Esther Snetz




Esther Snetz




Esther Snetz


James M. Snetz

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Del Thomas


Walbridge, Ohio


Kim Greene


Note: Esther B. (Jenny) Snetz of Fort Findlay Chapter NSDAR entered her quilt, "Rosalie Going to Tea" in the 117th Continental Congress, 2008 American Heritage Committee's fiber arts quilt contest. The contest theme was, "Hospitality Through the Ages." Jenny's quilt placed first.
James M. Snetz (JMS): My name is James M. Snetz and today's date is October 1, 2008, and the time is 9:30 a.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time. I am conducting an interview with Esther B. Snetz here in after called Jenny at our home in Walbridge, Ohio for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage [Committee.] of the Ohio States Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Jenny is a quilter and is a member of Fort Finley Chapter 4-037-0H National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Finley, Ohio. Tell me about the quilt you brought in today.

Esther B. Snetz "Jenny" (EBS): This quilt "Rosalie Going to Tea" was made especially for the DAR Fabric Art Contest following the theme "Hospitality through the Ages.”

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

EBS: It was a first-place winner in the Fabric Art Contest and my first national quilt winner.

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

EBS: I chose this quilt for the interview so it could be included in Our Save Our Stories S.O.S. [Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories.] quilt interview.

JMS: What do you think someone viewing your quilt might conclude about you?

EBS: That I have a love for quilting and that I have obtained the skills and techniques to produce an award-winning quilt.

JMS: What are your plans for this quilt?

EBS: I plan to pass it down to family members, in the future.

JMS: Do you make quilts?

EBS: Yes, I do make quilts and enjoy the art of making them.

JMS: Tell me about your interest in quilt making.

EBS: My first interest in quilt making was probably the age of six or seven years old. As a small child I was visiting the home of a sick neighbor who later had passed and my mother was taking some food over to her for her lunch, and I joined her. She had a quilt on her bed, the Double Wedding Ring. I remember as a small child making the circles with my fingers and it never ended, kept going from one circle to the other. Mrs. Posey asked if I liked her quilt, and I responded that I loved it. Mrs. Posey passed away a few days later, and I often wondered what happened to her quilt.

JMS: At what age did you start quilt making?

EBS: I started quilt making at age forty-nine.

JMS: From whom did you learn to quilt?

EBS: I first started taking lessons at the local quilt shop.

JMS: Do you sleep under a quilt?

EBS: Yes, I do sleep under a quilt. In fact, I have slept under a quilt for many years now.

JMS: Have you ever given a quilt as a gift?

EBS: Yes, I have given a quilt as a gift; but only on very rare occasions. I put so much of myself into the quilts I wonder if they appreciate them as much as I have enjoyed making them or the work and labor that goes into them.

JMS: How many hours a week do you quilt?

EBS: I quilt six to eight hours a week depending on the time and advance that it is available from my busy lifestyle. Doing more in the wintertime of course.

JMS: What is your first quilt memory?

EBS: My first quilt memory was as a small child, as I spoke [of before.].

JMS: Are there other quiltmakers among your family or friends? Tell us about them.

EBS: I have no other family members that are quilters. My family enjoys my quilts and attend many of my quilt shows that I have entered in. They encourage me to enter and show special interest when they are published in the local magazines and quilt books.

JMS: How does quilt making impact your family?

EBS: It has been very interesting. Some of them are very interested in the quilting and others are just, oh it's a matter of fact, so it is kind of a personal interest type thing. For the most part they encourage me to do things.

JMS: Do you belong to a guild?

EBS: Yes, I am a charter member of the Maumee Bay Country Quilters and have been now for many years.

JMS: Have you ever been a board member or a chair of a committee in a guild?

EBS: Yes, I have chaired many committees and been on the board of several.

JMS: Do you belong to a sewing group or bee?

EBS: No, I don't belong currently to any sewing bee. Being a lady Shriner, it keeps me very busy with my Shrine activities. But I do still enjoy the quilting.

JMS: Tell me if you have ever used quilts to get through a difficult time.

