Judy Schryver




Judy Schryver




Judy Schryver


Joan Minde-Welch

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Iris Karp


Lockport, New York


Joan Minde-Welch


Joan Minde-Welch (JM): Judy, I have some things that I would like to ask you about quilting. I would like you to share all of your love for quilting and your talent that you have for this wonderful thing that I have witnessed here this weekend and over the years that I have known you. Tell me about the quilt that you showed me today, like who made it, describe it and give me the pattern.

Judy Schryver (JS): This is a quilt I made for my husband's retirement. He retired in 1994. He liked butterflies and I found this wonderful butterfly fabric. I bought a large amount of it and planned the quilt around that. The pattern is Goose in the Pond. So it-- it's dark, a dark background in the butterfly fabric and it really looks like a mannish quilt. It's used in his bedroom and he really loves it. I machine pieced and machine quilted it and I won an award at a quilt show with it for best machine quilting. So I'm very proud of that.

JM: Congratulations on that.

JS: Well, thank you. And we use it on his [my husband's.] bed all the time.

JM: I think that's the most important part, that he really loves it and enjoys it. It's nice, too, that when you showed me all your quilts over the last couple of days, we hadn't really talked about this one or looked at it. But this is the one you chose to be your all-time favorite. That's great. Can you tell me a little bit more about your interest in quilting? At what age did you start quilting?

JS: Well, the earliest recollection I have is that I was a teenager and somehow I got into making yo-yos and I was going to make a yo-yo quilt. I had quite a few of them put together in a piece, but over the years it got lost. I wish I still had it today. But that was my first endeavor with quilting.

JM: So when you started that, do you have a recollection of whether you learned how to to do that from a family member or you just picked it up on your own; that is, the yo-yo quilting?

JS: I can't remember how I got into that. My mother wasn't a quilter; my grandmother was, so it could have been from her. I'm not sure.

JM: But your mother did a lot of needlework of all kinds, right?

JS: Yes, she did.

JM: About how many hours a week do you quilt? I know that's probably hard to say, because I know you're into traveling, now that you've retired, too. But, can you give me an estimate?

JS: I'd say maybe thirty hours.

JM: So it's like a part-time job?

JS: I don't look at it that way. It's my relaxation and enjoyment. In the evening, when I'm home, I do some work on the machine.

JM: So, I would guess then, with quilting, you have never considered it to be a business-type venture. It's more something that you truly are in love with and enjoy.

JS: Yes, that's right.

JM: That's great. What is your first quilt memory, whether it be sleeping under a quilt or seeing a quilt?

JS: It would be going to my grandmother's house. My grandmother lived on a farm and there were quilts on the beds there.

JM: And do you remember how you felt about that, at the time?

JS: Oh, I thought they were interesting. Of course I was probably ten or so at the time.

JM: So, you really didn't think about it, other than that?

JS: No.

JM: I see, they were just there, at that house. Are there any other quilters among your family or friends? Maybe, you could tell a little bit about that.

JS: My sister is a quilter. I got her into quilting, so we have good times together doing that. I belong to two quilt guilds. And then I belong to two quilt circles, which have between eight and twelve people each. We meet regularly twice a month and we've become very good friends and do things together.

JM: So what is the difference between a guild and a circle?

JS: A guild is a meeting once a month. We have a speaker on some topic who may show us some things, tell us about different quilts or quilted items she has made, like a trunk show or we might have a work meeting. In our circle groups, when we meet, we bring a project that we're working on and sit, talk, and share ideas. But we're always working on something at our small group get-together.

JM: I see, so one's a working meeting and the other is more for learning from other people. How has your quilting impacted your family? I know this answer will take a while.

JS: Well, my sons, my grandchildren and my sister all love what I do. So whenever I go to visit them, they either take me to a quilt shop, we talk about quilting, I take them a quilt or we get involved in what I am currently doing. Sometimes, when I go visit my children, they have a project lined up for me. Like this past winter, my son was putting a quilt together for an auction. At nursery school [where my grandson attended.], the children made handprints. So then I did the sashing, corner stones, put the border on and quilted it for him. I made a couple of those while I was there. So that's just an example of what I might do when I visit with my family.

