Mary Ellen Johnson




Mary Ellen Johnson




Mary Ellen Johnson


Kathy Johnson

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Oklahoma City, Oklahoma


Kathy Johnson


Note: This interview was conducted by Kathy Johnson a member of the DAR in Hawaii.

Mary Ellen Johnson (MEJ): Today is July 18, 2006, at 8:00 p.m. Oklahoma City time. This is Mary Ellen Johnson, and I designed a ruler called the Wonder Arc.

Kathy Johnson (KJ): Why did you feel the need to design the ruler?

MEJ: I designed the ruler because I couldn't find a template that was multiple sizes and most circles are--to cut out a circle, you have to cut a complete circle with a rotary cutter and I designed the ruler so I could fold the square into quarters, which is one-fourth the original size of the square, and then line up the solid lines on the ruler and cut and when you open it up, you have a circle instead of having to cut all the way around, or find something to draw around and cut a circle. That's why the Wonder Arc was designed.

KJ: Okay, and then the quilt we're going to talk about was made with [using.] the Wonder Arc. Describe the quilt to me the colors and the size.

MEJ: The Apple Core design is the quilt. The Apple Core shape is two concave and two convex curves. So, what you do is take a circle, split it into fours, at which is--what is it? 60-degree angles? No, it's 360, so it's a 90-degree angle. So, you split a half-circle into fours. And then so one fourth and one fourth is half of that, or one-fourth and one-fourth one-quarter of it is overlapped onto another circle. And by overlapping, the opposite sides of one circle on top and then the other two sides are tucked underneath, the next circle creates the Apple Core design instead of doing it the traditional way, which is a template of two concave and two convex curves. Now the traditional way on an Apple Core was to sew a concave and a convex curve, which is an outside curve and an inside curve and start at the edges, sew, and stretch the two bias edges and hopefully you meet at the other end.

KJ: Approximately how much time do you think you saved and does that make sense?

MEJ: In piecing?

KJ: Yes, rather than doing the traditional method using your ruler.

MEJ: Well, before--they have templates now but before you would make a template out of sandpaper or plastic, draw around it, and you would cut out the each individual pieces of the quilt and then hand sew it or machine piece it together. Now, you just cut out using the ruler, the Wonder Arc ruler, you just cut out squares, press them into fours, line up the solid line with the folds in the square, cut out the circle, open it up, finish you would finish the edges with interfacing and there's about ten different ways you can finish the edge of the circle water-soluble thread, some people use freezer paper, there are different techniques for finishing circles. Then you just overlap the circles. So, I feel that my technique is faster than the actual piecing. But you do waste a little bit of the circle, on the back, once you have it all sewn together, you flip the complete top over to the back and you cut away the flaps be over time, there's a seam there, and it will wear through to the top, and the top of the fabric.

KJ: What colors--how did you choose the colors for this particular quilt?

MEJ: The colors, you can do two colors, you can do scrappy, it's just up to the person what kind of colors they want to do. They could grade eight colors from a light blue at the bottom to a dark blue at the top, or vice versa, they could do two colors. It's just each person could do their own color, color scheme, color coordination, whatever, that's their options.

KJ: Okay, and then on this particular quilt, why did you pick those particular colors?

MEJ: Well, the first one I made, whenever I started the--just start writing patterns to go with the ruler, I took my twenty years of fabric collecting, and just made one, just to see if the idea worked. So, the first Apple Core that I made has hundred, two hundred--between a hundred and two hundred circles of just scrap fabric, just to see if the idea worked. And then, I've made fifteen of them, sets, of the Apple Core, in different--whether it's a finished edge, it has a raw edge--their edges are left as a raggedy or frayed, fuzzy edge. You have a finished edge reversible, or you have a raggedy reversible, so there's four different looks that you can do with the circles. And then there's two different ways you can lay the circles out, based on where the points of that circle are, or where that circle--the points on the circle, there's the four points where you split it in fours, whether it's on point, or it set in square like this, you can get two different layouts. Now that's the Apple Core.

KJ: So, if I lined up--okay, the points on like north square, okay and then rotate it, then how many degrees--45? [ME: Yes.] The point, the top point?

