Jeanne Childs




Jeanne Childs




Jeanne Childs


Cary Shields

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Fort Worth, Texas


Jeanne Childs


Cary Shields (CS): This is Cary Shields. Today's date is May 18, 2002, and it is 1:05 p.m. and I am conducting an interview with Jeanne Childs for Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save our Stories. Jeanne, tell us when you started to have an interest in quilting.

Jeanne Childs (JC): I think I have always had an interest if not in quilting in needlework and handwork. I learned to knit and crochet when I was very, very young, about 6. My Grandmother taught me. I actually made my first quilt so long ago I really don't remember when. It wasn't very good, wasn't very nice but in fact my daughter still has it in her closet and uses it just for throwing on the couch. It was probably 20 years ago.

CS: You started quilting 20 years ago then?

JC: Probably, but not seriously. I really didn't learn how to quilt until 1992.

CS: How did you learn?

JC: Well, it's kind of a different story. I was on my way to Saudi Arabia. I was going to live there for two months. I was going with my husband. He was going on a business trip, and I said if he's going, I'm going. I needed something that was very portable to carry so I went to a local quilt shop in St. Louis, Missouri, where we were living at the time. I told them what I wanted, and they sold me a pattern for a wall hanging. They said, 'If you are going to be gone for 2 months and are going to do this all by hand, it will take you at least that long.' I finished it in two weeks because I had nothing else to do in Saudi Arabia. It really sparked an interest in quilting. We ended up staying in Saudi Arabia for three years. There was an American lady who taught quilting, and I took classes from her. My next trip back to the states I brought back a suitcase full of fabric.

CS: Is their fabric different from ours?

JC: They don't have quilting fabric. They don't manufacture anything in Saudi Arabia and their favorite fabrics are the gaudy polyesters. Their finest fabrics are silks--very, very little cotton. So you would bring everything back in your suitcase and the American community of quilters were willing to share with each other. Now this was ten years ago and I believe it is different now. I believe there is more there, but then there was nothing.

CS: That's interesting. What type of fabrics do you gravitate toward now? What colors, what types?

JC: I'm a traditionalist. I seem to like darker fabrics with great contrast where you use dark with light and I am trying to learn to use brights, and of course I use cotton.

CS: You haven't experimented with the dying your own fabrics or anything else?

JC: Never, no, no, no. I just want to cut the fabric and sew it back together.

CS: How much do you quilt now?

JC: I always have two or three projects going and unfortunately, I didn't bring that quilt with me today, but it is fairly typical of what I want my quilts to be. The quilt is one that I made for my fifteen-year-old grandson when he was a baby, and it was used only in my house. It's yellow and has Snoopys on it in the fabric. It was used in my house, he grew up, it stayed in my house, and my now four-year-old granddaughter used the quilt in Grandma's house. When she was about two, she took it home with her. She wouldn't leave without it. And she's slept with it every single night of her life since then. I asked last night if I could please have the quilt and my son and his wife both said no because Nicole wouldn't go to sleep without the quilt and if she woke up in the middle of the night and the quilt wasn't there she wouldn't go back to sleep. I meant to go over this morning and get it but I neglected to do it. You will have a picture of it. But that is what I want my quilts to be. I want them to be used. I want them to be loved. My grandson who is 15 has like 3 or 4 quilts that are usually crumpled up on his bed or the floor in his room and I like that, I really do.

CS: That's very gratifying to know your work is appreciated.

JC: Yes, yes.

CS: Have you done other quilts as gifts for--

JC: Oh yes, I've made wedding quilts and I've made quilts for other babies that have been born. My last group of quilts was…a friend of my daughters, a childhood friend, had twins so I made quilts for the twins when they were born. I have a year-old grandchild who has a room full of quilts. Yes, I have given them away as gifts.

CS: Have you kept any?

JC: Oh yes, I have quilts several.

CS: Have you passed this on to your children, to learn to quilt?

JC: Very emphatically no. I have two daughters and neither one of them know which end of a needle to thread and are not interested in knowing. Somehow, we're skipping a generation. We'll see about the little girls but they're too young now.

CS: What do you like best about quilting?

JC: I can't say that I'm creative because I tend to not necessarily use a pattern but look at pictures and basically copy. And I do traditional quilt blocks so I'm not being creative. I love working with the fabric and I love picking the colors which is creative and then making it my own. Looking at a picture and saying, 'I'm going to make that,' and then making it in such a way that it does become mine.

