Wilsene Scott




Wilsene Scott




Wilsene Scott


Darlene Fiske

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Del Thomas


Harrisonburg, Virginia


Lynn Drake


Darlene Fiske (DF): This is the 26th of April 2003, and it is 10:00 a.m. I'm conducting an interview with Wilsene Scott at the Virginia Quilt Museum for the Quilters' S.O.S.- Save Our Stories, a project of The Alliance of American Quilts. We are in the Virginia Quilt Museum, Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Wilsene, can you tell me about the quilt that you brought today? Who made it? How old?

Wilsene Scott (WS): I made it and I bet I don't even have a date on it and that sure is a--

DF: Mistake.

WS: It was exhibited here at the Quilt Museum in the summer of 2000, and I think I made it the year or two before.

DF: So, it would be two to three years old.

WS: Yes.

DF: And what's the pattern?

WS: The pattern is a 16 block on point, and I have used odd and ends of scraps that I had. The white background is sheets that belonged to my grandmother, feed sack sheets that my grandmother slept under. I like to quilt a lot so you can see where I have done a lot of quilting here.

DF: Extra.

WS: The aqua was from a lady that I went to church with. She lived over at Massanetta Springs and as she got older, she was getting rid of all of her odds and ends of fabric and she gave me this piece of aqua that was only, it was about three yards maybe, but it was only 36 inches wide so you kind of know that it was older fabric since it wasn't 45 inches like they do now and then the background matches the aqua and I got that at one of the quilt shops to go with it.

DF: So basically, it's more or less new fabric other than the white.

WS: Yes, yes. That's right.

DF: Alright. Well, what inspired you to make this particular pattern?

WS: It was in a magazine, and I didn't really have the dimensions for it. I just kind of figured out and not being a very experienced quilter the returns where some of these setting blocks got, you have to work with it to get it come out right. But I liked the pattern, and I went just like the pattern in the magazine.

DFL: None of the fabric is hand-dyed, as far as you know?

WS: No, no.

DF: OK. Does this quilt have a particular or special meaning for you?

WS: Yes, it does because it's my grandmother's sheets that she slept under. She had sewn them together with that, what do you say? Flat felled seam or French seam? What was it when it was all enclosed?

DF: Flat felled.

WS: Flat felled?

DF: Like your jeans. A French seam. It's--

WS: A French seam. It was a French seam, and the stitches were so small that I had a time taking them apart because a bed sheet is usually made up of three feed sacks.

DF: Sacks.

WS: Feed sacks.

DF: Well, why did you choose to bring this particular quilt today for her?

WS: Well, I was thinking about quilts that meant something to me. Sometimes I look at it and I think--I just picked scraps out of my scrap box and I didn't use any of the newer fabrics and sometimes I think, 'Oh, I wish I had done a little bit more, you know, newer fabric.' But anyhow I like it. I'm always making something out of scraps or something out of nothing.

DF: I think they're the prettiest.

WS: Yes.

DF: Alright. And how do you use this quilt?

WS: [laugh.]

DF: Do you use it on the bed?

WS: No, no.

DF: Do you use it on a guestroom bed or?

WS: No, no. A lot of the quilts I've made, several bigger ones and then small wall hanging type, I just have stored away. Many I have given away.

DF: And do you have any particular plans for this quilt?

WS: No.

DF: Not at the time.

WS: No

DF: How do you get interested in quilting and what is your history in quilting?

WS: Well, I had always sewn and taken sewing classes, garments, putting garments together and I was always interested in quilting and for about ten years I saved what few articles came out in magazines and newspapers in those ten years. And then in 1989 I took a class from Mary Beery at the Clothesline [Dayton, Virginia.] and found that sewing garments and doing patchwork quilts is two different techniques. You learn a lot of things from quilting that you don't get in making garments.

DF: So, you learned how to quilt from Mary Beery?

WS: Mary Beery, uh hm.

DF: Okay and then how long ago did you start quilting?

WS: That was about 1989 that I joined a guild, took the class from Mary and then have been quilting ever sense.

DF: Okay. And what is your first memory of a quilt? A quilt.

