ID Number: TQ.2014.030
Name of interviewee: Pauline Stockham
Name of interviewer: Liz Savage
Name of transcribe: Emm Johnstone
Location: Pauline’s home
Address: Neath, Port Talbot
Date: 2 September 2014
Length of interview: 0:15:56
Pauline’s talks about her first quilt, which incorporates an Amish style panel and is quilted using ‘stitch in the ditch’. Later she talks about learning to sew at school, making her own clothes and sewing with family members. Pauline explains how she goes about making a quilt, why quilting is important to her and how she was inspired to try quiltmaking.
Liz Savage [LS]: This is ID number TQ.2014.030. The name of the interviewee is Pauline Stockham. The name of the interviewer is Liz Savage and I’m also the transcriber. We’re in Neath in the county of Neath Port Talbot and it’s the second of September 2014. Hello Pauline, how are you?
Pauline Stockham [PS]: I’m fine Liz, thank you.
LS: Nice to see you.
PS: Thank you.
LS: Can you tell me something about the quilt you brought to show me today please?
PS: Well this quilt I made, well I finished it in November 2003. I really loved the material and the cottons [noise of recording equipment being moved] of the Amish people, and I managed to find some backing material to do with the Amish as well, with all little cows and chicks over, and I just really love it, and I’ve enjoyed using it since I’ve made it.
LS: How big is the quilt, Pauline, what’s the size of it?
PS: It measures 63” by 68” and it was made out of a panel [noise of recording equipment] that I sort of cut up into sections and then added other pieces of material to sort of stretch it to make it bigger. So, yes, it was my first big quilt, and I was very pleased with the effort, though looking at it now perhaps I could have done better!
LS: Well that’s always the case isn’t it!
LS: So was it inspired by anything in particular, apart from the fact that you had this panel that you cut up?
PS: Well I went to Malvern to the patchwork show there, must have been, say, 2001, something like that, and there was actually a quilt made up of the same panel that [noise of recording equipment] I had bought previously, and I thought, oh right, that’s what I can do with it! So that inspired me to do it the way that I have made it.
LS: Would you say it was heavily quilted or only lightly quilted?
PS: Oh lightly I think.
LS: So, it’s straight lines mostly is it?
PS: Yes, I’ve stitched in the ditch in a lot of places, that’s what I’ve done mainly.
LS: So can you explain what stitch in the ditch means please?
PS: Yes, well where the two seams meet, I stitch on the line in the centre of the seam.
LS: I suppose that’s a way of, it doesn’t affect the design of the fabric either really, does it, when you’ve stitched in the ditch?
PS: No, and the thing is when I went to class, that’s what the teacher suggested I did, because I was new to quilting at the time, so that’s why I did stitch in the ditch.
LS: Would you say that this has been a successful quilt?
PS: To me, yes, very successful, yes.
LS: If you had to do it again, using that Amish panel, what would you do that was different? Would you change anything at all?
PS: I might try to make it bigger, by adding, you know, some other material that would be suitable to go with it, really.
LS: But apart from that, you’re quite happy?
PS: Yes, yes.
LS: Good. Right, can we go on to talking about you as a quilt maker now then, apart from that quilt? When did you first start making quilts?
PS: Must have been about 2001, something like that. I think it was, anyway. Yes, I started evening classes in Neath College, with Mrs Ellen James, and…
LS: 2001, something like that.
LS: So had you been a sewer before, had you ever sewn before?
PS: Yes, I used to make clothes for myself. When you were in school, I took sewing as an O-level and made lots of, well I was in a sewing class, you’ve got to make things for O-level, and then I continued after school, and I made a suit for myself, some skirts and dresses.
LS: And for the girls, presumably?
PS: I made lots of dungarees for them [laughs], they used to wear the bottoms out!
LS: Was anyone in your family a sewing woman, or man?
PS: Yes, my mother was a sewer, she attended a sewing class in the evenings and I used to go along with her, and then when I got married my mother-in-law was a seamstress so we did a lot of work together. We used to shorten things and make skirts and dresses and we had an enjoyable time together. She could point me in a lot of good directions.
