Regina Carter




Regina Carter




Regina Carter


Jodie Davis

Interview Date

October 15, 2010

Interview sponsor



Duluth, Georgia


Ann Garvey


Jodie Davis (JD): Now that’s working. [there is a low level of muffled background noise of recording in a large open space.] Okay, sorry. I’m Jodie Davis. Today is April; I mean is October 15th, 2010. And, it is 10:20--it is 4:20, sorry [laughter.] 4:19 [laughter continues.] I’m conducting an interview with Regina Carter for Quilters’ -- Save Our Stories--Quilter’s S.O.S. a project of the Alliance for American Quilts. We’re in Duluth, Georgia at the Georgia Quilt Show. Regina, tell me about the quilt you brought today.

Regina Carter (RC): This is a quilt that I did several years ago. It’s done by one of my favorite fabric designers--is what inspired the whole quilt. Her name is Paula Nadelstern--it’s the Luminosity line. I had the fabric for quite some time before I decided what to do with it. So, this is a result of her fabric--you know the inspiration. I fussy-cutted all. Put them together, so each one would be different, and then of course, that wasn’t enough, so we had to put the crystals on it, you know, to make it shine.

JD: Gotta have some bling. [laughter.]

RC: Yeah, gotta have bling.

JD: And, you’re here teaching today, right?

RC: I’m actually--I’m demoing over on the Gammill booth today. I was teaching on Wednesday, which was a really nice experience.

JD: So you’re a quiltmaker and a teacher?

RC: Yes, absolutely. My main thing is I longarm quilt for everybody else that’s sitting out here. [laughter.]

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

RC: [Pause.] I really like it a lot. Special meaning--

JD: [chuckle.] You don’t have to answer every question--

RC: [inaudible.] It looks good in my living room.

JD: Oh okay, so what are your plans for this quilt?

RC: What are the plans? I’m going to take it back home and hang it back-up on its wall, so that it makes me happy. [inaudible.]

JD: [pause.] Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

RC: Oh, I quilt 24-7. I mean literally, I quilt at least eight to ten hours every day. I love it every day. It supports me and my family. And, I feel totally blessed to being able to do what I do.

JD: And, at what age did you start quilting?

RC: I was about five--no [laughter.] I’ve been quilting probably about thirty years, and I’ve been quilting professionally for ten.

JD: Okay, so when did you start longarm quilting?

RC: October the 17th, 2000 was when my first machine came.

JD: And, did you have the intention of starting in the longarm business to begin with?

RC: I absolutely did. I was a hairdresser for twenty-two years. And one morning, I woke up and I thought I’m not doing this anymore. I don’t want to do this anymore [light chuckle.], but I still had to work. So I told my husband, I’m going to quit my job. I’m going to spend $20,000 on a machine. [laughter.] And, I’m going into business. And he’s like [loud gasping sound followed by laughter.] So, we came to an agreement. I did both for two years, until I paid it off, and I’ve never looked back.

JD: Awe. From whom did you learn to quilt?

RC: I moved to a little town in South Georgia. It’s called, Jackson. And, I found out that there were some ladies that lived in town that quilted--met at the little building. I don’t even know what the building is. So, I didn’t know anybody, so I went up there, and I actually learned from them.

JD: [pause.] What is your first quilt memory?

RC: My first quilt memory. [pause.] I don’t know, I guess going up there and learning from them. My Grandmother didn’t quilt. My Mom didn’t quilt. I think my Great-great Grandmother quilted, of course, the thing needed the cover, but nobody in my family really quilted, so I didn’t grow up around it. So, I guess that’s really my first memory is getting to know them, and then showing me and taking me under their wing.

JD: But, it sounds like you went there for the social aspect; it wasn’t the quilting thing--

RC: Well, actually, I really wanted to learn to quilt. You know, because I’ve always done something. You know crochet--something--

JD: Yeah.

RC: You know and so, I go why I can make a quilt. It can’t be that hard. [laughter.] And, so you know, I went up there and did it with them, so it was really cool.

JD: Yep, the start of a career. How does quiltmaking impact your family?

RC: Well, let’s put it this way. All my quilts are tagged by my children. ‘This one’s mine. This one’s mine.’ So, you know all my grandchildren, they’re just like, very interested in it, ya know and they come to my house. I let them play on the machines. I have two longarm machines. You know even my little twin boys that are six years old, you know, we’ll put them up on the stool, and they will get up there and just play. So you know my family’s very supportive of me. My husband’s very supportive of me. And, as a matter of fact, my daughter brought some of her friends down when she was down spring break to have her own private quilt show. I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ [both laugh.]

JD: That was neat.

RC: It was pretty fun.

JD: Tell me if you’ve ever used quilts to get through a difficult time.

RC: Hmm. [pause.] Well, I think everybody uses, ya know, their passion to get through a difficult time. You know, quilting is very relaxing to me. And, even after I work all day long on quilts, I mean, I never ever go to bed--well, maybe once in a while--without sitting down and piecing something, or doing a little bit of handwork, or you know it just kind of relieves the stress of the day. It just keeps you sane. It keeps me sane.

