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Visual Arts Toolkit: Quilts--Juanita Yeager

6 minutes

(Describer) Missy Johnston:

Juanita Yeager is a nationally known quilt maker, especially for her quilts that feature large flower images. She began quilting by focusing on the basics-- good advice for an artist working in any medium-- but has gone from traditional patchwork designs to using fabric in the way a painter uses paint.

(Describer) A sketch of a floral design within a square lies on graph paper. A woman uses a ruler to draw diagonal lines across circles. Title: Juanita Yeager, Artist:

[children chattering, shouting]

(Yeager) I started quilting about 1984 and really got serious about it in 1988. No one in my family quilted, so I had to start with the library and reading books. Then I learned that the Jefferson County Adult Education offered beginning quilt class in a neighborhood school. I didn't have anything to do on Thursdays, so I went to the first beginning quilt class, fell in love with the people making quilts, and fell in love with quilt making.

(Describer) She makes larger designs on sheets of paper hung on a wall.

I started with traditional quilts, and I think it's a good way of starting when you're learning quilt making. I have progressed to doing very nontraditional work, but the basis of my work currently was based on the tradition I learned in the beginning. Once I learned the techniques-- the quarter-inch seam allowances, how many stitches to the inch, how to make my points match, and those kinds of things-- then I was free to break some rules and expand into what I wanted to do.

(Describer) In a finished quilt, various fabrics make up a vine with leaves and butterflies nearby. Another butterfly is by flowers made of red and orange fabrics. More flowers have squiggly light yellow stamen and green leaves against a black background.

[classical music playing]

(Describer) Yeager looks through folded fabrics.

I usually choose a theme fabric, not necessarily that that piece of fabric will wind up in the quilt. But, for some reason, I picked up that fabric because I liked the combination of colors in that particular design.

(Describer) She puts a few aside.

Quilters use fabric like a painter would use paint. And if you're using all paints, you put some depth into the work by making the paint thicker in some places and smushing it. You don't have that luxury with fabric. The way you get detail is with the visual interest that really is in the fabric prints.

(Describer) The fabrics in stacked baskets have various patterns.

When I choose combinations of fabric, I think of what nature tells us. All grass is not all green or one shade of green. When you look at a tree, with the shading and the light, you'll get some blue-greens and yellow-greens. And it depends on what season of the year. So I look at nature for an idea.

(Describer) After holding new fabrics against it, she takes a cut piece of fabric with contrasting edge and pins it to a wall sketch.

My quilts aren't what you would call quilts, as most people would call them. No one sleeps under them. They're basically for the wall. I design them for wall use.

(Describer) She pins a circle of a few cut fabrics by the first piece shaped like a leaf. She sews another piece.

I don't sell my quilts, mainly because I did not go into quilt making looking at the commercial aspect of it. I went into it as a way of expressing myself, finding joy in what I was doing for myself. And my children love what I do. The payoff for me is just simple fulfillment. It's simple enjoyment of seeing other people comment on what I've done and wonder how I did it, and just the pat on the back. This makes me feel good that someone said, "I saw your piece and it was wonderful."

(Describer) In another quilt, a dark purple fabric with more reddish floral patterns cuts between different lighter purple fabrics in a wide curve, going up and to the right. It ends at a diagonal strip of fabrics in three tones of brown.

(Describer) Another area has a dark red circle with a curve of purple crossing it. In another quilt, white stitching forms a leafy plant in a circle on a black fabric. Elsewhere, purple fabric leads to one with a small pattern of different squares.

(Describer) The last two areas are part of the same quilt.

(Describer) Another quilt has small circles with different colors of waves crossing them. The circles are combined with large but thin red and yellow triangles against a background of purples and blues. Accessibility provided by the US Department of Education.

Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Juanita Yeager shows how she creates patterns and selects fabric for her original quilts. She approaches her work very much like a painter would approach a canvas, and she sees her quilts as an act of self-expression. Part of the "Visual Arts Toolkit" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 6 minutes

Visual Arts Toolkit
Episode 1
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Visual Arts Toolkit
Episode 2
6 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Visual Arts Toolkit
Episode 3
7 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12