Gayle Cochran




Gayle Cochran




Gayle Cochran


Jane Kucko

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


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 Gayle Cochran for the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project in Fort Worth, Texas. It is about 3:35 in the afternoon. Gayle, I'd just like to welcome you and thank you for being here.

Gayle Cochran (GC): Thank you.

JK: And for our project and I'd just like to begin by just asking you to tell us about your quilt here that you brought with you today.

GC: Well, I was making baby quilts for several new babies in our family and my 18-year-old grandson, Christopher, told his mother and said, 'I wish grandma would make me a quilt.' And she said, 'I'll bet grandma would love to make you a quilt.' So he did ask me and I chose about six or seven patterns out of different books that I thought I might enjoy making because I figured that was the easiest way to start and he chose this pattern and I bought some fabric and went to retreat and so I'm sewing at retreat on this quilt and all the time I'm sewing people are going by, people sitting at my table saying, 'I don't think you're going to like this, are you sure you want to put these fabrics together like this?' and I said, 'Well yes, I think this is the look I want.' 'Well, I don't know.' And so, I completed the quilt and hung it in our show. One interesting thing about it is this border was when I washed it before I put it in the quilt all of the green color faded, just ran out and I washed it enough that's its faded all it's going to and actually I think it's a prettier color with the quilt then original color that I chose and after the show I had so many comments on it that the quilt shop down on Vickery asked me if I would teach classes. So we hung the quilt in their shop and I taught a lot of beginner classes on this quilt and of course, my grandson didn't have the quilt because it's hanging at the quilt shop so after about a year or a little more than that, I made another quilt and I made it in blue this time and the quilt shop furnished the fabrics and I made the quilt and we were teaching classes and a young man came in and bought the quilt. He said, 'Oh it's my brother's wedding and that's just the quilt he needs, and I just need it so bad.' So, he bought the quilt. So here we're without a quilt again so I made the third one this time in red and my daughter-in-law has it now on her bed but when I finally got Chris's quilt home from the quilt shop. I washed it and because I wanted it fresh and he's a little over six foot tall and when I handed it to him, he wrapped up in it and said, 'Oh Grandma, I love this quilt.' So, I have another quilt in the show today that's for his wedding on June the second and so he'll have two of my quilts.

JK: Does he know about the second quilt?

GC: Yes, he does. I showed it to him. He said, 'Do I get to keep it this time?' And I said, 'Yes you do.' [laughs.] He's kind of leery of whether they get to keep the quilts but anyway it's really special to have children and grandchildren that appreciate your quilts, and they do. And when I was doing this quilt his younger brother, who's just two years younger, said, 'Well I'd like a quilt.' And at the time I was working on an appliqué quilt, it's an Americana quilt so it had lots of different sizes of blocks and lots of different appliqué things and pieced things and I said, 'Well, what kind of quilt are you thinking?' And he said, 'Well I like the one you're working on.' So, we immediately started incorporating his interest in it. He's a pianist and so I put a musical notes on the quilt at one point and the little girl sheriff, we turned into a boy and we did a log cabin because he wanted that and a Conestoga wagon and so we made it more for him, special for him and he helped, he drew a lot of the blocks for me so that was real fun too so it helped me to spend time with him. So that's the story of this quilt; how it started. [laughs.]

JK: Combination, I was interested to hear the initial comments from your retreat, you know it turns out to be a really beautiful quilt and we're really pleased with it. What's the one like that you made for the wedding gift?

GC: It's a Blooming Nine Patch and I really do like it. It looked like a wedding quilt to me and it's in kind of pastel blues with, it looks like a color wash.

JK: Now I noticed this has Nine Patch in it.

GC: Yes, it does.

JK: Do you--are you fond of Nine Patch?

GC: Well, they're of course the easiest block you can make as far as that goes but no, I've done a lot of other things besides that it just so happens that these are two that--the Nine Patch is just so versatile because you can do so many things with it and it looks so different and it's a good way to use color. Color is the important thing I think, as much as the pattern. You can do a real simple pattern and if you've got a good color combination, I think you've got a beautiful quilt.

