Helen Gregory




Helen Gregory




Helen Gregory


Judy Frisch

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Warsaw, Missouri


Judy Frisch


Judy Frisch (JF): My name is Judy Frisch and today's date is December 17, 2007, and it is 3:30 p.m. I am conducting an interview with Helen Gregory in her home in Warsaw, 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. Helen Gregory is a quilter and is a member of Thomas Hart Benton NSDAR National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Well Helen tell me about how you became interested in quilt making?

Helen Gregory (HG): I guess from my grandmother McLerran, she was always making quilts and every time we went, she would have a new quilt to show us. And of course, that was when I was a little girl.

JF: About how old were you?

HG: Probably 9 or 10. And she gave me two of her quilts that she pieced.

JF: Do you know when she gave them to you?

HG: She actually gave them to my parents and then they gave them to me.

JF: When did you start quilting?

HG: I did not get started until after I retired.

JF: Where did you work and when did you retire?

HG: I worked for United Missouri Bank for 39 years and with my husband raised two boys. I retired in 1998.

JF: How many quilts do you think you have made since you retired?

HG: I have made approximately 20 since retirement.

JF: Approximately how many hours a week do you quilt?

HG: At least 20 hours a week. Sometimes more and sometimes less. In the winter I spend more time quilting.

JF: Tell me about the quilt you brought today.

HG: It is called "Joys of Winter." I made this quilt in 2006. It's appliquéd blocks and also pieced showing the joys of winter with angels, Santa Clause, Christmas Trees and different winter scenes. Each block had snow I had to piece. There is a lot of piecing between the blocks. Blanket stitch and satin stitch was also used in the appliquéd pieces. There is a sewing group I meet with monthly at Columbia, MO where I purchased my sewing machine. We help each other in getting new ideas. The Joys of Winter quilt was an idea which this group decided to do. We met monthly and then went home and made our blocks. Then each month we came back and shared problems with the pattern and helped each other. It was a good experience to be around other quilters working on the same project.

JF: What kind of material?

HG: Cotton, of course picking your colors for the appliqué was a challenge.

JF: Why would it be a challenge?

HG: To coordinate you wouldn't want a red dog or a green dog and snowmen are all white and they must coordinate with the clothing.

JF: Why did you use cotton and not some other type of fabric?

HG: I think it makes a nicer kind of quilt and you do not want to mix up types of fabric and you want to use the same quality of fabric.

JF: How do you use this quilt?

HG: I use it at Christmas time. I put it on a bed for Christmas. We have overnight company at that time too.

JF: Do you have any plans for this quilt in the future?

HG: It will be something to pass on to my children.

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

HG: I could not have made a quilt like this with my old sewing machine. I have a computerized sewing machine. It has an integrated dual feed which feeds the fabric from the bottom and the top, so you do not get a lot of bunching up. It runs the fabric through smoothly.

JF: Do you have quilt friends that you quilt with? Or quilting groups you belong to? You mentioned going to Columbia.

HG: Here in Warsaw, we have a group which meets once a month. We take our sewing machines and meet at a Café called "Nana's". It is closed for the day, and it is just the quilters present. She fixes lunch for us. We work on our projects and have a good time exchanging ideas and visiting.

JF: How many ladies come to this group?

HG: We have about 12 to 15 each time.

JF: What about the group in Columbia, where do these ladies come from? I know you must drive 100 miles to get to this group.

HG: This group is called The Stitcher's Club and we also call ourselves the Sewing Biddies. We meet for lunch before we go to our meeting in Columbia. One of the ladies picks out the restaurant and we meet there first. These ladies come from Columbia, Jefferson City and one lady comes from Sedalia. Sometimes I cannot go. We also communicate online through the internet. This last time we took pictures and put them online so we could see the other member's work. There were 60 pictures posted.

JF: This is a great way to share.

HG: Sometimes we have a problem in quilting, and we can ask each other questions and get the answer online. It is like having a Stitcher's Club chat room.

JF: How has quilt making impacted your family?

HG: My kids and grandkids love the quilts. I have made both of my daughter-in-laws two apiece. Of course, it is for use of the sons too, but the daughter-in-laws are most appreciative. I had fun with the grandchildren's quilts. I made Alex a basketball quilt appliquéing a basketball it was a neat quilt and he has it hanging in his room. I made Austin a flannel quilt and denim using old jeans mostly red and blue. It was a cozy warm quilt. My daughter in law Gretchen said last year when we had such a cold day, they were told to take something to school to share. Austin wanted to take the red, blue flannel denim quilt because it was so warm and cozy. I made my granddaughter Emily a Sunbonnet Sue Quilt. The Sunbonnet Sues' are appliquéd, and it also has her doing different scenes in the blocks. Emily has her quilt on her bed. I made her another quilt for this Christmas. Her mother wants to save the Sun Bonnet Sue so it will be a keepsake for her someday. This quilt is for her bed, and it will be for her to keep warm and cozy.

JF: What do you like the most about quilting?

HG: Creating something beautiful out of scraps.

JF: What aspect about quilting do you not enjoy?

HG: I don't particularly like to hand quilt. I either quilt my product on the machine or I hire the larger ones done. I have selected people who do an excellent job on the machine.

JF: What do you think makes a quilt great?

HG: Workmanship, eye appeal. Also, if you know the person you are doing it for, as most of mine are gifts. You have special pride in your quilt.

JF: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

HG: Design, color, fabric quality and workmanship.

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

HG: Design, age, uniqueness.

JF: Why is quilting quilt making important to your life?

HG: Enjoyment of making the quilts. Creating something beautiful from fabric.

JF: In what ways does your quilts reflect your community or region?

HG: I think quilting design selection is individual taste. Our area is more likely to create quilts which are similar to the Early American Era.

JF: What do you think about the importance of quilts in America Life?

HG: It is a way of passing on our Heritage to our family.

JF: In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for the women's history in America?

HG: In different ways. It was a social event with the quilting bees. It was a way of making something out of nothing scraps to quilts for warmth. Older historic quilts can tell a story of the handcrafts used at that time. Our quilts today will tell a story in 100 years especially if the family keep them.

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

HG: I suppose similar to my daughter in law Gretchen, she is putting back my granddaughter's Sunbonnet Sue to save it for her when she becomes an adult.

JF: What has happened to the quilts that you have made or those of friends and family?

HG: I have given most of mine away. Of course, to family and friends. I made two Patriotic Quilts for Thomas Hart Benton Chapter, MSSDAR and they were raffled to earn money for our student scholarships and patriotic programs. We made $1,800 for these quilts. The Chapter bought the fabric however all the rest was donated by me. I recently made a quilt for the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and the pattern was "Granny's Jam". This quilt was raffled to put insulation in the new VFW building. We collected $650. The quilt was won by a lady in Tipton, Missouri and she is donating the quilt for a benefit in Tipton, Missouri. The benefit is for a child who was born blind, and the benefit money will help finance a surgery performed in China which will correct her sight.

JF: Helen it sounds like the quilts that you make so many times benefit others. I want to thank you today for letting me interview you for the [Quilters' S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project.


“Helen Gregory,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 23, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1826.