Jean Wooten




Jean Wooten




Jean Wooten


Jane Kucko

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Fort Worth, Texas


Jeremiah Stephan


Jane Kucko (JK): I really appreciate you being here Jean and talking to us.

Jean Wooten (PW): Thank you, it's a pleasure.

JK: And you brought a really beautiful double wedding ring, no, no, no, no, grandmother's flower garden quilt. And could you begin by telling us about it.

PW: This quilt was made in the early 30's by my maternal grandmother, Kathy Kittsleman, and was given to my mother and Dad not too many years after they got married.

JK: Oh, that's beautiful.

PW: In Winfield, Kansas, and it adorned my mother and dad's bed as a bedspread many summers. And then mother was afraid it was getting faded, so she put it away and saved it, and it came to be when she passed away a few years ago. My Grandmother also made one and gave me, it was--I don't even remember the name of it, she told me. It was a scrap quilt and I really loved it, but we were an air force family and in a move on time it didn't make-survive the move, somebody stole it so--

JK: Ah.

PW: I was really thrilled to get this one, after losing the other one.

JK: Absolutely, after losing the other one. Yah this is grandmother flower garden, and you remember some of these prints or--

PW: I remember one in particular that was my mother's dress, and mother showed me two of the prints that had been my dresses when I was growing up. My grandmother made all of my clothes including my coats until I started the high school. My coats were made out of--it was depressing years. And, grandma would somebody's old coat that was worn down the front, from handling and what not, and make me a coat, and it looked like brand new. I was also thrilled to get something new from grandma.

JK: [laughs.] There you go, there you go. Well what means, the most to you about having this quilt?

PW: Oh, I guess just that she loved them, and I loved her, and I love quilting, it's just brings the past back to me. The memories, the times I spent with her. I remember she gave me some scraps a couple of times when I would go to spend the night and she shows me how to sew them together--

JK: Oh.

PW: It was going to be a double wedding ring--

JK: Oh.

PW: I'm sure I never finished a whole block, but when she would sit around and sew, she'd give me something too--to fool with. And I've often wondered what ever happened to those, she probably threw them away as soon as I went home. [laughs.]

JK: [laughs.] That's wonderful, so you remember her quilting?

PW: I never saw her do much quilting, I saw the frame because the method, her Methodist ladies were coming over to help her with the quilting and I would see it sitting there, but I never actually was there when they did the quilting. But in the evenings, she'd sit around and do her piecing [JK hums approval.] all of her piecing was done by hand and so a lot of stitches and in the Flower Garden.

JK: And you talked about how she would give you some scraps, so was a primary teacher to you, do you think?

PW: Yeah, she really was, she taught me a love for it. And uh, then as grew up I was involved in other things, by the time I got through high school I got married shortly after getting out of high school and married an air force man who traveled all the time, we had five children so [JK laughs.]

I was very busy for a long time.

JK: Yes, yeah. So, when did you start quilting more regularly?

PW: Oh, it been about [pause.] about fifteen, eighteen years ago [JK hums approval.] I used to go the quilt shops and walk through them and wish that I had time to do them, and one day I wondered into Janet Mullins' shop here in Fort Worth. And started taking classes with her and one of my daughters joined me, and from them on it was--oh full speed ahead.

JK: Full speed ahead, how many quilts have you made?

PW: Oh, my I don't know--

JK: [laughs.] A lot.

PW: I have no idea. I haven't track. I don't make hardly any wall hangings, umm it my mind quilting is for the bed, and there's not that much room on my walls to put anything, and their utilitarian to me. [JK hums approval.] As I was growing up, I always had quilts or comforters, my other grandmother made comforters. She wasn't the sewer that my paternal grandmother was. And she would take old quilts that were worn--badly worn and I remember some--even army blankets, and she would encase them in dark blue flannel, and tie them [JK hums approval.] and sometimes we slept under three or four of those in the wintertime. [laughs.]

JK: To keep you warm.

PW: Right, the quilts were more for spring, fall, and summertime.

JK: So, the quilts you intend to be used--

PW: Right.

JK: As well.

PW: Right.

JK: And who do you?

PW: That's what they are for.

JK: [laughs.] And who do you give those quilts to?

PW: Oh well as I said I have five children, and I have about nine grandchildren--

JK: Wow.

PW: So, somebody's always got their name in the pot. [JK laughs.] I have one daughter, the one who took the lessons with me she doesn't have a whole lot of time to do her own quilting, so she's usually got her name on three or four at a time.

JK: So, do they use their quilts?

