Theresa Boock




Theresa Boock




Theresa Boock


Lisa Ponder

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Nancy Bavor


Eugene, Oregon


Theresa Boock


Lisa Ponder (LP): My name is Lisa Ponder and today's date is February 15, 2005, and it is 7:35 p.m. I'm conducting an interview with Theresa Boock and your maiden name is Vitus, right?

Theresa Boock (TB): Right!

LP: So, Theresa Vitus Boock, in her home in Eugene, Oregon for the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. We are doing this for the American Heritage Committee of the Oregon State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Theresa is a quilter and a member of the Oregon Lewis & Clark Chapter of the DAR. Okay. Okay, alright. Well Theresa, tell me the quilt you brought in today. Who made it, and it--what's its origin? Describe it for us on the tape.

TB: I can tell you this quilt is a king size quilt. It's 103" square. It's a very traditional style quilt, although I designed it. So, it is a traditional style pattern with more modern fabrics. A combination of old and new. It's got roses on it, and leaves, traditional rose wreath patterns and blue ribbons. Green leaves and burgundy roses, and pink.

LP: Who made it?

TB: Well, it is a friendship quilt. I belong to an organization called the Pioneer Quilters, and we had a friendship block exchange. There were twenty-four of us involved and every month we distributed our patterns and whatever fabric we wanted people to use, and they had a month to make our block and return it, and it took two years altogether from start to finish, the friendship exchange. And then, I pieced the blocks, and added a little bit more to the boarder, and then the group Pioneer Quilters quilted it. And it took eight months. We quilted on it about four hours a day, for eight months. I mean, once a week for eight months.

LP: Okay.

TB: Oh, I didn't tell you it has a parchment background, which is a type of muslin without little dark slubs in it. A little bit lighter weight. It's got polyester batting, and it was very, very easy to needle.

LP: And what year was it made?

TB: It was started in 2002 and finished in 2003. I mean started in the year 2000 and finished in 2003.

LP: Okay, and that's all here in Eugene, Oregon?

TB: Yes, all in Eugene.

LP: What inspired you for making this pattern?

TB: Oh, well, thank you for asking. It was inspired by quilts I've seen and that I looked though pattern books and chose design elements that I liked. I wanted a quilt that would be--have a nice even rhythm, be easy to sleep under, sort of a serene traditional bedroom quilt.

LP: And is it?

TB: I think it is.

LP: Have you slept under it now?

TB: No, no one's allowed to. [laughs.]

LP: Alright!

TB: Actually, it's sort of a joke. We haven't put it on the bed because my husband has a terrible habit of laying on our bed with his shoes on. So, this [laughs.] this quilt will someday grace the guestroom bed. [laughs.]

LP: [laughing.] Alright, we'll look forward to that moment. Now this quilt has a very special history. Do you want to tell us about the special meaning this quilt has for you?

TB: Oh, yes, my husband has been a little envious of all the quilts I've made and given away, and so I made this for his and my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. It's my gift to both of us.

LP: And when was the wedding anniversary?

TB: July 8th, 1978, was our wedding, so our 25th anniversary was last year. Year before last. I don't know where time goes.

LP: Okay, so you wanted to make this for your twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

TB: Yes, and it worked. And it worked and he was thrilled, he's still thrilled to have it. And I've entered it in several shows, and it's done very well.

LP: Tell us about those shows?

TB: Sure. It was first displayed at the Pioneer Quilters annual show, and then at the Lane County Fair where it won a prize. And it, I submitted an application to the American Quilter's Society Annual Show and Contest in Paducah, Kentucky, and it juried into that show and went back to Paducah in 2004. And I got to go see it with some friends, who also worked on the quilt. After that it came home and it had juried into the Association of Pacific Northwest Quilters Semi-Annual show in Seattle, Washington. So, it went up there and was displayed front and center, as you first walked into the show. It was very fun to see it, and in the meantime, it went up to Portland, to the Pacific Northwest Quilters Annual Quilt Show, where it won first place for hand quilting.

LP: Wow. How many people put their hand quilting into it?

TB: I would guess about thirty-five to forty people at different times, quilted on this quilt.

LP: How does the stitching look, as one looks at it?

TB: It was, I think it's beautiful. In fact, some of the judges at the national shows commented on how nice the quilting was.

LP: In spite of thirty-five people working on it? Is it very even?

TB: It's relatively even. It was so easy to needle, and because I have fibromyalgia, I particularly chose fabrics and batting that would be easy to needle. So, to hand quilt, and the ladies were so pleased that it quilted so easily, they were able to do their very best work.

