Audio Recording "We'd make a paste out of flour and water to mark out quilts."

About this Item

"We'd make a paste out of flour and water to mark out quilts."
Contributor Names
Johnson, Geraldine Niva, 1940- (Interviewer)
Patton, Ila, 1905-2001 (Interviewee)
Patton, Ila, 1905-2001 (Creator)
Created / Published
Galax, Virginia
Subject Headings
-  Quilting
-  Quilt patterns
-  quilt marking
-  Ethnography
-  Interviews
-  United States -- Virginia -- Galax
-  Geraldine Johnson described Ila Patton's quilts as "not fancy, but very interesting and well made." They include utility crazy and strip quilts, as well as a recent Cathedral Window, which is a novelty construction popular in the 1970s. The variety of Mrs. Patton's quilts, her recollections of learning to quilt from her grandmother, and her primary interest in making quilts for family rather than to sell are some of the key elements brought out in this "very useful and informative" interview.
-  Transcription: GJ: What about this one in the navy blue with the squares, when did you make that, do you know? / IP: I can't remember. It's been a long time. A right smart bit ago, I just don't know. I just don't know when it was pieced. See now it's been marked with chalk. / GJ: Oh, yeah. I was wondering about that. / IP: From one corner to the other. Well, I'll tell you, I don't know either, I guess. We would dip the yarn string in, take a little flour, make a little paste and put that yarn string in it, and fasten it from one corner to the other and just flip it and it would draw these lines clear through. And I believe that's the way this is laid out. / GJ: So you'd take flour and water and you'd [yeah] dip the string in flour and water. / IP: Yeah, and the yarn, and it'll just flip it off, you know, take a yarn string and reach from one corner of your quilt to the other, and one'd stand on one corner and one on the other, and hold it, and just reach out in it and just raise the string right quick and it'll flip down and knock that on it, and it dries and shows that line. And then you could just go by it. / GJ: Well, would it, it didn't wash out though? / IP: No. Well, it would, but it, I reckon, yeah, it'd wash out. But you can see a little sign of it. / GJ: Well that's real interesting. Did you often do it that way or did you / IP: Yeah, did that way a lot of the time, but if you laid off the fans, you had to use a chalk, a stick of chalk, you know, and tie it, and then you held that and just went so far apart, all the time, till you drawed your fans. / GJ: If you did the straight lines you would dip [yeah] yarn. / IP: Yeah, dip yarn in just a little flour, just mix it kind of thin, like paste, and dip it in and that would settle it on that stretch of line, you know, clear through it? / GJ: And that was pretty clever. What other ways did you have to draw off on. / IP: Yeah, it was a quick way to do it, an easy way to do it. By stretching that string. You could do it so much faster. And then with the chalk, drawing off the fans, you know, you'd just had to do that yourself, just hold it so far apart, all the time. / GJ: On this one where you drew the straight lines, would you draw each line or did you just draw a couple and, then you, could you judge? / IP: No, we had to draw 'em all. / GJ: All of 'em, huh? / IP: To go by, yeah. If you didn't you'd get 'em crooked a lot of the time. If you didn't just lay 'em off even. / GJ: Did you have to dip the string or the yarn in flour water every time you [yeah] put down one of those lines? / IP: Yeah you did. And then you'd have to put it in there every time. To draw that line. / GJ: Would you do that when you did the square, the straight lines too? Would you do it that way, or just the diagonal lines? / IP: Well, yeah, most of the time. Well, the diagonal, we'd use the string and then sometimes I would just guess at it, if I wasn't particular how I fixed it, I'd draw a few, and then I'd just go by that then. / GJ: For the diagonal lines. / IP: Yeah. / GJ: What about for the straight lines? How would you mark those lines that went straight, from across the quilt? / IP: Well, I, we'd just, I usually, the straight lines, I'd just draw a few and then I'd just go by the others then. You could, a straight line clear through, you know, I didn't lay 'em off as particular as I would this way. / GJ: With the diagonal. / IP: Yeah. / GJ: Well that's real interesting. Flour and water, huh? / IP: Yeah, it's what I used. Just throw a little flour in some water, and it'd dry white, then. You could see it. / GJ: Well, I must admit, you were very, you all were very innovative. [laughter] You were very clever about it.
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Sound tape reel : 7 in.
Call Number/Physical Location
AFC 1982/009: BR8-GJ-R91
Source Collection
Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project Collection (AFC 1982/009)
American Folklife Center
Online Format

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Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project collection, 1977-1981 (AFC 1982/009), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Lands' End all-American quilt collection, 1992-1997 (AFC 1997/011), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

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Chicago citation style:

Johnson, Geraldine Niva, Ila Patton, and Ila Patton. "We'd make a paste out of flour and water to mark out quilts.". Galax, Virginia, 1978. Audio. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Accessed June 24, 2017.)

APA citation style:

Johnson, G. N., Patton, I. & Patton, I. (1978) "We'd make a paste out of flour and water to mark out quilts.". Galax, Virginia. [Audio] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Johnson, Geraldine Niva, Ila Patton, and Ila Patton. "We'd make a paste out of flour and water to mark out quilts.". Galax, Virginia, 1978. Audio. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.