Ann Klimstra




Ann Klimstra


Ann Klimstra loves working with color and finding ways for odd colors to work together. She uses a design wall to audition the colors and to keep from making mistakes. She believes love in your heart makes a great quilter. Ann uses her skills to rescue antique quilts, make quilts for her family, design kits for a quilt shop, and work on the board of the North Carolina Quilt Symposium.




Ann Klimstra


Susan Skuda

Interview Date

June 7, 2012

Interview sponsor

A Friend of the Quilt Alliance


Cullowhee, North Carolina


Hannah Sailar


**This transcript was created by QSOS volunteers and was reviewed and, in some cases, edited by the interviewee. It may not exactly match the audio recording. For citations and interview quotations, please refer to the audio-recorded interview.** Susan Skuda (SS): Hi this is Susan Skuda and I am interviewing Ann Klimstra for the Quilter's SOS. Save Our Stories project. We are at the North Carolina Quilts Symposium at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. It is 3:37 p.m. on June 7, 2012. Let's begin. Ann, please tell me about the quilts you brought with you today.

Ann Klimstra (AK): This quilt was made from blocks I received in an internet exchange. The requirements were the background was to be a beige tone on tone and the colored pieces were to all read as a solid from a distance.

SS: Why did you choose this quilt to bring along with you to this interview?

AK: This is my summer quilt it has a very thin cashmere batting in it and I brought it with me because it is one of my fun quilts. It's not my best quilt ever but it's one of my fun quilts.

SS: Do you often use cashmere batting, is that an unusual--

AK: This is the one and only time I've ever used it and it's a very light and a nice summer quilt.

SS: Was it easy to work with--

AK: Yes.

SS: Were there other techniques--

AK: Yes it was quite easy.
SS: So how do you use this quilt in your normal life? Is it a summer quilt--
AK: As a summer quilt on the bed.
SS: Very good. How old were you when you started quiltmaking?

AK: When my babies were new which was when I was 31 my first one was born. I made what I thought was a quilt to put on the floor for him to lay on and I made one for each of the next 2 children as well and then I discovered that they weren't really quilts. So I started pretty early I've always been interested. My grandmother [Nena Perry Willis.] was a quilter so I've been around it a while.

SS: So did your grandmother teach you or have any role on you learning to quilt?

AK: No she didn't. She passed before I was old enough to sew. But there are lots and lots of memories with her and the quilts. She had a dedicated closet in her house it was called the quilt closet and she probably had 30 quilts stacked up in there and that closet was just for the quilts.

SS: And how did she use those quilts?

AK: Well they bed covers in the winter but when the grandchildren would come on Sunday afternoon she would throw the quilts on the floor and make us a pallet to play on.

SS: Well that's great. Do you have any other quilters in your family?

AK: Well a couple of cousins but no close relatives.

SS: What do you enjoy about quilt making?

AK: The color it's all about the color--

SS: The color--

AK: Yes it's all about the color. Love working with color. Love putting two odd colors together and making them come together work and be friends.

SS: How does your quilt making impact your family?

AK: Well they are all real proud of me if I do say so myself that I do this. They have all received quilts. They cherish the quilts that I have made for them. My husband's a big supporter big fan of what I do and we are now in the process of adding a room on for my sewing stuff.

SS: So you're making a sewing studio? What is your vision? What's that going to look like?

AK: Well I sew in our bedroom now and we have a really big bedroom and I have one corner of it but I also have an easy chair and all my sewing and quilting books. A floor lamp over me and my television and a place for my coffee cups so I hope I will have all that in my sewing studio as well plus I'm having my sewing machine up and ready to go anytime I just want to go in and sew a little bit and just being able to find my stuff.

SS: How much time do you time spend quilting every week?

AK: It goes in spurts some weeks not all and some weeks it's every day. A couple of hours every day some periods. It's sporadic.

SS: Do you use a design wall?

AK: Yes I do.

SS: How do you make use of your design wall in your quilting?

AK: Well it's just a piece of flannel I hang up. The big thing for me is if I plot out a quilt on graph paper and know how I'm going to put it together. Picking those pieces up and sewing them on the right side is a trick. So if you have the design all laid up there and take them a little at a time and sew it up you get it right and you put it back up to double check if you do get it right. It saves a lot of time not to mention auditioning things seeing how blocks and colors look together but mostly I use it to keep from making mistakes.

SS: What do you think makes a really great quilt?

AK: Well I'm a traditional quilter and what makes a really great quilt to me is the comfort of it. If you look at it and say, 'Oh I could wrap up in that' that's a great quilt.

SS: Is it a lot about the feeling?

AK: Yes and the way it looks and the colors. Is it cozy? Is it soft? Is it cheerful? Something you would want to snuggle up with.

