Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Transcript

Sue Baun (SB): This is the International Quilt Festival, November the third, 2011. Im Sue Baun and Im interviewing Joan Wilson whos brought her quilt to show us today. Tell me Joan, what inspired you to make this quilt?

Joan Wilson (JW): The color was the first thing that grabbed me. This is a design that was developed by Alice Wilhoit, McKinney [Texas.] I was in a quilt shop and it was hanging high up on a wall and it just reminded me of autumn colors and the Adirondacks [New York.], which is where I was born and brought up. I knew that someday I was going to have to make this quilt.

SB: What age did you begin quilting?

JW: Very late in life.

SB: Late in life?

JW: Yes, I started at about age 56. I was no longer in corporate America and 00:01:00wanted to start making some genealogy quilts, memory quilts, and thats what got me started.

SB: Do you enjoy making your own patterns or do you use commercial patterns?

JW: This quilt is actually the only quilt I have ever made from a pattern; everything else I do is original designs. I do use EQ7 for some of my designs, but the quilts, very much like the one that is in the book, which are much more contemporary and art quilts, those are all original designs and I may or may not use templates that I develop myself.

SB: So you begin each quilting idea with going to the computer and dreaming up your designs?

JW: Some of them I do on the computer, but some of them I do on graph paper, 00:02:00where Im actually just doing a pencil drawing and developing it and determining where I want it to go. I enjoy both.

SB: Do you work primarily alone or do you belong to guilds, sewing groups?

JW: I belong to guilds, and to organizations, and to quilting bees. Im a member of a quilting bee and we meet weekly, and have all kinds of fun. Yes Im in the Quilters Guild of Plano [Texas.] were Ive held several offices and Im in the Quilters Guild of Dallas [Texas.] where I hold several offices, and very active in all aspects of quilting.

SB: What are your favorite techniques?

JW: I dont know if I have a favorite technique and the reason for that is I do quilt commissions and I have a lot of people who come to me by word of mouth, 00:03:00who want me to design and make quilts for them. So I want to know as much as I can about every type of technique, whether it is traditional quilting or art quilting, whether its fusible, turned edge, machine appliqu, machine embroidery, thread painting, using paints on fabric, dyeing fabric, it doesnt make any difference what it is, even crazy quilting and embroidery and silk ribbon embroidery, I do it all.

SB: Thats very talented [laughs.]

JW: I didnt say I was a master of all of it, but I do it well [laughs.]

SB: But youre not afraid to go ahead and delve into any medium?

JW: Oh no, no not at all.

SB: What are your favorite materials?

JW: I love batiks and I love hand-dyed fabrics. If I cant find what Im 00:04:00looking for in a color way, I will dye my own fabric.

SB: What is your first quilt memory?

JW: My first quilt memory was actually my great grandmother and my grandmother were quilt makers. Very much in the utilitarian quilts, they would piece them using a treadle sewing machine and they had the frame that dropped down from the ceiling, and they would lay them out but they were all tied quilts, they were not handquilted or machine quilted or anything like that, they were all tied quilts. But theyre very special in that it was very much a community with the women around the quilt frame and the kids under the quilt frame. Thats my first memories and I think some of my fondest memories of quilting.

SB: Do you handquilt?

JW: No. I can handquilt a little bit. I want anytig I do in quilting to be very 00:05:00precise. I had fallen several years ago and shattered my wrist and eleven surgeries later, it didnt allow me to do that type of thing. Thats why I have my quilts professionally quilted. Someday maybe my wrist will work well enough that I can do that, but right at this point it doesnt allow me to.

SB: So do you have a longarm that you do your quilting or do you send it out?

JW: I do both, I dont have a longarm, I have a George, which is a midarm, so smaller sized quilts I can machine quilt, but when it gets into the large quilts like the one thats in the Lonestar Quilts III book and exhibit, thats an eight-foot square quilt, so I have a friend of mine, Richard Larson, who is a very well known longarm quilter, hes a close friend and we collaborate on a lot of quilts. I sometimes have to convince him that feathers 00:06:00are not needed in a quilt because thats one of his specialties but we do work closely on the designs and he does my large quilts for me.

SB: You like to have say from beginning to end in your quilts?

JW: Oh yes, yes. The decisions on the quilt are not going to be left to someone else.

SB: Do you do collaborative quilts that are done in a group where two, three participants?

JW: Yes, in my small group we have done several large quilts for raffles and we did one which was made from pre-owned wedding gowns for the organization Making Memories. Making Memories is an organization that either sells wedding gowns they receive that are donated to them that are in pristine condition, or those that are not in pristine condition that are damaged in some way, they will give 00:07:00a package of wedding gowns or wedding gown materials to individuals or groups who will make a quilt for them. They then raffle off or sell to raise funds for individuals who are suffering from metastasized breast cancer. They want to be able to help them in some fashion, grant last wishes, whether it is cameras to record memories, or helping pay medical bills, etc., so we made a gorgeous quilt for them. It appraised for a substantial amount and sold for about $25,000 so we feel very good with that.

