Judy Harms




Judy Harms




Judy Harms


Linda Barton

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

C&T Publishing


Lincoln, Missouri


Gail Columbus


Linda Barton (LB): Good afternoon. This is Linda Barton. I am going to be the interviewer for the Judy Harms interview for the Quilters Alliance S.O.S. Project. Gail Columbus will be the scribe. And I’m going to start. Tell me about the quilt that you chose, Judy.

Judy Harms (JH): Okay. The reason I chose that quilt is because it’s my kids’ favorite quilt. And it’s kind of a funny family thing because they fuss over who’s going to get that when I die. And to start off with, I told my son that really his sister should get it because she helped me pick out the fabric. And he said, ‘Well, that sure was nice of her.’ So, he wasn’t backing down an inch. [laughter.] And this has been a fun family thing to hear them squabble over who’s going to get that quilt when I die.

LB: So, it’s not really a serious thing.

JH: No. No. It better not be. And then occasionally I tell them, ‘Well, I think I’ll just sell it and take the money and go on a vacation. And then there won’t be any fight over it.’

LB: Or take it with you. [laughs.]

JH: But, anyway, that’s the reason. It has fun family memories.

LB: All right. Okay. Good. Is that why you chose that one to bring to it?

JH: That was. And I like the colors in it. And the design. And I did hand quilt it, which I haven’t hand quilted too many quilts, and that one was. But it’s mostly because of the kids.

LB: All right. And you made that in what year?

JH: I think somewhere around 2000, but I’m not positive. I think I could look it up and see. But I think it was in the year 2000.

LB: Okay. What do you think someone might think about you as a person or a quilter by looking at that quilt?

JH: [pause.] Probably that I am a traditional quilter. I like the traditional country look, those kinds of colors and--although I have made a lot of different kinds of quilts, but I lean towards traditional.

LB: Okay.

JH: It’s got the log cabin blocks in it, and it’s got the Ohio stars, which are old traditional patterns.

LB: So true. I think it’s real pretty. Do you use it like on a bed or anything?

JH: No. I’ve used it in quilt shows and for display and for things like that. But I have never used it on a bed.

LB: Okay. What are your plans for it? You said you were going to leave it probably to your daughter.

JH: Well--

LB: Or one of them.

JH: One of them. Whoever wins the fight. [laughter.]

LB: I guess I shouldn’t say that. [laughter.]

JH: I can’t see myself ever selling that quilt because they’ll figure out something. They’ll figure out some way to decide who gets it.

LB: Good. Okay. Well, let’s go on to your own involvement in quilt making. At what age did you start quilt making? Do you know?

JH: Probably the first quilt I ever made I started it before I ever got married when I was probably 19. But I didn’t finish that one for probably another ten years. Well, then, the first quilt that I made that I finished was when my daughter was a baby, probably that would have been [1963.]. And it was just a use-in quilt. I just sewed squares together to make a quilt to cover their bed.

LB: Right.

JH: And then most of the time from then for the next several years--probably even the next 20 years--I mostly just made quilts sewing scraps together to use, not concentrating on anything pretty. Just made quilts to use. And--

LB: Where did you get your fabric then?

JH: A lot of it was just from clothing. And then I would buy whatever when I was getting ready to do a project. If I needed fabric, I bought fabric. Some of it was feed sacks. I used some feed sacks to make some of the quilts. And I have sewed ever since I was like 10 or 12 years old. And I had scraps that I saved from making clothing.

LB: Were you living here in Lincoln [Missouri.] at that time?

JH: No.

LB: Okay. Where were you?

JH: Well, I was born and raised in Baxter Springs, Kansas. When I first was married, I lived in Kansas City [Missouri.]. And then I moved down here [Lincoln.] in 1966. But that was a farm out in the country; it was not here [in Lincoln.]

LB: Okay. All right. How did you actually learn how to quilt? Did you have members of your family that quilted? Or did you kind of teach yourself? Or friends--?

JH: I pretty much taught myself about piecing the quilts. I have a sister-in-law that taught me how to hand quilt. And I’ve just learned to do that in just probably the last 12 years. But the piecing the quilts I’m just pretty much self taught, and I got a lot of my techniques and ideas out of reading the quilt magazines. I have a huge collection of quilt magazines [laughter.], and I spend lots of hours looking at them and studying them, and that’s pretty much how I taught myself.

LB: Okay. How many hours a week do you think you quilt?

JH: Well, it depends. With the shop and what kind of projects I’ve got going some weeks I may work on quilts every day--four or five hours a day. And then some days it’s not that much. But there’s not too many days goes by that I’m not working on one.

