because I had done one, finished it completely and I gave it to my daughter so this one is mine. It's the first one I did for myself.

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

IH: I hope they think I'm a hard worker and put a lot of hours into it [laughs.] because I did. It does take a long time.

RC: How do you use this quilt?

IH: Well so far, I have kept it in a pillowcase. I have not put it on the bed yet. Maybe when I do my spring cleaning, repainting I might put it out. I would like to have it out so I can enjoy it and when other people come, they can see it also.

RC: What are your plans for the future of this quilt?

IH: I'll probably leave it to my granddaughter. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona and she just got married and pink is her favorite color, so I think it's going to be hers.

RC: Tell me a little bit about your interest in quilt making.

IH: Oh, I love it. It's a pastime. When you're a widow you have a lot of time on your hands at night most of the time and I keep it sitting by my chair so I can reach over, pick it up and do a few stitches at a time. I never put it away because if I do I don't have time to go back and pull it back out again. So, it helps pass time. When you're by yourself it keeps you from being so lonesome. I really enjoy it.

RC: At what age did you start quilting?

IH: When I first started with my mom, I was probably twenty-five. I know it was after my son was born because he would be with me and he would quilt and he would make stitches about 10 inches long. [laughs.] But we left them. I've still got his ten-inch-long stitches. [laughs.]

RC: So, you learned to quilt from your mother?

IH: Yes, mostly what she did was she sewed strips together. She did some appliqué, but she never Chicken Scratched. But she would like to now, if she was still living, she would love it.

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

IH: I would say five hours a week. In the wintertime also I have more time than in the summertime. I'm outside more because I have a garden and I have yard work. In the wintertime I enjoy it. It's a pastime. So, I'd say five hours usually.

RC: What is your first quilt memory?

IH: The first quilt. It really belonged to my husband's ex-girlfriend's mother. [laughs.] It was Grandma's Flower Garden and they had taken all the little pieces and put it together and had hand done it and I thought that was the most beautiful quilt. Their primary color was yellow. It was gorgeous. I fell in love with the quilt. Of course, you know I didn't have access to it. [laughs.]

RC: Are there other quiltmakers in your family and friends?

IH: My sister. I only have one sister and she does quilting. She does appliqué and several things. She doesn't do Chicken Scratch, but she does a lot of other quilting. She has done like Flying Geese that were beautiful and it's one that sticks in my mind also. And she did Redwork. I don't know if you know Redwork. [RC indicates yes.] She does it a lot. And she did. I can't think of it. All cream colors you know. I'll think of it later. But she does a lot of it. She likes it.

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

IH: No. The one difficult time I can remember is one time, my husband had caught himself on fire and he jumped into a spring to put his clothes out that were burning, and I still have the quilt they wrapped him in to take him to the hospital. That's one lasting memory that I have because they had handed the quilt down to me when we got married so I still have it for one of my family if they want it, one of my children. It has a memory.

RC: What do you find pleasing about quilting?

IH: I don't know, I just like to make something. I like to take scraps and make something pretty out of it and something useful also. I've always been used to it. My grandmother, she quilted. She had the quilt frame that hung from the ceiling, but you weren't allowed to touch them. [laughs.] That's when I first started. That's my love, with my mother and her. I love it. It's such a pastime. It's so pleasing to look at once you put it together and you can be proud. A lot of people don't take time to do a good job but if I do it, I want to be proud of it because you have a lot of time and a lot of money involved in it.

RC: Is there anything about quilting you don't enjoy?

IH: If I had to hand quilt alone, I wouldn't enjoy it because it would be too time consuming and it would take me two years to quilt by hand if I was by myself but if I was in a group I could do better, but I wouldn't want to by myself. [laughs.]

RC: How do you attach the layers of the quilt whenever you're going to quilt it?

IH: Where I machine quilt it? I have rollers on the machine where I attach it because it has like canvas, and you pin it on it so I can just do the back and then I do the top and then I put the fiber in between and then I just roll it. But if I do it like I'm going to tack one or like I'm going to hand do it, I put it on the floor and layer it that way. The bottom, the top and the fiber and then you start hemming. It's much easier to do it on a quilting machine, I tell you. [laughs.]

RC: How do you do the binding?

IH: Sometimes, I just make the backing bigger than the top and the fiber and then turn it over and then sometimes I put a binding on it. Then if you do you've got to, I do, I can't catch both sides of the binding at one time, so I sew it on the top side and turn it to the back side and then I do blind stitching on the back.

