Ellen Cavlett (EC): Patti will you tell me about the quilt you brought today?
Patti Nethery (PN): Okay! This is the latest quilt that I made and it always seems that my latest quilt that I made is my favorite quilt. I am kind of big on red, white, and blue even my business logos and everything are red, white, and blue. I saw this pattern several years ago and I wish I could remember today the lady that came out with this pattern, but she has a couple of books out and called Braided Quilts and I named mine, Braid in America since it’s more of Americana theme. The quilt is 95-by-95 and it’s the first time I’ve ever done the braided technique and I just really like the quilt. It is one of my favorite right now and as I said my latest quilt is always my favorite quilt.
EC: I think that’s a great idea! So you make your own quilts. Do you do your own quilting on it?
PN: Not on my big quilts that I’ve made. When I do wall hangings or table toppers or something small I do my own quilting but, I feel like I’m much better at the piecing and picking the fabric than I am quilting. I have a couple of friends that do long arm quilting and so usually one of them will do my quilting for me.
EC: That’s great! What special meaning does it have beyond that you just like patriotic quilts, is there anything extra special about it?
PN: I guess in today’s world I feel like in America we could be more patriotic and I have been on this bandwagon the last couple of years. I ararted a new company this past year and I was trying to come up with a company name for some rulers I developed. So I came up with my company name, “Ruler Revolution” kind of a take off of the Revolutionary War. I got to thinking since I already like red, white and blue, I’m just going to use red, white, and blue in my business so, I guess I’m just a red, white, and blue nut! [laughs.]
EC: Very good! That’s why you chose this quilt of course to bring to the interview. Let’s see, what do you think somebody that looks at this quilt, a stranger that walked up, would think about you? Conclude.
PN: I don’t know! Hopefully they would think I have a little bit of talent, that I can put colors together. However, I will tell you this quilt was in a show recently and it was a judged show and the lady that judged it said, “too much red, white, and blue fabric.” Well that was my intent![laughs.]
EC: How do you use this quilt? Do you use it?
PN: Actually right now I have it laying on my guest bedroom bed folded across the bottom. My guest bedroom is more where I display my quilts. I have decorated in neutral colors so I just swap out the quilts in the room.
EC: But do you have any other plans for it, like entering contests?
PN: No, probably not. It will just be one that I will use around the house in my guest bedroom.
EC: Tell me about how you got interested in quilt making.
PN: Back in 1998 I had moved from Dayton, Texas to Conroe, Texas and I had gone to work at a bank as a commercial lender. One of the ladies that I was working with invited me to lunch one day after I had been working there for about two weeks. We went to lunch and we were talking and the conversation lead into sewing and she was asking me if I’d ever quilted. I said, “oh yes I tried that early on, decided I didn’t like it”. I was into making clothes, garments and things for the house she says, “well you really ought to try it, it’s different now than when you tried it the first go around”. She invited me to a guild meeting and I went. Libby Lehman, somebody that was really well known in the industry was the speaker and she did a really great job so it kind of sparked my interest. The same co-worker/friend invited me to go to her Saturday Bee with her and so there just happened to be an opening so I was accepted into the Bee. From there it just kind of took off! It didn’t take long to get me sucked in!
EC: You’re addicted to it!
PN: Oh yeah! [laughs.]
EC: Obviously you were an adult when you started quilt making. So about how many hours a week do you quilt?
PN: Well, since I started inventing my rulers last year it’s kind of cut in a little bit to my actual real quilting time but I would say about ten hours a week. I try to get into my sewing room and piddle around with fabric and designs.
EC: And of course you said that you worked outside the home too.
EC: So you have two jobs.
EC: Okay. What’s your first quilt memory? Would it be hearing Libby’s lecture?
PN: No, actually my first quilt memory goes back to 1977 or 1978. I had a friend that also sewed and we went to JoAnn’s which back then it was called, hmm..