WS: A quilt. I was at my grandmother's, and she had a crazy quilt like velvets and stuff on the bed. This is terrible. And I got sick in the night on that quilt, my grandmother never scolded me, but I just remember that was on the bed and I got sick in bed at night.

DF: That's your first quilt that you remember?

WS: [laughs.] Yes.

DF: That's quite an impression!

WS: Yes. [laughs.]

DF: OK. Are there other quilters in your family and do you have a lot of friends that quilt?

WS: I have a lot of friends that quilt. No, in my family, no. My mother has made, put comforters together with just blocks and tied them. My grandmother did a little bit more quilting. I was never at her house, I don't think, when she ever was quilting but my sister has a quilt that she did that I like a lot because it's got the orange fabrics, the 30s [1930s.] fabrics but then I had a boyfriend in Michigan years ago that his mother gave me a kit and it had flowers. It was already pre-cut, I think. Anyhow my grandmother appliqu├ęd the flowers onto the quilt or made the quilt and quilted it. So that has been on exhibit here at the Museum [Virginia Quilt Museum.] when Joan [Joan Knight, Director.] has the flower quilts in the spring.

DF: OK, so your grandmother then was a quilter.

WS: Yes, she was a quilter, but I never really saw her doing it and I don't think I even realized that she did it till this quilt that my sister had that she told me, 'Well, grandmother did that.'

DF: Can you describe your quilt related activities, like do you do writing, teaching, exhibiting, or?

WS: Well, I belong to a little 2 o'clock quilters group that each year we have a different project that we do, and I notice I haven't exhibited in the guild quilt show for several years because it just seems like I don't get some things finished but I thought, 'Oh gee, I'm going to have a lot of things to exhibit.' You know the next show. Smaller things and the red work. Oh, I just finished. I'll show you this. I think you've seen me work on this. [Wilsene shows something to Darlene.] But I've just finished it. I've got to put the sleeve on that yet, but I thought well that's one I can exhibit at the show.

DF: Okay, what do you find pleasing about quilting?

WS: Using colors I like, using fabric I like. And I'll show you this. [Wilsene shows another piece to Darlene.] This is a table runner that I have on a table on my porch. This was also from my grandmother's feed sack sheet. Barbara Paulson brought back from Maine one block that had this printing in the strips of the Log Cabin. A log cabin block that had the feed sack printing. It was cut like that so you could read it. The label on the back shows exactly what's in the feed sack strip. When I started it I was only going to make one block. And then I thought, 'Oh, I'll make a table runner using all of the printed feed sack.'

DF: Now is that the only block corner or block that has all the printed words?

WS: Yes, because when I started out, I had no plans. This was all scraps. I don't know where it ever came from. This was something I sure I bought but then when I did the back with my grandmother's feed sack sheet, I thought, 'Oh, I'm not going to take out those lovely seams. See here, the cow and the pig and I centered that, and I left this in here. This is what my grandmother--

DF: Had done.

WS: Yes.

DF: Well, it seems to me like quilting is sort of challenge to you too.

WS: Yes, to make something out of nothing.

DF: That's right. Well, I personally think that's the prettiest quilt. Okay, well then your grandmother was sort of your source of inspiration for quilting.

WS: That and a lot of other things around the house. My grandmother did some painting or did a lot of little crafts. She lived to be 92. She died in 1983 at the age of 92. She was born in 1891, she never had any money to speak of, but she always was making something out of nothing.

DF: And I think we were very fortunate to have relatives that could do that and pass it down. How do you balance your quilting with your family and friends? Do you ignore one for the other? Or do you--

WS: No.

DF: Or do divide it up?

WS: No, it all works out.

DF: Okay, and what you do you think makes a great quilt?

WS: [pause while Wilsene thinks for a while.] Well, I like the old-fashioned patterns. I think there's a lot of new modern patterns and designs that are really nice, but I think I like the old. I like the old colors, the fabrics. Ask the question again?

DF: What do you think makes a great quilt?

WS: I think color and design.

DF: And what makes a quilt artistically powerful?