SS: What do you think makes a great quilt maker?

AK: Love in your heart.

SS: Are you drawn to any specific quilt designer or even a fabric line?

AK: No I'm not. I don't have a favorite line of fabrics or a favorite kind of quilt other than traditional. I'm not much into art quilts.

SS: Do you hand or machine quilt?

AK: Both but mostly hand. Now this piece that I brought with me today is machine quilted.

SS: So do you have any strong feelings one way or another about hand versus machine quilt?

AK: No I don't other than I really like hand quilting. Sitting and quilting on a piece is just fun and you become more attached to those than the machine quilted ones or at least I do.

SS: Now you said that you've done quilts for people and your family. How do they use their quilts?

AK: On their beds. All three of my children have bed quilts and they all three have college graduation quilts. My granddaughter has a couple quilts I've made for her. I made quilts for my aunt when she turned 90 and she uses that on her bed. A couple of my cousins have quilts that I've made for them. Actually I've made for the two cousins and myself identical quilts. Just small lap quilts to commemorate a visit they made to me.

SS: How do you go about deciding what design and what fabrics to use for different quilts since you make quilts specifically for people and for occasions? How do you decide what quilt and what fabric to use for that?

AK: Well, I've picked colors and designs many different ways and it just whatever hits me at the time. My daughter's high school graduation quilt I picked the colors for that out of a bed of poppies where it worked. They were all red orange and pink and people would come and say 'you wouldn't think those colors would go together' well they also had green. So her graduation quilt is red and orange and pink and green and it won first place in a quilt show so it couldn't be too bad. The pattern was a small basket pieced basket 6 inch basket. And there are like 56 of those in the quilt and 89 patches around it and some applique around that it's all those colors and it's like I said it's all about the color.

SS: Now that particular quilt did you hand quilt it or--

AK: Yes I did.

SS: Do you ever use a long armer?

AK: Yes I do. I've made some really, really gigantic quilts and that's just impossible to handle at home so I've sent those out. All three of the college graduation quilts I've made for my children are hand quilted and then I've rescued several old, old quilt tops and I put those together and hand quilt them as well.

SS: So tell me about that how did you come across these old quilts?

AK: Well, the first one I did I went to an estate sale and there it was and it was missing a block and I figured out I could take it apart and rearrange it. It would make a very long rectangle. But it was a Dresden Plate and whoever made that had blanket stitched it the whole way down and done all this work and I thought you just can't not hand quilt this so I did that one. And my cousin brought me a top that her mother had made and it's probably the ugliest thing in the free world. Screaming green with little black and yellow and orange flowers, and all the other calicos were just like that. It's the true old calicos and it is just ugly and it was in a fan pattern and she said, 'I don't know if you want this or not, but mama made it and you can have it'. I added a black border and then some more screaming green around it and I hand quilted that and it turned out okay. And I'm working on one now that's butterflies. The top I bought at a vendor that sells tops for 30 bucks. The lady that made the top embroidered the antennae and the bodies of the butterflies had button holed all the butterflies down and that was it. And I thought, 'Oh man' I don't know where she is but if she's looking down she can see that somebody likes this and is finishing it and the sashing on that quilt is cheddar. So nobody wanted to buy but me.

SS: So how does it make you feel when you take an old quilt--

AK: I feel connected to the maker I really do. And I think about and wonder about the maker the whole time I'm working on it and especially the one I did belonged to my aunt and I knew who made and could think about her and wondered what she would think of me quilting it. She didn't quilt, she pieced.

SS: So what became of that quilt?

AK: I still have it I still have it. That one would be hard to give away that one's too special. They are like my little children you know.

SS: In what ways do you think quilts or quilting has been important to the region or to women in particular. Men or women quilt makers of the region. How's it--

AK: Well it's an outlet for your inner feelings. Your artistic bent if you have one or just your inner feelings. Lots of folks for example during 9/11 made quilts to express their feelings during that horrific time. I have made quilts to celebrate our granddaughter I've made quilts to celebrate college graduation other people having babies all different reasons. It's just a good way to express yourself and show others that you love them.

SS: You've done some work with antique quilts. How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

AK: Well a lot of people get excited about preserving old quilts and I did come across one really, really old piece that belonged to a family member who has long since been dead and thought this would be nice for her children to have it but it was raged. So I cut it up and made five cat pillows out of it and sent each one a cat pillow and that's something they will keep for a while but as far as preserving modern day quilts I think maybe our washing methods our storing methods are going to allow quilts to last even longer. I mean we don't have the wash tub with the lye soap anymore so probably things will last a bit longer hopefully. Anyway I always like to think that my quilts will be here 100 years after I'm gone. Of course I always told people when I worked the quilt shop and when I would help with classes I would say to everyone, 'you be sure to put a label on your quilt so when your children sell it at the estate sale folks will know what they're getting'.

