Pam Upward




Pam Upward




Pam Upward


Jennifer Priddy

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Fort Worth, Texas


Pam Luke


Jennifer Priddy (JP): This is Jennifer Priddy. Today's date is May 18th, 2002. It is 11:23 a.m. and I'm conducting an interview with Pam Upward for [Quilters' S.O.S.] - Save Our Stories project in Fort Worth, Texas. Thank you for coming in. Can you tell us about the quilt that you brought in?

Pam Upward (PU): This quilt was given to me by my grandmother Rosa Hilker when I turned eighteen years old. She made a quilt for every one of her grandkids which I can't tell you now how many that was. I should have counted. When they turned eighteen, she gave each one, one and there were many. The reason I picked this quilt is that it has machine appliqu├ęd pansies. I don't know what the batting was that she used, but the batting is in fairly bad shape. It's like bunched up now. It's not good at all. The poor binding is in bad shape too.

JP: So, what else?

PU: I know what I was going to tell you. The reason I brought this quilt was like I said, she gave it to me when I turned eighteen. I have been quilting for fourteen years and I started the year that my grandmother who gave me this passed away. I've always kind of felt like she maybe handed it off before she went. So that's why this one means a lot to me.

JP: That's so sweet. Why did you choose this quilt out of all of the quilts that you have to bring to this interview?

PU: Because of that.

JP: Because of that connection?

PU: Uh huh.

JP: And what are you plans for this quilt?

PU: Well, actually, I just keep it on display in my home. I did use it before I knew better [laughs.] now the poor thing is in bad shape because of that, but someday it will be passed on to one of my kids, I'm sure.

JP: Tell me about your interest in quilting. At what age did you start quilting?

PU: Oh, now? Well, fourteen years ago would be 32. Thirty-two years ago.

JP: From whom did you learn to quilt?

PU: Pretty much self-taught. I come from a family of quilters. My mother had quilted as long as I can remember. Her mother was the one who gave me this and my paternal grandmother was a quilter to. My mother-in-law quilts, my sister-in-law quilts. I have two sisters that quilt. About twenty years ago, before I started quilting, I embroidered a quilt and asked my mother to quilt it and she has always quilted in a quilting frame, and we were living in another state at the time. We came back on vacation, and she had my quilt in a frame. And so I decided I would give it a try. I absolutely hated it. [laughs.] I said, 'I will never quilt because it was in the regular frame.' And about fifteen years ago, my mother-in-law started quilting and she started doing it in a hoop and that's when I tried it in the hoop, I decided I could actually do it. So that's what kind of got me started. But pretty much self-taught from watching them I guess really, but a lot of trial and error too. [laughs.]

JP: About how many hours a week do you quilt?

PU: It really varies on the time of year, but probably if I was to average out probably around 25 a week. I don't get too much done in the summertime because I'm too busy outside and the winters aren't long enough in Texas. [laughs.]

JP: What is your first quilt memory?

PU: Probably the very first would have to be and I don't remember what quilt, but it was picking out our dresses that were, that were left over from the dresses that were going to go in the quilt. I remember doing that a lot with my sisters. 'Oh yes, we wore that, we wore that!' So that would be the first memory.

JP: Great. You mentioned that there were other quilters among your family and friends. Do you have anecdotes or special memories of quilting with them?

PU: Well, yes, there's a lot of them. One last summer, I had just learned how to English paper piece and my husband's aunt from England and her daughter just came over to visit, it's my mother-in-law's sister and so I decided that I would show them how to English paper piece and these two ladies from England had never done any kind of quilting before. So, it was my mother-in-law and my mother and my sister-in-law and the two English women and another sister-in-law too and I showed them how to English paper piece and they were just hysterical. Listening to them carrying on with their accents. But everybody made two little English paper pieced flowers and I took them home. They didn't know what I was going to be doing with them, but I took them home and put them into little wall hangings for each one of them and sent them to England. I made sure that the one they got had their flowers in it.

