Pansy Hector Lovelace




Pansy Hector Lovelace




Pansy Hector Lovelace


Evelyn Salinger

Interview Date


Interview sponsor



Washington, D.C


Evelyn Salinger


Evelyn Salinger (ES): Today, March 1, 2005, we are interviewing Pansy Hector Lovelace in Northeast D.C. Her number is 20002.009. The interviewer is Evelyn Salinger. Hello, Pansy.

Pansy Lovelace (PL): Hi, how are you?

ES: How are you doing?

PL: Fine thanks.

ES: Nice of you to come in today on this snowy day after the big snowstorm, that is.

PL: Thank you.

ES: I would like first to talk about the quilt that you brought in.

PL: Okay.

ES: For whom did you make this?

PL: This, after my aunt passed, this was found in her upstairs attic among her other quilt pieces. And I thought I would put it together and give it to one of her daughters. But once I got it together, and I thought, oh wait a minute, maybe I'd keep it for show 'n' tell. Since its old fabric, as you can see, has denim, has feed sacks, it has flannel, and you name it, it has it. The fabric is back from the 30's and the 40's. You can see its old fabric. That's why I decided to keep it. It has a lot of the Gee's Bend fabric in it. It's an old quilt.

ES: When did you get this from your aunt?

PL: Well, I got it--

ES: Oh, you're looking on the label.

PL: She died in nineteen and ninety-five. And the time we went through her stuff, it was nineteen and ninety-six, and I completed it in 1997.

ES: And where was this? Where was her place of living? [banging noises.]

PL: At that time, she lived in a small town called, Chase City, Virginia.

ES: Is that in the southern part of the state?

PL: Yes, it is.

ES: Was she a quilter in the family?

PL: She was a quilter, yes. But you know, at that time, they did not do a lot of hand quilting. They did a lot of tie tack.

ES: Ah, yes.

PL: She did not do a lot of hand quilting.

ES: Did you ever see her quilting as you grew up?

PL: I saw her, yes. She's one of my favorite aunts. Not the one that reared me, or raised me, she is the one that lived--we saw them every week as a matter of fact.

ES: And what was her name?

PL: Cleo. C-l-e-o.

ES: And her last name, if you want?

PL: Her last name, well she married my uncle who was a Hector. Her maiden name was Norris. N-o-r-r-i-s.

PL: Yeah, she married one of my father's brothers.

ES: And were there other quilts that came from her legacy?

PL: Yes. You know that I had another top that was better than this one, that had more colors to it, and I gave it to one of her nieces that's supposed to be quilting. But I understand as of today, she has not quilted it, as yet. And every time I think about her--[laughs.] I should have kept that quilt for myself.

ES: Well, you might have to ask her for it.

PL: I might have to. I will see her and my aunt. We have an aunt who is going to turn one hundred years old in April of this year. So I'm going down. I will see her then. I might ask her if she's not going to use it, give it back to me.

ES: And let you do it for her. You can will it back to her. At least you know it's done.

PL: I don't think I'll do it for her--[laughs.] That's right.

ES: Were there other quilters in your family that you knew when you were growing up?

PL: Oh, yes. I come from a long line of quilters. My grandmother, my maternal grandmother, was a quilter. That's how I learned to quilt. And one of my aunts was a quilter. 'Cause see that's who raised me. I never knew my mom. And I knew my dad after I got grown. I found who my dad really was. The man that I thought was my dad really was my uncle, his brother, you see. My mother died when I was seven. And so I didn't know her. Don't remember seeing her but once. So that's who raised me up. And when I was small and younger, we didn't make quilts as to put on display on the wall, wall hangings, we never see anything on the wall, we had quilts on the bed to keep warm. And they were made of anything you could find. You didn't throw away any scraps. It all went into quilting.

ES: Did you find that you understood the Gee's Bend people very well?

PL: Yes, I did. I could relate to them very well. Very well.

ES: Did the people do the quilting--you said they mostly did the tacking?

