Ann Reed




Ann Reed




Ann Reed


Roberta Mills

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Place Portland, Oregon


Roberta Mills


Roberta Mills (RM): My name is Roberta Mills. Today's date is February 15, 2008, and it's 1:00 o'clock p.m. I'm conducting an interview with Ann Reed in her home in Portland, Oregon for the Quilters' [S.O.S.] - Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Oregon State Society, Daughters of the American Revolution. Ann is a quilter and is a member of Portland Chapter, [NSDAR.] National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

RM: Tell me about the quilt you're showing today, Ann.

AR: Oh, this quilt is one that I made as a challenge to myself in color and pattern and learning to trust myself with colors and patterns.

RM: Do you have any other quilts here today?

AR: Most of my quilts have already gone on to their intended owners. [laughs.]

RM: And where might some of those be?

AR: Scattered over California and Minnesota mostly.

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

AR: This one was learning to trust my intuition with color and with patterns, and was just all over fun, and I think it came out rather nicely.

RM: Why did you choose this quilt for the interview?

AR: Because most of my others have already found their [laughs.] homes and have gone. This is one of the few that I have kept for myself.

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

AR: Beyond, 'She's crazy!' [laughs.] I get a lot of compliments on the colors, and it's nice earthiness, and--

RM: Explain what the colors are.

AR: This was an experiment in greens, tans, and blacks; of different values and patterns.

RM: How do you use the quilt?

AR: Right now, it's being used as a wall hanging but, eventually, it'll go back to being a nice cozy lap throw to curl up under when it gets cold in the winter. [laughs.]

RM: Do you sleep under a quilt?

AR: Actually, yes, I do. I've got one on my bed right now.

RM: Well, tell me about that one.

AR: That one is a charm quilt. It's made out of five-inch squares, and each fabric is different, there are no two fabrics alike, and it's just a tied, utility kind of quilt. It's just a fun, "I Spy".

RM: Have you given quilts as gifts? Obviously so. [laughs.]

AR: I decided to be absolutely insane one Christmas, and did quilts for several family members and friends, most of which I actually got done on time. I'm not sure how.

RM: Good planning, I'm sure.

AR: [laughs.] No. [laughs.]

RM: Do you belong to a guild?

AR: Yes, I do, to the Northwest Quilter's Guild here in Portland, Oregon.

RM: How often do they meet?

AR: They meet once a month, but there's a lot of friendship groups that meet in between, and they have what they call "UFO" groups; "Un-Finished Object."

RM: A'ha!

AR: You get together and work on unfinished objects, and also, they have a Comforting Quilts section which does quilts for charity, mostly abused children.

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

AR: Here in the Portland Chapter, we started up a craft guild or craft group that meets every other, every two weeks, and we're starting to do quilts and teaching quilting to some of the ladies who wanted to learn, and a lot of other crafts as well. Really fun and a great excuse to get together.

RM: How often do they meet?

AR: They meet every other week, excuse me, not every other week; every two weeks. Is that every other week?

RM: The same thing! [both laughs.]

RM: Do you collect or sell quilts?

AR: I do sell quilts, and I would like to collect quilts but, seeing as we've been moving, we haven't really got--it's hard to collect things when you're moving. [laughs.] We're now settled; we can do this now. [laughs.]

RM: What outlets do you use to sell them?

AR: Well, we have a lot of artist's markets here in Portland, and that's going to be my main outlet as well as, probably, a website.

RM: Do you have a collection of quilting or sewing memorabilia?

AR: [laughs.] Which drives my sister crazy. I have a tendency to collect sewing machines. If I bring another one in, she'll probably do me bodily harm, [laughs.] but I do collect--as with all quilters, we have a tendency to collect tools, toys.

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

AR: I've worked in fabric stores, but not ones that have been designated a quilt shop, and that's been a lot of fun. You get to fondle fabric.

RM: Oh! Where was the store located?

