Hazel Carter




Hazel Carter




Hazel Carter


Karen Plummer

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The Nat'l Quilting Assn


Houston, Texas


Julie Henderson


**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.** [this tape was very faint with a lot of ambient sound, especially at the beginning of the interview, making it difficult to transcribe.]

Karen Plummer (KP): This is Karen Plummer and we're speaking with Hazel Carter on Saturday November 4th, 2000 at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. The time is 3:20. Hazel, did you bring us a quilt today?

Hazel Carter (HC): Yes.

KP: May we take a look at that and get familiar with it? Is this a special one for you?

HC: Well it was the last one that I completed.

KP: Very good. So, when was that?

HC: [inaudible.] ..it was 1997, I think, that I finished it because I showed it in '99.

KP: Okay, so you finished it in '97 and it was--how many competitions were you in, in '99?

HC: I didn't enter in competitions; I put it in my local guild. Our guild does not judge quilts.

KP: Your local quilt guild.

HC: Yes. I founded that guild.

KP: And what is the name of that guild?

HC: Quilters Unlimited.

KP: Quilters Unlimited.

HC: Quilters Unlimited and that is northern Virginia. We have--I think it's eleven chapters. [too faint.] --they have a thousand two hundred members.

KP: Are you speaking of the Quilters Hall of Fame?

HC: No, no. Quilters Unlimited-- guild.

KP: Quilters Unlimited. Okay. If you would, maybe, explain that a little to us and then we'll go to your quilt after that. Give us those numbers again perhaps.

HC: Okay. I founded Quilters Unlimited in 1972. There were about twenty-five members that were signed up the first day. Then it grew to about three hundred and fifty and I took--became director when it was about three hundred and fifty. I thought three hundred and fifty members would be the limit. We have never stopped growing. Our present membership is a thousand, two hundred. There are eleven chapters.

KP: That is incredible! [inaudible.]

HC: [laughing.] I am so proud. And to have that many to begin with--is very good.

KP: Okay, let's take a look at your quilt and what you brought today--and this is your latest one.

HC: That is completed.

KP. That is completed. So can you tell us why you picked this particular design? Tell us about the design and--

HC: Okay. I had a friend, Ellen Swanson--she and I had always talked about--wanting to do our own designs. One day I was a little frustrated because I didn't have any handwork designing your own quilts takes a lot of time. She said, 'Well, Hazel, just think of one quilt that you really like, and make it. It's still your heritage.' Well, I'd always wanted a Star of Bethlehem but couldn't afford any that came on the--the market. They were very popular in the 1800's, or late 1800's. She gave me new inspiration--I went home that evening and cut the pattern out and started pulling fabrics out, studying Stars of Bethlehems in all the quilt books that I could find because I wanted it similar, but I wanted to use today's fabrics. Well, I wanted to use fabrics that were in my stash. [laughter.] So there are fabrics that are in here from the 1970's up to--let's see, the border I got the last thing, which would have been around 1997, probably.

KP: Did you change different patterns to make your own original design, or did you--

HC: Oh, you can't do that with the Star of Bethlehem.

KP: Okay.

HC: It is the Star of Bethlehem, which is a large star that is in prints. Then in the 1900's it became the Lone Star. It was usually then made into plain fabrics. A lot of the Star of Bethlehems had a design just right here in the background. Well, I didn't like that idea, so I then found this fabric which is a drapery fabric which was hard to work with--but it was the right color red and worked well here. I'd bring the design from this corner out, which I felt was more attractive than a floating design.

KP: So this is appliqued? The floral portion is--

HC: That was appliqued.

KP: It is not noticeable that it is.

HC: My quilting bee said as I was putting on this yellow strip, 'Oh, that's the ugliest fabric, that's going to look terrible.' I said, 'No, no. It's going to stay. It's going to be on there.' Then when I got it done they said, 'Boy, that strip of yellow just really helps that quilt.'

KP: Now, are you really calling this a scrap quilt? You used only your scraps from your stash.