SS: So you worked the quilt shop and I see that you're with North Carolina Quilt Symposium--

AK: Unfortunately the quilt shop I worked at closed and I miss that job so awful but I worked at a quilt shop for about 4 years.

SS: Were you an instructor or--

AK: No, I did the 5 Dollar Quilt Club once a month but mostly I was a sales clerk.

SS: What was the 5 Dollar Quilt Club?

AK: You pay 5 dollars you get a kit if you make the block and bring it back next month--you get the next kit free, and we would have a little program each month for them to attend before they would get their kit and just have fun.

SS: Was that a design you made up or would you use some other design?

AK: Yes, my friend and I made the blocks or choose the blocks, picked the fabric, cut the kits for each year for 4 years.

SS: And what do you do on the board?

AK: I'm on the webpage committee for the North Carolina Quilt Symposium board. I've attended 2 meetings this is my first year on the board and so far I just love it. Their focus is to promote quilting and that's all I need to do. That's just great.

SS: So what do you do on the board?

AK: When the board meets, we facilitate guilds putting on symposium like this one and we manage money we provide seed money to the guild we choose guilds down the road to put on symposium they submit packets we go through them make sure everything is as nice as this one is going to be.

SS: So where do you see the role of the guild in quilting?

AK: Well, in Hendersonville we have two quilting guilds or groups and we have a whole other segment of ladies that don't belong to a guild and I became aware of that when I was working at the quilt shop. A lot of ladies don't want to be in a guild or a group but the benefit of being in a group is you learn so much you are just involved totally with quilting and every meeting you go to you will pick up a tip on quilting or on something else. Not to mention the fact that most women need to be with other women and quilters are just friendly.

SS: The North Carolina Quilt Symposium, the role that they play among the guilds, do they work on bringing them together or--

AK: No, the symposium provides money to a guild to put on a symposium. The purpose of that is to make money for the guilds during the next few years they will have money to hire teachers to come to their guilds to teach, and that's the purpose of it.

SS: What do you think if someone looking at your many quilts you have made what do you think they would come back thinking of you? Someone in the future 100 years from now looking at these quilts what will they think about you as the quilt maker?

AK: I expect they would say she is very traditional and she really liked color.

SS: Is there anything else that we haven't touched on today that you could talk about? A story about quilts in your life or--

AK: My grandmother did quilt, she made utilitarian quilts that were used on the beds but the year I was born, my cousin was born the same year she made 2 quilts that year with fabric she purchased which was not the norm. Usually it was shirts and underwear and things like that. The two quilts she made that were pink and blue--both of them were pink and blue so you didn't know what you were getting. So my cousin Timmy and I both got a pink and blue quilt.

SS: So you still have the quilt--

AK: I sure do.

SS: So is that your earliest quilt memory?

AK: Well I don't really remember that as much because that was put up for a lot of years. My earliest memory was my grandmother going to the quilt closet and bringing this big stack of quilts to the living room and just flinging them on the floor and making a pallet for us to play on. This was back in the 40's and my dad's family all lived in the same town and Sunday afternoon we would all go to my grandmother's house and we would have Sunday dinner. Still sitting on the dining room table still covered up with the sheet and when it was time to eat she would just rip that sheet off and people would fill their plates and have lunch or have dinner and the quilts would come out and we would play on the floor while the adults talked.

SS: Are those quilts still in the family?

AK: I have one and the rest are gone.

SS: They are totally gone?

AK: Gone.

SS: So you said you see your quilts being used for 100 years--

AK: I hope I hope and I hope when my family and friends wrap up in my quilts they can feel the hugs from me because that's what they're for.

SS: That's just beautiful. Is there anything that you would like to tell us?

AK: Not that I can think of. The quilt I brought today has a special name.

SS: Well, please share that.

AK: It's called 'Bless Her Heart' and if you're from the South you know what that means. I received most of these blocks in an internet exchange and if you notice, one of the blocks is turned wrong.

SS: And is that a humility block?

AK: No, the maker of the block pieced part of it incorrectly and I sewed it up in the quilt and didn't notice it and when I got all done I thought 'well, bless her heart'.

SS: Hence the name.

AK: Do you see it? It's the bottom corner. Bottom left corner.

SS: Bless her heart.

AK: Bless her heart, that's all you can say.

SS: That's wonderful. Unless you have something else today, this has been a great interview. I appreciate it so much.

AK: You're more than welcome.

SS: I appreciate it so much and I guess we'll go ahead unless you have something else to add. It is 4:01 p.m. and this is Susan Scuda who has interviewed Ann Klimstra and we appreciate it so much.

AK: Thank you.

SS: I appreciate you.


“Ann Klimstra,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 25, 2024,