Julie Patterson




Julie Patterson




Julie Patterson


Lynn Kinsell

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Fallon, Nevada


Lynn Kinsell


Lynn Kinsell (LK): This is Dr. Lynn Kinsell. Today's date is March 7, 2009. The time is 3:00 p.m. and I'm conducting an interview with Julie Patterson for Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project [through the American Heritage Committee of the Nevada State Society Daughters of the American Revolution.]. We are meeting in Fallon, Nevada. Julie is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and belongs to the Washoe Zephyr Chapter in Virginia City. She lives in Reno, Nevada. Julie, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed with this lovely quilt. Tell me what is the name of this quilt that's your inspiration today?

Julie Patterson (JP): My quilt is named "Happy Hearts."

LK: And who made it?

JP: I made it

LK: What year did you make it?

JP: I made this in 2003.

LK: Will you describe it for your listening audience, what the pattern is, and the materials are that you used?

JP: Basically, it is a simple quilt, not so little, it's a bed sized quilt. It has hearts appliqu├ęd on blocks; five-inch hearts on nine-inch blocks. The hearts have been blanket stitched around, each of the hearts, and then I have echo quilted from the heart out to the edge of each block, about a quarter of an inch echo quilting. It's made of all 100% cotton. I've picked various patterns, prints, a lot of florals, some fun patterns. I have one that has a teddy bear in the middle of it. So, it's really a fun quilt, a happy quilt. That's why I named it "Happy Hearts."

LK: I understand and what special meaning does this quilt have for you?

JP: That's hard to say. I had fun making it. I have tried in the past to do machine quilting but for this one I did the hand quilting, and it was just so enjoyable - I would sit on my sofa and listen to the radio or watch TV and have a cat on the quilt and away I would just go around and quilt. It was just a very enjoyable experience.

LK: Sounds like good therapy.

JP: I think so.

LK: And why did you choose this quilt to bring to the interview?

JP: Well, I think it's my favorite quilt. It's slightly an original. I saw a pattern in a magazine, like a table runner and I just decided to make something a little bit bigger and away I went and ended up with it.

LK: And how do you use it?

JP: Well, basically it gets hung on the wall because I'm afraid to put it on a bed where my sheepdogs would use it as a bed. So, it's not getting used as a quilt as such but more of an art piece hanging on the wall.

LK: and is that where you plan to keep it or are you going to do something else with it?

JP: I will probably keep it there. Right now, it's so nice on the bed, I'm enjoying it, but I know I don't want to have it ruined. I'm afraid it's destined to not be used as a quilt.

LK: Well, it is a work of art, and I should mention at this point that it has been sent into DAR as the Nevada representative for the Fiber Arts section of the American Heritage contest and we'll find out at Continental Congress this summer how well it did compare with all the other states.

JP: It'll be interesting to see who the winner is. We have a lot of experienced quilters in the DAR.

LK: Well, and now you're one of them. The second part of our interview is all about you. Tell me about your interest in quilt making.

JP: I started quilt making in later life. I was in my forties. I took a couple of classes and then I just went on from there. Whenever I see an interesting quilt in a magazine either I'll make it or adapt something or make something like it.

LK: Any particular quilt teachers who made a big impression on you?

JP: I can't think of any. I just go with what I like. I think I come from a long line of sewers. I had a great grandmother who was a seamstress in San Francisco [California.] and that's come down the maternal line to me. I think I've found my niche. I like doing it.

LK: So, in your quilting family you have a great grandmother. Who else in your family quilts?

JP: I really cannot remember any quilts in the family. I remember my mother once made a comforter and I know she had machine quilted the top of it but I don't believe it was pieced or anything. I remember it was so nice and warm. We had it up at our cabin at Lake Tahoe and it was very nice on those cold nights.

LK: That's a good memory. Are there other ways that quilt making has impacted your family?
JP: I don't know. I don't really make gifts of my quilts. However, I have made and given away several baby quilts, the latest to my first cousin twice removed. I hope that she will enjoy it and have it to pass on to her children someday.

