JoAnne Hewatt




JoAnne Hewatt




JoAnne Hewatt


Alice Helms

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Sandra Anne Frazier


Asheville, NC


Alice Helms


Alice Helms (AH): My name is Alice Helms. Today is January 22, 2008. I'm conducting an interview with JoAnne Hewatt for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We're at my home in Asheville, North Carolina and it is 10:40 a.m. Okay, JoAnne, tell me about the quilt you brought today.

JoAnne Hewatt (JH): This quilt is a quilt that my mother-in-law [Lessie Hewatt.] made for me when I got married. She made quilts for all her grandchildren and since I married the baby of the family, I also got a quilt. I never had been exposed to quilting before and this was my first quilt.

AH: So, what's the design? What's the pattern?

JH: It is a--what do you call that?

AH: Sunbonnet Sue?

JH: Sunbonnet Sue. Thank you, Alice. It's Sunbonnet Sue and it's probably got a lot of fabric from clothing that she made for her two daughters.

AH: Why don't you just describe the colors.

JH: What she had done is, the sashing is--it's block to block, the sashing is blue and I want to say that's some kind of seventies fabric, but she's done it all by hand, quilted by hand, piecing by hand, she's done some embroidery on the hats of the Sunbonnet Sues and there's black embroidery floss going around the all the Sunbonnet Sues.

AH: What made you choose this quilt to bring to the interview today?

JH: It means a lot to me because it was my first experience with quilts.

AH: Do you use the quilt?

JH: I did. [laughs.] You can see that it's used. Back in the seventies, they didn't use the kind of batting we use today and when I washed it, a lot of the batting shifted and I thought better about messing with it any more. But it had been in my house so everybody can see it, but I don't use it on my bed any more.

AH: And what do you think you'll eventually do with this quilt? What will become of it?

JH: I hope one of my daughters will love it as much as I do. My oldest daughter has a Sunbonnet Sue made by my mother-in-law for her that's a smaller crib-sized quilt. My other daughter does not, so she might have it.

AH: Let's talk about your interest in quiltmaking. How old were you when you started making quilts?

JH: It was after I got married and I got this quilt and my mother-in-law was in a grandmothers club and they quilted all the time. She had a frame that came down from the ceiling in the basement and they would all sit around and quilt and my mother-in-law would let me thread the needles for them and then they would even let me take a few stitches, and my mother-in-law would take them out after I left.

AH: But at some point you got good enough where she'd leave them in.

JH: Yes. [laughs.] She left them in after a while. But my first experience, she said they were toe-catchers.

AH: So when did you make your first quilt?

JH: After I got married I took a quilting class. It was in the late seventies and the bicentennial was big and there were a lot of red, white and blue quilts and I decided to make one. And my first experience was doing it all by hand. Hand piecing, hand quilting.

AH: Do you still have the quilt?

JH: I still have the quilt, yes.

AH: And what do you use it for?

JH: It's in a closet in a bag. [laughs.] It's seventies brown and gold.

AH: So, are there any quilters in your family?

JH: No. My sister-in-laws don't quilt; my mother-in-law's been gone for twelve years, so it's just really me. My daughters have no ambition to sew or quilt, except for my granddaughter, who's seven, attempts to sew and likes quilts.

AH: Now, how about when you were growing up, did your mother or--

JH: My mother did not sew. She sewed a little bit, but I have her sewing machine and it's brand new because she didn't use it often. [laughs.]

AH: What's your first quilt memory?

JH: I really wasn't exposed to quilts or quilting before I got married so it would be seeing my mother-in-law sewing and quilting.

AH: How many hours a week do you quilt?

JH: Hmmm. It's interesting since I have my granddaughters and two daughters living with me, I don't spend as much time as I like. But I like to do hand piecing at night, so maybe a couple hours at night after everybody's gone to bed, I can hand piece quietly.

AH: Do you have a certain room you quilt in? Do you have a sewing room?

JH: I did have a sewing room until my grandkids moved in. Now my sewing room is in the hall. My machine is out and at Christmas I did do some quilting for my family for gifts.

AH: So when you were doing a lot of quilting, how much time did you spend?

JH: Oh, I'd be up there every day, in the afternoon, before I'd have to cook dinner. I'd do something.

AH: And, how did that impact your family?