RC: How do you decide the quilting design?

IH: A lot of times, if it's something like outdoorsy print I'll do it in leaves or I'll do it in flowers. Sometimes if it's just basic something put together like the original patterns, Dresden Plate or something like that I usually try to put some kind of design that looks like a quilt design. That seems to be pretty good. Or sometimes like with the Dresden Plate or one of the appliqué flowers it will look like it's a moon or a sun standing out in space by itself, you can quilt something in between to join it to the other to make it look like it's attached instead of floating around in space. [laughs.]

RC: What do you think makes a great quilt?

IH: I think a lot of times it's like scraps of something, material from dresses or something that you have seen before or used before. I like to do that because you can say, that's my dress or I wore this at one time or another so usually something sentimental is a good thing for a quilt. Especially if you want to hand it down.

RC: What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?

IH: Colors, a lot of times, I think. But I think you have to really know how to put the colors together. It's what your eye catches, what you like. Because a quilt, if you're making it, you're making it for yourself. You know, it's what you like, it's not for someone else. It's your individual preference, what colors you like and how you put it together.

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

IH: Probably something that's different. I think a lot of time, repetition. Everybody does the same thing and puts it in a museum. I think it would have to be something more original; something more maybe vibrant or more modern design. Usually all of ours are traditional. We pretty much follow the same thing. But if you come up with something of your own, something that really stands out I think that's what you would put into a museum.

RC: What do you think makes a great quiltmaker?

IH: Devoted. You have to be devoted. You have to love what you do because if you don't you wouldn't have patience. But someone that really likes it that is your livelihood, that's what you really like.

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

IH: Hand quilting is beautiful. You can follow a design more evenly if you hand quilt, but I have found that machine quilting lasts longer. If you hand quilt and you have a knot to pull through or a stitch to break, then you're going to lose a lot of stitches. But like in machine quilting it lasts forever. Usually, first thing I have found that goes on a quilt is the binding, the edge. I guess it's where it's used more than in the center of the quilt. I think you have to repair the edge most of the time. It's what you have to do.

RC: Why is quilt making important to your life?

IH: It gives me something I can pass on. I would like for my girls to do it. I have two daughters but neither one of them are interested and my granddaughter is not interested in it right now. Now they want the quilts, but they don't want to put the time into it, you know. When grandma's gone, I don't know what's going to happen to quilts. [laughs.] I would like to have it more revived so the younger people would take more interest. But right now, there's not a lot of people that is, not young people. They're looking for the older people to pass it down and I guess it's what we do.

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

IH: I think a lot of times now we do quilts for the beauty just a pretty to put up and show. But now in older days, when my mother and my grandmother were quilting it was for the warmth because their houses were not well built, and they had to have that to protect them from the cold. Now we have nice houses, warm. Ours now a days are just for the beauty.

RC: How do you think quilts can be used?

IH: Decoration. A lot of people have, like the frames they put them on, or they hang them on a wall and the racks they put them on or display them on couches, furniture, beds. I think most people put them up that way. And they should be put up where you can see them. Not put in a plastic bag and shoved under the bed or whatever. I think they should be enjoyed.

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

IH: I think one thing you might consider putting them in a cloth bag. Don't put them in plastic bags. I don't like cedar around your quilts because then you've got to launder them before, ‘cause I don't like the cedar smell. But I think to preserve them you really do need to roll them, and you need to air them out. Put them in the sun and let them air and keep them away from as much dust and dirt as you possibly can.

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

IH: The time?

RC: What's happened to them? Do you still have them?

IH: I have most of mine. I did pass them on down to my girls. I have given to my daughter in law which they are now my son's because my daughter in law has passed away. I give my brother; he was in the Vietnam War and right now he's not well. He's one of the people that got injured while he was fighting, and I made him a Harley Davidson and I have to wash it so often because he soils it so easily and I made him one the other day. It was preprinted but I quilted it with an American eagle on it and he is absolutely, he's had a stroke but he loves this quilt and so I've been doing things for him that he likes because he's not a very long time here.

RC: Well, Mrs. Ivel, I appreciate you speaking with me. I enjoyed the interview and I thank you so much.

IH: Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity.

[The interview was 13 minutes 46 seconds.]


“Ivel Hunt,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 19, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1781.