Annette Kendrick




Annette Kendrick




Annette Kendrick


Ronda Coleman

Interview Date


Interview sponsor


Elkhorn City, Kentucky


Ronda Coleman


Ronda Coleman (RC): This is Ronda Coleman doing an interview for The Alliance for American Quilts' Quilter's [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories. Identification number KY41522-015. Ronda is the interviewer and the transcriber. The interviewee is Annette Kendrick. The place of interview is Elkhorn Public Library at Elkhorn City, Kentucky. The date is April 17, 2008, and the time is-- [pause.]

Annette Kendrick (AK): I don't have a watch.

RC: I've got one. The time is 11:55. Thank you Annette for allowing me to interview you today. Would you tell me a little bit about the quilt that you brought in for the interview?

AK: It was just made from scraps of polyester that no one thought there would ever be a used for so I decided I would use them. I don't like to waste things. That goes over into other areas of my life that I don't waste anything that, well we don't have resources that are going to last forever so I'm not exactly an environmentalist, but I do try to do my part to save whatever I can.

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

AK: Well, I love appliqué and I like to take something that is actually ugly and make something beautiful out of it. My husband and I, we've renovated houses two or three times in the past and we've taken houses that weren't worth hardly anything and we've been able to restore them, and it goes over into this same area of trying to rescue anything that might have been useless otherwise.

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

AK: Because it shows that anyone can do this. That you don't have to have money and it didn't take time like a lot of quilts that you have that are so tedious anymore and it can be used. It's one that you can see every day; you don't fold up and store. You can actually use it.

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

AK: Well that I like things that are bright and cheerful for the first thing. The colors just pop [laughs.] and I do like to work with my hands. Since I can't do a lot because of arthritis I do the things that I'm able still to do and try to find ways to do them faster, better and to make them look as good as work done by hand.

RC: Where did you get some of the material you have in the quilt?

AK: At thrift stores and people would give me old pieces of polyester or clothing that they had because they knew that I can use just about anything. The old adage, use it up, wear it out, make it do, I adhere to that.

RC: Do you use the quilt?

AK: Each one of them, after I made them, I slept under them just to give them a trial run before I gave them to my daughter in law and my grandson.

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

AK: I always wanted to because in my family there were some quilters that could do extraordinary work, they did. My sister, she was, I always admired her quilts. They were beautiful and I had an aunt who made the cathedral quilts, and she would give them to, she gave one to my cousin and we were very close, and it was always on her bed. I knew you didn't spill anything on it, you didn't just sit on it. [laughs.] It was so beautiful that it was special, and I always think that quilts are so special, and I love them.

RC: But you didn't quilt earlier in life?

AK: No, I didn't have time. I had the two boys and then I sewed to make extra money. I didn't work outside the home, so I sewed but it was always things for other people to make clothing, majorette outfits, to make suits, to make anything like that. But to me that was a job. I didn't enjoy it because it wasn't something I'd keep and it wasn't something that was fun and I waited all this time for the years to come when I could do sewing for fun and then my body began [laughs.] to fail and I found out that when the time came, that I had to adapt what I could do to what, to how, when I had glaucoma, it limited me and then my hands got arthritis and it limited me even more. But I found out that you can adapt. Human beings can always adapt and change if they are determined to accomplish what they set out to do.

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

AK: I have it written down. I was about 56 before I even started because I had worked off and on until then. Finally, the boys were both grown and gone and so I had to have something to fill the time and then I did.

RC: From whom did you learn to quilt?

AK: I mostly was self-taught. I would get books here at the library and I watched the programs on TV. I had access to the program Simply Quilts and those that are on now. So mostly I taught myself. That's the way that I taught myself to sew. When I first, it was about 35 years ago when I taught myself to sew, and I just picked it up as I went. I would buy patterns and they would tell you each step and I could follow that and as I advanced, I would buy more complicated patterns.

RC: Very good. About how many hours a week do you think you get to quilt?

AK: Right now, well in the winter I would spend maybe about 15 to 20 hours, well on quilting or on other things that I would work on. I do a lot of pillows too. I like to do those. I like to appliqué. I appliqué on pillows. I like to strip piece because it's something you can do on a sewing machine, and you can get results almost as good as if you had hand appliquéd. I really like to do that.

RC: What is your first quilt memory?

AK: Of my mother. She had a stack of homemade quilts that she kept in a chair. They were folded up and there were about 3 or 4 feet high, and I just loved to look at them, to go through them. She would make them from feed sacks, from our clothes. I would see my clothes that I had outgrown, they were in there. And it was just a nice thing to me to see all that in a quilt. Somehow, it's comfortable. It's comforting to know that those were there and that it was a part of you, part of your life.