JK: That's very interesting.

GC: And it doesn't have to be intricate, the pattern doesn't.

JK: Now do you usually work from patterns, or do you design some of your own patterns?

GC: No, I generally work from patterns or from this was just a picture, but it was fairly easy to do. I do work from patterns and books. I have a pretty extensive library.

JK: Well, that's one of the questions I usually ask, can you talk about your stash of fabric, how much you have and books?

GC: I just have an awful lot and every time I swear that we're going to sew this and not buy another piece, I do find something I just can't live without, and I'll end up buying it. It's real hard for me to finish, you know, I'm really working on finishing things and since [laughs.] I found some really good quilters, I have a hand quilter and I have a long arm machine quilter and so that's helped me and so I can piece the quilts and then I can get someone else to quilt it and that's really a help because it takes a long time for me and my hands are so crippled with arthritis that I can sew on the machine and as a matter of fact, I've learned machine appliqué with a blind stitch that I think looks really good and so I enjoyed that.

JK: How long have you been quilting?

GC: I was trying to think of that the other day, probably about 10 years, 12.

JK: Oh, okay. What prompted your interest to start?

GC: My sister owned a quilt shop in Houston and I was a needle pointer and I had a needle point shop here in Fort Worth and about the time I sold my needle point shop, she opened a quilt shop and now that I'm quilting and she's needle pointing [laughs.] which is interesting.

JK: That is.

GC: And so, but I've always sewn, you know, I've always done some hand work or machine, I've made clothing so.

JK: So, it wasn't totally new.

GC: No, it wasn't.

JK: Per say in terms of skill but in terms of your interest.

GC: Yes.

JK: Wonderful. Are there quilters in your family? Other quilters?

GC: I have a quilt top that's not very well done but probably because she didn't have the materials of a great-grandmother and they were, he was an itinerate preacher so they had no money and I imagine she just got these fabrics wherever she could, you know, find them and but actually, I really don't.

JK: So how did you learn to quilt, are you self-taught?

GC: I took classes and had help from various people. We finding our bees, we share a knowledge with each other in a smaller bunch of people so it's easier to share in our bees and of course the guild has a lot of good speakers and good workshops and the quilt shops, and I've taught at some of the quilt shops--

JK: That's wonderful. What is your first quilt memory?

GC: I don't know but I can, I don't know that.

JK: It's just something that you became interested in?

GC: Yes.

JK: About 10 years ago you said?

GC: Yes.

JK: Now are there anyone, immediate family members that you're teaching quilting to? You've said you've taught quilting classes and such.

GC: No [laughs.] I hope to someday, I have one granddaughter that's not the least bit interested in sewing and my daughter and daughter-in-law both work and my daughter has sewn before and done needlepoint before but they're just, none of them are really interested in it right now. They love what I do and appreciate it and that's so important. I hate to give people a gift that I've put this much time and effort and money into, and they don't understand what it is or care or take care of it.

JK: So, do you give away most of what you make?

GC: Yes, I give away a lot of what I make. Every child and grandchild has a quilt and I have two children, but I have five grandchildren. Now Chris is getting a second one.

JK: He's getting married.

GC: Yes.

JK: Very exciting. About how many hours a week do you quilt?

GC: It just depends on where I am. We just recently bought, a couple years ago, a condo in Colorado and I can get so much done up there. The phone doesn't ring, and I don't know anybody but and it's just a real wonderful quilting time for me or piecing time I should say. I try to work on it as often as I can. I have an elderly mother. She would hate me to say she was elderly. I have a dear sweet darling mother that is 93 years old, lives alone, drives her own car so she's sharp as a tack so she would not want me to say that, but it does require some of my time and has this past year she's been sick.

JK: So that's been keeping you busy as well.

GC: Yes.

JK: Now when you travel to Colorado, do you go to local quilt shops there?

GC: Yes, there's a wonderful shop there [laughs.] gets me in trouble every time I go. [laughs.]

