Florine F. Gist




Florine F. Gist




Florine F. Gist


Jane Kucko

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The Nat'l Quilting Assn


Fort Worth, Texas


Shira Walny


Jane Kucko (JK): This is Jane Kucko. Today's date is May 19, 2001, and I am conducting an interview with Florine Gist for the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project in Fort Worth, Texas. Now I'd like to just begin by thanking you for being here and participating in our project.

Florine Gist (FG): Thank you for having me.

JK: And I see you've brought a couple of interesting items here, one is, it looks like an antique quilt and then another one is Cards, is that right?

FG: Yes, it is.

JK: Why don't you tell me about these objects?

FG: Well, why don't we start with the Cards first.

JK: That's great.

FG: And we can get it out of the way.

JK: Alright.

FG: The last time I used this was 1936. I was six years old. This was the last year that there was any cotton grown on our farm.

JK: Oh, my goodness.

FG: So, this has been in our family ever since that time.

JK: Well, how wonderful that you have those.

FG: So, people will know what cards are for. Take the seeds from the cotton and then you use the cards and just layer it and fluff it up. I have some great aunts that always said that they slept under seven or eight quilts, after carding cotton, I can understand why. [laughs.] Because they got tired of doing all the carding and they would just make very thin layers.

JK: [laughs.] So, it took six or seven to keep warm, huh?

FG: Yes, it did in those days.

JK: Now you said 1936 was the last time you used these?

FG: Yes.

JK: Why did you decide or what was the history of the cotton no longer being grown on the farm at that time?

FG: Well, economy, I guess.

JK: Okay, well, of course. That time in the country.

FG: Yes, it was that time when they couldn't grow so much cotton in our area.

JK: Sure, where was that at?

FG: It was in the Concord Community which is 10 miles north of Palestine. That's in Anderson County, Texas.

JK: Very interesting, well, tell me about this quilt that you brought with you today.

FG: Well, this quilt, it has been a while since I've done this too. This was done the year of 1951, and the year that my oldest son was born. You can tell by looking at it that the material is faded. That's supposed to be white. Some if it is flower sacks, some of it is feed sacks and some of it is scraps that was left over from dresses and even the color parts were dresses. Back then, whenever Daddy would go to buy feed for the pigs, he would always buy three sacks at the same time of the same color. That way there was enough material for dresses for Mamma and my sister and I.

JK: Isn't that wonderful. So, you made this?

FG: Yes, I did.

JK: For your son, is that right? The birth of your son?

FG: Well, I just made it, and I don't know what pattern it is other than the fact that I have one now that part of this is a Cobweb pattern, so I don't know what they call it back then.

JK: Now why was it never quilted?

FG: Well, along about that time I was a young married one and time just changed, and I moved to the city and there wasn't any more of the Quilting Bees. I was the only one in the family that could drive at the time, and I drove my grandmother and my mother to different family and friends in the community and we would quilt one day and if the quilt wasn't finished that day, we would just leave it and they would finish it. Then we would go the next week and finish one at someone else's house. Always there was covered dish but the person's house that we were attending would have the refreshments for us which we always enjoyed. The thing back then was the great big needles that we use, where now we use small needles. The first question that they always asked when we get to someone's house was 'how are we going to do this? Are we going to do it in squares or shells?' That was the way that they quilted at that time.

JK: What is meant by a shell?

FG: Well, it's a moon shaped, two inches apart and on the squares, it would be two inches apart. Now that's the way they did it in my little neighborhood. In the wintertime, it would be in what they call the front room which there was always a bed in the front room and there was a heater or a fireplace and that was the only heat that was in the house. But anyways, the quilting frames always stayed up. Now when we went during the summertime, we might quilt under a tree or out on the gallery, as my grandmother says and there was one house that we went to that had what they called a dogtrod in it, so it was nice and cool there at that house.

JK: Why did you choose to bring this particular quilt?

FG: Well, it was the only one that I had that was left over from way back when.

JK: Well, it's just a wonderful collection of color and texture and your story is really quite wonderful, Florine, I really enjoyed that. Now you mentioned that when this was done and you moved to the city and there wasn't a bee, is that right?

FG: Well, yes, I went to work and--

JK: Other things?

FG: Yes, had another child a year or so later and just took care of the boys.

JK: You were busy.

FG: I was busy and didn't get back into quilting for several years and when I did, then I did it for a cover and sewed it up on the sewing machine. But this is the last hand pieced quilt that I ever did.

