Barbara Johannah


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Barbara Johannah




Barbara Johannah


Rebecca Salinger

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics/United Notions


International Quilt Festival
Houston, TX


Nathaniel Stephan


Note: This interview was conducted on the convention floor and the noises of the convention are heard throughout the tape. Rebecca Salinger (RS): [interview begins midsentence.] …Saturday November 3, 2001. It is 11:51 a.m. and I am conducting an interview with Barbara Johannah-- Barbara Johannah (BJ): [corrects pronunciation.] Johanna. RS: Johannah. For Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project in Houston, Texas at the International Quilt Festival. Barbara I need for the record if you would spell for our transcriber your name so that we have--get it down correctly. BJ: B-A-R-B-A-R-A J-O-H-A-N-N-A-H. RS: Thank you. Tell me about this quilt you brought in today. Does it have a name? Who made it and when and all that? [loud crashing noise.] BJ: It's Grandmother's Flower Garden done with Strip Piecing. Continuous Curves quilting. What I try to do is come up with methods for making quilts that are simpler and use the sewing machine to advantage, rather than using templates. In this one it has hexagons and sixty degree diamonds, which can be strip pieced, so that's what I've done. RS: Did you make this quilt? BJ: No, I design--I developed the method and I designed the quilt and it was made by my friend, Sharon Hose. RS: Sharon Hose? BJ: Hose H-O-S-E. RS: You know when it was made? BJ: It was designed and made specifically for my 1993 book "Barbarah Johannah's Crystal Piecing." So it would have been made in '92 or '93. RS: Why did you bring this quilt in particular? Is there something special about it? BJ: It illustrates a use of Strip Piecing that quiltmakers aren't using much. I came up with--I developed Strip Piecing back in the early seventies and quiltmakers early on adopted the squares and the rectangles and the diamonds, but don't seem to have gone into the things you can do with equilateral triangles and the hexagons and the sixty degree diamonds, so I choose this one. Also I think of this as a perfect quilt in the mathematical sense, because, when you cut the units out of the strip panels, they're not all the same. You have color reverses. In the center of the quilt, the hexagons, the flowers, are made with the dark base and the light tips but in the border you use all of the reverses. You have the light base and the dark tip going together to make the sixty-degree diamond rather than making a quilt using only half the pieces, which is wasteful. I think of it as a perfect one, because you use all the pieces. Then the quilting uses the Continuous Curve quilting that I came up with and published in "Continuous Curve Quilting" in 1980. Then also a freer use of it reflected the design of the flowers. [background convention noise gets louder.] RS: These lines going around the edges of the pieces. Is this what you are referring to as Continuous line quilting? BJ: Well it's Continuous Curve-- RS: Continuous Curve quilting. BJ: At the time I came up with this was 1980 and my first book and second book had been out for a number of years, and quilters had adopted the method of quick piecing and I had a student who said that it was a job half done, because previous to that, quiltmakers would spend hundreds of hours piecing using templates one by one and hundreds of hours quilting. There was a balance between the amount of time you were piecing and quilting. When I devised the piecing methods, Strip Piecing and Quarter Square Triangles and other ones, quiltmakers still spent the same amount of time piecing on the machine but instead they had tops piling up and then they weren't getting them quilted. This one student challenged me to come up with a way of machine quilting. What I realized was that if you went through the corners, every area that you wanted to quilt in, is connected in the corners; any area that you could get in, you could get out of. At the time other quiltmakers were trying to come up with a way of machine quilting and I went through the process also myself. What we would do is quilt a square inside a square, a triangle inside a triangle but they were all isolated, because by hand, when you get to an area that you want to move somewhere else, you can take that little stitch and tunnel in between layers and come up somewhere else, but with the sewing machine can't tunnel in between layers. It wants to sew continuously. We all tried back in the seventies starting and leaving long threads, and then ending and leaving long threads, putting needle on it, taking it through the back and finishing off the traditional way. You only had to do that once to see that it wasn't a good idea, it was too much work. Then we also tried sewing in