Judy Stryker




Judy Stryker


Judy Stryker talks about the materials of her chosen quilt, the maker of the quilt, and how it came into her possession. She talks about first learning about quilting and when she started to quilt. Stryker talks about the guilds she is a member of and her involvement with the Virginia Quilt Museum. She talks about what she thinks makes a quilt great and what she thinks makes a quiltmaker great. Stryker talks about the first quilt she ever made and what has become of it now.




Quiltmakers--United States
Virginia Quilt Museum
Quilts--United States
Wool quilts
Arts and crafts


Judy Stryker


Julie Henderson

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Harrisonburg, Virginia

Interview indexer

JT Eissenberg


Julie Henderson


Julie Henderson (JH): [clears throat.] Excuse me. My name is Julie Henderson. I'm interviewing Judy Stryker today at the Virginia Quilt Museum in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Today is June 22nd, 2002. This is part of a training session for the Quilters' Save Our Stories project, which is for The Alliance for the American Quilt [The Alliance for American Quilts.]. Hi, Judy.

Judy Stryker (JS): Hi.

JH: Thanks for talking to me.

JS: You're welcome.

JH: I see you've brought a quilt. Would you like to tell us about it?

JS: Well. [laughs.]

JH: You can start anywhere.

JS: This quilt was made by my great-aunt--actually there are very few quilts in my family. In fact, hardly any. But my great-aunt did make quilts and quilt tops. Unfortunately when she died, other branches of the family got all the quilts and quilt tops. But this quilt--I really don't know how it got into our family, but I remember it being in the house from about 1950. My mother always used it on my baby brother's bed and so I sort of determined that he should have it. But then when he had it in his house, his wife just kept it in a bag in the closet. So I just borrowed it back. [laughter.] One of these days it'll go back to him. Well, I love the quilt because it's--the blue in it I love especially. I have done some repair work on it, which I need to do over again because since I started quilting in the late seventies. I've learned so much. So many different fabrics are now available because at the time when I repaired some of the fans some of the fabrics that were disintegrating, there wasn't anything that was really comparable. I think it's also interesting because it's got wool in it. Because my great-aunt was from Greenbriar County, West Virginia and they had sheep and that's what she used to line her quilts with. Unfortunately when you use a quilt like this on a bed and it gets thrown in the washer and the dryer, you know things happen to it. [laughs.] So the batting is kind of separating.

JH: That was Greenbriar County?

JS: Greenbriar County, West Virginia.

JH: And it's wool batting that's--

JS: Wool batting.

JH: How long ago did you borrow that back from your brother?

JS: Oh, five or six years. [laughter.] Well, I had it for a long – well, it was in the house for a long time. Then I had it for a long time when I was trying to find something to repair it with. Even then I hadn't decided what to do with it. But I decided that my brother should have it. And it's been documented in the Virginia Quilt Project. But you will find no tag on here, because I never sewed it on. I got those tags out last night and there's not even a number on it. So I'm going to have to go back to the Virginia quilt documenting books and find out what number was on it, and when it was documented.

JH: When you were holding it up a second ago I saw some writing on the back--it says--what does it say?

JS: It says made by Clara Jones, Greenbriar County.

JH: Oh, so her name was Clara Jones. Did you know her?

JS: Oh, yes. She never married. She was my grandfather's sister and she lived on the family farm. I loved going out there as a child and sleeping in the feather bed. You know, she tried to teach me how to make biscuits. She made the best biscuits you'd ever want to eat. At about twelve or thirteen years old I tried to get her to teach me how to make biscuits. I went down early in the morning with my pad and paper to watch her make biscuits. She just dumped the flour in--'Well how much is that?' and this and that. She didn't measure anything. She was one of those kinds of cooks. It was an old farm and when I remember going there initially as a child there was no indoor plumbing and she was cooking on a wood stove.

JH: Did you ever see her quilting?

JS: No. I never even knew she made quilts until after she died. She had two bedrooms in that house, which were strictly off limits to the children. [laughter.] Being the shy one I am I obeyed my parents: you do not go into Aunt Clara's rooms. I didn't find out about the quilts until after she died. Which I think was in the early sixties.

JH: When did you get interested in quilting?

JS: Well, I guess I always--you know, when do you learn about quilting first? Whenever you see your first quilt in a book or something. But I actually didn't get in to quilting until about seventy-seven or seventy-eight. One reason was because I was working and I had difficulty finding a guild that met at night. But I always wanted to make a quilt. But when I was growing up you made quilts with leftover fabrics. It's nothing like what it is today. [laughs.] I always made my own clothes. So I had piles and piles of scraps. You always saved all the fabrics--scrap fabrics--after you make a dress or whatever. That's what I thought you were supposed to make quilts out of. Of course at the time I made my first quilt I had all these polyester double knits--which you're probably too young to know what I'm talking about. [laughter.] So I tried to make a quilt--well, I made a quilt using polyester double knit. You try to sew through of two layers of that! It was interesting.

JH: You're in a guild now?

JS: I belong to the Shenandoah Valley Quilters Guild, yes. I haven't done any quilting to speak of since we opened this museum in 1995. [laughs.]

