Sharron Gregg




Sharron Gregg




Sharron Lee Gregg


Linda Hardin Sehrt

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Independence, Missouri


Linda Hardin Sehrt


Linda Hardin Sehrt (LS): My name is Linda Hardin Sehrt, and today's date is December 14, 2009, and it is 2:00 p.m. I am conducting an interview with Sharron Lee Gregg in Independence, Missouri, for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Missouri State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Sharron Gregg is a quilter and is a member of the Independence Pioneers Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Sharron, would you tell us about the quilt you brought today?

Sharron Lee Gregg (SG): Yes, I have, Linda--have been thinking about making this quilt for a long time and due to time restraints, it became a wall hanging and it's called "Crazy with Fans." I love Crazy Quilting and it's very therapeutic. But on this quilt is a--when I designed it up this fall, I wanted decorative fans because you can do so many things with the type of fabrics that you use and then all the embellishments. And, then I wanted--I have five of the fans and then I have four Crazy quilt blocks that are sort of companion type fabrics that fit with the fans. And the fans are mounted on silver satin, silver colored satin, and the Crazy Quilts are just sashed around. And it's sashed and embroidered in black satin and the back is black satin. And there is a lot of embellishment, with different types of threads and some jewelry and beads, and anything else I can find that look appropriate with the fabrics. But today they have such beautiful fabrics in cottons. And most of the fabrics in the fans and the quilt Crazy blocks are colorful fabrics.

LS: It's just a beautiful quilt.

SG: And then I picked up the satins with the backing and the borders and the sashing.

LS: Is there something between the front and the back?

SG: Yes, I have a batting in there. I don't know it's kind of a fluffy batting because it helped that black satin slip and slide as I tried to sew all the time. So--

LS: Is satin hard to sew with?

SG: Well, on something like this. But I prefer the cotton when I am doing the Crazy Quilts. The satin makes it look gorgeous and the batting gave it somebody to hang. This is an art quilt wall hanging and it's 37 by 37 [inches.].

LS: I see a lot of beautiful embroidery stitches. [SG nods and indicates yes.]

SG: Years ago, about ten years--ten or twelve years ago, I became interested in Crazy Quilting. My grandmother, Bertha Gregg, was a quilter all her life, and I have a number of her quilts and she used to have the frames set up in the basement so anytime she had fifteen free minutes she'd run downstairs and quilt. And so, I really wasn't interested too much at that time. I think you appreciate things as you get older. And I was up in Independence [Missouri.] on the historic Independence Square. A friend had a store up there and then she put in a quilt shop in the back and so she decided to have some classes and she'd talk to me about quilting. And I said, 'Uh, um,' and then one day she told me about Judith Baker Montano, who is quite an expert in Crazy Quilting and the type of things that she did just really struck me because I have some art schooling in my background. And she did a lot of embellishment, a lot of embroidery, a lot of floral type things and it just struck a note with me. So, we started having some little Crazy Quilt classes up there. And I did make a wall hanging that features the twelve months of the year and that was probably one of the first big Crazy quilt projects I did. And made a Crazy Quilt tote bag and it just flourished from there. And then after she closed down the quilt shop, I just kept it up on my own and got involved in some other Crazy Quilt stuff, but I find it's very therapeutic on the embroidery part because there's so many different stitches and it's just with your imagination whatever you wanted to create you can come up with. The mixing. I had one friend tell me she took a tote bag I'd made--took it to her office at the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency.] and showed it to a woman who had been a quilter for years and had embroidered for years and the woman said she'd never seen the mixing of different colors of threads on the same stitch, same line of stitching. Well, in Crazy quilting, anything goes.

LS: So, you use regular embroidery thread?

SG: Well, sometimes. On this quilt, because of using the satins and wanting to have it sparkle I have used a rayon thread. And most of its rayon, I'd say 95% of it is rayon threads. And it gives a sheen to it, has a real sheen more than what the normal floss would have. And where most embroidery people use one or two strands, I often use the whole six of them at the same time because I want the stitches to show. It adds so much more dimension to the quilt. And then you can use ribbons and ruche the ribbons which give it a little fluffy flavor to the--

LS: How do you ruche a ribbon?

