Louetta Kullmann




Louetta Kullmann




Louetta Kullmann


Judy Frisch

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Lincoln, Missouri


Judy Frisch


Judy Frisch (JF): My name is Judy Frisch and today's date is December 20th, 2007, and it is 3:45 [p.m.] and I am conducting an interview with quilter Louetta Kullmann. Louetta tell me about the quilt you brought in today?

Louetta Kullman (LK): I actually brought three quilts today; they are the ones that I have done in 2007 which will be surprise Christmas gifts for my daughter, my son and my granddaughter. We can talk about any of them or just specifically one of them. Probably my favorite right now would be called "Winter Wishes" which is an appliquéd quilt.

JF: Who is the recipient of "Winter Wishes"?

LK: That would be my daughter Sonya Kay Cox and she had seen a picture of it and said she really thought this was neat and so I tried to keep my mouth shut [laughs.] and enroll for the class and it was basically a block of the month.

JF: Okay, you are going to have to help me here, on block of the month, is that where the company sends you a block or how does that work?

LK: We actually work with Apple Tree Quilting one of the instructors there actually went ahead and selected the fabric and cut the various size pieces that we would need and then for each block. In January, we received one of the blocks and then we went home then to go ahead and cut out our pieces fuse it, and then fuse it to our background fabric then each of the pieces of the appliqué are machine quilted around it most of them are with a blanket stitch.

JF: Okay. I guess, do you think because you were quilting the same quilt that other people were quilting that it made it easier or more difficult or did you really just never see them again?

LK: Yes I do see these people occasionally, I have not seen their quilts put together, we would always do show and tell the next month and it was always interesting to see because there would people that would embellish their pieces in fact one of the Christmas trees the first one I did after I got home from the Show and Tell and getting our next block I actually went to the machine and added some garland because I liked that some put bells on it and some did three dimensional kind of things also so it was interesting to see how each lady actually made it their own quilt even though it was the same fabric

JF: Okay Same fabric but they had their own personality.

LK: That's right.

JF: I guess you told me about the pattern. What kind of fabric?

LK: It's all 100% cotton.

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

LK: I think because my daughter loves Christmas so much it is something that shows all kinds of things; people caroling; a log cabin in the woods and they do have a log sided home: the wreaths; kids playing in the snow all things she enjoyed doing. Even though it does not really doesn't have a religious meaning on the front side I did add the quote on the back that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season."

JF: I thought that was real interesting how you made a more or less a little gift card or whatever you would call it on the back. It looks like it would mean a lot to me if my mother gave me a quilt and signed it and just giving a little quote.

JF: What do you think your daughter's plans will be for this quilt?

LK: It will definitely go on her bed at Christmas. It would not surprise me when they get to build their new house if it wouldn't stay in a guest room, permanently.

JF: I see you have another quilt here one you said was for your granddaughter. Do you want to tell me about that quilt?

LK: Yes, in fact that started out as a small wall hanging another class that I took simply again because again I was wanting to learn different techniques and this one included machine embroidery the puffing, rushing, piecing, it was a little wall hanging. I thought well I don't have any place to put a wall hanging or that is not my thing well ok let's see how we can make this into a twin size spread so that when my granddaughter goes from her baby bed this can go on a twin-size bed.

JF: Louetta, I forgot to ask you what the name of your Granddaughter's quilt is?

LK: It's called "Chantilly Lace."

JF: Well, that is a fitting name.

JF: I noticed the colors; they are really coordinated well. It's got lavender, yellow, a little bit of creamy color, some olive green. Did you do all that color coordinating?

LK: Actually, I found the one piece which was my "inspiration fabric" and which was small, almost a purple bluish color, not a true lavender or purple but it is kind of a blue especially when you try to get fabrics to go with it. That was my inspiration fabric and then I found a piece of a lavender that went with it that almost has shattered lines of like a glass would look like if it was shattered it's not too much but yet there's a little definition on it. And then several other colors that I had the women at Apple Tree help me pick because at this point, I am still not very good or don't feel comfortable selecting fabrics for quilts because you do have to have enough contrast between those to have things pop or show up. And so with their help, they helped me find the coordinating fabrics.

JF: You have so many different kinds of stitching in this quilt. The puffy, the little almost pleated. Is that all done with your sewing machine.

LK: Yes, there is twin needle work which makes up the basically inch grids on the diagonal so actually you are embellishing that purple or that lavender I told you about. Then also that is the same thing I used on the ruching or gathering puffing, it was one of the first times I had used a gathering foot on my machine probably since fabric sewing way back when, so it was just another technique or something different.

