Nellie Clouse Quilting ‘Rob Peter To Pay Paul’
1981 linocut – 7×12 inches, black ink on white rice paper
Dedicated to the memory of my dear friend, Nellie Clouse
© Jean Gregory Evans
The Quilter, Nellie Clouse has been featured in:
Portrait of my dear friend, Nellie Clouse, a popular quiltmaker at the (now bygone) craft co-operative, Maco Crafts, Inc where she sold many of her totally handsewn patchwork quilts. A prolific quilter, she was famous for her ‘Wedding Ring’ and ‘Flower Garden’ but she may be best remembered for her ‘Rob Peter To Pay Paul’ which is often called ‘Orange Peel’ or ‘Dolly Madisons Workbox’. It was among her favorite designs.
Maco Crafts, Inc was a craft co-operative in Macon County, North Carolina where I worked as ‘Staff Designer’.
I heard Nellie say many a time “I’d rather quilt than eat!”
More About The Quilter … Nellie Clouse lived in a small place called Otto, North Carolina. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a town, but it had a post office, an elementary school, a restaurant, a gas station, a church and a couple of stores (in the 1970’s). She and her husband, Parker, ran one of the small country stores for a long while. He died in 1970. Nellie lived from 1906 to 1990.
She and a couple of her friends who also were quilters used to hold quilting bees about 5 days a week in Nellie’s front room which used to be the old store. It was a rather big room, painted a gray-blue, with a hot burning, metal, oil heater and a few mismatched straight-back chairs. There was an overhead light and hooks in the painted wooden ceiling for hoisting and holding the quilt up out of the way during hours it wasn’t being quilted on.
Every so often I would stop by to find Nellie with her quilting bee friends around the quilting frame. At times there were more women there but almost always Louise Stiwinter and Myrtle Patterson were quilting away, talking and laughing with Nellie. I would occasionally help them stretch a new quilt top in the frame and help mark off a quilting design, especially if it was a commissioned quilt. They’d take turns quilting tops that each one of them had made. Nellie made the most quilts, I think but Louise made almost as many. Myrtle made quilts and several other crafts. Nellie and her friends were real old-time quilters. They stitched everything by hand and loved every minute of it.
About The Time … Long time ago, folks used to cook with wood stoves. When electricity made its way out into the boonies (like Otto), a lot of folks threw out their old cook stoves and replaced them with electric ones, and oh my, what a luxury that was. Of course, there were a lot of folks missing the tastes and smells from those old wood stoves. I know I can remember my mother talking about how she wished that she would have had room to save her old cook stove but she just didn’t have room for both. Nellie was a lucky lady because she got to save her old wood cook stove.
One day when I stopped by to help her with a quilt that someone had ordered, we sat for a while on her couch and discussed it. The front room was rather empty with the quilt pulled up to the ceiling and it was cold in there since there was no use to have heat that day.
In the very back of her house, she had a big long kitchen. I found this out because she insisted that I come back and have a biscuit and jelly with her. Oh, the smells! She was cooking on her wood stove! It was all fired up, the room was so very warm and the contents of little pots and kettle were almost ready to be consumed.
On the other side of the room sat her very nice modern electric stove. It had the day off. Nellie insisted that we have something more than just biscuit and jelly, which we did for dessert. But first, we had cornbread with a nice golden crust, hot steaming pinto beans and she mashed the potatoes just before she put them on the plates! We sat at a table with an oil cloth covering that was right in front of the wood cook stove and ate our wonderful lunch. That was a most memorable meal with a biscuit ‘care package’ for later that included a leftover breakfast sausage that she took from behind a little cabinet-like door called a ‘warming closet’ at the top of the stove.
Nellie may have loved to quilt more than eat, but she enjoyed food. She was a great cook as well as a great quilter.