LS: Yes, it’s good to have somebody more experienced that you alongside you.
PS: That’s right.
LS: Did either of them ever make any quilts?
PS: Not to my knowledge, no.
LS: So you didn’t have a heritage of quilts or quilters in your family?
PS: No, no.
LS: What do you prefer doing in the way of styles of quilts that you make yourself now? Do you prefer contemporary quilts or traditional quilts, for instance?
PS: I prefer the traditional myself. I admire the other quilts that you see in the shows, all the big bold colours, but for my personal point of view I prefer that traditional.
LS: And does it suit your house more as well?
PS: Oh yes. We’ve a 1920s-style house and it doesn’t seem to go!
LS: What about techniques, what sort of techniques do you like in quilt making, the piecing and the quilting. Do you like applique, or Baltimore, that very floral type of applique?
PS: Yes, I like that.
LS: Or do you like working with small blocks and putting them together? Do you like quilt as you go?
PS: I’ve never tried quilt as you go.
LS: Oh right.
PS: There’s something I want to do.
LS: It’s easier than wholecloth.
PS: At the moment, I prefer doing small projects because of the time that I’ve got to do them, but I prefer, you know, working with, as you say, squares, blocks or whatever at the moment, mixing things like that with applique.
LS: To decorate, to embellish them.
PS: Yes, yes.
LS: What exactly do you enjoy about quilt making?
PS: Oh, the whole thing, yes [laughs]. I find it very relaxing, and going to choose the material to start with and the pattern, well the pattern first and then the material, and it’s just nice going round the shows and buying material there, or shops, whatever, just enjoy it.
LS: Is there anything you don’t enjoy?
PS: [pauses] I don’t like finishing the ends off of things, you know? [Laughs] And the tacking I suppose I find boring, to put the three layers together, because they move about, I try and pin it on the floor and put tape to keep the three together, but somehow they still manage to move, so that I find a bit frustrating. But that’s about all really. I enjoy the rest of it.
LS: Do you use any technology in quilt making apart from a sewing machine?
PS: No, I’m not into computers.
LS: But you use books, magazines?
PS: Yes, I use books, magazines, I see what’s around really. When we’ve made things with Ellen we’ve had to do a little picture and that’s sort of come out of your head then, doesn’t it… the scene that I did, that’s come to my mind. And I enjoy doing that. I was quite pleased with the effort at the end, you know? But it’s mainly magazines that I look through.
LS: Where and when do you quilt? Have you got a special room or a special part of another room?
PS: Yes, when the youngest daughter got married, I took over her little bedroom [laughs], and it’s just full of all my gear now, and my sewing machine is there. But when I hand quilt, I do that downstairs and I watch TV. I love my little room. My sewing machine is looking over the window, out of the window, and I find it’s lovely.
LS: And you don’t have to tidy up every time you finish.
PS: Oh no, quite true, yes! You can drop something on the floor like Jenny Rayment, that’s fine! [Laughs] Though you’ve got to pick it up later [laughs].
LS: And you don’t have to clear the dining table or something when you want to get the sewing machine out. [PS: No.] Do you quilt every day?
PS: Mostly, yes, in the evening when I’m watching TV, for about an hour, hour and a half. If I don’t do that, I end up going to sleep watching TV so it keeps me awake [laughs].
LS: And if you were piecing the top before you do the actual quilting, you do that by machine probably, do you?
PS: Oh yes.
LS: So you have to do that somewhere else?
PS: I stitch that together, that’s upstairs then. I do cut up on the dining room table.
LS: Cos it’s big.
LS: What’s the first thing you do when you start making a quilt? Do you think about the design, the pattern, or do you have the fabric first and work from that?
PS: Oh I think I get the pattern first. I fancy a design and I think, right, I’ll get the material to go with that, yes.