JF: It's just beautiful.

LK: Thank you.

JF: It's just the way the different stitches that you used it just gives it such a variety. It's interesting to the eye.

LK: Thank you.

LK: And this is also my first machine quilting project which was interesting. [laughs.]

JF: So, you did quilt this totally on your machine?

LK: I did. Yes.

LK: A lot of it is stitch of the ditch, there is some free motion quilt work on some of the pieces.

JF: I noticed in the one place that it is very, very close.

LK: Yes.

JF: Was that done on the block before you quilted it?

LK: Correct.

JF: Was it?

LK: Yes.

JF: It is very beautiful!

LK: And there again I am not very good a free motion work yet and so I did use one of the stitches on my machine and tried to do that.

JF: You could definitely fool me!

LK: [laughs.] Thank you.

JF: It looks very professional, very professional.

JF: While we are talking, we talked about your daughters quilt you made her for Christmas and your granddaughters now let's talk about the one you made for your son. What is the name of it?

LK: It's called Storm at Sea, it is a pattern that Shar Jorgenson who's a national educator developed, and I actually took a class with her when she came to Missouri. And so, it and that was when I first starting to quilt which was last year. And so with the name Storm at Sea, I loved one blue fabric I had seen at Appletree Quilting again and so then the colors again I let them help me select and one of the colors in it is a funny green is not my favorite at all and yet they assured me it was something I really needed in there to give that contrast and in the quilt I love it.

JF: It is beautiful.

LK: It will be dedicated; the label on the back side is not completed right now because I wanted to verify all the information. It will be dedicated to my son's time in the Navy.

JF: Well, I know that he will be very proud of that. It is hard to believe that a young man would want a quilt, but I know by my own sons it is pretty important. It is something that their mother made as a gift.

JF: Moving right along, I am going to ask you some questions about how you became interested in quilting?

LK: Since I really did not start quilting until this last year or two. You have to remember that I did start sewing probably when I was younger than 8. I joined 4-H as soon as I could. Sewing was one of the things I took. I basically grew up as a garment sewer. I could do some curtains for my room when I was in high school but basically a garment sewer. My mother was a quilter. Of course, I tried to do some hand quilter when she had the ladies in big quilt took over the dining room it was a great time for everybody gathering around and doing the hand quilting and visiting. I love her quilts, but it was just not my thing to do so it is something my sister-in-law enjoyed doing so after I retirement I thought well I will go ahead and take a class or two along with her and so this year it kinda developed into a big project.

JF: Well, you know it almost seems like all of that background kind of came to a head because everything is just lovely, and it is hard to believe it has just been a year.

LK: Thank you.

JF: It's amazing.

LK: You know there are techniques that are similar but yet so much more to learn in fact one of the biggest mistakes I made on "Winter Wishes" couldn't figure out why my border measurements weren't working out for the quilt itself and finally we discovered that my definition of a "finished edge" as a garment sewer is different than a "finished edge" of the quilting world and so when I put the borders together I did have to make a little bit larger seams on some of the pieces in order for it to fit perfectly. If I wouldn't tell anybody that they wouldn't know it.

JF: Well, what is it? I am like you I am a seamstress, 5/8 inches.

LK: Okay you normally use ¼ inches or a scant ¼ inches in quilting so when I completed the block it said finished edge so I took my ruler and squared up the block to the measurement they gave me however that would be ½ inches seam ¼ & ¼ equaling the ½ being taken off later so my quilt became slightly smaller. So, a new thing I have learned.

JF: Yes.

LK: It's worked out and I think that is the thing with anything new that you do, and you learn new things and that's why I think it's great to learn from experts and to talk to others and see what they have done and what has worked out for them.

JF: I agree.

JF: Louetta about how much time do you think you use per week on quilting?

LK: Ooh Some weeks zero and other weeks especially as it became closer to Christmas it was like how am I going to get everything done and so yes there were lots and lots of hours and especially this last week, watching TV and doing the hand stitching on the binding lots of hours were spent

JF: It looks like you are close to ready, here it is the 20th [laughs.] and you have some breathing room here.

LK: Yes, I do and in fact when we leave here today, they will go in their boxes and bags and hidden until Christmas morning.

JF: Well, I can tell, and I am asking this question, how does quilting impact your family? But I can see you are going to have some wonderful Christmas gifts.

LK: I hope so and I am waiting the reaction. How does it impact my family, my husband probably would say [laughs.] I wish this mess would get out of here. [laughs.]

JF: He would probably be proud too!

