Linda Jenkins




Linda Jenkins


Jenkins runs a quilt-design company called Piece O' Cake. She designs fabrics and is also an avid quilter. Her quilt was inspired by her hikes near her home in Colorado.




Arts and crafts.
Quilts in art


Linda Jenkins


Le Rowell

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Karen Alexander


Houston, Texas


Le Rowell


[Due to technical issues, the interview with Linda Jenkins #48 had to be conducted a second time as #70.]

Le Rowell (LR): My name is Le Rowell. Today's date is November 3, 2000. I'm conducting an interview with Linda Jenkins for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories in Houston, Texas. It is 12:35 p.m. Welcome, Linda. It's nice to have you here.

Linda Jenkins (LJ): Thank you for asking me.

LR: Tell me about the quilt that you brought today which is actually hanging in the faculty section.

LJ: Okay. The quilt title is "A Walk in the Mountains" and it is wildflowers from the area I live in Colorado.

LR: What kind of flowers?

LJ: Wild flowers.

LR: Wild flowers, wonderful.

LJ: Yes and the quilt was developed from the many hikes I take in the mountains and observing the flowers and probably what is a little different about it than most of your wild flower quilts is I wanted my wild flowers to look like they did growing in the forest. So they are growing out of what I call the ground clutter on the ground; the dead leaves, partly decayed branches that's on the forest floor.

LR: So the inspiration came from your environment?

LJ: Yes, it did, very much so.

LR: Is it a particular pattern or is it something you created?

LJ: It's an original design that my partner and I developed through my research on these hikes and everything. It is all hand appliquéd, hand quilted and then the blocks are machine pieced together and the border is machine pieced.

LR: Are the fabrics--fabrics that you purchased or are they dyed?

LJ: They are fabrics that I purchased. A lot of the fabrics in it are hand dyed fabrics. It is a pattern that we developed for our company Piece-O-Cake Designs.

LR: The name of your company is Piece of Cake?

LJ: Yes, Piece-O-Cake really.

LR: Piece.

LJ: O Cake.

LR: With a hyphen between Piece hyphen O hyphen Cake? That's very clever.

LJ: That's the name of the company.

LR: Talk about the Piece-O-Cake company.

LJ: Piece-O-Cake, to tell you about our company and probably what is unique to our company is we do needle turn appliqué. We do it the Piece-O-Cake way which gets you to the stitching quicker. Any steps we can save by finding a less time-consuming method for we do. And our appliqué, we've been told, is more sophisticated. It's a little more difficult. It's not primitive appliqué. It's not quick and easy. This is appliqué you're going to spend more time on the stitching because as in the wild flowers one of the blocks has ninety pieces.

LR: Wow.

LJ: So this was an advanced pattern that we did for the company having done beginner to intermediate, more intermediate patterns prior to this. We were very fortunate the buying public liked what we were doing so we published it knowing that it would probably sell less than the previous ones had. Well actually it sold just as well and continues to be a good seller today because there's a lot of appliquérs like us that are looking for something with more of a challenge. They've done the quick and easy and they want more intermediate to advanced work and that's really more of our specialty.

LR: Is this hand or machine pieced?

LJ: It's machine.

LR: It's all hand appliqué?

LJ: It's hand needle turned appliqué.

LR: What do you plan to do with this quilt? How do you use this quilt that?

LJ: It hangs in my living room. I plan on living with it for a very long time. [laughs.] I don't ship it around the country any more because of the fact that this one I have a particular love for and I don't want it to wear out before its day. It's very hard on them when they travel and so this one has ceased to travel except on rare occasions.

LR: So tell me a little bit about your history. When did you start quilting? What was your first knowledge of a quilt?

