Beverly Cleaver




Beverly Cleaver




Beverly Cleaver


Kathyrn Z. Nicodemus

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Walkersville, Maryland


Kathryn Z. Nicodemus


Kathryn Nicodemus (KN): My name is Kathryn Z. Nicodemus and today's date is November 24, 2009, at approximately 2:00 p.m. I am conducting an interview with Beverly J. Cleaver in Crumland Farms at Homewood for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Maryland State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Beverly J. Cleaver is a quilter and is a member of the Frederick Chapter. Beverly, tell me about the quilt you are going to talk about today.

Beverly Cleaver (BC): Well, I decided to make a quilt, because I helped preserve some other quilts in my family, and I decided to make one for myself. I have a king-sized bed, so I tackled a very large sized quilt.

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

BC: Well, I thought it was a challenge to make and fun to do. I took a class and I also worked with a girlfriend of mine who helped assemble it and even my husband helped with making the little triangles for the quilt.

KN: Why did you choose this quilt and what is its name?

BC: It is “The Flying Geese” quilt and I chose it because it is a quilt, I made in 1988 and I call it my summer quilt since I live in Maryland, and I do use it on the bed.

KN: What do you think someone viewing your quilt might conclude about you? What would they think about you?

BC: They think I must have had a lot of spare time and secondly that I have good eyesight and it took a lot of patience, because it is all hand stitched quilting.

KN: And you say you use this quilt in the summertime. It is a summertime quilt. What are your plans for this quilt? Any other plans other than using it in the summertime on your bed?

BC: No, I will probably give it to one of my children whenever I no longer have a king-sized bed.

KN: Tell me about your interest in quilt making. How did you get started in quilt making?

BC: Well, I started out making a baby quilt for one of my grandsons and that was a lot of fun. I took a class to do that because I did not know how to quilt. Therefore, in that class I only learned in the class to do hand quilting not machine quilting.

KN: At what age did you start quilt making?

BC: I guess I was about middle age.

KN: From whom did you learn to quilt?

BC: I learned from a girlfriend of mine. She was making quilts and she said, ‘Come on, let's make quilts.' We lived in California on the Golf Course together and we were neighbors and so we went to the nearby craft store, learned how to purchase the material and find a pattern we wanted.

KN: Do you quilt now?

BC: No, I am just doing repair work on quilts that are old and need help.

KN: What is your first quilt memory?

BC: My grandmother made quilts for all of our bedding in the 1930's when we lived on a farm in North Dakota. In the wintertime there was a lot of quilting by the neighborhood ladies who would bring scraps and grandmother worked on them. They would sit and piece the quilts together. We did not have electricity, so she had a treadle sewing machine to piece them. There was a Ladies Aid Group, and they would all put it together.

KN: Are there any other quiltmakers among your family and friends? Tell about them.

BC: Nobody else in my family do quilts. I only have one sister, and she passed grandmother's quilt on to me, because she didn't finish it.

KN: Does quilt making impact your family and how?

BC: I made quilts for my two sons and daughter. All my grandchildren had baby quilts.
I particularly like quilts and enjoy them.

KN: I think you made this quilt in a difficult time. Could you tell me about it?

BC: I wasn't planning on having surgery, but I ended up having to have knee surgery. Before I had the knee surgery, I assembled the quilt and had it all finished and ready to quilt because of that I could not quilt on a screen, so I figured out how to do lap quilting. To do lap quilting you have a large embroidery hoop, and I would fasten the portion I was going to work on in the hoop and sit in my chair and hand quilt.

KN: Did you have any amusing experiences in your quilt making? Funny experiences?

BC: No, nothing was funny, but it was fun doing, but there were no sad errors or mistakes that I can recall.

KN: What do you find pleasing about quilt making?

BC: I like to do crafts, other crafts. I have made teddy bears and all kinds of things with material. I have done needlepoint, so I thought I would like to do something different on a larger scale.

KN: What aspect of quilt making do you not enjoy?

BC: I really don't enjoy actually putting the quilt top together. I like to do the stitching afterwards, the needlework after it is together, but it is a lot of work putting it together. I don't think I will do another quilt at my age.

KN: You don't belong to a quilt group now?

BC: No.

KN: Have advances in technology influenced your work? If so, how?

BC: No, because I don't do any machine quilting.

KN: What are your favorite techniques and materials?

