Joyce Plants


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Joyce Plants




Joyce Plants


Joyce Kilmer

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Loveland, Colorado


Bus Tarbox


Note: Joyce Plants is not a member of the DAR. While this is a DAR quiltmaker documentation project, membership in the DAR is not required for participation.

Joyce Kilmer (JK): I'm Joyce Kilmer, Namaqua Chapter, NSDAR [National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.], Loveland, Colorado [March 23, 2010 at 2:15 p.m.].

Joyce Plants (JP): I'm interviewee. I'm Joyce W. Plants of Loveland, Colorado. Participant number CO80538-001. I'm the maker of the quilt but not the designer of the quilt. The designer was Julie Becker of Cameron, Missouri. The title of her quilt is "Quarks" Q-U-A-R-K-S "and Quilts." I made this in the year 2007 in Loveland, Colorado. Dimensions of it are 72 inches by 72 inches incorporating 12-inch square blocks.

JK: The quick questions are: Do you make quilts?

JP: Yes, I do.

JK: Do you make wearable art?

JP: No, I haven't made wearable art. I had a quilted vest made for me but I've not made any.

JK: Do you sleep under a quilt?

JP: Yes, I do.

JK: Have you given quilts as gifts?

JP: Many, many quilts as gifts.

JK: Are you self taught?

JP: Primarily, yes. I first got interested in quiltmaking from my husband's grandmother, Armena Marshall, when we lived in Ohio. She was making 15 quilts a winter when she was 80 years old. She was using a treadle sewing machine because electric ones went too fast. It scared her.

JK: Do you have quiltmakers in your family?

JP: Yes, my daughter has made a lot of quilts also, primarily as gifts -- baby gifts and gifts for retiring teachers that her children have had.

JK: Do you belong to a guild?

JP: No, I've not had time.

JK: Have you ever been a board member or chair of a committee in a guild?

JP: No, I've never had time.

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

JP: There's a small group, about three or four of us at church that have made baby quilts for gifts in the congregation and making fleece throws to go in our Christmas food baskets for our church.

JK: Have pictures of your quilts or patterns been published?

JP: Yes, I had made a banner representing all United Methodist Women in the United States for a World Conference of Methodist Women. In that banner, I had quilted so it would not show wrinkles from being packaged to be shipped to England. That's in 2001. That was featured in our local newspaper, the Loveland Reporter-Herald in August of 2001. I had been asked to make this banner in the overall theme of the conference was "Go in Faith and Share God's Healing Grace." I used about two and a half by three feet was the overall size of it. And I used metallic blue lamé fabric for the globe and then used gold braid outlined the longitude and latitude for the lines and I had four hands of ethnic different colors and races holding the globe. Then around the equator I had three women and three children whose hands and limbs had been damaged by land mines because that was one of the themes that year, United Methodist Women getting rid of land mines. And so we had healers going in faith sharing God's healing grace. There were about 850 women from 67 nations at this conference and they were discussing all kinds of things benefiting women and youth. In one delegation, women could not attend because of unrest in their country. Other women could not come because their home countries refused to let them travel. Other women could not take their national currency out of their countries. They brought native clothing to the conference to sell to help pay their travel expenses. Then each woman who attended the conference brought an eight-inch square of fabric to the conference, color indicating where she was from. North American women brought purple cloth squares. Then at the conference we sewed them together and made three huge banners of rainbow shading of different colors from around the world.

JK: Do you collect or sell quilts?

JP: No, I don't, but I have made a lot for customers and quilted some for customers.

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

JP: No, I don't have the space for that.

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

JP: No, I wish I could. I'd get fabric at a discount probably.

JK: Do you teach quilting?

JP: No, I have not, except to my daughter.

JK: Have you traveled outside your home town?

JP: Lots of place, lots of countries but not for teaching quilting.

JK: Have you ever won an award for quilting?

