Andrea Perejda




Andrea Perejda




Andrea Perejda


Jean Look-Krischano

Interview Date


Interview sponsor



Houston, Texas


Pat Keller


Jean Look-Krischano (JLK): This is Jean Look-Krischano. Today's date is November third, 2000. It is 3:50 p.m. and I'm conducting an interview with Andrea Perejda and she often goes by Andi, A-N-D-I. This interview is for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories in Houston., Texas. So, we'll start by asking you Andi, where are you from?

Andrea Perejda (AP): Right now, I live in Arroyo Grande, California, which is the central coast of California, that's halfway between San Francisco and LA. I grew up in Michigan. I lived in St. Louis, Missouri, for seven years and Los Angeles for ten years. And now I've settled there with my family.

JLK: Okay. And has it inspired your quilting to live in an area like that?

AP: I would say probably not so much the area as the opportunity to learn quilting. I learned to quilt in 1991 when I moved there. I had two small children: I had a young man in preschool and another one in kindergarten and at that point I was looking for a creative outlet and I decided to try quilting. So, I wouldn't say it's the place so much, as just the opportunity.

JLK: Okay. So did you bring a quilt to share with us today--

AP: Yes--I--

JLK: or a quilting item?

AP: Yes, I have two quilts in the show here, but I don't have anything with me right now.

JLK: So, we'll go see those after we're done with this interview here then, okay?

AP: Okay, Okay.

JLK: And the quilts that are in the show are quilts that you made, designed--they're all yours?

AP: More or less, I like to take old quilts and make them new in certain ways. I'm not really trained as a designer; I'm not an artist and I don't have a large art background. But what I always try to do is make something my own, in terms of color sense or how I approach it or change the set something. So, there are two quilts in the show, one of them is called "Just Plain Fun" and it's an optical illusion quilt and what I did with that one was see if I could make a circle that was red and white solid fabric and make an optical illusion circle or what used to be called the kaleidoscope. I was able to do that using rotary cutting techniques that we use today. My quilt is based on an old quilt from 1910 which was also in the "Hundred Best of the 20th Century" when I came last year to Houston. And so, I made this small version of its which is about 23 inches in diameter and then set it together with modern black and white fabrics and have the circles sort of floating over the background with a shadow underneath. And the other quilt that is in the show is based on Durham Quilting. I saw a second placement by Dorothy Osler from the United Kingdom who brought some old quilts from the beginning of the 20th century to our guild in Santa Maria, California and shared those quilts with us and taught a workshop on Durham quilting design. After I saw those quilts, I got really excited and thought I'd like to try to make a whole cloth quilt and use Durham quilting designs. That is the other quilt in the show here. It's called "Silver Splendor".

JLK: "Silver Splendor"--so do you have a preference between the two or are they both your children?

AP: They're both my children. I get bored really fast, so I can't do the same thing over and over again. So, every quilt is a new idea for me. I try something new, either new in terms of color or design or whatever. I love to hand quilt though and I really intend to keep the hand quilting tradition going. Even though there is lovely machine quilting out there and I do a little bit of it, I really appreciate the hand quilting tradition I like hand work in general, appliqué and everything of that sort. I don't approach a quilt though as to what technique I'm using, I use what I need to use to get the idea across and complete the project. I usually mix all different techniques- [loudspeaker announcements make interview conversation indiscernible.]

JLK: Do you find you have to invent techniques?

AP: I'm not quite that original, but what I do is take classes with master quilters. Now I've taken enough classes that I feel a little more comfortable approaching a new idea, because I have enough techniques under my belt to say, 'Oh, I bet I can do it like this,' and then approach it. That's a nice feeling to have enough there to work with. So, no I wouldn't say I've invented a technique at all.

JLK: So now that you have this many quilts in a show are you close to being a master?

AP: Oh, I don't know.

JLK: Do you teach?

AP: I do teach at the local level. I still have my two boys at home, so I don't travel a tremendous amount at this point and time. I love travel don't get me wrong, but I teach hand quilting in local quilt shops, and I've also taught--and developed a pattern for this red and white circle that's found in the other quilt in the show. I find that's a little more difficult to teach, not that it's hard, but people look at that and say, 'That's too hard for me, I can't do that,' so I have to convince people that yes you really can do it, it's not very difficult at all. As long as you can rotary cut in a straight line you're in great shape. So, I teach those two classes right now.