place. You just make basically a lump of stitches and then you come back around and make another lump. So what I wanted to do was to avoid those ways of working that didn't fit the sewing machine. I realized that if you went through the corners and quilted in arcs you could get the machine equivalent of hand quilting and that was what I was after. Quilters of that time were not doing art quilts. There was only the choice of what I'd call mattress pad quilting. Irrelevant machine design on the piecing or you had the hand quilting. What I wanted was the machine equivalent of hand quilting. I wanted to be able to depress the background area and let the design area come forward I wanted that three-dimensional effect and the Continuous Curve quilting did that. Then from there you could do other things in the shapes to enhance, but always enhance not having irrelevant designs. RS: For the record, does this quilt have a name? BJ: "Grandmother's Flower Garden." RS: Just Grandmother's Flower Garden and it is a grandmother's flower garden design. The background is cream and then Grandmother Flower Garden looks like a multi floral print--green background. It looks like she's done some fussy cutting. And light pale yellow centers--pale yellow centers-- BJ: It's all one print. This Grandmother's Flower Gardens is all of one print, but it was a print that has areas of concentrations of color so after it was stripped pieced the units were sorted in piles and-- RS: I see. BJ: All the pink ones are in the flowers and the yellow ones are in the flower. RS: Then it's got a border. I don't know if this has a name it's only along the sides, is that correct? BJ: It's on the sides and the bottom. RS: It almost looks strings of leaves almost. BJ: Yes, I think of it as buds. RS: Buds, okay. Half of it on the yellow background and half of it on the cream background with sashing between the two side borders and the top borded of green and the same color of the binding. Multi-floral print on the back. Obviously you're using this quilt to demonstrate to me your techniques, how do you actually use it? BJ: Use what? RS: I mean do you use this quilt on a bed? Do you use it on a wall? How do you use this quilt? BJ: I don't. RS: You don't? It's just other than being in your book? It was made for the book? BJ: Well I work with design and method. For me the goal is not a quilt. I develop methods and then other people make the quilts. It's a partnership. I concentrate on devising methods, figuring out the underlying mathematical structure in quilts and piecing and then the quilting. My work is a partnership with other people with quiltmakers so-- RS: Do you actually own this quilt? BJ: Oh yeah. RS: Oh ok, I wasn't sure. Any plans to do anything with this quilt? BJ: No. RS: I mean down the road at all? Okay let's go to another little subject. Tell me about just your interest in quilting. I know you kind of explained this. You're into the technique and the planning. Is there any other than that? Do you want to expand on that a little bit? Okay, when did you first get interested in quilting? BJ: In the mid sixties, I took a class in some kind of home arts in junior college and we were required to make a sewing project. I don't know why I was in the class, maybe everything else was full and it was the only thing open. I don't know. I don't remember. I didn't want to make curtains or pillows or whatever, and so I choose a quilt, but I had never seen one. My only experience with quilts was having seen them in cowboy movies in the background. [someone, scribe? laughs softly in the background.] I decided to make a quilt. I didn't have any idea how long it would take and I spent all of Christmas vacation working and whatever, working on it feverishly and I didn't finish, and I thought the teacher would flunk me and whatever. Fortunately she knew more about how long it would take to make a quilt than I did. If I had completed this one section of crazy quilt I probably would have cut it out, and had that, but, unfortunately, it was more a matter of I spread out all the blue pieces and spread out all the yellow pieces. I didn't have anything, so when the class was over I just put it away and a number of years later, maybe five or so, I pulled it out and I'm going to finish this. The reason I put it away was the way that I had started on it, I had no grasp of how to make this crazy quilt so I had cut up old dresses and I had turned under the edges, I believe twice, because, of course, you couldn't leave a raw edge underneath. [RS laughs.] Then I basted all these individual pieces with raw edges and then I pinned them to a sheet all on top of each other, so I had now six layers of fabric. Then of course at the intersections there would be another three layers of fabric. [RS laughs.] So I was using pliers to pull the needle through the satins and the whatever and