LaJuana Handschin




LaJuana Handschin




La Juana Handschin


Dorothy Burleigh

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Anne Davies Sommerville


Lafayette, Louisiana


La Juana Handschin


Dorothy Burleigh (DB): This study is January 21, 2009. It is 11:40. I am conducting an interview with La Juana Handschin in Lafayette, Louisiana for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are going through the American Heritage Committee of the Louisiana Society State Daughters of the American Revolution. La Juana Handschin is a quilter and is a member of Galvez Chapter. La Juana tell me about the quilt you brought in today.

La Juana Handschin (LH): This is a quilt that I made for my latest grandson, Keegan Paul Handschin. He was born in July, and I took the design kinda from a book that I saw that, then I had to make adjustments and it is mostly my design.

DB: Why did you choose to bring this quilt to the interview?

LH: I've only made two quilts in my lifetime and this is the second one and the other one I had given to my godchild who lives in Tennessee, and it was kind of hard to get that one back.

DB: How is this quilt used?

LH: Well I hope that is used to cover the baby when he is sleeping, but most of the time I just see it laying over the side of the crib so that other people can see it when they come in because it has special meaning to the parents and it was made by me, but I also used some materials that I had from when my grandmother died. She had a box in her closet with my name on it and in that box was some pieces of a quilt that she was going to make for me. And so I received those pieces from her and regrettably I've never [laughs.] finished the quilt that she had started for me, but I took some of the material from that quilt and I used it along with some material that I had gotten from my mother and I made the little bowtie on the frog from my grandmother's material and from my mother's material and to just kind of tell you how old the material was, my grandmother died in 1965 and my mother is 97. I also asked my daughter-in-law for, daughter-in-law's mother, if she had a piece of material that was her mother's or grandmother's. And she did have some material from her mother that she gave me and used that in the little spots on the ladybug. I presented the quilt to them two days after Keegan Paul was born because I had to come home and put in the date he was born and also his birth weight and his length and then I had to finish closing up that end of the quilt and quilting it. When I gave it to Jennifer and Jason, I had written a note that was attached to the quilt that told about the material from the grandmothers, and great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers. And it just so happened that all of her family was there, and our family was there. It was just a coincidence when I brought the quilt for the baby to be brought home in. And she started crying and I started crying. [laughs.] And so, it was not only very sentimental, but it was also a history because it lists his name, his father's name, his mother's name, his sister's name and his date of birth, and his weight and length.

DB: You do know that the quilt is being used though, don't you?

LH: Yes, I do because when I went to get it, I could tell that it had been washed and I saw some places that I saw that I need to mend. [laughs.]

DB: That makes you feel good though doesn't it to know that it has been used?

LH: Yes, it really does and that it is not just laying there on the side or put in a drawer. It is good that is being used and hopefully some year his child will use it. I probably won't be around to make one for that child. [laughs.]

DB: Do you think that somebody looking at the quilt would know something about you?

LH: Well, maybe just the fact that I am the grandmother because I did put my name on it and that--

DB: I think it tells you something about, about you about your interest in genealogy.

LH: Oh, well I am very interested in genealogy, and I want my children to know where they came and who were their ancestors. I think maybe by this they will, if it is passed down to other generations that they'll know who this person was.

DB: But you've only made two quilts, how old were you when you first became interested in quilt making?

LH: Well, I used to sit around and watch my mother and grandmother and her friends who would come over and we'd have a big quilting frame set up in the living room and they'd be lined up on each side. So, I was probably about 5 or 6 maybe when I first saw them making quilts and thinking it might be something that I'd want to do later on.

DB: Did you use the quilts that your mother and grandmother made?

LH: Oh yes I used them so much that some of them, regrettably I used them so much that some of them have come apart and I had to repair them and put them back together and I just use them as coverlets now and we, we're not allowed to sit on them or do any of that other stuff that you used to do with your quilts like lay on the grass or whatever.

DB: Do you ever use quilts to get through a difficult time?

LH: No, I don't think so.

DB: You don't ever just wrap up in a quilt?

LH: Well, I do sometimes just to keep warm, but not for memories or sentimental reasons.