HC: Well, that's a technical question. It was--but they aren't from dresses that I made or anything like that--it's what I have. I did have to purchase this piece right here. Otherwise, for the star, I have all of this fabric in my collection, yes.

KP: And that's a minor, minor--

HC: I had purchased this background fabric for the open spaces, but when I found this the colors didn't work well, so I had to go back out and buy this fabric again and then I didn't have enough blue of anything so I had to buy the border fabric.

KP: Okay, so you purchased a small amount. Tell us about machine piecing versus hand piecing--what you prefer and what you did on this particular one.

HC: This one, everything is done by hand, even putting on the binding. I do not have any real preference, I just like to have something available to do hand stitching at night, after all the work is done. Right now I'm making a Flying Geese and it's very easy to do that on the sewing machine. So it is part hand and part machine. I prefer hand quilting, unless it's for a child or a quick gift--I might machine.

KP: You've always hand quilting other than for a quick gift or a child.

HC: Well, my first quilts up until 1960's my mother and my grandmother quilted my first quilts. And one day I said, 'Well Grandma, I'm going to quilt this one myself.' I think she was kind of hurt that I did it. But she approved later.

KP: So your grandmother basically taught you how to quilt?

HC: Well, in a way she and my mother--I was just anxious to do something with the needle and my mother gave me different things to make. I made doll clothes. I made little things. Even when I was in grade school a teacher had me doing some applique onto a tea towel. I still have that piece. I'll never forget going to the fair, where it was shown. They had these little fairs at the end of the year and it was shown at that time. I would take my dad to show him that is was in the exhibit. A lady standing beside it said, 'Oh, no little girl could do that work.' I was so crushed, and I just thought I'd done wrong. [laughs.]

KP: Sure! What year was that, or what grade were you in--maybe--

HC: I was in second grade.

KP: Second grade so you would have been seven years old, perhaps. Six or seven.

HC: That would have been more likely, yes.

KP: Let's leave the quilt right now, we may come back to that later, if you would like. But, I understand that you have founded the Quilters Hall of Fame. We would like you to expand on that, please.

HC: Well--

KP: Tell us when, and talk a bit about it.

HC: After I got Quilters Unlimited on its way I thought, 'We need to bring quilters from different areas of the country to the east coast to see what they're doing,' because I felt that we needed to get together and so I founded the Continental Quilting Congress. And the very first one was in 1978. I was very, very disappointed or discouraged, shall we say, because I felt that the quilters today were not giving any credit to the quilters who have gone before because I knew those great people like Grace Snyder and people like her. So then I kept asking friends, 'How can we bring these quilters of yesterday to the forefront?' We discussed different ways and came up with the Quilters Hall of Fame. So in 1979 we inducted a group of people into the Quilters Hall of Fame, at my convention in Arlington, Virginia.

KP: Okay.

HC: It was loosely organized. But now we're at this point where people have to be nominated. Marguerete Ickis was one of our first ones and we found that she was still living and we got in touch with her and she came to our convention. She and her traveling companion--and it was so exciting when I got up and announced, 'We would like you all to meet Marguerete Ickis.' Everybody just went, 'Oooh! Aah!' She stood up. She was so shy that she didn't want to speak. But we finally got her to speak and it was a wonderful experience. Gail van der Hoof and Jonathan Holstein--were the other two that were there that night.

KP: And it's an ongoing, continuous thing?

HC: Yes.

KP: What month do you have this each year?

HC: In 1991 we put Marie Webster into the Quilters Hall of Fame and her granddaughter was living--I did that in Sacramento, California at the West Coast Quilters Conference--and her granddaughter, Rosalind Perry, lives in Santa Barbara so she came there and accepted the honor and spoke. It was really quite exciting because I had just met Rosalind in that five minutes and she said, 'Hazel, would you like to put the Quilters Hall of Fame in my grandmother's house in Marion, Indiana? I purchased it some time ago and I don't know what to do with it. So we are renovating the house and--' So in '92 the Quilters Hall of Fame was no longer under the Continental Quilting Congress, it became independent. Marie Webster was born July 19th so we try to have the weekend closest to that date for our celebration.