EC: Cloth World
PN: Yes, Cloth World. Anyway, she was buying some fabric to do a little quilt and I had just had a baby and I thought, ‘Well that’s going to be a cute little quilt! I’ll make that quilt too and we got up to the checkout counter and she had bought all this extra stuff. I had just bought my few little things that I needed to make this little duck quilt. When they rang up my friends purchases, she had bought a hundred dollars worth of fabric and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh! She just bought a hundred dollars worth of fabric!’ [laughs.] I was so impressed that she was buying that much fabric. The little duck quilt was actually one of my first quilt projects.
EC: A little duck quilt for the baby, oh how wonderful! Um, are there other quilt makers in your family or friends?
PN: Actually,, my grandmother was a quilter which was my mother’s mother and of course she made quilts out of whatever scraps she could get a hold of and my grandmother was more of a utility quilter.
PN: She really didn’t get into fancy designs or patterns. Whatever she had, that’s what she made the quilt with.
EC: Did you ever help her, like sticking the pin?
PN: Well I remember when we would go visit, she would have a quilt frame in her dining room and she would drop it down. I remember as a child my aunts would help her do some hand quilting as I’d crawl around under the quilt, but I never did quilt with her.
EC: That’s neat. Does quilt making impact your family like, like your husband?
PN: Now it does! [laughs.] In fact he’s back in our booth. He’s been really good about it. He enjoys watching what I come up with and he’ll wander in the sewing room every now and then and ask a question about, ‘Well if you turn this this way, what happens?’ or ‘Turn this that way’. He’s kind of vocal on about what he does and does not like.
EC: So he gives you a few suggestions here.
PN: Yes. Sometimes I ignore him though. [laughs.]
EC: What aspect of your quilting do you enjoy the most?
PN: I think what I really enjoy the most is coming up with the design whether I design it or I use somebody else’s design and then the chase of the fabric and piecing it together. After that I don’t care what happens to it, just bring it back to me when it is quilted and then I’ll put the binding on it. But, I like the chasing of the fabric, the design and the piecing the best.
EC: So the quilting is what you don’t enjoy, the actual act of quilting is not your favorite part.
PN: It’s not my thing but I love beautiful quilting.
Maybe it’s because I haven’t practiced, but I like for it to be perfect and I know I can’t do that perfectly so I let somebody that has that talent do it.
EC: Do you belong to any art, like any quilt groups?
PN: I actually belong to two guilds, I belong to The Conroe Golden Needles Quilt Guild and I belong to The Woodlands Area Quilt Guild and then I belong to two different bees.
EC: Very good! So you belong to several things.
EC: Have new advances in technology affected your work?
PN: I’m sure they have but I cannot really put my finger on it right now. I guess that’s one of the neat things about quilting, things are always evolving whether it’s new designs, new fabric, new gadgets. There’s always something coming along, so as a quilter I don’t think you have the opportunity to get stagnant in your work unless you choose to.
EC: What are your favorite techniques and materials? We’ve sort of covered that but I have this specific question.
PN: I guess they run the gamut. If you ask my husband, he’d probably say rulers. [laughs.] We were in my sewing room one night and he was counting my rulers. I have some ruler racks on my sewing table and he just started counting them and he finally said, ‘do you realize that you have sixty rulers here?’ and I just thought to myself, ‘I know I have sixty rulers there but the rest of them are in the box that you can’t see.’ [laughs.]
EC: Good thinking!
PN: I would have to say rulers.
EC: Did you invent the rulers that you are selling now?
PN: Yes, I did and they are in the process of being patented.
EC: Describe your studio or the place that you make your quilts.
PN: Okay, I work in a little room about the size of this booth. It’s a ten-by-ten room, it’s a one person sewing room and the way I have it set up is I have my cutting center right out in the center of the room but it’s against one wall and you can walk around the cutting center on three sides. Then I have bookcases and a pattern file cabinet on one wall. Next I have my sewing machine on another wall. I used to scrapbook but I haven’t done much of that lately. But, I have the scrapbooking center on the fourth wall. I have a design wall that’s right above my sewing machine.
EC: Oh good that was going to be one of my questions! Is it permanently affixed to the wall?
EC: And where do you put your fabric?
PN: I’m sorry?
EC: Where do you put your fabric stash?
