Amanda Schlatre




Amanda Schlatre




Amanda Schlatre


Jana Hawley

Interview Date


Interview sponsor



Houston, Texas


Joanne Gasperik


Jana Hawley (JH): Today is November 2nd, 2001. This is Jana Hawley interviewing Amanda Schlatre at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. Okay, Amanda, welcome. [laughs.]

Amanda Schlatre (AS): Thank you.

JH: Alright, why don't you tell me a little about your design that you brought today.

AS: I didn't lose anyone on September 11. I feel very fortunate but with the patriotic fervor that swept the country, I wanted to make a patriotic quilt to reflect the times, so I started with red, white and blue fabric. The quilt has the twin towers and a pentagon and an eagle on it. The phrase that was really going through my mind was 'Land of the Free and Home of the Brave' with everything that had been going on. That's from the "Star Spangled Banner" so I found a piece of fabric that had the song on it and put that in there. And then I put the words 'Never forget' on the towers and then to the side because I feel it's important that we never forget the people who died and also never forget who and what we are as a country, that we are always be land of the free and home of the brave. That's where I was coming from with that.

JH: So, what were the materials that you used in it?

AS: I used some patriotic commercial cottons and some batiks.

JH: Okay, and then what is the lettering? How did you do the lettering?

AS: I used a program called Microsoft Word. I flipped the letters, mirror-imaged them and then I used fusible webbing so that they would come out reading right. So that's the program that I used to do all of the lettering. Then I cut the letters out after I had fused them on the fabric and then fused them to the body of the quilt.

JH: And is it all machine done?

AS: I machine appliquéd around the '911' and 'Now and always' but I left the 'Never forget' and the 'Land of the Free' part without any.

JH: Okay, and then the quilting?

AS: Quilting, I used nylon, the monofilament thread, because I really didn't want to detract, and I needed to be done in a hurry. [laughs.] I put waves over the top and I outlined the pentagon and stitched in the ditch.

JH: And why did the waves indicate to you?

AS: Oh, like a waving a flag.

JH: Okay.

AS: Yeah.

JH: Now this is part of the "America for the Heart."

AS: Yeah.

JH: Can you tell me a little bit about that call?

AS: I'm a lurking member on the Quilt Art mailing list that is online. Karey Bresnahan posted a call for quilts on the list. And I had already been thinking I was going to do something, but when she put out the call for quilts I said 'Okay, I can set this up. I can finish it in time.' Because I felt that this was an important exhibit a vital part or the grieving process for me, the whole working through my feelings and what else to say?

JH: What day did you learn about the call?

AS: Oh, must have been the 20th or the 24th. I was on the mailing list, so as soon as she sent it out, I had it.

JH: Okay.

AS: So, I already had some good designs going through my head. This wasn't my original thought, but this is the way it turned out, and I'm happy with it.

JH: So, can you tell me about the special meaning that this quilt has for you?

AS: Well, September 11th, I turned on the TV. I normally do not do that in the morning--every once in a while, I'll turn on the TV to watch the Today Show. And I turned on the TV that morning as I was getting ready to eat breakfast and take a shower, and it was right after the two planes had hit. And so, they were showing the re-plays. And I was stunned [sigh.] to say the least. I did get dressed and left for work, tuning into our 740, the AM radio station here in town, to listen. And I was in the car when the first tower collapsed. And by the time I got to work I was a nervous wreck and then they said that they were evacuating downtown, because I work downtown. And--

JH: Downtown what?

AS: Houston.

JH: Okay.

AS: I work in downtown Houston and so I went home, and I spent the rest of the day just watching TV. I was cleaning house. I couldn't sit still. And the thoughts that kept going through my head were just, you know it could have been us. Any one of us. All those people were doing were going to work for the day. That's what I had been doing. It could have been any of us. And so, for me this is a reminder that anything can happen. [very loud loudspeaker announcement in the background.]

JH: I'm going to pause.

AS: Yes.

[tape is turned off.]

JH: So, what is your plan for this quilt?

AS: I am going to ask my mother if she would like to have it, because I had been promising her--the reason I had so much patriotic fabric on hand is that my mother has an Americana room in her home. So, the original purpose for this fabric was to make a patriotic quilt for my mother. So, she gets first dibs. And if she thinks she can't find a place for it, then we'll see. [laughs.] I don't know for sure.

JH: Do you think it will make other exhibits?

AS: I doubt it. I'm not planning to enter it anywhere else. This is just something I felt the need to do. I even came and helped hang the exhibition, because I was here in Houston, and they needed help. And so, after work last Thursday, I helped hang quilts. I don't know how Kim Ritter and all the people that put this together were able to stay--I was only here for two hours. And just--you had to stop looking as you were hanging, because it was just too-- I mean I've--how have you been here all day?

JH: Emotional?

AS: Yeah.

JH: You mean you're talking about the w--

AS: Just looking--looking as I was helping hang "America from the Heart," and it was really hard. I don't know how they stayed all day except to maybe just block everything out, because every new quilt that we flipped over to hang up was just this new--like opening a wound. But I feel it's important, and that's why I decided to participate.

