ID Number: TQ.2014.034
Name of Interviewee: Anne Beyer
Name of Interviewer: Liz Savage
Name of Transcriber: Liz Savage
Location: Anne’s home
Address: Ammanford, Carmarthenshire
Date: 2 September 2014
Length of interview: 018:27
Anne’s quilt was made from fabric given to her during a visit to a quilt group near her daughter’s home in Australia. On returning to Wales she got her local group involved in turning it into a quilt. Anne is new to quilting, she talks about her love for machine quilting and struggles with hand quilting, as well as her thoughts on quilt design following a first trip to Festival of Quilts. The interview also explores different quilting techniques stitch in the ditch and echo quilting.
Liz Savage [LS]: Hello Anne.
Anne Beyer [AB]: Hello Liz.
LS: Nice to see you. Can you tell me something about the quilt you’re describing today please?
AB: Okay, I’ve called it the ‘Australia Quilt’, I’m not sure if that name will stay. The reason for this is that my daughter lives in Australia and I go out regularly for three months at a time. On one of my trips out there I joined a quilting group and one of the members of the group gave me a bag full of five inch squares with Australia flora and fauna on the fabrics, which I brought home. I then took them to my quilting group, The Wednesday Stitchers, and asked each member of the group or a number of the members of the group, if they would border these five inch squares and we agreed on, I think, a two and a half inch border, which people did, then brought back to the group. I then trimmed all these squares into eight inch squares and put the quilt together with a border, backing and binding.
LS: Can you describe the colours in the quilt, because it’s a lot of colours.
AB: It is, yes. The colours are very mixed and within the group when all the squares were done, as a group exercise, we played around with the squares and tried to put darks and lights in contrast with one another, to get a balanced ensemble in the quilt.
LS: Can you tell me something about the design of the blocks? What is it called? The design of the blocks?
AB: I think it’s called ‘Boxed squares’.
LS: Did you say the size of the quilt?
AB: The size of the quilt is , it finished up being two metres by 1.4 metres .The colours are completely mixed and…
LS: Do you think it was a good idea to make it a group quilt? Do you think it worked?
AB: Yes I think so, I think those members of the group who took the squares home and did them and then helped to assemble all the blocks enjoyed doing that and the quilt, although I have kept it myself, the quilt is to some extent a group quilt.
LS: And you’re going to keep it for the foreseeable future anyway, it’s not going to go back to Australia, is it?
AB: No, it’s not although I will send pictures of the completed quilt to the group in Australia. At the moment, because it’s not long been finished, I am using the quilt on my own bed and the group will use it for exhibitions. It will remain in my possession but will be a group quilt.
LS: Right, can we go on to talk about your involvement in quilting, in quiltmaking? When did you first start making quilts?
AB: I started in June 2013.
LS: Exactly. So, not very long then!
LS: Does anybody else in your family make quilts?
AB: No, they don’t.
LS: Does anybody sew?
AB: My grandmother was a very good seamstress. And I think my mother, for various family reasons which I don’t need to discuss, my mother always said she couldn’t sew. I think she probably could but she just didn’t want to sew. So there was no sewing in my immediate family.
LS: And, did you sew when you were younger? Not make quilts but sew.
AB: I did yes, I started sewing at school, learnt, you know, techniques at school. And I think when I was in my teens I used to knit quite a lot. Then when I was a young mum I used to make clothes for my daughter and out of necessity I used to make drapes and blinds and household items.
LS: So you knew your way round a sewing machine before you started making quilts.
AB: Yes I knew how to sew and to sew I think reasonably accurately.
LS: What do you prefer doing? What are your preferred styles and techniques?
AB: Well at the moment I’m relatively new to quilting so I’m learning as I go along and it may be because I’m new to it that at the moment I much prefer machine quilting because it means that I can do something quickly and get a finished product.
LS: So that’s piecing and quilting you prefer to do by machine?