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

JP: At this point, none. I am really involved with the DAR, but I am looking forward to picking it up again when I have a little bit more time. When I do get interested in a pattern, I will start cutting it up, piecing it, staying up all hours of the night to get the top finished and every waking moment is spent thinking about that quilt. But unfortunately, we all have to work for a living, so I don't get to do as much as I like.

LK: What do you enjoy most about quilt making?

JP: It's soothing. I love working with all the materials, the colors. I love the bright jewel tones of things. Several of my quilts have very bright colors in them. I just enjoy the piecing of it. Then I'm stuck with quilting the quilt. That takes time but I can get it done eventually.

LK: So, the part of quilt making you don't enjoy is what?

JP: Actually, the quilting of it, the finishing up. I enjoy the--however, I did with "Happy Hearts." I loved doing the quilting around it, but I have quite a few quilts that are in the unfinished state just waiting for me to pick up the needle.

LK: Maybe that's why they invented "quilt tying."

JP: That's true. That's funny. One of my one and only tied quilt is named "Blue Jeans and Bandanas." I tied it and entered it into the state fair a couple of years ago and it won a blue ribbon. I have to mention that "Happy Hearts" won second place, a red ribbon in the Nevada State Fair.

LK: That's wonderful. You must be so pleased.

JP: I was pleased.

LK: Thinking back, what would you say your first quilt memory is?

JP: I think that goes back to the possible quilt that my mother may have made or the comforter at Lake Tahoe. It was a blue and white pattern, I remember, and dark blue on the back, and it was just very comforting and the only way that some cottons can be against the cold. That's about my first memory. Then, I have always enjoyed looking at quilts, going to quilt shows, seeing the exceptional work that the women have put into their quilts, the colors and everything else.

LK: Do you recall a quilt ever helping you get through a difficult time in your life?

JP: No, I really can't.

LK: Well, you have a lot of wonderful memories. The next part of the interview has to do with your design aesthetic. Tell me what you think makes a great quilt.

JP: I think that's a toss-up between the pattern of the quilt and then the colors, the materials. You can have a perfectly designed and sewn quilt but if the colors aren't pleasing to the eye, you just sort of pass it off as, 'That's a nice quilt,' and go on to the next one. I'm very much into the colors.

LK: What are your favorite colors to use?

JP: I like a lot of the bright blues, teals, turquoises--

LK: And there's a lot of those in Happy Hearts aren't there?

JP: There are. I had a lot of fun picking out this. I chose a lot of the fabrics by buying packs of six-inch blocks and made them out of those then that wasn't enough so I would go and buy either quarters of material. I would find something I would look at fat quarters and then I had the joy of putting them together. What heart would look best on what background?

LK: Is that part of what makes your quilt artistically powerful?

JP: I think so. It's very colorful. When you get close to it you can see all of the details of the patterns. I have one that has teacups and teapots on a black background and that is interesting. I have pansies and ivy on a green background. It's just very enjoyable to look at.

LK: And when you think about quilts that you've seen in a museum or in a special collection, what do you think made those quilts appropriate for that setting?

JP: A lot of those are like the Baltimore [Album.] quilts. I really enjoy looking at them and knowing the work the women have put into them I don't know that I could be able to do one, just because of the time involved. They're beautiful.

LK: And they must have been thinking about a museum when they did it.

JP: I think so.

LK: What is it that you think makes a great quilter?

JP: I think a great quilter is someone who enjoys it and puts her heart into her quilt. She does it for her enjoyment and the enjoyment it will give others.

LK: And how do they learn the art of quilting? What is it that makes their process different in designing a pattern or choosing fabrics and colors?

JP: Well, I think they have to get bitten by the quilting urge before they are interested. Everyone has their own techniques and their own likes and dislikes, and you just have to go with what you enjoy doing.

LK: Do you have a preference between machine quilting and hand quilting?