LJ: My first knowledge of the quilt was probably when I was a child but the quilts I was exposed to then had a purpose. They were not particularly pretty quilts. They were quilts that my grandmother sewed and she wasn't much of a seamstress. This wasn't her thing so they were something to stay warm under. Then when I married, my husband's grandmother was a prolific quiltmaker. I, in my collection alone, have over thirty of her quilts and I'm one of three that the quilts were divided among. And these are not small quilts. These are all bed quilts. And through her I started to realize the value of these quilts because I just had no idea of the time it took to make them and over time how they would become so special. They get warmer and cozier feeling as they wear. And I was very blessed that over a period of time she gave us so many. Unfortunately it was after she did not know who anyone was before I actually started quilt making, before my life would let me. I was a hairdresser for twenty years and I had a customer that would come in every week and have her handwork that she did while her hair was drying and I started really asking questions and knowing I wanted to do handwork. I was doing some cross stitch at the time and loved handwork so I decided when I sold my salon that I would really do this but before that I took a class in 1984. I took my first sampler class. I was well on my way with a piece when we were flooded and that deterred me for about three more years before I was able to take it up again. And shortly thereafter, in nineteen-- around 1990, I sold my business and retired for the first time and took every class I could. I was very fortunate the quilt shop that was in our area had some really talented people. I took every class that was given. It didn't matter if I really liked the project. I was there to get the skills. I was fortunate enough to live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and be close enough to Houston and Dallas to go to the bigger shows and take classes from some of the nationally known teachers at that time. My partner and I live in two different states now. We met in Oklahoma. We became acquainted through the Green Country Quilters Guild there. She was president. I was vice-president. She had more experience with quilts than I did so I kind of tried at stitch group to sit next to her so maybe some of it would rub off. I was very interested in her hand quilting and over time we became better and better acquainted. She is a graphic artist and if you are with her for every minute you're with her she'll give you five or six ideas. We became better and better acquainted and I encouraged her to do some patterns. About the time my husband was retiring and we were moving to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, my partner, Becky Goldsmith, and her family were moving to Sherman, Texas. He's a professor at the university there and they came to us and wanted to start the company.

LR: When was that?

LJ: That was in 1993.

LR: And it was Goshen? How do you spell that?

LJ: Goldsmith, oh Pagosa, P-a-g-o-s-a.

LR: Springs?

LJ: Yes.

LR: Thanks. So 1993--

LJ: We formed the company and we were both moving away. We have worked long distance for this last--well, it's been--it's been right at seven years now and has worked very well working long distance. Our phone bills are enormous. We've been very blessed the company has grown rapidly. We now design fabrics for P & B Textiles. We're on our fourth collection of fabrics. We have quite the office staff now and Becky and I both travel and teach.

LR: Who designs?

LJ: We both do.

LR: You both do?

LJ: Actually we both do. Becky draws the designs but we--it's both our ideas and me verbalizing to her--I'd like to change this here or this is what I'd like to see happen and she gets it on paper and then we fine tune it from there.

LR: You mentioned your grandmother. Where is she living? Where was?

LJ: It was my husband's grandmother and she lived in Missouri.

LR: Missouri.

LJ: She lived on a farm and was kind of remote so she got to spend a lot of hours quilting and she was prolific. She not only did that but we all got homemade sheets, pillow cases, everything embroidered, crocheted items from her. Her comment when my husband and I married was she didn't know who I was going to be but she had been making quilts and other needlework for years for me.

LR: How do you balance your quilting activities with your family and friends?

LJ: It's just all one thing [laugh.] it's all one thing. My husband is extraordinarily supportive. We retired. He's playing golf and has a Harley that he rides. He's a happy little camper and I wanted to spend my time quilting so he's thrilled that I can do what I-- what my love is and he can also. I now am working full time, harder that I've ever worked in my life and he helps me with the business. He goes into the office and helps the staff there with anything heavy they have and restocking and all of that so he participates in the business also. My friends--the majority of my friends are quilters. My non-quilting friends are very understanding. They know they're going to have to listen to a certain amount of me talking about quilting.

LR: And your company is in Pagosa Springs?

LJ: Yes it is, our office and warehouse.

LR: What do you think makes a great quilt?

