Jinny Beyer: Master Quilter

Meet Jinny Beyer, a contemporary master quilter who developed a unique paper-folding technique to achieve patchwork perfection.

| November/December 1981

  • 072 jinny beyer master quilter 1 medallion quilt
    Master quilter Jinny Beyer next to the medallion quilt that won the Great American Quilt Contest.
    PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 072 jinny beyer master quilter 3 displaying patterns
    The paper-folding technique Jinny has developed to obtain her patterns is particularly useful in drafting hard-to-size blocks for clothing.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 072 jinny beyer master quilter 4 breyer at work
    Beyer quilts her tops on a traditional wooden frame. 
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 072 jinny beyer master quilter 2 earlier work
    Jinny Beyer displays some of her earlier work.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 072 jinny beyer master quilter 5 repeat stripe fabric
    "Repeat stripe" fabric creates optical illusions and borders.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
  • 072 jinny beyer master quilter - diagram
    The right side of the diagram shows the "flower basket" pattern. The left side shows how this pattern can be broken down into smaller squares and triangles that are easy to work with.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • 072 jinny beyer master quilter 1 medallion quilt
  • 072 jinny beyer master quilter 3 displaying patterns
  • 072 jinny beyer master quilter 4 breyer at work
  • 072 jinny beyer master quilter 2 earlier work
  • 072 jinny beyer master quilter 5 repeat stripe fabric
  • 072 jinny beyer master quilter - diagram

Over the past few years there has been a real rebirth of interest in traditional North American crafts. Part of the reason for this handiwork renaissance, perhaps, is that people today yearn for the satisfaction that comes from creating a lovely object with their own hands. In many cases, too, a modern craftsperson will undertake a project simply because he or she has been moved by the beauty of an old piece of folk art, and—through a personal interpretation of it—hopes to pay homage to its heritage and to inspire other folks to continue the evolution of the craft.

Of course, there are very few people who can approach this ideal, whose work can successfully integrate the traditions of the past with the influences of the present. MOTHER EARTH NEWS recently was privileged to meet one such artisan, though: Jinny Beyer, a master quilter, writer, and teacher from Fairfax, Virginia. Jinny's creations deserve mention not only for their obvious beauty, but also because her quilts—while remaining faithful to the heritage of quiltmaking—show what contemporary craftsfolk can accomplish using modern-day fabric and an imaginative approach.

Now most people have had the opportunity to examine—often with some awe—age-faded patchwork quilts, and anyone who's ever sewn has marveled at the skill and love that typically went into such coverlets. Oddly enough, we appreciate this form of American folk art today far more than did our ancestors of the mid-1800's to early 1900's. During that time people tended to regard quilting as a lowly occupation, a craft suitable for young girls beginning their sewing careers or for older women whose failing eyesight would not permit them to do finer "fancywork." Quiltmaking was also looked down upon because it was considered a "labor of necessity," and the term conjured up images of utilitarian bedclothes pieced together by poor folk from castoff scraps of cloth.

Ms. Beyer relates a story reported by one of her students, who asked her grandmother about quiltmaking. The older woman replied, "We did no quilting in this house. We did no quilting."



"But Grandmother," Jinny's pupil persisted, "there must have been some quilting done. I've heard Aunt Sally talk about it."

"No, no. we did no quilting," asserted the grandmother.



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