CS: Do you do patchwork or appliqué or both?

JC: Both.

CS: Which do you enjoy more?

JC: I'm learning to like appliqué. Id didn't because I am pretty much a perfectionist, and I don't like it if the stitches aren't the same. I keep looking at the back to see if the stitches are the same size which is silly because nobody is going to see those stitches. Yes, I'm learning to like appliqué.

CS: What have you done in appliqué?

JC: Not a lot. I have a wall hanging here at the quilt show that I did, and I've done a few small

Wall hangings. Nothing major. Mostly it's traditional piecing.

CS: When did you become involved with Trinity Valley Quilters' Guild?

JC: I joined Trinity Valley Quilters' Guild when I returned to Fort Worth in 1994.

CS: And you've been active ever since?

JC: No, I spent four years going to the meetings, listening to the programs and leaving and nobody knew who I was. However, for the last three years I have been making up for that.

CS: They found you, I think. What is it about quilting that is fulfilling to you?

JC: Just making things with my hands. I've always enjoyed working with my hands and doing needlework. I did a lot of knitting and crocheting. I went through a period that I did a lot of embroidering. I love working with my hands and seeing the finished product. Where quilting is concerned, I also enjoy the fellowship and camaraderie with the other quilters. It is not a solitary hobby.

CS: What about quilting--the needlework. Do you do hand or machine quilting?

JC: I do a little of both. I have a quilt that I have been quilting for at least 5 years, but I do little things and finish them quickly. It's just this quilt is so big it's hard to put it up in my house and leave it up so I can work on it. But I do a lot of small things that I hand quilt. But if it's a utilitarian quilt that's to be used a lot I send it out to be quilted by somebody else.

CS: What kinds of bats do you use? What's your favorite?

JC: Polyester. If it's a utilitarian quilt, like for the children or my family where they are going to put it on their beds. Polyester is absolutely the best to me because it is the easiest to maintain. Supposedly you shouldn't put it in heirloom quilts, but I don't do heirloom quilts.

CS: You--do quilts to be used?

JC: Quilts to be used, yes.

CS: What do you think makes a great quilt?

JC: Makes a great quilt?

CS: Yes, one that you would treasure.

JC: Coming from me or coming from other people?

CS: Anywhere, or both.

JC: Well, for me a great quilt is one that makes somebody say, 'Oh gee, I love it.' It doesn't have to be really gorgeous. There's one I did that is hanging in this show. It's just a split rail with a center appliqué. It's not pretty but my daughter absolutely loves it because it is her stadium blanket to take to her son's football games. That's the kind of thing I really enjoy. However, on the other hand, people who do these absolutely fabulous intricate appliqué quilts. They are artists, I'm not. I really admire them.

CS: What would make a quilt appropriate for a museum collection?

JC: I think to be in a museum they have to be a sign of the times, not necessarily the art quilts or necessarily quilts that are absolutely perfect with no imperfections in them. The quilts that are in museums that traveled in covered wagons are not works of art, but they belong in museums. That's what I think should be in museums, quilts that are indicative of the era they come from.

CS: Do you collect quilts at all?

JC: No.

CS: Do you collect any kinds of sewing or quilting memorabilia?

JC: No.

CS: You are a utilitarian person. How do you think these great quilters learn to design or learn to use color?

JC: I have no idea. I wish I did. Maybe some of it would rub off. I think basically they are artists and if your study their history many of them have art backgrounds.

CS: Can you give us a little more information on the quilt you would have brought today, what it looks like?

JC: What it looks like? It is a little yellow quilt. It is my granddaughter's "Lellow" quilt. It's bright yellow, has bright colors in it and it has Snoopy fabric in it. I don't even know if she knows who Snoopy is, he's not that popular anymore, but the bright colors are what attracted her to it. It's hand quilted and it's still holding together after all these years.

CS: What pattern is it?

JC: It's just blocks. I was not much of a quilter at the time I made it for my Grandson. It's just big blocks of Snoopy.

CS: It's obviously been a very important part of her life.

JC: It is.

CS: How large is it?

JC: Crib size.

CS: Is it machine quilted or hand quilted?