LS: What do you enjoy about quilting specifically?
AB: Well at the moment I enjoy having a finished product so because I make from patterns I’ve been able to make from several quilts in the relatively short time I’ve been quilting. and I think I prefer, from what I’ve learnt so far, I like geometric styles, I like squares and oblongs as opposed to a…
AB: A curved rounded things. But that may change.
LS: Because you’re developing.is there anything you don’t enjoy about quiltmaking?
AB: At the moment hand quilting [laughs] I find it difficult to get round the technique. But that again may be because I’m early to it and that may change.
LS: And you’ve been on one workshop on hand quilting which wasn’t an entirely positive experience but you’re going on another one, for hand quilting.
AB: I am, I’m going to a workshop run by Sandie Lush for two days so I shall either come away thinking it’s wonderful or..
LS: You’ll be demented!
AB: Or not!
LS: Do you use any technology in quiltmaking apart from a sewing machine?
LS: OK. Where and when, where do you quilt first of all?
AB: Well I had an office in my home as I worked from home and that has now been converted into my sewing room by taking out the chair in the office and putting in a table. And I’m very happy with that. It’s a nice room and I feel very… it helps me to focus on doing the work when I go into my sewing room.
LS: And you can leave things out without having to tidy up because a lot of people find that a problem. Do you quilt every day, every week, every month?
AB: No, I have plenty of other things that I do in my life but I would say that generally when I sit down to quilt I probably work for two or three hours to give myself enough time to really focus on what I’m doing. Depending on the activities in the week that might be two or three days in the week. So it’s that sort of amount.
LS: Can you think about when you start making a quilt. How do you go about making it? Do you look at a pattern and want to do that pattern or do you buy fabric first and think I’m going to use this somehow or do you look at somebody else’s quilt in an exhibition or somebody else’s quilt in the group and think I want to do something like that ? How do you start?
AB: Right. Well I’ve started, having found groups and going to a group, really started on other members of the group suggestions. The first quilt I did, I simply had some patches of I think six inch squares that I bought in a quilting shop and somebody told me how to do a ‘Disappearing Nine Patch’.
LS: Oh yes.
AB: And so I did that and then somebody else told me how to do sashing so then I did that and so on…
LS: Talking about the sashing, did you find it easier to machine quilt because you had smaller pieces, with sashing you quilt as you go so you’ve got a piece that you quilt and then you join it to another piece that you’ve already quilted as well with sashing. So did you find that quite an easy way of quilting because you prefer machine quilting anyway?
AB: I do.
LS: So, rather than have you ever quilted a whole quilt in one go?
AB: I have, yes.
LS: Which one did you find you preferred? Can you remember?
AB: Doing the whole quilt.
LS: Did you? [AB: I did.] And you can get it under your machine?
AB: Although it’s difficult to get it through the machine when you’re doing the middle, especially with a full double quilt, but I do enjoy doing that doing the whole quilt.
LS: It’s a bit of a challenge.
LS: What do you think makes a good quilt? What do you notice in other people’s quilts?
AB: Well, I’ve recently been to the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, which is the first time I’ve been to a very big festival like that and I think what attracts me, probably because of previous interest in art, is the quilt as an art form and I’ve moved towards colours, particularly I think colour particularly attracts me and then the design and then I would look closer at the form and the construction of the quilt. But I think first would be colour, colour and design.
LS: So those are the things that make a good quilt to you then, the colour and design, a good quilt. Right. So are you veering towards being a contemporary quilter rather than a traditional quilter? Traditional quilters make blocks, don’t they and fit them together in all sorts of ways, but contemporary quilters are sort of free-er, if you like.
AB: Well I think at the moment I’m making from blocks because that’s what I’ve learnt to do and can do. I would like to feel that as I develop I would be able to do something a bit free-er. I have some ideas in my mind at the moment, as I said earlier I like geometric styles and I have some ideas about developing sort of shades of colour in strips or blocks. But at the moment they’re only ideas. I have started to look at some of the fabrics I’ve got to start doing that but I’m not yet confident about how I can put that together.