JK: Interesting.

FG: Now, I piece on the sewing machine.

JK: I want to hear more about that in a little bit, but I want to ask you first how, when did you learn to quilt? How old were you when you did learn to quilt?

FG: I don't know because I grew up with it. I just remember the first thing that I can remember was the big pan of coals sitting underneath the quilt and this would keep your feet warm.

JK: Oh, for heaven's sake, that's wonderful.

FG: So, I don't, I guess I just quilted, you know, whenever I was big enough to hold a needle.

JK: You don't remember a time when you weren't around a quilt?

FG: No.

JK: And was this your mother and your grandmother?

FG: Well, it was my mother, and my grandmother didn't get involved in it until I was 18 or 19 years old when I would drive them to quilting.

JK: Did your mother, do you remember working with your mother on a quilt?

FG: Oh yes.

JK: What's your first quilt memory regarding that?

FG: As I said, about the--

JK: The coals?

FG: The coals underneath the quilt.

JK: That's wonderful.

FG: Well, we had a heater in the house at that time and we couldn't have a fire in the heater and have the quilt hanging down from the ceiling so we had prepared the coals ahead of time-- [added: or the quilt would have been on top of the stove.]

JK: To keep warm. [tape stops and starts.] Wonderful. Well, you certainly have described about a lot of family and just always being around quilts, what do you think quilting means to your family?

FG: I hope that the quilts that I have given them will be something that they will cherish. I have a great-grandson; he was into the little trains, so I made a quilt for him that has trains on it. Now the little great-granddaughter who is three years old, I have a, I guess it's a Sunbonnet Sue, I've not seen a pattern here like it, a friend of mine sent me a pattern from North Carolina so I'm getting that ready for her now. And I have made, well I guess you'd say that they're family quilts and all of my family has their name embroidered in the quilt and I gave that to my mother a few years back so she's not using it now, she's put it in the cedar chest and everybody knows that it comes back to my side of the family whenever she's not around any longer. Last year for a family homecoming, I guess you could call it, I did a cousin and their family, and they auctioned this quilt off to make money for the reunion and it brought $1000 which I was real proud of.

JK: That's wonderful, oh absolutely.

FG: They were fighting over who was going to get it.

JK: [laughs.] That makes you feel good to see the people like that.

FG: Well, yes, I said big tears just came to my eyes to think that they wanted it that bad, but it was real nice.

JK: That's wonderful. Have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time?

FG: Oh well, I'm doing it now because I'm not working [laughs.] and I have nothing else to do. I'm a person who can't sit still.

JK: So, you quilt now as a means of keeping busy?

FG: That's true.

JK: And keeping occupied?

FG: Yes.

JK: What quilt are you working on now, or quilts, what kind of project?

FG: I just finished a Double Wedding Ring and I'm tired of it so I'm not going to do another one for a while.

JK: Alright. Now you mentioned earlier that this quilt you brought today was the last hand pieced, so you machine piece?

FG: Yes, I do.

JK: And then do you machine quilt?

FG: No, I'm hand quilting one now. Whenever I have one to be machine quilted, I have a friend that does that for me. I'm sewing on the sewing machine for a little while and when I get tired of that I go upstairs and quilt on my quilt that I have in the frames.

JK: So about how many projects would you have going on at one time?

FG: I've got three right now. [laughs.]

JK: That's wonderful.

FG: And all at different stages.

JK: How many quilts have you made? Do you have any idea?

FG: I don't have any idea. I did 13 in one year a few years back whenever I got back into quilting. I'd had a car wreck and I said the medication I was on made me speed up [laughs.].

JK: 13 quilts is a lot of quilts.

FG: Yes, but I hand quilted all of those.

JK: Oh, you did?

FG: Yes.

JK: You did? That's amazing. What happens to most of your quilts? Do you give them away?

FG: Well, I give a lot of them away and then I'm involved with the senior citizens at the fair, so I do sell them there. That's what I'm working on now.

JK: Do you have a quilt that you've made that has particular meaning or is your favorite quilt?

FG: No, not really. I think the Double Wedding Ring is real pretty but it's awfully hard to do.

JK: Absolutely.

FG: Time consuming.

JK: It's a difficult quilt.

FG: Yes.

JK: Is there any aspect of quilting that you don't enjoy?

FG: No, at the time I think I hate this but then when I start doing something else [laughs.] I say, 'Oh let's go back, you know.' No, it's all interesting.