JP: Yes, in 1977, a quilt that I made for my son was a state finalist. We were living in Wyoming at the time. My daughter in college said, 'Mom, look up Good Housekeeping's magazine. They have a quilt contest. You ought to enter that quilt that you made for Ed.' [pause about 60 seconds due to coughing.] We're talking about that quilt that won an award. I made this quilt for my son when he was 13. It was a quilt of the NFL [National Football League.] football teams' helmet insignia. I sent it off. I sent a picture off to Good Housekeeping and then they wanted me to send the actual quilt. I sent that to New York City and I didn't hear for the longest time. Finally I wrote to them and I told them--I asked about my quilt and they said, 'We're sorry to have to inform you but we had almost 10,000 entries in that contest and we had a fire in our store room and the staff at Good Housekeeping had been working nights and weekends by process of elimination looking at these snapshots to find out whose quilts had been lost in the fire.' Mine was one of those lost in the fire. They had insured all the quilts with Lloyd's of London and I was reimbursed $500 for that quilt so then I had to make my son another quilt and by that time the NFL had changed some of their helmet insignias and had a couple more teams involved. But that quilt won an award and was one of the state finalists and I won a bronze medal and certificate announcing the fact.

JK: Have you ever participated in quilt history preservation?

JP: Yes, I have. I inherited a trapunto table coverlet that been my, made by my great-great aunt Eliza Clark as a wedding gift to her sister who was getting married in 1827 and I wanted to know a little bit more about it and get it appraised. So I took it to Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colorado, in 2002 and Cindy Brick looked at it. She's an appraiser. And she was just shaking. She thought that was the earliest example of sewing machine quilting in the United States. And she said I was going to go to St. Louis. Go on to Paducah, Kentucky, and have somebody at the Museum of American Quilting [National Quilt Museum.] of there look at it and tell me And I did and Bonnie Browning looked at it under high-powered magnification and she decided it was exquisitely even hand-stab stitching that looked an awful lot like sewing machine stitching. But to think that it confused a stated appraiser, a certified appraiser, was something. But that was quite a story of that this woman who made it for her younger sister was getting married. There were three Clark sisters married three Parson brothers. And the Parsons had come from Birmingham, England, where they had a thread company and they are the thread company over in the United States. In England, the Parsons thread was wound in balls and the Clark threads were wound on spools. When sewing machines came into vogue ones on spools were more usable on sewing machines than the balls and so they went together and merged and they had the Parsons color number on one end of the spool and the Clark color number on the other end of the spool for about ten years. And eventually when they came over to the United States it became now the Coats and Clark thread Company. But that was the, the coverlet was trapunto-style coverlet with lots of hearts and grapes and strawberries and so on and it was made in 1827 as a wedding gift to Matilda Clark. It's in the American Quilters Magazine and the issue was the summer of 2003.

JK: Do you have a design wall?

JP: No, I wish I did but I don't have space for it in my sewing room.

JK: Do you have a studio or sewing room?

JP: Yes, I have a sewing room. It's about nine or ten feet square. And in that room I have, there's one window towards the street. Underneath that window there's a twin bed and cantilevered above it is a big counter, white counter top that hangs between two corner bookcases and cupboards plus I have a sewing desk in there plus a file cabinet plus a smaller chest of drawers and two white steel cabinets about six feet tall. Have doors on it to keep the sunlight from fading the colors in the fabric. Plus open shelving plus boxes stored in the closet of that room. It would be the size of a nursery if someone with a young family had it.

JK: These are the quadrant questions. Tell me about the quilt you brought in today.

JP: It's called "Quarks and Quilts." And it was designed by Julie Becker of Cameron, Missouri, and it's a copyrighted design. I had to get her written permission to use it. And I told her when I was making it, though I was going to change some of the colors. Her original quilt was bright yellow and bright red borders on it which would have clashed. I was making it for a gift for my friend Christopher Wormald in Bristol, England, who had been a retired, is now a retired professor of physical chemistry. He had taught for 35 years at University of Bristol and this quilt I saw printed in the June 2006, Quilter's Newsletter Magazine. I knew I just had to make one for him for that but I told this Julie Becker that I was changing some of the colors to go with his décor in his home. So it has teal, two shades of teal green on the borders instead of bright red and yellow. There are sixteen blocks representing different physics theories.