JC: Hand quilted. Very poorly.

CS: It doesn't matter to her. In what ways do you think quilting is important in this area or this community? Quilting as an art or as a utility, either one.

JC: In the community? I don't know that it's that important to the community itself. It is important to the community of quilters. And obviously with over 400 members in Trinity Valley Quilters' Guild and with another guild in the community, the Fort Worth Quilt Guild, it's important to a lot of people as far as an artistic expression. I think it is more than today than anything else.

CS: Have you attended the larger quilt shows, like Houston?

JC: Absolutely, I have been to Houston every year for 5 years.

CS: What brings you there?

JC: Just to look at the quilts. I don't take classes.

CS: I understand that.

JC: I don't even shop any more. I've been there too many times.

CS: It's a little overwhelming sometimes. Do you think quilts are important for women's history?

JC: Only in so far as the quilts that were made when quilts were a necessary part of our lives. They're not a necessary part of our lives as far as needing them where people would piece together pieces of fabric and make tablecloths and so forth. It's not necessary anymore. Now I really think it is an artistic expression.

CS: But still we see quilts that are very inexpensive; made in other countries.

JC: That's slave labor. It is, it is.

CS: In our stores nowadays, so people are still drawn to them. Why do you think that is?

JC: You know, I haven't figured out why anyone would buy those kinds of quilts. But yes, they are drawn to them, and they like to have fluffy quilts on their bed. I think a lot of it is 'Oh, I remember when my mother had that,' so it's a little bit of nostalgia, from grandmother or whatever. I don't approve of those quilts.

CS: Do you think that quilts are important for our future in preserving our history?

JC: Well, they are being used that way. September 11th quilts are a perfect example of that.

Thousands of people have made memorial quilts for one reason or another. They do that for the Susan Kohlman Breast Cancer thing. They make memorial quilts for the Quilt for a Cure and so on, so I guess it is.

CS: Do you make quilts for charitable purposes?

JC: I contribute to them; I don't actually make them. I don't do the ABC quilts or the hospital quilts. I just haven't done that.

CS: I think that covers most of what we were going to talk about. Do you sleep under a quilt yourself?

JC: Yes.

CS: Why?

JC: Why? Because it's a king size quilt. It's the only king size quilt I will ever make. It's too big, it's too heavy but it just makes me feel good. And I've also made quilts for each of my daughters and for my son, for each of their families so they can say they have something Mom made. But it didn't have to be a quilt. They each have, for instance, little tablecloths that my grandmother made, and they treasure them because Grandma made it. So, it didn't have to be something as big as a bed quilt, but it is in this case.

CS: I see that you have taught quilting. Where have you taught?

JC: I'm not a professional teacher. I happen to do a lot of volunteer work at a senior citizen center, and I teach quilting there but what I have taught is older ladies, usually in their 80's who don't have to be taught how to quilt. There is always a quilt frame up at the center, they are always quilting, they know how to piece. Most of them know how to piece by hand better than by machine. They did it when they were children. They want to know new techniques. Every so often we'll have a little class and I'll teach them a new technique, like paper piecing, using the triangle things, things like that. That's the only kind of teaching I do. And I also have a group of ladies who consider me their mentor because they didn't want to take formal lessons, but it was, 'Jeanne, will you help me make a quilt? I want to learn how to quilt.' So, I did. We still meet all the time. We are not a bee, because most of them are not even members of a quilt guild, some of them don't quilt at all anymore, but we meet every week and if they have questions, they ask me. So, I've done teaching in that aspect of it. But I am not a professional teacher.

CS: Buy you are a teacher obviously.

JC: That's why I said yes.

CS: What awards have you won?

JC: I just won one here at the quilt show.

CS: What was that?

JC: I won fifth place in the challenge.

CS: Congratulations.

JC: Thank you. Other than that, the only other award I won was in Saudi Arabia at a quilt show. I won a prize for a whole cloth wall hanging.

CS: What was the design of the quilt you won the award for today?

JC: Today it's a mystery quilt challenge so they're all the same design and I used lavenders and greens in my quilt.

CS: Very good. I think that concludes today's interview. I'd like to thank Jeanne Childs for allowing me to interview her today as part of the 2001 [Quilters' S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 1:25 p.m. May 18, 2002.


“Jeanne Childs,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024,