Ann Beers




Ann Beers




Ann Beers


Carolyn Kolzow

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Del Thomas


Eugene, Oregon


Kim Greene


Carolyn Kolzow (CK): This is Carolyn Kolzow. I'm doing a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Ann Beers. Ann is in Eugene, Oregon and I'm in Beaverton, Oregon. We are conducting this interview by telephone. Today's date is January 11, 2009. It is 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon. We are doing this interview through the American Heritage Committee of the Oregon State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Ann is a member of the Oregon Lewis and Clark Chapter. Ann has sent me pictures of her quilt. Ann, can you tell me about your quilt that you selected today, your "Southwestern Sampler"?

Ann Beers (AB): It is a double bed size, and I pieced it by machine; but I hand quilted it. Never having ever hand quilted anything in my life before. I kind of figured out a stitch and started in the middle. I had already laid it out on a flat surface and safety pinned like mad all over the place, so I could just do it in my lap. The reason why I did the quilt, are you ready for that?

CK: Yes, I sure am.

AB: Okay, my granddaughter was much younger then--that doesn't really matter. Anyway, she and her family lived in Albuquerque, [New Mexico.]; and they came to visit Eugene, [Oregon.]. I wanted to give her a present. At the time, I had done a couple of little quilts, only because our son had asked me to make a quilt for him. I had never quilted in my life. I pieced together a couple after going to a quilt store and getting supplies. I pieced the quilts, but I tied those. I tied the smaller one that my daughter [Angela.] wanted me to make after she saw the one, I had made for Rich, [son.] and actually requested it. Anyway, when the family was coming, I happened to be in Safeway [for groceries.] and got a magazine called Big Block Quilts. I don't know which issue, but I brought it home, and Anna sat on the couch with me. We started looking through the magazine together and suddenly, she wanted, 'That one, Grandma, that one.' I tried to persuade her to look at the other pages to see if she would like another one even better, but no she was stabbing the page with her forefinger. 'That one, Grandma,' so that one it had to be. It had twelve different patterns in it, and then of course, the runners between the blocks and the outer borders. She and her mother, our daughter, and I went upstairs and got out my stash of material. I had quite a bit because I had been shopping when the House of Fabrics went out of business. Actually, the back part--the back came from a friend who was moving away a few years before and had given me material very generously, bless her heart. So, gradually I put my rotary cutter to work on the pad and used the rulers and used the directions. I went at it. At the time, my mother was in her eighties and lived with us. The reason why she lived with us was because she had Parkinson's [Disease.] Well, she was [falling a lot of and.] getting a little bit more memory loss, so I could only work on the quilt when she was asleep, or if she was awake, and we watched TV together. I could pin pieces together, but anything that required going upstairs to use the sewing machine or using the rotary cutter, I waited until she was asleep. That is how I did it. Come to think of it, she was already gone, by the time that I started this particular quilt. That is how I did the earlier ones. On this one, I still had to work around the activities with which I had gotten involved in our community.

I know that most quilters use a frame, and I haven't got a frame. I knew if I waited for a real frame, it would never happen. Oh, a friend loaned me a hoop to use in my lap. I tried it a little bit. I tried. I attempted to try it, and that didn't work out for me at all either. I just did it in my lap, and it worked. I got it done, and she loved it. Oh, I wanted to tell you that I have four things written down that I want to be sure to mention. I've already talked about two of them. I wanted to tell you about the time [when Annabeth and her family came again to visit.] when the top was still in progress. They came to visit, and we [Annabeth, Angela, and I.] went upstairs and unfolded the top to look at it all together. Their sharp eyes were like editors for a writer. They detected something that my eyes had skipped over, which was that I had turned one of the blocks around, just 180 degrees. Anyway, that was a good thing because it didn't look very good the way it was when they showed it to me very kindly. Anyway, I got that accomplished. I finished it. I simply used the seam ripper by starting around the block. Anyway, I got it back together; and it worked just fine. It looked much better. The other thing I was going to tell you is when Annabeth [and her family.] came to visit again. They came to visit when the quilt was actually completed. I had it laid out on the couch and the coffee table. I had it laid out as much as possible, so they could see all of the quilt design as well as the border. Annabeth happened to come in sooner, and she came in first. I'm going to have an interruption here. I'm really sorry. I see my husband's best friend parking out front.

