Roberta Mills




Roberta Mills




Roberta Mills


Carolyn Kolzow

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics/United Notions


The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution QSOS
Beaverton, Oregon


L. Beth Hugenot


Carolyn Kolzow (CK): My name is Carolyn Kolzow and today's date is June 12th, 2005. I am conducting an interview with Roberta Mills. At my home in Beaverton, Oregon for the Quilters' [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. Roberta is a quilter and a member of Portland Chapter DAR. The time is 2:50 p.m. Roberta, tell me about the quilt that you brought here today. Who made it?

Roberta Mills (RM): I made it myself and I made it in Portland, Oregon in my home.

It is only two months old. I made it on April 15th, 2005 for my daughter-in-law's birthday. To describe it, it's bright red.

CK : Is that a particular pattern? Where did you get this idea?

RM.: I saw something on HGTV about a little child's room that was being redecorated
and it was all used in the same color of fabric but all different textures. So I used a minimum of nine fabrics in the same color. They're eight inch squares, seven across and nine down for a total of sixty-three squares.

CK.: Now those fabrics look luxurious not just like ordinary cotton that you would wash. Is there anything special that one would look for when buying for that quilt?

RM: Well I've made a soft pink and black one but the red was harder to match actually.

So I was primarily trying to find nine different fabrics in the same color tone.

CK: And do you focus on washable ones or?

RM: Yes, I want to make sure they are washable and the quilt will be used many, many years.

CK: Now I noticed the reverse side. Can you tell about the color of it?

RM: Well, on the, this red one, I just made it the same color of red as the black ones that I did for the men in the family. I used a [pause.] it's just a velour type blanket fabric except the men's had patterns to them.

CK: This is kind of your specialty quilt isn't it, in your family?

RM: Yes, this is the fourth one I've made and I'm starting on a fifth one soon, in a wine color.

CK: I have a feeling that the family members probably say, 'Hey, I'm next.'

RM: That's what's happening, or I get hints from one of the others, 'Ooh, I'd love to have one in red.'

CK: Now, what's the youngest person that you ever made one for?

RM: My granddaughter for her sixth birthday, and it was the soft pink one.

CK: I hope you have a picture of her snuggling up to that.

RM: I sure do.

CK: Now, how do these people use these quilts?

RM: Well, most of them use them to snuggle under at night or to display when they are not using them specifically to display on a sofa, and so they are made to use all the time.

CK: Now this particular red one you said belonged to whom?

RM: This is my daughter-in-law Tammie's quilt.

CK: So it's already spoken for and you had to ask for it back for the interview.

RM: True. [laughs.]

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

RM: Well, around the age of thirty. I was involved with my church ladies, on Wednesdays, so we started off, then teaching that you just have to tie quilts with yarn, at the corners, and then my baby sister talked me into starting to actually quilt them on the machine. She says they last a lot longer that way.

CK: How many hours a week do you think you quilt?

RM: It is more like how many hours a year that I quilt. I've been making these mainly

As birthday or Christmas gifts, so when I decide that I am ready to give one, I start shopping for fabric and material, then it takes me a whole week long to get one sewn up and finished.

CK: What's your first quilt memory?

RM: My first quilt memory was of my Mom's Friendship Quilt. When I was eleven years old, we moved away from Oklahoma to come to Oregon, and so it was given to my mother from her friends in 1953.

CK: Was your Mom a quilter?

RM: No. She was an awesome cook.

CK: Any other quilters in your family besides you?

RM: Well, my baby sister that I was telling you about--would do the hand quilting, but she mainly did smaller wall hangings that she put on her walls at home. My Aunt Nene does similar quilts to mine, but they are made out of old Levi's, so they are super, super warm. And she has made dozens of those, plus she also makes remembrance quilts which someone will give to her the clothing from one of their family or friends and she'll cut up their clothes from that actual person and turn it into a quilt for them.

CK: How would you say quilting impacts your family?

RM: Well, they just actually love receiving them. [laughs.]

CK: And so they tolerate any inconvenience.

RM: Yes. [laughs.] No inconvenience at all.

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

RM: Not at all. These are happy times.

CK: Okay. What would you find pleasing about quilting?

RM: The major joy is giving them to someone and seeing their eyes when they first get it. They have all been liked very well.

CK: What would you say is an aspect of quilting that you don't enjoy?

RM: Well, the black one that I made for my grandson, sewn up in August, when the

heat was ninety-eight to a hundred degrees, so I said I would never sew another quilt in the middle of the summer. [laughs.]

CK: It was plenty warm.

RM: That the quilts are hot enough themselves without the temperature on top of it.

CK: What do you think makes a great quilt?

RM: The two most important things would be beauty and durability.

CK And are these--these are washable or you recommend that? How do you say that they should care for them?

RM: Well, my particular ones can just be washed and dried in your home machine.

CK: So they are durable enough to go through a washing. What makes a quilt artistically powerful would you say?

RM: I think the color and design of it.

CK: And as far as a museum goes, or a special collection, what would you say would make a quilt appropriate?

RM: Well as the rarity of it, ah the historical significance, if it's of old age, you know if the age of it is really old, it really doesn't matter about the quality sometimes.

CK: What would you say makes a great quilter?

RM: Well, this is a hobby that needs a lot of attention to detail.

CK: So it has to be a detail person that cares about the minute.

RM: Right. And the better you are at being persnickety, the better quilts going to be.

CK: How do great quilters learn the art of quilting?