JH: How long have you been a member of the guild?

JS: Well, I am originally from Alexandria, but I belonged to the guild here for a while long distance--I guess since 1995, say.

JH: You're part of the museum here?

JS: Yes.

JH: What do you do here?

JS: Oh, almost anything. I'm a board member and I just try to help out wherever I can to take some of the strain off the director. I'm not very successful. There's always more to do, you know. But it's a lot of fun and we meet a lot of wonderful people. One thing about working here at the museum, you get to see a lot of quilts. A lot of very interesting quilts come through that door that people want information about.

JH: When you see all these quilts, what do you think makes a great quilt great?

JS: For me, I'm very--I like the traditional quilts, the old patterns. I much prefer the scrap quilts. But--well, I don't know. I have many favorites. Some of the most interesting ones are really the weirdest things. Like there's one in the Civil War room now [of the Virginia Quilt Museum.]. That crazy quilt fish that's up there. If you haven't seen it you'll have to go and see it. It was used on top of a piano. Then I was thinking this other one--some lady brought a quilt in that she wanted to donate to the Museum. It's got little girl's infant dresses sewn on it. It's the ugliest--I mean it's in horrible condition. [laughter.] It's just--you know the background fabric--there's a piece of a towel and part of a bedspread. But it's just so interesting. You wonder what in the world was this person thinking when she did this or why did she do that? So I guess I don't really have a clear definition of what makes a great quilt. Something that makes you happy--it's got to be something that makes me happy or smile when I look at it.

JH: Yeah. In that same sort of area, what do you think makes a great quilt maker?

JS: Gee. Somebody who enjoys making quilts. When I was--how much of a storyteller do you want me to be? It's kind of an interesting--when I was working, we started this kind of a crafty group at lunchtime. Somebody told me, there's a girl down the hall who's making a quilt. Why don't you go talk to her and ask her to join our group? So one day at lunchtime I walked down. She was a lot younger than I am. But she was in her late twenties. She was working; she had a quilt in her lap. The colors were beautiful; it was a sampler quilt. We got to talking and I got to talking about the quilt. I started to say, 'My you have tiny basting stitches.' But fortunately I didn't because those were her quilting stitches. I thought--I was kind of chuckling about it. But, that quilt was for her six-year-old son who could hardly wait to get it on his bed. It was beautiful. The colors were beautiful and the corners matched and it laid flat. But she had these gigantic quilting stitches. But she was happy with it. That's what's most important. A lot of times today I think there's too much stress on getting tiny stitches or this wonderful--excuse me hand-dyed, hand painted embellished thing. If it makes the maker happy, that's what's important or the person who is going to receive the quilt. That's another thing. I could never sell a quilt that I made. But I can give them away. I've given a lot away. I just can't sell--can't put a price on it.

JH: I think we have time for about one more question. Let's see. How have quilts impacted your family?

JS: Only the fact that I've got so much fabric laying around and so much of my time is devoted to it. [laughs.] But that's been the biggest impact I guess.

JH: Actually, is there anything you want to add to this short interview?

JS: I don't guess so.

Bernard Herman (BH): I'll ask a question.

JH: Okay, sure.

BH: How did you come to quilting?

JS: Well, what I sort of started out with--who knows? Was it a picture? Somehow I'd seen quilts and I liked them. They kind of give you the warm fuzzy feeling. So I always wanted to make one.

BH: So how did you go about making that first quilt?

JS: Well I went and I bought this--I bought a set of templates made out of plastic. You put them on an inkpad and then you put it on the fabric. So I put it on my double knit polyester. [laughs.] And then cut it out and sewed it together. But really, that was a little before--that could have been in the early seventies, anyway. But then when I joined my first quilt group, and I did take some classes and learned better techniques, let us say. But there's nothing wrong with it because quilting in the beginning in this country anyway it was scraps mostly put together. It's with whatever you have. So, that's what I had. But of course the fabrics that are available today are a hundred times better than the fabrics that were available in the seventies, even. It's really amazing.

BH: What became of that first quilt?

JS: Oh, I still have it.

BH: What do you do with it now?

JS: It's in the closet. [laughter.]

BH: And what do you think of it?

JS: Well, I love some of the colors. I love the colors. But I don't really much like the quilt. But I would never throw it away. It might be good to use if I had a dog. The thing about polyester double knit is it never wears out. [laughter.] And you're probably too young to know that. [another person at the meeting says, 'I thought it was great when they first had it.']

JH: Anything else?

JS: No, I think I've said enough. [laughter.]

JH: Well this has been really fun. Thank you for talking to me and Dr. Herman. My name is Julie Henderson talking to Judy Stryker for the Virginia Quilt Museum Training Session. It's 1:13 unfortunately I forgot to note what time we started but thank you.

JS: You're welcome.

Interview Keyword

Children's quilts
Quilting guilds
Polyester double knit quilts
Virginia Quilt Museum
Shenandoah Valley Quilters Guild
Crazy quilts
Quilting groups



“Judy Stryker,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 19, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/2652.