SG: Well, you take the ribbon, and you do a running stitch down the center, or you can do it on the side even, and then gather it up and then it just becomes just a real fluffy little thing.

LS: I can see it.

SG: And this is a variegated color that I've used on here. [points to quilt.] And then I also like to use copper colored thread. And some of the metallic threads are wonderful to use on a Crazy Quilt. And then I come back--I usually--I love to do the feather stitch. [points to area on quilt.] This is the feather stitch, because it looks like a 'u'. The 'u's' that are just connected in a line and then put some kind of a floral on the end of it or some little design and then come back and put some beading on it also to give it a little flash as the light hits it. And here's a metallic thread that has the silver and gold and like a turquoise in it. One of my favorite things to do is with southwestern colors also. And you can get a lot of interest in the design.

LS: How did you learn all of these different types of stitches? Are they all embroidery stitches or did make, create a stitch?

SG: Well, no, most of them are embroidery stitches and then it's a combination of putting different ones together. When I first started there was a little tri-fold card stock that you could get that had the basic stitches and there is about eight or ten of them and then you can go from there. I did attend a class. Carole Samples, out of Omaha. and she has written a couple of--one book that I have--I heard she was writing another one--came into town and gave a fan class one time and I went to that, and it intrigued me. But fans have been around forever, for years and years and years. And I think they're still very popular in Spain and some of the European countries. But they can be very--they have a function to them, but they can also be seductive too. So--[laughs.] but I think it's an interesting concept. Something different then, and what I like about like in this wall hanging even though I have the same pattern on the fans they looked entirely different because of the colorings and all. And then I topped the fans with a lace [points to a fan block on the quilt.] and on the center fan of this hanging I put a pointed lace because it's kind of a different color with the reds and the oranges and the rust colors, where the other fans on the outside have the rounded lace on them.

LS: I see that. [SG indicates yes.] I see you've got beads and the ribbon, and you've got some jewelry.

SG: Yes. I was looking for something to fill some of the space especially if you have a larger--I don't do things in a small way, usually so many of my pieces are somewhat larger. I was digging in a drawer and something that surfaced. I hadn't seen for a long time was my grandmother's jewelry, some my grandmother and my great aunt. My great aunt's husband worked for a jeweler, and she always had the finest of costume jewelry and real jewelry. And my grandmother, Bertha [Gregg.], was the plain one of the group, the hard working, pioneer woman's type. But anyway, I found several pieces. [points to things on the quilt.] There's one that has a couple of flowers tied to a ribbon, tied by ribbon as a pin. This is a button with four different stones in it. It's kind of like a four-leaf clover. I have another one in here--this was a-- back in the old days, they did a lot of the--I guess you'd want to call it a rhinestone, and lot of the gold. And then I have just a motif with sequins done in a dark blue. And here's a floral pin that I just pinned on there. I have a pin my mother had with her name, 'Virginia,' for Virginia Gregg. I had made kind of a, what do you call those things? They hung them on the wall. Anyway, it's a couple of lines of like a fern or a palm and I stuck her name in-between that. And then here's a button--a big black button with a gold casing around it and then a really old pin. You can tell how old the pins are by how they hook in the back, usually. And this is a--looks like a chrysanthemum and it fitted right in. And then on the Crazy Quilts--I have a Crazy quilt top of my grandmother, Aimee Hunter. And she made it in 1894 and she was sixteen years old at the time. And on--it's interesting. She has a flag of the time, and you can write inscriptions on your Crazy Quilts. Embroider them on, and she had "Remember the Maine" 'cause that was happening at the time. And she also had a number of--she had a couple of names and then she had a lot of initials. And I've still been trying to figure out who some of those initials are but you can write anything--on one block here in the center above the main block [points to quilt block.] I have my patriot's name, "Corson," for Joseph Corson.

LS: Patriot? You mean for Daughters of the American Revolution?

SG: That's right, for the DAR. And so, I put Corson on there. I also have--there was something else I was going to say.

LS: Earlier, were you thinking of those hair pictures that they made with hairs, strands of hair?