LS: So you get your ideas and inspiration from lots of different places, I think.
AB: Well again, because of my background, art particularly. Not abstract art, I don’t think. But… I’m trying to think of the movement, Klee and Klimt are particular inspirations, so they’re sort of…
LS: Expressionists? Are they Expressionists? They’re after the Impressionists.
AB: They’re after the Impressionists. But they played with colour and form a lot and I like that. So from art but also from books in a much more practical way. From lots of books on quilting which I’ve been introduced to by the group and I’ve bought quite a few books on quilting.
LS: And you read them?
AB: And I read them, yes. Particularly I find ‘The Quilter’s Bible’, a practical book. Apart from consulting other quilters, I go back to the books and techniques and so on.
LS: I think I know the answer to this already but how do you feel about hand and machine quilting? You’ve covered this, but still…
AB: Yes, I prefer machine quilting at the moment because it means I get to do a lot of big things quickly, whereas hand quilting, I’m struggling with.
LS: When you say you do a lot of machine quilting, is it mostly ‘in the ditch’, in the join, the seam between two pieces of fabric? Or is it ‘echo quilting’ to one side of the seam? Or is it an all-over pattern?
AB: Not necessarily. I have done one big quilt machined ‘in the ditch’ but the Australian quilt that I talked about I have also done some wavy quilting on the borders which although simple was quite effective, I think.
LS: That wasn’t free motion quilting, was it, with the feed dogs of the machine down and a different pressure foot, one with a round hole in it? That was with the pressure foot down and the feed dogs up.
AB: Yes, with a quilting foot. But again, one of the group had shown me how, if you do a simple wave, but do it free hand, not to a pattern, it can be quite effective.
LS: With a walking foot?
AB: With a walking foot, yes. And in fact what I did was having done one strip of waves, I then duplicated the pattern so that I had two waves on it and that looked more effective, I felt.
LS: Was that in a contrast fabric to the fabric of the border? I can’t remember.
AB: It was in the multi-coloured…
LS: Oh, the variegated thread.
AB: The variegated cotton.
LS: What do you do with the quilts you’ve made? Do you give them away, do you keep them all?
AB: At the moment I’ve kept nearly everything I’ve made but I did make one for my daughter who I referred to previously, in Australia. I made the top here, in Britain, took the top out to Australia and did the quilting, put the wadding and the backing together in Australia and finished it there. I was very kindly lent a machine by a woman in a local group, which was very useful. So, that’s what I’ve done so far. I have actually now made my granddaughter a quilt which I will be taking out to Australia.
LS: That’s the flower fairies one?
LS: Can you think about any challenges you face as a quilter today. What’s the biggest challenge you face as a quilter?
AB: Well I think it’s a challenge that’s faced by all of us quilters now. I found myself defining the occupation of quilting as ‘an old lady’s occupation’ when I was talking to some of my young relatives. And I think it’s quite difficult for the movement to be taken seriously as a modern art form and I think there are people in the quilting movement now who want to see that go forward as a legitimate art form as opposed to an ‘old lady’s occupation’.
LS: Is there anything else you’d like to add that you think we may have forgotten that you think is important that you say in this interview?
AB: No, I think we’ve covered everything.
LS: Okay. Can you just answer one last question then. Why is quiltmaking important in your life?
AB: Well it’s an occupation, or a hobby more than an occupation, a hobby rather than an occupation, that I’ve found since I’ve retired. I had a fairly absorbing career, I was concerned about what I was going to do when I retired and had thought about quiltmaking, but having started it I now find it a totally absorbing occupation and as some people have said, one can become quite obsessive about it. So it’s great fun!
LS: Great fun. Thank you very much, Anne, for sharing your story with the Talking Quilts project- that was great, thank you.
AB: Thank you Liz.