DB: Have you ever taught quilt making?

LH: Oh, no. I'm the one who they are having to teach me. [laughs.]

DB: What, what do you find pleasing about quilt making?

LH: Really for me it's the expression on the people's face when I give it to them.

DB: The end project, the quilt itself?

LH: Right, it's not because the two that I have made, I've given both away, and I still hear from the one that I gave away 35 years ago that they are passing it on to their children which is something.

DB: Great. Great. Have advances there been advances in technology that have influenced your work?

LH: Oh, definitely because beforehand everything had to be pieced by hand and now you can, you know, sew things on the sewing machine and to me they stay together a lot better than the ones where that is just hand sewn unless it was really well hand sewn.

DB: Where did you do your quilting?

LH: At home. My husband likes to watch TV and I'm not a big TV person so while he was watching TV I would quilt. I could, I had to have the pieces cut out and everything beforehand but just the actual quilting I did by hand, and I would do that while I was sitting there with him watching TV.

DH: Quilting was not a big part of your life. It's something that you went in and did once and then you were finished with it.

LH: Right, it's not something that I do all the time.

DB: How did you make time to do this then?

LH: That was another problem. Finding time to do this. I'm involved with a lot of volunteer work and so I'm not home a lot. And I felt like I needed to be, dedicate just a day of the week that I would do just quilting. And that was cutting out the pieces, putting them together and trying to make them fit [laughs.] and sometimes it would take a whole day to do one block because I could not get the stuff to fit right. [laughs.]

DB: Was it the Pinwheel that challenged to you?

LH: Oh, the Pinwheel took me; I can't tell you how many days. I finally ended up taking the pinwheel with me to a little reunion. We were doing genealogy work in Jefferson, Texas and my sister from Oklahoma and my cousin from Texas met me there. And I told them before we left, we had to--they had to help me get the pinwheels in order and I had to pin them so that when I got back home, I could figure out to do the other ones. And I'll tell you it didn't take us just 5 minutes to do it. But sometimes if you have another pair of eyes that look at it then you can, they can see it better than you can. It took us about an hour, but we finally got it all fixed together.

DB: Well, did you have a picture or a book to, to begin your quilt design or did you just sketch it out?

LH: No, I had a book that, I had looked through a bunch of quilting books and I saw one at the quilt store. And I purchased the book, and I started out using the instructions and then when that didn't work for me, I just decided to make it my own and keep, keep it going because I knew it was going to be a one-of-a-kind quilt anyway and so it was going to be my quilt how I could quilt it and make it stay.

DB: I like the idea that you have used pleasing colors for a baby, pastels and yet not just a traditional pink and blue.

LH: Yeah, I think babies' kind of sometimes like to see a bright color and there is a bright green in there that would make them kind of look towards that corner, but then the others are kind of soft and soothing and that was kind of the idea I was going for was soft and soothing.

DB: You knew that this was being made for a little boy?

LH: Not when I first started. I started this in January which is when we found out that we were going to have a new grandbaby. And I thought well that way if I choose all these different colors that it won't matter if it's a boy or a girl. Except then when I got to the little figures then I thought the little animals on here are more like a little boy than they are a little girl. Cause there is frogs, snails, and that type of little animal instead of flowers and butterflies and things for little girls.

DB: I like the border that you used, too, angular rather than curves for a boy.

LH: Well, that, someone had, they are called points. And someone had told me that that was what babies would hold on to was the little points and maybe hold them up to their little cheeks and you know snuggle up to go to sleep with. And they also had told me, ‘Why on earth did you do that that's something that's hard,' and I thought that was one of the more simple things on the edge of the quilt.

DB: You did hand quilt your quilt didn't you?

LH: Yes, I did. I did not have a frame either which is probably one of the reasons it's not real tight or real tiny stitches. I just held it in my lap, and I did the stitching and I made up my own design around the edges. I knew that I had to have something in that wide space there between the blocks to hold the cotton or batting in there and so I just kind of did a triangle all up and down the, the side to hold the material in.

DB: Do you think that it's fair to do machine quilting?

