Resna Ximines Hammer




Resna Ximines Hammer




Resna Ximines Hammer


Evelyn Salinger

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Nancy O'Bryant Puentes


Washington, D.C.


Evelyn Salinger


Evelyn Salinger (ES): We are interviewing Resna Ximines Hammer, 20002-018, during a Daughters of Dorcas meeting on September 27th, 2005. The interviewer is Evelyn Salinger.

Hi, Resna.

Resna Hammer (RH): Hi.

ES: How are you?

RH: Okay.

ES: Good. Nice of you to come today with your things to show. Let's start out first with your telling me what you have made here.

RH: These are two--One of the things that I am actually very passionate about is Jewish ceremonial kinds of cloths. And this is called a Challah cover and it's used to cover bread on the Friday night dinner. This particular one also I tried to incorporate all of the holidays that would come in the certain period of time. Here this is Hanukkah, this is the symbol for Hanukkah, this is Purim, which is another one, and the pomegranates are for the High Holy Days.

ES: Do you actually use this on Friday nights yourself?

RH: We actually use it on Friday nights.

ES: Every Friday night or just on the holiday time?

RH: Just on the holiday. I have another one for Friday. I believe that the table should be beautiful. And normally what your traditional Challah covers are usually silk, and they are painted on, and I thought what I wanted to do and what I've been doing, a wonderful, quilted ones that I just think enhance the day and the ceremony. This also has incorporated in it the seven species, which is in the Bible and that are things that are all incorporated with Shabbes or to do with the Sabbath. What I've written here in Hebrew is, it's like, 'For all the Miracles that You Perform for Us,' and 'We Thank You.' I wanted it every Friday night to be able to see that.

ES: That's lovely. Tell us, now, the fabrics and techniques that you used here.

RH: Okay. This is fused cotton, they're all cotton. And then it is quilted with a metallic thread which catches the light which is one of the things that I am particularly interested in--is that the quilting and the light hitting it and what happens with the texture.

ES: It does shimmer. [laughter.]

RH: Yeah.

ES: Very nice. And then the fabrics are pretty much fruits and flowers.

RH: I associate fruit with the holiday. This particular fabric I bought in Israel.

ES: A ribbon runs through.

RH: Yeah. I've wanted Middle Eastern fabric because I wanted to give it that kind of look to it.

ES: Very, very nice. It would certainly enhance any holiday.

RH: It looks really nice on the table.

ES: It sure would.

RH: Thank you.

ES: When did you make that?

RH: This particular one I made in 2000, I think. I'm one of those who didn't put my name on it.

[shuffling noises on the table.]

ES: And the back?

RH: All the Jewish stars, yeah.

ES: And show us the other.

RH: This one is another Jewish ceremonial sort of object. It holds the matzoh on Pesach or Passover. And this is for a round matzoh. I don't know if anybody sees those anymore. Anyway, it's for a round matzoh and there are three different sections. And I wanted my husband to have during Passover something really beautiful to look at. And all of these, it has all of these little things on it, and they are all part of the Passover ceremony. So, you have all the bugs and the plagues and the snakes and the--

ES: Oh, yes. And the winemaking with the grapes--

RH: Grapes for Passover. And each one of these sections is one of the Tribes, and so I named them all the way around.

ES: Are you from one particular tribe?

RH: No, I'm not. This is Joseph and Asher. I mentioned all of the tribes. So--

ES: Again, these fabrics are made--some of them are very shiny.

RH: Yes.

ES: They are not cottons this time.

RH: No. This is not cotton and I tried to make it so that he would look at it and it would make him happy all through the Passover ceremony because it's a long, long ceremony. It's beaded because I like beads and I also like the way the light catches the beads. And when it's on the table it just makes it really gorgeous.

ES: It reflects the light.

RH: Yeah.

ES: Very good. Your religion is certainly very important part of your life. And you have a family?

RH: I have two daughters, two grown daughters: Rachel, who is a lawyer, and she is 37 and Tamar, who is the mother of my grandchildren, my baby who is 31.

ES: Very nice. I'm going to ask you, starting back now, to tell me when you first came in contact with quilts or quilters.

RH: I had an Aunt Clare when I was a little girl, who collected quilts. She didn't particularly make them, but she collected them. And she was an artist. And I thought she was the most amazing woman in the world. I just lived in awe of her. And I used to go through, and she would show me all of the quilts that she had collected, and I thought they were beautiful, and I just loved the way the colors came together, and the work, I just thought they were absolutely beautiful. Each one she handled very specially, and it was really, really an experience for me to be with her and to hear her talk about each one of the quilts. I mean, I didn't do anything with quilts for a long time, but I always had this love for them. And she instilled that in me.

The other thing she did was, she gave me this box of crayons. But it was a huge box of crayons, and it had all the colors in the world. It had colors like sienna, and she said, 'You should use these not to do coloring books but to figure out which ones go with which.' And for years I played with colors. I mixed and matched them, I moved them around, and she was instrumental--I wanted to be like her. But I couldn't draw, that was the other thing.