EBS: Yes, most definitely. I started quilting in 1988 when I returned to college to obtain my registered nurse degree. Being the oldest in my class of 103 students, it was very difficult to stay focused on my lessons and also keep the home fires burning. Quilting was my stress or release, and without quilting, college would have been very difficult.

JMS: Tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred from your quilt making or teaching.

EBS: I have found it very amusing while teaching quilting that all ages do not focus on quilting in the same manner. I taught some Brownie Scouts in their early teens and also elderly ladies in their senior years. The Brownie Scouts caught on very quickly, but the older ladies had to be coaxed to finish their projects. The Brownie Scouts kept encouraging me to teach them more and more, and the older ladies were just kind of lackadaisical about it.

JMS: What do you find pleasing about quilt making?

EBS: I enjoy appliquéing, it is my favorite technique. I love watching the colors come together.

JMS: What aspects of quilt making do you enjoy; do you not enjoy?

EBS: I do not enjoy very little. I enjoy most everything of the aspects of quilting, but having my fingers poked with the needles is probably the part that I least enjoy.

JMS: What art or quilt groups do you belong to?

EBS: I'm a charter member of the Maumee Bay Country Quilters, [in Oregon, Ohio.] I have assisted in starting several other quilt groups in the area. Also, I have held many offices in this quilt group.

JMS: Have advances in technology influenced your work and if so, how?

EBS: Not much. I still choose to use the old ways to make quilts, and do not go for the quick easy ways that they just cut it out and press it on and then stitch around it. I'm worried that they will lose the old ways of appliquéing and quilting and stitching together with these new techniques.

JMS: Have pictures of you, your quilts, and or patterns ever been published?

EBS: Yes, they have. I've had several quilts published in newspapers and magazines, and often I will open up a magazine and see one of my quilts.

JMS: Do you collect or sell quilts?

EBS: I currently have forty-four quilts that I have made myself. I had sold one very early, an embroidery quilt that I made. It was the first embroidery quilt that I had done. I kept all of the other quilts that I have made because I do what they call Trunk Shows and talk about the quilts and the different techniques. Each quilt has its own special character, characteristics and I explain this to the ladies.

JMS: What are your favorite techniques and materials?

EBS: I love to appliqué and dye fabrics to obtain the colors that I want. I use only one hundred percent cotton fabrics, and I select each piece very carefully for patterns that will affect the quilt that I am working on.

JMS: Can you describe the studio or the place that you create?

EBS: Yes, I can. You would laugh. I have a basic Singer sewing machine and basic technique. I, for the most part set up my machine on the table and sew in my family room while my husband is watching TV. I have a sewing room and use it to store most of my many quilt books and sewing items.

JMS: Tell me how you balance your time?

EBS: I balance my time and quilt only when I have enough time to sit down and actually concentrate on the quilting. I share TV time with my stitches and quilting and have obtained the skills to continue to work with my activities. I am a very active in Ladies Oriental Shrine of North America and that keeps me quite busy. I also have made several quilts using themes that our Grand Officers have chosen.

JMS: Do you use a design wall?

EBS: I do not use a design wall. I lay my quilt pieces out on the living floor, and I decide which pieces look the best in the best design. My husband, Jim is my best and worst quilt critic. His ideas and views are welcomed on each quilt are accessed for quality and most of the times I hate to say, but he is right.

JMS: What do you think makes a great quilt?

EBS: I think any quilt can be great if it is done well and time is taken to do it that way.

JMS: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

EBS: To have an artistically powerful quilt, it needs to tell a story like my quilt "Rosalie Going to Tea" standing in a rose garden dressed in her finest Revolutionary War days, going to the tea at the home of a friend and had stopped to pick a rose from her garden as a hostess gift.

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

EBS: I think a quilt that is of museum quality is very rare. Most are original patterns. I had made a Masonic quilt for my husband, Jim, showing all the Masonic bodies that he belongs to. Each is especially detailed, and it is outlined and bordered in gold metallic thread. He has chosen to place it in the Zenobia Shrine Hall after several offers, he refused, to purchase it.

