Lynda Noll




Lynda Noll




Lynda Noll


Karen Downer

Interview Date



Houston, Texas

Interview indexer

Jesse Moore


Natasha Gaiski


Karen Downer (KD): You want to leave it on pause for me, so I can tell her some stuff? [Unidentifed person says 'sure,' unidentifiable noise.] Okay and we're on. This is Karen Downer, and today's date is November 5th, 2011 and it is 11:05 [a.m.], and I'm conducting an [UP unidentifiable noise.] interview with Lynda Noll for Save Our Stories, it's a project of The Alliance for American Quilts. Lynda and I are at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas and I want you to tell me about [UP speaks.] this quilt that you brought today.

Lynda Noll (LN): This quilt is [unidentifiable] is hand made of blocks of cross stitch, when I had back surgery, I understood for several members of my family who also had scoliosis and had gone through surgery and it takes about a year to recover from the surgery. So, my idea was to do a cross stitch, a block for each month of the year, and it was originally designed for a paper calendar where you cross stitch a picture for each month of the year and then you turn the paper calendar over to the next month. And I thought that if I did that, I would be throwing away a lot of good cross stitch cause each of these blocks takes about I'd say a hundred hours to do. It's really fine and it's counted cross stitch, and what I did was I changed up the colors a little bit on some of them because I didn't like the way the patterns read, and then I decided to set it into a quilt so that I could have it forever. And this was the year 2006. So the first block I had to lay down to do my stitching. I was laying, you know, on my side and it was really hard to get comfortable. I started working on it probably the week after my surgery, and I also embellished it with buttons and there's beads and some, like you'll see there's a bee on the beehive for September and there's a little rose on February, which I have a heart. I change up the colors a little bit, but the biggest thing was that I just decided I didn't want to just do some cross stitches and then put them in a drawer. I wanted to set it into a quilt [hh.], so I set it into blocks, and then I thought about how I was going to frame it, and I believe this is called a dog tooth pattern, and so I put squares kinda put them in there, and for the framing around each block, it took me a while to figure it out, but I figured out when I had done the whole thing that what I was choosing was frames with very small either dots or circles and there's one with stars, but it's very small print around each block, so. And then the very last thing was when I did the binding, I had this idea to do different colors of the binding. So, I'm a color person, I love lots of color.

KD: So, this quilt took you over a year?

LN: [UP speaking/shouting.] It probably took me more like 9 months, because when I started feeling better, I started spending more time working on it, but I had to take a lot of breaks [noise.]. But like I said, when I first started I was actually laying down, trying to stitch [LN laughs.].

KD: What special meaning does it have for you? [noise.] Did it help you heal?

LN: Yes, it helped me heal. You know, when you cross stitch, it can be sort of meditative because it's a repetitive thing and when you do this repetitive thing, you think [up shouts.] a lot about your past and your present and your future, and one thing about scoliosis is it tends to run in families, I inherited, I think. Well, they think it might be related to growth hormone. But it tends to run in families and it definitely runs in mine. My mother has scoliosis, my aunt--I have 2 aunts, I have 3 cousins, and it's all on my mother's side, and we all have crooked backs, so most of us have had surgery. And my son has it very, very mild and my sister has scoliosis as well. So [unidentifiable noise.], it was kind of like by doing this, I'm thinking about my family and where I'm from and who I am and my life, and how I have this scoliosis and how I'm one more person in my family who's going through this [UPs speak.].

KD: So why did you choose [UPs laugh.] this particular quilt to bring to the interview as opposed to some of your other quilts?

LN: I have several quilts, and I kind of ran it by my husband as well [horn honks.], who kind of helps me with some of my decision making [LN laughs.]. And this quilt, I felt like I put a lot of time and thinking into it, thinking as far as [UP shouts.] not just doing the stitching, but just thinking about you know my family and who I am and the process and everything. And then it kind of shows off like a design, I created my own design for the border, my own design for the binding [mic noise.].

KD: Okay Lynda [horn honks.], if someone's viewing this quilt, maybe say 50 years in the future [horn honks.], what do you think they might conclude about you?

LN: I think they might think I'm a detail person [horn honks.], I think you came to the conclusion already I can't remember what you said, but I feel like I'm pretty organized. Someone who does cross stitch has to have a lot of focus and they have to want to sit there and do stitch by stitch [UP, unidentified noise.]. So, yeah.