JLK: Sounds like a pretty good assignment.

AP: Yes, it is fun, and I find that people have a nice response, and I can usually send people home hand quilting. They come back a little later and tell me that it's going real well, so that's gratifying to pass this on to other people.

JLK: Giving back is important too, isn't it?

AP: Yes, it is.

JLK: After your quilts leave the show what will they do?

AP: Hopefully, they'll make it home in the box. I always sweat it when I send them off, like one of the kids. I'll probably enter "Silver Splendor" in one or two more shows because it is a new quilt. I enjoy them at home. I'll hang one for a little while and then I'll take it down and hang another one, [laughs.] rotate them.

JLK: You collect quilts, that's what you circled, so you kind of quilt for yourself then?

AP: I quilt for myself. I make gifts for my family. I quilt basically for the pleasure of it. I'm fortunate that I can do that and explore my ideas, my creative side. I collect a few antique quilts when I can. I have a red and white quilt that I love from the first part of the 20th century; it's a New York Beauty type quilt. I just think red and white is just a wonderful combination. And I have a quilt that was probably made in the--oh I guess--in the thirties. It's a sweet pea pattern. It has white cotton sateen which is one of my favorite fabrics. It's on a white cotton sateen background and it has purple sweet peas, and it has a little bit of embroidery and it's beautifully quilted and a Broken Star or Star of Bethlehem that was made in the thirties also. I have just a few real nice, nicely quilted antique quilts and older quilts.

JLK: That's neat.

AP: It's fun to preserve those.

JLK: It brings a thrill just to touch fabric like those doesn't it?

AP: Yes, it certainly does.

JLK: So, tell me, we sort of touched on this briefly before we got started, how you interest in quilting began and you did do something prior to quilting.

AP: Yes, I did have a previous life. It's interesting how life goes. I started out sewing in fourth grade in 4H. A neighbor lady taught me how to work the sewing machine and I entered the county fair and made some god-awful outfits. [laughs.] Dirndl skirts in brown and things like that. And then I made a lot of my own clothes in high school. I stopped sewing in college because I was busy with other things. I did learn to knit at a young age as well, as my mother knit a lot of sweaters. But I never fell in love with that the same way I did sewing. After I finished college I went to graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis Missouri, and I got my doctorate there in cell biology. At that time, I ran into just by accident, some women who were making a whole cloth quilt on a frame. I had never seen anyone quilt before and just in passing I thought 'Wow that looks pretty cool, someday it'd be neat to try that,' but that was all the thought I put into it at that time. This was back in the 70's and then I moved to Los Angeles, took a job with Harbor UCLA Medical Center, working in the dermatology department there as an assistant professor of research. When I met my husband, we got married and once I had my first son it was pretty apparent, I needed to stay home with him, as I didn't have parents who could act as grandparents. So, I gave up my career and became a stay-at-home mom and that was really tough to do at first, a colicky baby and all that. But then my husband finished up his training program as a resident in neurosurgery and we purchased our first home in the Los Angeles area and finally moved up to Arroyo Grande, California in 1990. In 1991 I took my first quilting class. It was learning to patchwork by hand. I made an Ohio Star block that was maybe a 12- or 14-inch square block. And you know they tell you to bring a dark, medium and light fabric and I picked out a Bali batik with little moons on it and an indigo background as my dark and a really brilliant purple for my medium and I gray dit-dot thing for a light. Then I showed up for the class and I go, [laughs.] 'Uh-Oh, I think I got the wrong fabric.' But I made my Ohio Star and learned to piece by hand which I'm glad I did. I think it's a neat way to start out and then they said just quilt it, but nobody taught quilting at that time, at least in that area. So, I purchased Ami Simm's little handbook "How to Improve your Quilting Stitch," a great book with good diagrams. It's simple and straightforward, not too much writing to read through. I taught myself how to quilt and just became hooked. After that I just took classes whenever I could, you know, in between what the kids needed to do. I just love it. I'm an obsessed woman.

