Cliff Bailey




Cliff Bailey


In this brief interview with Cliff Bailey, he describes a quilt that he has made that he's fond of, in part because of the nosegay pattern, use of colors, and feed sack fabric. He describes his introduction to quilting by his family, what he likes about quilting, and describes his home studio.




Quiltmaking process
Quiltmaking purpose


Cliff Bailey


Le Rowell

Interview sponsor

Nancy O'Bryant Puentes


Arlington, Virginia

Interview indexer

Interview indexed by Zach Sims with the support of the Virginia Quilt Museum


Tina Gordon


Le Rowell (LR): This is Le Rowell and today's date is January 8, 2008. It is 11:57 a.m. and I'm conducting an interview with Cliff Bailey for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories, a project of the Alliance for American Quilts, and we are in the fellowship hall of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington in Virginia and this is part of the Day Alliance gathering which you have every month, and my presentation on "Quilts as Diplomacy" [and Oral History".]. So, Cliff, thank you again for volunteering for this demonstration interview. Tell us about the touchtone quilt that you selected to bring today.

Cliff Bailey (CB): Well, I decided to bring this because Le asked me to bring something that meant a lot to me and that represented something about why I quilt. And so, I brought this and the reason I brought it is I like the pattern, I like the colors, and the pattern is called Nosegay. And the nosegay is petals with flowers in them. And so here are the flowers [pointing to the quilt design.], the greenery, and if you come and look at the quilt, the flowers have petals quilted in them and the leaves have leaves quilted in them. There's a spray like baby's breath quilted in at the top. And again, if you'll come and look at it, the reason I chose this is that part of these fabrics are feed sacks. I have fond memories as a little boy going out to feed the chickens at my great aunt's and the chicken feed came in sacks that were printed. I just get a warm fuzzy feeling from it. I collect feed sacks; I have lots of them. I use them in quilts. So, it's a connection to my past and to a place that's long gone. So that's why I chose this quilt.

LR: So, what age did you start quiltmaking?

CB: I was in my, I guess, mid 20s.

LR: And how did you learn?

CB: I learned to sew as a child and then when I was a teenager I started making clothes. And I don't know if you all remember, but in the '50s and '60s it was very--it was just not the thing to do to quilt. Quilting almost died. And then in the late '60s and especially the early '70s, it started coming back and that's when I started quilting.

LR: And how do you use this quilt?

CB: I use it on the bed.

LR: And you plan to continue doing that?

CB: Yes.

LR: Good. [laughs.] What is your first memory of a quilt?

CB: My first memory is going to my great aunt's and going into her spare bedroom and it had her--the shades were drawn and the door was almost always closed and there was this really pretty quilt on the bed in there.

LR: Did you sleep under quilts?

CB: Yes.

LR: Do you remember what kinds of quilts they were?

CB: From one grandmother, they were quilts made out of wool. And from the other side, they were quilts made out of what was then the fabric to have, which was polyester [gasps and laughter from the audience.].

LR: And what do you find most pleasing about quiltmaking?

CB: A lot of things. To me putting together one of this [kind of quilt.] is like solving a puzzle. And I see this puzzle. Like the pieces go into the puzzle and it gets bigger and bigger. And I also like touching fabric. That's how I relate to the world is by touching it. And I like putting it together. I like quilting by hand. Quilting by machine I don't like but quilting by hand I like. And I quilted this quilt. [speaking to the audience.] If you want to look at it, you're welcome to have a look.

LR: And describe your studio at home.

CB: Downstairs we have a big room and one end of the room is my office and the other end is where the TV is, and in the middle of that big room is where I quilt. I have a table that the sewing machine is on when I quilt, and then another table beside it where the--like an assembly area is.

LR: And do you use a design wall?

CB: I tried it and it was too frustrating because it kept falling off [laughter from audience.]. So, I just put it on the floor. There's enough room I can put it on the floor and rearrange things--the blocks the way I want them and then pick them up in some order and sew them together.

LR: Well, Cliff, thank you very much for sharing part of your story with us today. And our interview was concluded at 12:03 p.m. Thank you very much. [applause from the audience.]

Interview Keyword

Home studio
Nosegay pattern
Fabric - Feedsack
Hand quilting

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“Cliff Bailey,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 15, 2024,