PN: Um, my fabric stash is in, it’s kind of grown to where it’s sort of encroached in every closet, [laughs.] in the house. But basically I keep it in closets. I don’t keep it out just for the fact that I don’t want it to look messy plus it gets dusty.
EC: And it fades.
EC: How do you balance this time, we kind of touched on that too but just specifically how do you balance your time?
PN: I don’t sleep very much! [laughs.] I’m usually on the go all the time, I guess I’m kind of a type A personality where I’m busy all the time. I rarely watch TV. If I have the TV on in my sewing room I’m listening to it, I’m not watching it. But basically I’m busy all the time. Quilting is a relaxing hobby for me so rather than sitting in a chair like some people and watching the TV relaxing, I relax when I’m working in my quilting room.
EC: That’s great. How do you use your design wall? Tell me what it is for. What is your process is in using it.
PN: The way I use it, in fact right now what’s on my design wall is a Christmas baby quilt for my new granddaughter that I’m working on and then some ribbons that I’ve won on quilts. I keep them up in the corner and that keeps me inspired I guess. Then on the left hand side there’s different little ideas that I want to do and I always keep my little binding instructions up because I don’t know what it is about that ending piece of binding that invariably I will cut it wrong every time. And, a lot of times when I’m working on a project, I cut the salvage off just in case I need more fabric, I’ll hang the little salvage strips up there.
EC: Great idea! What do you think makes a great quilt?
PN: You know a great quilt can be one piece of fabric that has a ton of quilting on it, so can quilts that have jewels and beads and tiny pieces of fabric. I don’t know! There’s so many beautiful quilts out there. I guess I really haven’t met a quilt I didn’t like.
EC: And so what do you think makes it artistically powerful?
PN: To me, and this is probably because I don’t have an art degree, but to me I think the more stuff they have on it a lot of times makes more of an impact. Although I do realize that sometimes simple can send a message too, but I guess in my eye the more embellished it is.
EC: What specifically as a quiltes do you feel influenced you?
PN: I would probably say the ladies that I quilt with in my bee. One of the bees I’m in, we basically do our own thing but we’ll share ideas and thigs. It is called the Smokin’ Needles Bee and has been the most inspiring. Everybody is very talented in the group and we feed off of each other and then we have one lady that get’s us all in a “rah rah” spirit on different things and in fact the quilt on display down here (Houston International Quilt Festival) is because of Peggy that is in my bee. Her name is Peggy Richards. She was encouraging us all to take a Judy Niemeyer class and there’s nine of us, or at the time there were nine of us in the bee. One other lady and I had not signed up to go and I’m like, ‘gosh the quilt had too many pieces in it, I’ll never get it finished’ and you know, just making up all these excuses. Then I thought, ‘I don’t want to be the only one in the bee that doesn’t get to go for the three days and have a good time so I kind of bowed to peer pressure and signed up. And that’s why I’m here today because of Peggy Richards!
EC: Are there any other quilters that also have, besides in your bee, but I mean nationally know quilters or whatever that have inspired you as well?
PN: You know I guess I have probably through the years picked a technique from this one and that one and, and of course I watch Fons & Porter on TV, and I watch Nancy Zieman. I’ve taken classes from Libby Lehman and from Carol Doak. I guess I’ve really kind of picked and chosen different techniques not really remembering maybe where I got them but probably in that scope is where they came from.
EC: Great! Do you have anybody specifically whose works draw you to them?
PN: I really can’t say that I do because like I said a while ago, I like all quilts. It’s not that I’m really drawn to a specific quilt, I just like them all!
EC: How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting?
PN: I think both of them are an art form. I’m not divided on them. Look at the quilting on this quilt, I think it’s beautiful but I also think that hand quilting is beautiful.
EC: You like quilts.
PN: [laughs.] Yes!
EC: Why is quiltmaking important to your life?
PN: You know I have the best friends because of quilting I think. I’ve often thought if I hadn’t started quilting, course I’d moved to a new town and even though you say you’re going to keep in touch with your old friends, when you move you still every now and then pick up the phone and stuff but it’s not like you still live in town with them. And the cool thing about quilting, it has created just a huge circle of friends for me and with my new venture that I’m in with my rulers they’ve all volunteered to come work in my booth and one lady, Rosann Gilbert, took it on herself to schedule everybody! [laughs.] She just jumped right in there and you know in today’s busy world, there’s not a lot of friends that would do that. Most friends would just tell you I will see you when you get back home.