JLK: It happens to a bunch of us.

AP: Yeah, I think so.

JLK: You mentioned earlier you had taken some classes with masters. Can you pick out any that you feel had a strong influence on your quilting? Ami obviously--you just mentioned her book.

AP: Well, I just used her book. I've never had the privilege of meeting her in person.

JLK: She's just delightful.

AP: I'd like to some time.

JLK: I believe she's here.

AP: Really. I should try to find her. Let's see I would probably say Ruth McDowell, Carole Bryer Fallert, Anita Shackleford, Dorothy Osler--even though I don't know her real well and it was a real quick class. She really influenced the quilt that's here in the show. Lots of local people too. Becky Rogers, from the Cotton Ball in Morro Bay, got me started on the whole thing. Trying to think right off the bat.

JLK: That's okay.

AP: But there were many people really who--You know learning to use freezer paper was just such a revelation for me. Now I look at these complicated quilts and say, 'Yeah, I could do some freezer paper and maybe I could pull that off,' and that was just a really a neat thing to learn and realize many of these teachers use similar techniques. So that's nice when it all falls into place in your mind.

JLK: Saves a little bit of time.

AP: Yes.

JLK: How much time do you think you spend during the week quilting?

AP: Well, I think about it more or less constantly, but the actual time spent doing it really varies. Over the holidays I'm lucky to get a day or two in a week; you know November and December. But my best time is when the children are at school so once they're off and if I'm not involved with any kind of meetings with other groups, I'm involved in then I'll try to spend two or three hours a day during those school days to work. In the evenings I do a lot of hand quilting after they go to bed instead of watching TV, I listen to TV and sit with my husband and quilt.

JLK: So, one of my questions is what do you find pleasing about quilting? And I'll bet part of it is going to be the hand quilting.

AP: The hand work is relaxing. It's gratifying. I think I'm really fortunate because I'm able to quilt rather quickly and I don't know why--it's sheer luck basically, but I find it very relaxing. To just sit back and have the sense that something's accomplished in a short period of time and that it's not going to disappear. It's not like washing the kitchen floor, where you know, some kids traipse through, and it's gone already. This is something that's there--that I enjoy and keep adding to and in a few years, it's still going to be there and I'm still going to love it and my family is starting to appreciate what I make too and that's real nice.

JLK: So, were they supportive in the beginning or was it sort of a competition?

AP: Oh no, they've always been supportive. At first it was kind of like 'Mom, what are you doing?' But then rapidly both of my sons wanted me to make them a quilt so the first full-sized quilt that I made was for my older son. He picked out a Drunkard's Path circling birds' pattern from a book that he loved, and I made it just like he wanted it with primary colors and so forth. And then my younger son also wanted a quilt. He loved trains, so I made some trains running around the outside of the quilt and mixed it with a patchwork pattern to his liking. Those were the first two quilts I made. They are still on their beds, though rapidly becoming dissolved. [laughs.] But they still love them, and they won't let me take them off their beds.

JLK: So, you said they were school aged. How old are they and will either one of them make a quilt?

AP: You know my younger son did make a little pillow for a teacher in third grade. It was a raccoon face with buttons for eyes and used the featherweight to sew it together. And now he's close to thirteen, he's in seventh grade and my older son is a sophomore in high school. He doesn't show any signs of wanting to sew, although he made a flag for a history class on the machine; an American flag from the Civil War era and we enjoyed doing that together.

JLK: What do you think makes a great quilt?

AP: Well, that's a hard question: something with a 'wow factor' in it. For whatever reason either because it pleases the maker so much or it brings to mind another time or some memories, or because of the use of color, but for whatever reason you just look at it and realize there was a lot of thought put into it, for whatever that person's motivation was. I think almost every show quilt here today is an amazing quilt because somebody really, really thought about it. And whatever their thought process was, it is echoed in that piece that is hanging there and so I guess that would be my answer to that question.

JLK: I think that's a good answer. What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection, anything different?

AP: Well for a museum I always think of pieces that are somehow trend setting or unusual in some way, a new creative idea being explored or, something from history that's, if not a contemporary piece, then an historical piece that means a lot for that particular time from which it came. Because so many things are being lost, as we change our society, we become more technological and so forth, I think it's important to save handwork, women's handwork, from all eras and try to maintain that in some kind of collection.