KD: And how do you use this quilt at this point? Do you [horn honks.] exhibit it?

LN: I do. Well, it's over the top of my fireplace in my home, and I have put it in a couple quilt shows. I received first place in a Chisholm trail quilt show and a place in an Austin area quilt show. And I can probably tell you what years, 2006 I was honorable mention at the Austin Area Quilt Guild Show and 2007 I was first place in the Chisholm quilt guild show.

KD: And what are your plans for this quilt? What's its future life?

LN: I will probably keep it, I don't think I would sell it, just keep it and hope that maybe I can pass it down to my children, but they're not too interested in my quilting [LN laughs.]. I'm hoping that they'll come around someday.

KD: I'm going to move on to a portion of our questions that try to get at your involvement in quiltmaking in general, so would you tell me [horn honks.] about your interests in quiltmaking in general?

LN: One of my favorites to do is to put together color and I think just talking to some of my friends, they kind of recognize in me that I like to use color. My favorite fabrics are batiks, I like the way that I can blend them. One of the quilts--the quilt that I have that's in the book and in the show has a lot of color. When we came around the corner and saw the quilt, it's like the color just popped out, so I was really pleased because of the lighting here and how it showed.

KD: And when did you start sewing?

LN: My first quilt was, I said, 'How hard can it be?' to make a quilt, so I [uni noise.] cut up a cardboard square and I just layed it on top of fabrics that my mother had in her linen closet, she had a whole bunch of fabrics. And I was a young teenager, we lived in Panama, and the clothes that we got there we lived on the base, and we really didn't go shopping off the base. So, there was a really limited supply of fabrics and so, if we wanted to have a dress for a dance at the school, we would make our own dresses and we learned how to make our own clothing, and so we had all this leftover fabric that was in the linen closet, and I said I was going to make a quilt, so I took a cardboard square and I traced it onto the fabric and all the different fabrics. So, I made actually a quilt top and it was really sloppily made because my tracing wasn't really good, and I made a quilt top I said 'Mom' sew it on the machine and I said Mom, someday we'll make this into a quilt together and I threw it into her linen closet in there [LN laughs.]. What she did was a couple years later, she took that out, took it to a church auxiliary and made it into a quilt for me and she gave it to me as a gift. And when I look at that quilt, to this day I see my sloppy sewing [They both laugh.]. You know, because the squares aren't matched up at all, that's first thing I see, and it's like a polyester backing, but the other thing I see is I see this fabric from the fabric of the shirt of my sister Vida, this one is right from the dress that I made in Home Economics, this is a dress that I made for a dance in middle school, so when you look at all the fabrics, it's just a flood of memories of all the different fabrics and what all that means. And then I didn't [up shouts.] quilt again for another oh, probably 20 years, and it was when my daughter was born and a few years after that, she had started school. And I said, 'Well, I've always wanted to go back to making quilts, so I think this is my chance to start doing some things and she was in school when I had some time.'

KD: So your first top was all those years ago, it was quilted for you. Do you now do your own quilting?

LN: Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. I'm kind of struggling with that right now. I don't have a longarm, I have a machine with a small throat on it, and the quilt in the show is kind of special because [up speaks.] it was done in memory of my father, and I have a real nice label on the back with a picture of my father and I, and he passed away when I was working on the quilts, so I made it as a tribute built to him, can we pause. So, the quilt that I did for my dad was in memory of my dad is really big [horn honks.], and you wouldn't know it, but when I have a quilt that big, I give it to a quiltmaker to put it [horn honks.] together, but one thing my dad always said was, 'You can do anything. And there is no can't.' And so, I said if this is a memory quilt for my dad, I 'm going to do it all myself, and it was a struggle, because it's like a king sized quilt and I'm putting it inside this big of a home machine, but I was able to do it, and it's all mine, the top quilting is mine, and it's all my color sets, it's all mine. And so, if it were bigger quilts, I'd try and I will give it to somebody to longarm for me. But I'm struggling with that, because I feel like if I give it to somebody to work on that part of it, then it's not all mine. This one I brought today I did this one on my own, so.

KD: [UP shouts in background.] How many hours a week do you piece or quilt or--?