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

TB: Well, it's just a special quilt. It's a traditional quilt. I'm also a Studio Art Quilter, but this is my very first full size, hand quilted, hand appliquéd quilt.

LP: And what are your plans for this quilt?

TB: Well, I might show it a time or two more, then, hopefully we'll get to have it on a bed someday. [laughs.]

LP: Is there a quiltmaker's label on the back?

TB: Yes, there is.

LP: Do you plan to pass that onto anyone in particular?

TB: Well, I've got two daughters, and they both have the 'I wants' for it. So, I'm going to have to create another quilt [laughs.] for the good of the order.

LP: Do you think you might want to get the comments that the judges made?

TB: Yeah, maybe I'll go upstairs and find those comments that the judges made.

LP: Alright, then we can read them in. And there's the beautiful label. Can you describe the label for us on the tape?

TB: The label is the same rose shape as the appliqué roses on the front, only it's done in parchment to match the back, which is solid parchment, and in script it says, 'Rose Medallion, which is the name of the quilt, designed and owned by Theresa Boock,' and it has my address, 1232 Courtney Place, Eugene, Oregon, my phone number, and it says 'Friendship blocks made by members of Pioneer Quilters, hand quilted by Pioneer Quilters, Eugene, Oregon, 2003.'

LP: Can you tell us about the calligraphy used to do this label?

TB: Yes, I'd be happy to tell you about that. I went onto my computer and found a font that I thought was the prettiest, and I printed it out, and put it on a light table with my fabric on top and traced the calligraphy.

LP: Oh.

TB: [laughing.] I didn't do it myself. I'm afraid don't have the skills to do it any other way.

LP: So, it's not laser printed on the computer, this is hand done with, and what did you use to trace with? What kind of a writing--

TB: Micro, Micron pen?

LP: Micron fiber textile pen, black little, tiny fine--

TB: Yes, though I don't know if it is particularly for fibers, I think it's just sort of like the old drafting pens I used to use in art school, only a felt tip. It's very--

LP: It's beautiful.

TB: Thank you.

LP: Do you want us to stop while you get the judges' comments right now?

TB: Sure.

LP: Okay. We'll pause momentarily. [tape turned off.] Okay, and we're back.

TB: Alright, here's the comments from the Pacific Northwest Quilt Fest 2004. Pam Goderus says, 'This quilt demonstrates the skills of many hands, which adds a charming quality. Very balanced and beautiful quilting.' Judy Mathieson says, 'Excellent visual impact, colors and fabrics well chosen. Good choice of quilting designs, well executed,' and Gabrielle Swain said, 'Fabric and color very appropriate to theme, quilting designs enhance block design.'

LP: My, my. Thank you.

TB: You're welcome.

LP: Well, tell me about your interest in quilting?

TB: I got interested in quilting in 1974.

LP: How old were you at that point?

TB: Twenty-one.

LP: Okay.

TB: I had been interested in--I was--I sewed my own clothes since junior high and I had hoped to become a fashion designer. But that wasn't in the cards, it would have meant going back East, going to New York, and being the first daughter of my parents to go to college, they weren't comfortable with me going back to New York to study. So, I went off to college in, a, I went to a private, Catholic girls' college in Lake Oswego, Oregon,
West Linn, called Marylhurst College, and studied art. But I couldn't study art and fibers and get an art degree. I had to get a home ec degree there, and I didn't like that. I wanted the affirmation of fibers as an art medium. And so, I went off to, I juried into a school in Portland called Museum Art School, which was adjacent to the Portland Art Museum and run by the same board of directors and housed in the same building. And there I did some of my work, some of my assignments I did in fibers. I was working for a company, Singer Sewing Machine Company at that point, and we also sold fabric there. And they, my teachers liked my work, but they didn't think they could, that it was a valid art medium. So, I found the only college in Oregon that would give me a degree in art with a specialization in fibers, and that was the University of Oregon. So, I transferred to the University of Oregon, where I finished my Fine--my undergraduate degree in Fine and Applied Arts, with a fiber's specialization. I did a lot of weaving at that point. In 1974, I got interested in quilting, no one else was interested in it at that point, I was the first quilter in the University of Oregon fibers department. And I made a little quilt, a panel all by hand, a little block, that we, I framed and gave to my mother for Mother's Day in 1974. And that was an interesting block, it was a combination of cotton and I used denim and put a little rivet in the center of the star. It was a Texas star, and then I also started a Crazy Quilt when I was in that department. So that's--that's how I got interested.

LP: Okay. Did you have other folks that were interested at the same time?