PL: They did the tacking, but my aunt, Patty Hector, she did hand quilting. But do you know what she used? She didn't use quilting thread. See, we was on the farm. We did farming. We had tobacco. And we put the tobacco leaves on a stick, or what have you, and then, when we take the tobacco--by string, now. So, the string that came off the tobacco, we saved that string. And that's the string we used for quilting.

ES: Oh, my, that must have been a heavy-duty string.

PL: That was heavy duty string and we had big eye needles. There wasn't such a thing as quilting needles at that time. We had quilting needles, sure, but they were like ice picks, they were so big.

ES: Oh. [laughs.] That'd be good.

PL: That is true. Yeah.

ES: So, what started your interest in quilting?

PL: You know I said that my mom--when I was small--and we had these here centerpieces. There was crocheted stuff all over the coffee table, all of the chair arms. You see them sometimes in the people's houses. We had them everywhere. And I was always told my mom did that stuff, everything you see. My mother's name is Ethel Lee. 'Ethel Lee did this.' 'Ethel Lee made this.' 'Ethel Lee did that.' And they were starched, and it was so pretty. So pretty. You could put starch in them and iron them up, or you didn't have to iron them. And they were so nice. And when she died, they brought a lot of stuff home that she had started on. She did crochet, she did knitting. And there was a whole lot of stuff in the bag, my dad brought down, that she had started and never did finish. And I all this stuff I seen. She had knitted sweaters and stuff and crocheted pieces. And I said, 'You know, I want to be just like my mom.'

ES: Ah.

PL: I wanted to sew, too. So, I started sewing. I'm not interested in crocheting and knitting. I tried both, but I don't like that. But I love quilting. I really love it. I could do it eight hours a day.

ES: Aha. Good for you.

PL: Yeah. I love it.

ES: Now, for your sewing skills--when did you start learning to sew?

PL: To sew. Do you mean to piece quilt tops?

ES: No, I don't mean quilting, I mean just sewing first.

PL: Well, I first started sewing clothes. We came from a poor family, and at that time you could buy five yards of fabric for a dollar. So I made most of my clothes that I wore to school, I made. I made buttonholes by hand. When they started making those [one price.] stores, that's when I stopped sewing. And the style of clothes changed so fast, so if you make something this day, then you see something the next year, it is out of style. So, it's cheaper to go out and buy clothes now. Yeah. So, I don't sew any clothes anymore. But I find also when I make a project, a piece looks like something, a seam is off, or is not matched, I don't want to wear it. I don't want to wear it.

ES: Oh. Good.

PL: When I was small, we used to call it 'Mammy-made.' 'Your Mammy-made this, your mammy-made--.' We called it, 'Mammy.' She had that 'Mammy-made skirt' or that 'Mammy-made dress.'

ES: Yes. Did you actually watch people doing quilting as you were growing up?

PL: Quilters? Sure. That's all we did at nighttime. We're working in the fields in the daytime, and at nighttime they sat around the fire and they did the quilting. Yeah.

ES: Aha.

PL: There was no quilting bees. Some people said they had quilting bees, but we didn't have quilting bees where I came from. My grandmother quilted and my aunt was still quilting. [bells ringing.] That's all quilting. We didn't have people coming in our house sitting around sewing.

ES: No.

PL: Not making quilts.

ES: What are your favorite aspects of quilting?

PL: Well, like best to quilt?

ES: Yeah, what do you like best?

PL: Oh, I love scrap quilts. The one I'm doing right now, the Inner City, which is fifteen down and 12 across, I think it's 180 blocks. I just love scrap quilting.

ES: And have you been collecting cottons for a long time?

PL: Fabric? You should see my place. I can't hardly get in my bedroom. [laughs.] I have so much stuff. Yes, I've been collecting fabric for a while. [bells.] I need to get rid of some of that stuff.

ES: Uh-hum. You just need to keep making scrap quilts—that would help. Do you prefer to do hand work or machine work?