LB: Pretty steady?

JH: Pretty steady. Yes. Definitely.

LB: Okay. What is your first quilt memory?

JH: Probably the one that I started whenever I was a teenager. I just cut out butterflies and appliquéd butterflies on pieces of fabric, and that’s the one I started when I was a teenager. And then I got married and had a family, and then it was like ten years later before I ever finally finished it. That’s, I believe, probably my first quilt memory.

LB: Right.

JH: Because my family--my mother didn’t sew. And then what sewing I did I made clothes. I wasn’t really thinking quilts.

LB: You didn’t have any sisters that quilted? Or anything?

JH: No.

LB: Or aunts?

JH: No. No one. My dad said that he thought I took my love for sewing and my ability to sew from my grandmother. But my mother and her side of the family--no one sewed.

LB: Is he talking about his mother?

JH: Yeah, his mother. And we had a treadle sewing machine, but Mother didn’t use it hardly any. I think she maybe hemmed tea towels and some things like that. So, once I learned how to use the treadle sewing machine, the family mending was turned over to me at a pretty young age. Because I think my dad figured out, I could do a better job than my mother could. [laughter.] So, the mending got turned over to me and I just went from there on. I just couldn’t get enough of it.

LB: All right. How does your quilt making impact your family, do you think?

JH: I think with my kids and my grandkids, I think it gave them a real appreciation for home-made things. And my whole family--the grandkids and all--they have a real respect for the quilts. I think they realize the time and effort that goes into making them, and I think they treasure them. I think they like the--

LB: Are your grandkids over here quite a bit?

JH: Yeah.

LB: When the shop’s open and everything?

JH: Yeah. Yeah.

LB: Yeah. So, they are around it quite a bit?

JH: Yeah.

LB: That’s good.

JH: Yeah. They’re around it. Now my two oldest grandkids are grown, but they like the shop, and they seem to be really proud that I’ve got the shop. My oldest grandson especially--he’s always telling me how good he thinks that is for me and how he thinks that was the best thing that I ever did. And so they do have an appreciation for the quilts.

LB: It’s nice to have their support.

JH: Yeah. It is. It makes it more fun.

LB: Yeah. Yeah. Have you ever used quilts to get through a difficult time in your life?

JH: [pause.] Well, probably not. I can’t really think that I have.

LB: Okay.

JH: I wouldn’t say that I necessarily have.

LB: Okay. Have you ever had an amusing experience occur through your quilt making?

JH: A what?

LB: An amusing experience occur through your quilt making?

JH: Hmmm. Goodness. I would have to think about that. [pause.] We may have to get back to that later. I can’t--

LB: Okay. Let me mark that.

JH: I’ve had a number of experiences, but whether they were amusing or not I don’t know.

LB: Okay. What do you find most pleasing about quilt making?

JH: Oh. The possibilities are endless of things that you can do and things that you can make. And it’s such a creative thing that it just really brings out the creativeness in you. And to me it’s just a real joy when you have taken the fabric and put it together and come up with something that you’re proud of, that people are proud of.

LB: What part of it do you like the best?

JH: Probably designing the quilt. I get a little frustrated sometimes trying to pick out the colors because I want it to look right. And I enjoy all of it.

LB: [gesturing toward the shop.] And you have a lot to pick from. [laughter.]

JH: Yeah. I really think that I enjoy every part of it, the whole process. But it’s fun to design the quilt. When I’m working on a quilt, then all the time I’m working on one my mind’s in a whirl thinking of the next one that I want to do.

LB: The next one.

JH: And some process of it will bring something to mind, and I think, ‘Well, when I get this one done, then I’m going to start another one with something that has come to my mind.’ And so, in the process, I’ve probably got seven or eight quilts started that haven’t been finished yet. Because I would--

LB: That was my next question. Do you work on more than one at a time?

JH: Yeah. Because if I get an idea, I’ll go ahead and make a few blocks of that idea so that I don’t forget the idea, and then I’ll go on and finish what I’m working on and then--

LB: That’s a good idea.

JH: And then if another idea comes to me, I’ll go ahead and do a little bit of that. And that way I know--once I start it, eventually I’ll finish it. I know that about myself: that if I get it started, I’ll eventually get it done.

LB: I think you must be in the minority.


JH: Well, I am sure when I die that there’s going to be a number of projects that I haven’t gotten finished yet. But [laughter.] any way--

LB: And they’ll look at all those blocks and go, ‘I wonder what she was going to do with these.’ [laughter.]

JH: My son or daughter will just have to figure that out.

LB: What art or quilt groups do you belong to, like any guilds or--?