JD: [chuckles.] Tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred from your quiltmaking or your teaching, or something related to quilting.

RC: [pause.] An amusing experience, this is pretty amusing. [laughter.] I always like standing up there doing my thing, and it’s like--here I am. [laughter from both.] I don’t know. I don’t know what to say about that. We’ll go onto something else. This is pretty amusing though, right? [laughter.]

JD: What do you find pleasing about quiltmaking?

RC: I think what I find so pleasing about quiltmaking is I have met so many wonderful people. And, I have stood right there on that big stage, and I bet you I’ve hugged 150 people. You know what I’m saying. You didn’t get yours? Come on up. [laughter.] But you know, I think that is just such a wonderful part of it. And, I love to give somebody back their quilt. You know, they are just so excited and that just makes you feel so good. You know. It’s a very rewarding [pause.] job, or whatever you want to call it.

JD: What art or quilt groups do you belong to?

RC: I belong to Famous Quilt Guild. I belong to In-town Quilt Guild. I belong to Cotton-bowl Quilt Guild. I belong to Oconee Quilt Guild. And, then I have a group of five or six friends. We get together every--every other Tuesday. And, we quilt together, and we do projects, and right now we are working on the blocks for the Linus quilts. So--

JD: Have advances in technology influenced your work, and if so how?

RC: Oh absolutely. You know, I mean I’m a longarm quilter. That’s what I do. So, you know the technology out there is just absolutely incredible. I actually run two machines, all day every day. I have the computerized machine, which I run all patterns. A pattern is a pattern whether I run it or the machine runs it. And then, I have my hand-guided. The one that runs the patterns is the one that feeds me, and the one that I hand-guide is the one that keeps me sane. I hand-guide all the customs, so course the technology is just out there. All you gotta do is learn to use it and practice, practice, practice.

JD: What brand do you use?

RC: Gammill. I’m a Gammill girl all the way. I always have been. Started with Gammill, and I am sure, I will go to my grave with Gammill.

JD: Guess that kind of answers what are your favorite techniques and materials--though that could be about the quilt-making part too.

RC: Yeah--techniques. I love--I try every technique that there is. Okay. I mean I’m not afraid to try anything. It’s a piece of fabric. If I mess it up, nobody will ever see it okay. If you don’t try it, you’ll never know. I have done some techniques that I’d never ever ever would do again. I love this. I like to do stuff that--I do some very complicated stuff, but I like to do stuff that’s not so hard, but has a big impact. You know there’s nothing difficult about this quilt. Once you have it cut out. It’s diamonds, do you know what I’m saying. But, you can find--if that where you know, you just look at the different pieces of fabrics and the different techniques. You can pull something out--that’s just [breathes in air.] That’s not really hard to do.

JD: Describe your sewing space--your studio.

RC: Okay. When we moved into our house, the people that had lived there before had enclosed the garage. And, so when we first moved there, my husband had half the room and I had half the room. [RD laughs.]

JD: Yeah.

RC: Okay, so then when I went into business, we moved a little bit of his stuff out. Then, when I bought the second machine, we moved the rest of his stuff out, [JD chuckles.] so my room is 20 by 22. I have two longarms in it. I have shelves that are stacked all the way up with fabric. I have my little table over in the corner where I do my piecing. And, it just works for me. I go out there every morning by nine o’clock. And, I stay out there ‘til at least five, every day. So, my space is good.

JD: So, how do you balance your time?

RC: Balance? [laughter.] Okay, I’d say quilting gets about--hmm--99% [laughter.] I hire somebody to clean my house. I hire somebody to wash my car. I hire somebody to do my lawn, so--

JD: If you want to come see me you--

RC: Yeah, if you want to come see me, c’mon.

JD: Do you use a design wall?

RC: Absolutely, you absolutely cannot quilt without a design wall. I know--I just--I believe that with all of my heart. You put it up. You know anything that I’ve gotta quilt, anything that I’m thinking about,goes on my design wall. My hand-guided machine--I face that design wall. And, I might look at it for six months.

JD: Yeah.

RC: You know, anytime I’m designing or putting blocks together on a quilt, it’s on my design wall. I use the reducing glass, and I look at it, and I look at it. If I decide to change it, I will take a picture of it with my digital camera, because once you start moving it, if you don’t have a reference, you can never get it back.

JD: [ause.] What do you think makes a great quilt?

RC: Visual impact. Absolutely. It’s gotta have the visual impact.

JD: And, what makes a quilt artistically powerful?

RC: I would say that would be the same answer. You know, the visual impact, because if you don’t have the impact, nobody is going to look at it. And, I think that it has to be interesting, you know, when sometimes--some quilts you look at it, you’ve seen the whole quilt. Some quilts you have to look at it. And, then look at it. And, then look at it to get the whole perspective of the quilt.

