Kathryn Anderson




Kathryn Anderson


Kathryn Anderson is a generational quilt maker, but did not start quilting until after she retired from being a teacher. She creates a booklet for her children of blocks she salvaged from her mother’s and grandmother’s quilts she had used and had worn out. Anderson likes to experiment with her quilts and enjoys the challenge that comes with pushing the boundaries. To her, quilts are important because of their sentimentality and should be used as decoration.




Christine Sparta


Kathryn Anderson


Kay Jones

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A Friend of the Quilt Alliance


Fort Worth, Texas


Sylvia Burk


**This transcript was created by QSOS volunteers and was reviewed and, in some cases, edited by the interviewee. It may not exactly match the audio recording. For citations and interview quotations, please refer to the audio-recorded interview.** Kay Jones (KJ): Kathryn, you brought a notebook it looks like or an album. Would you tell us about that?

Kathryn Anderson (KA): Back in the twenties when I was a child my great grandmother went door to door selling fabrics. She took the swatches and made quilts. In that little town that I grew up in, we had a lot of relatives. The women would get together and quilt. She had a quilting frame that went up to the ceiling. You know they put a rope on it and pulled it up. So the women would get together and quilt. Well, there were two of us little girls, and they would let me quilt. I'm sure they took the quilting out when I got through and went out to play. But she went door to door selling fabrics and this front is from one of her quilts that I inherited down through my grandmother and mother. It was deteriorating so I cut the good parts out and made booklets for each of my children. I have four.

KJ: Describe that for the recording Kathryn. It appears to be rectangles of fabric.

KA: Right. Swatches from her books that she sold the fabric.

KJ: And the size is about 8 by 11. What kinds of fabric do you think?

KA: Well, most of them were cottons, but this is silk. And back in those days, they made quilts for utility purposes. They needed them, and most of them they quilted were cotton. But this one was left and it was silk so it wouldn't have stood very long.

KJ: And you made a booklet like this for each of your children. How many?

KA: Four.

KJ: Four.

KA: In the booklet I wrote to my children and grandchildren, I was introducing them to their great-great-grandmother. I had her picture.

KJ: And what was her name?

KA: Maybelle Shaw Steiger. She was born in 1862 and died in 1956. She lived in this house, was born in that house and four of her children were born there.

KJ: You have pictures of the house.

KA: Right. She loved flowers, belonged to the Methodist church, sang in the choir. I had three generations singing in the choir. I needed something to tell about her quilts and she wrote poetry. I looked through her poems and found one about a quilt. This is her writing.
I have the original of all these poems.

KJ: I think it would be interesting if you would read that, Kathryn. Would you read it for us? Now this is the poem that your great grandmother wrote?

KA: Yes, a poem to go with a quilt. When the day has been long and dreary and you weary along the way, when at last the night comes on and you feel too tired to pray; when nothing looks bright and cheery and your courage begins to wilt. Just forget the things that worry and wrap up in your quilt.

KJ: That's beautiful. That's beautiful.

KA: And I have the originals of all her poems.

KJ: Oh, she wrote many poems?

KA: Oh, yes, she wrote more than this. She would send you a card and write little poems on it. And I have inherited that.

KJ: that is marvelous. Oh, you write poems?

KA: Yes.

KJ: Now do you remember your great grandmother?

KA: Oh, very well.

KJ: And you remember her quilting? Or did she still quilt?

KA: Yes, she quilted. My great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, my great aunt, my great aunt in law, all would get together and quilt. We'd have family get togethers. Yes, I remember. In fact, she was still living. We had five generations. She was still living when my daughter was a teenager.

KJ: Marvelous.

KA: She lived to be 92. And my mother to 94. And I'm 82.

KJ: Are you really?

KA: Yes. [laughs.]

KJ: You are beautiful. [both laugh.] What is your first quilt memory?

KA: About this incident where the family got together. And, I will say, that I didn't want to go to college, but I was made to go to college. My mother said, 'Well, take homemaking. If you get married, you'll have some background.' So I took homemaking, and I made a D in sewing because I didn't do what the teacher said. She said to use buttons for utility purposes only. And I like to do little things different, and I put little baby buttons clear down that child's dress.

KJ: So you [inaudible.]