that's why I quit--[laughs.] RS: That was your quilt? BJ: That wasn't how you made a quilt. It was obvious to me they couldn't have made them like that. You didn't need to turn all those edges under. RS: Was that's literally your first quilt? BJ: That's my first quilt. RS: Do you still have this first quilt? BJ: Oh yes I still have this first quilt. I get it out once in a while on the bed. RS: You actually finished it? BJ: Yes I finished it. RS: But not then? BJ: No, I put it away from about five years, then just pulled it out. The few little pieces that I had done with all the feather stitching in between were beautiful and some of the cloth. My mother had made clothes for me from just--it was just too personally significant not to finish. I did finish, it but I quit working on it; because I knew what I was doing was obviously all wrong. I knew what I was supposed to do so put it away. That was the beginning of a--I dropped crazy quilting that was the end there. Well I did make one other crazy quilt later that was all machine work and done in a more logical way. That was the beginning of a series of unfinished quilts which I have never been able to throw away. My sons will pitch them over his shoulder for me later; I make something figure out how I should have done it. Quit. Start something else; figure out how I could have done it. Quit. Now I do it all on paper. Little scraps. I don't start quilts I just have samples. RS: What did you do to figure out how to do it right? Did you take classes? What did you do? BJ: When I was first working in quilts in the mid sixties there were no quilts, no classes, no teachers, basically no books. There were only a few resources and none of them were in a library. I really pretty much learned about those books later on but once I got back into it after that five year gap and really got rolling with it I saw an article, on Seminole. At that time quiltmakers were using cardboard templates or bacon liners to make templates, but it was all templates. In the mid to early seventies, there were very well defined ideas about what was "right." It was based on nothing, because there were no books, no teachers, no nothing, but it was a very set idea what was "right." That was, you use templates, you cut things out one by one, you didn't waste fabrics. I worked that way also. Quiltmakers also did Seminole simultaneously. When I saw this little drawing in a magazine, where unfortunately I do not remember, but I saw a little illustration of the strips sewn together. I saw that, I was sitting in my parent's living room. I was in my mid twenties. Sitting in the chair, I remember saw that little diagram and it's like what like Matwell, the psychologist calls a peak experience. Fireworks just went off in my head, because the concept of the strips and all the hundreds of quilt patterns in my head and high school geometry. It just went off. It took about five minutes. It's a biological experience. It's not you know thinking about stuff, it's actually biological, whatever it is. Fireworks in your brain, collision of different branches of information and after that I knew. I just knew. I knew squares and rectangles and diamonds and equilateral triangles. I knew all of this. There was no figuring out, no testing, no seeing what it would work with. It was whole. I put together the Seminole use of strips, the mathematical structure of geometry, and traditional quilt patterns to develop Strip Piercing. RS: The whole concept of strip piecing is that what you're talking about? BJ: Yeah, the whole concept of strip piecing. I did not name Strip Piecing. I called it--let's see, Cutting Board Marking and Strip Sewing. I called it stratus from geology. The strips sewn together. Who later called it Strip Piecing I don't know. But yeah Strip Piecing occurred there in the living room. I just understood the thing as one whole finished method. RS: How did you act on that? BJ: I started proofing it in fabrics because seam allowance play into that. The obvious half inch--I mean a quarter inch on each side or whatever the whole [inaudible.] squares and rectangles, but when you get into diamonds and equilateral triangles and right triangles cut out of strips the seam allowance changes how you do your strips so I start proofing it in strips to see if it worked. I taught classes in adult school and through quilt groups and I went to quilt groups and taught there and I-- RS: When did you start doing that? Do you remember? BJ: Early seventies-- RS: Early seventies. BJ: It was early seventies I was doing that. RS: Where were you doing that? BJ: California. California. I thought, 'Well, if it was interesting to me, maybe the stuff would be interesting to others.' I worked up some drawings and some illustrations and wasn't sure how to go about it, so I went to the library and I asked a librarian how to do a book. Excuse