Elizabeth Allen




Elizabeth Allen


Elizabeth Allen is a self taught quilter, choosing to learn from books and magazines rather than a class. She began quilting in her early to mid-forties to make a quilt for her niece who was having a baby. Allen has continued to make quilts for her family, and plans to leave the ones she has kept to her children and grandchildren. To Allen, color is an important aspect of quilt making, and she favors more traditional styles.




Christine Sparta


Elizabeth Allen


Carolyn Kolzow

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Nine Patch Fabrics


Beaverton, Oregon


Carolyn Kolzow


**This transcript was created by QSOS volunteers and was reviewed and, in some cases, edited by the interviewee. It may not exactly match the audio recording. For citations and interview quotations, please refer to the audio-recorded interview.** Carolyn Kolzow (CK): My name is Carolyn Kolzow and today's date is October 12, 2006, I am conducting an interview with Elizabeth Allen in my home in Beaverton, Oregon for the Quilter's [S.O.S.]- Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Oregon State Society, Daughters of the American Revolution. Liz is a quilter and is a member of Beaver--of David Hill Chapter, [NSDAR.] National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

Liz, tell me about the quilt you brought in today. Who made it?

Elizabeth (Liz) Allen (EA): I made it. I took a class in Tumbling Block which is what I used in the quilt.

CK: Okay. How old would you say it is?

EA: The original top was made fourteen years ago, but I just finished the flowers on it maybe two years ago.

CK: Now the Tumbling Blocks are pieced together and then you did appliqué flowers?

EA: That is right. It is called couching appliqué.

CK: Tell me about it.

EA: It's where you put a bias binding around each flower.

CK: Oh. [pause 5 seconds.] It is gorgeous.

EA: Their stems are all done with bias binding or bias tubing.

CK: Oh. I see. What special meaning does this quilt have for you?

EA: Not any particular special meaning. I just like the colors, and the pattern, and had the opportunity to take the class.

CK: Why did you choose to bring it today to the interview?

EA: It is one of the few that I have left that I have made completely and not had somebody else quilt them.

CK: And how do you use this quilt?

EA: It goes on the bed in one of our, in our guest bedroom.

CK: What are your plans for this quilt later on when you no longer use it?

EA: My children or grandchildren will probably get it.

CK: Have they spoken for it yet?

EA: Not this one. They all have quilts that I have quilts that I have made.

CK: Tell me about your interest in quilting. At what age did you start?

EA: I started in when I was in my early to mid-forties. One of my nieces was having a baby, and I didn't want to just give her--I had an outfit and I started to maker her a quilt. I made Grandmother's Flower Garden. Jason is now in his thirties and he still has his quilt, and I just made his daughter one two years ago.

CK: Of that same pattern?

EA: Not of the same pattern.

CK: From whom did you learn to quilt?

EA: I learned from a book.

CK: From a book. Do you have quite a library of books?

EA: Quiet a few books and magazines.

CK: How many hours a week would you say that you quilt?

EA: I would say from twenty to thirty. I am usually upstairs doing some everyday in my sewing room.

CK: Do you belong to a quilting guild?

EA: Not here, but I did in California, but I don't here in Oregon.

CK: So, would you say that you probably quilted more before you moved up here?

EA: Not necessarily. About the same.

CK: What is your first quilt memory?

EA: Making Jason's quilt was the first one. I did not know what I was doing, even though I read the books. I used the wrong kind of fabrics. As long as I could get the small flowers, I wanted in the baby quilt. I used any kind of fabric that I could. Not necessarily one hundred percent cotton that we prefer.

CK: One hundred percent cotton is better? You prefer one hundred percent cotton? What would you tell someone who was just starting out?

EA: Use all cotton and be careful of the colors. To me the colors make all the difference in the world.

What you want people to notice first are your colors in it.

CK: Do you have other quilters in your family?

EA: Nope, I am the only one.

CK: And what about your friends?

EA: I belong to a group of ten ladies here in Oregon. We get together twice a month to quilt in each others homes, and then twice a year we go on retreats.

EA: In November we are going to the beach for four nights.

CK: Oh, that sounds like fun. Do you take your work along with you?

EA: We take our sewing machines and our work. We visit quilt shops along the way and quilt.

CK: How does quilting impact your family?

EA: They are used to it by now. They buy me fabric whether I need it or not. They don't have much to say about it. My grandchildren have fallen into it. Each of them have two, and I am working on my fifteen year old grandson's college quilt.

CK: Oh, my.

EA: He put in an order two years ago.

CK: Oh, he did.

EA: He said that he wanted a college quilt.

CK: That was a few years away. He wanted you to come forth.

EA: [laughs.]

CK: I am curious as to what he wanted.

EA: He never would tell me so I am making stars. Black and white stars on a red background.

CK: Oh, wow. Lovely. That's your own creative pattern?

EA: I am using the star in Carol Doak's book, "Fifty Fabulous Stars."