JH: I belong to the Stover [Missouri.] quilt guild that’s called Unique Stitches and More.

LB: Okay.

JH: I’ve belonged to it for probably about six or seven years. I’m not positive about that, but I think that’s about how long I’ve belonged to that. For a little while I belonged to one in Clinton [Missouri.] --a quilt guild in Clinton. And then I belonged to one in Sedalia [Missouri.]. But they were at night, and it just didn’t work out good for me to stay with them. But I’ve been at the Stover one for several years now.

LB: Okay. You enjoy them?

JH: Yes. I do.

LB: How many are in that guild?

JH: Oh. It keeps growing–there’s probably 25 or 30 in it now. And then I had my church quilting group, and there’s a couple of those that I’m involved with. We started a quilting ministry at Cedar Grove [Baptist Church.]. It’s called Quilts for Christ, and I got it started, and I’m real involved in that. We do quite a few things that we do with the quilts, and then ten years ago we started one–a group that makes little children’s quilts for Camp Cumcito of Warsaw [Missouri.] which is out of City Union Mission. And the little kids come down for the camp, and they sleep a whole week under their quilt, and then they get to take it home with them and keep the quilt. And we usually give away somewhere in the 90s every year for that.

LB: Now are those kids mostly from Kansas City--from that area?

JH: Yeah. Most of them are the inner-city underprivileged kids in Kansas City, but if they have openings, if they are not full up from that, then some of the Warsaw area kids can go. But it’s mostly for the Kansas City inner-city.

LB: Yeah. I wondered about that ever since I’ve been down here. Any other groups?

JH: No.

LB: That you can think of?

JH: No. Not right now.

LB: Okay. What advances in technology now have influenced your quilt making?

JH: Oh. The rotary cutter, and that was the best thing that ever happened to quilting. I still use the basic, traditional patterns sometimes where you just cut out your pattern piece and pin it on because I learned to sew that way. And a lot of the old quilting magazines--because I like the old traditional stuff--

LB: You’re talking about making the templates?

JH: Instead of making templates to draw around or cut around, I just cut out paper patterns and cut around that.

LB: Oh. Oh.

JH: It’s kind of the old-fashioned way. But the rotary cutter--I use that more than anything. I don’t know how we ever made quilts without those.


And there’s so many different kinds of rulers and--although I have my favorites, and I just pretty much use those for everything. But--

LB: What kind of sewing machine do you use?

JH: I have a Bernina.

LB: Okay.

JH: I’ve got a Bernina, and then I have a Singer, and I have a--


LB: What did you start out on?

JH: I started out on a treadle sewing machine. And then the first nice, new sewing machine I bought was a Kenmore. And I wore it out.

LB: I had one of those.

JH: I’ve worn out several sewing machines. Right now I think I have an antique Singer--well, it’s pretty old--the Singer. And I have a Brother, and I have a Bernina, and I have a Singer, and just here and there [gestures toward different rooms.]. But the Bernina is the one I use all the time.

LB: Is this normally where you sew? Over here in the kitchen?

JH: Yeah. Yeah.

LB: That’s a nice--

JH: I had a sewing room downstairs before I opened up the shop, and it’s still down there. And when I first opened up the shop, I thought I would sew down there because that’s where I always did my sewing. And I found I was just constantly running up and down the steps; so, I moved my sewing machine in here so I could set up the machine and look out and see when somebody drives up. And that’s saved me from--

LB: Yeah. Yeah. Those are pretty steep stairs.

JH: It just works out-- yeah. And it just works out better for me to-- I get more done this way with my sewing.

LB: Well, and you’re right here--

JH: I’m right here, you know.

LB: In the shop. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense.

Well, you kind of mentioned what your favorite--. Well, what are your favorite techniques and materials?

JH: My favorite what?

LB: Techniques and materials? I mean, you kind of talked about templates. Is that a favorite way, or paper patterns? Is that a favorite way you like to do your quilts?

JH: I don’t know that I necessarily have a favorite. I just like to do all different things. I like to--

LB: Do you like piecing over appliqué or--?

JH: I enjoy the appliqué. I do a lot more piecing, but I do enjoy the appliqué. And I do some machine appliqué and just--

LB: How do you do most of your appliqué?

JH: I have a funny little trick that I’m sure I heard on some TV program or something that I use used dryer sheets, and then I sew them onto the fabric and then turn it inside out and press that edge under. That holds the edge under, and you get a real nice, smooth look that way.

LB: I have heard of that.

JH: And that’s my favorite way to do it. That doesn’t work too well if you’re getting into real tiny pieces; then you kind of need to do the needle turn appliqué. But I don’t do too much of the really intricate stuff. And if I get into anything too tiny, then I usually just machine appliqué that.