KP: What town in Indiana?

HC: Marion. It's just about two hours above Indianapolis.

KP: This has been since '92?

HC: Time flies.

KP: Okay.

HC: This coming year Barbara Brackman is going to be inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame.

KP: Let's go back in history just a little here. You came from a family of quilters--

HC: Right.

KP: And it's good that you're carrying on with your great tradition, and the history that you're making for everyone. How do you think that it's affecting women overall now in the year 2000, with our technology skyrocketing and taking off? Do you think that women are more inclined to get into quilting now, or less?

HC: Well, according to the new survey that they just did it's very apparent they're more inclined to get into quilting. There's something about it that it just pulls people to quilting.

KP: How do you think we, as women, should exercise this even more and get even more people involved?

HC: Well the greatest thing I would like to see in the quilt world is--I think we're a little bit parochial and I'd like to see us get beyond that. Of course, Jonathan Holstein and Gail van der Hoof did help in a great way in the 70's. I think that Michael James is helping a great deal in getting us beyond being parochial. It would be nice if we could get more publicity in a favorable way. I mean, we got a lot during the Smithsonian debacle, didn't we? But out of that came some wonderful things, too.

KP: Back to old quilts that you mentioned earlier. You would do machine quilting for a quick gift or whatever. How many quilts do you make in a year's time, on average?

HC: Well this one took me about seven years, I believe it was. I can't remember. I'd have to look at my records. I don't push; I just do it for pleasure.

KP: You do keep an accurate record of all the quilts that you make, though.

HC: Right, I'm documenting them.

KP: Have you gone back and documented your mother's and your grandmother's, or did they do that?

HC: No, I've tried to get my mother's and I should have gotten--done my grandmother's but I was pretty busy doing my conventions at that time.

KP: Do you teach at this time?

HC: Yes, I had a workshop here in Houston. What we're teaching now is how to date a quilt. So I've gone from teaching quilting. Quilting has to grow. People will start doing how-to, and in fact I was just talking to a girl from home and she says, 'Next year, I think I have advanced to the point where now I'm ready for the history of quilting.' So she's going to be coming to this fabric dating club that meets every other month. You have to grow, first you have to make them and then you want to learn more about them.

KP: Well, it sounds like you travel a great deal with your quilting background. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

HC: Right.

KP: How often you're out in a year's time and your annual events.

HC: Well, my travel might me interesting to you. In 1981 I took a tour of quilters to the United Kingdom as a group. What an undertaking that was and how scary that was. But we had a wonderful trip. So I've taken two trips to the United Kingdom, I took a group to Australia and New Zealand, and Hawaii. Then I helped organize one to Japan and China but it was time for me to stay home to save my marriage. [laughter.]

KP: Hazel, how many approximately go on the trips?

HC: Oh, I had forty-two.

KP: Forty-two.

HC: Thirty-seven--they were big groups. I tried a couple of other ones too; to Canada and to France, but those two tours I had to cancel.

KP: Approximately once a year, or once every two years, with these groups?

HC: Well, I can't do it any more. I had to stop. After having heart trouble [laughs.] I have had to--not have as much stress. [laughs.] But I had ten conventions in the Continental Quilting Congress when I was also doing those tours.

KP: Ten conventions?

HC: Yes. And I raised two children. And I'm still married! [Laughter]

KP: Have you won quilting awards?

HC: Well, it was kind of strange. I was asked, way, way back to send my Christmas quilt for my son down here to this event. I didn't know it was in competition. It got the Stearns and Foster Award, so I got a ribbon there. I came to this event and did a workshop when this convention was at the Methodist Church.

KP: Do you remember what year that was?

HC: No, I'd have to look it up.