SB: How wonderful. Why did you choose this quilt among your collection of quilts to bring today?

JW: Well, this was, like I said, the only pattern that I have ever done and I just love the colors and it really got me excited about quilting because the 00:08:00first few quilts that I did were a flip and sew. Sewing fabric strips onto batting, a sampler that was very traditional, are not really exciting to me as I have a lot of artistic juices. This one, the colors in it caught my attention and it taught me turned edge machine appliqu, it taught me how to work with bias strips, and as you see I have to be very precise so my points have to match or Im having a migraine headache. I just love the way that it laid out, I loved doing the barber pole, or candy cane or whatever you want to refer to it as the inner border, the binding, and it was just a very exciting quilt to work with.


SB: Tell us more about the turned edge machine appliqu.

JW: Turned edge machine appliqu in this particular application is where you are transferring the pattern design to freezer paper, and then youre cutting out the design, pressing it onto the reverse side of the fabric, gluing the edge of the fabric and turning it, pressing it down onto the freezer paper. That gives you a smooth turned edge rather than another technique which is the soft edge, or raw edge, where you dont have a turned edge. This particular application resembles needle turn appliqu very closely.

SB: Do you use monofilament thread or the color of the fabric?--

JW: No I dont use monofilament--

SB: Or your thread? Or what do you use?--

JW: It shines too much. I match colors.

SB: You match colors.


JW: Yes.

SB: Youre changing your top thread every time you change your fabric?

JW: Im changing top thread and frequently bottom thread, every time I change color fabric, yes.

SB: Do you use a different color on top and a different color on the bottom or do you match?

JW: It depends, if the color of the fabric is such that I can get away with using a beige or a gray in the bobbin, I will do that, but if it is a very light fabric or a very dark fabric, no I will change the bobbin thread also because just in case the tension goes off someplace, and the threads are pulled to the top, I dont want them to be seen.

SB: Hw many hours a week would you say that you devote to quilting?

JW: It depends, it depends on whether I have a major project going on or family life is interfering with quilting. It might be as little as eight hours but more often than not, its around fifty hours.


SB: What makes a quilt artistically powered?

JW: I think the first thing is the color, the wonderful use of color. If it stops you in your tracks and draws you in and wants you to come closer to the quilt to really investigate it, its either the color and/or the design. The design can have the same impact, but if theres that strong contrast and the vibrancy and it just catches your attention, and you cant walk away from it without getting closer, thats a wonderful quilt.

SB: What gets your juices really flowing? Is it walking into a fabric store and finding a fabric that you just got to incorporate into a quilt or is it finding a pattern that gives you an idea or maybe a photograph that spurs you on? What 00:12:00really gets you going?

JW: What I really get excited about is seeing something in nature, just walking, it can be a storefront, it can be a child picking a flower, it can be the wonderful way the flag flies on the back of a boat against water, the wonderful sequoias, it doesnt make any difference, something like that that grabs my attention and I have to pull my camera out of my purse immediately. I have with me at all times, and take pictures that I know someday it will become a quilt.

SB: So you make pictorial quilts?

JW: Yes.

SB: As well as pieced quilts?

JW: Pictorial quilts, pieced quilts, traditional quilts, contemporary art; very abstract in design, I love it all.

SB: How many quilts would you say youve made?


JW: Since Ive been quilting, I started about ten years ago, I probably make between five and twelve a year, so 130 maybe.

SB: Would you say they are mainly in your possession or theyve been sold or theyve been given away?

JW: The first quilts that I made have all been given away. I only have three quilts that I have made of my own in my possession. My quilts that I do now, I say my quilts, theyre all quilt commissions. Individuals coming to me and presenting me with an idea of what they think they would like. We talk about it for an hour or two, and I develop a design or several designs, then they make their selections and I make the quilt from that.


SB: Very neat. Have advances in technology influenced your work?