JK: That's wonderful.

GC: Yes.

JK: Now do you normally--go ahead.

GC: And I've got a new sewing machine a couple of years ago so I took my older sewing machine up there, so I don't have to lug that around, that's really nice.

JK: That is nice.

GC: Yes, it is. I'm 25 miles from the shop because I'm up on the mountain and they're down in town, it's out of Durango, Colorado.

JK: I know the shop, I go there.

GC: Yes, and I'm up at Cascade Village and so, yes Animas Quilts and so they see me quite often, doesn't seem like 25 miles [laughs.] just going down for bread. [laughs.] It's a beautiful drive too.

JK: Definitely a beautiful area.

GC: Yes, it is.

JK: Now do you notice difference of between what she has? I've only been there once, are there differences between say Colorado and Texas and what they--

GC: Yes, there is. Every shop I find has a different flavor if you will, they buy different. I think it reflects on the personality on the shop owners and she definitely has a Colorado bend to her quilts I think, and I really do enjoy her shop.

JK: Are there color differences and things like that?

GC: Yes, there are color differences, they select different patterns, they put things together differently, it's just really interesting.

JK: Have they seen some of your work? You talked about the local store here.

GC: No, they haven't. But I've done a lot of work while I was up there.

JK: Exciting. What do you find most pleasing about quilting?

GC: Well, I love to sew, and a quilt doesn't have to fit my body or anybody's body and it doesn't have to be colored to what I can wear. I can make it very, you know, soft colors, very muted colors, I can make it bright colors but mostly it's because I can make it and it doesn't have to fit anything. [laughs.] When someone says, 'Well how big are you making that quilt?' And I said, 'Well I don't know, I lay it out on the bed and when it gets to be about the size I want it, then I put a border on it.' [laughs.]

JK: That's wonderful.

GC: And that's the way I did with this.

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

GC: Not really like all of it. My hands are too crippled for me to do a lot of the hand quilting, but I managed to put the bindings on pretty well but, and I don't sit at a frame well at all. If I do quilt, I quilt in a hoop on my lap.

JK: We hear that a lot.

GC: Yes.

JK: People do prefer the hoop, it's easier to maneuver. What do you think makes a great quilt?

GC: Well, I think color has a really big part in it but I think that all has to be go with the design and the quilting. I think the quilting can make or break the quilt. I think proportion and borders can make or break a quilt. A friend of mine was at some lecture and they said, 'When you go to a quilt show, don't just walk up and down the aisles. Stop and look at the quilts and then decide what it is you like, but more importantly what you don't like about the quilts and then analyze that. Is that border, is it the quilting, is it the color, is it the design, and then use that knowledge when you're making, your next quilt.' We've done that, the last few years and takes us a long time to get through some of the shows [laughs.] but it really has been a help to us to know, there's a lot of difference in seeing it in little pieces and seeing it up on a bed even but hanging up especially. I've taken pictures of my quilts and realized that I had half the blocks turned the wrong way and I didn't like the way that looked and can change it. So, design walls are good for that. That's a big help, help with that.

JK: What do you think makes a great quilter?

GC: I don't know patience. [laughs.] Willingness to try something maybe new or I don't know. We come in all sizes, shapes, and forms [laughs.] and ages and interests and I tend to be very traditional in what I see, and I've become very dear friends with a woman that is just as far out as I am traditional, and we think we've helped each other in the way we see things.

JK: That's wonderful. Now I notice in this quilt, and I heard you, I believe talked about what makes a great quilt. I think you reference color if I recall that right, there's a lot of different patterns in here.

GC: Yes.

JK: Of fabric.

GC: Yes.

JK: How do you select your fabric?

GC: That's the fun part. That's, as far as I'm concerned, that's the fun part. I just had a look I kind of wanted on this fabric and I just went around and selected fat quarters for these and then once I got those selected. I selected these background fabrics. And then when the quilt was put together, I had just a little bit of this paisley and I thought, 'Oh I want to use that and so I like it in this and then I chose the outside border.'