SG: Swags.

LS: Swags. Okay. [both laugh.]

SG: When you get older, Linda, sometimes it takes a while to cough up the real words so if there's any quiet moments in here, I am probably waiting for the word to come up. But you can do almost anything with your quilts, and they make a nice heirloom to pass down.

LS: What made you choose this quilt for today's interview; of all the quilts and things you've made?

SG: I think it's kind of unique. A lot of the Crazy Quilts--I have one that Sue [Engelman.] gave me. I'll have to tell you this story. Sue gave me--she's given me--she decided she didn't want to Crazy Quilt anymore. So, she brought over 3½ carloads of fabrics to me. And in one of them there was a Crazy quilt blanket--a big size quilt and here in Independence [Missouri.] was it last year--it got so cold there at one point and I was freezing in my house I went out in the garage and found that quilt and put it on my bed. And so, I have been sleeping under it. My pets loved it. [both laugh.] But in the old-fashioned Crazy Quilts they more or less put a patch on patch, and sometimes there wasn't a method to it. I use more of a contemporary type of patterns after what Judith Montano used with a five--you start with a five cornered piece and you work around a circle, either clockwise or counterclockwise. And that way it never gets boxed in looking, where it looks like a set of bricks going across the fabric and that makes life interesting, too.

LS: It sounds like you love Crazy Quilting.

SG: Well, you do. You can give, some of the classes I teach, you can give them all the same fabric, the same amount of fabric and even give them the pattern if they need one. But no two things will come out looking the same.

LS: You say that you have taught classes?

SG: Yes, I've taught at Joann's Super Store [chain store.] here in Independence [Missouri.]. It's an art/craft store. They have floral. They have everything in there. And also, taught Crazy Quilting there. I also taught a class in wool--the felted wool. Well, it was a wool table runner and I taught a couple of other classes. And then I also taught at the Hancock's Fabric Store [chain store.] here in Independence and taught Crazy quilting there.

LS: Didn't I read, recently, that you were teaching a class at the National Trails Frontier Museum? [National Frontier Trails Museum. Independence, Missouri.]

SG: Yes, I am. I taught some Crazy quilt classes there and then I taught a class on a doll quilt. And we do it like the pioneers did because those women going west, I admire those women, they were tough. They were quilting along the trail, even but most of them--probably 99.9% of them did not have a sewing machine and it was all done by hand. So, I call the series that we do over at the Trails Museum, "Quilting on the Trails" and everything's done by hand. We have a very large quilt hanging in the gift shop at the museum, and there's about 72 blocks in it. The center block takes up four blocks as one and it has a covered wagon and the Independence, Missouri logo on it and so we are replicating that. Each block was done by a different group in the community so there's very few that are the same block, and they all look different. But we are doing one--we're replicating that into a five-inch block squares, so we do a block of the month. Only it's two blocks of the month and I'm redrawing the patterns to that size because the normal size block in there is about nine to ten inches.

LS: When you say, 'we are redoing it, replicating it,' are you talking about staff at the museum?

SG: No, I'm doing it. [laughs.]

LS: You're doing it.

SG: They're there for support. [both laugh.] And trying to round up customers.

LS: At what age did you start quilting?

SG: Well, I am 69 now. Just turned 69 a month or so ago and so it had to be probably when I was in my late fifties.

LS: And you say you are self-taught?

SG: Yeah. I took those--went and joined the--we had a little sewing bee up at the Cat's Whiskers Antique and Quilt Shop on the historic Independence Square. And then from just reading books and constantly looking at what's going on in the quilt magazines. I have quite an accumulating--I am a book person and so I've been accumulating quilting books and old quilting magazines.

LS: You mentioned you have a group that you quilt together with. Do you still do that?