LB: When you turn that with the dryer sheet on it, do you hand sew those down--?

JH: Uh-huh.

LB: Or do you machine sew them down?

JH: I sew them down by hand.

LB: By hand.

JH: Yeah.

LB: Okay. All right. Do you have any favorite materials you like to use?

JH: Well, I just use all cotton for--. That works the best for quilting.

LB: Okay.

JH: And I like--

LB: Do you have a particular kind of batting you like?

JH: Not necessarily. I think the Warm and Natural probably-- I really like to use it for table runners and small projects. And I usually just use a polyester batting--

LB: For your large quilts?

JH: For my larger quilts.

LB: Why do you use the cotton for the smaller stuff?

JH: You mean the--?

LB: The cotton batting. Yeah.

JH: The Warm and Natural? It’s stiffer, and it just works nice for table runners, and I don’t really like quite that much stiffness in a quilt. I like it to be a little bit softer. Now the one I use the most is called “Traditional” made by Fairfield, and that’s the batting I use in almost all of my quilts that I have quilted. And the ones that I’ve hand quilted, I’ve used just a light weight, just the thin polyester, because it’s easy to get the needle through.

LB: Right. All right. It says here to describe the studio or the place where you create. Well, you were talking about that earlier; so, you do almost all your sewing here in the kitchen?

JH: Yes, I do. Down in my sewing room downstairs I have a nice, large cutting table. But since I’ve opened up the shop, I do most of my cutting on my shop counter. But I have a nice, big cutting table down there and lots of shelves, and store my fabric in baskets, and have all kinds of notions down there. Since I sew up here because of the shop, why, I just keep my stuff down there and just go down and get it and bring it up here, and I do my cutting out mostly on my shop counter.

LB: Yeah. Well, that works out well. Yeah.

How do you balance your time between all your different--?

JH: Well, I’m a widow; so, I have a lot of time, and I do my sewing during the day between customers, mostly. A lot of times if I have cutting out and things to do, I do that after hours. But mostly I just run my shop, and I am here, and I sew, and I go to church. I have my--

LB: Like you said, you have your guild meetings.

JH: My church meetings. Well, that’s just a real important part of my life. And a lot of times, even during the day between customers, I work on the church projects here, too. The quilts that we give away through our Quilts for Christ--we don’t make them at the church; we make them at home. And then we just have a meeting once a month, and we take what we’ve made and turn it in. And then we have one lady--that’s her job: that she delivers the quilts wherever they need to go to either the hospice or the pregnancy crisis center or wherever they’re being donated to. But we make them at home. So, I work on that through the daytime, too, in between customers.

LB: Right.

JH: Some days--

LB: You’re just busy!


JH: Some days I have a lot of customers and I don’t get much sewing done, and then some days it’s slow, and I have a long time to sew.

LB: What time do you get up in the morning?

JH: Oh, not very early. [laughter.] I don’t open my shop until 10. And so, I just make sure that I’m dressed by 10 o’clock. [laughter.] But, no, I don’t get around real early.

LB: Do you use a design wall when you’re designing your quilts?

JH: No. I don’t. I think that’d be really nice, but I just don’t have a place where that works out.

LB: How do you determine where to put your colors and everything? Do you lay them on--?

JH: I usually lay them out on the bed or, as much as I can, on this table. And then if this is not big enough, then I lay them out on the bed.

LB: On your bed.

JH: And do it that way.

LB: Ah. Okay. What do you think makes a great quilt?

JH: What do I think makes a great quilt? I think design and color are really important and that the quilt has some kind of meaning. One thing that bugs me a lot right now is it seems to be really popular for the quilts that have no design. There’re just pieces. There’s no pattern to it. I mean there’s great big pieces and the pieces don’t make any sense. I like patterns that you look at, and you have a star, or you have a flower, or you have a basket, or something that you can name the quilt something.

LB: Right. You mean like it has a recognizable pattern?

JH: Yeah.

LB: Is that what you mean?

JH: Yeah. And the quick, fast quilts are popular now, and they’re easy to make. But, to me, it doesn’t show any talent because anybody could do it, and they just go together really fast. And I’m sure that in our fast-paced world right now there’s a lot of ladies that like to make quilts that don’t have time to really get down to the detail. But it kind of bugs me a little bit. The quilt magazines that come out anymore–you don’t see any of the really intricate, pretty stuff.

LB: I’ve noticed that, too.

JH: Yeah. And--

LB: Because I subscribe to Quilters Newsletter. Do you? And their patterns have changed.

