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What is it about Jan T (Urquhart) Baillie

Updated on April 2, 2016
JanTUB profile image

Jan T Urquhart Baillie has many sides to her personality, born out of a difficult life, and success due to her optimism and practical skills

Jan T Urquhart Baillie is...

Many things to many people, a very complex lady with lots of joie de vivre.

Funny, bright, lively, can be serious. Find out all about her here.

Do you know Jan T?

Do you know any of Jan T's secrets or her hidden talents?

Her name keeps cropping up in quilting circles, in design circles.

Let others know what you know about Jan T so we all know.

Be truthful now!


Who is Jan T (Urquhart) Baillie

by someone who really knows her

Quiltmaking tutor, author, publisher, webmaster, online quilt school headmistress, quilt judge, speaker, wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend...

Born at Waratah, NSW, in 1946, the first of three daughters to Beryl Clare and Frank Watson Smith.

I was married to my second husband, Paul, for more than 33 years, I have five daughters, four grandsons and two granddaughters.

Widowed in 1999, I am back living in the Hunter Valley.

In 2005 I remarried, (that's why the new name) and have some step children and grandchildren as well as my new husband, Bob.

Jan T the person

sad, funny, happy, maudlin, all sides of one person

Life can deal terrible blows.

How you deal with life's ups and downs makes such a difference.

Once a priest said to me: "You've had a hard life." My response: "No, I haven't!"

The reality is that I have had much to deal with, but I still think I've had (am having) a wonderful, full life so far. It's all about attitude.

Growing up without my dad was really hard. Apparently I followed him everywhere like a shadow, and he took me everywhere on a little seat he had made that sat on the handlebars of his pushbike.

He and my mother separated when I was not quite three, and I missed him all my life. There was always a missing part of me.

I was not easy to raise, as I am full of beans, and always marched to the beat of a different drummer, a trait my mother found very trying. Rebellious she said. My middle sister, Nicole, was almost as difficult, while the youngest one, Elizabeth, was a 'goody-goody'.

I would go to the shops for 'the messages' and be gone for hours and hours. My mother would be walking the streets looking for me often. I knew almost everyone in our town on the shores of Lake Macquarie — Toronto. I could talk the leg off an iron pot, no problem! The old ladies around the place loved to hear my tales.

I still regale students and friends with my yarns.

It's all about attitude.

Attitudes are contagious.

Is yours worth catching?

— Jan T Urquhart Baillie

Jan T the singer

heavenly voice gifted from God

I have been singing all my life.

I used to mimic Vera Lynn while she sang on the radio when I was very small — about two years old.

A big, powerful soprano voice that gives great joy to people who hear me sing. While most of my singing has been in church for Mass, weddings, funerals, I have also sung at Newcastle Town Hall; in a band when I was fifteen; and at pubs as a teenager.

My favourite yarn is to say "I stopped the club when I sang at Broncos' Leagues Club in Brisbane". True story, I promise! The Broncos are Brisbane's famous NRL football team and the club is very big, although it wasn't quite that big then ;>)

God gave me the gift, and I have to share it, it is such a blessing.

Nowadays, I sing for my elderly relatives at family gatherings, while Bob plays the saxophone, and my dad plays the harmonica. The Frank Smith Trio, my 94 year old aunty calls us.

Bob loves old-time music, so of course they love hearing all those golden oldies, and they are wonderful to sing.

Jan T the mother

What was I thinking?

My first child was born in 1963, when I was seventeen and just out of school.

Very naive and so much in love with a handsome bloke who turned out to be married! Once I found out, I broke it off, but I was already pregnant.

My mother wanted me to 'get rid of the baby' as it was called, but I couldn't do that. I sued her for permission to marry, as she was dead against that too. I married Kevin (a friend) a couple of months before she was born, but the marriage failed after about a year.

When she was born, Angela Maree was 23 inches long, weighed 9lbs7oz and had tight dark auburn curls. She was so lovely.

At eighteen, I was on my own, and with no financial support system for single parents at that time in Australia, had to leave her with my mother and go to work.

I couldn't live at my mother's house because it was too small and she couldn't afford to keep me. (She had been a single mother since my father left us when I was two and a half.)

I had to go to Sydney to get work, as people in the Newcastle area didn't hire single women with babies. How times have changed! Seeing Angela when I lived 200 miles away was really difficult, so I only went up to see her every two or three weeks.

It wasn't long before she thought her grandmother was her mother — a fact that still breaks my heart, even after all this time.

When Angela was two, I met Paul Urquhart, and we fell in love at first sight. He also fell in love with Angela and considered her his own until his death.

Jan T the mother second time

What about birth control?

My second child was born in 1966, when I was twenty.

Paul was such a passionate man, and we were so in love that soon I was pregnant again. (We didn't have the pill available to us then.)

His father said you'll have to get married, he said we can't: she's already married. His father said: I'll give you the money to go to New Zealand. (As divorce was not a 'quick fix' in those days, I had to wait six years to be free to wed again.)

We ran away in the dead of the night to a job hundreds of miles north and lived as husband and wife.

Veronica Ruth was born in Ballina, a lovely little fishing village in 1966. She was 22 inches long, but weighed 7lbs 6oz. She was nearly a month late, and was a procrastinator all her life.

She and I had a 'difficult' relationship, to the point that when she was four, I took her to a psychologist to see what could be done to make our life easier. Back then no-one had even heard of ADD or ODD, but I believe now that she was both of those. His advice and that of so many others was: "You're the mother, she's the child. Make her do as she's told." The worst advice possible, but what was the norm then.