SG: Yeah, a very small group. There's three of us. Hoping to gain a fourth one [laughs.] if you'll join us but we have a good time. We all do different things. Surprising, my BFF, [best friend forever.] Sue [Engelman.], likes to do little, tiny things. She made the Dear Jane quilt. The blocks are very small [laughs.] or the pieces are very small. And where I like to do the beauty of Crazy Quilting--is that there are no mistakes, no points to match, no errors. You just cover it up somehow or embellish it. [LS laughs.] And then Cathy, she does her thing, Cathy Markley, another BFF, and we get along well. We've had so many interesting road trips going around to the shop hops and I'm getting ready to do some tote bags for Christmas for some relatives and on one of the shop hops, I picked up a piece of Laurel Burch fabric. Laurel Burch makes--you may have seen them out in the marketplace, usually a black background or I think she has burgundy background on some things but has a lot of cats on it and they're in florescent colors, and just not the typical design of a cat. Not like a real photograph of a cat, but some strange ones, and there's some with lightning on it and different things. On that one shop hop I bought a yard here and a yard there, we did about twelve shops that one day and I think I had spent way over $200 on my little pieces. But it ought to make something interesting.

LS: And you do make gifts for family and friends?

SG: [indicates, yes.] I have given quite a few things away.

LS: How many hours a week do you say you quilt now?

SG: Well, on working on this quilt, I've been on it hot and heavy for about six or seven weeks. When I am not working at the museum, I was usually quilting. I even quilted at the museum on the job. I have a very easy job at the museum in the gift shop, greeting customers and talking with them. And talking to the kids that come in, and people.

LS: What is your first quilt memory?

SG: Probably, you mean in just seeing a quilt or--

LS: Well, maybe this, no, you're actual doing a quilt. Is there a funny situation or something that stands out with your quilting?

SG: Well, I could tell you about the wedding quilt that my little group made. Well, it ended up it was just Sue [Engelman.] and I making it. But we did make the mother of the bride, Cathy, [Markley.] put the border, final border on it. Cause she was never around, we [laughs.] Cathy's daughter was engaged, became engaged, she got engaged end of March I believe it was and was not getting married 'til the following March. Well, we didn't know if it was going to stick or not, whether you know, it would last. And so, we just kept putting it off and putting it off. At Christmas time I called over to Cathy's house and the bride answered--the bride to be, answered. And I said, 'Oh, is the wedding still on?' because I hadn't heard. She said, 'Oh, yes.' So, I called Sue in January and I said, 'We've got to start that quilt because the wedding is in early March.' And I think in about 3 1/2 weeks we had the--and we did a Log Cabin quilt that had several different borders on it. We had seen a picture in a magazine where they had the center block had a day lily. It was a very attractive type thing, so we decided to do something very similar. I drew the pattern on the computer and printed it off for us, so we paper pieced it which made our logs pretty accurate. We put that thing together. We sewed on it every chance we got. Then put it together, took it to a quilter to have it quilted down in Garden City, Missouri and had it done in about 3 1/2 weeks.

LS: I attended that wedding, and I believe, didn't you have all the guests sign different areas?

SG: No, they were signing another quilt that they had.

LS: Well, that was kind of an interesting concept to have the guests sign a quilt for the bride and groom.

SG: Well, It's quite a memory. I mean, instead of a book why not a quilt, cause a quilt will last a long time and you probably would see it more often and recall the memories of the wedding and who was there.

LS: You mentioned paper pieced. Can you describe what that means?

SG: [indicates, yes.] Paper piecing, it's a thing from the old days because up at the 1859 Jail and Marshal's Home up on the historic [Independence, Missouri.] square, Sue [Engelman.] and I put together a quilt show for them a couple of years ago and we got into the archives of the Jackson County Historical Society. And in that, we were bringing the quilts down, and in one of the quilts was paper piecing with The Kansas City Star from way back. It's been over a hundred years ago and that was probably the oldest paper piecing I've ever seen. And still had a lot of The Kansas City Star still on the back of it but you put your design on a paper that's not too thick so it's easy to remove. And on the Log Cabin, I drew it on the--in a program on my Page Maker program in the computer then printed off the blocks. And then when you go to sew--we cut our strips and we had the center block cut so you start with the center block and it looks just like a bunch of logs, squares going around. Most people have seen Log Cabins. You hold up to the light, or where you can see through, and the printed part is facing you, the clear part, and the fabric goes face out on the other side of the paper and then you line up going around and you sew on those lines so you have fabric on one side, sewing on the other side and then at the end you have to pull all the paper off or you can leave it on depending on what you are going to do.

