Hazel Canny




Hazel Canny




Hazel Canny


Betty Colburn

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda/United Notions


International Quilt Festival
Houston, Texas


Lori Miller


Hazel Canny (HC): [tape begins mid-sentence, several minutes into the interview.] Small group that I do belong to--a small group, the Kendall Bee.

Betty Colburn (BC): Is that separate from the quilt guild?

HC: Yes.

BC: Okay. How long have you been in that bee?

HC: I don't know. [laughs.] Seven or eight years probably.

BC: A long time? And most of the other members also?

HC: It's one of the oldest quilting bees in Houston.

BC: And--

HC: And we're not all old people, we range in age from 25 to 85. [laughs.]

BC: And how does the bee spend their time together?

HC: They quilt and visit and exchange ideas, and then we usually once a month we have someone come in and do a talk or show some technique.

BC: So some educational activities as well as the actual quilting and social activities?

HC: Right.

BC: Has the members of the bee--are there times that they share life's troubles with each other and--

HC: Oh--some, but it's a fairly happy group, and basically--they're not dwelling on that type of thing.

BC: So it's--

HC: Occasionally if there has been something bad or very good we share it.

BC: Then they band together to support each other?

HC: Then they're very supportive of each other.

BC: Okay. [rustling of papers.] Let's see. Now this quilt right here with the ribbons on it how will you be using that quilt after the show?

HC: We do not use our quilts.

BC: You do not use your quilts?

HC: I have all my quilts laid out flat on a bed, stacked on top of each other.

BC: Okay.

HC: And covered so that they don't become soiled, and we don't use them to cover up.

BC: So carefully preserved.

HC: They're very carefully, and that's a good way to preserve your quilts--

BC: Yes.

HC: So if you have an extra bed to just stack them, and my friends call it my 'Princess and the Pea Bed,' because I have a few inherited quilts also--

BC: Okay. Okay.

HC: On the same bed.

BC: So pretty deep stack then?

HC: It's beginning to be a little deeper than it was a few years ago.

BC: So--well, what is your first memory about quilts?

HC: Well, my mother quilted.

BC: Okay.

HC: And we were poor cotton farmers in southeast Missouri, and of course she was a really hard worker, and we lived in a cold house that--with the wood heating stove in the living room, and so she had to make quilts for us to be warm in the wintertime, and she made string quilts, and I didn't think they were very pretty at all. She cut squares out of newspaper and sewed fabric across them diagonally and quilted them with a Baptist fan, and I didn't think they were very pretty, and I don't have one, and I'm very sorry, but I do have a top, a quilt that she did like later years, a different style.

BC: Did you help with her quilting back then?

HC: No, and I can't remember if I didn't want to or if she wouldn't let me. [laughter.] But she was a fairly good quilter, and she probably didn't encourage me to help her.

BC: Her quilts were very different than yours?

HC: Very. And they were just plain, utilitarian quilts, and we used them, and when they wore out she cut them down the middle and then joined the two sides together and covered them with what we called outing flannel and tacked them and made comforters out of them, and we continued to use them.

BC: So they got really used up?

HC: They were very used.

BC: So you said that you design the designs that are going to go on to these whole cloth quilts.

HC: Yes, yes.

BC: Can you tell me what kinds of inspirations you have for that and how you go about doing it?

HC: Well, I had--about the time I started quilting I was also painting landscapes.

BC: Okay.

HC: And took a lot of classes in drawing and painting, but my inspiration for designing one is the old, old whole cloth quilts that were done in the 1800s and however I did not copy any of it, but that's where my original inspiration come from.

BC: Okay.

HC: And since I like flowers I did a lot of flowers on my quilts, and you just see things in your everyday life that you know, 'Oh, I'll incorporate that in my quilt,' I don't know what all of my inspiration is but seeing other quilts and especially digging into the old patterns and designs gives me ideas.

BC: Once you have an idea how do you go about translating it onto the cloth?

HC: Okay, I will do a small design on a small piece of paper--

BC: Okay.

HC: And get my idea really concrete in my mind, and then I will decide just how I want it done, and usually on a whole cloth quilt I'll do a medallion in the center, and the reason for that is that I'm using this cotton sateen that's only 44 inches wide, so I don't want to seam all the way down the center of my quilt, so I have to come up with this medallion, and I'll design the medallion first.

BC: Okay.

HC: And then whatever I have used there I know that I'm going to incorporate the same type of thing out around the edge of it.

BC: Okay. Do you construct the medallion before you go--

HC: No, I do all the design on paper--

BC: Okay.

HC: First and I'll do this. I'll make a piece of paper this wide, this size – 80" X 100".

BC: Okay.

HC: And do all my design on paper first.

BC: Okay.

HC: And then I only have to do a fourth of the rest of the design, because I'm going to mirror the image that all the way around.

Unidentified Person [scribe, Joyce Starr Johnson?]: Well, how do you mark it? [inaudible.]

HC: Well, I'll mark with a gray pencil.

BC: I'll ask the question. That was actually my next question.

HC: Okay.

BC: How do you mark the quilt top?

HC: After I have to construct the quilt top together.

BC: Okay. You're [inaudible.] sewing the seams?

HC: Sewing all of my fabric together, and then I lay my pattern under this and mark it with--I use Easy International's gray pencil to mark it with, and I mark everything, all my quilting design and all of the trapunto design that's going to be stuffed.

BC: Okay.