JM: I think I remember you telling me about your granddaughter going to a quilt shop with you, also.

JS: Yes, my granddaughter is just six, but over the winter I had a book of different things you could make with children and I taught her how to use the machine and how to quilt. So, she picked out the hardest, biggest project in the book and Grandma said, 'Okay, we'll do it.' So I took some fabric with me, but I said, 'Let's go to the quilt store, too, and we'll pick out some more fabrics, because it is a Scrappy quilt.' So I let her pick out different pieces of fabric. And we had pumpkins, beans, Christmas trees and big chartreuse dots along with my pinks, turquoises and purples. But, she liked it, so we did it.

JM: You showed me a picture of it and it was wonderful the way it all came together. So she's [your granddaughter.] learning to quilt from Grandma.

JS: Yes.

JM: Great. And maybe while we're talking about family, I know that you've given them quilts as gifts, over the years. Didn't you say that was really part of your starting with a quilt?

JS: Part of my starting was this. I had taken some classes in the early 80's, learning different things. It was a sampler with 12 blocks. But they all turned into pillows. And then I didn't do anything more with it for a while. Also, I was going to have a grandchild. Well, the grandchild had to have a baby quilt. So fourteen years ago, that's when I really got into quilting as a hobby. The first quilt I made was for my first grandson.

JM: And then, I think you've told me that each grandchild has received certain quilts from you. Can you tell me a little more about that?

JS: Each grandchild gets a baby quilt and each one has been different. I have eight grandchildren now and each one has been different. As they get old enough to be in a regular sized bed, like a twin bed, they get a big bed quilt. Each one of those has been different. Except for the youngest grandchild; she's still a baby so she just has her first quilt.

JM: Then I believe you've told me you've made quilts for your children and their spouses for their beds, right?

JS: Yes, over the years, I have.

JM: Can you tell me, have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time in your life?

JS: Yes, I have. When my father-in-law was ill for about six months, I was pretty much tied at home and I would work on a quilt. I would work on it in the family room, lay it on the floor and he could see me down the hall and he was happy that I was working on something and not having to wait on him all the time. So that helped me get through that time.

JM: I believe, then, you made a quilt for him or you were working on selecting pieces for a quilt for him at the time that he was sick.

JS: Just before he got sick I picked out fabrics for his room and actually took a class and made the whole quilt top. So jokingly I said, 'That's Grandpa's quilt.' And then when he got sick, it was 'Yes, that really is Grandpa's quilt.'

JM: What do you find enjoyable about quilting?

JS: I like putting colors together, making different combinations of colors and fabrics that go together. I like the machine work, making the pattern. I like finishing the top. My big problem is, when I get the top done, I think the quilt is done.[laughs.] So then during the winter, each winter I will decide that I have to get some of these tops quilted into finished quilts. So I really concentrate on that in the winter time, just finishing up some of the quilt tops.

JM: So that's more of a "have to" idea.

JS: Yes.

JM: I know that you have what I think is a way of focusing on quilting. Can you tell me more about that, how you work each day and sort of plan? Do you work in the evenings and focus on that?

JS: Okay. If I'm going to start a new project or a new block or whatever, I will do that in the early part of the day, when I can really concentrate on it. I like to do sewing in the evening, when I'm with my husband. But, that type of sewing is something I've already figured out, where I don't have to think about what I'm doing. It's more straight stitching, making a block, making four patches or sewing strips together. I feel like I'm accomplishing something, which is going to turn into some part of a quilt and I'm not just sitting there, watching T.V. wasting time, because I don't like to waste time.

JM: Now you mentioned your husband, I know that he is a big part of your quilting experience. Can you tell me a little bit more about how he is involved and has been over the years, with your quilting?

JS: He's very proud and supportive of everything I do in the quilting line. If I am working on a quilt where I have all the blocks made and they have to be arranged, I will lay it on the floor and he likes to help me say, 'This one doesn't look good, move it over here or move it over there.' He likes to do that part of it. I have hand tied a couple of quilts and I don't like to do square knots and he does, so he'll do that for me. He'll be patient and wait for me if we're on a trip and we need to find a quilt shop. He's more than willing for me to have time to do that. So, it's like whatever I do, he likes it. And if we have company, he likes to participate in the conversation, as well, and talk about an aspect of it.