TB: No.

LP: No, you were solo?

TB: Yeah.

LP: So, from whom did you learn to quilt?

TB: Well, I was self-taught until I decided I needed to learn more about it. In about 1980, I believe, the, there was an invention called the Rotary Cutter. And that had a huge impact on the quilting industry, and people were able to complete quilts faster than ever before, and the growth in design and technique has expanded hugely since that point. I took a class down at the Quilt Patch from a young woman named Trina, who taught how to use the latest tools in very accurate way for machine piecing. And that's how I learned machine piecing.

LP: And the Quilt Patch is a quilt store?

TB: It's a quilt store here in Eugene.

LP: With classes?

TB: It offers classes and fabric.

LP: [laughs.]

TB: And books! [laughs.]

LP: What is your first quilt memory? Oh wait, one more question, how many hours a week do you quilt?

TB: I do, good question. Sporadic. Not very many, really. Maybe two or three hours a month. But that would be hand quilting that would exclude my studio art quilting, which--which takes a lot more time.

LP: How much time do you spend with your studio art quilting?

TB: When I've got a dead, I spend a lot of time thinking about projects, we've got themes in my professional art group, studio art quilt group and as we get closer to the deadline, and I'm forced to make those things coalesce I will spend several days in a row, and nights, creating the quilt that I need to for my deadline.

LP: Will you tell us about that professional art quilt group, briefly?

TB: Sure, what--how can I begin? There's twenty women in this group. It's a support group and it's also, we critique each other, and we find opportunities to show. And then we create for those shows. We sell our work, we have shown and been involved with other professional art groups in France, and Korea, and Japan. And we have shown in some of the major venues here in the Pacific Northwest.

LP: What is the name of your group?

TB: Tactile Expressions.

LP: How long has it been going?

TB: Ten years.

LP: And how many people in it?

TB: Twenty. And I'm, I've been a member for eight years.

LP: Is this by invitation?

TB: It's even more than invitation, it's, you have to jury in at this point. We have a lot of members who have shown at the national level, who have published books, and won prizes. It's not an easy group to get into anymore. At the time I joined it was pretty open.

LP: And you joined when?

TB: Eight years ago.

LP: What is your first quilt memory?

TB: Nothing comes to mind. When I traveled across the United States in 1974, I took a year off from school, and with a friend traveled, took two months to travel across the United States, and stopped in Denver and went to the Denver Art Museum, and they had a marvelous quilt show there. And that wasn't very common in the early 1970's. That was exciting. As far as my first quilt, I can't say.

LP: Are there other quilters among your family or friends?

TB: Not amongst my family. I've got lots of friends that are quilters. It's quite a community. But my husband's great, my husband's grandmother's grandmother made two quilts that are in my possession, and I also own a raffle quilt that my great grandfather and grandmother bought chances in, and their names are embroidered on the quilt.

LP: Was that here in the Eugene area?

TB: Yes, yes, our family's lived in this area for a hundred and thirty years.

LP: Now is the Vitus family?

TB: Yes, uh-huh.

LP: How does quilting impact your family?

TB: Well, they don't get dinner very often. [laughs.] And they haven't gotten their quilts yet because I've been too busy with other, with other commitments, and I think that's been a little hard on their self-esteem. But it's helped my daughters appreciate the validity of fiber arts as an art form. And they've done, they've written papers on some of their classes, like Women in Art. I was featured in a paper that my oldest daughter wrote, for that class at the University of Oregon.

LP: Have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time?

TB: Well, I quilt pretty regularly, so whatever is going on in my life, quilting, whatever quilt I'm working on becomes a part of the memory of whatever is happening in my life. So sometimes it's good, and sometimes not as good. Sometimes, in the middle.

LP: What do you find pleasing about quilting?

TB: I love working with fibers and fabric. I like tactile part of it. I like the colors, I like how malleable it is, and the rhythm that one's gets into when hand appliquéing or hand quilting is very soothing.

LP: What aspects of quilting to you not enjoy?

TB: Oh, I should say one more thing--

LP: Yes.

TB: About quilting that has really had an impact on my life, is learning to take a big project and making it doable by breaking it down into smaller units, which was something that was awfully hard for me to do before I learned to quilt.

LP: Has that affected other parts of your life, then?

TB: Absolutely. It has helped me to overcome obstacles.

LP: Like?

TB: Oh, gosh, it's integrated so much into my life that I hardly know where to begin. But it's also helped my children, too, because I've been able to see a bigger picture, and help them accomplish things step by step, to achieve things they've wanted to achieve.