JLK: Have you ever had an opportunity to be involved in anything like that?

AP: No.

JLK: Well--

AP: That would be an honor way beyond--[laughs.] I don't anticipate that.

JLK: Well, okay, we may have kind of touched on it but, what makes a quilter great? What do think causes a great quilter to learn how to be doing something special in the arts? What do you think has been happening to make these great quilters?

AP: Some consistent form of inspiration either love for the craft or some sort of creative inspiration in her mind that she just feels she has to make real in cloth with threads--I think almost everyone who makes a quilt is great in some way. Even if their workmanship, for example, is not fantastic, the fact is that they were able to take something that they loved in terms of color or idea and make it real. And I think whenever you create anything, artwork, painting, a rug or a quilt--I think it's just--you can only enhance life.

JLK: So, do you think quilts have a special meaning for women's history and experiences in America?

AP: Oh, definitely. Oh, yeah, I think it's wonderful. I'm eager to get Barbara Brackman's new book on the Civil War. ["Civil War Women," C. & T. Publishing, November 2000.] I think that looks fabulous. Yes, to imagine living a hundred and fifty years ago, having made a quilt and come across the country in a covered wagon and all that stuff, that's just mind boggling--It's very important to follow the history of quilting and quilt making and why people made them--did they use them or did they give them as a wedding present, or an expression of friendship, in friendship groups or maybe leaving the East and moving westward--I mean that's just fabulous. And to also combine that with the study of textiles and how textiles have developed with dyes and printing techniques and so forth-- it's wonderful that people now are starting to keep track of that and value that I think that's important.

JLK: Do you think art quilts reflect our community or our region and should they?

AP: I think they do. Yes, I think it's real important. I find that if I go to regional shows, I see some differences between how people make their quilts. Some tend to be more traditional, others perhaps more based in painting or art and I don't think you ever want to lose any of that. I think it's important that people make what they're comfortable making and what expresses for them their own feelings. Regional differences make life interesting. You don't want it all to be cookie cutter.

JLK: So, have you had a--have you traveled and had a 'wow' quilt experience that was regional or had a different ethnic background that you hadn't really been familiar with or something?

AP: Well, I went up to Oakland, California or was it San Jose--it was San Jose, excuse me, they have a textile and quilting museum in San Jose. I believe it was a couple years ago they had an exhibition of African American quilter's quilts from the '20's and '30's and even some modern ones. Just fascinating the way, they put together scraps to express just in vibrant color their feelings and their backgrounds. And I think that was really eye opening to see. Just a way of doing things that I had never thought about--wouldn't have come up with myself because that's not my expression but it was really fascinating.

JLK: So, how would you describe your expression? What colors would I remember from your quilts? Soft? Bright?

AP: Well, that's a good question because people who know me say they can always recognize my quilts by use of vibrant color and colors that they don't expect to go together, and then I turn around made a whole cloth quilt that's very peaceful, sort of quiet--silver sateen--

JLK: What color is it?

AP: It's off white, a light, light gray, sateen. And it's a very quiet piece. I don't know if I've really come to a point where you can say all of them are alike in any given way. Except that I just put a lot of myself into each piece as it comes up. And it evolves; it gathers a life of its own while I'm making it, because I never just work on one thing at a time. I'm doing three or four at a time and when I get stuck somewhere I'll move to another piece, and I'll play with that one for a while and then somehow the mind just comes around to a solution to the problem that you were trying to work on for the previous piece and go back to it. But I don't know that there's a real good way to pinpoint one of my quilts at this point. I'm still playing and every single one that I make I learn something new on or I'll try a new technique, something different. And for me that's the fun of it because I as I said earlier the boredom factor for me is high. [laughs.] I don't like to make anything twice if I can help it.

JLK: This question is not on the list, but I'll ask it because it tells me a lot about my friends. So do you buy your fabric for the quilt or do you buy fabric.