PW: Oh yes indeed.

JK: So, they keep asking you for more?

PW: Oh yeah.

JK: And that pleases you?

PW: Oh, very much, that's what they're for. The grandchildren, I always ask them to bring them back to me to be laundered. It to easy in this day and age to throw things in the washing machine, so they bring them back to me and I was them, I had a place where I can spread them out, a bring roof patio, you know where I can-they can be protected and washed properly. So--

JK: What are some of the patters that you have made?

PW: Oh my, [sighs.] I'm not even sure of the name of a lot of them. I have a flower garden about three-fourths done that I've been doing all by hand like grandma did [JK hums approval.] and I work on it in the car, or I used to a lot when traveled, because it's very small pieces and uh I have in the show a couple of really different ones, one of them is Jinny Beyers's, Moon Glow I think the name of it is. And then I have one in the show that's king size that is a patriotic quilt. The daughter that took the quilting lessons with me was--shares a birthday with the Air Force, so she's very red, white, and blue minded. And her bedroom is red, white, and blue. And this has a lot of red, white, and blue, and has some eagles on it and type of thing.

JK: I think I've seen that.

PW: Yeah.

JK: Yeah, it's beautiful.

PW: So, those are two of the most recent, I have several Irish Chains. I've made almost everybody in the family a double Irish Chain with cowboy fabric. So, they rap up in those while they watch the Cowboy's game.

JK: Oh, I see. [PW laughs.] As in the Dallas Cowboys.

PW: Right, right. They're strong, strong Dallas Cowboy fans. Oh, gee off the top of my head I just can't even think of the names of, the Ohio Star, and I've made a couple of [pauses.] the one that has the big-big plant and then the smaller ones around it.

JK: The Lone Star you mean?

PW: Well, I've made two of those.

JK: Two?

PW: But this is--oh I can't think what you call it, anyway. I've probably made fifty or sixty all together. I just don't remember all of them.

JK: That's wonderful, now do you primarily work by hand, or do you work hand and machine?

PW: Primarily now I use the machine, at first when I first started with Janet, she was a firm believer in hand. We did everything by hand.

JK: Uh Huh.

PW: And that was you always know your points are just right, and everything is just as-everything fits. Works beautifully that way, you get a little sloppy if you aren't careful when you get to all this fast machine stitching [JK hums approval.] I find if you don't have near as much relaxation when you do it by machine, you're always in a hurry to get it--

JK: Done.

PW: To get it over with.

JK: Interesting.

PW: Used to be a big-big thing for me to complete a block in an evening--

JK: Oh.

PW: I found it relaxing after a hard day at the office and [JK hums approval.] it's good to get home and unwind a little bit.

JK: Now have you lived in Fort Worth most of your--well you were military [PW sighs.] so I guess you lived everywhere.

PW: Yeah, we spent twenty-five years traveling around the United States, never went overseas although my husband went two or three times without us. [JK hums approval.] But we--he retired, and we've been here 35 years now.

JK: That's wonderful.

PW: So, this is home now.

JK: So, when you were busy traveling and your family and all that you weren't able to quilt. --

PW: No.

JK: Those were the none quilting years--

PW: No.

JK: And then now?

PW: My spare time was spent in youth activities--.

JK: Sure.

PW: And things like that.

JK: Sure. Now is there a quilt that you've always wanted to make that you haven't made yet? Is there a particular pattern?

PW: I guess completing this flower garden is probably [clears throat.], excuse me, excuse me, what I really want to finish next [JK hums approval.] it's--it just kind of a goal to have one--make one like grandma made, and hand quilt, I want to hand quilt--

JK: You want to hand quilt.

PW: I haven't hand quilted very many [JK hums approval.] because everyone is clamoring for their quilts. [both laugh.]

JK: So, you had some pressure--

PW: Right.

JK: To finish that.

PW: And there's some wonderful machine quilters in the area that do a marvelous job. [JK hums approval.] It's expensive, but uh, it's worth it to me to have it so beautifully done.

JK: Yeah, yeah. What kind of response do you get from your children when you give them a quilt?

PW: Oh, great excitement, uh I usually give my girls one almost every Christmas.

JK: Oh really.

PW: Yeah, and we have great big Christmas bags you know that I put them in with the tissue paper and everything, as soon as they get their quilt out and wrap up in it, and walk around in it, and fool with it, then bring it back and say, 'okay fill it up for next year.' [laughs.]

JK: Next year, oh that's wonderful.

PW: It's not going to happen this year however my husband's been ill, and I just haven't had the heart to go work on them much this year.