MEJ: Yes. If you rotate it 45 degrees then you sew the rose on the diagonal and it creates a different look than if its set-in square, or if you rotate it. It'd just be 45 degrees, so it'd be from--if these are 90--

KJ: [laughing.] Only because we're taping, you're showing me with your hands, but I wanted them to understand, so if you could explain.

MEJ: That's true, that's true. I hadn't thought about that. I know because everything I do is visual for people to look at.

KJ: Okay, approximately how long--how many years have you been quilting, I should say.

MEJ: I made my first quilt for my grandmother. My other grandmother had cut out the pieces and given it to me, it was a trip around the world, and she cut out all the individual squares with a piece of sandpaper and scissors.

KJ: Okay, grandmother who?

MEJ: My mother on my dad's side.

KJ: And what's her name?

MEJ: Thula Connelly.

KJ: And she had it made, or--

MEJ: She gave me the squares.

KJ: She had them cut?

MEJ: She had them already cut out, with scissors and a sandpaper template. And then, I sewed those together, or then we had found out since, that the more you use a piece of sandpaper, you wear the edges down. So, she didn't change out her template every twenty-five or thirty squares, then the first square she cut out and the last square she cut out was usually a quarter-inch different. Or an eighth of an inch. So, her template slowly got smaller each time. So, then I sewed that top together and found out my points didn't match, and things didn't work out, but I sewed it up. I was I think--

KJ: And it was called a what?

MEJ: Trip Around the World.

KJ: Okay.

MEJ: You start with a square. And then a square around it is one color, and then the square around that is another color and you just keep growing. So, it's a trip around the world. It starts with a center square.

KJ: Approximate size of that center square?

MEJ: Ah, four inches. You could do four inches; you could do three inches.

KJ: Yours was what?

MEJ: Three.

KJ: Okay. Do you remember the colors in it?

MEJ: Oh, it was all scraps. It was all calico, because that was in the early 70s--that was ten, twelve--twelve--

KJ: Okay and then you mentioned your other grandmother, did you make something?

MEJ: Oh, I made it for my other grandmother. I gave it to her.

KJ: And her name was?

MEJ: Olive Myrtle was her middle name and Willoughby, and I gave her the quilt.

KJ: And what'd she think?

MEJ: Oh, she liked it. She liked it. And then she made me a quilt, when I graduated from high school.

KJ: And what was her design, or her pattern?

MEJ: Hers was just big squares. Just big, ten and a half inches, blue and gold, squares.

KJ: Had she quilted or sewed?

ME: She had sewed. She had sewed all her life. But she didn't quilt it, she just tied it. She tied it with ribbon or yarn.

KJ: Okay, describe the quilt that you sleep under. Or do you change the quilts?

MEJ: Oh, I change them all the time. Right now, I bought a pre-quilted toile quilt. And what it is is the old-fashioned sceneries, it's like Victorian, but it's red and white. And it's my bedspread. It's pre--it's quilted so that's kind of what we sleep under all the time. But for summertime I have one quilt, and wintertime I have three or four. It's the weight, I guess, is what I like 'quilts to sleep under because they're not the same weight as blankets.

KJ: What do you put in--do you put batting in, or--

MEJ: I have batting in the middle of the quilts, polyester batting or cotton batting, I have either one of those. That's the option.

KJ: The batting's different weights, correct?

MEJ: Yes. You have different weights of batting, you have low loft, which is 2-4 ounces, 2 ounces, and then you have regular size--low loft, high loft, there's a mid-loft. It's three--three ounces to six ounces to eight ounces of batting. That's the polyester. And then there's Warm and Natural [a brand.] batting, which is 80 percent cotton 20 percent polyester, and it doesn't have a very big loft, and when you throw it in the washing machine, it makes your quilt look old, or antiquey, because it shrinks--draws up the quilt so you have about a 5 percent shrinkage. I don't know for sure the shrinkage but what it does it just sucks it out, so it looks old.

KJ: Okay, maybe describe several of the quilts that you've given as gifts. And why you would give them as gifts?

MEJ: I gave a star quilt--I don't give a lot of quilts away, because of the time--the time and materials that are involved. I usually give away baby quilts. 'Cause queen sized quilts are just too much, just too much time in on them. And fabric. But I gave--I've given one I did a hand quilted star quilt for a lady in our church, for her baby. I gave her that. And see I've given a couple of baby quilts that I've just pieced. Just big squares, pieced them, quilted them, and gave them away. But as far as putting a lot of work into them, I don't. 'Cause I don't know how they'll going to be taken care of.

