Jane Slack




Jane Slack




Jane Slack


Carolyn A. Kolzow

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Kathleen Schupner


Salem, Oregon


Sally Kloppenburg


Carolyn Kolzow (CK): My name is Carolyn Kolzow and today's date is Oct. 1, 2004. I'm conducting an interview with Jane Slack in the home Karen Lightner in Salem, Oregon. We're doing this for the [Quilters' S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project through the American Heritage Committee of the Oregon State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Jane is a quilter and is a member of Chemeketa NSDAR [National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.] Chapter. Jane, tell me a about the quilt you brought today.

Jane Slack (JS): The quilt that I brought today to show you is called a Nine Patch Hourglass, and it is a lap quilt so it's a very small one compared to what some people have made. But it was the size of a pattern that I thought for a beginning quilter that I could handle.

CK: And so, you made this?

JS: I made it. The story of this is that in June of 2003, I retired from Salem/Keizer [Oregon.] School District and something on my to-do list was always to take quilting. And so that was one of the things that I did after I retired was that I took a quilting class, I took a beginning quilting class from Greenbaum's Quilted Forest which is a fabric and a quilting store here in Salem, [Oregon]. I made this quilt in our class in the spring 2004. Carla Alexander was our teacher, and this was her pattern. It was quite a struggle trying to remember a lot of different things and now I appreciate people who make quilts that go on people's beds or wall hangings for the time that was spent on the creation.

CK: Describe the colors.

JS: The colors. I love purple and yellow, and so I had to have those two colors and when I went down to Greenbaum's Quilted Forest [Salem, Oregon.] they said pick out a fabric that you like, and we'll go from there. And so, the first fabric that I picked was the yellow, and we just kind of worked around it. I have floral prints and then I have a kind of watercolor, I have a print here that has geraniums, pink and purple geraniums, and I then I have a flower garden print that has all different kinds of colors in it. It has the purples and the yellows that I picked out. On the back of the quilt, I backed it with the same colors that would complement the violet flowers in the pattern.

CK: How do you use this quilt?

JS: Like I said it's just lap size. I just finished it this spring 2004, so it hasn't been really cold weather yet, but I hope to use it sitting on a couch or in a car riding somewhere if you're cold or if somebody just needs an extra little something to keep them warm.

CK: I can tell it's not going to be a wall hanging then?

JS: No. Even though I love the colors, I don't think so.

CK: Tell me your interest in quilting. You said you saved the idea of learning until after you finished teaching.

JS: I wasn't a teacher. I helped out in the classroom. But no, when my children were young and I was pregnant with my first child, I admired quilts and so I made baby quilts for them by embroidery, just the squares, and that was something that I really enjoyed, but I always would like go to quilt shows or friends would have quilts in their house and I would think, 'Oh my gosh, that's way too much time to put into any kind of project', and I thought when I retire maybe I'm going to have a lot of time, and I didn't exactly have the time that I thought I could put into it, but I made the time, and I really enjoyed it and since then I've made one other quilt, excuse me, two. I helped a friend make one and gave it to another friend for her birthday gift. And then I made a black and white print quilt and gave it to a church group, and they gave the quilts to Indian children in Arizona as gifts. And I hope to do this winter a few more.

CK: Are you thinking of signing up for some more classes?

JS: Yes, I am. I think since I am one that has to have some kind of direction and instruction that's the way to go. I can find a pretty patterns and different things in books, but I need to have some kind of direction on following the steps that need to go in the right place with putting the quilt together.

CK: Are there any quilters in your family?

JS: I have some. My great grandmother and my grandmothers - they were quilters, but my mother was not a person that enjoyed sewing or doing hand craft work. And so. Yes, just great grandmothers and grandmothers.

CK: Would you say that with this first quilt there was an impact on your family?

JS: Oh, yes there was! My kitchen table was full of fabric and a mess continuously probably for about a month or so. We had to push the fabric aside, so that we could have our dinner. Luckily, it's just my husband and I at home. I have no children that are at home at this time. You tend to make a mess [because.] you have fabric all over and being a beginner, I made a lot of errors, and so I had to do a lot of ripping and so there was a lot of frustration along with it. I call it a gift of love to myself! Mine was just trying to get the pattern down. Try to learn the steps that you were supposed to take the technique trying to match this. That was my whole thing. It's like anything you do when you learn to sew. You have to make a lot of mistakes before you actually get it down.

This is my first attempt, and I'm very pleased with it.

CK: Oh, it's lovely.

JS: That I even finished it. That it didn't sit in a bag or a box and somebody in ten years would pull it out and say, well why didn't Mom ever finish this? So, I feel real pleased with myself that I at least made the accomplishment to finish it.

CK: Tell me about the class, did that have you coming back every week?

JS: Yes, it was a six-week class, and we went back one evening every week for like two or three hours and we did our sewing, and she gave us instruction and we would go home and finish up what she told us. And when I did finish the class, I was not finished with the quilt quite yet. I had to put the backing on, so I have a very dear friend who does a lot of quilting, and she came over and helped me finish it up.

CK: What did you find pleasing about quilting?

JS: What I found pleasing. Well, it was frustrating for me. But I think the pleasure was that knowing that I accomplished something and that it was useable at the very end. That somebody else maybe would get pleasure if I gave them this. It was funny because I told my daughter I was taking the class and she said well don't bother making me a quilt. I don't want one. Because she's the kind of person that nothing sits around at her house, everything's clean and put away. But when she saw it she said, 'Would you mind making me a quilt?' So that made me feel really good that she thought it looked good enough. I don't know if she thought it would just be kind of like thrown together and it wouldn't look nice or what it was. But that made me proud that she thought at least it looked nice, and she would want one now. I've got the material, but I haven't started the cutting and sewing of that project yet.