LK: I hope so but one end of our family room which used to be the library I've taken over as the second sewing room in fact for Christmas last year, my son and husband made a cutting table for me that folds down and I don't think it has been folded down very often because there is always something and if nothing else to store my junk but you do have to have a place to work and it is difficult to do it and not make a mess and it would be nice to have one room that was dedicated to where you could simply close the door walk out.

JF: Hide your sewing.

LK: Yes.

JF: Tell me if you ever used quilts or quilting to get through a difficult time?

LK: Course I had breast cancer a couple of years ago. I can't say that the quilting itself did, but I continued to take classes. In fact, the second class I had taken with Shar Jorgenson was right after I started chemo and I had one treatment and I actually scheduled my first treatment so that I would have her class and then that next Monday be ready to take my 2nd treatment, so I guess 'yes.' [laugh.] And that was also the weekend I started losing my hair and it was very interesting because at that point you found out there were others that had gone through the same thing. So, it was a sharing experience. That's the way I feel about our monthly or bimonthly meetings that we have at Appletree. You learn something about people and they're there to give support.

JF: Maybe what I should ask you right now. It sounds to me like you used it almost like a therapy.

LK: I think so.

JF: Sharing learning about their problems and yours did not seem so bad. Also, a way of keeping your mind off of it.

LK: Yes.

JF: But I was wondering you brought up Appletree a couple of times, maybe you should explain to me about what Appletree is?

LK: Appletree Quilting is a store in Columbia, Missouri. It used to be called Silks and More. It took me a long time to switch the names but again the emphasis is in sewing over the years has changed one time when they started it was definitely fashion with a little bit of quilting craft projects and now it is very little garment sewing and the craft and the quilting is the major focus so we have an owner there that is very into having classes for all ages from young children on up to we had one women that was 90. Some that came, so it is a wide variety, and they try to have some experts come in to give programs as well as just their own staff or people like me if I had a specialty, they might ask me to teach a class.

JF: About how many are there when you go to this class?

LK: Normally if we are talking about Viking Club which is now meeting every other month, we probably have at least 20 at least for our day group and then there is also a group the night before.

JF: So, they have the products?

LK: They have the products. They do have the Viking sewing machines. They have an excellent person that is a retired math teacher, she is their machine repair person, and she also teaches most of the software classes. The owner is also willing to send some of their staff to national educators to be certified to be able to teach that particular.

JF: Okay so they can keep your machine working.

LK: Yes.

JF: They also can provide you with further instructions according to where you are.

LK: Correct.

LK: Also, very good in terms of you just calling up and saying, 'I have this problem and how can I solve it?' What is happening and very, very willing to work with you? A wide variety of materials to choose from like the flannels which some people enjoy working with up the cottons and bold prints or muted tones, a wide variety.

JF: What do you think is the most pleasing thing you have found about quilting?

LK: It's just another way to use my sewing skills. In fact, when I was in high school, I knew I didn't want to go to work at the high school so I decided well I'll just go on to college [laughs.] and I was looking at okay, what can I do? I was very, very limited in what I thought the job market was out there and I knew I didn't want to be a waitress, I knew I didn't want to be a secretary, well I could do the sewing the cooking so naturally I chose to go into Home Economic Education which today is called Family Consumer Sciences so for 15 years I actually taught Home Economics and then I changed into the Counseling field and worked in that for 20 years. I think by the time I retired from education; I learned a few more than 5 job careers that was just how I saw the world around me at that point.

JF: I can understand that.

LK: I think I am coming back to a first love that I had.

JF: Well, I think from the colors you picked even though someone else helped you pick them and the choices of designs I can see your background and also your personal creativity is all these and it is just there. What do you think, so really what you are telling me is you've came back in some ways to enjoy making the product making something.

LK: I've always done sewing while my mother was still alive and very active. I made all of my clothes in fact we worked together normally every weekend so it was a time we could share something that both of us loved, cloth the family so I probably did a lot of garment sewing in fact my whole wardrobe--

JF: You still do some!

LK: Yes, in fact when my daughter was pregnant I did quite a few of her professional clothes she is a morning anchor for a television station and the thing that we found was there just wasn't a lot of professional clothes out there that she felt comfortable wearing on the air and so I did get busy and made quite a few of her maternity suits. I will continue to do some of that but not to the extent that I used to make garments.

JF: What do you think makes a great quilt?

LK: I think something that expresses who you are making it for expresses your own desires color choices designs at this point I have not gone about creating my own designs I guess you could call Madeline's quilt a matter of taking something that was a design and then changing it to make into a twin size quilt and I had to laugh because my sister in law did take this class with me and we both were looking at how can we change this and I had my thing out on a grid how I thought we could make it bigger and so we got together and I looked at hers and first thing I said was well we can tell who is the quilter Because her design made it look like a quilt I had just stuck two pieces together is what it reminded me of. So, I asked permission if I could kind of copy her idea for the center and actually, she wound up copying some of my ideas for the side so sharing again.