JM: I noticed he is extremely proud of you and your talent and how you've accomplished so much over the years that you've been quilting. Is there anything else that you can think of about your actual quilting and the way that you do that, that I haven't asked you that you want to add in here?

JS: Another thing that I do is this. My kitchen has a nice island, so I put my cutting mat and tools on the kitchen island. While I'm making supper, if I have a little cutting to do and I have a little bit of time, I just do some cutting there. So it's always handy. It's the right height, I love it and my husband doesn't mind that I do that at all. Sometimes he's sitting there talking to me, but I can still do cutting. Also, what I have planned for the future is when it gets too hard for me to use the rotary cutter, he will do cutting for me. I've done volunteer work at the 4-H Center and he did help me with that and helped the children cut; so he does know how to do that. So that's something a little different.

JM: So you have your quilting going on all through the house.

JS: Yes, I do. [laughs.]

JM: I know you also have a wonderful workroom, special for quilting, here in your home. When you moved here, you planned to have that and that was a highlight of the new home.

JS: My own special room for quilting, yes.

JM: Now, talking about 4-H, can you tell me a more about the activity you did, the volunteer work you did?

JS: We were making a simple block and learning how to use the rotary cutter and the tools that went with it. So that was a 4-H project. Then another way I got involved was judging the clothing exhibits at Fair and also quilting, the quilting section. The year we did quilting with some of the children I judged that, too.

JM: The Arts area of the quilting?

JS: Yes. Was that for women, at the fair, or the children?

JS: It was for children.

JM: So, going over all of this, could you tell me what aspect of quilting would be high on your list. We kind of touched on this. This is the part of quilting that has drawn you to this and made you want to continue.

JS: I like machine work. I like learning techniques, like stippling. I have made a couple of jackets where I've done fine stippling and I'm really pleased with the way it came out. So, I want to become better at machine quilting and doing more with thread play.

JM: I know you do some hand quilting, too. Have you perfected that?

JS: Yes, I would say that's my least favorite, but I know I have to do it. Like on a nice quilt top where it has a special area that is rather plain, it needs a nice quilting design. So I will decide that I have to do this and put it by my chair and do a little every day or several times a week when I just sit down for a few minutes.

JM: To be disciplined about it and to get it done.

JS: I just say, 'I need to finish this.'

JM: I know you said that you're interested in having your stitching become even finer, as you do this, to perfect that hand quilting.

JS: Yes.

JM: Not finer, necessarily, but more even.

JS: More even.

JM: How do you feel about appliqué on quilts?

JS: Appliqué is beautiful. I have done a limited amount of it. To me, it is beautiful, but is not "my thing". It is more time consuming and I like machine work better, but I have taken classes on machine appliqué, different techniques of that. I've used it and liked it and so I use it sometimes.

JM: Now down to the big question. Can you tell me about the numbers of projects you have created over the years? We've talked about the numbers of quilts and other things.

JS: I've counted up the number that I have in my house that are finished and the number that I've given to my children and friends and it's seventy-five quilts. I've also made numerous table runners that I have and have given away; I would say maybe thirty-five of those. I've made quilted garments. I would estimate that I have twenty different quilted jackets in some shape or form, and probably fifteen to twenty vests. Some of those, I have given to my dad; I gave him two fancy quilted vests. Purses, too. I like to make quilted purses in different shapes and forms. Also, if my friend has a nice purse, I will borrow it and copy it; I'm good at that. So I'd say I've made probably fifty purses. I made a few Log Cabin purses and sold them, but that wasn't fun anymore. That was too much like work, so I stopped that. Then I have, I would say, twenty-five quilt tops that are completed, waiting to be quilted and finished. And wall hangings, too. I don't have an estimate on them, but maybe twenty-five different wall hangings.

JM: And the year that you started doing this. So we know that you've accomplished all this in this amount of time. That year goes roughly back to--

JS: I would say, 1992. Somewhere in that year, I started.