me, I've got this a little bit backwards. First I just worked up some material and I thought I would sell my thirty pages or whatever of hand done stuff. And then as it went, maybe a publisher would be interested. I didn't know people who wrote books and there really weren't books in quiltmaking yet. I mean of current ones. I didn't know how to approach it. I made up those thirty or so pages then I thought, 'Well what do I do?' I went to the library and talked to the librarian. He said, 'Well go the section and see if you can find a book on quilts and do what they do.' So I said, 'No, I don't want to do that. All of the existing books on quilts even though they say it's "how to," they don't tell you how, they talk about quilts.' It's a narrative thing. They talk about and then they show you a finished drawing, but they don't actually step by step tell you how to do it. So I went home and my husband was out in the garage and he had a book open and he was repairing--he knew how to take cars apart and repair them, but American cars. We had a van that time and he--it was a foreign car and he didn't know how to repair it, so he had a book open "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive and Well" or "Step by Step Guide for the Complete Idiot." RS: I know that book. BJ: [laughs.] And I thought, 'My husband is repairing a car. He's taking a car apart by reading a book.' I said, 'That's it. I want that book. I want to do what that book is doing.' I realized what I needed to do was the cook book model. Step one, step two, step three, step four. Couldn't talk about tons methods, it was so new. I couldn't just write a paragraph, show a drawing and show a finished drawing of a quilt. I wasn't doing that. I was using a totally new method and also because of my own abilities and limitations. I wasn't the wordsmith. My way of comfortably working was drawing, so as it turns out I believe, I wrote the first quilting how to book- step by step in words. Step by step in illustrations so that if you were language oriented, you could follow with the words and if you were visually oriented, you could follow with the drawings. You could have done either one independently or have them work together. RS: What's the name of this book? BJ: "Quick Quilting: Make a Quilt this Weekend." That's the book. I took this material and he said, 'Go to the list of publishes in this book and you can send out. You don't have to send your manuscript. You can send one page out of your work and a cover letter and you can ethically send that to multiple book publishers.' So I sent it out to about fifty and then I waited for the response. [RS laughs.] I got back form letter rejections. It was devastating. Here I have this great stuff and nobody was interested. I felt so elated because one day I got a hand written signature on the rejection letter. That was a good day. [RS laughs.] I use to go to the--I just couldn't stand the suspense. I used to go to the movie house and just watch movies in the daytime to kill time. [laughs.] You know waiting, waiting. RS: For the mailman to come? BJ: Yeah, for the mailman to come home. Really. [laughs.] These rejections were all strung out over weeks. I know they're just inundated with book proposals. You give them something totally new and they don't know that it's new. They don't know what they're looking at. So one day I got a letter that says they were sending a contract. I was just jumping up and down. A contract. They said that they were going to send a contract. The person who did it was at a book fair in Frankfort, Germany and when he came back they would send the contract. So now it was like I still had these thirty pages and I didn't know what to do. I thought, 'I have to have a book.' [laughs.] You know a manuscript. I looked in the local offerings and I thought I better take a class on how to write a book. [laughs.] So I signed up for this class and I went there and all these people were telling their little brief intro thing, you know, 'I get up and four in the morning and write.' I'm not a writer at all. I develop methods. I'm a visual person. A visual mathematician if you will. Not a writer. I just told them I had a book contract and I need in a hurry how to learn to compose the information. [RS laughs.] I knew what I wanted to do but I didn't really know how to write it. The class did not work out for me obviously. I just did it on my own. [laughs.] More drawings, more drawings not so much writing. RS: What publisher was this? BJ: [inaudible.] RS: Did you have an editor to help you through the process? BJ: I wish. No, they said, 'Just send off what you've got. We'll take a look at it. The thirty or forty pages. We'll have someone help you with it.' So they just said, 'Send more stuff. Somebody will work on it.' So I got it up, you know fluffed it up. My mom went over, edited it for me. Typed it