PL: Yeah, all my piecing is done by machine, but all my quilting is done by hand. Machine quilting takes the fun out of quilting. Yeah. There's no such thing as machine quilting in my book. If it is not hand quilted, it's not a quilt.

ES: Oh, okay.

PL: I don't think a lot of people would agree with me on that, but that's the way I feel.

ES: Do you use a hoop or a frame?

PL: I use a hoop.

ES: Where did you learn the quilting skills themselves?

PL: I learned the quilting skills themselves by watching my aunt and grandmother quilt.

ES: But then, over the years, have you taken lessons?

PL: No, I've never gone to a quilting class to learn how to quilt, make the in and out stitch. I've never done that. I've gone to appliqué classes, but not a quilting class.

ES: Do you like appliqué, or do you prefer patch work?

PL: I like appliqué, if you are going to make a wall hanging for somebody. But as far as a quilt, I like the piecing better.

ES: And so how many hours can you spend per day--

PL: I can spend eight hours. Yeah. I have done it. And I've done more. Like four in the morning and four in the afternoon. [My family reunion quilt, I quilted in one week, getting up four o'clock in the mornings. 1998.]

ES: That's great.

PL: It's therapy for me. Yeah, it's therapy for me. I don't clean house. And I cook about twice a week. I'm not a great housekeeper. If you saw my place, you'd know that. I prefer to be quilting. My husband, he doesn't mind. He cleans up. He does what he wants to do. He says it looks good to him, so it looks good to me.

ES: That's very good. Where did you actually grow up? Was it also in Chase City, Virginia?

PL: I grew up in Virginia, but was born, I was told, in North Carolina. A small town called, somewhere down there, like Lawndale. My parents migrated to Virginia when I was three months old. So, the only thing I know, they ask you, 'Where are you from?' I say, 'My home is in Virginia.' But when it comes to--technically, to tell the truth, I was born in North Carolina.

ES: So, when did you come to D.C.?

PL: In '58.

ES: And what brought you here?

PL: Well, I came here, well I left home and went to New Jersey [bells ringing.] and was living with my cousin. And then something happened, and my sister was living here in D.C. and my dad was living here at that time. I came to know him sort of. I came here to live with my sister.

ES: And were you working at the time?

PL: I got a job after I got here. I had to get a job.

ES: And have you worked all these years outside the home?

PL: Oh, yes. I worked thirty years. I retired in nineteen and ninety-six.

ES: And what did you do primarily?

PL: We worked for a contract in the government building for Guest Services for thirty years. I worked 30 years to the day. September to September, to the day.

ES: Good. And now, I think you do some part-time work, too.

PL: Yes, I do home health aide. I was teaching a class at UDC [University of the District of Columbia.] on quilting, and I saw these people coming in. I had a third-floor classroom, and sometimes on Thursday, we said, now, 'Why are all these people here?' And they were leaving and going downstairs, and I asked them, 'Where these people coming from?' They said, 'They're taking a home health aide class.' I said, 'Really?' They said, 'Yes.' I said, 'That sounds interesting. What do they do, go and take care of elder people in their home?' 'It's home bound like.' 'People needed help. That sounds good.' I just happened to be retired, maybe about a year and a half. So maybe it's something I'd like to do, since I like people anyway. And you know I love to talk. [laughs.] As long as I am talking, I think I am in control. And I said, 'How do I go about it?' So, they told me they'd give me a form, fill it out. I did not qualify because I was making two dollars too much. But the school found grace in their heart and allowed me to go, and they paid my way. So, I took the class, and after that, I go out and help a lady four hours a day—three days a week that is, now.

ES: Good for you. What do you do for patterns? Do you make your own, or do you use traditional mostly?

PL: No, I don't make my own. If I'm looking through a magazine, or book, or something that has a scrap quilt that I see that I like, then I would use that. I'm not very creative making a pattern. Maybe one day, I might try to make a pattern. But so far, I use somebody's pattern.

ES: What are some other quilts that you have enjoyed making over the years?