JH: And I’m not saying that some of these quilts that are just easy, throwed together aren’t really pretty because it depends on how they put the colors together. I mean you can take a quilt that has--and I’ve made a few of them myself--that it doesn’t seem to have much of a design to it, but when you put the right colors together, they really are attractive.

LB: Uh-huh.

JH: But that’s just not my cup of tea.

LB: All right.

JH: Yeah.

LB: All right. So, what do you think makes one artistically powerful?

JH: I think when it has a recognizable design. It’s just like the one that I have as my favorite quilt, which I didn’t design, but there’s houses and trees and stars and you can look at the quilt, and you can tell what it’s supposed to be. I guess, obviously, I’m not into modern art. [laughter.] I like for you to be able to look at something and see what it’s supposed to be. And I think that’s what a quilt ought to look like.

LB: Okay. What would make a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

JH: I think something that you have designed yourself that has meaning to it and has a lot of detail to where it’s obvious that you have put a lot of time into it and that you’ve put a lot of yourself into it, and you’re choosing your colors and your design, and that would have some meaning to it.

LB: Would it matter whether it was hand or machine quilted?

JH: [pause.] I don’t think so. Of course, anything that’s hand quilted is going to have more of an old-time, antique look to it. But now there’s really gorgeous machine quilting being done now; some beautiful machine quilting being done. In years to come that’s going to be as much a tradition as hand quilting was.

LB: Right.

JH: Because it takes talent to do that, too.

LB: Yeah. It does.

JH: To do the really beautiful machine quilting. It takes talent to do that.

LB: Yeah. An enormous amount of patience, I think.

JH: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve done a little bit of machine quilting, but I’m not good at that. I’ve done some small projects, just stitch in the ditch. But to do that really pretty stitching, I’m--

LB: So when you quilt your own quilts, then you normally hand quilt them?

JH: Most of my own quilts have been sent to someone else to quilt. Most of them have been done by Stover Quality Quilting, by one of their quilters. One of their quilters just lives up the road from me. And she used to work for the public, and she did almost all of my quilting. And then she started working for them; so, now the only way you can get her is to go through them, and I like having her do my quilts because she’s a friend, and she does beautiful, beautiful work. And I’ve quilted a few myself, just quilting in the ditch with the machine. And then I have a few that I’ve hand quilted. But I can’t say that hand quilting is my favorite thing to do. It takes too much time. [laughter.] I like to see results.

LB: Right.

JH: And the part I enjoy the most really is piecing them--designing them and piecing them.

LB: Right.

JH: But I did want to be able to say that I had hand quilted some quilts. [laughter.] So, I do have a few that I’ve hand quilted.

LB: I was going to ask you something. Oh. When you have someone else do the quilting on your quilt, do you let them know what kind of quilting design you want on it?

JH. Yes, I do.

LB: Or what you’ve got in your head--?

JH: Yes, I do.

LB: How you want it?

JH: I do. And I--

LB: How do you choose that?

JH: Sometimes I would even take my own templates and just say, ‘This is my template. This is what I’d like to have on there.’ And my friend up the road, Judy [Liebl.]–she’s really good. She could just do that and--. Or I could just say to her, ‘Don’t you think this would look different?’ And ‘Don’t you think this would look good on there?’ And ‘So, let’s do that; that works.’ I like to have a say in it. There’s been a few times I’ve said, ‘Just go ahead and do whatever your think’s pretty,’ because I trust her. But I like to have a little bit of a say about what I want on it. Because it’s my quilt. I’ve pieced it. I want to have some say about how it’s quilted. And I’ve had some experience with a quilter or two that I’ve told them what I wanted or didn’t want, and then when I got it back, they did what they wanted to do, and I didn’t appreciate that very much.

LB: Right.

JH: Because--

LB: Without letting you know.

JH: Yeah.

LB: Or something.

JH: Yeah.

LB: Or discussing it.

JH: [inaudible.] It’s your quilt. You need to be the one to say, ‘This is how I want it.’

LB: All right.

JH: So that it’s your quilt even though you haven’t done the actual machine quilting. You’ve made the decision of what you want on it.

LB: I agree. What do you think makes a great quiltmaker? [laughter.]

JH: Somebody that loves quilting to the point that they would be called a quilt-aholic. [laughter.] That makes a great quiltmaker.

LB: That’s what I want to be.

JH: Yeah. I’ve been accused of that. It’s that great love for doing that that causes you to be able to come up with the designs. If you don’t really love it, you wouldn’t do a very good job.

LB: Right

JH: And you wouldn’t be creative with what you make.