BC: The material I like to quilt on regularly is cotton. I don't like lots of flowers. I like geometric signs.

KN: Describe your place where you create your quilts.

BC: My living room most of the time, because it is a large room. I could lay the quilt on the floor and pin it, and get it organized to quilt then I put it on a table.

KN: How do you balance your time when making a quilt?

BC: I had plenty of time because I was recuperating from surgery. At the time we lived in Northern California and had plenty of time.

KN: Do you use a design wall? If so, in what way/how does that enhance your creative process? If not, how do you go about designing your quilts?

BC: I use a quilt pattern in a book and make a template and all the information about how to make the pattern and size. It has all the mathematics worked out for you, so all you have to do is follow directions.

KN: What do you think makes a great quilt?

BC: I think the colors. Most of the colors I used are blues and beige colors. I didn't care for lots of flowers in the geometric designs. I like soft colors.

KN: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

BC: I think the way you blend the backing and the borders to match the centers of the quilt. Of course, you have to do neat work.

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

BC: I am certain the age.

KN: What makes a great quiltmaker?

BC: Probably someone who has the patience to do this. I know my daughter doesn't and my sister didn't.

KN: Are your drawn to any person's works and why?

BC: No.

KN: Any artists have influenced you?

BC: No.

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

BC: I think machine quilting is cheating. Grandma always quilted by hand and that was from the pleasant days.

KN: Why is quilt making important to your life?

BC: I think it is carrying on a tradition from the past times, as I remember my childhood.

KN: Do your quilts reflect your community or region?

BC: Well, probably quilting that I helped finish of my grandmother's quilts was from a region because of the type of materials she used. They were different from the ones I used. My materials are always color coordinated. They used scraps and I used brand new materials that I purchased with the color scheme in mind.

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

BC: People are still using them today. People are buying Amish quilts and I think there has been a resurgence and interest in them, at least on the East Coast. I not sure about the West Coast.

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

BC: Well, if you are a homemaker and I am sure everybody enjoys quilts and the fact that it is ordinary bedding we have.

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

BC: There is a lot of interest in preserving quilts now and I think a friend of mine just donated hers to a place in Pennsylvania that has antique quilts. I know that the DAR always has quilts on display for people to see. It is a part of our heritage.

KN: How do you think quilts can be used?

BC: I think they can teach the younger people about how people lived in times past. Now they go to the store and buy a ready-made quilt or buy them already made from a catalog, but they are not the same as Grandma made.

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

BC: As far as I know, everybody still has the quilts that I made, and they are using them. If they are not, they have given them away, they haven't stuck with them.

KN: You have quilts from people in your family - older quilts?

BC: Yes, I do.

KN: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quilt makers today?

BC: Well, I think a lot of it is time. People just don't have time to do this anymore unless they are an invalid or not too old to do something else. It is something that you can't sit and do and watch television at the same time. My sister-in-law can crochet and watch television without dropping a stitch, but when you are doing quilting stitching by hand you have to have your eyes on the quilt.

KN: Do you have anything else to add to today's interview that might be interesting to someone listening to this?

BC: I think I can help people to repair quilts that have material that has frayed and split from age, and I have engineered and found old material that will match and make templates for squares that are missing and requilt it. Some that have put together with quilt knots, I have been to class to learn how to do the knotting. I am learning how to do the other stitches on the antique quilts that were put together with herringbone stitch, which I have yet to master.

KN: That is wonderful you are able do that. I have quilts at home that certainly need some repair, but I don't know whether it is worth it or not. Anything else you want to add?

BC: I think it is worth preserving those things. A lot of things are damaged that someone has in remembrance of their grandmother or another family member it is worth preserving if they are able to. If you can't do anything with the quilt, if it is too badly damaged, you can take it and make a wall hanging out of it and you still have a part of it as a family heirloom. That is another possibility.

KN: How do you launder your quilts?

BC: There is a special soap that you use made just for washing quilts and put them in the washing machine. Front load washing machines are better than the agitator machine, because you just barely get it wet with soap, rinse and take it out and dry it on a rack. The bathtub is another way of doing it, but I think it is better the other way. You can lay it on the floor and let it dry.

KN: That is a wonderful talent you have. I'd like to thank Beverly Cleaver for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. Our interview concluded at approximately 3:00 p.m. on November 24, 2009.


“Beverly Cleaver,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 23, 2024,