Audio Recording "Before we got a washing machine, we'd wash quilts by hand."

About this Item

"Before we got a washing machine, we'd wash quilts by hand."
Contributor Names
Johnson, Geraldine Niva, 1940- (Interviewer)
Todd, Zenna, 1916-2012 (Interviewee)
Todd, Zenna, 1916-2012 (Creator)
Created / Published
Sparta, North Carolina
Subject Headings
-  batting (textiles)
-  Ethnography
-  Interviews
-  United States -- North Carolina -- Sparta
-  Mrs. Todd started making quilts for her family to use when she was 25. She teaches quiltmaking and makes quilts to sell through a local shop to supplement her income. Geraldine Johnson described her as "a bubbly, enthusiastic person who would be a natural à interpreter of Blue Ridge quilts." This interview includes good information on the economics and practice of making quilts to sell, criteria for selection of materials to use in quilts, and how quiltmaking has changed over time.
-  Transcription: GJ: How do you wash a quilt? / ZT: Well, I usually, I've got a wringer machine. I don't it in my automatic washer. And I just wash it in my wringer machine, the wringer type, and I try not to use too strong a detergent, and I don't let it wash too long, and I rinse it several times. And if you, you know, the old quilt batting, that you used to get, was well, I think it was about three pound to the bunch that you put in one quilt and if you didn't have that quilted close enough, it would just knot up in there. It just wasn't good. But now, this cotton-polyester blend, you can, if you quilt it and quilt it close enough, you can launder it and take it out and it's just beautiful. Makes a lot of difference in what you use, use in it. Well, before we got a washing machine, we did it by hand. And when we'd do it by hand, we'd always soak the quilts. And put 'em in a big tub of water, and put our detergent in there, and let 'em set for so long. And then it was hard to rub 'em or anything. You just had to jiggle 'em up and down. They wasn't too many people, I don't think, washed their quilts back then. I tried to wash to mine once a year, but that's about all they got, once a year. But, I learned from experience later on, that I'd rather have two light-weight quilts than one heavy one. On that, you know, because you can take care of them so much better. Two light-weight than to have one heavy one. / GJ: How could you make, how could you make one light weight and one heavy weight and what made the difference? / ZT: Well, if you, now if you piece these crazy quilts, on the sheet, old linen, like I told you? Well, if you make one on that, you would need just a very thin blanket, like a sheet blanket, and then your lining, and by the time you put your top on it, that made it just right. It made it not too heavy, and not too awful light. But if you use this batting that you could buy at that time, I believe, I'm not sure, I think at that time it weighed three pounds. Well, you take, time you take three pound of batting, and your quilt top would weigh a pound and a half or something, and then your lining probably a couple of pounds, a pound and a half, well you've got a lot of weight there. Well, now then, they make this Mountain Mist, and this polyester-cotton blend, they make that, I think, it's, they's just about a little over a pound in it. And see, that makes it so much lighter weight. You can launder it and take care of it so much better. The heavier that it is, the harder it puts a strain on it, washing it, and handling it and everything.
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Sound tape reel : 7 in.
Call Number/Physical Location
AFC 1982/009: BR8-GJ-R99
Source Collection
Blue Ridge Parkway Folklife Project Collection (AFC 1982/009)
American Folklife Center
Online Format

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This collection includes materials from the "All-American Quilt Contest" sponsored by Coming Home, a division of Lands' End and Good Housekeeping. The quilt contest winning entries from 1992 to 1996 are displayed with the permission of Coming Home which retains its rights.

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Credit line

Please cite the source collection title, collection number, and repository, for example:

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

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Johnson, Geraldine Niva, Zenna Todd, and Zenna Todd. "Before we got a washing machine, we'd wash quilts by hand.". Sparta, North Carolina, 1978. Audio.

APA citation style:

Johnson, G. N., Todd, Z. & Todd, Z. (1978) "Before we got a washing machine, we'd wash quilts by hand.". Sparta, North Carolina. [Audio] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Johnson, Geraldine Niva, Zenna Todd, and Zenna Todd. "Before we got a washing machine, we'd wash quilts by hand.". Sparta, North Carolina, 1978. Audio. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.