JH: Okay. Tell me about your interest in quilting.

AS: I had spare time in my senior year in college believe it or not. [laughs.] I had gotten all of my major courses out of the way. So fall of senior year, I took a leisure learning class in quilting. I went to school at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and they had leisure learning classes held on campus. I have a great-grandmother that quilted, but I didn't know that until afterwards. I knew that my great-grandparents on the other side were quilters and crocheters because we have pieces around the house, but I had never really paid much attention to them. I only found out after I had gotten my interest, but my mother had pulled two or three quilts for us to use as kids, and then she kept the rest in her hope chest. And so now that we are older, we know better than to mess them all up she's got them hanging around the house. So, we do have more quilts that my great-grandparents did.

JH: On which side of the family?

AS: On my mother's side of the family. Actually, my great-grandfather and grandmother had a quilt frame they hung from the ceiling and pulled down and quilted at night. So, I had both of them, and actually my great-grandfather was the crocheter. My great-grandmother didn't take to it very well.

JH: Oh, that's interesting.

AS: My mother's a sewer, but she hadn't really been into quilts. She thought actually that it was kind of the creative crafty-type thing that skipped a generation. [laughs.] Until I got to college, and I thought this is something I could do.

JH: So now have you taught her?

AS: Actually, for Mother's Day, I gave her a class at my shop. My manager Sheila Anderson teaches a class on picture photo transfer, and my mom wanted to make a quilt for my brother who graduated from high school last year. And so, she came and got to do that, and she really likes it. I think she's going to be more into the memory quilt-type thing, because she really enjoys those photo transfers, and she made herself a pillow afterwards with the leftovers, but she's kind of getting excited. And actually, she's going to be here tonight. She's coming in town with a friend of hers and we're going to walk the floor tomorrow together.

JH: And she knows that your quilt is hanging here?

AS: Yes. Yes, I told her.

JH: How many hours a week do you spend quilting?

AS: It depends on my mood. I mean if I'm really in a good and happy mood and have a project and things are kind of clean around the house, I have a really small, small doll house, that I rent. [laughs.] If I feel I have the space and time, then I'll get my stuff out and start working again. But I work full-time Monday through Friday and then Saturdays are spent at the quilt shop more often than not, working. I was part of an 'Every-other-Friday-night' little get-together group at the shop. Sheila said they needed some help on Saturdays and that's how I about a year ago I started helping them out on Saturdays. Because, I thought, 'You give me this place to come and meet and have fun with people and I'm going to help you give something back,' that kind of thing.

JH: What's your first memory of a quilt?

AS: Lying in front of the TV with one of those three quilts my mother had pulled and set aside. Actually, those quilts went through so much. My mother had to finally cut them apart, I know that sounds really bad, to save what she could, because they had gotten so raggedy. I have that piece, a sizeable piece at home and I'm planning to recreate one of them. That's further down the road.

JH: How about the rest of your family? How has quilting impacted them?

AS: My sister Brittney got really excited and wanted to make a quilt for her boyfriend for his graduation from high school. He's in his second year of college now and the top is put together, but the quilting is probably going to take a little while. But she's still in college herself, too. So she's excited about it. They've been to the show before. But none of them really have gotten into it yet, we'll see. [laughs.] I'm hoping--

JH: Are they younger than you?

AS: Yes, they're all younger than me.

JH: Tell me if this quilt helped you in the healing process at all or tell me about your process and the World Trade Center problem that we have.

AS: Yeah. I think it did. It helped me to work out some of the feelings I was having. This is my generation's, my 'Where were you when JFK was shot?' I'll never forget that day. For me it's-- [sigh.] The Gulf war was ten years ago, but that was just so far away, and this is just so personal you know, you hear about things happening overseas and you regret it and feel bad, but I never really internalized that they were actually people--you know, it wasn't home. It wasn't--didn't hit close to home. And this--I have been to New York. I have pictures that I had taken of the World Trade Center, pictures that--I had a friend that lived there for a year and a half. Although I didn't have anybody who died in--I'd--I feel kind of guilty that I'm grieving, because I didn't lose anyone. At the same time, I think the whole country lost something and this was--this is to help me vocalize that to myself. I don't know how to--[sighs.]

JH: Do you think it's sending a message out to other people too? Is that a purpose behind your quilt?

AS: Kind of, to remind us that we have to go on. It's hard, especially with the constant television coverage and things that are going on now. But I think we have to remember, there are a lot of stories that came out, all the firemen and the policemen that were there. This is just a reminder to everyone to live your life. Don't crawl up in a hole. Because that's what they want us to do. Don't forget that we're supposed to live our lives – just us women, being here, doing things, that women over there can't. They can't go out and enjoy themselves and just be free. So, this is--we need to continue to be doing what we do, continue what we've always done. Not to forget what happened, but still move on, try to [sigh.] be normal, not really normal, but have some sense of normalcy.

JH: What's your favorite thing about the quilting process?

AS: It's always been the designing part, the picking out the colors, and the quilting for me--at least until recently, has always been kind of an afterthought. I'm learning how you can use the quilting itself to help add to the design, which is making it more exciting.

JH: And do you do that by hand? Machine?