LS: You talked about creating the pattern on the computer. Has technology changed how someone quilts?

SG: There's a lot of computerized quilting programs now. You can find a lot of quilt patterns on the internet now at different sites. Somebody gave me the name of one the other day. I'm having one of my moments here. [laughs.] But, anyway, if you go to Google, you can put in quilt patterns and see a number of things on there and they have where the quilting programs will even draw the pattern off, print the pattern off for you. And then you have your computerized sewing machines now. If you key in your pattern, they'll just do it for you.

LS: Oh, they do? [both talk at same time.] That's good.

SG: They sew it for you.

LS: Do you mostly prefer hand quilting, or do you use the machine a lot?

SG: At the museum we do hand quilting. We're not set up for a whole lot of sewing machines or I hadn't brought up the subject to them, really. It's just easier because we're kind of doing what they did in the old days. I do a lot of hand work. Often. Now on this one, it's a combination of the two. Sometimes I would piece the fans by hand. The beauty of working in blocks is that you can do it at your own speed and your own time and pick it up whenever. And then I found that embroidering was a very therapeutic thing that dropped my blood pressure because you calm down. You've only got that in your mind about what you are doing on stitches.

LS: So quilting relaxes you?

SG: Right.

LS: Do you watch television while you're quilting?

SG: [laughs.] I live with pets. There's pets in and out. They love the sewing room. I try to keep them away from the fabrics, but they do love to come in the sewing room and see what's going on. I often have the radio going or the TV going but you just kind of block that out. It's kind of back--I live alone so it's like background noise, like a family would be there.

LS: You have a special room that you sew in and quilt in?

SG: I started out with a small bedroom. And then as, when people find out that you sew or you are doing quilting, as has been my case, they have given me all their fabrics. And therefore, I thought I'd move it to the bigger bedroom. Now I have two sewing rooms and they're both full. [laughs.] And then I have overflow in some of the family room, but I do the machine work in the small sewing room. On this one I did the basics and then I sit out in my family room and do a lot of the hand work.

LS: Do you use a design wall? Do you lay things? Put things up on the wall and kind of put it all together before you start? Do you create the look in your mind?

SG: Well, on this wall hanging I've had this in my mind for quite a few months. And so, when we decided to do this interview, we talked about it a long time ago, that I sketched it out. I always draw things out and sketch it out. I knew, and I could see it in my mind. I could see the colors in my mind that I wanted. And then it was--I clipped. In fact, at the museum, the curator gave me a magazine one day and it had the colors that I love to work with on one of the pages and so I cut that page out and I carry it in my purse. And then when I go to look for fabrics I can kind of keep in line and not get too wild with something that I'll probably never use.

LS: What are your favorite colors to work with?

SG: Well, I like, just like what is in the quilt here, a lot of the blues, greens, turquoise. I like the reds also, the different shades of reds. I go through these different little phases. Sometimes it's an orange phase and I like gold thread, kind of a golden colored thread and see the oranges and burgundies all work altogether. So, it all comes out really nicely, I think.

LS: Any particular color you don't like at all?

SG: I'm not really a brown person. Although Sue [Engelman.] gave me a couple of fat quarters that she got, bought, up in Omaha [Nebraska.] at a retreat she went to and that brown's not bad. But I have no brown in my wardrobe even. So, I would say brown.

LS: You said, 'fat quarters'?

SG: Fat quarters.

LS: What is that?

SG: A fat quarter is a quarter of a yard. [laughs.] It's probably a marketing term, but it's a quarter of a yard and it's usually, most usually 18 by 22 [inches.] which is good, but you could also go to the shop and just have them cut a quarter of a yard for you.

LS: What do you think makes a great quilt?