JK: Well quilting is very personally emotional--

PW: Yeah.

JK: It's hard to work on it sometimes, when going through that.

PW: Yeah.

JK: That's wonderful. What's of your first quilt memories?

PW: Of my quilting?

JK: Of your quilting, or someone else's anything you would like it to be.

PW: [sighs.] Well, I guess my first memories are--are grandmother's, my grandmother, being with my grandmother and trying to do a little bit on my own. [JK hums approval.] And I remember her quilts in the high school that--that's what we had in the bedroom, the quilts and comforters.

JK: Now she was in Kansas.

PW: Uh huh.

JK: So that's where you grew up as a little girl.

PW: Well, I lived there until I started the high school then we moved to Nebraska.

JK: Oh, you did?

PW: Yeah.

JK: Where in Nebraska?

PW: Omaha.

JK: Omaha.

PW: Yeah.

JK: I'm from Lincoln.

PW: Oh.

JK: We a common--

PW: Oh, I love Nebraska, oh I love Nebraska.

JK: Yeah.

PW: I'd go back in a New York minute, I'd tell you. Except that my friends and family are here.

JK: Yeah.

PW: But I do love Nebraska. I have a sister and brother in Fremont and a brother in Omaha, and a lot of nieces and nephews all over the place, it's always fun to go back.

JK: Now do you notice any difference between what you remember of Kansas and if you remember and Nebraska quilting and here?

PW: No, no.

JK: Not really:

PW: I always visit all the shops when I got back that way between here and there, and in the--I go to Lincoln sometimes.

JK: Good for you, good for you, good for you.

PW: But I don't see that much difference. Maybe there's more traditional up there then down here, there's a lot more arty quilting in this part of the country.

JK: Have you ever wanted to experiment with that?

PW: No, not particularly. The nearest I get is some of Jinny Beyer's creations and there quite interesting. The one I have in the show was a real challenge with all the points. [laughs.]

JK: Yeah.

PW: But it was fun, but I enjoyed doing it.

JK: Well, how do you choose a pattern?

PW: Well, a lot of times my girls will choose the pattern [JK laughs.] they want. And I take them with me, and we pick the fabric together and they don't see it again until it is finished. [JK hums approval.] A lot of times I'll see one in the show and want to do one like that. Sometimes I'll see a friend working on one, see one hanging in the shop that I like, they just kind of call to you when you want to do them.

JK: Are there particular colors that you work in?

PW: I like two color quilts real well. But on the other hand, I like scrap quilts too, but oh I just enjoy all of them, I think.

JK: That's wonderful.

[tape shuts off and restarts.]

JK: Okay, so you were uh taking about some of the fabrics in [PW hums approval.] Grandmother's Flower Garden how they swapped fabrics?

PW: Yah, my grandmother when they weren't working on piecing your quilt they would sit around--or weren't working on quilting a quilt, they'd sit around and piece-hand piece. When these ladies met, and they would trade fabrics, if one of them had a new dress well she always had a few scraps of material to trade with somebody for something else. And that gave them a pretty good variety. And they worked with very tiny pieces; they never wasted an inch of it. My other grandmother on my mother's side came to Kansas in a covered wagon and she's the one who didn't sew a whole lot. She would make her dresses, but she was the one who made the comforters, but what always amazed me, and to this day what amazes me, is she even saved her basting threat, she was very careful, she was accustomed to not being able to go to town very often. And she had two or three spools on her little thread holder that were just basting threats rewound, because she used them over and over until they broke.

JK: Isn't that amazing?

PW: When I see that amount fabric that I throw away when I'm cutting with the speed tools we use now, I think, here I think I'm a child of the depression and I really have no idea, what those people who lived in the depression lived through.

JK: Yes.

PW: I do remember, that uh my grandmother Kittleman my underwear out of flower sacks and things like that. [laughs.]

JK: Really?

PW: Oh yeah.

JK: Really that's wonderful, now do you still have some of those pieces?

PW: No.

JK: No.

PW: Oh, course not; you wanted to get rid of them as soon as you can! [laughs.]

JK: [laughs.] It wasn't fun was it, I'm sure.

PW: And--

JK: Wonderful memories. Now do you remember the grandmother that came over in a covered wagon.

PW: Oh yeah. Then again, I wasn't smart enough to ask her about it very much. Until I had moved away, and we were away in the Air Force, and I was in high school--or I was married and gone before both of my grandmothers past away. And so, by the time I was in--smart enough and intelligent enough to ask questions about the olden days, as they say, they weren't around to ask anymore.