AS: I can do hand work, but I've been taking machine quilting classes. I'm more of a results person in the sense that if it takes me forever to do something it's hard to finish. I'm still working on quilting my first quilt, the first one I've started, because it's all done by hand. I pieced it all by hand. Got all that done and got about halfway through hand quilting, but it wouldn't go fast enough for me, so it's just--it's sitting there waiting for me to go back to. Once I got that machine things just took off. [both laugh.]

JH: So, what it is about quilts that make them great? What makes a great quilt?

AS: I don't know what to say to that. I think all quilts have something about them that are great. Even a person who is never going to enter a show or is never going to show their work, they love their quilts. So, I think that's what's really great about it.

JH: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

AS: If it touches you in some way. One particular quilt might do nothing for someone, but it might mean the world to someone else. If you see something and you think 'Oh, why did she make that?' Just remember that it means something to the person that made it, and somebody else might get more out of it than you do. We're all--personal experiences are different.

JH: At what point does a quilt become a museum piece?

AS: Oh gosh. [laughs.]

JH: Let's look at the – just talk about the World Trade Center quilts. Do you think that it's possible that these could become museum pieces?

AS: Yeah. Some of them definitely. There is one down there that was made for the family of a fireman who was lost. And I wouldn't want that to end up in a museum. I think the family should have that and be comforted. They could use it or, if they don't want to use it, at least have it on a wall as a reminder. Some of them, yeah, I definitely, I think that we definitely need to document and keep them for future generations because of that old saying, 'Those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it.' If we forget and we don't remain vigilant, something like this could happen again. We definitely don't want anything like this to ever happen again.

JH: How does a quilter learn how to do what they--the design part of a quilt? Is it innate, or is it the classes?

AS: You can take classes and learn. I have learned so much in the past year just working at Great Expectations, [quilt shop in Houston.] being around other women, seeing their color choices and the things that they have put together. That for me has been such a huge growing experience. My quilts have changed a lot in the last year. I've moved away from the more traditional and moved towards free form cutting. But that's also an extension of some classes I took at Festival last year. I took a class with Ricky Tims about getting without using a ruler and things like that. That's definitely what I used right in my "America from the Heart" quilt.

JH: Why is quilting important to your life?

AS: I've always loved art, but I've never felt like I was creative or artistic enough to be an artist. And this for me is a great, I'm proud of the work that I do. It might not be great art to some people, but for me it's a creative outlet. It also makes me feel closer to my mother in a sense, because she used to make all our clothes and everything. So, I'm working with fabric and with thread like she used to. So that's how it is for me. [laughs.]

JH: What do you think – what role do quilts play in the lives of Americans?

AS: Quilts have been made all over the world, but I think for America in particular, you have all those quilts that the pioneer women made like the Baltimore Album quilts that commemorate different events in the lives of the quilters themselves and in the life of our country. A lot of people have memories of sleeping under quilts and things like that.

JH: So, what--not just America in general but what about for women's history or women's lives?

AS: I think it's very important. Women traditionally work with the textiles. For me it's a creative outlet. I think for other women it probably is. Some women had to make them for necessity, to use them. But for other women, this is just a natural outgrowth of working with fabric and things like that.

JH: So, what role or future do you see for quilts?

AS: I hope huge growth. I hope that it becomes more recognized as an art form instead of just people calling them blankets or [laughs.] just seeing that people can create beautiful things with fabric and with thread.

JH: So, with that, how should a quilt be used?

AS: There is use for every quilt. I have one that I just made, a rag-time quilt, that I'm using as a little couch blanket. And I'm going to use that one to death. But like this quilt, I wouldn't use this. [laughs.] This would be hung on the wall. I think whatever the maker has in mind. If they want to use that quilt, use that quilt, on their bed or on the couch or give it as a gift to someone else to use. And if they want to make a piece of art that they want to hang on their walls, then –

JH: So, once it's given as a gift, are there expectations from the maker do you think?

AS: Well, you always hate to give something that you meant to hang on the wall or be a decorative piece and find out that they've been throwing it into the washing machine. If you're that concerned about it, then you should tell that to the person that you're giving the quilt to. Say this is how you take care of it, and you have to let it go at some point if you're going to give it as a gift. [both laugh.] You have to--it is upsetting, but you have to let it go.

JH: Well, those are the formal questions that I wanted to ask you today. Is there anything else that you want to say about quilts or about this particular call for quilts that you would like to wrap up with? Or quilts to you, anything that you'd like to say yet?

AS: I'm a lot happier person now that I have this. It gives me, I've made a lot of friends. I got a new appreciation for all of the things that my mother did when growing up. [laughs.] Because she used to paint and do other things. She likes the folk-art look. While I don't like the folk-art look per se, I can now appreciate the work that she did. For me it's just brought me closer to my mother and to making new friends. So that's why I enjoy it so much.

JH: Now I forgot to have you spell your name, if you would please for the record.


JH: Okay. Thank you very much. That completes our interview with Amanda Schlatre at Houston, Texas on 11-2 of 2001. Thank you.

[tape ends.]


“Amanda Schlatre,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 19, 2024,