JW: Well I think I came in when everything was pretty much advanced. We had the rotary cutter when I started, and I truly love that, I do use scissors once and while when Im working with templates. The machines, the first machine I ever had for quilting, my husband bought me as a Christmas gift, and it did everything including machine embroidery. The only complaint I had about it is it didnt do thet dishes, but other than that it worked really well. Since that particular machine I have purchased several other machines and then moved into a midarm quilting machine, which I do for some of my quilting. I would say 00:15:00that those advances and then just more than technological advances, it has been workshops with some of the greats that have helped me to grow. Im not afraid to take workshops from anybody, and one of the things that I have enjoyed with my guild relationships is being vice president of the programs for both the Plano [Texas.] guild and the Dallas [Texas.] guild. Having that initial contact with wonderful wonderful professional quilters out there and getting them to come to the guilds and offering the workshops. I dont necessarily take all the workshops but because Im putting it on, Im sitting in and taking in all of their information. I have gone to the quilt museum, the National Quilt Museum in Paducah [Kentucky.] and taken about ten workshops up there, which are absolutely outstanding, and I have also gone to Vermont and worked with Judy 00:16:00Dales on different occasions, so I think that that has helped me in my development. Learning the various techniques and gaining information from some of the masters out there allows me to do what I do.

SB: Your family supports your love of quilting?

JW: Yes they do. My husband and I have two wonderful grown children who are out on their own and two grandchildren. Every once and a while Meme misses a football game or a cheerleading event, but they understand that I need to be here or I need to be at whatever workshop because they do benefit from it a bit. My husband is very supportive. He says that he is a quilt husband, and he knows the lingo. My thoughts on a supportive family, especially the husbands are, there are two types; theyre either supportive as mine is, or theyre 00:17:00divorced [laughs.]

SB: Love it [laughs.] Love it. Do you have other family members that are quilters?

JW: No, like I said my great grandmother and grandmother quilted both deceased; my mother was not a quilter, she was however very much into garment making. As a matter of fact she worked in a dress factory for years and convinced me at the age of fourteen that I needed to work the summer in the dress factory when I was out of school. That really put a bitter taste in my mouth. After that summer, I didnt think I would ever sew again becaus eit was very much, at that age, back in the early 60s, it was a sweatshop. If I hadnt gotten out of corporate 00:18:00America, and seen some quilts stacked up in the quilt shop where my husband bought me the sewing machine, may not have been a quilter. Thats how I got into it.

SB: Do you collect quilts?

JW: Oh I do, yes. I love antique quilts. I do have a collection of about twenty-five antique quilts, I dont have the provenance on them, which would be nice to have, with the exception of those my grandmother and great grandmother made. I also collect every time I can afford a mini at the International Quilt Festival or AQS, I will buy mini quilts from many of the masters, so I do have a quilt collection.

SB: Do you display these in your home?

JW: I do. The minis are all hanging. The antique quilts I rotate them out. I 00:19:00can put three on my quilt stand that I have in my front foyer in the living area. The rest of them are laid out on the beds so that they dont get creases, and they dont get dusty. I can roll them back and have my own little personal bed turning every once in a while, so yes I enjoy them immensely.

SB: Wonderful. Do you use a design wall in your quiltmaking?

JW: I didnt until I designed this eight-foot quilt for Doctor Elizabeth Kerner. I did have to develop a design wall which was large enough to accommodate an eight-foot quilt. With the type of technique that I used, I couldnt do it as a pieced quilt. It had to be laid out for me to see where the pieces were going to fit.

SB: Thats a king size eight-foot?

JW: Yes its a eight-foot square.


SB: Eight-foot square?

JW: Eight-foot square quilt and it is not a bed quilt. It is a wall hanging. It is a second story wall hanging, so it is large, bold in color, vibrant in design.

SB: Can you describe a bit of the pattern of that quilt?

JW: It is not a pattern, it is an original design. Liz came to me and said that she wanted to have a quilt made that would be an abstract interpretation of fireworks. I developed three designs, and she selected one that she wanted. From that, it was an 81/2 x 11 design on graph paper, that I drew. I colored it in with Prisma color pencils, based on the colors she told me that she liked. From that I started collecting the hand dyes and the batiks and deciding which 00:21:00fabrics were going to go where and it just took off from there.

SB: Do you consider yourself an artist with pencil or paint?

JW: When I was growing up, being the oldest of seven children, I had always wanted to be an art teacher. Funds back then, those days, were limited and I couldnt go to school for art, so this is my way to get into art and to express myself.

SB: Well I think youve done it wonderfully.

JW: Thank you.

SB: Im impressed. Do you use a studio or sewing room or do you use the dining room table?

JW: Let me put it this way, our house is rather large and I hink I have it almost all taken over. I do have a sewing studio, I also have two additional 00:22:00rooms that I have either my design wall and the walk-in closet stuffed with fabric and quilts laid out on the bed and then I have another room that I have my George in. I have three fairly substantial rooms that are dedicated to quilting. My husband can have the rest of the house [laughs.]

SB: [laughs.] Lady after my own heart. Well as we conclude our interview today, is there a question you wished that I had asked?

JW: No, I dont think so. I think you covered everything pretty well. Thank you very much, I am honored to be able to share some information with you.