JH: They didn't get supper on time a lot. But other than that, they always knew where I was.

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

JH: Not really. Just that I know that I can wrap up in a quilt when I need to. But, not really a difficult time in my life.

AH: What aspects of quilting do you most enjoy?

JH: I like coming up with a design. I like getting it all ready, cutting it out, sewing it and that's where it stops. I don't like the parts of putting it together and getting it ready to quilt. But the quilting is what I enjoy the most, by hand.

AH: Do you do any machine quilting?

JH: I have attempted to machine quilt and I‘d like to get better at machine quilting but I enjoy the process of hand quilting.

AH: Do you use a hoop, or a frame?

JH: Yes, I use a hoop that sits on two legs that I got at the AQS [American Quilting Society.] show in Nashville one year and I have enjoyed it very much. Because it'll turn and flip and do anything you want it to do. I really enjoy that.

AH: Do you have any funny stories to share, about quilting?

JH: Funny stories. When my granddaughter, who's now seven and she enjoys quilting, and she loves fabric and anything like that. When I was watching her one day and she was maybe two or three, she found my good pair of scissors and proceeded to cut out her quilt, out of my quilt. [laughs.]And I have never fixed it. I have left it and it will be hers one day.

AH: That's funny.

JH: But she was so proud that she could cut with my good scissors.

AH: This is the granddaughter who has some interest in quilting now?

JH: Yes.

AH: Good for her. Let's talk about quilting groups. Do you belong to any groups? Guilds, bees, whatever. Tell me about them.

JH: When I first came to Asheville, I was introduced to the Asheville Quilt Guild which I am a member and have been a member since 1991. I have been a member of several small bees – East Asheville Quilters which is no longer a bee, a small group that meets at peoples' home called the Little Bee and hopefully a new bee in the South Asheville area.

AH: What makes a good bee?

JH: I like the bees because they're small and you can do projects and talk to each other about if you have an idea for a quilt and you're stuck on a certain aspect of it, maybe some sort of design, or does it need a border, does it not need a border, and bees seem to have--since you're a smaller group, you can interact with other people.

AH: What kind of group projects have you done in a bee? What would be an example?

JH: We have done, in our East Asheville Bee, we did a lot of quilts for the community. We gave one quilt to a woman who was just moving into a Habitat for Humanity house in East Asheville and we carried it over to her and she was just thrilled, thrilled to have something done for her in her new home. It was very touching, when we left.

AH: And, how did you collaborate on the quilt? Did everyone make a block? How did you manage the project?

JH: Everyone made a block and we all got together to put it together and I believe that one we had machine quilted by somebody in our bee who was a long-arm quilter.

AH: So you've been quilting about thirty years. There must have been a lot of advances in technology since you started. So, maybe you could just talk about some of the changes that you've experienced.

JH: Well, like when I took my first quilting class, which was probably my only formal quilting class. I've taken workshops from different people we've had through the guild and things, but you know we had cardboard templates, we used scissors and we used rulers that we probably got out of our kids' backpacks, because they had rulers when they went to school and when the rotary cutter came I think everybody didn't even know how to really use it, other than scissors, you know, I mean scissors were it. I think you see a lot of advances in the fabric. The fabric in this quilt from my mother-in-law is used fabric. I don't think she ever went out to a quilt store to buy, if she could find a quilt store to buy fabric. You know it was fabric stores and they sold fabric for home dec [decorating.] and things like that, not to make a quilt.

AH: Why would you say quiltmaking is important to your life?

JH: I think it brings me peace and quiet and I can't imagine not having that focus time on making sure my points match. And, to keep me centered. Just to keep me centered.

AH: Is there any particular way you feel that the quilts you make reflect your community or the region you live in?

JH: I don't think so. I mean, I think quilting is so widespread and there are so many magazines and things where you get ideas from all over, from all around and I don't think that the region has a whole lot to do with my designs anyway.

AH: Historically speaking, how do you feel about the roles of quilts in women's history in America?

JH: Well, back in the day, when they were making quilts and using them to keep warm, using them as history of their family and things like that, I think that keeping the history of how to do it, passing it on to your family mattered.

AH: Tell me about some of the quilts you've made for family or friends and what has happened to them.

JH: I started when my grandson was born; of course he had to have a quilt.