JK: I think that was typically of the time though, we didn't think like that.

PW: It was. I went to a one room schoolhouse the first five grades, and um walked to school and never thought anything about it.

JK: Right.

PW: That's the way it was.

JK: What do you love most about quilting?

PW: Well, there's many things. I enjoy the creativity part of it. The fact that I'm making something that will be here after I'm gone. I like the comfortry with the ladies that I work--there's three or four ladies that get together with me in my house mostly now because my husband has such failing health. And it's just being with them--

JK: Are you a member of a guild?

PW: Yeah.

JK: Trinity?

PW: Trinity Valley. Have been for a long time.

JK: You also talked about how you entered quilts in the shows, have you served in the offices or--

PW: Oh yeah, I worked as secretary and I was sunshine and shadows, and I always worked in the shows. I practically enjoyed working with the vendors. I did that several years. I enjoyed that part of it. I just enjoyed people, being around them.

JK: How has the guild changed from when you first joined?

PW: Well, it's grown up I guess you'd say [JK hums approval.] more than anything. They tackle new things, each show seems to be better than the last, and I think well there's nothing else they can do to improve it, but it's just a little better each year. Something a little nicer, this year the little flags they have hanging by each booth is so attractive. And of course, their decorating has always been spectacular. And you rarely see that at other shows.

JK: That's right.

PW: And it's just it's been a real growing process for them, the first one I saw was uh in just a little small [pauses.], then didn't even have a way to hang them, they were just laying over tables. [laughs.] They probably weren't more than ten or twelve of them. And there were probably only about that many members in the guild.

JK: Isn't that wonderful?

PW: And it's just grown and grown. I was still working at the time, and I couldn't wait until I could just finish and be a part of it.

JK: Were you a charter member of the guild?

PW: No, no I wasn't.

JK: No.

PW: I was just really getting enthused about it, but I was still working so...

JK: Right

PW: So, I didn't join.

JK: Now you a member of a bee?

PW: Yeah, I'm a member of a couple of them. One of them is the Quilt Batts--

JK: Oh okay.

PW: B-A-T-T-S, and the other one is the back-room bee. Now it's one of the original bees of the guild. Janet Mullins started it her back room. Hence the name. Janet is a marvelous quilter, and her husband is real sick again with cancer. I don't even think she has anything in the show this year, but outstanding quilter.

JK: You've talked about how you've quilted, and now you're going through a difficult time as well with your husband being ill, do you think getting back into quilting will be something that will take time, or do you think that will be something that will actually be helpful.

PW: No, it's always there waiting for me, and I try to slip away sometimes, and Gordon can't get out of the chairs by himself, I have to help him stand up, and things, and when he can't see me then he calls to me all the time. He's even got my parrot saying 'Jeanie.' [laughs.]

JK: [laughs.] Great, that's wonderful, that's really wonderful.

PW: The minute where we all leave the room where the parrot is, he-he likes people, the minute we leave it's almost instantaneous, we hear 'Jeanie.' [laughs.]

JK: [laughs.] That's wonderful. Parrots are fascinating.

PW: Yeah, they really are, he's a very intelligent bird.

JK: He must be really.

PW: They claim they have the intelligence of a four or five her old child.

JK: Is that a fact?

PW: Yeah, and he has a very big vocabulary.

JK: You have to watch what you say!

PW: You sure do. [laughs.]

JK: That's wonderful. Well what place in American culture or society do you think quilt making has played what roll it's played?

PW: I don't know. [laughs.]

JK: Yeah.

PW: I've never thought about it, it just-it's really an art form when you get right down to it. A tactile art form. I've been to Houston a few times, and I'm just amazed at the pictures they paint with fabric and thread, it's--it's awesome.

JK: So, you appreciate that?

PW: I do, I have no desire to try to do that. I'm just not that artistic, I copy well. [laughs.] I don't always get inspired by myself.

JK: Right, yeah. Now you mentioned earlier that you do view your quilts and utilitarian objects, something you want them to use. Have you ever made one where secretly you thought I hope they don't use this?

PW: [laughs.] Well, some of them I give me grandchildren I think I hope they keep the animals off it.

JK: Oh yes, yeah, yeah.

PW: In fact, I just gave my granddaughter a second one, and it's just exactly like the as the first one only different colors. But that's what she wanted. The other one she had had about ten years and uh, it just wasn't as crisp and pretty as she wanted it to be. So, she wanted another on, and I made it. I took it to her just the other day.