RC: And what did she do with those quilts?

AK: All of those that she made we used. We always had two or three on each bed in the winter and we used them. Our house was cold in the winter, and we had to use several quilts.

RC: How does quilt making impact your family?

AK: The ones who receive the quilts, they love for me to quilt but it takes up some of my time and that's a negative impact for my husband who's retired. He's disabled now so I don't have as much time for him so that isn't as good, but I have to be busy so it's the best thing in the world for me.

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

AK: Definitely. It's one of the best things that you can do. It's constructive, creative and it will get you out of yourself. I have. I think everybody does.

RC: What do you find pleasing about quilt making?

AK: The satisfaction that you can get from taking something that has no form, it's a creative act, you take it, it has no form and then you make something from it. You make something that's beautiful. And it's very satisfying to do that.

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

AK: Eyestrain, when I quilt too much. And some of the finishing touches, I'm afraid I get to where I want to get it done and I want to do it too fast so that's not good that sometimes at the end I want to get a little bit sloppy because I like to see things finished. I want to see how they look and sometimes I can hardly wait.

RC: Have advances in technology influenced your work?

AK: Definitely. You can use the Heat Bond, the fusible webbing and there's all sorts of, there's some techniques that use the butcher paper, what's it called?

RC: Paper piecing?

AK: The white paper that you would use.

RC: I don't know.

AK: It has a side that you can iron, you can cut out like appliqué and iron them on and then you can take them back off. There's a whole world out there that I think I could explore. I'll think of the word for that later. [laughs.]

RC: [laughs.] You probably will. What are your favorite techniques and materials?

AK: The techniques that I like best is--appliqué is my favorite thing, the technique and machine appliqué is what I do and even if my hands were able to do it a lot of the time, I would do the machine appliqué because I like the way it looks. When I do it on a quilt that's cotton, sometimes the results are really good. The polyester quilt is harder because where it has stretch you don't get as good an outline sometimes. But it was satisfactory, but some of the others it can really work.

RC: Well, that came out really well. I like that appliqué on that polyester.

AK: When you do it on cotton, it's superb. It really is.

RC: Very nice.

AK: I've done some really intricate appliqué with machine on cotton fabrics.

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

AK: It is in my home and I kind of already mentioned that. I use a large cutting mat, rotary cutting mat on the table or on the floor. Sometimes I choose the floor because if I'm working with a big piece, I can get all of it at one time because the mat is big enough. I just adapt to what I have to do. When I sew, I have a little table. I've got one of these little tables that has the rollers on the bottom, and I can move it around where I want to put my machine on it. Since space is so limited, I can work on it and then put it in a corner real easy. So, I adapt to whatever I have to do to do that.

RC: How do you balance your time?

AK: Right now, it's not too big a problem because I don't work anymore and where my children aren't home, I have enough time where if I would apply myself and manage my time better, I could quilt as much as my eyes could stand. [laughs.]

RC: Do you use a design wall?

AK: The flannel board. I use the flannel board that--do I just go over this again even though I put it--

RC: Uh-huh.

AK: I had a Sunday school class that I had a huge flannel board that I had made myself because I wanted it big enough so they could see it from the back and all the flannel boards you had were just little small ones. Mine is adequate. I put my designs on there. I lay out my blocks to see how they will go and when I set, it's like the diamond, what do you say, on point? However, that is described where it's like a diamond I would set it out on the board so that I would be able to tell just what it would look like, and it works really well to do that. I can try new appliqué designs too. I can work them out on that too and place them and see just how they'll go. They'll stick to the fabric too, so it works really well.

RC: Do you do the quilting in your quilts?

AK: I do machine quilting. I have to because I can't do the other. The one I tacked with the buttons, I like that because it worked real well because it was fast, and I think it really adds to the quilt. It gives it a lot of eye appeal.

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

AK: Well, the buttons did it on that one and on this one, the strips I just sewed each strip along each side of it and that attached it really well.

RC: What type of batting do you use?

AK: I use whatever is available. I've never put batting as such, that you buy, the polyester fiberfill batting. I use flannel sheets. I had an old bedspread once that was soft and I took the top off it. It had already been stitched in place and I used it in the middle of one because I like a heavy quilt. I like one that's soft, thick and heavy.

RC: And that goes back to before what you were talking about how it doesn't have to cost a lot.

AK: It doesn't have to cost a lot. I've put the lightweight little blankets. You can buy them sometimes at Thrift stores for about a dollar that are a little worn or they're not as pretty, they're faded. They are excellent for inside. They won't shift or move around. They stay in place forever and they are warm, and they work marvelously well.