AH: He was the first grandchild?

JH: He was the first grandchild. My grandson, who turned twelve. So, for a long time he was the only one, he was the only grandchild. So I would make him a quilt every year. But the first quilt that I made him, his mother, left it in the crib and that was great, she used it and he loved it, but when she told me he peed on it [laughs.] I thought maybe you better not leave it in the crib but I got over that little part and I just kept making quilts for him. My two oldest grandchildren have quilts and the three youngest do not have quilts yet, so I'm behind.

AH: So, your grandson has ten or twelve quilts?

JH: Well until Grace [granddaughter.] was born he was getting a quilt so he's probably got four or five.

AH: And does he use them today?

JH: Yes, he does. He enjoys them a lot. I think he looks forward to it. I don't think his mother does because she has to take care of them, but he enjoys them. He always looks forward to something else I'm doing. He is very interested, and the last quilt I made for him, he actually helped me sew it together, when he was visiting. He enjoys it too but only for the fact that he can run my sewing machine. [laughs.]

AH: What about other people you might have made quilts for? Friends, or other family members.

JH: I made a quilt for a friend of my daughter's who was moving to New York and I made him a quilt. He was from around here and he was going to the big city and I thought, well I'll give him a quilt to let him remember home and my daughter and when he moved from New York, he left it with his roommate and never went back to get it so he doesn't get a quilt until I get over that. He doesn't get another one until I get over that. [laughs.]

AH: Do you have any particular favorite quilters? Famous quilters, or even quilters you know that you've worked with, anyone whose work you particularly admire.

JH: When I first moved to Asheville, Georgia Bonesteel had a PBS show that I watched all the time when I lived in Atlanta. I mean, I looked forward to that and then that's when we were moving to North Carolina, I thought well how lucky for me to be living near her. As far as other peoples' work, I enjoy a lot of peoples' work. If it speaks to me, I like it. I love them all but sometimes certain artists speak to me better.

AH: Are you working on a quilt right now?

JH: Yes, I am.

AH: What do you have going?

JH: In my one little bee, one of the ladies came with, I think they called it some kind of elongated star where it's a four-inch block with two-inch squares on either side that make, on opposite sides, so when you put them all together they look like elongated stars. She had done one of those for her father-in-law and it's just something that's very scrappy. I like scrap quilts. Something I can just pick up and do whenever I have time, because I've cut a lot of two-inch squares and a lot of four inch squares. That one I'm working on and I'm also working on my Kaffe Fassett Bow Tie quilt, if I ever get that one finished.

AH: So, how many projects do you usually have going at once? Is that typical for you?

JH: That's typical. Two. And then I have a hand piecing project that I work on. So, two to three, with different aspects of quilting. One you can do just to sit down and don't think about it and just sew and sew and sew and one I can do at night when it's quiet and do by hand and then the Kaffe Fassett one I have to really want to think about, because it's very thinkable. [laughs.] It's hard.

AH: That's seems like a good variety of work to have.

JH: [laughs.] Variety, yes.

AH: What do you think is most challenging for quilters, for you as a quilter, or for other quilters you know? What are the biggest challenges nowadays?

JH: I don't know if it's finding time to do it. It's certainly not finding fabric or patterns, or anything, because anything you want is out there. Probably, time to do everything that you want to do.

AH: Okay. Is there anything else you want to add to this interview? Any other thoughts or ideas?

JH: Just that I love the whole process, except putting it together, and I love fabric a lot. I like to go to the fabric store and just run my hand across all the bolts of fabric. I want a piece of each.

AH: Do you have a big collection of fabric?

JH: Oh yes. I think I told my husband I spent $100 on all that fabric.

AH: And he believes you?

JH: Yes, he does. He has no clue.

AH: And yet, if you're going to start a new project, do you go out and buy new fabric for the new project--

JH: Sure--

AH: Or do you go into your stash?

JH: Well, it depends. If I'm doing something specific for somebody, I will go to the fabric store and buy new fabric and use it and stash the rest and when I am doing a project like this elongated star that I'm doing, it's all there for me, I just need to cut it and sew it together.

AH: Okay. Well, then I'm going to say that this concludes our interview. It is now 11:07 a.m. Thank you JoAnne.

JH: Thank you.


“JoAnne Hewatt,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 15, 2024,