AR: Huntington Beach, California.

RM: Do you teach quilting at all?

AR: Actually, I am just--well, we're going to start with our Portland DAR ladies. Several would like to learn how to quilt, and I have several ladies here in my housing tract that would like to learn. So, yes, I'm going to start teaching.

RM: Have you ever won an award?

AR: This last year, I won second place in Wearable Art at the Northwest Quilter's Quilt Show, which coincides with the Rose Festival.

RM: And--very good, so tell me about your interest in quilt making.

AR: I really enjoy designing with colors, and patterns, and texture, and I like things that people can wrap up in and feel the warmth that I try and instill in things.

RM: At what age did you start quilt making?

AR: I've been sewing since I've been, oh, when did I--I started sewing probably in high school, but I started quilting actually about thirty-two.

RM: From whom did you learn to quilt?

AR: I'm actually self-taught. Lots of books, and lots of trial and error.

RM: How many hours a week do you quilt?

AR: [laughs.] I think that goes one too many. In other words, a lot. It has a tendency to take over.

RM: Can you be a bit more specific?

AR: Probably four or five hours a day, if not more, depending on whether I'm working or not.

RM: Fantastic. What's your first quilt memory?

AR: Oh, first quilt memory. Don't really; it's hard to say. [laughs.] But I think it's having been wrapped up in a quilt, and feeling safe, and warm, and loved.

RM: Are there other quiltmakers among your family or friends?

AR: My sister also quilts. As a matter of fact, we work together a lot, and I have a lot of friends in the quilt guild as well as our DAR chapter ladies.

RM: How does quilt making impact your family?

AR: [laughs.] Between my sister and I, it sort of takes over our lives, and there's not a whole lot of parts of my life that quilting does not sneak into.

RM: Well, have you have ever used quilts to get through a difficult time?

AR: Oh, yes. When we lost our parents, quilting was a way to sort of meditate, and gets through some of that. Also, with quilting, you can take your emotions, hopefully good ones, and actually put them into the quilt, so people down the line have a tendency to feel those. We did a quilt for the young boy across the street, and anytime that quilt comes out, he is wrapped in it. He loves that quilt because he knows it's filled with love.

RM: Do you have an amusing experience that has occurred around your quilt making?

AR: Oh, let's see. [laughs.] Oh, the times when you've completely finished a top, and you look at it and realize that you sewed a row backwards, and then you have to get out the seam ripper. Mine is named "Jack."

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

AR: The look of joy on people's face. Seeing them just get that glow of being wrapped up in something warm that was made with care.

RM: What aspects of quilt making do you not enjoy?

AR: [laughs.] Trying to actually quilt a large quilt on a regular sewing machine. The arm hole of them is just not big enough to manipulate the fabric through. I know people do it. I have the worst time with it. I so want a long arm machine. One of these years.

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

AR: Oh, let's see, rotary cutters. I love rotary cutters, and the acrylic rulers that go with them, and the cutting mats. It makes cutting so much easier; so much more accurate, and so much faster. They've made a lot of advances in quilting tools, and it's a good thing. [both laugh.]

RM: Do you have any favorite techniques or favorite materials?

AR: I love to take traditional blocks and tweak them, but I haven't found one in particular method yet, or one particular style that really stands out. I enjoy working with them all.

RM: Are there a couple that work best for you that you can just think of right off the bat, like materials; a couple of materials?

AR: Well, I still prefer for quilting, working with the 100% cotton. Materials--for crazy quilting, silk is a joy, and embellishing with all sorts of different types of beads and embroidery, that's a lot of fun, and you can go lots of different places with that.

RM: Describe your studio or the place where you create your quilts.

AR: Luckily, we moved into a house with a basement. The basement has now been taken over with fabric and [laughs.] sewing machines. Slowly, but surely, it's turning into a proper sewing studio down there, and it's nice to actually have room.

RM: Tell me how you balance your time.

AR: Balance? What balance? Do I need balance?