LN: Lately, I haven't been able to do as much as I'd like to do, because I'm in school. I'm finishing up my nurse practitioner certificate program. I've been in school for two years now, and I should finish next month [faint horn honks.].

KD: [uni noises.] Are there quiltmakers among your family and friends?

LN; My family isn't--they're not quiltmakers, but my grandmother and my mother they did a lot of crochet. They would make these beautiful dollies, and they would make big crochet like roses within their dollies, really pretty, and use different colors and so when I was growing up, I would spend hours as a young girl just crocheting dollies and then I got into [noise.] crocheting afghans and so, I feel like that's kind of where my handwork comes from. Sort of like my inherited gift from my family is the handwork and that kind of led me to cross stitch.

KD: Do you have any amusing experiences that have occurred to you as part of your quiltmaking that you can share with us?

LN: There is one I think is kind of funny. When I found out I was going to be in the Lone Stars Three book, I just got to where I was checking the mail a lot and checking the email a lot and trying to see for different things, like when I'd get my quilt back, and when I've been accepted into the book, and then when I found out I got accepted, then I wanted to know more information, and [horn honks.] so I felt like I [horn honks.] was constantly checking the mail. And my husband says, 'So, why are you so excited about this? You're only going to get a postage sized stamp corner of the page in the book.' [LN laughs.] And as it turned out, I got the whole page, and I got the page next to it. So, that [KD laughs.] was pretty funny to me.

KD: What aspects of quiltmaking do you not enjoy?

LN: I'm a little frustrated right now. I can do the top, but to actually do the quilting for the quilting sandwich, that's sort of a source of frustration for me right now, because I'm trying to figure out the best way to do that. And how to get the precision and to get the tiny stitches that people I see here. The good quiltmakers here that are here in this juried show, they're the ones that have the very fine quilting, and I'd like to get it figured out how the best way to get there.

KD: Do you belong to groups or guilds or--?

LN: I'm in the Austin Area Quilt Guild. I was a lot more active, I'd say a few years ago before I got into working full-time. I'm a hospice nurse, and right now, I'm working as needed. But then, I got involved in full time school, so.

KD: Can you talk a little about how all this wonderful technology that's coming to us--machines, and good grief, every notion you can think of. How is technology influencing your work?

LN: You know, I think every year when you look at quilts, you come to different shows, you see different techniques, and I think it's really neat, all the new things, and all the new techniques you can try. So, I've got some things in the back of my mind that I'd like to try sometime, especially. One thing is I do have some cross stitches at home, where I took and scanned a picture of my daughter and my son and my dog into a computer program, and it prints out a chart, a pattern that you can use with the different colors, and then you go and purchase those colors, and then you cross stitch it. So, up close it looks like a bunch of stitches, but if you step back, you see what looks like a portrait. And so, I have those hanging on the wall and when people come to my house, they're like, 'Oh, that's a stitch, that's stitchery, really?' And they think it's a photo portrait or just a picture on the wall, but when you get up close [KD says 'Wow.']. And so, that firstly, that's one thing that I've tried, and I've really enjoyed it.

KD: And that's a good example of technology. Do you have some favorite [ups shouting.] techniques, currently?

LN: My favorite pattern is the Bloomin' Nine patch. I've tried working with the Snippet Sensation where you cut pieces and they drop, and you just drop it in, and you form a picture. I've tried working with that. I like cross stitching, as you can see. I love working with color.

KD: It's beautiful, it's balanced. I mean, it does draw your eye. Describe where you work when you quilt, when you sew. Your studio.

LN: Let's see, I got a little bit into art a long time ago, probably in the '80s. And I drew a picture of my dad, a pencil drawing, and it's a good sized pencil drawing, [horn honks.] and it's sort of like the start of my art classes and my adult life. I didn't take too many art classes, my mom went on to be a [an.] oil painter, but when I first saw the works that could be done in my class, I was just like, 'Wow, I could do that.' So, it's kind of an inspiration to me, like wow, I did that, that picture, because it's real detailed. It's real nice. It's just little pencil strokes and it comes out to be a beautiful big portrait. I have a couple oil paintings of my mom in my room. Let's see, I have a couple of quilts hanging on the wall that I've done.

KD: So you have a room dedicated to your sewing?

LN: Yes.

KD: Ok.