JK: Oh.

PW: She's got a big dog, and she said, 'Now Grandma, he's not going to be on it, I promise.' [laughs.]

JK: Have you made quilts for their births, or I don't know if any of your grandchildren are married or anything like that?

PW: Well, I've a lot of baby quilts for nieces and nephew's babies, my grandchildren only one of them has a grandchild-child. And I've made her several. And they've also had another little boy and I made him on, but he had a crib death, and we lost him. He was about four months old. So, it's really sad, but I had just finished that quilt and I told my daughter I don't know what I should do with this. So, she asked me, she said, 'Oh yes, I want that.' She had it made for him, and I want it.

JK: Yeah, that would have been a difficult decision; you didn't probably know how she would respond to that.

PW: Oh yeah, he was born in May, so he didn't need it until fall, so it was really sad.

JK: Yes, that is. You obviously love quilt making, and you always will see yourself quilting.

PW: [hums approval.]

JK: That's wonderful. Now what about your fabric stash and all of that? [PW laughs.]

Anything you want on the record?

PW: I have been accumulating, and I have had to abandon a couple of bedrooms to fabric. One time a few years ago, this is probably six seven years ago, I went out and bought backing for two king size quilts, and I bought off-white, and they just rolled it back on the mold. And I carried it in the house and my husband says, 'Oh my gosh, you're not buying it by the bolt now are you!' [both laugh.]

JK: He couldn't--

PW: And two or three times he has told people, when cloth world runs out of some particular fabric, they just send their customers down here to Jeanie.

JK: [laughs.] She'd probably have it. That's wonderful. Do you subscribe to magazines?

PW: I did for a long time, and suddenly I was just overwhelmed with them, and so I donated them. I wouldn't remember what it was in particular in each on that I liked, so I'm very picky on what patterns and books and magazines that I buy now.

JK: Right, right.

PW: I find even so they are piling up. [laughs.]

JK: They have a tendency to do that.

PW: I told my daughters, now when I'm gone you girls take what you want, and then offer the rest of it to my sister. And whatever you guys don't want you can call the guild and tell them. Susan says, 'You don't think for a minute that I'm not going to save every scrap!' [JK laughs.] She said, 'I'm just like you!' When we were in the Air Force, you had--you can't get rid of things. You can't keep them forever. There are so many things that I could have like to have kept, but you had a weight limit, and you just reach the point where you just have to weed it out. Well, I haven't moved in 35 years [laughs.] so like I say I have a couple of bedrooms that are bulging at the seams.

JK: That's wonderful.

PW: I have invested in these wire things from the container store, so I have different colors and different projects, and there's also a lot that are right in the middle of the floor that I don't have room for. [laughs.]

JK: That's terrific.

PW: Well, it is for me, but it's not going to be for my girls when I'm gone.

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

PW: I don't think so. It's such excitement to cut a new quilt, I enjoy appliqué. For a long time, I considered it that "A" word, and then one of my girls wanted one that was primarily appliqué, and I got started on it and found out that I really enjoyed it so, I like it all. I'm not a good quilter. I'm very mediocre quilter, because I haven't, done that much of it. I haven't only really totally done three or four. I've helped on a lot of it. There stitches are just awesome to me.

JK: Let me ask you then, what do you think really makes a great quilter?

PW: Well, I think making things, your points, and everything match, and the hand quilting, I think that's really and truly, the important part. I just do that much of it. And it doesn't matter to my children; they'd rather have the quilts then the hand quilting.

JK: Sounds like you have a lot of--

PW: And they will ware better too.

JK: That's true. That is true.

PW: I remember when I first joined the guild, we had a hard time acquiring enough quilt to put up, and it got so we showed over and over. But you don't always remember. But then the machine quilters came alone and suddenly we had all the quilts that we could handle. It made a difference.

JK: That's a positive.

PW: Yeah.

JK: Well, there any trends in quilt making that concern you at all?

PW: Maybe, the overuse of machine quilting. I just hope that the hand quilting is not lost in the shuffle because it's truly beautiful. When they--Anne Mocks, and Janet Mullins, and Joe Bromes, and some of those ladies do such beautiful work, I would hate to see it lost forever.

JK: This had been fascinating, are any other stories or aspects of quilt making that you would like to talk about?

PW: I don't think so. [laughs.]

JW: No? Well, I've really enjoyed listening to you, and want to thank you again for participating in our Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save our stories project, and this concludes our interview at about ten after eleven a.m. in the morning. Thank you.

PW: I've been talking that long?


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