LB: Right.

JH: You know.

LB: Okay.

Whose quilt works are you drawn to and why? I mean, are there quilters out there whose designs and things you really admire; and if so--?

JH: I’m probably--

LB: What part of--?

JH: I’m probably an Eleanor Burns fan.

LB: Uh-huh.

JH: Because she’s real traditional, and that’s what I like. Of all of the quilt artists and quilt books that come out, I really like hers because she does stick with the traditional basics.

LB: Yeah. And she’s so funny to watch. [laughter.]

JH: Yeah. She is. Yeah. She’s kind of comical, and her voice just sounds like she’s teaching first graders. [laughter.] But she’s really good at what--

LB: She does.

JH: Yeah. She’s really good at what she does, and her books are really easy to follow. Yeah. She’s probably the one that I would say I admire the most.

LB: Okay. [laughter.] You’re right. I never thought about her teaching voice.

JH: That’s the thing that stands out to me the most about her is that--

LB: Well, she’s got a recognizable voice.

JH: Yeah. That she sounds like she’s teaching first graders. But that way she makes it to where you understand what she’s saying, what she is trying to show you how to do.

LB: Let’s see. We already talked about quilting. Why is quilt making important to your life?

JH: [pause.] It gives me a chance to be creative. From the time I was really small--I almost don’t even hardly remember learning how to sew-- sewing has just been who I am. I don’t think there’s any other part of sewing, at least to me, that where you can be any more creative than making quilts. The possibilities are endless of what you can do. Among other sewing I think that would be the reason.

LB: Okay. In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or your region?

JH: Well, this is a farm community--country. And I think the type of quilts that I make fit really well with the country theme. I’m not a big city person with big city ideas, and I think the kind of quilting I do would reflect the country.

LB: Uh-huh.

JH: And then, of course, the name of my shop is ‘Country.’ [laughter.] I live in the country and-- [laughter.]

LB: Well, then, what do you think about the importance of quilts in American life in general?

JH: [pause.] Read that question again. I didn’t--

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

JH: Well, I think quilting is an American tradition from way back in the beginning. And, so, to me it’s just part of America. I think the heritage of quilting–it reflects a lot on the hardships that people went through when they were moving west, and whenever they were trying to build this country and they didn’t have anything, and they used every scrap that they could to put together to make quilts for comfort. And then when they got to where they had more money and things, that was the thing that they made for beauty. And I think that’s just part of an American heritage.

LB: All right. In what ways do you think quilts have a special meaning for women in America?

JH: Probably because it gives them an outlet to let people know what they’re about, and it reflects their family life and just things like back when people did sew all the time and make their kids clothes and things where they would make quilts out of the scraps from their kids clothes for keepsakes and handing down things in the family, I think, are important to women. And making a quilt to give to a grandchild for graduation or as a way to give a piece of their self to their family--I think that’s important to women. A man wouldn’t think about that kind of thing, but women do.

LB: No. Probably not. Most of them, anyway. [laughter.]

JH: Well, now, I’m sure there are some that would, but--

LB: Well, I hear there’s a few men quilters around.

JH: Yeah. There are. There are. I have some that come into my shop.

LB: Do you know any around here?

JH: Yeah.

LB: Do you?

JH: Yeah.

LB: Hmmm.

JH: I have one couple that comes in. He does the piecing, and she does the quilting. And then I have another couple that he does the quilting, and she does the piecing. I think he runs the quilting machine. There are several men that like to do the quilting machines, the big--

LB: The long arms?

JH: The long arms.

LB: Tools, man. [laughter.]

JH: Yeah. [laughter.]

LB: Mechanized stuff. [laughter.]

How do you think quilts can be used? I think it means besides just as the obvious, like bed coverings.

JH: Well, they’re used for table toppers. A lot of the times I have an antique quilt on this table [indicates the table where participants are sitting.]. And they use them for wall decorations.

LB: How do you use quilts in your shop?

JH: Well, I’ve got them all over my shop for display.

LB: Well, what I mean is: do you put them up to give people ideas?

JH: Oh, yeah.

LB: Or if somebody wants to do one like that, do you kind of talk to them about how to do that?

JH: And, with me, because I have so many quilts in my collection, and I guess I’m a little bit selfish because I keep my quilts. But I share them by being able-- And I’ve got that bed downstairs that’s got over 20 quilts on that bed. And then the customers can use that as a bed turning, and they can turn them back. And then I have them all over the walls, and that gives them ideas for patterns and things they might want to do. And then when I have time, then a lot of times I make sample quilts. And then I always have the block of the month quilt hanging up--sample quilt hanging up--so that they can see each month what their block’s going to look like.

