Linda Thomas




Linda Thomas




Linda Sue Thomas


Sara Walvoord

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Diane Metts


Aransas Pass, Texas


Sara Walvoord


Sara Walvoord (SW): My name is Sara Walvoord and today's date is January 27, 2009, at 2:13 p.m. I am conducting an interview with Sue Thomas in her office in Aransas Pass, Texas for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Texas State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Sue Thomas is a quilter and is a member of the Corpus Christi Chapter. Sue thank you for letting me come to your office to talk to you about your quilting. Tell me about the quilt you have chosen to talk about today.

Sue Thomas (ST): Well, this quilt was actually the first full size quilt that I [unidentified noise.] made. And I hand appliquéd all of it and I also hand quilted it. And I was used to doing baby quilts [laughs.] smaller projects so it was quite a challenge especially since I used my grandmother's quilting frame [laughs.] that was just a plain straight quilting frame to do this. And after I got through with this project, I decided I needed to get a real quilting frame.

SW: What special meaning does this quilt have for you?

ST: I think probably that it was my first quilt to actually completely finish. I do have several projects that I started about twenty years ago that are still in the containers cutouts and everything else that I just didn't finish. But it was a fun project to do and I liked the whimsy about it with the bees and the dragonflies because I think it kind of gives it more of a, less of a formal touch and more of an homey touch.

SW: What do you think someone viewing your quilt might conclude about you?

ST: They might conclude that I like blue, which I do, but it's not a predominant color actually in my house. Reds and browns and golds are more predominant in my decorating. But, I don't know, they might think that I am a simple person which I really am. I like things kind of neat and orderly although you couldn't tell it by my office so I think that's what they might think about me.

SW: How do you use this quilt?

ST: It's actually, I use it in my guest bedroom and my cat thinks that I made it for him because he likes to sleep in there [laughs.]. And he is a fuzzy cat so it probably may have a little bit of cat fur on it somewhere.

SW: What are your plans for this quilt?

ST: I just plan to keep on using it like I am using it and I guess maybe someday I'll leave it to my children or grandchildren. If it's not old and torn up by then.

SW: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

ST: I actually started sewing when I was probably nine or ten years old. And my mother always sewed. She didn't make quilts so much as she sewed clothes for me because I was very, very tiny and so she would make my clothes without a pattern. And she taught me how to sew and I did for awhile I did make clothes and things like that but I just really don't enjoy doing that and one day I was somewhere and I saw a quilt and I thought, 'Well I wonder if I could make a quilt.' And I got a book and read on what you are supposed to do to make a quilt and started making quilts.

SW: At what age did you start quiltmaking?

ST: I was probably in my thirties when I started quilting.

SW: How many hours a week do you quilt?

ST: I usually work about 2 hours a day so maybe ten hours a week.

SW: What is your first quilt memory?

ST: My first quilt memory for a real quilt was the quilt I made for my granddaughter, my first granddaughter, my only granddaughter, my second grandchild. [coughs.] And I was so excited I made the quilt before she was born, of course. And actually I had a grandson who was due after she was due but he came first but she got the first quilt. [laughs.] Because I finished it before he [laughs.] before he wasn't supposed to be here yet so I had to hurry up and make him one as soon as he was born.

SW: Are there other quiltmakers among your family or friends?

ST: My grandmother was a quilter. And I actually have a couple of her quilts and I have one quilt that she started that she never finished. And it's the states and they're hand embroidered but there's only 48 of them of course there's not 48 because I think she lost some over the years. And then I have some quilting friends in DAR. And actually when I first joined DAR, I don't live in Corpus Christi, so I really didn't know anybody in the chapter and I think quilting has enabled me to get to know some of the ladies in there that I might not have really gotten to know and so it's a community we talk the same language or maybe think in the same wavelength. So, but really I guess that's about all of my circle of quilting friends because I work full time so I don't really get out to join any clubs or any of those kinds of things.

SW: Please tell me about the DAR quilt project you're involved in.

ST: For the last, I want to say, three or four years, I've been in charge of the Ways and Means Committee which our project every year has been to make a quilt to voice off to the members or anybody who wants to buy a voice for the quilt [clears throat.] that is our money making project to that helps support our schools and some other DAR schools and some other projects that the DAR is involved in. It's been a lot of fun and it's been a challenge because when I try to find a quilt or decide what we are going to do for the DAR project I always try to think of something Americana and something that is historic maybe look for historic fabrics or a design that is historic in nature on American Revolution and or Civil War or something that has to do with the history of the United States.

SW: How does quiltmaking impact your family?

ST: My husband doesn't know that I am around a lot of times.[laughs] I think that had I started quilting earlier when my children were young they probably would have been neglected, [laughs.] but I did really wait to really get into the projects and stuff until my children were out of school. It does affect my family in that I do spend a lot of time quilting and not watching TV or anything like that. But, my husband and I it works for us.

SW: Tell me if you have ever used quilts to get through a difficult time.