CK: That is fine.

AB: Hold on. [pause while she takes care of unexpected guest to the house.] I'm sorry Carolyn.

CK: That is fine, no problem.

AB: That is what I thought. You explained to me very kindly the first time that you had a way of covering for barking dogs.

CK: Right.

AB: So, where was I? Oh yes, Annabeth came in the door first, and she went right to it. What am I saying? She took one look at the quilt and asked, 'Can I have it?' I said, 'It is yours.' She just bounced right over, grabbed it up, and clutched it to her heart. 'Yes,' I said, 'It's yours.' [My plan and hope had been for her whole family to see the quilt before Annabeth picked it up.] When she started rushing over, I only watched her take possession. Anyway, she snatched it up, clutched it to her heart; and that was the last time I saw it fully extended for a while. I was glad she appreciated it so much.

CK: That is for sure. There was no more inspection.

AB: Nope, no more inspection right then.

CK: She had already done it before. [laughs.]

AB: Yes, however when it was laid out on an air mattress for her to sleep under, I saw it again. I have seen it folded up when I visited up in Kennewick. [Washington.] where she and her family now live. I know it is being appreciated. Angela said she rescued it once when one of Annabeth's friends had been cuddling up in it with her shoes on and [laughs.] snatched it away! The last time I saw it, it was folded up and hanging from the side of Annabeth's bed which is up in the air. When they moved to Kennewick, her room turned out to be small enough that they went to a store and bought a single bed that is up over a [triangular.] desk [which is built into a corner against the bed's front left legs.]. So, she has her desk right under her bed, and the quilt hangs down on the [other.] side, [the side easily seen from the door.]

CK: How nice to display it that way.

AB: That is kind of neat.

CK: It is.

AB: Yes. Oh, there is one other way that I know that it is appreciated. Other than all the help that Dick [husband.] has been in getting this interview arranged for us, and taking the pictures, and sending the pictures to you and helping with the computer transfer of information, and graphics. He also has one of those quilt patterns as the screen saver. The part where [a 'runner' goes up and down,] on one side. On the left side, he has all of these different programs to indicate with the mouse where he wants to go, [and one of those twelve different designs is displayed by the rest of the screensaver.]

CK: I see.

AB: I believe the design is called the Pinwheel. It looks like a pinwheel. The long spokes show one going to each of the four corners. Each spoke has three or four colors. I'm standing here in the living room looking at the picture that my husband printed out and framed [of me sitting beside the quilt.] and it is hanging on the wall. Okay, one more way I know it was appreciated.

CK: That is good. Tell me about your interest in quilt making. Was this the first quilt, or have you done others?

AB: The very first one was for our son [Rich.], and it is a house with four trees and four birds and then underneath there is a smaller quilt. They are both small, but the smaller one has four cats with curved tails and curtains on each side and is sitting in the window. That was just the start of my quilting actually, although that was the tied quilt. I had never considered quilting before when he asked me to do that, probably because his father's mother quilted, or used to quilt. She [Marion Stow Beers is 93 years of age.] made quilts for each of her grandchildren and many more. Maybe he got the idea from that. At any rate, at one point he asked me to make a quilt for him. So, I went to the Quilt Patch in Eugene [Oregon.], and I got the supplies I needed and a couple of books. I looked through them to find patterns, and material. The patterns I had chosen while I was choosing books. Anyway, to put it all together as I said before, that was when mother was with us. There wasn't any way I could go to classes then because I had 24/7 responsibilities here. Obviously, occasionally I got out of the house. We had some respite care a few hours twice a week for a while, of course that was the last few years; and she lived in her own reality as well as in our home possibly due to confusion being one of the Parkinson Disease symptoms. I couldn't get to classes because that would be too much solid time away. I needed the time for running errands and spending a little time with my husband. Anyway, that is how I went about learning how to quilt. Since then, I was invited to join a quilt guild, so since shortly after mother died in May of 1996 [at the age of 87.] I have been attending the Emerald Valley Quilters. I've been a member since then. I don't do a whole lot. There are satellite groups of quilters which I don't get involved in. I like to check off the names at the door when people come in, but that is just helping members. That is not really quilting. I love the show and tell, and I like the friendships I make there. It is the speakers who really are interesting. They come from all over. Some of them are local. Some of them are international. I'm remembering one from England and her beautiful creations. Some of them are extremely entertaining. I remember one of them sharing that she, her sisters, and their mother were always so busy in their sewing room that they only went to their kitchen out of absolute necessity or as a last resort!