LB: I meant to ask you about that too. [JH clears throat.] You have a block of the month. Are these quilts and blocks that you’ve designed or are some of them out of other patterns?

JH: [coughs.] There’s a few of them that I have designed, but most of them have come from old quilt magazines--real old quilt magazines. And they’re the traditional that you can find everywhere, like the Ohio star and grandmother’s flower garden--and just all of those old, traditional quilt patterns.

LB: Okay.

JH: And that’s where most of them come from.

LB: Okay.

JH: And that’s why a lot of them have the actual pattern instead of a rotary cutting method, which is a newer thing.

LB: So, when you start one of those, then you just-- Do you pick a particular range of fabrics for them?

JH: Yes.

LB: And then all they have to do is put them together.

JH: Yeah. Each month they get a little packet that has the pattern and a little bit of instructions and then enough fabric to make that particular block. And then at the end of the year they have twelve blocks. Then sometime through the year they buy their finishing kit which is everything else that they need to do the sashing, borders and binding--everything else they need to put that quilt top together. And then I usually have a sample for them to see what it is going to look like. And then I pick a color scheme. This year we did a black and white with red. And then we did an 1800s look for a choice, and then I had a coordinated gold colored. I had three choices this year.

LB: They have a choice of what color way they want.

JH: They have a choice. But they’re pre-designed as far as-- It’s like a scrap quilt. Even the black and white and red--the colors were uniform, but all of the different fabrics--there was a lot of different fabrics in it that were black and white or red.

LB: Yeah. I saw that. I like that one.

JH: And I’m working on a choice for next year [2011.] that’s going to be the ’30s reproduction. And so, it’ll be like a scrap quilt, but it will all be ’30s reproduction fabrics and then the old, traditional quilt patterns.

LB: Oh. Okay. Well, I wondered about that.

Do you think quilts should be and can be preserved for the future?

JH: Absolutely. I do. Because the quilts of the past have been a part of the American heritage, and I think it’d be a real shame for it to just stop now. And I think it’s real important to teach our young people about the heritage of quilts, and it’s a way for them to learn to be creative, too. I think it’s very important for it to go on.

LB: To see where they might take it.

JH: Yeah. To see where they go with it. I don’t think it should ever die out.

LB: Yeah. I don’t either. [pause.]

What has happened to the quilts you’ve made or those of friends and family? You said you’ve got quite a quilt collection.

JH. Uh-huh.

LB: Now are those quilts that just you have made, or do you have some that you bought or from--?

JH: I have a few quilts that belong to my husband’s family that I didn’t make. And then other than those, all of the quilts that I have I have made. Even though it looks like I’m selfish and keep them myself, I have given my two oldest grandkids that graduated--I have given them a quilt for graduation. And I’ve given my kids several quilts already. But they would rather I keep them and take care of them, and then someday they’ll have them. I mentioned at different times that it didn’t make sense for me to have all these quilts, that maybe I ought to just sell them. And my daughter says, ‘Don’t you dare sell any without telling me first.’ And I told my son; I said, ‘Maybe after I’m gone you can just give them to charity.’ And he said, ‘I don’t think so.’ [laughter.] I don’t know what they think they’re going to do with all these quilts whenever I’m gone. They’ll probably just have a big old quilt sale and divide up the money. But at this point, they--. And I have sold a few, but I always check with them to be sure it’s not one of their favorites. And I know which ones are their favorites, and I don’t want to sell those either. And it’s been kind of a blessing to be able to have all of these quilts. We just got through putting on a quilt show through my church to raise money for our quilt ministry. And I took a lot of the quilts to show, to put on display to make a good quilt show. Last summer they had a quilt show in Lincoln as part of their 4th of July celebration, and I was able to take a bunch of my quilts and put in that quilt show. And so, I’ve been able to use them for other people’s enjoyment, and that’s mostly what I do with them.

LB: Do you do anything in particular to preserve them better?

JH: Not anything--

LB: Do you wash them every now and then?

JH: No. I never wash them. And I could be wrong on this, but I think that’s the way you wear a quilt out is by washing it. And I tell people, ‘Don’t ever wash a quilt until you just can’t stand it anymore.’ If you have a quilt that you use, obviously you’re going to have to wash it sometime. But to me, that’s what wears them out is washing them. And so, I just try to take good care of them so that I don’t get them soiled, and I don’t wash them.

LB: Okay.

JH: And I’m sure that if you have to, there are special ways that you can carefully wash them.

LB: You don’t have pets either.

JH: No. No. [laughter.] I would just cringe to think about a cat or a dog laying on one of my quilts.