JP: Oh, that's so sweet. So, does quilting impact your family?

PU: Well, both my daughters-in-law are quilters which is pretty neat. So, they appreciate it just as much as I do. My sons do too. They've grown up with it too. I guess it's always been something that we've all kind of know that mom did.

JP: Have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time in your life?

PU: Yes, I would say so, yes.

JP: What do you find pleasing about quilting?

PU: The creativity. Seeing something that starts from pieces of fabric and a pattern, even up in your head and then seeing it come together as a quilt.

JP: What aspects of quilting do you not enjoy?

PU: Well, there really isn't anything. There are times for some reason that I like certain things better. Like sometimes I'll really just want to hand quilt and at other times I just really want to do piecing. Probably the only thing that might come under that would be basting it. But other than that, I really don't have anything that I don't like.

JP: Do you have any experience machine quilting?

PU: No. I'm not trying to machine quilt yet.

JP: Right. You say that you sleep under a quilt, is there a particular quilt that?

PU: No.

JP: What do you do with most of your quilts? Do you mostly give them away or do you keep some of them?

PU: Right now, I'm probably keeping more than I'm giving away. I used to. I give quite a few of them away. Actually, my husband kind of said, 'Wait a minute, how come we don't have any of these?' So, I would say I keep more. I give a lot of wall hangings away, but big quilts, no.

JP: And you make more wall hangings or big quilt?

PU: I would like to say that I make more big quilts, but I probably make more wall hangings because they go faster. I try to do at least one big quilt a year. It just depends on how complicated that is as to whether I make more big ones.

JP: [inaudible.]

PU: [inaudible.]

JP: So, you belong to a guild?

PU: Yes.

JP: Have you ever been a board member or chaired a committee?

PU: Yes. Both of those. Right now, I'm the secretary of Trinity Valley Quilters' Guild.

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

PU: Yes. Actually, we have just started one in my area and there are three of us. So, we're hoping to grow. We've only met twice.

JP: Do you collect or sell quilts?

PU: Collect.

JP: Collect. And you indicated that you teach quilting. Can you tell me more about that?

PU: Well, I've taught several people how to do the English paper piecing. I have helped both of my daughters-in-law out with certain things that they weren't sure how to do just because I had already done that sort of thing. And I had two little neighbor girls last year that we started out learning how to use the sewing machine and unfortunately, I never got them back this year to continue on, but they really want to be quilters. [laughs.] But we're going to try something, I think. And they did come last year with me to the show and they both tried quilting on the demo. It was fun. They were nine and ten or ten and eleven; something like that.

JP: Great. Have you ever won an award?

PU: Yes.

JP: Tell me about the awards you have won.

PU: At this show, I was very pleased to have won the grand prize on the mini silent auction. And I also won first place on the challenge quilt. That was great. Back home, back in Nebraska in a little town of Arapahoe, every Fourth of July they have a quilt show at their Senior Center, and I have won a couple of ribbons there in the past. So, it's fun.

JP: Yes. Sounds like you're an excellent quilter.

PU: I try. It comes with time. You certainly do improve. I look back now on some of the first ones I made and go 'Awwwww.' [laughs.]

JP: What would you say makes a great quilt?

PU: Well, definitely the choice of colors plays a big part in it. I am very partial to hand quilting. I like to see a lot of hand quilting on quilts.

JP: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

PU: Probably those same things, actually.

JP: Yes. What do you think makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

PU: Probably the age of the quilt and any extraordinary factors that went into its making like the quilting of it.

JP: What makes a great quilter do you think?

PU: Oh, that's a tough one. [laughs.] I don't know what makes a great quilter. I don't really have an answer to that.

JP: That's fine. How do you think great quilters learn the art of quilting? Especially how to design a pattern or how to choose fabrics and colors?