And from left to right and top to bottom, the blocks are the first one, upper left corner, is the Einstein Nine Patch. Just as Einstein is the most recognized icon in Physics, the Nine Patch is the most recognized block in quilting.

The second one to the right is Light and Optics. The block illustrates reflection by a mirror with a Flying Geese block and the refraction by lenses with pieced convex and concave curves. The Fan Block represents, illustrates the rainbow spectrum of white light.

The third block is Measurement. Measurement is the foundation of all science, especially physics. The ladder represents the incremental scalar nectar, nectar, nature of a measure value. The arrow represents a vector which is a measured value that has direction. Notice the balance scales.

The fourth one, upper right-hand corner is Astrophysics. Physics began with the study of astronomy. This Bow Tie block gives the feeling of looking through a telescope at the Universe. I realize now I should have used fabrics with greater contrast in that one.

The second row, the one at the left, is Atomic Physics. This atomic Baltimore album block is based on the Bohr (that's B-O-H-R) model of the atom which has become an icon for modern physics. Its nuclear Rose of Sharon is composed of three protons and four neutrons, around which three electrons orbit.

The next block in that row represents Gravitational Force. Gravitational force keeps the moon circling the Earth in orbit, and the planets revolving around the sun and pulls the apple to the earth when it falls from the tree.

The next block is Electromagnetic Force. It's associated with charged particles. The electric charges and magnet were machine appliquéd. Curving piecing illustrates the propagation of a wave by its changing electric and magnetic fields.

And the next one is Particle Physics. The smallest particles of matter are quarks and leptons (that's L-E-P-T-O-N-S.) Scientists have discovered six "flavors" of quarks: up, down, charms, strange, top, and bottom, all represented in this homespun block, with the Flying Geese and Crazy Quilt patterns.

Mechanics is the study of motion. The laws of motion were instrumental in mankind's great accomplishment of landing on the moon.

Next block in the third row is Weak Force. While women were using feed sacks for quilts, Marie Cure was winning Nobel Prizes for her research in radioactive producing atoms.

The next is Weak Force [coughs.] I mean the next is Strong Force. Nuclear fission, involving the strong force, was first controlled by Enrico Fermi, who was honored by the U.S. Post Office with a postage stamp in 2001. His picture is on this block. The block is called a Charm Block, with a square of fabric from each of the other blocks, but with no repeated fabrics. If smaller squares were used, it might be called a Postage Stamp block.

The next, the fourth one in the third row, is Electricity and Circuits. Static electricity is the accumulation of a stationary charge, while electric current is concerned with the movement of charge particles. Redwork embroidery is used to illustrate an electric circuit diagram.

Then the next one is Physics [intended to say Energy.] Physics includes energy, the study of energy in its various forms. This Log Cabin block is done with the colors of the visible spectrum, which is part of the electromagnetic form of energy.

Then the second one in the bottom row is Acoustics. It's the study of sound. Three foundation-pieced Courthouse Steps blocks produce a secondary design of standing wave. A standing sound wave is produced by the constructive and destructive interference of two sound waves.

The third block in the fourth row is Thermodynamics, the study of heat and its conversion to other forms of energy. This thermonuclear Ohio Star block uses fabric to represent the flow of energy from flaming hot to snowflake cold. The silver lamé represents the mercury in the thermometer.

The last block in the bottom right is Relativity. The center of this monochromatic block is a Snail's Tail block, representing general relativity by depicting a black hole, which warps space so much that not even light can escape once it has entered the curved space. It also shows Spool and Hourglass blocks to represent slower and faster passages of sand.