LJ: If it's a quilt that I'm looking at and my mouth just fell open and I'm just going, 'Whoa, I can't believe,' generally the first thing that draws me in is the color and then the second thing is actually how intricate it's put together but you can take a very simple one patch quilt and it be truly as wonderful as something that's very intricately done. It can amaze me by the color or how they've quilted it. I think the quilting really is the finishing touch for a quilt; and I really look closely at how something is quilted because generally that's what makes the design stand out and pulls me to the project.

LR: Does it matter whether it's machine or hand quilted?

LJ: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I don't like what I call program quilting where it's the same design all over the quilt on top of design distorting it but if it's quilted to enhance the design, hand or machine, I consider it lovely.

LR: What about appliqué work? [laughs.]

LJ: Really, whether it's hand needle turned or it's fused and uses a blanket stitch the majority of them are lovely to me especially if the colors are pleasant together. I think the color with appliqué quilting is first and then it's how they quilted it to pull those appliqué designs forward.

LR: What makes a great quilter?

LJ: I think a great quilter is a person who loves what they're doing. They may not necessarily be the best needle woman that there is out there, but they love what they're doing and they take the time and the effort to learn about color and they're working forward all the time. They're not just quilting the same pattern over and over. They're moving forward and learning as they go. And I greatly admire someone that has to really struggle with it as much as I do, someone that has just the natural ability and they're able to do something so much easier. I think a lot of times when they have to struggle more the end result is much nicer.

LR: How do you impart that message in your teaching?

LJ: I tell them we all begin somewhere and we all work towards the goal and where you're at now you don't compare with your neighbor. You compare it with where you've been.

LR: Good advice. What do you think makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

LJ: First of all, with a lot of quilts I think it's the workmanship with them or the uniqueness of the design, something that stood out or that was a little innovative, a little different than what was going on at the time. But then there are just--go back to the one patch quilt, there are many one patch quilts that due to the choice of fabrics in them whether they're primitively stitched or very well stitched, they still have that appeal that to me needs to be saved over time. It's something that needs to go into a museum. It needs to be preserved for generations to come to see so I like to see things that aren't necessarily up to the skills of today. In the past they didn't have all these wonderful tools we've got so there are quilts that were not as accurately pieced or put together that I find more attractive than the ones today that are because I know what those women were working with. Today I think it's a little more important that if it's museum quality that your workmanship is very nice and that you've used the design to the best to show off that design with your fabric choices.

LR: So is a quilt art or craft?

LJ: I consider a quilt art whether it's a one patch quilt or it's a Baltimore appliqué that's been beautifully appliquéd. To me quilt is art because each one of the ladies that have sat down to make these different pieces have spent a lot of time considering fabric choices and to me that is an artistic skill to sit down and work with fabric to get the best looking quilt. It's just truly amazing. In a lot of older quilts you can tell that they ran out of one fabric and had to use something else because they couldn't get it. It's that uniqueness that sets them apart. How that quiltmaker handled that situation.

LR: So how did the great quilters learn this art?

LJ: Unfortunately, so many of us are too caught up in everything being precise, you know, taking our classes and our points have got to be just so precise that we tend to drift away from that. My partner and I this next year are trying very hard to create some designs and to stitch them in a manner that they have the feel of the old quilts; the stitching and the appliqué more irregular. It wasn't exactly precise. The block may not have been just square. We keep trying to accomplish the really old look and we've decided that this is the difference. We have all these wonderful tools that have allowed us to get more and more precise where back then they didn't so we--we're going to have a real intention to take a few steps back in time and give them a little softer look. I think we can just loosen up a little bit. [laughs.]

LR: So why is quilting important in your life?

