Carol Florance



Carol Florance




Carol Florance


Kay Jones

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

A Friend of the Quilt Alliance


Bridgeport, Texas


Shira Walny


Kay Jones (KJ): This is Kay Jones. Today's date is September 20, 2003. It's 11:25 p.m. in the morning and I'm conducting an interview Carol Florence for the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. We are at the Wise County Quilters Guild meeting in Bridgeport, Texas. I'd like to thank Carol for allowing her to interview with me today as part of the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. First of all, Carol, would you tell me about the quilt that you brought?

Carol Florance (CF): It was given to me by my grandmother on my 12th birthday, so I've had it for 50 years and it's made out of feed sacks and some of the fabric I can remember wearing as dresses. My sister and I are 13 and a half months apart so my mother made our clothes, and she dressed us like twins so I can spot some of the dress fabric that we wore in these, in this quilt and we both got a quilt made and given to us on our 12th birthday.

KJ: Now it looks as if the quilt has seen some use, tell me how you've used it.

CF: I used it on my bed, I had a twin a bed and I used it on my bed when I was growing up and after I married and moved off, it stayed in a cedar chest until somebody told me that was a no-no so I pulled it out of the cedar chest and she also embroidered our names in the corner because they were both alike since we were so much, considered to be twins more or less so our names were embroidered in the corner. Mine is still here, my sister's is in 10,000 little pieces somewhere in a trash bag. [laughs.]

KJ: Tell me about the pattern, do you know about that?

CF: All I know is that it looks like a pinwheel with points, and it's tied with Xs on the front and how neat she did it on the back, just little, just straight stitches on the back.

KJ: There don't appear to be any strings, just Xs on the front and then--

CF: It's just run through the fabric.

KJ: So, she concealed the knots.

CF: Yeah.

KJ: Where they were.

CF: I have tried to do this, and I can't figure out how to do it.

KJ: I think it's obvious but why did you choose to bring this quilt to the interview?

CF: Because this is the last quilt my grandmother ever made. She had to break up housekeeping where she lived in Woodruff, Kansas and she would live with us in the wintertime and with my uncle who lived in California in the summertime. So, in the wintertime, she would quilt because we didn't have room in our house to set up the quilting frame or anything like that so she would crochet. We have pineapple doilies, we had pineapples on the table, we had pineapple doilies all over the house but that was her wintertime project and then in the spring and early fall, she would go back to her home in Kansas and then quilt or do whatever she wanted to there.

KJ: Do you have some plans for this quilt in the future?

CF: Well, I will probably give it to my son. I have a daughter and, but I don't think she would take care of it, but I think my son would because he seems to take an interest in my quilting. He always asks about it, and she never does.

KJ: That sort of leads to the next question, Carol, how did you get interested in quilting?

CF: I went on a bus trip in 1996 to Kalona, Iowa. At the first quilting shop we stopped at I bought a quilt book, and I wore that thing out all the rest to Kalona looking at all the pictures [laughs.] and found my very first quilt I was going to make which was a Grandmother's Fan. I found the pattern in that book so the rest of the trip I started buying fabric for that quilt. $1000 dollars later, [laughs.] I had fabric for that quilt, another quilt, some wearable art, anyway, my husband told me, he said, 'Just don't go empty handed, here's $1,000 you can take,' and I think I came home with 100 so I bought the fabric and that's how I, and then I came home and started on that quilt and it took me two and half years to finish it because I just didn't like the way it was going and I had to add a little bit and add a little bit more and it turned out real pretty.

KJ: Now about what age were you when you started, Carol?

CF: Gosh, don't give me to lying. Oh, I'm 63 now so that was in '96. I guess I was about 50 something--in my 50s let's put it that way.

KJ: And it sounds as if you're self-taught.

CF: I am.

KJ: Did you take classes and that sort of thing?

CF: No.

KJ: Tell us a little bit about that journey, about learning to quilt.

CF: By trial and error I would read the book and read the book and then go do a little bit of work and then read the book and do some more and you learn by trial and error and that's how I learned.

KJ: About how many hours a week do you quilt?

