Jessie Betterton




Jessie Betterton




Jessie Betterton


Ellen Hopkins

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Clackamas, Oregon


Perri Parker


Ellen Hopkins (EH): My name is Ellen Hopkins and today's date is June 19, 2006, at 11:45 a.m. I am conducting an interview with Jessie Betterton in the Monarch Hotel conference room in Clackamas, 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. Jesse is a lifetime quilter and a member of Chemeketa Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

Ellen: Jesse do you make quilts?

Jessie: Yes, I have made them for many, many years.

Ellen: Do you sleep under a quilt?

Jessie: I have most of my life but in recent times I've been using a down comforter.

Ellen: They're probably a bit lighter, aren't they?

Jessie: Yes, they're nice.

Ellen: Have you given quilts as gifts?

Jessie: Yes, quite a lot of them.

Ellen: To friends and relatives and--

Jessie: Mostly relatives some friends, yes.

Ellen: For special occasions, probably?

Jessie: Yes, weddings, graduations, just for a need.

Ellen: I'm sure people really enjoyed receiving them.

Jessie: I think they enjoy them.

Ellen: Well, I'm sure they have. Jessie, do you have quilters in your family?

Jessie: Yes, my mother and my grandmother. I don't have sisters, but my mother and my grandmother taught me most that I know about quilting.

Ellen: Have you ever been a board member or chaired a committee or quilting guild?

Jessie: No, I have not.

Ellen: Do you belong to a sewing group or sewing - quilting bee?

Jessie: No, I do not at this time. When I was young, actually a teenager, I belonged to a church quilting group. We quilted quilts as a fundraising project.

Ellen: Do you have a collection of quilting or sewing memorabilia?

Jessie: Yes, I do. I have quite a few quilts that I have quilted, and I do have my quilting frames, and I used them about a couple of years ago, in quilting a couple of quilts. The one I'm showing is one of them that I quilted at that time.

Ellen: This was a couple of years ago?

Jessie: Yes.

Ellen: Have you ever taught quilting?

Jessie: No, as matter of fact I don't know that I have ever really showed anyone the steps that it takes to make a quilt.

Ellen: Have you ever won an award for your quilts?

Jessie: Yes. I haven't entered very many times, maybe not more than a time or two, actually, but I did get a blue ribbon on one.

Ellen: A blue ribbon! Well great! have you ever participated in quilt history preservation before?

Jessie: No, I have not.

Ellen: So, this will be your first project?

Jessie: Yes, that's true.

Ellen: That's great! Could you tell me about the quilt you brought today to show us?

Jessie: Yes, the name of it is the Umbrella Girl pattern, and the quilt is made of scraps of material left over from making garments, my daughter's dresses that I made when she was a girl growing up.

Ellen: Why did you choose to bring it today?

Jessie: I think mainly because it is a prize to me to be able to make a dress out of the material that I sewed into clothing. [note from transcriber: Jessie said 'dress,' but I believe she meant quilt.]

Ellen: You had made the dresses then that were your daughters? [Jessie has one daughter, but that information couldn't be transcribed from the tape, so the interviewer passed that information to the transcriber who notes that daughters should be daughter's.]

Jessie: Yes, I did. All the dresses--when she was young, and this is a way to preserve the memory of the dresses. We look at it and say, 'Oh, I remember that article, I remember this dress, whatever.'

Ellen: Probably ties in with some really special family occasions then, too.

Jessie: Right.

Ellen: Nice. What are your plans for the future of this quilt?

Jessie: Well, it's in her possession. It's hers. And she does show it in her home, on a quilt rack.

Ellen: Oh.

Jessie: So, her guests get to see it.

Ellen: She has it out every day?

Jessie: Yes.

Ellen: I'll bet she's very proud of it. At what age did you start quilting?

Jessie: I think I was about twelve years old, I began to help my mother on quilts, and at about that same time I pieced a quilt myself, put the pieces together into blocks, put the blocks together for the top and my grandmother used to come and visit us and she was very helpful and she helped me learn how to put the materials together to form a pattern.