JD: What makes a great quilt-maker?

RC: [laughter.] Passion.

JD: Yeah.

RC: Absolute passion. I think you’ve got to have the passion for quilt-making--you know to make the art quilts especially. You know, I respect all kinds of quilts, I mean there are all kinds of quilts. You have your utility quilts. You know, you have your quilts that comfort people. You have your quilts that nobody can touch. You know, you have quilts--they all have a different job.

JD: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

RC: Oh my gosh. There are so many great quilters. And I feel like, you know it’s just like Jamie Wallen that’s teaching today. You know, when I took Jamie’s class, I was so excited. I have taken classes from Linda McCuean. I mean she is absolutely--I think they are all fabulous. And every single person that I have come in contact with--you know, they leave a part of themselves on your soul. You know what I’m saying? And, I just--I love them all. Absolutely.

JD: And, who has influenced you?

RC: Who has influenced me? [slight moan.] Gosh, I’d have to say it would be a combination of all of them. I mean, you know, I’ve taken a little bit--I love--believe it or not, my absolute favorite thing to do is Trapunto. It’s very very traditional. A lot of you are thinking, um-hmm. I’ve seen your stuff. [RD laughs.] But, I do love to do that. And, I learned that very early in my career from Karen McTavish. I don’t get to do it very often, but I don’t think--I don’t think there is anything prettier than a whole cloth that’s Trapunto, whether it’s white on white, or whether it’s shadowed.

JD: And you mean machine Trapunto?

RC: I do everything by machine.

JD: Okay.

RC: I do everything by machine. Except for my binding, and I always stitch that down by hand. That’s kinda the final; the completion of the quilt. And, I always do that by hand.

JD: Why is quiltmaking important to your life?

RC: It feeds me. [laughter.]

JD: Literally--

RC: Literally, it feeds me. It lets me drive my big black truck. [laughter.] You know, I just think it’s--it’s my job. And, I’m blessed to have a job that I love to do.

JD: Since we’re in Georgia, in what ways do your quilts reflect your community or region?

RC: [RD laughs.] I live in a very very small town of South Georgia so everyone in my town thinks that I’m just like way out there. [laughter.] Yeah. [laughter continues.] they try to be polite when they seem clueless. [continued laughter.] That um--that’s okay, you know. [laughter.] That’s okay.

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

RC: I think quilts have always been a very important part of our history. And, I think they will continue to be a part of our history, because like when I’m dead and gone and somebody sees this quilt, they are going to say, ‘Man she had a great time that day.’ [laughter.] You know? [continued laughter.]

JD: And, in what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women’s history in America?

RC: [Pause.] I don’t really know how to answer that. I mean when they--like I said, I think my Great-great-Grandmother quilted, but that was out of necessity. You know what I’m saying. I think that when they all were able to get together, because women were a lot more isolated then. You know--than we are now. And, I think that when they all got together; I think that social time was very very important to everybody. And, we still today continue this. You know what I’m saying, we still go to our guilds. We’re all sitting here together here in the same room. Do you know what I’m saying? And, I think it just brings us all together. And, it kind of lets us all have that release we need sometimes from life.

JD: What has happened to the quilts that you’ve made, or those of friends and family?

RC: What has happened to them? Well, some of them have gotten absolutely loved to death.

JD: [chuckles.]

RC: Ya know, and some of them have gotten put-up. When I’ve found they’ve gotten put-up, it’s like okay, you either bring it out, or I’m bringing it home. Because when I give it to them, I expect it to be used.

JD: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

RC: Confronting them?

JD: Yeah.

RC: [pause.] I don’t know, why, I mean I don’t know why you would confront a quiltmaker.

JD: No what challenges?

RC: Oh-oh okay. I--

JD: Challenges confront them--

RC: I think it’s sometimes that there’s--there’s a lot to choose from. You know what I’m saying? And, I think that sometimes people get hung up on--it wouldn’t be too perfect. You know, ‘cuz I mean I hear that all the time. It’s like, ‘Well this is not perfect. This is not perfect.’ I’m like, ‘Well, how would--you know don’t stand there and tell me all the problems of the quilt, because nobody else is going to know but you.’ The thing--they put too much pressure on them. Trying to be too perfect--and nobody’s perfect. I can tell you that right now. [JD laughs.] Not me, not anybody else. I just think they need to--just let it go a little bit. [JD chuckles.]

JD: Is there anything else you want to add that we haven’t talked about?

RC: I don’t think so. [laughter.]

JD: Well, I have to thank you for being such a good sport, because we pulled you out of nowhere.

RC: Yes. [laughter andapplause.]

JD: I’d like to thank Regina Carter for allowing me to interview todays for--as part of the Quilters’ S.O.S. -Save Our Stories project of the Alliance for American Quilts in Duluth, Georgia. Our interview concluded at 4:37. That was quick.Yay!Thanks. [applause.]


“Regina Carter,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 21, 2024,