LB: Well, I can’t get one made without the cat laying on it.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for quiltmakers today?

JH: [pause.] Well, right now I think probably the biggest challenge is the cost. Quilting is not a cheap hobby unless you do it just using scraps and making scrap quilts and just using what you have. But, otherwise, all your quilting equipment and fabric is just getting--. I think that’s got to be the greatest challenge because everything else--. There’s hundreds of patterns and ideas--actually thousands of patterns and ideas and methods--that makes it easy for anybody to quilt. But not everybody can afford it.

LB: Right.

JH: We did one thing last year [2009.] --and we just had our meeting today--we had what we called ‘recycled quilt challenge.’ And it’s been kind of fun. We made lap quilts; we had a certain size that they couldn’t be any bigger so they’d be lap quilts, and you had to make the entire lap quilt, and you couldn’t spend over $5. And it all had to be made out of something that had been something else before--like a pillowcase, or a sheet, or a curtain, or a dress, or a shirt, or whatever. And it had to be made completely and totally out of recycled products.

LB: Like the batting had to be recycled?

JH: [Yes.]

LB: And the backing [inaudible.]

JH: No. The one that I made I used an old thermal blanket for the middle to go inside the middle. And then the top I made out of sheets. And then we actually had a contest at the quilt guild that we did that. And then they voted on who came up with the neatest idea, and you could not spend over $5 on the entire quilt.

LB: How did they come out looking?

JH: Well, some of them were kind of strange [laughter.], and some of them were kind of pretty. To me it makes a statement to, especially, young people that you don’t have to have a lot of money to be able to make gifts and give gifts to people. And you can take things that are something already and remake them, which I did that. I raised my family that way.

LB: Right.

JH: And that seems to be a lost art; people --young people--think they have to have everything new. Last year [2009.] we did this, and we even had the prizes were made out of recycled products, and they were purses that we took [inaudible.] like blue jeans or whatever and made the purses out of the recycled products.

LB: Huh. That’s really neat.

Well, I think this concludes our--Is there anything else you’d like to share in closing?

JH: Well, I think this has been a real honor to be able to do this. One thing I really would like to share is when I opened up this quilt shop, I did it after my husband passed away. And I was just kind of lost. I had to have something to do. And I talked about doing this. And both of my kids said, ‘Go for it, Mom.’ And so I did. And I had my grand opening on my 65th birthday. And, to me, I want that to be an encouragement to people to think or to know that even when they are older, there are still things they can do. If you’ve got an idea or a dream, don’t let your age stop you from doing that. And whenever I opened up my shop--when I had my grand opening–we had a dedication service from my pastor and my church--some of my church people came--and we dedicated my quilt shop to the Lord just so that it would be a blessing to people. I wanted my quilt shop to be a blessing to people. And I think it has been. I really think that there’s been a lot of ladies that have enjoyed coming in here and enjoyed being able to get a bargain on their fabric, and somebody to talk to. I’ve tried to share ideas and patterns and things that I’ve made, and beginners--to show them how to get started.

LB: And those of us who just like to collect fabric. [laughter.]

JH: [inaudible.]

LB: And for those of us who just like to collect fabric.

JH: And there’s a lot of people like that [laughter.]–that just like to collect fabric.

LB: Well, I remember one time you told some lady that was what I was doing. [laughter.]

JH: Well, I was doing that before I ever opened up the quilt shop. I would enjoy just getting my fabric out and just laying colors together and think, ‘Well, one of these days I’m going to make a quilt out of this [laughter.] color selection,’ and just playing with my fabric.

LB: Yeah.

JH: And that’s just a part of it.

LB: That’s what my husband says. I just go into my sewing room and shut the door, and he says, ‘In there fondling your fabric?’

JH: Yeah.

LB: Yeah.

JH: Yeah. [laughter.] Many times. [laughter.]

LB: Well, Judy, Gail and I want to thank you so much for doing this, and I hope we get this all transcribed. I’m sure Gail will do a great job. I just hope I get it copied and everything for her right. And we appreciate your doing this.

JH: Well, I appreciate you thinking of me to do this. To me, it’s a real honor, and I’m tickled about it. And when you’re talking about preserving quilts and stuff, this gives my kids something to keep as a memory when I’m gone and for my grandkids to have this documented. I think it will be something that’ll be special to them.

LB: I think so, too. It’ll be in your own words.

JH: Yeah.

LB: Okay. Well, I’m going to stop. Did you want to say anything, Gail?

Gail Columbus: No. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of this as well.

LB: Time.



“Judy Harms,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 16, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/2204.