HC: And then I put a layer of batiste behind my fabric.

BC: Okay.

HC: And baste it all together.

BC: Okay.

HC: Then I baste around everything that going to be stuffed, and after I've got that all done then I turn it over and make little slits in the batiste, and I do all the stuffing.

BC: So each of these petals and feathers is individually stuffed?

HC: That's right. And after I have everything stuffed then I clip and cut out a lot of this batiste up close to where I've basted it.

BC: Okay.

HC: And then I layer my quilt, and I'm ready to quilt.

BC: Okay. How do you get the marks out? I don't see any marks.

HC: I don't get the marks out. I do not wash my fabric, because it's sateen and I don't want it to lose any sheen, but this gray pencil that I use is very light, and if I'm lucky enough to have marked where I really want to quilt you can't see it, because when I go over it to quilt the marks are not going to show.

BC: Well, it's beautiful and white. Do you have--

HC: I'm very careful. I make sure my hands are clean when I quilt, and I'm very, very careful with it, and I don't let anyone handle my quilts, and we do not use them on our beds.

BC: Do you have a special room that you keep it in?

HC: Yes. I have--well, I quilt in one of my bedrooms, and I lay it on the bed, and I quilt on it in a hoop, and so I can just pull it toward me what I'm quilting on, and so it's to move around the quilt.

BC: So it sounds like it's--

HC: And we have no animals.

BC: Okay.

HC: And my husband doesn't help me quilt.

BC: Sounds like wonderful working conditions. So why is quilting important in your life?

HC: I have to do something with my time. [laughs.]

BC: Well, what--

HC: It's important because I really had all my life wanted to be an artist, and for years I thought being an artist was painting pictures, and I tried that for twenty years with moderate success, and after I moved to Texas I didn't have a good place to paint, and I was already quilting a little bit, and so it just developed into a lot of quilting, and then ten years ago I knew I wasn't quilting as well as I needed to, and I took a beginning class then I took Roxanne's quilting class--her Perfect Stitch and so since that time everything's been a winner. [laughs.]

BC: So do you teach now?

HC: I do some lecturing and some teaching. I only teach for guilds or something if I've done a lecture. I don't teach out of a quilt shop, and once in a while I've had some of my friends come into my home, and I did a little teaching that way, but basically I'm not in the teaching business. I'm in the quilting business.

BC: So do you basically teach here in this area or do you teach other places?

HC: [speaking at the same time as Betty.] No, wherever I get a lecture.

BC: When people invite you to come and lecture? Well, what sorts of places have you taught?

HC: Oh, all around the Houston area.

BC: Okay.

HC: And then out in West Texas. And I don't do a great deal of that.

BC: So you're very careful with the quilts that you have.

HC: Right.

BC: With quilts in general, how do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

HC: Well, I try to tell everyone how to preserve their quilts and to really take care of them.

Unidentified Person: [inaudible.] machine made?

HC: It's hand made. [laughs.] But I do know how to preserve the quilts, and I tell them, 'Don't put them in plastic,' and, 'Let's try not to fold them,' and, 'Let's don't let them touch wood, and don't wash them unless it's--' I feel that it's--if you don't use your quilt, it's not ever going to be necessary to wash it. A few stains are not going to hurt anything, and if you do wash it, do it by hand and dry it out. Before I knew that I nailed a new, old quilt up on the wall for ten years with nails and took it down and washed it in the washing machine and dried it in the dryer. [laughs.] This is s quilt I had inherited that had never been used. [laughs.]

BC: So you found out about quilt care the hard way?

HC: Right. It's not too bad, but I have to laugh when I think about what I did before I knew how to take care of a quilt. So I'm really--I really spend a lot of time telling people how to preserve their quilts.

BC: Well, the question that always comes to you when people see your quilts is, 'Oh, my gosh. How is that done?' and you say, 'By hand.' How do you feel about machine quilting?

HC: Well, I think it's a wonderful thing. If you have enough money to buy expensive sewing machine, you should quilt on it. [laughs.] My sewing machine's fifty years old, and I'd have to buy a new sewing machine to quilt, and I think it serves a great purpose. I have nothing against machine quilting if it's done well, and I occasionally try to sew, and it's always interesting to see what people have done with the machine quilting. Some of them do a beautiful job, and others again are careless like they would be for hand quilting, but I have nothing wrong--I wouldn't--I hope that my hands hold up so I can continue hand quilting, but if I had a problem, I'd learn how to machine quilt.

BC: So we may see different things from you yet someday?

HC: You might. [laughs.]

BC: Well, that sort of covers the areas that I needed for the record. Is there anything else that you would like to tell us about your career as a quilter or your thoughts about quilting?

HC: Well, I've been very inspired with, for instance, the Houston show, because quilting had for years was just a little old lady's game until from the forties to the seventies, and after that time quilting became far more popular with younger women and has become more artistic and better quality. I think the women now are very aware of quality quilting. Not that we all do quality quilting, but and it's worldwide, and a lot of it has to do with this show that's been going on for thirty years.

BC: I think so too. I think so too.

HC: And I certainly give Kay and company credit for what they've done to promote quilting throughout the world.

BC: Thank you.

[tape recorder shut off and turned back on again.]

BC: I'd like to thank Hazel Canny for allowing me to interview her today as part of the 2001 Quilters' S.O.S. project. Our interview concluded at 2:27 p.m. on November 3, 2001.


“Hazel Canny,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 18, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1316.