KP: Was it twenty, maybe twenty years ago or twenty-five? This is our twenty-sixth year.

HC: I don't know, it was right there in the beginning. Then I was down again when it was at the other big facility. Then two years ago we came down and did a panel on appraising quilts.

KP: What takes most of your time now? Is it the Hall of Fame work, or your local guild, or what do you spend most of you r time on now?

HC: Appraising quilts. I got to a point--I had started appraising quilts in 1979. Then it seemed that so many people were being sued for different little things so I decided that I needed an umbrella. So I took the course at the American Society of Appraisers, which is located in Herndon, Virginia and that was a very expensive, hard course. I had to take four courses on business evaluation, on writing appraisals, on the law of appraisals. Then I wrote for a test for those who go into textile discipline.

KP: Fantastic.

HC: I was the second person to ever be under the discipline of textiles. The first one was lady from the Smithsonian. All she had to do was write an article for their journal. I had to write the test. It was an experience.

KP: So, when you are doing your appraisal, are the quilts sent to you? Do you go to some places?

HC: Yes and yes.

KP: So does this involve a lot of travel for you now?

HC: Well, yes. I have traveled quite a distance to appraisals. My associate Bunnie Jordan and I flew to Lincoln. I have been to Minnesota. Some people have sent me quilts. The Desert Storm quilters who made quilts for the Desert Storm, they sent me their quilts in and from there they were taken into the Decatur house where they were put on exhibit. But most of the time people bring them to me. I don't like to have them in my possession, so If you bring me a quilt for an appraisal, I take the information, I do the inspection and then the quilts go home with the owner. Then I do the research and the writing.

KP: How long does it take to appraise one? Does it depend on the age?

HC: I tell people forty-five minutes, to plan on. But when you do an appraisal they get there and we get started on talking and they're there two hours. So I charge more when I appraise at home. But when I go to a shop we can do them faster because then we've got a time limit. Sometimes a collection can take months.

KP: Hazel, do you plan to write books? With your background, I would think--

HC: Well you see I have real honor in a way, because Carter Houck, I don't know if you know Carter Houck, but Carter Houck is about my stature, with my hair color and she was editor of the Ladies Circle Patchwork. People get us very confused so they're always telling me how nice it is, all those articles I've written. When I'd explain to people, they'd get angry. I said to Carter one day, 'I'm just going to tell people 'thank you.'' And she says, 'Oh, when people tell me they really enjoyed my convention, I just say 'thank you' too!' So we call ourselves Carter Carter. [laughter.] I would love to have a book, but it's hard. But I'm enjoying the research more.

KP: When you travel, you say that you have to have something to stitch most evenings. Do you always carry something when you travel to stitch?

HC: Yes.

KP: So it's definitely in your blood, isn't it? [laughs.]

HC: Oh, it has been from childhood.

KP: Okay. Do you have any other comments that you would like to make? We are just about to wind down on our time. Are there other areas we didn't cover that you think we ought to?

HC: Well I can't remember now what we have covered. [laughs.]

KP: I have one more question--have you kept up with some of the quilts that you have given as gifts? Do you still know these people? Do they keep in touch with you?

HC: Well the quilts that I've given have been to my children or--well, I gave to my mother. We just had to split up her house, her apartment and so she was giving back everything to the children. So I brought home the quilts I'd given her. And I have a couple that my grandmother gave me. And I made her a quilt. Julie Silber gave a talk one time and said, 'Everybody talks about their grandmother made this quilt for me. Did anybody ever make a quilt for grandmother?' I really felt guilty going home that day. So I got busy and I made a lap quilt for my grandmother. I said, 'You taught me how to quilt by hand but I'm doing this by machine.' Anyway, I gave that to her and at her death my aunt sent the quilt back. So it's nice. I'm glad to have it now.

KP: Yes. Okay. I believe that concludes our discussion. And today's date is Saturday November 4th, 2000 at the International Quilt Festival and our discussion was with Hazel Carter.



“Hazel Carter,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1285.