JM: So roughly, we're talking about ten or eleven years, in which you have accomplished all this.

JS: Right. No we'd better say fourteen, because my grandson is thirteen and I had the first one done when he was born.

JM: But yet the majority of them have been since '92.

JS: Yes.

JM: So that is a lot in that amount of time. It seems that way to me, Judy.

JS: But when I answered the question, 'How many hours a day. Like when we go to the cottage in the summer time and I'll be there for four or five days, I might spend eight to ten hours a day, quilting, over there.

JM: That's true. So, it just depends on whether you're at home and have those concentrated hours to spend or not. What do you think makes a great quilt?

JS: A pleasing color combination, a pattern that makes your eyes go around the quilt, so that you're looking at different things in the quilt, not just a bull's eye in the center. And a pleasing arrangement and some kind of nice quilting to finish it.

JM: What would you say makes one particular quilt artistically powerful? Would that be more piggy backing on what you've just said? Putting all those things together? What makes it outstanding?

JS: A quilt that is very pleasing to the eye and makes you look at it and study it for more than thirty seconds.

JM: I hadn't thought of it that way.

JS: It makes you look at it more in depth, seeing different things that are going on in the quilt, as well as having a pleasing color combination.

JM: So, you want to stay with it, you want more, just like a painting?

JS: Yes. So that you want to study it more and see how he or she made it all go together.

JM: What do you feel makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or special collection?

JS: A quilt that is made by someone who has zeroed in on a specific idea or pattern. I'm thinking of one who does really bright colors. Every quilt she does is bright colors, and you can tell it's hers right away. Or another person who does terrific thread play and does a lot of machine thread work.

JM: That would be outstanding.

JS: Or a person who designs, like a village or something, a scene that is really outstanding and has put a lot of thought into it.

JM: That reminds me of your preference, which is when you put purples and lavenders into your quilting and people say, 'That's a Judy quilt, right?'

JS: Yes,

JM: So, it would be on that order, a distinctive kind of thing that someone uses. What do you think makes a great quilter? [10 second pause.] Some of those ideas you just mentioned?

JS: Some of those ideas and a person that you can see from what they did several years ago, has improved greatly in their skills. It could be their color arrangement; their accuracy has greatly improved, their color combinations, their diversity, their willingness to take classes from other people. In a class, you never know what you're going to learn, but you always learn something. It might be that you don't want to make this quilt, but you've tried it. Or it might be a new technique that's going to help you.

JM: You've touched on this, but how do you feel about machine versus hand quilting? What about the long arm quilting?

JS: Hand quilting is beautiful; it takes a great deal of time, which I'm not willing to do on every quilt I make. Because I want to be more productive, and I enjoy the machine work more. I like machine quilting. I've taken several classes and have learned how to do a lot of different things with machine quilting. I like that. It is very appropriate in some quilts. About long arm machine quilting, I've had some hired to do that way. Some of it, I like and some of it, I don't. You can pick out; they do different patterns. You can pick out a pattern to be done on a quilt. It's okay in my book; it depends on the use. If you want a real serviceable quilt for a child, then you might want to have it long armed, because that's going to be more serviceable.

JM: Let's talk about extending this into your community or this region where you live, which is in western New York, because you are here in Lockport. In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or region?

JS: I like log cabins; log cabins seem to be popular in our area and there are many different ways you can put those blocks together. That seems to be popular in our area. [10 second pause.] Our guild makes comfort quilts that we give to different sick children in hospitals in our area. We make donations to different hospitals or children that have had a real serious illness that we might come in contact with or know. If a house burns down, we might give to the Red Cross for that family. I've made a lot of those quilts; I don't have any idea how many of those I've done. Also, in the guild I belong to, we make larger quilts, like a five-inch block made into 120 squares, because that's originally how many we had in our guild. We put those together. I've put those together and machine quilted those. For a member of our guild who has had a real serious illness, like cancer, or a real serious operation, like a replacement, we give a quilt to that person as a representation of our guild. Some of the fabric squares represent what the people in the guild have donated or a purple square would remind them of me.

JM: That's an important way that you're doing service for the community.

JS: Yes.