ST: I actually have. I was thinking about that question [clears throat.] the other day. And my mother passed away this past year [coughs.] and she left me a little money and I actually bought a longarm quilting machine [laughs.] with that and so every time I do anything with that quilting machine I think about my mother. Because I think, 'Man, she would have been jealous, because I had this machine and she didn't.' [laughs.] Because she and I both loved to sew and we sewed, we used to sew together a lot. And I think it really has helped me get through, get over her passing.

SW: Tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred from your quiltmaking.

ST: When I make a quilt I always try to put something in the quilt that is personal. Maybe a piece of fabric or an idea or something that's personal. [clears throat.] One of the DAR quilts that I was working on, I needed some red and white striped fabric for the flag. I went to every quilt store I could think of in this area and I could not find any that had the small stripes. But my aunt [laughs.] had given me a shirt that had the small red and white stripes and I and it was a shirt that she had worn and that she thought maybe I would like to have. And it was a pretty shirt and I thought that's perfect so I cut that shirt up for the flags and all I could think of was I hope Aunt Cecil [laughs.] doesn't see this quilt because she's going to know where that fabric came from [laughs.]

SW: What do you find pleasing about quiltmaking?

ST: It's very relaxing. I have a stressful job as a school superintendent I deal with people all day every day. And it's different kinds of situations just constantly, never boring and what I find with quilting it's relaxing and I solve a lot of problems while I'm quilting because I can think and nobody interrupts me and it just seems like when I am doing something with my hands it makes my brain work or something so.

SW: What aspects of quiltmaking do you enjoy?

ST: I love the [clears throat.] quilting part. And I like the putting the pieces together and if I am doing appliqué, I like doing the appliqué. I love researching to figure out what kind of quilt that I am going to make. So that's the parts of quilting that I enjoy.

SW: Have advances in technology influenced your work?

ST: Definitely, like I said, that's the first quilt [clears throat.] that I've made that's a big quilt and it's hand quilted and it took me probably four months to actually do all the quilting. And now that I've got a longarm quilting machine I did a quilt for my grandson and actually I'm just still learning the machine but it took me about three days to quilt the whole quilt so it has influenced.

SW: What are your favorite techniques and materials?

ST: Well [clears throat.] I like appliqué and I like I like paper piecing. I guess [unknown glitch in tape.] I would say probably my favorite is the paper piecing because it's a mathematical challenge to draw the designs on paper and think of that when you are paper piecing you have to reverse things and so it kind of keeps my brain working. But I really do like to do that.

SW: Describe your studio or the place where you create.

ST: I actually do have a sewing room that used to be quite roomy but now that I bought the long longarm machine with its big table it's kind of crowded. I have three sewing machines plus the quilting, the longarm quilting machine, a couple of surgers. The room used to be a utility room I think before we bought the house we are in but it's a large utility room. It has a lot of cabinets so there's a lot of space to store fabric. Right now it looks like ciaos in there but I do actually have a room all set up just for sewing.

SW: Tell me how you balance your time.

ST: I don't sleep a lot. [laughs.] It's really just a matter of organizing my time. I quilt in the mornings, I sew in the mornings. I usually wake up around four [coughs.] and so I maybe get two hours a day in and then I'm usually at the office by 7:00, 7:15 and I go to bed early unless I have a school function or something to go to in the evening. So it's not really hard to balance the time.

SW: How do you go about designing your quilts?

ST: A lot of my quilts I take from somebody else's design. The quilt that is the project today here was a design in a book and I modified it a little bit to fit my needs. I did make a quilt, design a quilt for my granddaughter that is that I just made up the design and it's a Redwork quilt. It's all hand embroidered and so I'll see an idea and maybe modify it or why make up something when someone really creative has done the design and if you can just use and modify.

SW: What do you think makes a great quilt?

ST: I well I think that everybody's quilt is a great quilt to that person. And, I think if it's pretty which you know 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder,' but I think that if a person has actually put that work into it, it's a great quilt.

SW: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

ST: The color the--I don't know, I think it's the work that the heart and soul the person puts into the quilt is what makes it artistically powerful and the fact that you can take a piece of fabric and make it into art.

SW: What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

ST: I think that if you think back historically to the quilts that are in museums and in historical collections and you think of what the quilters had and what they didn't have that we have today. It's amazing to me some of the old quilts that I've seen are just the now that's real art because those quilters had to work with very little and had to put it all together by hand so I think that it's the fact that these quilts have lasted through several lifetimes and that they still are beautiful makes them, very powerful and it tells you, tells us, about the power of the women who actually created them so many years ago.

SW: How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting?

ST: [clears throat.] I think there's probably I think that there're two separate genre. I like both. I think machine quilting has come a long way in the last few years in that the machines are such that you can really make a beautiful quilt and the designs are just they're the same designs you can create by hand but it would take forever to create them. And I like machine quilting but I still think hand quilting is beautiful too and I don't like one over the other. One is a lot faster than the other but I think they're both equally important.

SW: And what about longarm quilting?