LJ: Well I have to tell you that quilting is very soothing, relaxing for me. I've gone through some very difficult times in my life especially with a long illness and the loss of a son. I credit the good Lord who gave me quilting. It was what helped me not look at all the terrible things that were going on around me and focus too deeply on those things; something to take my mind off of it and I find quilting to be a real solace. It just--I have to have a certain amount of stitching in any given week or I get, I don't know, I just see that I'm uptight and I'm real tired and don't know why I'm tired. And if I just sit down and stitch for thirty minutes, I can just feel all that melting away so I think it's a real God given thing for me that He brought me to quilting, that He brought me to Piece-O-Cake business at a very difficult time in my life. LR: Do you stitch--quilt every day? LJ: Most days yes. With it being a business I have a stitching schedule so--I just, you know--now when I stitch it's not that I have to give myself permission to sit down and stitch for six hours or whatever I want to, now I'm able really to really justify it by saying, 'Darling, I've got to stitch eight hours today so it's every man for himself on dinner.' [laughs.] So I've got a real excuse here to really get to spend some time stitching.

LR: Do you have a special place where you stitch?

LJ: I stitch in my living room in my comfortable chair. I have a gorgeous view out of that room. My house is a three story and this room's on the middle level so it's a story off the ground. It's like I'm sitting in the tree top. I love to stitch there. It's very relaxing.

LR: I think you've talked a little bit about this but in what ways do your quilts reflect your community or the area in which you live?

LJ: Well, other than the wild flowers, I would say there is probably not a distinct relationship there. It's more what I absorb from my travels and seeing other people's work and just the world in general around me that influences my designs. A lot of things that influence me are from the past.

LR: What ways do you think quilts have a special meaning for women's history and experiences in our country?

LJ: I think it shows through time that women persevere regardless of what's going on around them and that they found a way to get a release from the very, very hard times that they were living with their quilting. They turned something that originally started out as only to make a piece that was warm to sleep under from what meager scraps you had into an art--[6 second pause.]

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

LJ: By educating people as to the proper way to store them, for example do not put them in plastic. Your storage methods with them are very important. I know some of the ones we got from Paul's grandmother--not that I got but my sister-in-law got, she stored them in a closet and the roof leaked over that area for a period of time and she didn't realize there was a leak. So taking them out every so often and checking on them, refolding them in a different manner and putting them back in their cloth cases. I use pillow cases to store a lot of mine in. I know they make the acid free paper now that's great to store them in an acid free box.

LR: Do you have a large collection of your own quilts that you have made?

LJ: Yes.

LR: Family quilts as well? And how do you keep them? You said in pillow cases?

LJ: I keep my antique quilts in pillow cases in a dark closet. I don't leave one quilt on the bed or on a wall for a long period of time, I rotate them and underneath that quilt will be six or seven other quilts because I think a bed's a great place to store them.

LR: Have you had many quilts in exhibitions? Can you tell me something about those?

LJ: I haven't entered that many exhibitions. My timing never seems to be right, and we formed the company so it's like we are always needing the quilt in the company but I did enter "The Walk In The Mountains" quilt in Houston a few years ago and I won a blue ribbon in its category.

LR: And when was that, do you remember?

LJ: I think that was about four years ago. Was about four years ago and then I've won other ribbons at the little local quilt shows. I plan to enter some more along as time allows.

LR: How can we encourage quilting in young people?

LJ: I have a niece that's fourteen and I began her with a project when she was eight. I began with her--with something that I knew she would enjoy doing because she loves to sit and draw and color so we had done a book at that time "Rhymes I Remember" containing nursery rhymes blocks. I had her pick out her favorite rhyme and trace it onto her cloth. She used a light box to do it with and then I guided her in coloring it with crayon. We heat set the piece. She sewed the blocks together with me standing behind her at the sewing machine. The seams weren't straight but she loved getting to use that sewing machine. [laughs.] We tied it together to keep the layers together. Since then every time she comes to visit me she wants to do something and our last project was just a big one patch. She pulled out fabrics from my stash; this is a pretty wild quilt. She loves her bright colors and she was making it for her new cat. I feel she will take on a little bit of love of quilting and progress on from there so I try each year to have something just a little more advanced for her to do but she can now sit down at a sewing machine and sew a real nice seam when she's putting her little blocks together.

LR: Have you taught any classes for children? Or in your business?

LJ: I have not had that pleasure, no. I have not.

LR: So what do you think is the future of quilting in America?