LN: And lots of fabric. I try and keep it neat, but it always ends up all over the place [LN laughs.].

KD: You are an excellent person for this next question, because you mentioned that you work, you're a hospice nurse, and you're currently in school to be a nurse practitioner. How in the world do you balance your time?

LN: [Horn honks.] Right now, I'm not doing as much [horn honks.] of quilting as I would like to do. I kind of struggle with what I really want to do and what I need to do, and [unidentifiable crash.] that's kind of a challenge [horn honks.] I think for women. You know, they want to make money [horn honks.] and some people even say, 'You could even make money stitching a quilt.' I'm like, 'Well yeah, that too' [They laugh.]. But, with the economy, it's a struggle to try and figure out how to make a living and how to be able to do the things you want to do.

KD: Do you use a design wall?

LN: I do have a design wall, but [horn honks.] I probably use the floor more than anything [uni noise.].

KD: Okay, we're going to move to a section that talks about aesthetics and craftsmanship, and design aspects, and your opinion in some of those areas. What do you think makes a great quilt?

LN: One thing is creativity, if you can do more than just work on a pattern. And another thing is I tend to use quiltmaking for self-expression, like how I feel, what I think about things. Recently, I made a quilt; it's called "Inner Peace." And I put peace signs in the middle of it, and it's hard to [horn honks.], a lot of people have the tendency to want to be happy through something else or someone else or some other thing, or challenge or some other award, but inner happiness really does need to come from within, and so does inner peace, so.
KD: And you're an excellent person to ask this question, because you are both an artist and a quilter. What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?

LN: I think it's a self expression and using your creativity to express how you feel.

KD: What makes a great quiltmaker?

LN: Someone who uses their imagination and their creativity, but yet they can work with the techniques and come up with a well designed quilt [horn honks.] that has great stitchery [LN laughs.].

KD: Is there an artist or a quilter that whose works you're particularly drawn to [uni noise.]?

LN: I like Carol Briar-Fallert, I like her work. She uses a lot of bright colors, and I kind of admire her because I think she was an airline stewardess for a really long time, and I think she retired and then she went to doing more of the work that she likes to do, and that's kind of where I'm at. I'm kinda looking forward to being able to do more of my artwork, but it's sort of a challenge with the economy.

KD: Is there anyone else?

LN: There's a couple. There's Kathy York, [horn honks.] she doesn't know it, but I really [horn honks.] admire her work. [horn honk.] Actually, I saw her one time at a quilt show, and [horn honks.] I was working admissions at the door as a volunteer [horn honks.] , and I said, 'Hey, I really like your work,' and she said, 'You know me? 'I say, 'Yeah, I love your work.' The one up there with the birds going up over the ladder, I just love that.'

KD: It made her day I'm sure. It made her day. Have any of these influenced your work to some extent?

LN: Yes, I really enjoy color, I really enjoy putting color together and the artists that I admire, they use color, and they also have creative ways of putting together designs. Sometimes they add a bit of humor, and I like that too.

KD: Okay, we're going to transition now to the fourth area, and that's the function and meaning of quilts. This is where we talk a little bit about the historic aspects and quilts in American life, and especially in the life of women. Why is quiltmaking important to you?

LN: For me, I like it as a meaning of self-expression, so this quilt that I brought here today had a lot of meaning to me. It initially started out as recovery. I'm recovering every month what I can do, and because I had such a major back surgery, things could have come out very differently than they did. I don't have daily pain that could all come, and I had so many friends and family that were really helped me out a lot. And I was in a quilt group at the time, and everyday my quilt friends would bring over a meal. And so, for like three weeks, I had quilter friends bringing over a meal every evening [ KD says Those are friends.]. And so, it wasn't just that I was recovering every month, it's how grateful I was to be alive and had a good outcome and to have so many good friends and I just really appreciate people and appreciate everyone that you meet everyday. And I think I have an appreciation for that partly being a hospice nurse.

KD: You are Texan?

LN: I was actually born in Wichita Falls but my dad was in the Air Force, so we moved when I was about five. And I moved back here about 11 years ago.

KD: So, do your quilts reflect life in this region of Texas or do they reflect like time in the larger world? What do you think about them?

LN: I think it kind of reflects what's going on with me as a person more. I haven't really gotten into like making Texas quilts, necessarily. I'm more about my inner and my inner person.