CF: [laughs.] Right now, it's not very many because my husband and I are both retired and we like to ride trikes and we go to trike rallies in the summertime so in the wintertime, I quilt. I make lots of tops, I just don't quilt them. They're ready to be quilted. [laughs.] I have a quilting frame and I have it set up and I have the bottom on but that's as far as I've gotten. It's been that way for a while, it makes a very good clothes rack in my bedroom. [laughs.]

KJ: Sounds pretty typical. Do you have a particular first quilt memory? I know this may be one of them but were there quilts before that?

CF: No, well, yes. Well, it really wasn't a quilt. It was a yo-yo bedspread made by my grandmother. I got it after she passed away, my mother had it and then my mother gave it to me and it had, I stopped counting at over 1000 yo-yos in it. And it was all made out of feed sacks, tobacco bags, and yellow fabric which was pretty popular in her day.

KJ: Is that quilt still around?

CF: Yes, I still have it.

KJ: You still have it.

CF: It's all folded up on a shelf in my living room.

KJ: You mentioned your husband giving you the $1000 so I know that quilting's had a financial impact on your family. [laughs.] Has there been another kind of impact of quilting on your family?

CF: I got my sister interested in it after her husband passed away and she has had six major heart attacks and I figured she needed something to do with her hands and so I got her involved and I took her on a trip to Walnut, Iowa. I didn't know whether we would carry her off or on the bus but she made it just fine and so I got her interested so I cut out her quilts and then I send them to her, and she sews them up [laughs.] because she's not--we're too far apart. She lives in Potter, Nebraska and we're just too far apart to quilt side by side so we do it by mail.

KJ: That sounds like a good deal for her. [laughs.]

CF: Yes, and she's on the internet and so she gets patterns and stuff off the internet, and we correspond quite a bit.

KJ: What do you like best about quilting, Carol?

CF: I liked the hand quilting. I belonged to a group at Paradise at the church we did hand quilting and I loved that and that all kind of stopped, and I joined this Bridgeport group, and we do hand work, and we do--we just kind of do our own thing. We don't work on a big quilt which I wish we could and maybe eventually we will do a quilt for each other or something like that with hand quilting. But I really do like the hand quilting.

KJ: Now you mentioned Iowa, is that where you're originally from?

CF: No, I'm from Nebraska.

KJ: From Nebraska. How did you get to Texas?

CF: My husband [laughs.] moved me on August 11th in 1964. Our daughter was two years old, and it was the hottest day I'd ever seen in my life. I wanted to turn around and go back but we had already traveled almost 20 hours so there was no point [laughs.] going back.

KJ: No turning back. [laughs.]

CF: No turning back. Nope.

KJ: Well, I wondered, you had talked about the best trip in Iowa that you had gone just particularly for that trip to Iowa.

CF: Yes, I've been to Kalona twice and to Walnut, Iowa once.

KJ: Are there retreats there?

CF: There just a bunch of ladies that get together and take a bus trip and it's fun. 25 or 26 ladies on a bus [laughs.], that's a hoot. [laughs.]

KJ: [laughs.] I'll bet. Is there anything about quilting that you don't enjoy Carol?

CF: No. I love picking out colors. Some say I'm pretty good at putting colors together. I like to piece quilts. About the only part that I can't quite get down is machine quilting. Maybe it's just the machine or the nut behind the machine or whatever but I just can't seem to get it to do what I want to do. But I still have time, I'll try.

KJ: Has there ever been a time when quilting has helped you get through a difficult time?

CF: Yes. When I was having so much trouble with the job that I had and some of the people around me that were negative. I feel like I'm a pretty positive person and I just kind of don't like the negative attitude of a lot of people. It was kind of getting to me so I would just do my own thing, by myself in my own little cluttered sewing room and that would make it just fine. So, it helped.

KJ: I noticed you mentioned another group that you belonged to. How has being a member of a guild or a quilting group been important to you?

CF: Very important. I helped start this guild. There were five of us and we got to talking and we decided that we wanted to learn more about quilting, and we could do more as a group than we could individually, so we decided that we needed a guild.

KJ: When was that, Carol?

CF: In 1999.

KJ: We're going to switch a little bit now we've been talking about you and your history with quilts, but I'd like to know what you think makes a quilt great Carol.