KA: My mother was a seamstress and I grew up with sewing.

KJ: You had a creative streak and it wasn't appreciated. [laughs.]

KA: That's right. That's right.

KJ: Now you did go to college. Did you quilt before then, or when did you start quilting?

KA: No, no. After I had my children, I taught school, too, but I got into quilting. I don't really know why other than I just liked them. And I would get kits and make quilts while I was teaching. Then after I retired I got into the Trinity Valley Quilters, and took off.

KJ: And took off. [laughs.] And what else do you have?

KA: This is a quilt that my mother made when I married in 1940. And I did not appreciate the quilt at all. I let my children play on it. I would throw it in the machine and wash it. Well, you know what happened to it. See all these places [indicating worn parts of quilt.]. So I took the best ones out and did them this way for my children, so each of them has a block of my mother's quilting.

KJ: This was a full sized quilt and now you're showing us a block. [KA agrees. Describe the block.

KA: Well, it's a tulip quilt and she used blues and orchids and pinks and yellows.

KJ: And were all the blocks similar to this one?

KA: Oh, they were all alike. Each block was alike.

KJ: Do you know how she acquired the fabric?

KA: We lived in Denton, and I guess she got it downtown. I don't know.

KJ: Do you think she bought it specifically for the quilt?

KA: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. She made on e for me. I was a cheerleader in high school, and she made one out of the little jackets we wore. I let the children tear that one up. It's terrible not to appreciate your mother's abilities. [annnouncenment over the loudspeaker.]

KJ: Do you have other pieces of quilting from your mother?

KA: No, I do not. This is the only one.

KJ: Well, that's wonderful that you have that. Back to your experiences with quilting. Who taught you to quilt, or were you self taught?

KA: Other than that D I made in college, I just followed my mother's instructions. She sewed for the public and I just grew up with sewing. And my grandmother sewed and my great grandmother sewed.

KJ: Do you still quilt quite a bit?

KA: Oh, yes. [very softly.]

KJ: About how many hours a week, Kathryn?

KA: Well, I volunteer at the hospital a couple of days a week and I go to another organization one day a week, and I don't have a whole lot of time. But some night I will sit up nearly all night I'm working on one right now. I have about five that have not been quilted. I have just finished quilting one and I did it in metallic thread. I had always wanted to try that. And I saw an advertised thread that said you could do hand quilting, so I ordered it. I'll never do it again. It breaks too easily. But it was a black and gold quilt and I just tried it. And I did it. I like that little poem: 'Somebody said that it couldn't be done, but he with a chuckle replied, Maybe it couldn't'. But he wouldn't be one to say so until he'd tried.' [laughs.]

KJ: So you believe in just trying and seeing how it works out?

KA: Oh, yes. This is the story about my husband who died about two and a half years ago. We were with the [inaudible] schools. He for thirty one years and I for twenty three years. And he would go to staff meeting, and while the superintendent was conducting the meeting, he would do these.

KJ: Now, these are [pause.]--

KA: They're doodles. A--

KJ: Oh, I see. So you have a four panel wall hanging.

KA: I made one for each child.

KJ: And you've made the doodles into appliqué.

KA: Now, these are samples of his doodles.

KJ: That is interesting. Now describe how you went about doing that.

KA: Well, he had had architectural drawing, and worked as Director of Buildings and Grounds. He was just talented this way, but we never considered it art. But he kept all of these things. And while he was doing this, I was writing poetry from elementary school on up. So I named the book for the children, “Doodling with Mom and Dad.” And I took his doodles and had them enlarged.

KJ: And they look like they are about eight by eleven, or eight by ten.

KA; See, I would start like this. Enlarge it, put it on my fabric, and cut out the little pieces, and then go over them with my machine. Many of them he dated.

KJ: Now, let's go back to this. The first part of the process is to get it on the fabric, traced on the fabric.

KA: Enlarge it first.

KJ: Enlarge it and then get it traced on the fabric.

KA: Make a pattern on paper and cut out the little pieces, WonderUnder them on, and take them to my machine. I have a computerized sewing machine and [inaudible.] the edgings.

KJ: That is fascinating.

KA: Well, there is probably no other like it. [laughs.] But see he saved these, and why I don't know. But I have all of these that he has done. Now here is one. See, that is the way it would start. When he wrote on his doodles, I would put that on in his own printing.