up. Sent off this lot of hand geometric drawings that had been drawn. There was no working with me. There was no checking my work. There was no editing. There was no redrawing. Some of my stuff was in multiple colors. My drawings. I wanted to show this line. RS: You didn't get to look at your galley proofs? BJ: They just printed the stuff. They just took photocopies of my hand drawn geometric drawings. They even photographed in black and white the stuff in color referring to doing the black lines first, the blue lines second, the red lines third. I wanted them to either do that in color or I'd redraw it. It just says that stuff right there. I was so embarrassed. RS: The book came out? BJ: Yeah I was horribly embarrassed, but it was their best selling book. Other people have told me it was the best selling quilt book of 1976, our bicentennial year. I've gotten used to it. RS: Did you ever reproduce the book with more modern graphics and galley proofs and things like that? BJ: Well that was '76 and then I redid the book in '79, revised it. I did a lot of really outrageous things in the book because I made up all the rules as I went along. There were no tools to work with, no rotary cutters, none of those wonderful acrylic rulers, no self-healing cutting mate, I had to use the dressmaker's cutters board. That cardboard thing and the lines across that fold are a eighth of an inch smaller the spaces. I just put big X's through everything in that was in that space and chucked them because they were inaccurate. I used yardsticks and that plastic ruler with slits in it I borrowed from sewing, but it wasn't accurate enough. Then I went to drafting, I mean architect supplies, because they were accurate. It wasn't until maybe ten years later that the market started responding and making plastic tools to go with my method. The tools were developed after the methods created a need for them. At least ten years and I've forgotten what you really asked me and started proceeding with stuff. RS: No, that's okay. BJ: What did you ask me? I don't remember. RS: Something about revising your book-- BJ: Oh yeah revising the book. Okay-- RS: I just wonder if it has one edition or does it has more editions? BJ: No. No. That was theirs and they-- RS: They own the book basically? BJ: They owned the second book too. I mean the writer's first refusal on the second one. Since they weren't paying me anyway I--we made an agreement where the right would revert to me and then they wouldn't have to pay me, but they weren't paying me, so it didn't matter. I rewrote it. I told people to do things like rip that fabric. Use half inch seams. Use ball point pens to mark. I mean this was really freewheeling stuff, went from borrowing from sewing into the drafting tools. You know, refining methods. Added Quarter Square Triangles, which is a totaling different way of working. Not strip piecing method for log cabins. Many other people also came out with books in '79. "The Quick Quiltmaking Handbook." Other people learned from my first book. I think there were five books on Strip Piecing by now that came out with my second book in '79. RS: Were you the person that came up with the formula on half square triangles? You add seven eighths inches? BJ: Oh yes. I was going to say no because I thought you were going to say, 'Did I come up with half square triangle first?' And I did not. RS: I'm talking about the mathematics. BJ: The mathematics. I guess I did. I put numbers to all of those things. I believe that I did. Yeah. RS: Okay. Okay. BJ: Matter of fact in my last book I go through some little thing, I don't remember what I called it, but something was seven eighths. "Anything but Eighths." How people like to avoid the--I must be the one guilty for that. [laughs.] Don't like to deal with seven eighths and then the increasing when I use the grid cause it's three and seven eighths on the first one and then add three and seven eights to that then you had a whatever it is in three quarters. Was marking the cutting board with all these different colors so you pre-marked it so yeah I'm guilty of that. [laughs.] RS: It's just used in a lot of beginning quiltmaking classes. BJ: Well it is, because it's accurate. RS: Exactly. BJ: I never liked that marking whole in inches and take what was it? A "fat" quarter inch. [RS laughs.] Accurate, accurate. RS: Do you still teach quilting classes? BJ: No. No. I was at the market here for the first two. Karey asked me to teach here. I met her in San Francisco and listened to her. I knew she'd pull this off from a running start, no gradual anything. I used to teach. I don't anymore. I see this as a partnership. I devise the methods and other people make the beautiful quilts. There are many people who teach my methods. And I leave it to them. RS: They teach through your book I assume or-- BJ: A few do. RS: The Crystal Piecing book I