CK: So, number two will be on its way.

JS: Yes, but--I think I have to make a couple of more smaller quilts to get the techniques and the cutting down. The cutting with the cutting wheel is something that is frustrating. It's kind of like taking that first step when you learn to sew on a sewing machine, and you don't really know what you're doing. That was very [frightening.]. I was really timid about the cutting process.

CK: Now did they have you piece that on the machine?

JS: Yes, it's made by machine. And then when it came time to quilt it, I did what they call stitch in a ditch. You just stitch the quilt by following the seam lines of the blocks, across the length and width of the quilt pattern. This is a way rather than tying or having it professionally quilted.

CK: I see. That's great.

JS: Thank you.

CK: So really, you used quilting to get through a difficult time. Did you think that retirement would be an adjustment?

JS: I did. I did, because I really enjoyed where I worked. I enjoyed my friends. I worked at the same elementary school for 19 years. And I did. I really didn't think I'd enjoy retirement, but I do now, and quilting helped me get through my problem.

CK: That's super. What do you think makes a great quilt?

JS: A great quilt. I think one thing is the amount of energy and the love that you put into it just trying to get your patterns together and picking out your fabric and trying to match if you have plaids or prints or flowers. Just trying to get everything mixed together.

CK: What would you say makes a quilt artistically powerful?

JS: The fabric and the colors that are mixed together. I've seen some that I think, 'Oh, my gosh I don't know how they did it,' Like watercolor prints and different things where they start out very bold, or maybe very light and then they just stream up to bold. I think someone had to spend hours and hours in a fabric store trying to match all these patterns and colors just to get this beautiful creation. It's like a landscape we see with all these colors.

CK: What would you say makes a great quilter?

JS: Determination. [laughs.] You need to finish the project. Because you can get in our life today sidetracked so many times that I think just to stick with it and know that it's going to be a beautiful object when you get through. And whoever you give it to I hope they appreciate all your work.

CK: Do you have plans to make some to give away?

JS: When I become better at doing the projects I would like to. Like I said I'm trying to start one right now, and I'm going to give it to my daughter when I finish it. But the fabrics are so pretty now days, and if you go to some of these quilt shows, they have all these vendors that have just beautiful, beautiful fabrics. I remember when I was in high school in the fifties it was like you go to Penney's or somewhere and you have a very limited amount of fabric and it would be like a check, a plaid or plain colors, but now the fabrics are just so beautiful.

CK: How do you figure a great quilter chooses those colors and fabrics? Is there some special way that they learn to do that?

JS: I think it's just trial and error and depends on your design or pattern of what you're going to make 'cause you know all quilts are not just patterns. Some of them are figures, designs, and sometimes they have little beads on them.

CK: Would you say that that quilt reflects our community?

JS: No, I don't think so. It's just the colors that I like. Well, I guess you could say--

CK: Do you like flowers?

JS: I do like flowers.

CK: In your garden?

JS: In the garden. I guess you could say that, and I do notice now as I look at it that I live in Keizer and in Keizer, [Oregon.] they have a Festival of Iris, so I guess maybe in a way it does reflect our community.

CK: Yes, it does. I agree.

JS: And you'll notice the Willamette Valley is, I think they called it the garden area for nurseries of the U.S. [inaudible.] So, I guess maybe in a way you could say that - in a garden.

CK: I agree. What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

JS: Oh, I think a quilt is important. When you think about history, I always think about the people coming across in wagon trains. The poor quilt! That quilt was used for everything from a tablecloth, to wrap someone in if they died, or to keep them warm. Oh, a quilt just has so many different uses that it is used for.

CK: Do you think it has special meaning for women in American history?

JS: Oh yeah. It's their way of expressing their feelings and even in the South where you have the slaves they had different quilt patterns that made different kind of signals for when people were in danger they would throw a quilt, I can't think the names of the patterns, but they would throw them on a fence and they would know this is the way there was danger, or this was the way to go for the Underground Railroad. Oh no, I think quilts in our history are very important.

CK: How do you think quilts can be used?

JS: Like I mentioned before, I think there's any number of ways quilts can be used. You can do decorative, warmth, you know, well some people can even wear them like a coat - just wrap them around you like a blanket of some sort.

CK: So, there are many uses. Do you have other things? You collect quilts, do you?

JS: I have quilts that have been handed down to me from my family. I have one of those that means a lot to me. My father's mother made it for me when I was just a child, and it was on my crib. It's called, Sunbonnet Sue and the fabric was probably from material, that they had on the farm that they used to make dresses, and it could have even been feed sacks. I just think, in their busy days they took enough time to make me this quilt.

CK: Was that in this state?

JS: No. It was in Missouri.

CK: I see. And memorabilia. Do you have anything besides the quilts, any sewing items?

JS: I have some sewing articles that my mother gave me like darning eggs and sewing baskets.

CK: If people wanted to preserve quilts for the future, how would you suggest that they do it?

JS: I think one of the ways would be to keep it out of sunlight. And there's acid free papers you can wrap them in. I've read you're not supposed to keep them in cedar boxes and places like that. I don't think you're supposed to wash an old quilt, either. I think you just take it the way it is with water marks and rips.

CK: Did you mark your quilt in any way?

JS: No, I haven't yet, but that's a good idea.

CK: Are you thinking about it?

JS: I should. I should put the date on the back with my name.

CK: All right. Is there anything that you would like to add to this interview?

JS: No. But I appreciate you doing it.

CK: Well, I thank you.

JS: I've enjoyed my interview with you.

CK: Thank you, Jane, for allowing me to interview you with your first quilt which is special for us as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. [- Save Our Stories.] Our interview concluded at 20 minutes of one on October the first, 2004.


“Jane Slack,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 23, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1934.