KJ: I'm fascinated by this. Let's look at it again. How do you decide about the colors?

KA: He usually did them in reds and blues.

KJ: So you followed what he had done.

KA: The same.

KJ: And I see looking at this sketch that he had crosshatched.

KA: Oh, yes, he did that meticulously.

KJ: In some of the spaces. And so then you would find a fabric that

KA: I would use a little check.

KJ: That looked like that.

KA: Yes. [announcement over the loudspeaker.]

KJ; Now, I've certainly never seen anything like that.

KA: No, no, it's kind of original. This one right here. [announcement over the loudspeaker.]

KJ: Do you know, I thought at first that these were Native American designs. They have a little bit of that flavor. Was he fond of Native American art?

KA: Yes, well not art particularly, but he did collect arrowheads and that sort of stuff, so he may have been a little influenced. [announcement over the loudspeaker.]

KJ: Well, that is fascinating.

KA: This one right here. [announcement over the loudspeaker.]

KJ: Now you are showing me.

KA: Looks like a woman, see?

KJ: I was going to say bird. [laughs.] [announcement over the loudspeaker.] I think you mentioned your husband's death, Kathryn. I want to ask you did quilting ever help you get through a difficult time?

KA: Oh, yes, yes.

KJ: Would you tell us about?

KA: Oh, I can quilt for hours and your troubles just kind of go away.

KJ: Where do you quilt?

KA: I have a back porch that he built for me. It has windows across the west and the north side. Very light. I have frames that have two ends that I can swivel the frame.

KJ: So it's about two, two and a half feet long?

KA: Oh, no, I can quilt a king size quilt on it. I have different lengths of rods.

KJ: So you can adjust it?

KA: Yes

KJ: To the size that you need.

KA: I can set it up myself. I have my machine out there.

KJ: Now you said you have four grandchildren?

KA: No. I have four children, ten grandchildren and twelve great grandchildren.

KJ: Oh. Have you made a quilt for each one?

KA: One grandson does not have his yet, but I've made two for each great grandchild.
And my children each have one. I have sewed some in the past but I have quit doing that.
I have about five or six that have not been quilted, and I'm working on about four right now.

KJ: Is that pretty typical, that you are working on several projects at once?

KA: Oh, yes. I entered this wall hanging this year here, and that has a little story. It's the rooster quilt. When my oldest son saw it he definitely said, 'I want that.' So we've known all along that it was going to him. He told me just the other day, he said, 'You know why I wanted that quilt, that wall hanging?' I said, 'Why?' He said, 'Don't you remember Dad telling the story about when he was a little boy he had a pet bandy bantam? He jumped off of a shed one time and landed on his little chicken and killed it.' And so that's the story behind it. [laughs.]

KJ: He wanted it to remember his father.

KA: We're a very sentimental family. This is my grandmother's thimble.

KJ: Now you have that in a little cage on a chain, right? And it was your grandmother's?

KA: My grandmother's thimble.

KJ: You remember her quilting?

KA: Oh, yes.

KJ: At family get together?

KA: Yes, yes. I think half the people in that little town were all kin to each other.

KJ: I wanted to get back to the quilts that you made for your grandchildren. You said all of them had one except one?

KA: Uh huh.

KJ: How did you go about deciding on patterns and colors and all for your grandchildren?

KA: Well, I just would pick out a quilt. I didn't do it for any special child. The first one I made for my oldest granddaughter was a whole package, you know, a whole quilt. It had metal, it wasn't thread, it was a sixteenth of an inch that you had to work into it. It was a beautiful quilt but it was already stamped and everything. And I have done several embroidery quilts. Appliqué is my favorite work. I love to appliqué. The harder it is. I love Celtic quilting.

KJ: I was going to ask that too. You just anticipate my questions. [laughs What's your favorite part of quilting?

KA: Appliqué.

KJ: The appliqué.Describe some that you've done. Have you won an award for your quilting?

KA: I've won three here.

KJ: Tell us about those.