JF: There you go. There are a few questions I would like to ask you about, what do you think, we have quilts in museums what do you think makes them appropriate to be in a museum or a special collection of some kind.

LK: I think that the creativity some of the quilts that are in like Paducah, Kentucky museum these are original designs they are unique I can think of the one down at Heit's Point which is a Lutheran Church Camp outside of Lincoln, Missouri there is a beautiful wall hanging in the chapel. In fact, it is huge, and it actually was totally made out of yoyos which are the circles of fabric which are gathered with the sides pulled up. It was for a National LWML convention don't quote me on that, but I think that is what it was made for, and you know after the meeting was over it was like well what are we going to do with it, and somebody did said well we'll find a place for it. It is absolutely beautiful down at Heit's Point, there is one whole wall that is blank, and this is where it is hanging so you know it is a work of art yet again brings nature inside. I saw one gentleman's quilt, I believe he was from Texas that each of the pieces were less than an inch square and he actually it was a picture of the Lord's Supper and again this was a huge, huge quilt this was like his second or third quilt he had done he had actually taken a digital photograph of the Lord's Supper and then taken it down to the pixels then color coordinated fabrics and put this quilt together and my question to him is what are you going to do with it and he said right now it is touring the country different ones have ask me to come to show it and he said hopefully it will inspire people, bring the word of God to the nation and he said it will find it's home so where that home is I don't know. Because I have not checked on it any further and again it was a unique interesting way of recreating a famous painting, so I think you know it depends on what that museum is trying to do. I did go to a special quilt display that was in Washington, D.C. and it was on Gee's County, Alabama. It was an isolated area of black culture that in the 20s and 30s very isolated and again those quilts told the story of their heritage and how they started and as you look at the quilts you might think it is not very good but then you look at the situation and again one of the Public Works WPA. I believe projects had gone in and photographed and interviewed the everyday quilts the everyday quilts and that is what these were they had the purpose of keeping somebody warm, so they used every scrap fact one of the ladies that was interviewed said she made her quilts from skirt tails and shirt tails meaning those parts of the garment that had not worn out.

JF: Not faded? Or even if they somewhat faded but the fabric itself was not worn out. And so, I think it depends on what it is you want to communicate in that museum. So, in the same thought what makes a great quilter?

LK: I think it has to come down to someone who loves what they are doing, it may not be the best quality as you get older your quality is not as good as it used to be the stitches are not as fine as they used to be. In fact, my mother would kind of chuckle at one woman's quilting because she said, 'You could get your big toe caught in them,' meaning the stitches were pretty far apart and hers were just absolutely beautiful. Again, as she became older, she was not able to do that tiny moves anymore so no they were not quite as good but there was still that love and joy and a pass time. That is why quilting is becoming popular again, it something you can do its calming you can still be creative.

JF: I can tell by my mother in laws quilting, she has such a passion for it. In what you talked about what you really do not know how to pick the fabrics or the colors and the designs how would you acquire that ability?

LK: I think doing what I am doing right now just continually doing more and more and you know maybe coming into one technique that you like better than the other, but I like the change up to try new things and if I goof, so what I can take it out and do it again or I'll find someway

JF: I have heard with other quilters they don't want to do the same pattern again they want to do something different.

LK: Even the very simple ones, four patch and nine patch you can take something very simple like that and just do a change up and it makes all the difference in the world, so I think again it is just skill building.

JF: Talking to me it seems like you have done some machine quilting on the smaller quilt, on your granddaughter's quilt but how do you feel about machine quilting versus the hand quilting? And there is also something called long arm quilting.

LK: Correct, which is a machine quilting I have always I think I will use the word "Hated" machine quilting that is an overall pattern but yet I have seen a few things where it doesn't look bad. The machine quilters that are there now and with the type of machines that they have if you noticed those of mine that I have machine quilted for my kids it would have taken so many hours and it is very hard to find somebody who will do hand quilting and so you know I cherish the ones my mother did and my daughter has one that is just about finished that is hand pieced and hand quilted. Machine pieced, hand quilted, I love them but I don't have the patience for it, so the quilting that especially is done on "Winter Wishes," each block is quilted differently where there is sky most of the time those designs in that sections reflect what clouds might look like there's sections where there words are written like "Over the River and through the Woods to Grandmother's House We Go," which is the log cabin, "Silent Night Holy Night," "O Little Town of Bethlehem" are in with the carolers, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer had a Very Shiny Nose" is in with Santa and the Reindeers so this woman does the creative kind of machine quilting and I think it is beautiful.