PL: The Pansy Quilt.

ES: Oh, that's right. Yes.

PL: I made the Pansy Quilt that I have 30 blocks of pansies and there's no two alike.

ES: And they were appliquéd.

PL: They were appliquéd. All appliquéd, leaves and everything. I enjoyed that quilt.

ES: Who has it now?

PL: I have it.

ES: Who inherits your quilts?

PL: Well, you know, I haven't decided. I have two sisters. They would decide who gets what. I haven't decided. Whoever gets them will take care of them, I am sure.

ES: Why is quilting important in your life?

PL: Why is it important in my life? It is important because, I think it's something--I don't know how to say it--it's important because, once you finish doing something, not only that, you need something. We have to have cover to cover up in the cool nights and what have you. And [not.] preferring to use a blanket that a factory has made, then it's important for me that I can use something I have made or somebody else had made, and you need something to keep warm, so why not a quilt. It is important also because, it is like, instead of throwing scraps away, or throwing stuff away that can be recycled, you can recycle it and use it again. It's not a lot of stuff being wasted. It's like a recycle program. Especially scrap pieces, you don't have to buy yards and yards, you can get scraps and just recycle the scraps. Not like throwing in the trash, recycle it.

ES: Do you do other crafts?

PL: No. I tried. As I said, I tried crochet, I tried knitting, but I don't like. They're fine. You see, I am a thrift store shopper. I'm in and out of thrift stores all the time. And when I go in a thrift store and I see something somebody had crocheted, or somebody had knit--when I see those things in a thrift store for 3 and 5 dollars, somebody has had to spend hours and hours of time on it. And I say, you don't find a quilt in a thrift store. They spend all that time on it, somebody's going to sell it for three dollars, that's wasted. I don't like thin fibers any way.

ES: Uh-hum. And there's something with the satisfaction you have of making it, right?

PL: That's right.

ES: Have you entered shows with some of your quilts, over the years?

PL: No. Not a quilt show.

ES: But you do probably show at the Sumner School?

PL: Oh, the show at Sumner School every year. Also, we had up at the--I belong to two quilt groups—the Uhuru, and we had something at the Montgomery. We had some quilts up there.

ES: Uh-hum. Have you ever sold anything that you have made?

PL: No. I give away.

ES: You give a lot to charity things?

PL: Yes. Whatever charity we have, I give to charity always. And the family and friends, if there is a wedding going on or something like that, always make a quilt for a wedding. Each year, I make [a quilt.] for the family reunion. Every year. This will be the sixth year we're going on. And I have pictures of all that.

ES: Now, on the ones you do for the family reunion, do they have photographs in them?

PL: No, no photographs in them. It's just quilts.

ES: And how do you distribute them to the different people for the reunion?

PL: It's only one quilt. And you have to be present to win. You have to come to the family reunion to win.

ES: Is there a kind of lottery just amongst the people there?

PL: That's right.

ES: Oh, I bet they're excited about that.

PL: That's right, they are--every year looking forward to it. The Family Reunion Quilt.

ES: That is very nice.

PL: Somebody go home with a quilt.

ES: Do you usually make it full size or queen size?

PL: All of my quilts are king or either queen.

ES: Oh, really.

PL: Yeah. This one [referring to touchstone quilt.] has a smaller quilt. I did not make that top, you see, I quilted it. All of my quilts are king or queen, I don't make small quilts.

ES: And why is that?

PL: Because I'm tell you why, when you put a quilt on a bed, I want to be able to put it on top of the pillow, and I want it to be hanging down on the side. I don't want it to be just on the top, just the top of the bed. When you walk in, you want to be able to see the sides of it and enough to go over the top of the pillows.

ES: Good. How has quilting had meaning for the American woman?

PL: Not only women. Women and men. You know men's quilting too, now. [laughs.] So, so, you know, some men would take offense to that question.

ES: That's right, yeah. Well, I'm talking to a woman--[laughs.]

PL: You said, 'How does it influence American women?'