KJ: Describe maybe the star pattern?

MEJ: The star pattern is the Saw Two Star. It's got a large square in the middle, and then it has two triangles pointing the long side of the triangle's pointing up, away from the center square. You get eight points, two on each side. And then you have a--it's kind of like a--what is it, a flying geese. There's a flying geese on each side of the square, and then the squares look forward, so that would be the star. It creates a star form. A star design. Saw Two Star.

KJ: And then you work around that?

MEJ: And then I just place a saw two star on a blank square, and a Saw Two Star on a blank square so there's an alternating block between them. And then I hand quilted just a fan design. And the fan design is just curves that just flow into another curve, which flows into another curve. And it kind of radiates out an inch, and then another inch, so that once upon a time it was probably a pencil with a string, and they would measure it out and do a draw, and then they would extend the fabric or the thread a little further and draw another arc, and then extend the thread a little further and draw another arc, and then they would start and do it again. Curve, curve but that's the star pattern. But from the Apple Core, using the ruler, I went from the apple core, I thought, 'okay, this is a whole circle, what would you do if you cut the circle in half, and sewed the two colors together.' Then you get a completely different design, you get a secondary design, or a tessellation is what they call it. A tessellation is--you go from color to another color to another color without it stopping or having a distinct stop. So, by placing four half circles, in a pattern, you can just keep creating that design, and it keeps flowing throughout the quilt. But wherever there was a straight edge--well first, you cut out rectangles, you press it in half, lay the ruler on it, a fold on the solid line, dotted line seam allowance, because you'd have to sew two half-circles together to make a circle; you can't cut out a circle, cut it in half, and sew it back together; you don't have a circle. So, you sew the two halves together, well, after you cut out the half-circles, you get four of each color. Then, you sew, you lay down a design wall, and a design wall is just a large piece of fabric hanging or laying on a bed or something that you can pick up and move and put back out, lay all your fabrics out on a design wall, A, B, C, and D. And then you just keep repeating that shape, until it gets as big as you want it, or as large as your quilt you want your quilt to be. Then the leftover--there's going to be a border around the outside of the quilt that only has half circles; well, you want full circles, so what's leftover on the outside is going to be your border fabric. So, I add, I just count my spots, cut out the half circles, lay them down, and then wherever there's a straight edge you sew those two together to make the whole circle. Finish the edges of your circle, with either interfacing or water-soluble thread, whatever method you want, to finish the circles, then lay it back out on the design wall, and then you just start overlapping the circles the same way as you do the Apple Core. So, it's a variation of the Apple Core design, you just took it a step further. And then, you could either make it as a top, you could also make it reversible, if you make it reversible, once you finish your circles, instead of putting interfacing on the back, to turn the edges over, if you layer with batting and a piece of fabric for the back, and sew it together, you'll having a whirling arc on one side, and if you flip it over, you'll have an Apple Core on the other. So, it's two, two different quilts in one. But you just, wherever you overlap a circle, you always stitch what's on top. You just do a zigzag stitch, or you could do a decorative stitch; you can do it out of monofilament thread, you can use metallic thread, you can use rayon threads if you want your stitching to show then use a fancy thread and a fancy stitch. If you don't want your stitching to show, then use monofilament and just a zigzag, because you're not going to see it, anyway.

Let's see what else--the whirling arcs, that's the main one 'cause the whirling arcs traditional pattern, that you could find in. I don't know if you looked in Kansas City Star, they had it in their newspaper, back in whenever the Kansas City Star was doing all the quilt patterns--the twenties, thirties. I think it's from the twenties to the early sixties, or the early seventies, but they had a pattern in there, and they called it something else, but it was a straight edge, it had a concave edge, and it had a convex edge. That was the pattern. And you had to sew that curve, to the opposite side. So, if you had a convex here, you were going to sew a concave to that. If this was concave, then you had another convex to sew to that edge, so it created a square. And then you sewed all the squares together. So, you'd have eight points. One, no, four points, coming into each intersection--no, you'd have eight points coming into each intersection. 'cause you'd have four straight, which is the square, and then you'd have four curves coming in. So, to do it easier, you'd do the two half-circles, sew them together, overlap, you know, finish the edges, overlap them, and then stitch them back together. And then, if it's just the top only, layer it with batting and backing, and then quilt it. And bind it.