LJ: Oh I think we've only touched the tip of the iceberg. The women today make the time. I won't say they have this leisure but they make time for quilting because it is a little calm in this very hectic world we live in. I see them becoming more and more innovative all the time. They're out there. They're learning all these different techniques that they take and bring together in one quilt; and I think we've only seen the beginning of what's possible in quiltmaking. I think it has a real future in the world. We're seeing it expand there by leaps and bounds. In the future it is going to be very interesting to see what's developed. I'm amazed every year at the big prize winners. How did they do that? That gradually filters down to all of us, those techniques.

LR: How many years have you been coming to the festival?

LJ: Probably about ten years. Somewhere around--

LR: What trends do you see? You've talked before about going back to more traditional softer quilts, but what?

LJ: I've seen a real trend now for quite some time. People are into reproduction. They want to reproduce those older quilts. As appliquérs we've seen a real trend in appliqué. The number of people appliquéing has grown significantly since we began. We see more and more people interested in appliqué. They're interested in the handwork. They like sitting down with a piece of handwork.

LR: What are some of the aspects of quilting that you do not enjoy?

LJ: I don't like to baste. I hate basting a quilt. [laughs.] I do not like to baste a quilt. I do not like fusing a project either.

LR: What do you mean, can you explain that?

LJ: That's when you use material like Heat and Bond that you put your fused fabric and then applied to the background with heat. Generally the edges are blanket stitched. We have some pieces like that in our collection that we make for trunk shows but quite personally I do not enjoy doing that.

LR: You have a very active quilting community?

LJ: Yes

LR: What is your involvement? I know you have the company and teach.

LJ: Unfortunately I've become so busy. I'm involved with very little in it other than I try to at least once a year sometimes twice a year to do a program for them at the guild that I don't charge them for. Right now we have a community quilt project going on that everyone's working on and I was able to give some time before I left to helping design the border and get that lined out for the ladies who were going to be stitching. Before I got so busy with the business, I was involved in every aspect of my quilt guild. I encourage people to be involved in their quilt guilds. It's a wonderful way to make new friends that you have something instantly in common.

LR: When first started, I did overlook a question. What is the title of the quilt that you have?

LJ: "A Walk in the Mountains."

LR: "A Walk in the Mountains." We have a few minutes left, is there anything else that you would like to add?

LJ: Well, when you asked me a while ago what trends I saw or saw in the future. I do see us going away from the primitive colors into brighter clearer colors. We began this a couple years ago. It was pretty innovative at the time at Market but now each Market we're seeing more and more booths that are going that way where for a long period of time they were all brown. You'd walk by and they were all brown, maybe a little bit of a barn red, you know, very, very muted colors and I've seen home decoration with brighter, clearer colors which I'm thrilled about. [laugh.]

LR: What are, you talked about designing fabrics. What techniques do you use to produce the fabric?

LJ: What we do as designers, we draw the original design for the fabric. It goes to the fabric company and they have graphic artists that then take it and refine it and get the repeat where it needs to be. We send them swatches of colors. A lot of times we use hand dyes for the colors that these fabrics are going to be or we paint the colors. We generally go to P & B Textile's headquarters and we spend days with their designers in their office working with the color and placing it on the design in the areas that it looks its best; complements the other colors. We do this with the computer program that they have for that. It's amazing. The little papers come out and here's your design and here's the color on it and sometimes it's not exact because you are dealing with a computer printer but it really lets you know if your values are right in relationship to each other. That's pretty much how we do it.

LR: We still have a couple of minutes. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

LJ: I can't think of anything.

LR: You can't think of anything.

LJ: I think I've talked long enough probably.

LR: No, it's been--it's been a great pleasure.

LJ: Well, thank you.

LR: So, and I'd like--

LJ: I'm pleased to be asked.

LR: I'd like to thank Linda Jenkins for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Q.S.O.S. - Save Our Stories Project here in Houston, Texas. Our interview was concluded at 12:16 p.m., November 3, 2000.

Interview Keyword

Arts and crafts


“Linda Jenkins,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 18, 2024,