AP: Well, that's how I started because I didn't have a stash, but the more shows I go to the more I collect fabric so it's very embarrassing, but I'm a fabricholic and I've collected quite a bit of fabric in different colors. I try to have a complete color wheel collection in my quilting room and stowed away. Now I'm getting to the point where I might look for a specific thing, a specific piece fabric to compliment something I'm working on, but I don't start with the fabric generally I start with the idea and then find the fabric from my collection that would go with it. I've painted a little bit. I've embellished a little bit but pretty much I've stuck with fabric.

JLK: Do you think you'll continue to stick with fabric?

AP: Well--I'm getting a little braver about trying embellishments and I'm starting to do a little machine quilting because I realize I have so many things I'd like to make that I don't have time to hand quilt them all. That's not really feasible so I'll continue to add new techniques and new ways of doing things to how I approach quilting, with any luck at all.

JLK: You're going to keep having fun?

AP: Yeah, I just enjoy it, it's a blast. [laughs.]

JLK: Okay, how do you think quilts can be used?

AP: Practically speaking I think quilts can be used to show art--I mean they are an art. And I think they express the whole range of human emotions. They can make you laugh; they can make you cry. They can make you remember something. They can provide warmth. From the very visceral needing warmth, to hanging it on the wall and being able to enjoy how it makes you feel. JLK: How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

AP: Well quilting museums are nice. And I think shows are wonderful because it gives people a chance to share what they've made with other people. I know I've learned a tremendous amount by going to shows and seeing what other people have made and sometimes I've even applied what I've seen there to something I'm making. Because I realize, oh that's just what I need to do. But as far as preserving them, I think collections such as the James Collection and so forth are very important to have for the future for other generations to see what we're doing here and what was done before us.

JLK: Do you think that all quilts should be clutched and preserved or...

AP: No, no quilts should be used whatever the maker attempted. I think the more quilts there are the more they'll be appreciated. And now there are so many women making quilts I think it's fabulous because it's not just for the elite or not just made by slave women for elite women, because everybody is enjoying making them and I think that will preserve it in the memory. And certainly, my kids will pass that love on to their kids and so forth. So, the familial way of doing it is important.

JLK: Of the quilts you've made for family and friends' what kinds of things have happened with those quilts?

AP: My kids still sleep under their quilts, and they love them, and they won't let me make them anything new or different. My sister has two of my quilts in Michigan, they're wall quilts, and she enjoys them. She's decorated her bedroom around one of them. I've made a quilt of Bryce Canyon, the National Park in Utah. And I have a nephew who goes rock climbing so he's getting that one for Christmas, to decorate his first new home. So everybody kind of appreciates them from their own standpoint. I generally give something to someone that I feel will please them in some specific way, either by color or design or having to do with something they love too. So, I'm hoping I never find one in the back of the car with tires sitting on top of it, but you never know [laughter.] it's possible I suppose.

JLK: Okay, so we're starting to wind down, we have a couple of minutes left and we try to get a variety. So, is there something that you would like to add to this interview that you think that people will find interesting about you or that we need to know?

AP: Well one really important part of my quilting life is a group of women that I get together with every Thursday night. And we've been meeting for six or seven years. They've been meeting longer than that, but I joined them six or seven years ago. It's called the Thursday Night Appliqué Group. We don't always do appliqué and sometimes we don't even sew but we get together every week and usually sit and work on whatever we're working on or we'll work on a guild opportunity quilt together. Or plan what's going on in the guild and it's been a really formative and wonderful experience for me and for them. We all help one another. We bring a project and say, 'I just don't know what to do with this part of this quilt. What do you think?' Or 'Give me your honest opinion about this or that.' You know and we play off of one another and it's been delightful. They've helped me and I've helped them and its--and we're good friends we're all here together as a matter of fact so we come to quilt shows together.

JLK: We have time for one more one word answer, your workroom?

AP: It's a bedroom, an extra bedroom in our home and the closet is jammed with fabric and it's just cramped and I'm outgrowing it rather rapidly. [laughs.]

JLK: Okay.

AP: Thank you.

JLK: Thank you. I'd like to thank Andi--Andrea Perejda for allowing me to interview her today as a part of the 2000 Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. Our interview concluded at 4:25, November third the year 2000. Thank you.



“Andrea Perejda,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024,