JK: It might just be that you get tired of a particular technique most of the time.

FG: That's true.

JK: Do you usually work from patterns, or do you design quilts?

FG: I have designed some of the patterns and my husband loves to play on the computer, so I just draw a picture on a piece of paper and say here, make me a pattern so we go from there.

JK: How wonderful.

FG: So that's kind of interesting too.

JK: What do you love most about quilting?

FG: Oh, I love to cut them out. [laughs.]

JK: Really?

FG: Put the colors together.

JK: How do you cut out; do you use a rotary cutter?

FG: Yes, I do. And the more I can stack up, the faster I can get through.

JK: That's wonderful. Are you a member of the Trinity Valley Guild?

FG: No.

JK: Okay, have you ever been a member or you're members of bees it sounds like.

FG: Yes, the lady that was my neighbor, that has just died, had a little quilt shop and we went there to quilt once a week. Now we go to a new bee.

JK: So, do you like to quilt in groups?

FG: Oh, I think it's a lot of fun. There's interesting stories that people can tell, and I think you learn a lot from other people.

JK: Yes. Their techniques.

FG: Well, that's true too and it's amazing to me to see the colors that some people put together.

JK: Things that you may not have thought of that you might want to try?

FG: That's true too. To me, they wouldn't work for me at all but when they do it, well, it turns out okay.

JK: Do you usually use more traditional patterns or design traditional patterns, or do you use contemporary ideas?

FG: Oh, I did some contemporary and I didn't go for that too much. [laughs.]

JK: But you tried it huh?

FG: Yes, I tried it.

JK: What was that like?

FG: Well, it turned out to be a headache. [laughs.]

JK: [laughs.]

FG: No, I like the old patterns best.

JK: Do you subscribe to magazines?

FG: Not right now I don't but I have in the past. Since I'm not working, I may get back into that.

JK: Do you keep all your magazines and books and things?

FG: Yes, I do.

JK: Some of the quilters we've interviewed are willing to confess about the number of books and their fabric stash and all of that [laughs.] in terms of how large it is. [laughs.] Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

FG: Well, I don't have very many books on hand. I have drawers that are full of patterns [laughs.] I have no idea, 25 to 30 maybe, something like that. And I have some shelves in my sewing room that is stacked with all colors of fabrics. I said, 'It looks just like going into a store.'

JK: Really? That's wonderful. So, you have a room in your house dedicated to--

FG: Yes, one of the bedrooms has been turned into my sewing room.

JK: Good for you.

FG: I have a--my sewing machine is in a large cabinet and at the end of this cabinet, I guess it's 48 inches, then I have a six-foot folding table so that is where I do my cutting. And at the end of that was where all these shelves go up to the ceiling and it's just where all my material is in coordinating colors. If I want blues, they're down here and pinks and yellows and all of those. They're separated.

JK: Well, you're answering my next question, I was wondering if there were certain colors that you worked in, but it sounds like you have a variety.

FG: I have everything, some of all of it.

JK: So, there isn't any particular color palette you prefer; it just depends on what you're doing.

FG: That's true.

JK: Would that be fair?

FG: Yes.

JK: Now do you have family members that you've taught to quilt? Have you passed on your skills to anyone?

FG: Well, I can say no. I have helped my granddaughter. Not having a daughter, see, I couldn't pass it down and the daughter-in-laws, they don't go along with mother-in-laws sometimes. And they have their own thing to do with their mothers. But my granddaughter is working on a quilt, so she has it ready to put the border on, so it won't be long until it's finished.

JK: How old is she?

FG: She is 28.

JK: 28.

FG: Yes.

JK: So that must please you to see her interested.

FG: Well, it really does.

JK: Absolutely. What is her quilt? Is it going to be a gift or is it a quilt that she's doing for herself?

FG: She's doing this for herself. She's a two-year cancer survivor and so when she was recuperating, she was working on this quilt.

JK: So, it was something that helped her through--

FG: That's true.

JK: Gave her something else to think about, that's wonderful.

FG: Yes.

JK: What do you think makes a great quilt?

FG: The first thing I look at is color coordination.

JK: That's what you think you look at and value most?

FG: Well, yes, if it's not pretty to look at. I don't want to spend any time with it.

JK: What do you think makes a great quilter?

FG: Well, now that's a kind of hard question to answer there. [laughs.] She's going to have to be interested in fabrics and it goes back to the colors, put them together.

JK: Do you have certain patterns that you like the most?