think, is that your current book now? BJ: That's my lasted book. It's "Barbara Johannah's Crystal Piecing." That is accumulation of all of the methods going back dealing with more modern tools and doing things in more depth like dealing with the seven eighths that people don't like to deal with, but trying to go through half a dozen way of doing it to give people choices. It works with Crystal Piecing, which I actually had in my very first book in '76, but apparently absolutely no one picked up on it, because that was the particular one that I had done in the blue pen, red pen and the black pen. With it all in black of course the blue and the red didn't pick up photographically very well. [RS laughs.] It just laid there dormant. All my other ideas, people have after a period of time picked up on it and published their own works on it. That just laid dormant from seventy six. I was always sorry, and then when I did this book on Crystal Piecing, 'Well great, there it is. I get to do it next.' [laughs.] I can be the second one to do my own work. It is the second way of basically working with piecing. I want to credit Ernest Haight, with the very cryptic little drawing but he marked wholecloth. He actually didn't square it that way too. He did not Strip Piece as evidence by his booklet or his quilts. He worked what I called wholecloth, what I call Crystal Piecing. Where you mark the whole piece and then you sew it to a second, and then cut it apart. The things that I've done in my latest book, "Barbara Johannah's Crystal Piecing," are trying to take it further than the Snowball is the traditional pattern that can be worked this way. I've worked from there and go through the Snowball and the Half Square Triangle, Quarter Square Triangle and then go into what are new patterns where you can actually have marked and sewn, where you cut through both layers and then you cut through just the top layer and open it up, then you open it up and you have three, four, five eighths whatever number of pieces presewn together. I like the math of it, but it's a way for other quilters to explore new patterns that they can create themselves. It's really new territory even though I did it in 1976. It's still pretty new. I have never gotten used to quilters not adapting these ideas quickly. First it was the battle with templates. The piecing which you can't see how it was done. Then it was machine quilting, which you can see. The beginning it was like that because, well, it was a machine. Well, of course, now I look in the display here and it seems like a large percentage of the quilts here are machine quilted. It's not just accepted it's celebrated to do quilting on a machine. Now I'm back to piecing again. It takes a long time for people to accept new ways of working and it's always limiting. RS: You're a little bit ahead of the curve. Way ahead of the curve. BJ: I would say I make the curve. If I had been later it wouldn't have made any difference. I mean the sewing machine was invented in the 1850s. We've been doing Seminole since the seventies revival. I really don't know when but for a long time they were doing it simultaneous. Then in the 1970's, I develop Strip Piecing. I don't know, maybe it had occurred to other people. I heard other people Strip Pieced squares. I've never seen it. No one has ever shown me a sample. No one has ever showed me a publication. I do believe that it probably existed in some form. It just seems that somebody must have done it somewhere. [RS: Yeah.]I have talked to a few people who are knowledgeable and that I trust, that say they have a relative that did squares Stripped Pieced, so it probably existed in some form--some beginning kind of form. RS: We've been talking here a lot about your personal involvement in quilting and your innovated strategies for dealing with piecing and quilting. What we like to do in these interview is take it beyond this into generally like--what do you think makes a great quilt? When you see a quilt and say its great what are the aspects of a great quilt? BJ: These are going to be really idiosyncratic because I don't think in color and for most quilters that's the main event, the color. What design they used to bring out the color. I think of it as a surface approach. For me I look inside the quilt at the structure itself. I don't see what other quilters see. I see--it's very difficult to explain, but on the most rudimentary level I would just say I see maybe lines, but I see much deeper than that. I like to look at the structure of quilts that are like this one that I brought that are to me mathematically perfect in their design. I look for order. I want to see behind the quilt. I don't know if this quote is exactly right, both Galileo and Goethe said that in various ways that mathematics was the language with which God has written the universe and that's how I see it. There