KJ: Okay, you mentioned your grandmother Connelly gave you the scraps. Was she a quilter also?

MEJ: Yes. She was a quilter. She quilted. She died when she was seventy-eight and she made quilts, she always had something in a basket--handwork, what we call handwork. She always had handwork, so she could sit and do her handwork while she watched television in the evenings. She always had something in the frame, quilting on it, and she always had something in the machine. She liked to do the Log Cabin block--was her favorite piece of or favorite quilt design that she liked to do. It was the Log Cabin. And we just never, she passed away before I really got interested in or having her help me learn to quilt. I've just pretty much learned on my own. I'd try things, and see what works for me, and other things that don't work, I'd just try to make it work for me. But she--

KJ: Do you have any of her quilts left?

MEJ: She made me one quilt when I was nineteen. I went to visit her by myself. Just drove up one night and visited with her for a weekend. And I asked her if she would make me a quilt. And she said, 'If you will provide the fabric and the thread, then I will make you a quilt.' Well, I didn't know at the time, how much fabric we were talking about for a queen-sized quilt. So, when I was working at TG&Y; right out of high school, they were marking down their calicos, and they were cutting them into two-yard lengths, which is what they considered their remnants. I bought twenty-four two-yard lengths, and put them in a bag, bought nine yards of backing fabric, and then she put the batting, I think I even bought batting for her also, and thread. She made me a quilt, plus four others. With all that's forty-eight yards of fabric. Yes. And I just got the one! But I mean when she passed away, my aunt went in and cleaned out her house. Cleaned out all her quilt stuff--

KJ: So, you didn't know--

MEJ: Yeah, I didn't get any of her other quilts. In fact, what she would do to store her quilts, she had a twin-size bed in her sewing room, and she would lay the quilts out in the bed, in, just layers, to keep them flat instead of storing them folded, because they get creases in them. She would store them flat on the twin-size bed. She would just fold them over on themselves. And what they did was, she had fabric on top of the bed, and boxes and stuff, and they took and lifted up everything, pulled the quilts out, and set the stuff back down on the bed.

KJ: So, you don't know what happened actually--

ME: Oh, I know my aunt took everything. I told granny once, I said, 'I don't want your money. I just want something of yours that was in the house.' Well, she had a bedroom suit that was a twin-size bed. I don't know how old that thing was, I didn't think anybody else wanted it, but my aunt, she was the one that lived locally, and she felt that every time granny called, that she was the one that had to go rushing over. Well, she wasn't. She wasn't, it was my dad that ended up driving up there all the time. But she had, what she'd do was she went through the house, and she put 'this is mine, this is mine, this is mine,' on pieces of paper and stuck it to everything in the house. And that was before dad got up there, and they pretty much cleaned up the house out because he asked for all the keys. 'cause they didn't think that he would be the executor, because he was kind of the stepchild. 'cause the other three, the two twin girls and the older brother were by one father, and then Dad was by another father. So, they always thought he was the, he was considered the stepchild. And she gave him--he was the executor of it. So, it didn't work out very well.

KJ: Okay, tell me a little bit maybe about the guild? And the requirements of the guild? This is a quilter's guild I assume.

MEJ: The quilter's guild, the Central Oklahoma's Quilter's Guild, it was organized or started in 1978 so they just celebrated, or they will be celebrating their thirtieth anniversary in two years. And I was a member in '88, and I was a member until last year. 'Cause I was doing so much traveling with my ruler and doing quilt shows, that I hadn't been able to attend the meetings.

KJ: Did they have specific requirements in belonging to the guild?