JF: Yes, I can tell the difference in the last 5-10 years. Such creativity in the machine quilters.

LK: And this lady has a very good sense of just those basic skills of art looking at how to embellish something to make the quilt even that much nicer.

JF: Why do you think quilt making is important in your life, at this time in your life?

LK: I think of Mom every now and then 'I didn't think she would ever do that.'

JF: About your quilting?

LK: Oh yeah.

JF: She would be proud of you.

JF: In what ways do you think quilts reflect your community or Region? I think of this question like American Folk Art different types in America Now, Lincoln, Missouri.

LK: I think we still have a tradition of the traditional piecing; we are starting to see more of the machine appliquéd like I did my mother did some beautiful appliquéd work but again it was something she would do when she was sitting down in the evening and using it for relaxation. So, I think in this area of the country it still seems like it is the traditional patterns.

JF: Like the wedding ring?

LK: And it seems everybody that has ever quilted in this area has made some kind of a wedding ring or a double wedding ring which I may make one of these days, a small one. I think it is changing now it used to be using whatever scraps you have from the garments you created now we don't even think about that anymore we just go to the store and purchase our inspiration fabric and then with a number of pieces we need to go along with that for our pattern, so I think that has changed even though we still using the traditionally pieced patterns.

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

LK: I think they have always been cherished and been passed down through the families. I am sorry with my own mother's quilts that she did not go ahead and label them with what year they were done or when they were presented so some that she gave to my children I intent to at least put on that she pieced and quilted it and what year it was given to the children. I know when they were done in some cases 10-15-20 years previous but I think the focus now is always to go ahead and label your quilting and also saying to be sure that you stitch it into the quilt because if it is just on the back hand stitched on, I can remove that and then say it is my quilt. So that is the reason for sewing it in and quilting it in, so I think more and more people are doing that now, which I love.

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

LK: We have always had to do some kind of quilting even if it just simply means taking whatever scraps we had and sewing them together and putting some kind of something between them to add warmth to stay warm. Survival probably was the early reason for it and then again as women had more time or the class of people they were in I think when you look at classes cultures and very definitely see a difference there because you a woman who wouldn't have to work out in the fields or be at some job and still come home do all the cooking and cleaning and everything else probably had very little time so they were probably less elaborate. Where someone who had been from the upper class especially in the Victorian age where so important to do the samplers learn how to do all these stitches the needle work in those and they had the time to do that so we can look at our culture look at fabrics and see how those have changed through the ages and how some of the fabrics do make a comeback every 20 or 30 years. Right now, there are several lines of fabric which are inspiration from the 20s & 30s. And so again it's still trying to be in touch with what was there at one time.

JF: How do you think quilts can be used?

LK: Wall hangings, as a bedspread, thrown over a divan, one of the trunk shows I went to recently fabric designer and quilter that lived in Nebraska she has a basic color. Can't remember what it is called has a spread on her bed.

JF: We will continue with Tape 2, and we are discussing how to use quilts.

LK: I was talking about this one lady a National Educator used a solid color on her bed but even a small quilt she might put as points on the bed or maybe just folded at the end.

LK: Then when I was in Alaska, we actually had dinner at the home of some of the people, this lady and her husband actually homesteaded, and the homesteading actually happened in like the sixties. As we entered her house in the front over the front doorway, on the side was the heavy quilting, then we walked into the main living area and there was another quilt hanging over that doorway and also a quilt over the stairway going upstairs, so they used it as a way to control the heat or preserve the heat in a particular area.

LK: It could be for beautification purposes. My girlfriend has an old cupboard that she has antique quilts in with the doors open so that there on display. We see now old ladders being used where they roll the quilts over, so you know lots of ways for displaying as well as just hanging them on the wall.

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

LK: I hope that my kids use theirs so that maybe each day they will think of me I have now started using some of my mothers, it just reminds me of all the love and effort that she put into it. Would I let my kids use them, probably not, they do say that if you store them never wrap them in plastic you refold several times a year so that the creases are not at the same location but maybe having time out in the air so that they can breathe do some switching hopefully there is acid free tissue paper and other things I am just not real familiar with at this point and special detergents for washing.

JF: Well Louetta, you have told me a lot today and I really appreciate it. I think your quilts are lovely. I want to thank you for letting me interview you and I will be transcribing this and getting it to you.

LK: Thank you very much.


“Louetta Kullmann,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 13, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1827.