Jan Eyman




Jan Eyman




Jan Eyman


Norma Belt

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Cherrywood Fabrics (Karla Overland)


Greenville, Illinois


Norma Belt


Note: Jan Eyman is not a member of the DAR. However, membership within the DAR is not required for participation.

Norma Belt (NB): Jan, can you tell me about yourself?

Jan Eyman (JE): What would you like to know?

NB: Your name, your age, when you first started quilting and your occupation.

JE: My name is Jan Eyman. I'm 67 years old, and I started quilting when I was in my 40's. Basically, I have been a homemaker all my life. I did teach Home Economics for about 3 years and worked in Extension for a year.

NB: Tell me about the quilt that you brought in today, who made it and describe it.

JE: The quilt I brought today was made for me by my grandmother, my mother's mother. [Louisa Marshall Marr.] She made one for each of her 7 grandchildren. I don't know that any of the others are really still held by the family members. She made it when I was probably before I was 10 so that would have been in the 40's. I call it a "Water Lily." I don't know the true name of it. It is pieced and appliqu├ęd. It is made with calicos or prints of that era, with green leaves and stems and a neutral background. It's all hand pieced and hand quilted.

NB: Why did you choose to bring this quilt today?

JE: My grandmother was very special to me and she made it for me and I that's why thought I wanted to have a record of it somewhere. She was a quilter who I took my inspiration from. My mother was not a quilter. I don't remember her quilting, but I do have some of her quilts.

NB: How do you use this quilt?

JE: The quilt is a double bed size or smaller, so I used it as a child. Since then I keep it on a bed when the bed is not in use just to preserve it.

NB: What are your plans for this quilt?

JE: It will go to some family member, I'm not sure who. I have no daughters or granddaughters. I'm not sure our son would probably not want me to leave it to him, so it will probably go to a great, great niece.

NB: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

JE: I've always been fascinated with quilts. I enjoyed seeing them and as I grew up, we used them on the beds. I guess when they started to be popular again in the 70's, I started seeing them in magazines and different places and since I always enjoyed needlework, it kind of sparked my interest. In the early 80's, my mother gave me money to buy material to make a quilt and that's when it all started.

NB: Did you learn to quilt from your grandmother?

JE: No, I really didn't. As I say, I may have seen her quilting and knew she quilted, but actually, I did not have her to teach me. I more or less learned by reading and trying and doing. I did take some classes in the mid 80's. At Blackburn College, they had a quilting symposium and little did I know, I was taking a class with someone who would become nationally known later.

NB: How man hours a week do you quilt?

JE: You mean actually quilt or quilt activities? [laughs.]

NB: Quilt activities.

JE: I always do something every day that pertains to quilting in some way. It may be looking at a magazine. It may be piecing. It may be trying to select fabric or stitching a few stitches on the machine. I'm not a hand piecer; I'm a machine piecer, so the sewing machine gets used a lot.

NB: Would you say how many hours?

JE: At least a couple of hours a day.

NB: What is your first quilting memory?

JE: My first memory is sleeping under them. In the 40's you did not have many blankets and we slept under them. I can remember that my mother put special quilts on the bed when we were having company.

NB: Are there other quiltmakers among your family and friends and tell me about them.

JE: As I said my grandmother was a quilter and my mother did not. I have a cousin that is three years younger than I am and in the 90's we started going to Paducah together to the quilt show. We have this common interest in quilting. She's one in the family who does a lot of quilting. I have made friends though quilting. A lot of people I would not have gotten to know if we didn't have a common interest in quilting. And I continue to do that today. Other family members, I have a great niece who is only 8 years old, but she has already made a quilt block with her grandmother who quilts, so there are other family member who touch on it but that's about it.

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

JE: Personally, I have not. I know a lot of women do. It's therapeutic for them, but I have not had that experience.

NB: What do you find pleasing about quiltmaking?

JE: I enjoy the piecing and the designing more than I do the actual quilting of it but I do like to hand quilt. I hand quilt with a group on one raffle quilter spring and I enjoy being with the other women as well as the process of sewing but if I had my choice it would spend more time on the piecing than making of the quilts.

NB: What aspects of quiltmaking do you not enjoy?

JE: The one that I enjoy the least because I hand quilt is the basting of the quilt in preparation for hand quilting. It's a necessity but not something I enjoy. [laughs.]