MEJ: All you had to have was a love of quilting; or a love of quilts. There's between five--probably between four or five hundred members every year that renew. During the quilt show years, they usually accumulate more members. And then the deaths of other, the older members, it kind of balances, balances it out. Let's see, the--

KJ: What about your work on the committees or of the guilds with--

MEJ: I've never been president, or vice-president, or program chairman, but I was membership chairman for two years in a row, which I kept track of who was a member, sent the newsletter out to all the members--so I mailed the newsletter to closer to five hundred people a month for two years in a row. And I was also the chairman on the quilt show. They have a quilt show every two years, and I helped one year set up the quilt show. Five hundred and something quilts. And then the next quilt show I was in charge of setting it up, and then the quilt show after that I was in charge of setting it up, so I had to decide where to hang five hundred quilts, in a room. So, I did that for two years in a row. And then after that, that's when I really got into my ruler, and, and the guild kind of slacked off. But we also had the Kansas City Star panels, in ?88 through ?91, 1991, they worked on--everyone made every Kansas City Star block that ever came out in the paper, we made, we collected all the blocks, made a block, quilted it, and turned it back in, we made these panels of black felt--it was black felt, and we attached the stars, or all the different patterns, we attached those to the black felt in panels, and they'd travel around the United States. So, they're just different, you can kind of look at the dates, each panel is a date, like the 1920's--

KJ: So, it's not the whole quilt then, it was just the panel?

MEJ: No, it's just individual blocks that were made up as a quilt. You had to quilt it, and then put a little piece of binding on it so you didn't have any raw edges.

KJ: And they'd travel where?

MEJ: They'd travel all over. All over the United States. And they're stored in a controlled storage unit, so that they don't get hot, they don't wear down, or just get destroyed by weather or heat.

KJ: And do you know if they're displayed at the quilt shows, or--

ME: They do, and they rent them out, that's the way the guild raises money for the guild. They raise, or they rent the panels; you can get ten panels for so much money, you can get twenty panels, I don't know how many panels total. I think there's forty panels total. It's either twenty or thirty, I'm not positive. But they try, usually they hang ?em when COQA or Central Oklahoma's Quilter's Guild has their quilt show, they usually hang the panels, but they didn't do it last year. This is 2006, and the quilt show is every odd year, so next year will be the 100th anniversary of the state of Oklahoma, plus your 2007 quilt show. And it's in conjunction with the centennial.

KJ: Okay, you mentioned that you collect quilts?

MEJ: I have collected some quilts. I have a couple that I have had since my mom didn't quilt, but I have a couple. I have my grandma--the one that my other grandmother made for me. And then I have the one that my other grandmother made for me. But I don't collect quilts so much as sewing machines. I have my grandmother's on my dad's side. I have her rotary Westinghouse sewing machine. I don't know how old?1940 model, 1930 model, something like that. And then I have a Pfaff 201, which was made in the forties or the fifties. That's an old sewing machine. And I also have three Featherweights, Singer Featherweights, which are a small, black, sewing machine that was made between 1920 and 1962, something like that, and it only weighs like eleven pounds but it's a straight stitch sewing machine that you can take anywhere.

KJ: Do--these that you have, do you use them?

MEJ: Yes. I use my Featherweight all the time. I have three Featherweights, one of them needs to be restored, and then the other two, one of them has the bobbin on the front, and the other one has the bobbin winder on the top, and I use the one with the bob and winder on the top because it's just a newer model, and it hasn't been used as much as the other two.

KJ: Do you collect anything else as far as quilting?

MEJ: Umm, as far as quilting?

KJ: What about your fabrics?

MEJ: Fabrics. [laughing.]

KJ: You have a lot of fabrics--

MEJ: I have you seen the house?

KJ: No or not lately.

MEJ: You didn't go over this year, well before I only had that little bit of fabric, but now!

KJ: Well, you were moving, in the process of moving things over there.

MEJ: Well, the whole wall, where we were taking those photographs, in that room, that wall there is full of fabric, three stacks high. And then there is fabric along this wall, which is three stacks high. And I counted the bolts, and I have approximately 540 bolts of fabric.

KJ: Okay, tell me what you're doing with those bolts.

MEJ: [laughing.] Those bolts of fabric are what I use to do to make samples with, to use with my ruler, whenever I design patterns, I also cut up fat quarters, which is an eighteen by twenty-two-inch square of fabric, instead of a normal quarter of a yard which is thirty-six inches, would be nine inches wide by the width of the fabric, so we call them fat quarters. So, I use that fabric to cut out fat quarters to sell, when I do quilt shows or also just to buy fabric. I just like the feel of fabric. [chuckling.] I'm having fabric withdrawal, no, let's see, I'm going blank.