Ellen: Do you remember what your pattern was for your first quilt?

Jessie: It was kind of a star, I think. The blocks were diamonds put together in the shape of a star. I don't know the name of it.

Ellen: Where about did you live at that time?

Jessie: Well, I lived in the northeastern corner of the state of Oklahoma. I grew up on a farm.

Ellen: And your grandmother came to visit from--

Jessie: Arkansas. Only a few miles away.

Ellen: So, you were near the border?

Jessie: Yes.

Ellen: What do you find pleasing about quilting?

Jesse: Well, the satisfaction of being able to create something, and something that's useful, and something that's pleasing to the eye, and you feel like you have done something good. You're satisfied.

Ellen: It's very rewarding then.

Jessie: Very rewarding.

Ellen: What part of quilting do you not like to do?

Jessie: I like all of it, except I don't like the fingers stuck with the needle.

Ellen: All those sharp pins too? Oh, I don't think that would be something any of us would enjoy. What do you think it takes to make a good quilt?

Jessie: Well, a good pattern, and a good workmanship.

Ellen: Okay.

Jessie: That includes a color scheme, and just the outcome.

Ellen: Color is really important?

Jessie: Yes.

Ellen: What do you think it takes to be good quilter?

Jessie: Practice!

Ellen: That's very true. How do you feel about machine quilting that they're doing today versus hand quilting?

Jessie: It's second choice. I'm not really very fond of it. Really. I think the old-fashioned way is much better.

Ellen: Okay.

Jessie: The finished product is much better. However, it's nice.

Ellen: Why has quilting been important in your life?

Jessie: Well, I think in earlier days it was important, because it was our source of covers, keeping warm in the winter, and we had cold winters, so it was a necessity to have bedding.

Ellen: Okay, for extra bedding. What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

Jessie: I think they're important because our forefathers came from other countries and they probably brought their heritage with them, and I think it's important that we carry on with the heritage of things like that.

Ellen: How do you think that we should preserve quilts for the future?

Jessie: Well, that's sort of a hard one to answer. Well one way is to keep them in a museum or someplace where they can be treasured and protected from misuse. It's important to keep them intact, in good shape.

Ellen: Do you know what's happened to the quilts that you've given to family and friends?

Jessie: You know, not really. It was many years ago, and quite a few of the people are no longer living, you know?

Ellen: So, the quilts may have been passed on to their children?

Jessie: I remember with my mother's help; we made some quilts for my cousins at graduation from high school and some of those are no longer living now. I remember one time I went to see my grandmother and she had the quilt in the frame, and she was old, probably nearing eighty, and quilting was difficult for her, hurt her back and I did a lot of that quilt while I was visiting, and she would say, 'I'll go fix us something to eat. You quilt while I'm gone.'

Ellen: That's her plan.

Jessie: Well, I spent a lot of the time I was there quilting, counted long days of it and we did finish it before I had to go home.

Ellen: Was her eyesight starting to fail then, do you think too?

Jessie: No, she had good eyesight.

Ellen: Was that about a just few years ago or--

Ellen: So that was just last year, right?

Jessie: No. [both laugh.]

Jessie: Oh no, that was a long time ago. I was a teenager.

Ellen: That may have been what, in the 50's?

Jessie: No. That was in the 30's.

Ellen: I was just wondering how long ago your grandmother was in her 80's, and so it's been a while. Is there anything else that you would like to tell me about quilting that I haven't asked, Jessie?

Jessie: Well, I think you have done a very good job.

Ellen: We've covered just about everything that you would like to have preserved in history about quilting, from your experiences?

Jessie: Well, I would recommend that people adopt the habit of hobbies, and I think that would even be good to include quilts. I like to hear young people collecting with the quilts, making them, whatever.

Ellen: Well, I would like to thank Jessie Betterton for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 12:10 p.m., on June 19, 2006.


“Jessie Betterton,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024,