CK: Oh.

EA: That is the patterns for them. But the color choices and fabric choices are mine.

CK: Have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time?

EA: Not really, I don't think.

CK: Would you say that knowing how to quilt helped you to make friends in a new area?

EA: Yes, definitely, both in California and here. When we moved to California, I joined a guild there and met quite a few people and belonged to several groups, small groups within the guild.

CK: Oh, okay. What do you find pleasing about quilting?

EA: I find it very relaxing and it creative. It is a very creative outlet.

CK: Do you generally do appliqué or is it unusual on this quilt?

EA: I have done a lot of appliqué, and I enjoy appliqué. But the older I get the less I do because my fingers don't operate as well as they did years ago.

CK: What would you say you do not enjoy about quilting?

EA: Basting. [pause 3 seconds.] When you put three layers together to secure them enough to quilt them.

CK: Do you, when you get ready to quilt it do you use a loom or a frame or--

EA: I sometimes use like oversize embroidery hoops that are made for quilters, but most of the time I just quilt them without a hoop.

CK: Really? I noticed that your lines on there are superb. How in the world do you get them perfect?

EA: I use masking tape.

CK: Oh?

EA: I draw them with a ruler with a special pen that you get for quilters. It washes out from your fabric.

CK: Oh, that is how you do it. What would you say makes a great quilt?

EA: The color selection I think is the most important. That is what people see first. The quilt catches your eye. Long before they see what your workmanship is like.

CK: What would you say makes a quilt artistically powerful?

EA: Again, I would say it is the color.

CK: Okay. As far as a museum goes what makes a quilt suitable for a museum?

EA: Sometimes it is the color again, the person who makes it, and the workmanship.

CK: All right. What makes a great quilter?

EA: The workmanship, the color selection, as well as the pattern. Do your points meet as they should or--are your stitches even?

CK: Do you have any idea how people learn the art of quilting?

EA: Some are self taught, others take classes.

CK: Especially how to design a pattern or choose fabrics and colors.

EA: Quilt shops are very good about helping you with fabrics that go together. The fabric manufacturers also make companion sets.

CK: Oh, that is interesting. How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting?

EA: I prefer hand quilting, but in order to get all the tops finished that I have quilted, I had to go to machine quilting. It just takes too long to hand quilt them.

CK: What about long arm quilting?

EA: I have not tried it myself. I have had some of it done, because of having to get it done.

CK: I see that you have had some of your quilts published?

EA: Oh, I was interviewed and had a picture in a farm magazine, that a friend of ours--she and her husband were involved in publishing this magazine for farmers with farm equipment.

CK: Not many people can say that they were published like that. What would you say is why quilting is important to your life?

EA: It is just something that I like to do. I find it very creative and very relaxing.

CK: Would you say that your quilts reflect the community or region that you live in?

EA: Not necessarily.

CK: When I had spoke with you about your living and taught in Japan, have your ever gotten into any of that look?

EA: No, not really.

CK: [pause 5 seconds.] What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

EA: It is such a traditional thing that people have been doing, especially women, but many men also now quilt now today. I like traditional furniture and traditional styles. It is part of the tradition of American women.

CK: Do you have quite a few quilts that you have made?

EA: Several. My daughter has quite a few that I have made for special occasions.

CK: Are you into wall hangings at all?

EA: Yes, I do have wall hangings and table runners.

CK: Oh, that would be pretty. As far as American history goes, women's history, are quilts a part of that?

EA: Yes, especially some areas.

CK: We have talked about wall hangings. Can you think of any other ways that quilts can be used?

EA: As I say, I do the table runners. I have done [inaudible.] for my daughter and grandchildren for special occasions for Halloween.

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

EA: As far as taking care of them, never put them in plastic. You should put them in like an old pillow case or make sure that you fold them in different ways so that they don't get creases in them.

CK: Do you keep track of your quilts that you have made and given to family and friends?

EA: Well, most of them that I have given to the family; as far as I know, they still have them.

CK: Do you give them any special instructions?

EA: No, just use them and love them.

CK: Is it okay to put them in the washing machine?

EA: Definitely.

CK: I need to pick up a few things here that I have not asked you along the way. Do you sleep under a quilt?

EA: In the winter we do.

CK: And do you remember if you ever slept under one as a kid?

EA: No

CK: And you have given them as gifts. Let's see what else. [pause 5 seconds.] Oh, you have been a board member in a guild. Was that in California?

EA: Yes.

CK: What job did you have?

EA: I was the membership chairman, librarian, and co-chairman of the quilt show one year.

CK: Oh, that sounds like a big task.

EA: It was.

CK: Is there anything that you would like to add to the interview?

EA: No, not that I know of.

CK: I would like to thank you, Liz for allowing me to interview you today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 1:20 p.m., October the 12th, 2006.

[interview concludes.]


“Elizabeth Allen,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 22, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/19.