RM: Well, from their family or friends or taking a class, or just plain old natural talent.

CK: In choosing your colors, you seem to focus on one hue. How would you suggest that you choose those colors in those patterns?

RM: Well again, whether it is pink, or black, or red and now burgundy it is just, to make sure that they are washable, because these are modern quilts, and so it's just primarily that, the right color, the right texture and then for these quilts that they are washable.

CK: Now you mentioned quilting in the summer with the machine. Is that how you quilt

Then, is with a machine?

RM: Yes.

CK: Is there a certain way that you go about that?

RM: Well, they are just eight inch squares, so I just start putting the blocks together and of course the blocks get bigger and bigger, then by the time you put the batting and velour lining on it and turn it over, then you are into a heavy warm quilt, and then, once

It is turned inside out, I start sewing all the squares in. Then it's finished.

CK: I see. Do you know anything about long-arm quilting?

RM: What's that?

[both CK and RM were talking at the same time.]

CK: Are you familiar with it? Okay. A lot of people don't know anything about it. [laughter.]

CK: Why would you say that quilting is important to your life?

RM: Well, mainly because it makes a special, one-of-a-kind-gift.

Ck: And it comes from the heart.

RM: Right.

CK: In fact, what's the name of this quilt? You have a--

RM: They asked for a name and I decided I would call them "Love Ya."

CK. So that's from the heart, for sure. [pause: 5 seconds.] Would you say that your quilts reflect this community or region that we live in?

RM: Mine don't particularly. I'm sure that there are many, many that have been designed specifically for historical events.

CK: Okay. What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

RM: Well, people need warmth, whether it's day or night, inside or out, so they

always been almost a necessity.

CK: And as far as quilts having special meaning for women's history would you think
that they do?

RM: Well yes. To me women equal warmth and warmth equals nice quilts. And again many of them have been created specifically to record a historical event.

CK: How do you think quilts can be used?

RM: Well, the primary purpose for me would be for warmth, also for home d├ęcor, to display and for memory.

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

RM: We have these wonderful new storage techniques that are much better than we used to do in the old days, plus by taking photographic records, like this project they can be recorded on film.

CK: Now, with all these quilts that you've given your family members, have you followed what they've done with them, or what's happened to them.?

RM: Well, most of mine are being used, almost on a daily basis. I'm sure in the future,

They'll save them and I've already received the Friendship Quilt from my mother. So

One in our family has already been passed down to the next generation.

CK: Well, That's good. Do you yourself sleep under a quilt?

RM: Yes, I do.

CK: Is it one you made?

RM Yes, they're the old tied ones that my church ladies and I used to make, but one Christmas I decided I was going to make them for gifts and between my friend and I who worked on them together, we gave away thirty-six quilts that year.

CK: My goodness.

RM: I had the key to the church basement so we were able to go down and use their quilting frames.

CK: My goodness, that's amazing. And so have you been able, you say you are basically self-taught, you learned some things from the ladies at church. Have you passed along this? Were you teaching a friend at the time how to do these or?

RM: Well, both times, the tied quits and these were just squares, you know, sewn together. They are not a difficult pattern in any way shape or form, so they are just

simply the time necessary to do the cutting and sewing and putting together. These are not difficult.

CK: If you were going give someone instructions, after they had purchased all the fabric, what would be some of the guidelines you would tell them to watch out for?

RM: The simple quilt? It's just mainly to a, you have to allow nine inch square, cut nine inch squares, so when you sewn you've gotten down to your eight inch squares.

CK: Now do you use a wheel to cut them or scissors?

RM: Just plain old scissors. I do it the old fashioned way. I have some friends that have
these special little boards and little pizza cutter looking thing and they do it more scientific than I do.

CK: And then do you piece it on a machine you say?

RM: Yes.

CK: Okay. I notice the corners are so pretty, the way they are mitered or curved. Is there a certain way you did that?

RM: I just get a dinner plate out of the kitchen cupboard and put it on the corners and cut around.

CK: Oh.

RM So then when I'm sewing the three pieces together it comes out with that little rounded corner.

Ck: Tell me about the batting. Is there a certain kind of batting you put inside?

RM: Just regular quilt batting. I don't them super, super heavy, but this red quilt had
some softer fabrics and some knitted fabrics so I did a double batting on it, so it's real plush.

CK: I like that plush backing. Do most of yours have that real soft backing?

RM: Right, because I want them snuggly.

CK: And is that yardage that you buy is what you used?

RM: And mine are twin size so I don't have to put any seam in my backing. If you are doing a queen or king size quilt you'd probably have to have a seam in the middle.

CK: You've given all yours away. Have you sold any?

RM: [laughs.] No, but I keep getting asked if I would sell them, but I tell them these are grandma love ya quilts and you know they take about fifty dollars apiece by the time you buy these lovely fabrics and all the and a week's time, so there is no way I would be able to charge people enough money to sell them [laughs.]

CK: I guess not. Is there anything else that you'd like to add Roberta?

RM: Well, I think this has been a very thorough interview and I am proud that you asked me to add my little simple quilt to this collection.

CK: Well, thank you for coming. I was intrigued by the fact that you found an item to give to every single member of your family and all so happy to get it and I'd like for you to adopt me.

RM: That's what I hear. I have a new adopted sister now.

CK: Okay, Thanks Bertie.

RM: All right, bye-bye.

CK: Bye.


“Roberta Mills,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 24, 2024,