KJ: No, have you--put down worked in a quilt shop, or a quilt--

MEJ: I have not worked in an authentic quilt shop, but I have my--I consider my house a quilt shop because of all the fabric, and also, I have my own quilt shop, but it's a traveling quilt shop, it doesn't, I don't have what they call a store front, where it's in a stationary location and people come to see me. I go see people at quilt shows. So, I travel to quilt shows and demonstrate my ruler, and sell the ruler and fabrics, and notions, and quilt kits instead of actually working in a quilt shop.

KJ: I know you've quilted smaller panels, is that what you call them?

MEJ: Tops? Quilt tops?

KJ: Is that what it is?

MEJ: Quilt tops. I used to quilt for people. I used to hand quilt for people. Let's see, the girls were little--'81? '82? '83, '84? 1984 through '95, for about ten years, I hand quilted for people. And I would get the top, and we would baste it with the batting and the backing, and quilt whatever design they wanted on the quilt; I would bind it, which is finishing the edge, of the perimeter of the quilt, and then I would get it from them, and I usually it took me anywhere from, well I would quilt eight to ten hours a day, so it would take me anywhere from a week to a couple of months to quilt a quilt.

KJ: Do you know approximately how many quilts you did in those ten years? Do you remember?

MEJ: One, two, three, four probably thirty to forty--thirty to forty hand quilted quilts and I also used to baste quilts for people, and that's putting in three layers together and just making, doing a running stitch to hold the three layers until they quilt it. And I've done probably two hundred of those, basting.

KJ: And you don't use the traditional, old-timey roll frame--

ME: No, no--

KJ: Quilt. You don't have an old quilt frame?

MEJ: I have my basting frames, which I clamp. No, the old-time quilt frame was a large frame that was screwed on the ends, and then it had pulleys on it with string going up through to the ceiling and pulleys there and what you do there is drop it down, quilt, and then when you were done, you would raise it back up close to the ceiling so people could walk around in their living room, or dining room, whatever. My frame is PVC plastic, and it's a 17-inch square that I hand quilt that I quilt in my lap. So, I don't have to sit up at a frame, I sit at a regular chair and hand quilt. So, I shift as I quilt, I work from the center and work out, and my square I just shift it around the outside of the quilt, until I work my way to out to the edges.

KJ: What about teaching?

MEJ: It's mainly the ruler. Well, no, take that back, I've taught at one, two, three different quilt shops. One in Norman, one in Oklahoma City, and then one in South Oklahoma City. And I've taught Weaver Fever, a star, just basic quilt designs--stars, and the Weaver Fever is strips that are sewn together, cut back apart, and sewn back together. So, it's a Weaver Fever designed by Jackie Robinson, who's a designer in Colorado. And, the Saw Two Star, it was just a basic public domain, star quilt. But then I also do quilt guilds-- lectures, classes, and--

KJ: Demonstrations, you mentioned demonstrations at the quilt shows when you go. Okay, have you traveled all fifty states yet?

MEJ: No. I've still got a few states to go yet. But I have traveled--

KJ: Why don't you describe your--maybe your procedure? For when you do a quilt show--

MEJ: When we drive to a quilt show, we've usually reserved the booth six months to a year in advance then I call and get reservations for a hotel. If I need electricity, I purchase electricity for the booth. Then when we get there, when we travel to wherever we're going I usually travel a day ahead, so that if we break down, we still have time to get to wherever we're going. Once we get there, and we arrive wherever our destination, then we unload the truck, and if I need poles and I always hang eight-foot around the booth, and most booths are ten by ten, ten by twelve, some are--just depends, but most of them are ten by ten, which is a single booth. I will set up my poles, so I have eight-foot sides, on three sides of the booth. Then I hang all my quilts on those three sides, and once I hang the quilts, then we set up our tables to go up against the quilts, and then I set my notions out, my fat quarter boxes, quilt kits, just odds and ends of quilt-related items.

KJ: Okay and then what happens during the show itself?

MEJ: Oh once the doors open, then the ladies come in and just start walking down, they just visit each of the booths, and while their walking around the quilt show either looking at quilts or visiting all the different vendors then I demonstrate the ruler, and show them how the ruler is used, by using you know the ruler and a rotary cutter and a mat, instead of cutting it out with scissors and a template.

KJ: Okay, and then most quilt shows are how long?