The solid light teal fabric in the borders matches the carpeting in Christopher's home. The back side or lining of this quilt, has two repeat panels of chocoholic sayings that were so Christopher I had to use them. Fun things like: 'Milk chocolate is a dairy food.' 'Milk chocolate and dark chocolate make a balanced diet.' 'The food pyramid with all chocolate items.' 'Hand over the chocolate and no one will get hurt [with an agent's badge.].' "There's nothing wrong with me that a little chocolate won't cure [with a doctor's bag.].' 'Warning: a chocoholic in resident here.' 'Money may talk, but chocolate sings.' Etcetera. Christopher said he liked the lining as much as he liked the front side of this quilt.

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

JP: I made it for a friend as a gift to Christopher Wormald in Bristol, England, as a physical chemistry professor.

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

JP: Joyce Kilmer chose it.

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

JP: That they might conclude that I'm a scientist too, but really I 'm not. My degree was in home economics from--majored in home economics from Ohio Wesleyan University. One funny thing happened when I first went over to England to visit Christopher several years after that assembly where we met. We were guests in the home of minister, a retired Methodist minister and his wife and all the other guests at the dinner were scientists and he turned to me and he said, 'Are you a scientist, too?' And I said, 'No, I'm a fiber artist.' And there was a dead silence around this dinner table. Nobody knew what to do with a fiber artist.

JK: How do you use this quilt and what are your plans for this quilt?

JP: I don't use it. I gave it away.

JK: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

JP: Well, I started quiltmaking when I was about age 25. My husband's grandmother was 80 years old and she was still making 15 quilts a winter using a treadle sewing machine because the electric ones went too fast. It scared her.

JK: From whom did you learn to quilt?

JP: My husband's grandmother. She started me on it. I made a pattern, a quilt pattern called "Columbine" that was from the Mountain Mist catalog. I made it in the blue columbine colors which are the Colorado state flower for my parents' home in Denver.

JK: How many hours a week do you quilt?

JP: Not enough.

JK: What is your first quilt memory?

JP: My mother cross-stitched a sailing ship on a quilt top when I was about age six. It was a white thread cross-stitch on blue. My dad loved ships, sailing ships he loved. And then the down part, the drop of the quilt was gathered paisley. I remember it was blue and sort of burgundy paisley print for the drop on the sides of the quilt.

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

JP: My daughter, Bonnie Plants Horton, has made a lot of quilts as baby gifts and gifts for others and some for retiring teachers, teachers that were retiring, retiring teachers that her children had had in school. Lots of friends, too many friends, quilters to name them all.

JK: How does quiltmaking impact your family?

JP: If I have a deadline, it's got to get done first. The dining room table has to get cleared off so I can get meals and do other things.

JK: Tell me if you have ever used quilts to get through a difficult time.

JP: No, I don't recall that I have.

JK: Tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred from your quiltmaking.

JP: It's not really an amusing experience but several years ago some friends and I were going to the spring quilt shop hop and we went to a small quilt shop in Lyons, Colorado, and I found some Beatrix Potter prints of Peter Rabbit and I thought, 'Oh, those are so cute I've just got to have some of those.' So I got those three pieces not knowing what I was going to use them for. This last winter my friend Christopher Wormald, in Bristol, England, had a new grandson born and I used a Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit print to make a baby quilt for his grandson.

JK: What do you find pleasing about quiltmaking?

JP: Being creative, and the use of color and using up scraps.

JK: What aspects of quiltmaking do you not enjoy?

JP: Hand quilting because it takes so long and I get so many pricked fingers, and it gets sore and get a while to heal up and also cutting up the scraps. Now this sounds like an oxymoron because I like to use up scraps, but also cutting up scraps takes a lot longer than using new fabric with a rotary cutter.

JK: What art or quilt groups do you belong to?

JP: None, I just haven't had time.

JK: Have advances in technology influenced your work? And if so, how?

JP: Yes, I like having rotary cutters. I've appreciated having bent safety pins for basting. I've liked having gridded rulers that keep your fabric from slipping around.

JK: What are your favorite techniques and materials?