LP: And what aspects of quilting do you not enjoy?

TB: I can't think of any. [laughs.] I don't enjoy pricking my fingers. [laughs.]

LP: And what do you do to prevent that?

TB: Good question. I use a little product called Thimble It, which is a little plastic sheet of paper with stick'um on the back, and I put that on my finger, and it deflects the stitches.

LP: A special sticky pad or tape sort of thing?

TB: A little flat surface so the needle comes through, and you can feel it, it helps.

LP: You use it instead of a medal thimble? That covers.

TB: On my under finger so I don't bleed on the quilt underneath. And then I use a thimble on my middle finger, on my right hand.

LP: A standard thimble?

TB: Yes.

LP: So, let's talk for a bit about the esthetics, craftsmanship and design aspects of quilt making. What do you think makes a great quilt?

TB: A quilt with good visual impact, that is balanced, not so busy that you can't really see what's going on but interesting enough that your eye moves around the quilt. Which is what I had in mind when I designed this quilt, and asked--I provided the pinks and reds and blues, and I asked the ladies to provide their own greens for the leaves and so as you look at it you see that each block has a different green. Has different greens and it helps your eye, keeps your eye moving around the quilt.

LP: Um-hmm.

TB: Did you ever notice that before?

LP: Um-hmm.

TB: Some of the greens are more yellow, some are more blue.

LP: Um-hmm?

TB: It makes it--it just makes it interesting enough that you want to keep trying to figure out what it is that's different.

LP: Like the spice in a soup.

TB: Yeah.

LP: And what makes a quilt artistically powerful? That's to add to that?

TB: Well, I think a contrast in values, color, values and hues are important. Color, values, contrast and hues, compatible hues, so that it's not glaring or clashing, is important. A pattern that is suitable size wise to the scale of the [inaudible due to coughing.] is important. And then subject matter, yeah. The actual design used.

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

TB: Hmmm, I think history is important, there. History, and then again, designs that impact the industry and are catalysts for other designers to create. Bring their experiences to, to the quilting process. Does that make sense? I think that's important too. Inspiration, inspiring quilts. Thought provoking.

LP: Do you collect quilts?

TB: I do. I do. I've got old quilts that have belonged to the family, and when I go to quilt shows and I see a quilt top that some other quilter has made in their lifetime, and it just cries out to be completed, I often cannot resist those quilt tops. It's my theory that every time a quilt top, an old quilt top that was left behind when someone died, every time it gets completed that quilter gets to go to heaven. [laughs.] Oh, dear.

LP: Well, that's a good inspiration. [laughs.] What makes a great quilter?

TB: That can vary. I think each person who is a dedicated quilter brings something to the party. But a great quilter has to combine all the things I mentioned earlier, in a museum quality quilt. Thought, I think a lot of thought need to go in a quilt. And sometimes free association of memories has to go into a quilt.

LP: How do great quilters learn the art of quilting? Especially how to design a pattern or chose fabrics or colors?

TB: Depends on the individual. I think they need to educate themselves by looking at things that other people have done, and looking at what they want to do. And transcribing that into a quilt pattern. Did I answer your question?

LP: I don't know.

TB: Try it again, ask me the question again.

LP: How do great quilters learn the art of quilting? Especially how to design a pattern or chose fabric or colors.

TB: I think a lot of it comes from within. A lot of it is self-driven. And then one learns as they educate themselves, and go to classes, read books, trust their instincts? Experiment, be willing to admit errors. Continue on.

LP: And how do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting? And long arm quilting?

TB: I think hand pieced; hand quilted quilts are so soft and gentle, and nice to be around and under. And machine pieced and machine quilted quilts have more thread in them, because, actually they have double the thread and they don't drape as nicely. So, I prefer to use the hand quilting for quilts that people are going to snuggle under, and machine quilting and piecing I prefer for my art quilts because it's a harder surface, and I want a harder surface with an art quilt.

LP: Why do you want a harder surface?

TB: Well, when I want things to be flat, two dimensional, when I have a design idea that lends itself to being flat, I want that hard, flatness. Sort of like when I painted with acrylics, I used that medium because of the flat, two-dimensional color. So, I think they each have their place.

LP: Okay, any more you want to say on esthetics and craftsmanship?

TB: No. I think everyone needs to do what they think is best. I don't like to have value judgments on things like that. So, if someone is comfortable with machine quilting, for their bed quilt. I say, go for it. Don't be limited by other people's ideas.

LP: Let's talk now about the function and meaning of quilts in American life. Why is quilting important to your life?