AB: My interest in quilting could have been natural because my great-grandmother made a quilt for her children and her grandchildren. I actually have Mother's in the drawer, and it is precious to me. It is blue and white. Somebody told me it is the Drunkard Path pattern, and I feel very privileged to have inherited it. I would say it is in pretty good condition. Not being an appraiser, I'm no authority; but it is all in one piece. It has only got one mark, and the binding got really worn; and I sewed it back on. It is not quite all there either, not all the way around. For the most part it is all in one piece. I actually did repair it a tiny bit of the distance around.

CK: Who did you say made that quilt?

AB: Her name was Rebecca Ann Adair Lawrence.

CK: Is that your grandmother?

AB: That was my mother's grandmother. My mother's father's mother. I was named after her as Ann Adair Bernheim. Then I married Richard [Dick] Beers, and that is Beers, and Angela is Angela Adair Beers Seydel, and there is Annabeth Adair Seydel. How about that?

CK: Do you have a collection of sewing memorabilia then?

AB: I have in the sense that I have things that I have sewn. I have a few things that other people have sewn and lots of sewing supplies. I'm kind of between sewing machines at the moment, but I haven't got any quilts in progress right now. The last quilt I made was right after the quilt I made for Annabeth. Actually, when I made Annabeth's quilt being so inexperienced and not terribly realistic, I had this idea of using a piece of material for the back. I would piece both sides to make it reversible. Well, that didn't work at all. Well, it worked a little bit. What did work is that I chose three of my favorite patterns from the quilt and multiplied them out and made each design four times. I put them in a geometric pattern and got it all together. I had two complete tops, as you were. Then, as I was doing Annabeth's quilt, I had a couple of multiples and made pillows for her that I quilted and sewed onto pillowcases that I had made in similar material. I gave her pillowcases with one square repeated for two pillowcases because they were identical pillowcases.

CK: How nice.

AB: I gave Annabeth her pillowcases long before I finished the quilt. To get back to the second side, well when I began the actual quilting, I discovered that stitching in the ditch was not going to work on the second side. I had to bow to better minds than mine and more realism, take it apart and put this solid piece of material along there and then I had the extra cloth. Well, Angela said she would like it, so we went to a material shop in Kennewick and got a different piece of material for the back of the second quilt. I hand quilted that completely. By that time the sewing machine that we bought, an old Belvedere, it wasn't old then. We bought a little Belvedere with zigzag before Angela was born. Angela was born in July '65, July 17, 1965, and so that machine was ancient by then. I decided that it was pretty undependable. However, my husband feels very differently because when he sits down to mend something, he makes it work. He is very mechanically inclined. I am going into all of this, because actually I thought a sewer or quilter might find it amusing.

CK: [laughs.] That is right.

AB: Besides, it is kind of informative. It is kind of reassuring for everybody to know, the world keeps right on turning, and we just make compromises in this life and keep going.

CK: That goes right along with the question, how does quilt making impact your family?

AB: They are very nice. They are very supportive. They are really wonderful about it. [In fact, Rich has his quilt hanging in his dining room in Seattle, Washington. Dick and I watched him hang it. I hoped his wife likes it too.] Something just ran through my mind, and I thought. 'Oh, I should tell her about that, and it ran right back out again.' [laughs.]

CK: It will come back.

AB: I hope it comes back. If it does, I will interrupt myself, and tell you before it goes away again.

CK: [laughs.] What do you find pleasing about quilt making?