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

JS: Well, there's a great history of quilts in our area. We have a stop on the Underground Railroad and many of the quilts were used back then to signify whether it was safe to go on or safe to stop. Each block had a different representation. So, they've been important for many, many years, as well as being serviceable. You know in the early part of the century, they used different parts of clothing and put together whatever they had and used flannel blankets for a filler and made utility quilts to be used. So, it's been important for many, many years.

JM: Going along with that, in what ways would quilts have a special meaning for women's history in America, then? This would go along with what you were just talking about but focusing more on women.

JS: It is shown that women have many talents that are more evident now. Quilting has now come into more of an art and has become popular, so that's brought about even more women's talent. The quilts in the last twenty-five years, are more the art quilts, where you get more artistic talent showing, designing your own, using a more threads kind of thing, doing pictorials and watercolor scenes. So, women are showing more of themselves.

JM: Bringing out their artistic talents, not just utilitarian.

JS: Yes.

JM: How do you think quilting can be preserved for the future so that others could enjoy quilts?

JS: There are lots of quilting magazines and in the magazines, it tells about different quilt shows. There are more and more quilt shows and bigger quilt shows that get people's attention. It was thought that quilting was going to die out, but now it's become more and more popular. More people are quilting, and more children are exposed to it. Your children become interested in it and your children get quilts and so it's just going to be passed on.

JM: Have you been published at all with your quilting, as far as newspaper or anything of that nature?

JS: The only thing that I was in was a newspaper article with a quilt and my picture. Also, I did a T.V. program on putting a quilt together. I was on Channel 7 doing a demonstration. For our local guild, I also did a half an hour quilt program. I did the program on a quilt that I had taught, a sashed nine patch. I did the program on putting it together and showing what the finished quilt looked like. So, I've done that.

JM: Can you tell me more about your teaching of classes that you have done and plan to do in the future?

JS: Since I like to make quilted clothing, at the local quilt shop, I taught many different jackets for adults. Each year there's a seminar and I usually teach how to make a large quilt for Cooperative Extension. For our local guild. I like to teach and usually teach a couple of classes there on a purse or some accessory. So that's what I've done.

JM: So, your teaching expertise keeps going on with this kind of thing.

JS: I've got my sister involved, so I'm like her private teacher. When she has a problem, we spend a lot of time together and I've taught her. Also, I'm teaching my granddaughter and when I went to Wisconsin to see all the grandsons, I was making something. So, I got them interested in quilting and we were putting blocks together and I taught three of them how to sew, beginning sewing.

JM: That's wonderful. So, you're passing it on to all of your family. That's great. Is there anything else you'd like to add, Judy?

JS: I haven't sold many things because my thing is, I make something I like, to begin with. Then, when I get it made, I don't want to part with it. So, I just collect them. Part of my feeling is, I know my grandchildren are going to grow up and I'll have quilts to give them. So, this is going to be my legacy. Whatever I get done and accumulated, I want it to move on to my children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren, to realize that they had a grandmother who had some talent.

JM: Much talent, Judy.

JS: And realize that I had a passion for it.

JM: Right. And that's what it is, a real passion for it.

JS: Plus, I make christening gowns and they are each going to have their own christening gown.

JM: I've seen a picture of those and they're beautiful, too. I just want to add in, that you took a quilt top that was my grandmother's and at my family's request finished that quilt for us. It is so special; it was my mother's, and she will treasure that the rest of her life and we will, as a family.

JS: What I want to say about that is that it was a real challenge. I thought about it for quite a while, but I was so pleased with the way it came out. One of my goal's was that I had to see Alice's face when she saw the quilt. And she was so happy, that that's all the thanks I really] needed for it. It made me feel so good and so special.

JM: You've known our family for many years, and it made it so special for her. We're going to be hanging it on her wall, so she can enjoy it every day. She didn't want to put it on the bed.

JS: [laughs.] That's cute.

JM: Well, this has been wonderful, Judy. Thank you so much for sharing all your ideas and your passion, your whole passion for quilting with me. I know that this will be passed on and that's the great part that you're doing for all of us and for NSDAR. So, thanks very much.

JS: You're very welcome.


“Judy Schryver,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 15, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1886.