RM: Do you use a design wall?

AR: Not all the time. I do have a design wall, and it's really nice because it allows you to step back and get a different perspective. It used to be that our old house, we had room that you could go up the stairs partially and look down on something laid out on the floor, but we don't have that [laughs.] in this house so, this house, I use the design wall, and it helps a lot.

RM: How you go about designing your quilts?

AR: Well, I have a tendency to start with an idea of a color or a certain block that I'll want to work with, and then I have a tendency to start playing with color pens and graph paper. I do have an electronic something for my computer, but it's not always easiest to use, so I have a tendency to default to graph paper. [laughs.]

RM: Well, what do you think makes a great quilt?

AR: Love.

RM: Short, and sweet.

AR: [laughs.] A great quilt: it doesn't have to be perfect in technique, I don't care what the--it has to be perfect if you're going to enter it into a contest or into a show, but for a quilt to be great, and be used, and loved, the biggest thing is love and care in it.

RM: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

AR: Sort of the same thing that when you go into an art museum, and you look at paintings. Everybody's going to see something different, and each work of art is going to be powerful in a different way to different people. That's sort of the same with quilts; it's personal preference, and it's the use color, and texture, and pattern. You know; what reaches out and touches you.

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

AR: Same answer. What makes a piece of art appropriate? For historical quilts, the fact that they've survived and the fact that they were made, and that they were used and loved. For modern quilts, technique, color, the impact that it has on the viewer.

RM: Have you heard of them doing many historical quilts for special events or anything?

AR: There are museums, unfortunately I haven't found one here in this city yet, that specialize in historical quilts. That's what the museum is about; is the history of quilts because that touches the history of women. I believe that there may be one somewhere here in the Portland area because of the Oregon Trail.

RM: What makes a great quiltmaker?

AR: Somebody who is willing to explore, and someone who's willing to put the effort in. Someone, yeah, that puts love into their things. You don't have to be a perfect technician to be a great quiltmaker. It's what you want to put into the quilt, and that's what's great.

RM: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

AR: Oh, I have way too many to name. I--if you're talking about art quilts, it's what intrigues me and what reaches out and says, 'Wow.' Yeah, the quilts that have that "pop" sensation to them.

RM: Have any artists have influenced you that you can think of?

AR: Oh, I'm so horrible with names. That's part of my problem but, once again, there are so many. Quilting is something that you learn over a lifetime. You never stop learning, and finding new ways of doing things, new ways of looking at things, and we have so many innovators right now in the quilting world, and you--from their books, from their classes, you always take away little tidbits here and there and you start adding them to what you do.

RM: How do you feel about machine quilting vs. hand quilting, and about long arm quilting?

AR: I love the look of hand quilting. It's truly an art form. But, then again, if you've ever tried to quilt on a sewing machine, that's an art form all of its own, and both of them, both styles, have merit. And quite frankly there are so many quilts that you get built up in you. And I don't know how many quilt tops I have right now sitting waiting to be quilted. With a long arm machine, you can actually get them done, and quite frankly, the really good long arm artists are just amazing. So, it's sort of apples and oranges. They're working in the same medium, but they really have value in all of them.

RM: Do you make wearable art?

AR: Oh, yes, I do. That's my other great joy is to make wearable art. As a matter of fact, you'll see one of my pieces in the Hospitality competition coming up.

RM: For American Heritage contest?

AR: Yes.

RM: Right. Describe your wearable pieces.

AR: Well, the one that's going to be entered there will be what I call "Water Shawl." It's a shawl done with hand tied fringe, and all of the appliqué on it is sort of indicative of water flowing, and it's all in water blues, and it's just a very flowing, organic, water kind of piece. That really needs to be seen to really understand it. [laughs.]

RM: Have you ever won any awards with your quilting?

AR: Actually, with "Water Shawl," I won second place at the 2007 Northwest Quilter's Guild Quilt Show that was held in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of the Portland Rose Festival.