WS: I would say the design maybe.

DF: What do you think would make a quilt appropriate for a museum or special collection? What do you think it should be?

WS: [sigh.] Well, I'm thinking old quilts now. I saw an old quilt the other day a man had gotten off of E-bay and it was just a quilt top. It was the old colors, it was a log cabin and log cabin is one of my favorite designs but the colors were so striking. You wouldn't have believed a woman back in that time period would have put those colors together.

DF: Surprised they had those colors, probably too.

WS: Yes

DF: Cause they have changed a lot. [inaudible.] What makes a great quilter?

WS: I guess somebody who can take a pattern they like and choose the right colors. I think there's a lot in choosing the colors, being able to combine the colors or put them together is an art that a quilter might likely have.

DF: OK, you just answered another question that I was going to ask. Is quilting an art or craft? And I think it is don't you. You just said it.

WS: Oh, yes.

DF: It is art.

WS: Oh, yes.

DF: On this question of what makes a great quilter. Don't you think maybe it's somebody who like you said your grandmother made something out of nothing? Could that be [inaudible.].

WS: Yes, and then I think about this younger generation that go into the modern look in their artsy quilts. I think, 'Boy, they've really got to have a knowledge of color and what they see to put things together.' I think whether I've answered that right or not.

DF: Well, there is no right or wrong.

WS: No

DF: However, you f eel about it. And do great quilters learn the art the quilting, especially how to design a pattern or choose fabric and color, or do they just come by it naturally?

WS: Oh, I think they learn.

DF: [inaudible.]

WS: Well, I just think they learn what looks good or what they like.

DF: Why is quilting important in your life? It seems to be a pretty important part.

WS: It's a relaxing thing. I think it's always nice to have something if its quilting or embroidery work that you're going to incorporate in your quilting. I just think it's really relaxing and it's nice. I'm thrilled to do it.

DF: Nice to do something with your hands constructive.

WS: Yes.

DF: In what ways do you feel your quilts reflect your community or your region? Your quilts.

WS: I don't know. I've gotten quite a collection of feed sacks I haven't' used them in anything and of course the white feed sacks to offset the prints I've got a pattern in mind. But I think that's something that is not just this region that is doing feed sack quilts. I don't know. Ask me that question again.

DF: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or region? Yours? Well, this would probably be a little bit of a rural, with your feed sacks, or farming.

WS: I've done a quilt that when the New York quilters brought their quilts "By the Yard," remember that?

DF: Yes, I do.

WS: And I did a graveyard quilt.

DF: They were a yard of a yard.

WS: And then they had to be a yard square. I did a graveyard quilt that had my grandparents, great grandparents.

DF: Tombstones.

WS: Yes, tombstones. That's sort of something of the area.

DF: Yes, and I remember that quilt. Very attractive. What you do think about the importance of quilts in American life?

WS: When you read these stories of the pioneers going west in their wagons and the ladies even quilting along the way or saving things to quilt, I think it's part of our history.

DF: Would you say its survival? Because they were used for warmth?

WS: Yes, at that time they were used more for warmth. Just like during the Civil War, the ladies then made quilts, I don't know how they did it so quick but then to send to the troops.

DF: And in what ways do you think quilts have a special meaning for women's history and experience in America? Quilting for the troops? For survival?

WS: Because that's all a lot of people had to keep warm. And they put other things in as batting. I've heard of corn shucks and papers to hold the warmth.

DF: I have a personal experience and I know that paper does work. It wasn't in a quilt, but it does work. How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future and what has happened to the quilts that you have made and those in your family?

WS: That's the thing that really bothers me now as I'm getting older. This morning I pulled this quilt out of a storage box on my porch I have a cedar chest that has quilts in it, my family quilts that have been documented and I thought, 'What's going to happen to those?' Because my family, two sons and a daughter, they are not a whole lot interested in that and they wouldn't have room for all that. So, I want to know what you do with that stuff?

DF: That's a good question. Museums, I guess.

WS: Well, there's some that. This museum doesn't have room to--

DF: [laughter, inaudible.]