ST: I'm learning longarm quilting and it's quite interesting and it looks like it would be very simple just take a machine and move it around on the fabric and make a design, but that's not true. [laughs.] Takes a lot of practice and the women are the, because there's a lot of men that do it, the quilters who use longarm quilting and make the beautiful quilts have to have a lot of expertise. And I've learned that very quickly just on the few things I've done on my machine.

SW: Why is quiltmaking important to your life?

ST: Well I think I kind of said that awhile ago. It's important because it gives me an outlet for creativity. In the school business you don't always see instant results or you don't see the results of your actions. Maybe twenty years down the road when a former student comes up and says, 'Hey, I remember your class and I loved it.' And those are kind of few and far between. But with a quilt as any other artistic project you can see the results and what work went into it and so it is very satisfying.

SW: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or region?

ST: I'm not sure that my quilts do reflect my community or my region other than the influence that my community and region has had on me that makes me go out and pick the colors or the designs that that I choose. I don't really make quilts that are in keeping with the area like I don't make any seaside quilts or those kind of things which you would think that a person living here would do. So I think it maybe it's just the big overall influence of my family and friends in this area have had on me that influence the quilts that I come up with.

SW: What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

ST: I think they're very important. If you talk to just about anybody and you talk about quilts they usually come up with, 'Oh I have my grandmother's quilt,' or 'I have my aunt's quilt,' or 'My great grandmother made this quilt.' I think it's because the people that--I mean there's a lot of love that goes into making a quilt if you make it for somebody else and I just think it's kind of like a it helps to bond the quiltmaker with whoever gets the quilt.

SW: In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history in America?

ST: I think they have very special meaning for women's history because we don't often read about the famous women in history but they're the ones that kept things going and I think it's through quilts and other sewing projects, embroidery, that they expressed their ideas and so I think it says a lot about the women who maybe didn't have a lot of freedom in their personal life because of the chores they had to do and the life they had to live but they could express that freedom in their quilts.

SW: How do you think quilts can be used?

ST: I think they can be used for a lot of things, but I was thinking of an incident that happened in my son's life. He's in the Marines and he had it happen to pull the duty for a quite a number of years of being one of the officers who had to go inform parents their child had died in the war and one of the young men who died was an Indian. And the Marines take a whole group of people with their burial details and they went to the Pine Ridge Reservation and I think he and his major were there for two weeks, but they had like a four day wake for this young man and what was really unique about this was what this group did with their quilts. The women of that particular reservation make quilts that's one of their money making projects. The Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the very poor, poor communities probably in the United States as far as money goes, but they make these quilts. What they did was they presented a quilt to each of the people who were a part of this young man's funeral service. They actually had a ceremony where they wrapped each individual marine in a quilt that they had made. And I think what really touched me about this was one lady hitchhiked a hundred miles across the reservation with her quilt to give it away. And she was 65 years old. And so I thought, 'Wow, what a use for the quilt,' and their saying is by wrapping the people in the quilt they are making them a part of them. So I thought that was really a unique use for a quilt.

SW: How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

ST: Well I think we have preserve the actual process and I know we've got machines, we've made it easier to make quilts but I think that we have to teach the next generation how to make the quilts what kind of thought processes go into it and the machines are just the way to do it. And, so I think that if we keep the traditions going I think that it will preserve they have been here for hundreds of years so I don't think it will go away. It may change, it may look different but they'll still be quilts.

SW: What has happened to the quilts that you have made or those of your friends and family have made?

ST: Well, except for this quilt [laughs.] they've all been given away. I've made all my quilts for somebody else [clears throat.] and of course the DAR quilts, that I don't make all by myself. We have a group of women who have made them, we voice them off and somebody has taken the quilt home. But I think really that's probably what a quilt's for, is to give it to somebody because it really shows that you care.

SW: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quilt makers today?

ST: Well, let's see. For me, it's time, that's a challenge. There is certainly not a challenge in finding beautiful fabric because you can find beautiful fabric. Maybe cost might be a challenge, it has gotten more expensive to make a quilt but it doesn't take a whole lot of fabric and you can really save a lot of fabric. So I really don't know what the biggest challenge would be, maybe keeping up with the technology might be a challenge.

SW: What do you think is the future of quiltmaking?

ST: I don't know, I think of course we're the a technological age and now you can sit down and draw your quilt on a computer and it'll tell you what color fabric to use and what kind of fabric, after you get your quilt top made and put it together, you can program the quilt design and it will quilt it for you just about. But I still think there's something about putting the hands on the quilt and that part I don't think is going to go away. I think we'll have newer and fancier machines but I think somebody still has to touch that fabric and put it together.

SW: Sue, is there anything that you would like to add to this interview?

ST: No, I can't think of anything except to say that quilting is really a part of the fabric of American life and it's certainly been something fun for me to do and a challenge. I really think that it keeps a person's mind going because you have to think while you're sewing and it's just real enjoyable.

SW: I would like to thank Sue Thomas for allowing me to interview [laughs.] her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. Our interview concluded at 2:43 p.m. on January 27, 2009. Thank you, Sue.

ST: You're welcome.


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