LS: Can we think about other people’s quilts now that you may have seen; obviously I know you’ve seen in Festival of Quilts and other shows. When you look at other people’s quilts, what do you notice, what surprises, amazes you, pleases you about somebody else’s quilts?
PS: The quilting, because I can’t, well I haven’t tried doing free motion quilting and different techniques like that, so I’d like to be able to do that at some point, and it’s just the way they put colours together as well, you see some quilts and you think oh wow I wouldn’t have put that colour with that colour but then it works, so it’s just amazing what you see, you know?
PS: Yes, yes.
LS: So that really answers my next question, what do you think makes a good quilt? A good quilt can be all sorts of different… there are all sorts of different good quilts, aren’t there?
LS: So think something to do with the colours and the fabrics it shows, and the design, it’s all those things.
PS: Yes, it’s all, it all comes together.
LS: How do you feel about hand and machine quilting? You’ve just answered that question really, because you feel you need to develop your machine work.
PS: I do, definitely. I’d like to do, to be able to do, and we did a course a fortnight ago in class on Welsh hand quilting, and I found that hard, very hard, and I don’t think I quite got it but it was nice to try and I will, I will, finish it! It’s just getting around to it! [Laughs]
LS: Can we talk about what you do with the quilts you’ve made. Do you give them away?
PS: Yes, I’ve given some to the girls, I’ve made a couple, well I’ve given a few to my parents, and I’ve made little play mats or whatever they are for little babes, you know, and I’ve given them to friends for their children. Yes, but I have got my own quilts as well that I keep at home, my favourites.
LS: Do you use them on your beds at home?
PS: Yes, my English one is on in the winter and I put a summer one on at the moment. They’re draped over, I’ve got a big one draped over my settee, and I made two the same thinking Rebecca would like what Hannah liked and then Rebecca said I don’t want that, it’s not my colour scheme, so I ended up keeping it, which was goes with my colour scheme anyway. And Hannah’s got hers on her settee as well, so I’m pleased about that, it’s not in the drawer put away.
LS: Because once you give it away, you’ve got no control over what happens to it.
PS: I mean yes, some people say yes it’s lovely and I like it and then you think were they just saying that, are they, you know? So Hannah must like it because she’s, she has it out.
LS: Do you feel there’s a challenge to making, to your life, what challenge do you face as a quilter today?
PS: I suppose trying new patterns really, that’s a challenge to me. If I’m trying something new that I’ve never done before, I find it a challenge. And then when I overcome my nerves and I do it and then I think oh wow, I’ve achieved something, you know?
LS: That’s a lovely feeling. [PS: Yes.] Before I ask a final question Pauline, is there anything you want to add to what we’ve discussed already?
PS: Only to say that I went to New England in 1999, autumn time, we went to see the leaves, the fall, and I went past a few quilt shops and I went in and that sort of started it all. I thought, ooh I’d like to do that. At the time I was making lace in the College with Ellen James and I came back and said how the holiday went and all this, and she said well why don’t you join my class on a Wednesday evening and come and do it yourself. And I thought about it, and I thought, well yes, my girls had grown up and didn’t need me, so I thought yeah I’ll do it! That’s why I came about to make it.
LS: It’s a good thing you made this one then really, this quilt which fitted in with New England.
PS: Yes. Reminded me of it, my holiday.
LS: So the final question I want to ask you is why is quilt making important in your life?
PS: It’s time to myself. I think it relieves stress, I really do. I feel wound up sometimes because I look after my elderly dad, and then I come home and in the evening I do some, and I think, oh, I feel better now, you know, and life seems better. So yes, it’s enjoyable and it’s part of my life big time now. And that’s it. And it takes over, yes it does take over. When I go somewhere on holidays or whatever, wherever we go I take it with me. Going away this weekend so I’ll be taking my Grandma’s Garden with me this week. So yes, I just thoroughly enjoy it.
PS: It’s wonderful. Recommend it to anyone!
LS: Thank you very much Pauline for sharing your story…
PS: That’s fine
LS: … for the Talking Quilts Project.