is an underlying mathematical structure to quilts. That's the part that I enjoy. I like seeing quilts that have a lot of order to it. RS: If you were going to choose a museum or a special collection, what kind of quilt would you choose? Why would you choose it and what kind? BJ: I don't have any idea because I deal with the invisible. With ideas. Not--I left the quilt as a finished product a long time ago. I don't really--I make simple quilts still, but for me it takes too long to make the quilt. So my thinking process has shortened and shortened and shortened. I don't spend time thinking about the finished product so much so as far as the perfect quilt to go in a museum, I don't think so. I'll leave that to others. RS: Okay. I don't see how these questions fit then. What do you think makes a great quilter? I mean a quilter, a piecer and then a quilter. BJ: [ten second pause.] I don't know. It's just not something that I think about. It's outside of my area. I really am strictly devise the methods that other quilters use to make quilts, used to teach the classes, used to write books about. It really to me is a partnership. I develop the methods and they do the other parts. RS: Well there's a question here about how you feel about machine quilting and hand quilting and long arm quilting. You might have answered it already but do you want to expand on that? BJ: Not really. Sure. I, in the beginning, when I came up with these methods, I never thought of them as a replacement for hand work, never, because I come from a hand work background. It is something that I like. I see them as just different avenues. Different ways of working and for different uses. I saw this originally, long before the art quilt artists as a way of making practical quilts, quilts that people would use. Because at the beginning of the quilt revival quilters were making quilts, but because so much went into them, they weren't being used and they couldn't make very many so they had such a high value on them that they were impractical. I saw these methods as a way of putting quilts on people's beds and actually as a help to hand work. I was really alarmed when people started cranking out cookie cutter quilts. It took me a while for me to realize that was the learning curve. Everybody made a nine patch. Literally made identical quilts, but that was the learning curve. As far as long arm, I think it's great. I heard about the long arm conference. I went to the second one and the third one and those were the--I hadn't been to any kind of quilting show or function in fifteen years and I went there because I wanted to-- RS: When was that? BJ: I think they're up now up to their fifth. I think they just had their fifth but I went to-- RS: So three years ago you went to their conference? BJ: Yes. RS: '98. BJ: Yeah probably somewhere about there. I know it was wonderful because back at the quilt revival when there was long arm doing commercial work for decorators making bed spreads and then the few people who did tops and would have what I really thought of a mattress pads. Irrelevant designs. I mean make a Lone Star and then put rows of ivy going across it? A desecration. You do quilting that enhances the piecing and quilters were over in one camp and the long armers in another and it was totally different and not aware of each other. Continuous Curved quilting is one of the main forces for bringing together these two groups, because you could now have machine quilting that was done so that it enhanced piecing, so you had something that could be done on a long arm machine that quilters would accept. So from there then once quilters accept that you can quilt on a long arm machine there are the corners. Do a traditional look Continuous Curve quilting gives you then from there it's just a progression to accept freer forms of working within the shapes geometrically to then doing free form things. Yeah, I'm really pleased. It's wonderful. Long arm is just a tool, just like a sewing machine is a tool. RS: Have you tried using one? BJ: I haven't tried it but unfortunately I live in California. In my imagination I'd put that thing in my living room. I'd put it in the master bedroom. I was going to give up any room in the house and it would barely fit. You need to shorten it. I wanted a custom made short one. [RS laughs.] So California is too expensive to have a-- RS: Have a room for it? BJ: Have a room for it. Truly it is. [RS laughs.] So I don't know where machine wise it's going to go. Maybe there is some kind of hybrid thing. I see John Flynn down there with a little unit you can use with your home sewing machine. I saw anther one, a name I don't remember, where you put up your own sewing machine and have it work. Both the top and the bottom of a smaller piece--[tape ends.]


“Barbara Johannah,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 21, 2024,