ES: Yes. [bell ringing.] How has it had meaning for the American woman?

PL: I think some of them express themselves through quilting. You know they've gone so far and everything and some of them take their sorrows in their quilting. They put a lot of stuff into their quilting. They put their soul, their spirit and body into quilting. They go just all deep into quilting, some of them I mean. Some of them put their whole self into it.

ES: That's right. Do have any advice for new quilters?

PL: Advice I would give to a new quilter is to, before you leap too far, to take baby steps in quilting. And try to do, as Viola Canady [founder of Daughters of Dorcas.] always told us, 'Do a typical Nine Patch. Start out with a Nine Patch. Just don't try to get out here and get something big and do a king size quilt or appliqué. No. Do nothing but a small wall hanging.' Which you probably never use on your wall, when you finish with it. But do a small Nine Patch and you've got a nice wall hanging. And then if you are going to hand quilt, please practice with a hoop, don't try to do without a hoop, or frame.

ES: Uh-hum.

PL: Because if you do, you might get disgusted and then you have many humps and bumps in it and it's not going to look like anything. Don't get a big project right away you want to do, because it's a mess. They've been quilting for fifteen, twenty years. They know what they're doing. You see, 'Oh, I want to do that.' No, you can't do that. You've got to crawl before you walk.

ES: That's right. Do you keep track of what you've made? Do you have a photo album?

PL: I have photo album, yes, I do. I think I have a photo of everything, everything I made.

ES: Oh, that is good. How long have you been in the Daughters of Dorcas?

PL: I think about fifteen years.

ES: And what brought you to it? How did you find out about it?

PL: [laughs.] It is a strange thing. Ever since I came to D.C., I knew how to quilt. I always tried to find a quilting group, and always trying to find somebody to quilt with. And every time I see a paper coming out about the schools and the night schools and everything--they come out in D.C. every year. And every time I'm looking there in arts and crafts and try to find a quilting group, and find something there that is suitable, that suits my schedule, maybe daytime. So finally, I have a friend named Barbara, and she knew I was interested in quilting, she had gone out to a fabric store, and she met Viola Canady.

ES: Ah.

PL: Viola told her she was a quilter. They were both buying fabric. Viola told her who she was. She said, 'You know I got a friend who wants to be quilting.' And she said, 'Tell her to come see me.' So that following Saturday, Barbara and I went over to see--Barbara said she was interested in quilting, too--Viola's house, and she showed us everything. And I thank God from that day on I have been quilting at the Daughters. And I was so shocked when she told me that I could come and join, because I would think the class is full. She said, 'No.' Anybody joined who wanted to join, so I came right on, and I've been here ever since.

ES: That's great.

PL: And I thank God for that because it was nothing I could have done, because I always wanted to be in a quilting group. I'm so happy to be with them, too. A nice bunch of people.

ES: Yes, that's right. You have said that you belong to a couple other groups?

PL: I belong to one other group. Uhuru.

ES: And what sort of thing do they do? Anything different from the Daughters of Dorcas?

PL: No, they do a lot of machine quilting. They don't do anything different from what we do.

ES: Do you sleep under quilts?

PL: Every quilt I make, I sleep under. I said it once before, I sleep under everyone I make. But I have one on my bed now, because of the winter, all winter long I keep a quilt on it. The spring comes, I take it off, put it away and next year I put another one on.

ES: Very good. Have you ever taught quilting?

PL: Yes, I've taught quilting.

ES: Where have you done that?


ES: You mentioned that. Was that senior citizens' program?

PL: No. Senior for Lifetime Learning, they have. I'm so busy. They're trying to get me back over there to do another class. I may go back in the spring; I am not sure. If I find time I will.

ES: I remember you were talking about a project you did in the summer, of cooking--

PL: Oh, yeah.

ES: Is that one of your hobbies, is cooking?

PL: You mean, for the kids at the church?

ES: Tell us about that.