JP: Yes, I like to get quilts done quickly, but I found after my first machine quilted one that it was too difficult. Maybe my quilt was too big but, in the machine, it was just too much work to keep rolling it around, so I ended up with Happy Hearts with hand quilting and found out that while it took longer, it was very enjoyable and soothing, and I was really pleased with the outcome of how the hand quilting looked and how it makes the quilt look.

LK: Your echo quilting looks very Hawaiian; that's quite pleasant to look at. Have you taken any of your quilts to a long arm quilter to do it by machine?

JP: No, I haven't, possibly because I don't want to put that much money into it. I'd rather do it myself. The echo quilting on "Happy Hearts" came out so well. "Happy Hearts" came out so well and every time I wash it, it just seems to pucker up a little bit more, and it gives it such a visual look to it that I really like. The next one I do will probably be hand quilted also.

LK: That's great to know. Let me ask you some things about the general use of quilts in life. How has quilt making become important to your life?

JP: I think that it's important because I'm able to accomplish something from nothing. You have your raw materials and you put it all together and finish it and you have created a work of art, or you have something that is just very enjoyable and a sense of accomplishment.

LK: In a way it does; you have more control over it than you have over your job. In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or your region or the southwest where we live?

JP: I think my quilts, I can't say how they reflect my community, but I think it's more on a personal level. It's more the heart of a person. What you put into it.

LK: In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women and history in the United States?

JP: They have special meaning because for hundreds of years people have been quilting. I imagine that when our ancestors came across the country, I had some that came on the covered wagons, and I'm sure that they were sewing & making quilts, either to clothe their families or keep their families warm. It does have a very historical meaning.

LK: What is your plan for "Happy Hearts"? Are you going to pass that down?

JP: I hope to. I don't have children but, as I said, we have a brand-new granddaughter in the family, and I would pass it on to either her mother or to her. It just depends on how long I keep it to myself. I'm not ready to pass this one on yet.

LK: What are some other ways that you use quilts, other than on the wall?

JP: Well, basically that's it. I know I do have a quilt on my bed; it was a gift; a manufactured one I use. It is a nice cotton. Quilts are just nice as bedding but I'm afraid that most of my quilts go on the wall.

LK: Your descendants in your family will appreciate that. Are there ways that you want to preserve your quilts, or do you think quilts in general should be preserved for the future?

JP: I think they should be preserved for the future but if you make a gift of a quilt, I don't believe you can attach any strings that say, 'You will keep this as an art object on the wall.'

LK: You're right.

JP: And I would be happy to see someone using it as a quilt. However, you know how things get worn.

LK: And maybe that's a compliment, if your quilt gets tattered after a few years.

JP: That's true.

LK: The last question is what has happened to the quilts that you have made, or those of friends and family?

JP: Well, as I said, I don't give my quilts away, except for a couple of baby quilts that I have given. Hopefully they are being used. Mine are being kept pristine, you know, I dust them off every so often and keep them nice. I have no plans on where these will end up at this point. Hopefully I will find a good spot for them.

LK: Well, good for you. I know I made a baby quilt and whacked it up into placemats when I didn't like it.

JP: Oh, no.

LK: Well, if I didn't like it as a baby quilt then I probably gave away the placemats, but then I give everything away; I don't tend to like my work as much as I like other people's work.

JP: Well, I think we're all hardest on ourselves.

LK: You certainly have a wonderful, positive attitude about quilts. Is there anything else that you would like to tell us about "Happy Hearts"?

JP: Basically, I think the fact of the name, that it makes me happy, and the heart motif has a very strong feeling. I'm very glad I made it and I enjoy it very much.

LK: We'll all be looking for your name among the contest entries, if not the winners, this summer. I'd like to thank you, Julie Patterson for allowing me to interview you today as part of Quilts Save Our Stories [Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories.] project in Nevada. This interview is concluding at 3:27 p.m.


“Julie Patterson,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 23, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1869.