Stormy was the kindest thing you could say about our mother-daughter bond. It wasn't until she was married and a mother, and also seeing a psychiatrist, that we came to understand each other. The last several weeks before we moved back to Sydney for Paul's job, she and I had become very close.

The turning point was when I said to her:

You have to forgive me for what I did that you didn't want me to do;

forgive me what I didn't do that you wanted me to do;

and get on with your life.

Death came early

In 1994, soon after we went back to Sydney, Veronica had a massive stroke in the brain stem, and after being in a coma for five months, she died. She was twenty-eight.

One year later, her only son was diagnosed with cancer. He is now a strapping 18 year old, tall young survivor. He lives with his dad at Ipswich in Queensland.


Jacob's father died suddenly in his chair watching the footy. He was 53. Jacob was 21.

You have to forgive me for what I did that you didn't want me to do.

Forgive me what I didn't do that you wanted me to do;

and get on with your life.

— Mother of Veronica

Jan T the mother third time

and again? what was I thinking?

Rachel Irene was born in Blacktown on April 3 1968

She was 17 inches long and 7lb6oz. She is stil the shortest of all the girls at just over five feet. When she was doing her medical internship, the patients would ask, where's the doctor, so she cut her hair short to look older, and would tell them: I am the real doctor!

Married with three sons, she and Mark live in central Queensland in a mining town.

More sadness

Rachel has recently been diagnised as bipolar and no longer wishes to see me. She holds me responsible, I think.

I have been a disappointment for her since she was thirteen. She asked me a question I didn't know the answer to, so suggested we look it up. In disgust she said: "I thought you knew everything and you don't!"

Not useful any more, me!

Jan T the mother again (number 4)

Didn't I know what was causing it?

Clare Anne was born thirteen months after Rachel, also at Blacktown, in May 1969. I can't believe she's about to turn 40!

She is now a farmer/organic/herb specialist in the far north of New South Wales. Her 56 acres are in an idyllic setting in the mountains, she even has her own waterfall.

When she was nineteen, she saved and saved and saved to go to India with a few friends. She was the centre of attention there because she's tall and has blonde hair — quite rare in that part of the world.


Clare now has a gorgeous son, Jay Paul, who turned 3 in April.


Clare was awarded Ph D in Fine Arts, and is currently under taking her thesis.

Proud mother, me!

Jay, Mummy and Mama - at Ballina 2012

Tickle me again, Mama
Tickle me again, Mama

Jan T the mother 5 times!

Last one, this one.

When I was 26, my last daughter was born at Penrith in January 1972.

Bernadette Louise, whom we always called Smiley, for that was what she did most of the time.

She now has her own beautiful daughter, Harriet Lillian. Aren't they lovely?

Jan T the quilter

Quilter extraordinaire (VBG!)

In 1983, my mother came to visit us on our home in Brisbane. She and my little sister Elizabeth were going to TAFE to pursue a Needlework Certificate course, and she had just learned how to make English paper-piecing hexagons for patchwork quilts.

She showed me how to make one hexagon and the rest, as they say, is history!

My first quilt took two years to make, is a bit of a horror in quilting terms, but I still love it, and it still is in use.

I actually thought I had invented the pattern which I called Wheels (I did really design it), but later found out that it was called Rolling Star.

I made several quilts using the English paper piecing method, even quilts with six inch squares! I didn't know that there were quilt shops, books about quilts, special quilt fabrics, none of that.

During my quarter-of-a-century quilting career, I have received many accolades, including numerous prizes in competitions and was chosen as the Queensland Quilters Touring Tutor for 1992.

In 1994, I was selected to travel as one of three artists with the Flying Arts School to the Central Western area of Queensland, the first time a quiltmaker was invited.

Sadly, my daughter had a stroke the day before I was to leave, so I didn't go.

There's much more to the quilter story!

More about Jan T the quilter

How many quilts?

I have made more than 200 quilts, from 12 foot square to 3 inches by four inches. Many wall pieces (art quilts) and also bed quilts of various sizes.

See the pin under the hook? That will help you see how small this one is.

I have had three solo exhibitions, and participated in many, many group exhibitions.

Awarded prizes at quilt shows, my quilts have always been unique in my own inimitable style. I was using hundreds of different fabrics in quilts before people were game to try that.

Psst! Want to know a secret? It's all about value — not colour.

Jan T the guest speaker

Who still gets a bit nervous before I go on!

Often asked to judge at quilt shows around Australia, I am an accomplished speaker, while my great sense of fun has made me a sought after tutor.

I have been invited to speak at many Annual General Meetings and do my My life Through My Quilts talk - always well recieved.

As I talk, I tell the story about that part of my life, using the quilts made then and what the significance of each one is.

My nerves disappear and I regale the audience with funny yarns, and while my life has had lots of sadness, which moves people, it has also had lots of fun, a good balance.

Many people have said after a talk how I inspired them but that's not what I try to do, I'm just sharing me, and how I got to today.


What's the T for?

Ah, that would be telling!

Everyone wants to know, and while it's a secret, it's fascinating.

Once you know, it's boring...

When I was in my last year at high school, there were five 'Jans' in my class of twenty girls. None of them were just Jan — like me. Plus, my last name was Smith. What were my parents thinking?

The other girls were Janice, Jeanette, Janet, none just plain Jan.

So I started to use my second initial 'T' so I could be more than just Jan.

This quilt is called What's the T For?

Psst! What do you know about Jan T?


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