Brenda Theims




Brenda Theims




Brenda Theims


Norma Belt

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Cherrywood Fabrics (Karla Overland)


Greenville, Illinois


Norma Belt


Norma Belt (NB): This is Norma Belt. Today is March 9, 2007 and I am interviewing Brenda Thiems [spells the name out.] for Save Our Stories Quilts [Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories.] Brenda can you tell me about yourself?

Brenda Thiems (BT): I'm 50 years old, married to a farmer and I have one daughter, Rachel. She's 19. I'm a Registered Nurse and I work at home.

NB: Now what is the next one I need to ask you. Tell me about the quilt you brought in today.

BT: This was the first quilt that I have made. It's a 40" by 40" wall hanging. It was made in honor of my nephew, Mark Miles, who has been stationed in Iraq.

NB: What type of pattern is it?

BT: It's a sampler quilt. It is a Jacob's Ladder, Ohio Star, Log Cabin there were four but I can't remember.

NB: Did I write them down there?

BT: Jacob's Ladder, Log Cabin, Ohio Star, and Nine Patch. And the border is Flying Geese.

NB: Is it made of cotton?

BT: Yes, 100% cotton with a cotton batting.

NB: What special meaning does this quilt have for you?

BT: It is in honor of my nephew, Mark, who like I said was stationed over in Iraq and it was a gift that I made to my daughter and it was my first effort at trying to learn to quilt.

NB: How does Rachel use this quilt?

BT: She uses it for a wall hanging in her room.

NB: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

BT: [5 second pause.] I've always liked quilts and my aunt and my great aunt have made quilts throughout the years. And I thought they were pretty and I found a quiltmaking class at Jackson's Fabric Store. I wanted to learn how to quilt so I signed up and took the class.

NB: How old were you when you took the class?

BT: 49.

NB: How many hours a week do you quilt?

BT: Not enough. Two to three hours a day then during farming season it gets put on hold until the crops are either growing or winter harvest is over.

NB: What is your first quilting memory?

BT: I just remember when I was younger watching my other relatives quilt. I always thought that would be a fun thing to do.

NB: Tell me about the other quiltmakers in your family or friends.

BT: My aunt Ruth Holdren lives in Seattle. She does a lot of quilting. My great aunt, Frances Ganzer lives at Old Ripley and she has made many quilts.

NB: How does quiltmaking impact your family?

BT: My family enjoys using my quilts and it is a legacy that I want to leave my daughter and hopefully my grandchildren someday.

NB: Have you ever used quilts to get through a difficult time?

BT: We used extra quilts on the beds during power failures in the winter. That's a difficult time.

NB: What do you find pleasing about quiltmaking?

BT: The sense of accomplishment when the binding is finally finished and attached to the quilt and it's ready to use.

NB: What aspects of quiltmaking do you not enjoy?

BT: Cleaning up the mess of scraps, bits of thread and putting everything back in order.

NB: What do you think makes a great quilt?

BT: Colors that go well together, pleasing to the eye, and a design that catches your eye.

NB: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

BT: Balance, design and color.

NB: What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or special collection?

BT: Quilts with an unusual design from a specific time period, or one of a kind quilt.

NB: What makes a great quilter?

BT: Someone who enjoys quilting. Someone who has the knack and the experience in quiltmaking. Someone who can accurately cut and piece the fabrics together.

NB: How do great quiltmakers learn the art of quilting especially how to design a pattern and choose fabrics and colors?

BT: Lots of time you can learn it from another quiltmaker. Through trial and error. You learn by doing. You can learn from quilt shows on TV and quilt books that you can buy at a quilt store or fabric store.

NB: What do you think about machine vs. hand quilting?

BT: Machine quilting is faster if you're under a time constraint and need to get a project done. Hand quilting is relaxing and it is very personal for special reasons, sort of like a special treat for someone or some project if you have time to do the hand quilting.

NB: Why is quiltmaking important in your life?

BT: It's a way to leave behind something for my daughter and hopefully grandchildren someday and my nieces and nephews. Leave something of me behind after I am gone.

NB: In what way do your quilts reflect your community or region?

BT: Some of mine have rural or patriotic themes. We live in a rural community and we farm so lots of time we'll see tractors or live stock animals in a quilt that I have made and patriotic themes having a nephew stationed in Iraq. I have many generations of soldiers in my family.

NB: What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

BT: Quilts can reflect the time period when they were made. An example is when quilts used to be made of feedsacks and made out of old clothes and when the country is involved in a war many patriotic fabrics are available--more so than when we are at peace time.

NB: In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history in America?

BT: Quilts are thing that we can leave for our family after we are gone. Quilting bees help bring women together and have a social time. Often times when they are together making quilts, they will be hand quilting a raffle quilt to raise money for a need in their area.

NB: How can quilts be preserved for the future?

BT: Use care in laundering. Take pictures of the quilts. Record on the back of the picture about the quilt. Use quality fabrics and batting that will last longer than poor fabrics and poor batting. Make labels with information about the story of the quilt.

NB: What has happened to the quilts you made or those of family and friends?

BT: My daughter has all of them right now that I have made so far. The ones that we have inherited we still have and we're keeping them. We will pass them on to our daughter someday. My husband has a special quilt that was started by his grandmother. She died before the quilt was completed and Grandpa remarried. The step grandmother completed the quilt for him.

NB: Do you have anything else you would like to add this interview?

BT: No I don't.

NB: [laughs and tape recorder is turned off.]


“Brenda Theims,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 18, 2024,