JP: I've liked have, being able to use a rotary cutter and I like a variety of fabrics. Cotton is easiest to work with because it gives some, gives if you have to stretch things to make points match and so on. But sometimes I want a crisp look of polyester cotton blends. I've made quilts out of corduroy, baby block tumbling blocks pattern for my son out of corduroy. I've used scraps of fleece and fur for making other throws and I've used T-shirts. I've made T-shirts quilts for my son using T-shirts he's won in fundraiser races like 10-K races and so on and then I guess just a variety of fabrics I've used.

JK: Tell me how you balance your time.

JP: I don't if I have deadlines that takes care of the time element.

JK: Tell me how you go about designing your quilts.

JP: I usually design them on graph paper. I don't have a design wall. I don't have space for a design wall but I have enlarged designs from inch and a half across to 11 feet across. I was painting a backdrop once and I used graph paper for enlarging my designs.

JK: What do you think makes a great quilt?

JP: Color and symmetry. You don't to have things looking lop-sided, all one color or one shape and one side. I like symmetry and I like colors and contrast.

JK: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

JP: I think contrast. Same thing goes for church banners. You have to be able to see something from a great distance and see the contrast to show it up rather than having it look too busy or too detailed.

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

JP: I'd say perfection and stitches and quality, making seams match and square up and so on.

JK: What makes a great quiltmaker?

JP: I think perseverance makes a great quiltmaker.

JK: Whose works are you drawn to and why? And which artists influenced you?

JP: I'd say Jean Ray Laury. She's written some books on finding time to balance your time to find time for sewing, quilting and also Eleanor Burns. Her TV programs have given a lot on faster methods, faster techniques and so on. I have contacted both of them, have their autographs and so on.

JK: How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting? What about long-arm quilting?

JP: I've told customers that have grandma pieced it, I would hand quilt it or if it's going to be in the guest room bed or hanging on a wall I would hand quilt it. But if it's going to have children and dogs bouncing on the bed I would recommend machine quilting because it's a lot more durable. For example, I've done some hand quilting where somebody, a customer's grandmother, hand pieced it having some pieces upside down, and I go ahead and quilt it just the way she had pieced it together with some of the prints upside down so the color looks faded and so on. Another time I was given about 20 blocks of antique silk hexagons of the grandmother's flower garden pattern, and the customer gave it to me. She recently turned 102 years old. And it was her mother-in-law had pieced quilts this antique silk using paper templates cut from railroad stationery and letters. And they were. I couldn't piece them all the paper together but the names on them were from Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and places in Virginia. And I managed to make it into a table runner and gave it to the centenarian and her daughter was there. 'Oh Mom, look at these names. Some are father's Swiss cousins.' And she was so glad I'd saved all the paper templates for her for her to piece together the letters and things they'd been written from. That long-arm quilting is too big a machine. I don't have the space for that. It used to be when they first started longarm quilting they went all over the pieced or appliqué pattern without any regard for the pattern itself. Now they have it better, improved so it does embellish the pattern and its appliqué or pieced but I wish I had the space for a longarm quilter.

JK: Why is quiltmaking important to your life?

JP: Expressing creativity and for posterity and for income. Posterity cooking is nice but it's gone in 10 minutes. A quilt will last a little bit longer than 10 minutes.

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

JP: They haven't really, except that first quilt of Colorado columbine that I made.

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

JP: I think it's warmth. And if you know the person that made your quilt, you know the time that's involved. A lot of love goes into making that quilt, too.

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

JP: I think necessity is the mother of invention. And I think of the pioneer women that came across this country in covered wagons used every scrap of fabric they could to keep their families warm. Also I think the Underground Railroad quilts that showed the slaves, who were illiterate and could not read, the safe way to get to freedom is an important part of women's history in America, too.

JK: How do you think quilts can be used?

JP: Carefully. They should be handled with care because a lot of time went into making them.

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

JP: With gentle handling, keeping them away from sunlight, fading and keeping them stored in acid-free storage papers or boxes.

JK: What has happened to the quilts that you have made or those of friends and family?

JP: Some have been used until they've been faded and worn. Some have been hidden away. At least five have disappeared in unpaid storage units and one burned.

JK: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

JP: Time to make them.


“Joyce Plants,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024,