KA: Don't remember a whole lot. But I have one hanging here this year in the past winners. And I sold one for eight hundred dollars. I was sorry I did it but there was a woman collecting my quilts, and she had bought five through the years. She was giving them to her children. She was not able to quilt anymore. This one grandson that I still have to do, I have quilts that he will choose what he wants me to quilt. I have the tops,

KJ: You were about to tell us about the quilt that is hanging here. Is it in the past winners?

KA: It was a ninety two winner.

KJ: A ninety two winner. What is it like?

KA: It's a peace quilt.

KJ: What pattern?

KA: Don't ask me. [laughs.] Let me see. I can't tell you.

KJ: Is that pretty typical that once you have finished it?

KA: I'm through with it.

KJ: It is sort of out the door?

KA: I'm ready for the next thing to come along.

KJ: Is there some part of quilting that you don't enjoy?

KA: Not really. Not really. I just like it all. I like to do it my way.

KJ: Let's talk a little bit about my way. Would that be hand or machine pieced or quilted?

KA: If I am piecing a quilt, I do it on the machine. I do not quilt on the machine. I put the pieces together on the machine. Of course, the appliqué is all hand work.

KJ: And then the quilting is hand quilting?

KA: All hand quilting.

KJ: Always.

KA: Always. I may have to have those five machine quilted because I may not live long enough. [laughs.]

KJ: Do you think quilting has impacted your family?

KA: Oh, yes. They all expect a quilt.

KJ: [laughs.] But do they quilt?

KA: No, my daughter is a retired teacher, but she has a daycare. So she did not inherit my ability but a granddaughter did. She has shown that she will do this when she gets a little older. She's trying to raise her family and work, but she does do arts and crafts.

KJ: Do you do other?

KA: In the past I have done oil painting, all kinds of needlework.

KJ: I notice you have on a beautiful vest that has some appliqué and cutwork. Did you do that?

KA: Yes. I've done a lot of them.

KJ: Have you done other articles of clothing?

KA: This is about all. I do not make my clothes.

KJ: Do you have a collection of vests?

KA: Quite a few.

KJ: Quite a few vests. As you walk around the show and you think about years of quilting, what do you think makes a great quilt?

KA: Well, the beauty of the quilt and the handwork on the quilt. I remember back when I was a child and they were quilting, they just took big old stitches. And what do they call those, toe catchers? Where there is a long stitch.

KJ: I think now they call it a utility stitch. [laughs.] I like toe catchers.

KA: I just love quilts. I went to England and Ireland and, it just so happened there was a quilt show in both places. So I got to go to one in England and one in Ireland.

KJ: What was different about those quilts?

KA: They look just like ours over here. Nothing different.

KJ: The colors?

KA: No, they look typical. One was just north of London. I forget where the one in Ireland was. My husband and a couple friends of ours traveled a lot together. My husband and a friend's husband would take us to quilt shows. We'd go up to Paducah. We'd go to Houston. We'd go to the Amish country because she was interested in quilts too. We just had a good time RV traveling.

KJ: Have you entered quilts in other shows besides Trinity Valley? You haven't. Not interested in that?

KA: Oh I believe at [inaudible.] my son lived there. I think I put one up there. Its hard to remember all these things at my age.

KJ: [laughs.] Can you estimate or would you try--how many quilts you've made?

KA: Oh, I'd guess thirty or forty.

KJ: Thirty or forty, you think. Do you make more than one a year?

KA: No, because I work on several at a time. Right now I'm working on cats, dogs, houses, and I'm still working on these.

KJ: Some of the doodles.

KA: Yes. I need to finish these that I got started.

KJ: But, now, do you just go from one to another, or what?

KA: Well, these cats and dogs are one a month, and of course I get through pretty quick because I can't wait to get started. So I get through with that and then I'll get another one and work on it. But that keeps it from getting boring.

KJ: What process do you use for choosing the colors and the design?

KA: People tell me I'm good with colors. I don't know that that's true. I just like to put colors together.

KJ: Do you have a big fabric stash?

KA: I did until I decided that I had too much so I, this granddaughter who does arts and crafts, I gave her a lot. I used to make dolls and put them in stores. There was a store in
Greenville, Texas, that carried them. Some of them would sell for over a hundred dollars. They were the soft sculpture dolls. And I made the clothes, did the smocking, all of that.
But I get tired of one thing, one craft, and then go to another. The only thing I've wanted to do and have never done is sculpture, and the nearest I came to it is those dolls, including the faces and the body parts. Soft sculpture when the Cabbage Patch was in. We even went up to that hospital where the Cabbage Patch came from.