RC: Very nice. How do you bind your quilts?

AK: Sometimes, the quilt top, I leave enough room on the side so it can be turned under and sewn to the back. Or I will make my own binding to coordinate with the quilt and sew it on. On the polyester, I just used a piece of the polyester and made my own binding for it.

RC: What do you think makes a great quilt?

AK: There's a combination. It needs some eye appeal. Life is dreary enough that if you can see a colorful quilt when you go in a room, I think it helps. It has to fill the need it was intended for. In a child's room you don't get them a quilt that's been handmade and appliquéd by hand and expect them to never play on it or be able to use it. It's like, this one, the red and black would go in a child's room because they could use it. Still, even with the black the red makes it colorful enough for a child and it has the design of little cats in it that a child would like. It's got enough whimsy to it that I think it would work too.

RC: What do you think makes a great quiltmaker?

AK: A love of beauty and to want to make something that is productive and that will leave their mark in the world, that this is what they did. And it will be there, it's not something that will be gone as soon as they are. Most of the time it will last, something lasting.

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

AK: For a museum?

RC: Mm-huh.

AK: A lot of time and a lot of yourself to go in it. For that quality it takes a lot of time. It would take a lot of your life. You'll have a piece of yourself in that quilt.

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

AK: Well, I think that hand quilting is always preferable if you want the type of quilt that is top quality and what a quilt should be but for me, I have to do the machine quilting. It's not so much preference as what circumstances will put upon you. But I think in its own way it can have a beauty. The quilt we saw a while ago that was with a quilting machine, I'd never seen one that beautiful on a quilting machine. It had design that was almost comparable to me to hand quilting. A lot of it is your design, the touch of you that you put into it and your creativity can make a quilt outstanding no matter sometimes as to what the design is. You can make it what you want it to be.

RC: Is quilt making important to your life?

AK: It's very important. I know that in the future I always have something that I can do. That as long as I live, I, even with arthritis I can still machine, I will be able to do something, and I won't have to look forward to years of maybe boredom or frustration because I will have something. And I have enough material to last me the rest of my life.

RC: [laughs.] In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or your region?

AK: Mine are traditional quilts. They're the ones that anyone in this area could do. They're not outside their reach. And that's the reason that I would like to have these quilts shown is because people can see that it's something that they can do and to encourage them to do it.

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

AK: They are part of our history. And a lot of them, some I've seen in books, they have history sewn within them. And they will have dates and names put in them that are timeless. Some of them, the fabrics are of eras that are gone that we can look back and the quilts themselves tell what time period they were in.

RC: How do you think quilts can be used?

AK: You can use them to decorate, or you can use them for function. And both of them are as important. One is as important as the other. They both have their place and even if you have utility quilts on your wall, you can have a wall hanging that is so beautiful and so well done that your whole house is changed because of it.

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

AK: What you do. The internet now, it can preserve the work that is done. If we would have had that 100 years ago, we would have one of the most wonderful historical things that we could go back and look at. Especially if you're interested in beauty in your surroundings and to get an idea of what the lives of the people were at that time.

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

AK: Mine, I give most of them away. I haven't made that many yet. In the past I had done a few before I even wanted to learn quilting that were just the squares. I took UK [University of Kentucky.] sweatshirts and other sweatshirts from the school that my sons went to, and I cut big blocks out of the sweatshirts and put it together. I think my son still has that one and that was when he was in high school and he's 33 now. It is a little bit worn [laughs.] but it was something that he valued even though it wasn't worth much to anyone except him.

RC: It had a meaning over and above just the functionality of the quilt.

AK: Uh-huh.

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

AK: That I answered a while ago. Time. Time is the hardest thing for people unless they're like me and they are pretty much retired from their work. And too, to have money to buy if you don't have a stash of fabric, to be able to buy the fabrics that you need. But the reason I wanted to show these is to show that you can acquire the fabric if you know where to look and even if your children have outgrown clothes that makes the best quilt. I had a friend, when she was pregnant, all her maternity clothes she cut up and put into a quilt. And I believe that was one of the most, I can't even think of the word for that. That was one of the best ideas I had ever seen for a quilt that you could later hand down to a child.

RC: Absolutely

AK: I had seen her wear the clothes and I can look at the quilt and remember what stage she was in her pregnancy.

RC: That's a very good idea. Well, it's now--[pause.]

AK: I think our interview ran over what you usually do.

RC: No, it's about 12:20 and this is the end of the interview and I do thank you Mrs. Annette for doing this interview with me.

AK: Thank you. I enjoyed it.

RC: Very good.


“Annette Kendrick,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 18, 2024,