NB: I need to stop and make sure--[tape recorder is shut off.] What do you think makes a great quilt?

JE: I think a great quilt has "wow power.' When you see it you just go 'WOW!' [NB coughs.] As you look at it closer, you see different details that make it have that look. Workmanship is great.

NB: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

JE: Again I think it has to have that spark that really catches your attention; it makes you want to look closer at it. I wish I knew how that happened. I would try it more often. It's just there and when you see the quilt you recognize that it's really a great quilt.

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

JE: I think that varies with what they are looking for in a museum. It might be the example of a particular type of quilting, an example of a particular person's work; it might be that it is just a 'Wow' quilt. It might show how a person progressed through her years of quilting and it has a place in that line so it depends [NB coughs.] on what they are trying to show with their museum collection.

NB: What makes a great quilter?

JE: I think a great quilter would have to have very good technical skills, how she does her quilting. Her quilting would be very how. She also has an eye for color and design that stands out and that makes the quilt unique. Other than that, I don't know what to say.

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

JE: I think some have that innately when they get into quilting they have an eye for design and color. Others say that they use pictures or fabric and draw the color combinations from some other designer in that way. The greatest ones I imagine have that naturally.

NB: How do you feel about machine vs. hand quilting?

JE: I'm basically a hand quilter but I see that there's nothing wrong with machine quilting. If you've ever tried to machine quilting, you realize that there's a lot of effort and skill. It's nothing that you can just go to the machine and whip out a quilt. I respect a good machine quilter. People who have 'trouble' with machine quilting do not seem to have problems with the other innovations in quilting such as rotary cutters, the better fabrics, the templates and all that. So I do not see why they have trouble with a machine quilter.

NB: What about longarm quilting?

JE: I think again it is not something that you just go to the machine and do. It requires a great deal of skill. Again you have to know what pattern to use to enhance the quilt. I believe it is something we will see more and more of. I have had a quilt long arm quilters and was very pleased with it. I see nothing wrong with it.

NB: Why is quiltmaking important in your life?

JE: It is something I enjoy doing. It is something as I said before has given me the chance to meet lots of different people who have a common interest. Make friends. It takes up a big part of my life, because I find it pleasing to do.

NB: I like that. In what ways do your quilts reflect you community or region?

JE: What little I have observed there seems to be some type of quilts that are better liked in certain areas certain quilts are better liked in some areas. For example the community where I help with the raffle quilt, there quilt is always embroidered then set together with either a print or a solid and they always put Prairie Points on the edge. I never experienced Prairie Points until I got down to this area and was working with this group. So I think there's either a choice of type of quilt or I've noticed with one particular quilter that she usually uses very subtle colors. Things like that when you really watch they seem to come out again and again with certain quilters.

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

JE: I think they show some of our history especially for textiles through the years. I think they also show what women have had to use. What I mean by hand is what they had available to use for them to express themselves. Today they are more of a craft, not a necessity but I think they still have an important part in our life.

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

JE: Again I think you can trace textiles through quilts. I think you can also see how much effort was needed to just make bedding for families and later crazy quilts were made by women who had more leisure time. It shows what women were experiencing through the years.

NB: How can quilts be used?

JE: I'm not sure I understand what the question means there. Used to--

NB: I was thinking about used like wall hangings, etc.

JE: Of course quilts can be used for bedding. They can be used to decorate in your home. They can be used to express your interests in an area. They are used as gifts.

NB: How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

JE: You select the quilts that you want to preserve. A good way to preserve them is to give them to a museum, but you must be sure the museum wants them and has the facilities to take care of them and think that they are worthy of being preserved. In the family, all you can do is hope that you educate the family that they are valuable, that there is a history there and that they are worth preserving. Then I think that you have to make sure that they understand how to preserve, not to put in plastic or in a cedar chest, but to keep on a bed.

NB: What has happened to the quilts that you have made for family and friends?

JE: In my family, the quilts that we have inherited, we're trying to take care of them and preserve them. I think we also need to put a label on them, so people know who made them and when. I'm guilty of not doing that either so I have to. Most of the ones I have made, I still have. I don't know what will happen to them in the future.

NB: That concludes our interview and what did that take about 45 minutes?

JE: Probably.

[tape ends.]


“Jan Eyman,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 19, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1738.