WS: To store a lot or accept a lot for their museum. So, I don't know unless you have an auction and sell them.

DF: Then people who buy them would be interested in them, care about them.

WS: Yes

DF: How do think we encourage quilting in young people?

DF: I think the museum here is doing that all the time. Joan has the classes for the young people on Sundays and draws in a lot and they get interested and they might not have time for it now, but I think in the future that's going to stick with a lot of those kids that learn about quilting and learn the patterns. Like the railroad quilts. The Underground Railroad. That those things mean something. The patterns.

DF: The history that goes along with it.

WS: Yes.

DF: Well, do you have anything in particular that you would like to discuss? Because we have quite a bit of time left.

WS: No, no. Do you feel that way, Darlene? About--I've got lots of books, genealogies, histories that are valuable. You know you pay $60 for a book. And those [inaudible.] books, they are coming out as $45. I just to hate to see. I just wonder what's going to happen to them. The only thing I can think of is the kids are going to have a sale.

DF: We have, as I was telling Joan when I came in, I didn't know whether or not, because our street, which is a cul-de-sac, was just covered with cars because there's an auction sale at the end of the road, which is at the cul-de-sac so everybody's parking, the only thing they left open was a half of a driveway in some places.

WS: Was that a Mennonite family [inaudible.]

DF: No. That was Mr. and Mrs. Williams. He's dead. She's in a nursing home. But there were some quilts and linens being auctioned off, which is one way of getting rid of things like that and yet you hate to see it.

WS: Yes

DF: I don't know kind of shape they were in or what the quilts were like, whether they were purchased in a store or whether somebody had made them or what. I didn't get to see them. But it was a hassle getting out of my driveway, but they were interested in what was there and there were the quilts and the linens. And like you say, I have accumulated things from my mother-in-law, who did an awful lot of crocheting, my mother, who did crocheting and tatting and sewing and she did some quilting but not as much as a lot of other people. Well, you do have anything else in mind right at the top, right at the present. I notice you are putting a sleeve on a wall hanging.

WS: This I made for the shop [at the Virginia Quilt Museum.] to sell for patterns. These Underground Railroad patterns. Joan's going to put this in the shop to show to sell the patterns.

DF: That's a little too big for the miniature quilt, isn't it?

WS: Yes, I've already donated one for the miniature quilt. I'm going to sit down one day, even though I keep referencing different books, I want to sit down one day and list the quilts I've made because when the hospital auxiliary had their money raising project the other year, they asked me to make a wall hanging to raffle off. I was so thrilled when this minister got my wall hanging because it was somebody I knew.

DF: That always makes it a little more. I feel kind of relieved when somebody you know.

WS: That appreciates it. He told me later that he had it on his bedroom wall. It was one with six baskets, a real pretty, I thought, pattern. And then I've donated, my mother goes to this Hottle-Keller reunion in Shenandoah County, and they were having that same kind of thing and raffled off another little quilt that I made. So, we make a lot of things and forget about them.

DF: How much you have given away.

WS: Yes, my daughter-in-law and my ex-daughter-in-law.

DF: You really have to think an awful lot of an individual I think to give something like that and usually you make it because you do think a lot of this person because there is a lot of work in it.

Do you piece by hand or by machine?

WS: No, by machine.

DF: And do you quilt by hand or by machine?

WS: I quilt by hand. I've done some table runners for my mother that I quilted on the machine, and they turned out very well, but I think quilting by machine, you know holding that, I think that's a little hard to do.

DF: It's sort of a struggle.

WS: Yes, it is.

DF: Well, is there anything else that you would like to add to this group of question that I have asked you?

WS: No, no, I don't think so.

DF: You enjoy quilting, you enjoy for the fun of it, you've donated and have given quilts, you've used old and new fabric and some reused fabric.

WS: Yes, yes.

DF: Well, I want to thank you, Wilsene, for allowing me to interview you for the Quilters' Save Our Stories and if there is nothing more then our interview is over.

WS: Alright Darlene, and I'm glad that you interviewed me.

DF: And I'm glad you were my interviewee and thank you very much.



“Wilsene Scott,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/2047.