EC: Do you thi-, what do you th-, what ways do your quilts influence your community or the other people in your life?
PN: Since I belong to the guild, I guess I bring some kind of joy when I do a show and tell. I guess when people look at them and it’s like, ‘well if she can do that I can do that!’ and maybe provide a little inspiration.
EC: Do you, what way do you think that quilts have had an importance in history of women in America?
PN: Women I think have an inherit need to create something, whether they are creating a home, a recipe, a quilt. I think what quilts have done with women is, like it’s done for me, it’s created friendships, it’s giving quilters a way back during times of war, to get their mind off of their daily struggles that they’re carrying.
EC: Do you have a, do you sleep under a quilt?
PN: In the winter time I do. On my side of the bed, my husband said it’s too hot for him. [laughs.]
EC: How do you think that quilts can be used generally?
PN: I think they can be used generally in either decorating. I know there’s a lot of projects out like the Linus Project. There’s the Quilt of Valor that I think can show appreciation in a lot of ways as well as comfort. I think quilts are a very versatile item.
EC: How do you think you can preserve quilts for the future? Or how a person can.
PN: I’ve read all the information about what you’re supposed to do to preserve a, [laughs.] at home and so far I’ve not done a very good job at doing that but I think it’s marvelous that we have throughout the United States museums and how they go about preserving them for our history. I’m thankful there’s people out there that have taken it upon themselves to do that. I’ve really not been part of that group.
EC: What’s happened to the quilts that you’ve already made for friends or family?
PN: I’ve given away quite a few quilts and then the ones that I keep are in my guest bedroom and in an antique china cabinet. It has a rounded front on it and I keep them displayed in it.
EC: So they’re part of your decoration too?
EC: Uh, what do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quilt makers today?
PN: Challenge? The first thing that just kind of pops in mind is probably our recession that we’ve gone through. I know quilters typically are more fluent. I’ve read the surveys and stuff but there are a lot of quilters out there that are not affluent. I recently had a booth at a show and actually had several women that came by my booth that said that they were quilters and they’d come to the show but they had come to look at the quilts because they had recently lost their jobs so they weren’t really purchasing anything at the shows. So I would think probably our recession.
EC: Have you ever participated in a quilt show? I’m not talking about entering it, helping set it up or something beside your bee’s I mean.
PN: Yes, I did one year. I helped hang quilts and then I worked down here one time as a white glove lady turning the quilts.
EC: That’s fun. Uh, do you ever go out of town to see quilt shows, not just to, to be a vendor?
PN: Yes. I’ve traveled around to see some quilt shows. I’ve really not traveled outside of the state to see quilt shows but I have been to some of the other Texas quilt shows.
EC: Very interesting. Is there anything that you would like, a comment that you’d like to make about your quilt making or your quilt life to add to this?
PN: I’m just glad that Linda Davis asked me to lunch that day, cause I don’t know where I would be now if she hadn’t asked me to lunch.
EC: That’s great. Well thank you so much! Um, I’d like to thank you Patti for allowing me to interview today for the Quilters SOS: Save Our Stories oral history project. Our interview concluded at 3:36.
PN: Alright. I thank you ladies! I appreciate this!
Interviewee: Patti Nethery
Interviewer: Ellen Cavlett
Transcriber: Sofia Parker
Project Name: The International Quilt Festival QSOS
Location: Houston, TX
Time: 3:12 p.m.
Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories (QSOS) creates, through recorded interviews, a broadly accessible body of information concerning quiltmaking, both present-day and in living memory. Our downloadable QSOS Guidebook has everything you need to conduct your own QSOS interviews. Our archive for the original audio recordings and photographs is the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
QSOS volunteers from across the country conduct and transcribe these interviews. We appreciate their generosity of time and dedication to the project. We are always looking for guilds, organizations and individuals to undertake their own QSOS projects and join us. Find out how you can get involved with QSOS.