JMS: What do you think makes a great quiltmaker?

EBS: Someone who has taken the time to produce an original pattern, one that the quilter has chosen and had done her very best effort to make corners squared, colors that flow, and quilted well.

JMS: What works are you drawn to and why?

EBS: I am drawn to quilts that tell a story. I enjoy looking at them and putting myself in the quilter's eyes. I enjoy techniques the quilter used and the quality of the work.

JMS: Which artists have influenced you?

EBS: Mrs. Shackelford is an avid quilter and has written many books. She is also a personal friend of mine. Anita is a very sweet lady and is willing to share her thoughts and ideas, and I think she is probably the artist that I have been most impressed with. That is Anita Shackelford.

JMS: How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting?

EBS: I feel that hand quilting is the best way to complete a quilt. If the quilt is for a child and will be washed a lot, then the machine quilting works best for that. Long arm quilting will never take the place of hand quilting, and I have fears that hand quilting will soon be a thing of the past in our world. I wish to promote hand quilting but do not share my thoughts on others that like to do the long arm quilting.

JMS: Have you ever owned or worked in a quilt shop?

EBS: I have never owned or worked in a quilt shop.

JMS: Have you ever won an award?

EBS: Yes, I have won many, many awards, many first places, Best of Shows. In fact, I have a basket full of ribbons. It comes to the point that I do not care if they are even judged anymore. That is not the reason that I quilt. I enjoy the quilting and I enjoy watching the colors come together and sharing my quilts with others and I do many trunk shows that I have requests for.

JMS: Why is quilt making important to your life?

EBS: Quilt making is important to my life because it helps me relax and enjoy the art. When I am quilting or in the process of making a quilt, I am in my own little world. I have time only to think about the quilt, and how it is going to come together and how I can make it come together.

JMS: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or region?

EBS: I have never made a quilt that reflects my community or region. We do live close to Lake Erie, and I have made a fish quilt that has the fish that are found in our area on it. We take it to Canada each year when we go fishing. It is always used on our bed. Many friends in the fish camp come to visit and bring friends to show them that we fish during the day and sleep under a fish quilt at night. Most are very amused by this, and we have always enjoyed showing it.

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

EBS: Many quilts were made to reflect special events in American history. The Underground Railroad is a good example. Slaves would make a quilt, and each had a special meaning by their design and color. And they knew what to do and where to go when the first quilt was laid out for them to see.

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

EBS: Quilts were used to express feelings especially to our American history. Young girls were taught to make quilts for their wedding and put in their hope chest. Women also created quilts for special events throughout history and many are still being handed down from one generation to the other. Most are considered family treasures.

JMS: How do you think quilts can be used?

EBS: Quilts can be used for many things. As decoration for a favorite room or place in the home and also as bedcovers which was their original use. They are displayed as tokens of love and expressions of appreciation and also have been used to bury loved ones when early Americans traveled west.

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

EBS: Quilts can be reserved for the future by proper care and protecting them from the elements. This is the biggest thing that people have failed to do in the past. Care and protecting them from the elements are so vital. Storing them in acid free tissue paper is always a good chose and keeping them out of direct light.

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

EBS: For the most part I have kept all of my quilts that I have made. I do quilt shows, trunk quilt shows or talks and show each quilt. How it is made, the design, and why each and every one of them is special. I had one quilt that I made as, one of my first quilts and it was cross stitched and embroidered and I sold it to a neighbor to be given to my best friend as a child and her daughter as a wedding gift.

JMS: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

EBS: The biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today is with our busy lifestyle that many quiltmakers want to rush to get the quilt completed and therefore losing most of its handmade effect and then it is not done quite as well or the points are not potentially right at the point, knots on top of the quilting and or if they make a quilt top that they have spent weeks and months doing they have it machine quilted. I think they need to keep the old ways and do special quilts in hand quilting. It is always a delight to me to go to quilt shows and see the hand quilted quilts versus the, the machine quilted. We also need to assess the new methods for quilting that have also become available.