JK: Now besides Durango, Colorado, where do you purchase fabrics?

GC: Of course, at the shows, I try to go to Houston most years. The Cabbage Rose is probably my main supplier.

JK: So, you don't do much online purchasing or--

GC: No.

JK: Catalogue? You like to see it?

GC: I like to feel it and see it and touch it [laughs.] and play with it. I heard one time someone said if you are not turned on by the ingredients in your hobby, then you're in the wrong hobby.

JK: Yeah? That's a great way to put it.

GC: And I love the colors and I like to touch and feel the fabric.

JK: When you reflect on, you talked about learning to quilt or taking up quilting I should say about 10 years ago, but when you reflect on what you know about quilting and from what you've observed, what role do you think quilting has played in women's history?

GC: I really think that everybody needs something creative to do for mental health and it may be gardening, it may be cooking, it may be whatever. But I have a lot of physical problems, and this has kept me out of bed because I get excited about what I'm going to do next, and I want to do it and I think we all need that. It is good for us to have something creative to do and this happens to be the thing I like to do that's creative.

JK: It's a very interesting comment that you made--you see this as in a way therapy.

GC: Yes, it is.

JK: It kind of keeps you going.

GC: Yes, it is.

JK: What's your next quilt? Do you have--

GC: Oh, I've got six already [laughs.] that's the problem. Well, I have, in my mind what I want to do, I'm doing a, it's really a wall hanging, you can't call it a quilt, it's a wall hanging and it's painting with fabric actually, it's made with Wonder Under, it's called a Wildlife quilt and it has all the kind of wildlife in it, it has bears and it has elk. It's done in blocks; it was originally done as a block of the month and so I really can't call it a quilt, but it is a wall hanging and it's like painting with fabric and it's just been fascinating because it's totally different from anything I've done.

JK: Do you like, well I was just, you sound like you like trying different things.

GC: Yes. It's really going to be neat.

JK: Do you learn about those things through guild or shows?

GC: Saw this at the Durango Quilt shop, it was hanging on the wall, and I just really wanted to, thought that would be fun to do. I thought at first it was all appliquéd and I thought, 'oh that's going to be difficult to appliqué,' but it's not. It's glued down is what it is and then you go back and stitch over it or around it or whatever. It was fun, it is fun. It isn't finished.

JK: How many quilts have you made?

GC: Probably, I made five this past year but when you're not quilting them, you can turn them out a lot faster, but I don't do that every year. The year I was president of the guild, I didn't make a quilt and when you get too involved in that end of it, you don't. I've been president of the guild and program chairman at two different times and workshop chairman I love doing programs, that's the most fun job I think in the guild for me, so I don't get as many done. Depends on what's going on in my life, I've gotten a lot done this past year.

JK: I think that's very interesting for someone who's quilting 10 to 12 years you've already had all those roles in the Trinity Guild. Trinity Valley Guild?

GC: Yes, I have.

JK: So, you jumped right in then?

GC: Yes. We were kind of new when I started so yes but it's been--it's a neat deal.

JK: Just a couple more questions and then I'll conclude.

GC: Okay.

JK: What do you enjoy most about the guild? You're so involved.

GC: Well, I love doing the programs, I love being the program chairman and I do enjoy programs, enjoy the workshops. Really, it's the camaraderie, the fellowship; it is getting to know people. We come from such diverse places that we would never know one another if we weren't in a guild and didn't have this interest in common.

JK: Are you a member of a bee also?

GC: Yes, I am. I enjoy that really a lot too.

JK: This has been a pleasure talking with you.

GC: Thank you.

JK: Hearing your stories, are there any questions that you have or anything that you would like to elaborate on?

GC: I just think this super idea because we are going to lose these stories and I appreciate you including me.

JK: It's been a pleasure.

GC: Thank you.

JK: Thank you so much and again I'd like to thank Gayle Cochran for allowing me to interview her today as a part of our 2001 [Quilters' S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project and our interview concluded at 4 p.m.


“Gayle Cochran,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 19, 2024,