PU: I don't know if that's something a person learns or if it's something that kind of comes naturally. I think that some people just have more talent in those areas than others. I suppose you can learn it. I suppose you can, but I do think some of it is natural.

Scribe: I'm sorry, I didn't get that question.

JP: I'm sorry it was how do you think great quilters learn the art of quilting? Especially how to design a pattern or how to choose fabrics and colors? So you've expressed that you prefer hand quilting over machine quilting?

PU: Yes.

JP: What about long arm quilting?

PU: No. not,

JP: You don't really like it?

PU: It's alright. I don't have any, but it serves a purpose. But I definitely prefer the hand quilting thing. I guess I'm probably leaning more toward the machine quilting in that, accepting it more than I used to just for the fact that people are so busy, and you do get things done faster if you go that route. But in fact, my husband, we talked about it a while back and he said, I can see if it's a quilt that you're going to actually use a lot that there wouldn't be any reason why you couldn't go ahead and machine quilt it. But I said, 'I'm afraid that by the time I put all of the work into piecing it I'd go, Ah, I want this one hand quilted too!' So, I haven't quite made the step yet but maybe someday.

JP: Okay. We're going to talk about the function and meaning of quilts in American life now.

PU: Okay.

JP: Why is quilting important to your life?

PU: Because it's something that has come down through the generations and it's being passed on too.

JP: So, it's like it's your heritage?

PU: Oh, absolutely.

JP: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or your region? You've been in a lot of different regions. Have you noticed any differences?

PU: Yes, I have. The very first big, large quilt that I ever made, we were living in Colorado at the time in the middle of the Black Forest and it was a pine tree quilt so yes, I guess it does reflect. Of course, I have a Lone Star now because I live in Texas. And I didn't start quilting until, really quilting until I moved to Colorado, so it's really been just these two areas.

JP: Neat. In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history and experience in America?

PU: [inaudible.]

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

PU: I'm drawing a blank on this one Jennifer.

JP: Okay. Then we can go on.

PU: Yes, we better.

JP: How do you think quilts could be used?

PU: Well, I really prefer to use mine more in decorating than I do as a useful, to sleep under for warmth or anything like that. I mean, not only do they have those purposes in your home, like the quilts that we've made for the folks at American Airlines, I mean comfort for people in those types of situations and of course our donation quilts that we use the money for such good things also. It's more than just what a person would think of, I guess as in your home type deal.

JP: More than just on your bed to snuggle under.

PU: Right.

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

PU: Well, I think what we're doing right here is wonderful with the stories; and making people aware of how to take care of them. I think that is so important. Taking care of what we do make, making sure that we preserve what we have done.

JP: Let's see. We've already talked about in front what has happened to the quilts that you've made, you've given away some of them and you've been keeping some. Have you made quilts more for your children and your grandchildren or your in-laws?

PU: Probably more for friends, friends and my sisters. This year, I am making a wall hanging for each one of my sisters. I have four sisters and so they're each getting a hand quilted wall hanging this year. Last year, I made Christmas wall hangings for my six close friends here. Actually, my grandkids and my daughters-in-law probably wouldn't want to hear that. [laughs.] I have made them for my grandbabies.

JP: Do you plan on making, doing like your grandmother did and making quilts for them when they turn eighteen?

PU: Yes, I would like to do something like that for sure. My oldest son and his wife celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary next year. I would very much like to have one ready. I don't know. I've done wall hangings for their family, but I haven't done a big quilt. And I would like to get a big quilt made for them.

JP: Well, I think this has concluded the formal part of our interview. Is there anything else that you'd like to add that we didn't cover?

PU: I don't think so.

JP: Alright. You sound like you're much more of a prolific quilter than I am.

PU: I don't know. I do very much enjoy it though. There's no doubt about that. I seem to get more hooked on it all the time. [laughs.]

JP: Well, I'd like to thank Pam Upward for allowing me to interview her today as part of the 2002 [Quilters' S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 11:43AM on May 18th, 2002.


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