CF: The love that's put into it when it's being made because if you just grab fabric and not pay attention to what colors you're putting together and the design you choose and if you're doing it for a gift, you're going to pick out something that would suit that person. It's just a--a quilt is just full of love, that's all.

KJ: Do you give quilts as gifts?

CF: Oh yes. I'm working on one now, it's a baby quilt.

KJ: Tell us about some of those that you've done and given away.

CF: Well, I've given up two baby quilts away. I've made a Stack and Whack quilt for my sister, for my niece and I made quilts for my three great-nieces and gave them to them. Butterflies because that's what they liked and those were appliqu├ęd with the blanket stitch around them. Just different ones.

KJ: And what do you expect will happen with those quilts?

CF: Well, one of the baby quilts is pretty well worn out because Savannah has dragged it all over. She's now three years old and she has carried it everywhere she's went since she was six months old, so it's pretty well worn out, it needs a little bit of repair work.

KJ: It sounds like love went into it and it's loved.

CF: Yes. Because every time we go out to see her, she says, 'My blankey,' so she goes and gets her blankey and shows me that the heart is coming off and one of the bears is coming off and stuff.

KJ: So, for her it's a great quilt.

CF: Oh yes, yes, it's perfect.

KJ: When you think about an artistic quilt, what do you think makes a quilt artistic or what makes a quilt grab you artistically?

CF: The design of the block and the fabric. It all has to work together.

KJ: You touched a little bit on machine quilting and said you don't really get into machine quilting, but do you have any feelings about machines versus hand quilting?

CF: No, I've got some beautiful machine quilted quilt from the long arm machine, but I can't do any machine quilting on my little machine, but I've got some very pretty quilts that have been done by some of the local girls around here.

KJ: So, you don't have a preference what suits the quilt.

CF: And who's going to get it. If it's going to be a quilt that's going to be used every single day as a quilt, then I wanted to get it machine quilted if it's going to be for a child I'll get it machine quilted but if it's going to be used more or less for decoration or a wall hanging or kind of a bed spread top quilt the way I use some of mine, then I will hand quilt them.

KJ: You came from Nebraska, live in Texas, is there a difference in Nebraska quilts and Texas quilts?

CF: You know, I never have seen any Nebraska quilts that well, Log Cabin they're traditional more or less, all of them are traditional. But I never really looked for quilts when I lived in Nebraska. I knew that my grandmother made them and that I had my grandmother's but other than that I didn't go to the neighbors to see if they had quilts or you know, I didn't check around.

KJ: It wasn't a thing that was important at that time.

CF: No.

KJ: Do you think quilts have had a special meaning in women's history in America?

CF: Oh yes. Just think how lonely it was on the prairie when you didn't have anything, I mean after your daily work was done but the laundry and the wood chopping and all that stuff that you could sit down and make a quilt it would be used that night to keep you warm. I mean, that's what they did, that was their purpose so that's very important.

KJ: The utility?

CF: Yes.

KJ: And also, the beauty you think?

CF: Yes. Because they could make a, well, you've heard that old saying, 'You can make a purse out of a sow's ear.' They could take feed sacks, flour sacks, sugar sacks and make anything, make a quilt like out of a feed sack.

KJ: At this point, Carol, I'm about finished with the questions I had to ask, is there something you'd like to tell us about that I haven't asked about?

CF: Well, my grandmother made quilts and stuff out of lots of things. She had two brothers that ran our grocery store, and they wore a silk tie every single day of their life so when they would wear out a tie, she would grab it and she made pillows, she made quilt tops out of those silk ties. She loved to sew, did it by hand, I think later on she did get a machine but she didn't like it so she still would sit and do it on her hands, on her fingers.

KJ: Sounds like she was a real inspiration to you.

CF: She was, she was my buddy. She was my pal.

KJ: Are any of those silk quilts still in existence?

CF: No, I think my uncle got them all in California and I think he's gone now. I don't know where the quilt tops are at

KJ: Well, I would like to thank Carol Florance for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 11:46. Thank you.

[tape ends.]



“Carol Florance,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 21, 2024,