PL: Well, every summer, actually for the last two summers, the church that I attend, over here to Mount Olive and Capitol Avenue, and it's a lot of kids that's hungry and in the streets. And we see that all the time. It's not an affluent neighborhood, in D.C. We adopted this school, we have school, and I went to the Pastor. I saw the needs of the kids. He said, 'That's a great need in that community.' There's a lot of kids there without--how should I say it, not homeless, lot of poor people living in that community.

ES: Yes.

PL: And in the summertime—in the wintertime when the kids go to school, school days going on, they get two meals a day. They get a breakfast, and they get a lunch, and they probably don't get anything until they get back to school again. So, I told the Pastor, [Pastor Black.] in the summer months, that's the kids are hungry. 'Is there anything we can do to start a feeding program for the kids?' He said, 'What you want to do?' And I say, 'How about giving them a hotdog and a soda or something like that every day during the summer while school is out until the schools start again?' He said, 'How much money you need?' I said, 'Well I can't quote you a price, but I'm sure it would be less than a thousand dollars.' I was trying to keep it low but give them a balanced meal.

ES: Right.

PL: I said hot dog or hamburger, but they need a balanced meal. So, he said, 'Okay, work up whatever you work up' he is saying 'and get back to me.' And so, the next day, I carried back to him and he said, 'Okay.' So, we fed the kids for the last two summers. It's for fourteen and under. And sometimes we have somebody that, like handicapped, we feed that person, too. We can't cut them off and say you can't have food.

ES: And you do the actual cooking?

PL: Yes.

ES: And serving? And you have other people in your church who--

PL: Yes, I have a crew working. We have about seven peoples.

ES: And you do it every day of the week?

PL: We do five days a week.

ES: Oh, that is wonderful.

PL: Kids love it, too. Last summer, the last day, this little guy came in, peeping, and he said, 'I have someone I want you to meet.' I said, 'Who is it? Come in.' He had brought his mom around. 'I want you to meet my mom,' he said. I said, 'Okay.' She came on the last day, and I told her, I said, 'We don't normally feed the adults, but since you are here today, you brought your mom, why don't you have lunch together?' He was so excited.

ES: Oh, that's nice.

PL: Yeah. And I want to do more this year. I'm going to try to get the names. When they come in, they can't write that well. And some don't know, [whispering.] 'How you spell my name?' They're school kids. I want to get their names and telephone numbers myself so I can follow up after school closes. Follow up to see how some of these kids are doing.

ES: Good. About how many kids per day?

PL: We have about 35 per day. Sometimes 40, sometimes 20. Yeah.

ES: That's very good.

PL: We give 'em a full course meal. Not only do we have hotdog every day. We have chicken nuggets. We have macaroni, beef and tomato. We have macaroni and cheese. We have broccoli. We get in what they like. We actually like to serve what they like. They love French fries, you know. That's every day. And they love the sweet punch.

ES: Oh, boy.

PL: So, it was nice. I enjoy it.

ES: That cuts into your quilting time in the summer, though.

PL: But that's okay.

ES: It's a good service.

PL: That's okay. I love it.

ES: Is there anything else that you like to do with your time or want to talk about here?

PL: Well, no. Well- fishing. I'm a great fisherperson. I love to fish.

ES: Where do you go for fishing? Not the Potomac.

PL: Not the Potomac. My brother-in-law, before he passed, we used to fish in the Potomac River. But at that time, it was not polluted like it is now. And it's going to be clean I understand, again. He and I would go up there and do a lot of fishing. Then I belonged to a fishing club for a long time. And then as people started getting older--I have twin police officer friends, and they enjoy fishing now, and they go fishing. They always take me along with them.

ES: Great. Do you prepare the fish that you catch?

PL: I give most of them away.

ES: Good. Well, this has been very interesting, Pansy. Thank you so much.

PL: Good talking to you.

ES: We'll close at this point, then.

PL: Okay.

ES: Okay, thank you.

PL: Thank you.


“Pansy Hector Lovelace,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 19, 2024,