AB: When I'm not getting frustrated, it is very calming. Oh, I know what it was, and it fits in with your question. Thank you for asking that. I have read in these magazines and a lot of quilters probably know this. Originally quilting started with women trying to keep their families warm, needing to put materials together that would stay together to warm their families on cold nights or any nights. They were doing their own form of recycling as in sewing the materials together. It developed into an art form, and into things that win contests, and even when that doesn't happen. It's a great hobby, very practical and satisfying because it is creative. I always find sewing kind of reassuring. Somehow you can make it happen. It's a great hobby, very practical and satisfying because it is creative. The only thing about knitting is that when you do make a mistake, you can rip it out and use it over because the yarn can be readjusted more easily than the material. I mean if I happen to use the scissors in the wrong place. I think that really people can always salvage things even then. Going on I really am kind of an overly friendly person. I like to have lots of things in common with people and the fact is that it is really nice to get a sense of accomplishment by doing something kind of soul satisfying. You can make presents with it. You can make utility things with it. You can salvage things from clothing if you want to keep it in use in your family, if you would like to see it in your daily life more, or if you want to create a gift for some reason, a wedding or birthday. Actually, our friend Theresa Boock is collecting material from friends in DAR. She is making what is known as a fire quilt because she had a terrible fire in her house. It destroyed her stash, so her friends have been sending her-- what is the word, anyway material. Everybody knows the word.

CK: Would it be a fat quarter?

AB: Fat quarters that is what I'm trying to say. That is Theresa. Nobody sent me material, but as I say, a friend has already given me lots of materials. I appreciate it very, very much. The topic being material, most of it colors and patterns, very much to my taste, so I have really enjoyed the privilege of having that to remember her by. In fact, when she saw one of the quilts in progress--oh it must have been Annabeth's. She smiled and said, 'I remember that material.' That was a moment, a moment to remember. Quilting is so sentimental and so practical and so pleasing to the eye in most cases. Even if I see a quilt that doesn't grab me, I think there is so much love in it, and somebody is going to love it. It was made by somebody for some purpose, for comfort, that they give to in an emergency. Think of all the grandmas all over the world, all the fond aunts making quilts for new babies. It is kind of a neat thing to know that it started decades and decades, well centuries ago and will always be happening. I am so thankful for the resurging interest in quilting. I wasn't really aware of quilts or even comforters while I was really little. It has only been since I was at least fourteen that I became really aware of comforters; and that says something, I do believe.

CK: Is age fourteen when your first quilt memory was?

AB: You are talking, and I can't hear you.

CK: When was your first quilt memory?

AB: When was my first quilt memory? I'm thinking that my first real awareness at this moment was either my mother mentioning that her grandmother had made all those quilts. That was quite a story in itself because they were living in a little town, Antrim, Ohio. Grandma Annie didn't like her name Rebecca. Grandma Annie lived on a farm outside of Antrim which is near Cambridge which is oh somewhere like within an hour of Wheeling, West Virginia. It might be thirty minutes. It is at an intersection of two highways that come down from eastern Ohio and go across to southern Ohio. Cambridge is right there. Anyway, Grandma Annie did all this piecing of quilts. Then there was a mother and daughter duo who would come in for the winter from the farm [as Grandma Annie always did.] too. The husband, father stayed out on the farm and these two, the mother and daughter came in and stayed in a house very close to where Grandma Annie was. My mother and her family were on the other side, the next house over. Grandma Annie was right next door to my mother and her family. Anyway, the duo would set up quilt frames and quilt all winter. That is how the quilt got finished. I wrote and asked my Aunt Mary Louise, the youngest sister, the only one surviving now about it. Actually, the answer, as well as the question went around in the Round Robin [letter.] and came back. An envelope of letters has been going for decades and decades. It was between my mother and her sisters, but now there is only one aunt but also four cousins. It's still pretty cool. That is how I got the answer. How Grandma Annie's quilts got quilted. What was the question again?

CK: Let's move on. [laughs.]

AB: I really go on and on.

CK: Let's talk about what aspects of quilt making you do not enjoy.

AB: What do I not enjoy? That is a good question. I can't think of one right now.

CK: That is marvelous. Do you have a quilt in mind that you are going to do next?