FG: No, I really don't. I see a lot that I think are very nice, but I haven't tried them yet and they're very simple patterns and more than likely I will now that I have the opportunity too.

JK: They're in that drawer along with the other 25? [laughs.]

FG: Yes, I know some of those books that I haven't looked at in a while.

JK: Sounds like you're looking forward to being able to have this time to do this now after years of working.

FG: I don't have anything else to do. We live in the country now and I don't like to get out and water so therefore I don't have any flowers to amount to anything. The one's I do have, they come up from year to year and they're taken care of that way. We have a lot of wildflowers and so I just don't have anything to do.

JK: That's wonderful. Do you know what your next quilts going to be? Well, you mentioned you're working on three right now but is there--

FG: Well, I've got to get this one finished for the great-granddaughter and so I don't know what I'll do next. I have to get one finished before I can start another one. I've tried to get my head to do this. [laughs.]

JK: [laughs.] Try to finish some up, that's wonderful, great. Have you had an opportunity to travel? My question's going to be have you seen quilts from other areas either Texas or the United States?

FG: Well, no not going to quilt shows, I've not been to any out of state. I was interested in the ones that I saw in President Clinton's boyhood home and but the people there did not know what pattern they were, they were some type of Friendship quilt but I thought was very nice and I came home and drew the pattern. Well, it's a little bit hard to put together so I set that one aside.

JK: Some other time.

FG: Some other time maybe.

JK: When you reflect with your past which I think is just so interesting, I mean you started out by bringing the cotton card, talking about your experience with that, do you have any thoughts on what quilting has meant to women throughout history?

FG: Really, it was a necessity for cover that I think that they had to have and whether they wanted to or not. I have some quilts that my grandmother made, and they're made out of old shirt tails and old dress tails and the material was not good to begin with whenever she made the quilt, but she had to have some cover.

JK: So, you still have those?

FG: Yes.

JK: That's wonderful. What do you hope happens to your quilts? I mean it sounds like you have your own mother's and of course you make your own quilts.

FG: Well, I hope that they will be passed down. I have three grandsons and I've made all of them quilts. Now the two younger ones which is nine and 13, I've not given their quilts to them as yet. At least they will have something that I did make for them.

JK: What do you think the role of quilt museums or having quilts in museums play? I mean, would that be something that might be interesting to you particularly for, say your mothers' or the older quilts?

FG: Well, I think they should be preserved because people nowadays don't use quilts so much, they've gone to blankets. That's what I couldn't understand. You know, when they get married, we always give a quilt.

JK: Right.

FG: So, I would ask if they had a quilt. 'No, we have blankets.' I said, 'Yeah, but they're not warm.' [laughs.]

JK: It's not a part of you.

FG: But the quilts are made larger so you can use them as a comforter or a bedspread. And that's what I use mine for now.

JK: For as a comforter?

FG: Well, as a bedspread.

[tape stops and starts.]

JK: Are there any questions that you have for us or anything that you'd like to elaborate on that we talked about? As you've worked through the interview, anything you've thought of that you'd like to add?

FG: I can't think of anything really. It's been quite interesting for me.

JK: Do you think, I do have one more that I think about, do you believe, I'm thinking of your past where you actually made the batting, is that right?

FG: Yes.

JK: You know where you made the batting and now of course now today, we purchase the batting, is there any trends in quilt making that you see that might concern that the original art and craft might be lost or do you see it being revived?

FG: It seems to be that it's being revived now for the past few years. As long as the quilt shows keep going [laughs.] I think there will be quilters.

JK: Be in business.

FG: Yes, I think so.

JK: Do you have a particular philosophy believing that a quilt might have more meaning or value if it's hand quilted versus machine quilted or what's your position on machine quilting?

FG: Well, for my personal use I had my quilts that I use machine quilted because I was going to use them. If I was going to give them as a gift, I would hand quilt them. So it's, I guess, just what you're going to use them for.

JK: I sure have enjoyed talking with you.

FG: Well, it's been fun.

JK: It's just been wonderful, is there anything else?

FG: No, I think I just about covered everything I can think about. [laughs.]

JK: Well I sure would like to thank Florine Gist for allowing me to interview her today as part of the 2001 [Quilters' S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project and our interview concluded at about, oh my about 3:05 p.m. and I failed to say at the beginning that it started at 2:30 p.m. and I sure do thank you.

FG: Thank you.


“Florine F. Gist,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 24, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1967.