RM: Do you have--okay, we've already done that one. Okay. Why is quilt making important to your life?

AR: It gives me a creative outlet that keeps me sane [laughs.], and I'm not a writer. I would love to be able to write, so I write my stories in fabric.

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

AR: Portland is great for being freewheeling, free spirited, explore your artistic sides, and the whole vibe here in Portland is to feel free to explore.

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

AR: Oh, there are--it's so many different ways that quilting has been important in American life. Yes, quilting has been throughout the ages, but here in America, we made it our own art form. It's truly become an American art. Throughout history, U.S. history, it's how women have expressed themselves. It's definitely kept us warm all through the Appalachians, it's been used to make political statements when women didn't have a political voice, so yeah, it's--there's just so many layers to the importance of quilting in the U.S.

RM: How do you think; the different ways quilts can be used?

AR: Oh, boy. Well, from the basic of keeping you warm, to that fantastic art quilt on the wall that really touches you, to getting people together for quilting bees, you know, it's a great social activity. How many political statements have been quilted over the years? So, it's--and also, charity. We have used quilting to put communities back together, so it's a good thing.

RM: Do you--are you involved in anything where they donate quilts to the veterans or other groups like that?

AR: Oh, in a couple of different ways. From the quilt guild, they have their section that is called Comforting Quilts, and that works with a lot of abused children and women and people that have lost everything in fires; and through DAR, our Portland Chapter, we have started up a craft group that has been doing quilts for disabled veterans, wheelchair quilts, and we're going to be doing lap throws, and other different types of quilted art work for the charities.

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

AR: Well, quilt makers now are being taught and sort of pressed to document their quilts in labels on the back of the quilts, and that's giving information on who made it, who quilted it, if someone did, you know, separate--who pieced it and who quilted it, where it was made, why it was made, and any other pertinent information about the quilt so that--

RM: And when it was made?

AR: Yes, and all the details about the making of the quilt are put on the labels on the back so that, in the future, we'll have some information. In the past, we've been very lucky if there's been a label, then that gives us a chance to date them.

RM: I guess some of the antique quilts include that?

AR: Some of them do, and the quilt historians love that to pieces because then they have a very accurate idea. Otherwise, it's trying to date through the types of fabric used, and family stories--which, as we know, for hard evidence is a little sketchy. [laughs.]

RM: What's happened to the quilts that you have made or those of friends and family?

AR: The quilts that I made, I hope they're being used, and enjoyed, and keeping people warm, and I hope they, you know, get the feeling of a warm hug, and I hope they're not just locked away in a cabinet or put on display somewhere. I've made them to be used.

RM: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quilt makers today?

AR: To get away from the label of a mere folk craft and quote-unquote, women's work where they're not considered to have really any value. If you've ever put a quilt together, you know how many hours it takes, especially if it's hand quilted, and people don't take into consideration that that's something that takes skill, and it takes time to learn those skills. So, I would like to see quilts being taken seriously for the art that they are, and valued as such because, a lot of times, they are--people try to sell a quilt and sell them at the price that you think--you put that many hours in, this should be the price, and people want to pay, oh, you know, maybe a quarter of that. So, it would be nice to see them valued for the amount of time and effort and art that goes into them.

RM: Well, that sounds like a pretty good closing statement, [laughs.] but can you think of anything else you might want to tell us?

AR: If you haven't tried quilting; try it. It's a really nice fun way--okay, so it does get addictive. [laughs.]

RM: And you can start small.

AR: You can start small. You can start as small as a single block in a potholder. That it's a way to remember our mothers and grandmothers in the past, and what they did, and overall, it's just--I can't think of any down sides other than fabric will take over your life. [laughs.]

RM: Well, I thank you, so much, for participating in this interview today.

AR: Well, thank you. I had a lot of fun.

RM: This interview was done as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 1:29 p.m. on February 15, 2008.


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