AB: Not really, no. I subscribe to several quilting magazines, Quiltmakers Favorite of Projects and the newsletter was my favorite until Helen--oh what was her last name, passed away. She did this column that I just loved, I can't think of her name, but it is the columnist who was in there for years and years and passed away. [Helen Kelley, who authored "Loose Threads," which was published in Quilter's Newsletter.] I do love the art gallery of quilting in there. Oh, something came to my mind again. Are there aspects I don't enjoy? I can't think of what it was. Oh, have I got a quilt project? Nope. Until I get what used to be Angela's bedroom sorted out and let go of things that are not sewing related, except for my books. I haven't got a good excuse to choose a new machine. I think that is what I was thinking about was what crossed my mind. It was something about the fact that I would love to get a new machine. Oh, my daughter says that if you would just let go of some stuff; you would have room for a new machine. Now I know what it was I was going to tell you. The reason why I ended up hand quilting the quilt is because Angela and I went to a quilt shop hoping to pay somebody for quilting, for machine quilting because I knew there was no way I could do it on my machine. The lady couldn't give me an exact quote. I learned enough from her to know there wasn't any sense approaching anybody else. There wasn't any sense in pursing the avenue of paying to get it machine quilted. One problem being that my husband came from a very rural background where you do it yourself or you trade favors and so [laughs.] the prospect of paying for having it machine quilted became really daunting when it was going to be well over a hundred or two hundred dollars. The other thing was that I was not willing to consider having it done in this meandering, really just wandering pattern. By that time, I had attended quilt guild, and I had looked through many quilting magazine issues, and realized people put stars and seashells and all kinds of marvelous patterns in quilting if they were doing it by machine. I also realized that a quilting machine was beyond my budget too. This is somebody who has already approached her husband about the possibility of a new machine, and he is saying, 'This one works just fine. What are you talking about?' The only thing to do was to teach myself some sort of quilting pattern, I mean quilting stitch, so I just did.

CK: That is good.

AB: It worked just fine. It certainly is not tiny as in quilting contest entries, but I would never enter a quilting contest, I know better. I know that my ego is far too fragile for that. I know that my stitches are far too big for that. I'm doing just fine without displaying anything at the county fair. For a few years, I entered things I had knitted at the county fair. Oh, Angela is forty-three now. [laughs.] It has been at least three, three and a half decades, since I did that. This way I skip deadlines and just enjoy looking at other people's work.

CK: What do you think makes a great quilt?

AB: Design, pleasing colors, something practical so that if something does get spilled on it that it is washable, something that can be washed out, and something that is sturdy enough with wide enough seams that they don't rip out. The one thing that brings to mind the fact that my husband's father's mother [Amma Della Steear Beers.] made quilts for each of her grandchildren, for great grandchildren I don't know, but I do know she made a couple of them for great grandchildren because she made one each for our children. My point here is that she made them with all that love and good intentions. They are just very small like crib quilts. I still have one around. I could not use them because if I had used them, they would truly have gone to pieces because the seams are too narrow. Bless the lady's heart. She put all that thought and effort into it and her seams were so narrow that I have to protect them from just coming apart because it wouldn't be completely her work of art, if I would start reconstructing the quilts. As you know you can't re-piece the quilt without taking it apart.

CK: That is true.

AB: What makes a good quilt? It's something that you can enjoy and preserve at the same time.

CK: What would you say makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

AB: Oh boy, I'm not an expert on that. I would say it's something that displays unique talent, unique skill really. Maybe it is something to do with that geographical area. It is a typical sample of what the pioneers used to do. It has significance in something the Donner Party happened to have along. That is the sort of thing I mean. I chose that wording because of a few summers ago, we attended a family wedding that happened to be at a ski resort just up the hill from the Donner Party site. We did go through their museum and saw some things that had been there, and that was fascinating, and I don't remember is whether or not I saw quilts there. What makes a good quilt, for museums or special collections? It is something that seems to be genuine art, and something that has historical significance.

CK: We are nearing the end of our time for the interview. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

AB: I'm trying to think of something. I'm grateful for this opportunity. It has been wonderful to be considered a part of this project.

CK: I would like to thank you for allowing me to interview you today as part of Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories.

AB: Thank you very much. I feel truly honored.

CK: Our interviewed concluded at 4:45 on January 11, 2009.


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