LH: Oh yes. I think that's great. I just didn't want to do that myself. I wanted to do the hand quilting. I know lots of people who do that, and they make quilts in a very short span of time and I'm sure that they last for a long time, too.

DB: Do you have a, have any ideas about the importance of quilts in American life?

LH: I know the importance of the quilts [coughs.] that it made in my life. And the ones that my grandmother made for me and the ones that my mother made, and my sister has made one and I know they had a great significance for me but that was what we used for cover because we didn't have anything else. You laid in bed, and they piled the quilts on you. One, two, three, four, five however many it took to get you warm and that's how you slept at night. Just straight. That does bring back memories. You could not move all night long because you had so many quilts on you. [laughs.]

DB: How do you think quilts are being used today?

LH: I really don't think they are being used for cover or to keep warm. I think most people use ‘em for show. And they either hang them up or hang them on the walls or some use ‘em like I use some of mine for coverlets for the bed.

DB: They're for decoration you are saying?

LH: Right and not necessarily for warmth.

DB: Tell me about your last quilt that you purchased?

LH: That I purchased?

DH: Uh huh.

LH: I don't think I've ever purchased a quilt.

DB: Yes, you did. You showed it to me. It's the OU [Oklahoma University.].

LH: Oh. The lap cover. Yeah. I'm from Oklahoma and I'm a big Oklahoma University fan. And I had gone to visit my mother for Christmas this year and we had gone to eat lunch at Cracker Barrel. And while I was there, I always go to their percent off sale, and they had 40% off on their OU lap robes. And they only had one left and we were in Texas. So, I told my sister, ‘I'm buying this. I don't have anything that's Oklahoma University,' and I said, ‘That's where I grew up and that's part of my life.' So, I said, ‘I'm buying this and taking it home.'

DB: Are you an alumni of OU?

LH: No.

DB: It's just Oklahoma.

LH: It's just Oklahoma. Just part of, reminded me of where I came from.

DB: What's the biggest challenge for quiltmakers today?

LH: I think really, it's because it's finding time to do it. That's what I think would be my--

DB: I would agree. It's time. La Juana, is there something else you would like to add to this interview?

LH: Well, I just think that it is very important that the history is preserved, and I think that by people making quilts, I would call this a memory quilt, that has their birth date and the names of the people in their family would be something that could be passed down. And I think that that is something that, that is important to the later generations that are coming along. And I hope the other people that make their quilts that they sign them and put the date on them so that other people who we think we are going to remember things for the rest of our lives, but we don't and we don't remember the date that some things were done. When we go back to even look at the old photographs, we see that we don't remember who those people are because their names aren't written on the back. And I think that that's important when you are doing a quilt is to put your name on it. And to put the date so that someone later on maybe 100 years from now will say oh look my great grandmother made this quilt. And I just think that that's important part of preserving history.

DB: I think that you are encouraged by the first quilt that you gave away 35 years ago is being handed down to the babies and grandbabies from that family.

LH: Right. The, the first one that I had ever made was our only godchild and he lived in Tennessee, and I lived in Oklahoma. It was a quilt kind of like the one that I made except that I embroidered little animals on it. I didn't do appliqué. I embroidered little animals, but I put his name on it. I put his mother and dad and he had a big brother. And I put the date that he was born and all that, but I did a yellow quilt because I didn't know if--back then you didn't know if it was going to be a boy or a girl. And so, it was just a boy.

DB: Yellow would be acceptable with either.

LH: Right. Yellow would go with either. But he is, he had a son this year and he gave it, he gave the little quilt, they brought the baby home the, in his baby quilt.

DB: I hope they'll take a picture of it to put with the quilt to add to the providence.

LH: I'm probably sure they do ‘cause they're camera crazy. [laughs.] I get pictures all the time. I'll just have to look to make, to see if they did, but for something that I didn't sew on the sewing machine. I hand did it myself. It's held together really well for 35 years.

DB: Great. I'd like to thank you La Juana for allowing me to interview you today as a part of the Quilters' S. O. S. - Save Our Stories. Our interview concluded at noon on January 21, 2009.


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