SG: Well, craftsmanship would be one thing, an important thing. I think colors or something of interest. You could look at some quilts--well, one of the most unique quilts I saw was done in white at the Crown Center down in Kansas City, [Missouri.] and has an annual quilt show, and it was done in white but the way it was quilted the back was more spectacular than the front which was very unusual. And it was just--I still remember that and that's been about five or six years ago I saw that but I think--to me color or the way it's put together, the pattern also. Now, my grandmother--course, this was back in the depression era and all where she was making her quilts. She has some awful looking color mixes. [laughs.] Bless her heart, she did a good job.

LS: Are there particular artists that have influenced you? You said you read a lot. [SG indicates yes.]

SG: Well, I go through periods. The Impressionists. Love the Impressionists, [Claude.] Monet and I had a [Maurice de.] Vlaminck period and just different ones. Love to go to the art galleries because you'll see a color combination sometimes or you'll see something in there that will trigger--I want to get more into the art quilts. I have some ideas of things of I want to, as I have more time you know away from the museum to get into that use a lot of different items on the quilt. They have an annual art quilt show in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania.] at the big museum and they had that on PBS [Public Broadcast System.] here and I bought the book to go with it and it is amazing what people are putting together out there if you let your imagination go. It's no holds barred.

LS: So, the artist in you kind of comes out? [SG indicates yes.] Are there any quilt makers that you admire?

SG: Well, Montano I think on Crazy Quilting. There's been a number of them around over the years. Crazy Quilting is probably not as popular as regular traditional quilting, but I think it can get your creative juices going a little more and having done both--cause on one of--the doll quilt that I made looks like a pioneer quilt. I want to embellish it with embroidery thread. [laughs.] And I may try that traditional quilt with the embellishments on it and see what happens.

LS: A traditional quilt, do you consider that a quilt you sleep under, and you put on your bed? What's the difference between traditional quilt and an artistic quilt?

SG: Artistic quilt. Well, an artistic quilt would be probably one that you hang on the wall, most usually, or drape over something. Where a traditional quilt is where you have the same pattern throughout the whole quilt. Where an art quilt will be whatever you want to put on there whether it's a christening dress or something you find, jewelry, just all different kinds of things that they've put on these things. And a lot of them are also landscapes or floral arrangements. The Baltimore [Album.] quilt where you have the patterns, but it looks similar all the way through, not the same pattern, but I mean it's set up the same way. Just like a Log Cabin quilt like the one we made would have the center block was a little different on each one. It wasn't very big. We didn't use the same fabrics throughout where on an art quilt you might just have anything flowing.

LS: You made family and friends gifts. What do you hope they do with the gifts that you've given them?

SG: Well, one requested a new tote bag. I gave her one, I didn't know what she would use it for or, this is my cousin, Carol Goergen, and she's still in her career. And I gave it to her, oh six years or so ago and it was an interesting one. I made it out of fabrics that looked like they were jungle oriented. And it was a very attractive, stunning little bag. And I thought, 'Well, maybe she'll use it and maybe she won't.' She's got briefcases and all these things. Well, come to find out, her laptop fits perfectly in it. [laughs.] And she says she always gets comments whenever she takes it anywhere. So, she wanted a new one. I'm going to make her a Laurel Burch wild, crazy one.

LS: So, you like it when they use your gifts?

SG: Yes. Well, yeah. It's nice. And for my neighbor, Carmen Crail, goes to the library and picks up about six or seven books at a time. I made her an oversized tote bag with cats on it. Normal looking cats. [laughs.] And she gets comments from the librarians all the time up there about her book bag.

LS: This has been delightful. We have learned quite a little bit about the artistic side of you, Sharron. Is there anything that you would like to add to this interview?

SG: I appreciate the time you've given me for this. I think it's very interesting, the more we can spread the word about Crazy Quilting is one reason I did it, but that I enjoy it so and I think it gives a whole new, old aspect, 'cause it's been around since--a long, long time. Queen Victoria was even crazy about the Crazy Quilts and that's when it kind of flourished back in the 1800's. So, it's still there and it surfaces every once in a while and gains a little popularity but not like what the traditional quilting is.

LS: Well, I'd like to thank Sharron Gregg for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. Our interview concluded at 2:45 [p.m.] on December 14, 2009.


“Sharron Gregg,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 23, 2024,