JMS: Is there anything else that you would like to add to this interview?

EBS: Yes, I mentioned about selling quilts. Several years ago, my husband asked me to make a quilt, a "Joshua's Quilt." When completed it created an optical illusion in the viewers much like a tumbling block. I started on it in the [Ohio State University.] state colors of scarlet and grey. I became impatient to finish it and asked some friends who are quilters to help me sew some of it together. Needless to say, that was a mistake. They had put the points together that didn't meet, and generally it was very amateurish. After the quilt top was completed, I decided to go ahead with the quilting which I did. From a distance the quilt was beautiful, but up close you could see that the work was not up to my standards. Alas, what do I do with the quilt? My husband was extremely disappointed I carried the quilt to many of the trunk shows and used it as an example of haste makes waste and to show the difference between precise work and sloppy work. My husband and I talked about what to do with, what I called a subpar quilt. We decided that if presented a chance, to sell it and donate the proceeds to our local Shrine center. At one quilt show a lady asked about selling my quilts. I replied that I had one that I would sell and explained to her about what I thought were flaws. She wanted the quilt anyway, so a deal was struck, and she became the proud owner of the quilt. I learned a lesson that if you want something done right most of the time, you do it yourself.

I transport my quilts in very large denim bags which were sewn together by a group of novices that I was teaching the basics for sewing. I needed some very basic work to do and again my husband thought of the idea of having that class make the bags. As I never charged them for teaching, I did not feel that this was being selfish or self-serving in any way. So, I had the class make huge denim bags. I furnished the material and the pattern in the shape of large shopping bags with handles. These bags would hold two large quilts that are neatly folded and are very easy to carry. Both the students and I have been benefited from the deal, from making these bags. [Now I can fold the bags and put them into other bags for storage until they are needed.] Which brings me to storage of the quilts. I had made over forty large quilts. Most are big enough to fit a king size bed so you can image that they take up a lot of room. I had quilts in drawers and just about any place that was a nook or cranny to protect them from the elements. They had to be covered which requires sheets as putting them in a big plastic bag is a big no, no, as they need to breath. Quilts should not be exposed to sunlight that will deteriorate the fabric. They shouldn't be left folded in one position; they will acquire a permanent fold. They should be refolded periodically with different folds to prevent from the creasing. Getting back to the storage of my quilts.

I needed a storage area for them. My husband and I started searching the antique stores for a large armoire or cabinet to put the quilts in. We went to furniture stores, department stores, antiques stores. We even went to a commercial furniture manufacturing outlet store. We couldn't find anything suitable. Driving down the road one day I spotted a custom cabinetmaker sign on a small building. I had my husband make a U turn, and we went back to see what they had to offer. We talked to the owner and explained our problem and what we wanted. Such a piece of furniture would be large and very hard to handle, so he designed a piece of furniture in four pieces that was held together by two screws so that when it is together it looks like a large armoire. It is 84 inches tall and 48 inches wide and 26 inches deep and has four doors. Inside it has adjustable shelves and will hold 26 quilts. It is made entirely of oak lumber; no particle board or composition board was used. When taken apart, it can be very easily handled by two people, transferred in the bed of a regular pickup truck. When it is assembled, it would take a crane to lift or move it. Now when I show my quilts to someone all I do is open the door and remove the quilt I want to display. I don't have to dig and search and look through all the stacks of quilts I have. So those who have multiple quilts and would like to store them, I could recommend putting them on a spare bed or on top of each other than covering them to protect them from light and dust. I could go on and on with this, talking about quilts as it is one of my favorite things to do in life, but everything must come to an end and at this point, I have reached this point. Thank you very much for allowing me to share my quilt thoughts and feelings. I hope you enjoyed it.

JMS: I would like very much to thank Jenny Snetz for allowing me, her husband, Jim to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. Our interview is now concluded, and the time is 9:58 a.m., October 1, 2008.


“Esther Snetz,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 19, 2024,