KD: What do you think about quilts and their special meaning for women's history?

LN: I know at one time that women were judged by their ability to do handwork, and different fabrics and different years of history. So, when you look at a quilt, you can kind of tell what decade that was made in. And then, what's the personal meaning of the quiltmaker? Were they struggling with rattlesnakes? Did they do rattlesnakes patterns? There's a lot of history and what's going on with them at the time. I'm sure that's reflected in their quilts, whether they were being attacked by Indians, whether they were Republican or Democrat. I think a lot of it is self expression.

KD: So, how do you think quilts and quiltmaking can be preserved for the future?

LN: There's an excellent preservation society. There's this alliance for quiltmaking and doing things like interviews with quiltmakers and understanding not only when you look at quilt, you can look at a quilt, but what does it really mean? And I think we get some very powerful understanding from what a quilt means to a person. The quilt that I have here in the show floor the Lone Stars three , it has a little label on the side that kind of talks about the quilt and says this is a pretty easy pattern, but it was masterfully designed with color. I think that if you were to turn over my quilt and look at the actual label, it has a picture of me and my dad together and the label says, 'This quilt was designed with batik fabrics and it reminds me of the days when my dad taught me how to fish. And how the sun shines on the middle of the water and how it disperses out, and how that has meaning to me is, I'm a reflection of my dads quiet, patient, and loving ways. We are reflections of our parents, our family, and who we are. And when someone dies, especially someone very close to you, you start thinking of what is the meaning of life and so.

KD: Do you have any idea how many quilts you've made?

LN: I think I've probably and around a hundred, but I've given away many.

KD: That was my next question. Where are they? What happened to them?

LN: Different places. I know some people, some of my earlier quilts were not my best quilts, and I did give those away. I know my son when he was kindergarten, first, second, third and fourth grade, I gave a quilt to the teachers. I'd get the students in the class involved and make different squares like kindergarten, they all drew a picture of something related to Texas, whether it was the Alamo or a blue bonnet or a yellow rose, different things. And then I set that into a quilt. And one year it was a teddy bear class and they all drew a different teddy bear, so every year for like four years, I'd get the class involved in quiltmaking. And then my brother went off to, I believe it was Iraq and he was gone for about a year, and when her came back, I had made him a quilt with the middle of it was a picture when he first went into the Navy, and all around it was stars and I had all the family members sign it, and they signed things like, "Thank you, thank you for your service. Thank you for all the work your family and you have done to protect our country and to protect us." And it was really heartwarming. He has that hanging on the wall in his home, and he's really proud of it. I found one of my quilts one time in someone's drawer [laughs.] My mother said she hung hers up, I saw hers hanging up in her living room, that was a snippet sensation, it was like a vase with flowers. I'm sure they're all different places. I have a lot of quilts in my living room, you know just kind of draped over things and hanging over a ladder, over the fireplace is one. My family tends to laugh at me because I've got them everywhere. I even have one on the bed [laughs.]

KD: A couple of times in our discussion, our interview, you've mentioned the economy. I'm going to ask you a question now about what do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

LN: We still have to have the money to be able to work with our quilts and we still have to have the money to raise our families and take care of our children, plan for our retirement so I haven't quite figured out a great way to make money quilting yet, so in the mean time I'm working the nurse practioner in hospice angle [laughs.] and that's kind of where I'm at.

KD: Lucky for all of us you are [laughs.] It's a good thing.

LN: Yeah.

KD: Okay Linda, I want to thank you for spending this time with us. You obviously have stories to tell and I'm sure they're coming out in your quilts. I want to ask you one last question and that is this, did we not touch on something that you want to make a record or is there anything we didn't get from you today that you'd like to add?

LN: One thing is, when you look at a quilt, it's one thing to look at the quilt and maybe draw your own personal meaning from what you think the artist thought of the quilt, but it's another thing to actually ask the artist what they were thinking and you may get a whole other interpretation of what that is. Sometimes if it has a lot of personal meaning, that's really special if you can get that information and it'll change, it might change your heart and change the way you see life and change the way you know things.

KD: I'd like to thank Lynda for allowing me to interview her today for the Save Our Stories oral history project and it's just been an honor to spend time with you. Our interview concluded at 11:45, thank you.


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