TB: I like the link to the past. I like history, and I like that is it an art form that was created from a woman's everyday need to create warmth and comfort for her family and to enjoy visually what she was doing. I think it's, there is quality of life there that people have created, just, needing, out of need, they have taken it a step farther and they've been creative, and I think that's been very gratifying for people. And I find I like being part of that link.

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

TB: Pacific Northwest is sort of cutting edge for quilting. It's really fascinating to have watched it evolve over the last thirty years. I sometimes feel like I'm a step behind because I'm not into the bright colors a lot of the quilters around here are in the Pacific Northwest. Read me the question again and let me make sure I've gotten.

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

TB: Okay. Being a fourth generation Oregonian, what you see in my quilts is a reflection of my region. And anything else I've brought into it by traveling, but truly, I'm about as dyed-in-the-wool Oregonian as you can get, so, ah--

LP: In what ways would we see that in your quilts?

TB: A lot of the folks that came to Oregon in the 1800's, some of them came from New England, and there is a lot of traditional New England beliefs hidden in design. Some of the folks came from Northern Europe, and you see a lot of, for instance, my father's family is Dutch, German and Belgique and they were very fine craftsmen. And I see that eye for detail. That's, does that make sense?

LP: Okay. Is there anything else that people would look at your quilts and notice that as being distinctive or reflective of this community or region?

TB: Well, the colors that I choose are generally muted. This is a very grey, green area. And I relate to that. Blues, greens. When you go to Hawaii, you want to wear all the beautiful, bright colors that you see there. In Oregon, it's sort of a muted place, and I relate to that. I can't, I can't get into color too much without feeling very uncomfortable.

LP: Why is that?

TB: I just don't relate to it.

LP: You don't relate to talking about color?

TB: No, to bright colors in my quilts.

LP: Oh, oh, I see. The quilt that you brought today is--do you consider it muted?

TB: I do. Nothing, no brights in it at all.

LP: The burgundies are darker, and the greens are darker, muted.

TB: Yeah, they are--they are quiet.

LP: And the parchment is off-white.

TB: And the blues are sort of grey, grey blue. All the colors in that quilt have a little bit of grey.

LP: Grey tones in them?

TB: Um-hmmm.

LP: They work very well together. What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

TB: I think they are very important as forms of expression of love, and caring comfort. They create a cozy atmosphere that make people feel secure, and I think that's important in our frenetic lifestyle and culture. There is a grounding. They have a grounding effect to them. And also, they are wonderful community building. It's a wonderful community building activity. Quilters are usually very open and warm people who like to build really old-fashioned communities.

LP: In what ways to you think quilts have special meaning to women's history in America?

TB: They have been a great means of expression for women, creative expression for women, and they reflect the time that the women have lived in, by their design and by their patterns and fabric and color. And I think they are wonderful documentation of women's issues. Women caring about family and their being in the world. It's an art form.

LP: How do you think quilts can be used?

TB: They can be therapeutic for people who are having emotional issues. They can be comforting to people in distress. They can help form communities, by people with like ideas for color, and design. Or motives for creating the quilts. It's a two billion a year industry in our nation for a reason. Fills a lot of needs.

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

TB: I think this is an excellent way of preserving them, the pictures and the interviews. Fibers, by their very nature, are a transitory medium. They are not going to last, unless they are kept out of light and air, for more than one hundred, one hundred and fifty years, so preserving them, they will have to be preserved by a different method than just, than just using them or putting them away. Neither one of them does much to fulfill what they were designed to do, so I think they have to be documented.

LP: And what has happened to the quilts you have made or those of families or friends?

TB: They are being used on beds. I've been involved with a lot of fund-raising quilts where I've made a block, so those are all over the place. And I don't know how they are being used, but I think those quilts are being enjoyed. The quilts I've made for art purposes are hanging on people's walls, because they bought them, they liked the designs. I think they've been inspiring to people who have seen them in shows, I've had people comment on them that way. And they are providing comfort, too.

LP Do you have any more thoughts that you want to make sure to preserve here? History?

TB: Well, I'd like to thank my grandmother, who, when I was three years old, put two pieces of fabric in my hand and a needle and thread and allowed me to sew those together. And my mother said, 'Oh, do you think she should have that needle?' and my grandmother said, "Oh, Felicia, she's fine.' And it empowered me in a way I had never been empowered, and it has followed me all this time. [laughs.]

LP: All right.

TB: All right.

LP: Thank you very much. And I think I have some closing words I'm supposed to say. I'd like to thank Theresa Boock for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 8:18 on February 15th, 2005. Thank you.


“Theresa Boock,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024,