MEJ: Most quilt shows, well, the quilt guilds used to put on. I mean, a lot of them still do, but the major--that's how they raise their money because their considered a nonprofit organization, but the quilt shows usually run three to four days. Sometimes only two days? two to four days. Let's see what else--

KJ: And you would say that there's because I know when I was growing up, quilting wasn't--

MEJ: Wasn't popular.

KJ: Well, we went to those where they had the large frames out, but I mean it wasn't as--

MEJ: It was the way the women got together, and visited--

KJ: Socialized.

MEJ: Socialized, yes. Back in the older, olden days, that's how they socialized and now that women work, that organization, or socializing is not there anymore, but now I think it's come back, since quilting has come back as a popular hobby. Some people still consider it as an--

KJ: I'd say artwork?

MEJ: Artwork, wearable art, I meant the quilts are artistic or they're your traditional patterns. But it's still a social gathering, of women, if they belong to a group, small group, quilt guild; it's still a social gathering.

KJ: Okay and wrapping up, any awards or history preservation you've done?

MEJ: The Central Oklahoma's Quilter's Guild went through and did a survey, or collected all the old quilts that were still in the state of Oklahoma, trying to figure out where they came from, who made them, and then they wrote a book. It's under the Central Oklahoma's Quilter's Guild. I can't remember the name of the book, but a lot of the people in that book are members of the Guild. But they would go out to a town, they would announce it, and they would go, like they went to Guymon, and spent a day. People brought in their quilts, and they examined them, and dated them, took photographs of them, and had a little story about the person that owned it, tried to find out who made it, when, what fabrics, just to kind of date the quilt. And then they would come home, and then they would go to another part of Oklahoma and do it the next weekend. So, they pretty much had that done when I joined the Guild, but I helped finish up the project. And then as far as awards, I've entered. I've had quilts that I've quilted for other people that won awards for them. And then I've won blue ribbons and red ribbons on quilts, but I don't enter a lot of quilts because they're in my booth, for my ruler, rather than being out on display in the quilt shows.

KJ: What about a state fair, or any of those?

MEJ: No, I'm always gone. I'm always gone to a show whenever the state fair comes in, and plus at the state fair, the state fair's usually September 15th through October 1st, around that, but you have to enter them thirty days before that, so, and they just sit there, so in that time frame. I'm usually gone to two or three shows before I get back. And that's why--but I'd probably would enter. I'd probably win more ribbons if I just entered them.

KJ: Okay, have you passed this art onto your daughters?

MEJ: Yes. Three daughters. Kathy the oldest, she has made two quilts already. She had one of them machine quilted, and she machine quilted her other one. And then Lori, the middle daughter, just likes the finished product. She doesn't care for the sewing, or the piecing, but she likes the finished product, and then Jamie the youngest, who's sixteen, she's made five quilts. Four of them are machine quilted, and she's hand quilting the other one, right now. But it's going to take her awhile, because she doesn't sit down and consistently work on it. I think she will like it. She likes to do everything in black, black background, which is hard to quilt, because you can't see the needle, the light draws, I mean the black just draws the light, which reflects it off, so it's hard to hand quilt a black quilt.

KJ: Okay, anything else you want to add, that you can think of? Trying to think if we missed anything.

MEJ: I know, that's as many different people as there are in the world, there could be that many different quilts. Because one design, one pattern could be done so many different ways.

KJ: Yeah, with so many different fabrics with different colors so it doesn't look the same for everyone.

MEJ: Yes, it's like, 'can you make me a quilt?' That's an open-ended question because it's like, 'What design do you want? What kind of fabrics do you want? How many different colors of fabrics do you want? Do you want two colors, multiple colors? Do you want alternating blocks? Do you want one block? Do you want it scrappy? Do you want it scrappy blocks? Do you want it like a sampler quilt? Is it two or thirty-six blocks? Is it thirty-six different blocks?' There's endless possibilities on how to make a quilt. I mean, the technique is basically the same, piecing, cutting, piecing, and sewing, or piecing and sewing, and then the quilting but, the quilting is what makes, what calls it, what describes it as a quilt, because it's three layers that are held together with thread, rather than a blanket, that is just threads woven together.

KJ: Yeah. Okay, thank you for your time!


“Mary Ellen Johnson,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024,