KJ: Do you think quilts have been important in women's lives in America?

KA: Oh, always.

KJ: If so, why?

KA: Well, they needed them for warmth for one thing. And then people had--women had a way of expressing their artistic ability.

KJ: Well, your family certainly typifies that, don't they?

KA: Yes, I'm afraid so.

KJ: Many women expressed their artistic ability. I've asked you what makes a great quilt.
What do you think makes a great quilter?

KA: Perseverance. Patience. You've got to have it. Take out stitches when they don't look exactly right.

KJ: Are you a little bit of a perfectionist?

KA: Very much.

KJ: How do you decide a quilt is finished?

KA: Well, just look at it and if it satisfies me, it's finished.

KJ: I think sometimes you can try to make it too perfect and it doesn't get finished.

KA: Well, somehow I usually get them finished, except for the five or six that I have to quilt. And one of them is king sized. I dread that one.

KJ: And you are going to hand quilt it?

KA: Oh, yes.

KJ: And how long will that take?

KA: It depends on what I have in my life. I live to quilt every day, but I don't always get to. So it might take me two months or it may take me six. I don't like to keep up the frames quite that long.

KJ: So you'll only have one quilt on the frame at a time.

KA: Right.

KJ: And you'll keep coming back to that one. And you can finish one in two months if you really go at it.

KA: If I go at it. I usually do about a quilt a year.

KJ: How do you think quilts ought to be used?

KA: For decoration. [laughs.] So many people do not know how to take care of quilts. I tell them don't put them in plastic. Put them in cotton fabric or something. Usable but not all the time. For decoration, maybe for bedspreads and that sort of thing. Now my daughter keeps. Let me see I didn't bring that. Well, the one that's hanging in the past winners, she keeps that above her bed. And I had my husband made me a little bow I could put in the corner and gather up the top of the quilt. Another quilt I had made I'd forgotten about. After my mother died and I had her things to dispose of, I had one of her old print dresses, a sheet and some of her curtains, and I made a quilt out of them. So I've got that quilt.

KJ: And you have that one.

KA: Oh, yes, I've got that one. It will go to my daughter eventually.

KJ: Do you sleep under quilts?

KA: No, just a blanket.

KJ: When you give a quilt away do you give instructions about how to take care of it?

KA: No, that's up to them, other than I tell them not to put it in plastic.

KJ: Do you know what's happened to the quilts that you've given to friends and family?

KA: No, not really. I can't keep up with all my family. I've just got a big family and most of them live close to me.

KJ: Now you've been a member of the guild for awhile.

KA: A number of years but I don't know how long.

KJ: Have you been an officer?

KA: No. We did have a bee but we kind of disbanded. Some of the members were sick or couldn't come so we just stopped. And I don't get a chance to attend a lot of meetings because I work on Fridays at the hospital.

KJ: You do volunteer work?

KA: Uh huh.

KJ: What has the guild meant to you?

KA: Oh, I have met so many lovely people that I would not have had an opportunity to meet. Of course, I love to see what other people are doing. It makes me get busy.

KJ: Well, Kathryn, at this point I'm about out of questions.

KA: O.K. I've talked a whole lot.

KJ: Oh, you've been wonderful. But I want to ask you if you have something you want to tell us about that I haven't already asked?

KA: No, I don't suppose I have. I've often wondered what that teacher that gave me the 'D' would think if she saw my stuff now. [laughs.]

KJ: I think she'd be amazed.

KA: I think she would, too.

KJ; I want to thank you, Kathryn, for allowing me to interview you.

KA: In something I received, it said that somebody was working on a degree at Texas Women's University.

KJ: Yes, one of our guild members.

KA: Oh, okay. I wasn't quite sure and, my stars, I asked what this was all about? She said they just ask you questions.

KJ: Yes, she's working with the [Quilters' S.O.S.- ] Save Our Stories project, and is just doing a fabulous job.

KA: Are they going to make a book or anything like that?

KJ: It will be transcribed. I will go ahead and close out our interview as part of the 2001 Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 10:40 a.m.


“Kathryn Anderson,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 24, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/34.