ES: I was going to say, were your pictures geometrics? --a zillion colors?

RH: Just a zillion colors--that was literally what I did. I have thousands of pictures of me doing colors and putting them next to each other. That was before color charts. I had no idea which ones went, and which ones didn't. But she instilled in me this appreciation for quilts. Then--

ES: And for color.

RH: And for color. I loved her paintings. They were always bright and then there was a tragedy. Her house caught on fire and everything she had--she must have had a hundred quilts in that house and all of her paintings--and everything burned. And so, I did not have them any more to look at. But I could always do the color. So, right after that, my father brought home a Singer 'Touch and Sew,' it was first line. He bought it at the World's Fair. He brought this machine home. It was like amazing. And he gave it to me, and he said, 'You should figure out how to use this, and have fun doing it.' So, I went to sewing class. My mother sent me to sewing class and I learned how to sew. Still, I was not too interested in quilts, actually, at that point, but I was sewing.

ES: But you were honing your sewing skills.

RH: I was sewing, right. [laughs.] And I was making doll clothes and I was making some things for me, none of which ever looked that great, but I was happy, and I was having fun. And one of the things that I found with sewing is that it allowed me, the inside of me--I am not sure if I'm going to be able to say this right—but what's inside I could actually put outside. And I loved it. I loved everything about sewing. Again, I wasn't very good at it but I really, really loved it. And I took that machine--actually I had it all the way through high school. I took it to college with me and then I was in the Peace Corps. And I took it to the Dominican Republic with me.

And I came back from the Peace Corps and had daughters and started a family and I would make smocked dresses for them because I loved smocked dresses. And we could not afford what they cost. So, I would make these smocked dresses for them, and I got into manipulating fabric, and I started to see how the light hit it when you changed the texture. And I was fascinated with that. They wore smocked dresses to school--I loved smocked dresses. They wore them until they wouldn't wear them anymore. And still, I was not quilting, but I was sewing. And then, about twelve years ago, my neighbor, who I just had a great time with, called me and said, 'Come over to my house. I want to show you what I just did.' So, I go over there, and she has made this amazing quilt for her niece. And she said, 'Look at this. This was the hardest thing in the world to do, but my niece wanted a quilt. So, I made this quilt for her.' She just went out and bought material and made this quilt, and it was incredible. And I looked at it and I said, 'I want to do that.' But it was a progression, it was really a progression to getting to quilting. At one point, when I was dealing with kids, I was also doing stained glass. Again, colors and light. I've always been fascinated with what happens when you change textures and the light they set. So, I wanted to do the quilt. I went out and got material just like she did. You know, crazy. And looked at a picture and was like, okay, I'm going to do that. And so that was my first quilt. It was for one of my daughters, of course. And I was hooked. I was absolutely--that was the most fun I had ever had in me in life, to do the quilts. I wasn't cutting my finger with the glass, and this was something that I could do. I really could do it. I was so excited about doing it. So, then I got books and started to learn the real techniques on how to put it together and the rotary cutting and all that stuff. I did one square at a time.

ES: You did this all yourself.

RH: I did it all myself. I had no--I looked at a picture, didn't like those colors, but I could get my own colors and I was going to make it look like that, you know. Books. And then my friend and I, because she was also hooked by the one, she had done, started to really look into taking classes and learning techniques and getting better and we've been having fun ever since. And extremely beautiful quilts, she does. And it is fun.

ES: Do you do it at each other's houses?

RH: We visit. And what we do is, we work on whatever we're working on, and she will say, 'All right, come over here and help me move these around and figure out where they going to go,' and I'm like, 'Why doesn't this go straight, I can't figure out why this won't work.' And we've been doing that for a very long time, and it is so much fun having a friend to do projects with.

ES: And you started in Daughters of Dorcas, when did you do that?

RH: I don't remember. I would say maybe five years ago, six years ago.

ES: And why would you do that, just to expand your interest?

RH: I always would look through books and they would talk about guilds. And I was working full time and so I never could get outside the city to go to a guild meeting. And then, I met Roland Freeman. Actually, Freeman and I sort of grew up together. We all started out life together. I was at his wedding, and so we're friends. And he said, 'Well, why don't you go look at Daughters of Dorcas?' And that's how I started coming. I think I was in between jobs, and I could come on Tuesday.

ES: What sort of job did you do?

RH: I'm a Human Resources professional. I do benefits and compensation and employee relations.

ES: Were you in the government?

RH: I worked for the government. Recently, I just got laid off from Whitman-Walker Clinic where I was the Associate Director of Human Resources there and they ran into financial problems and had to let a lot of people go, so that's why you see more of me, now, because I'm in between jobs again. And I can take care of that grieving process--you know it's very good for me--because it means I have blocks of time, real blocks of time to work on quilts.

ES: Grieving process--

RH: Of losing a job.

ES: That's what I wondered.

RH: It's like, okay, I'll take the summer and work on a quilt.

ES: And the quilt you made for the Sumner School [Exhibit.] is that something you did during the summer?

RH: Yes, actually, I did do that during the summer, also. It was a very difficult project for me, only because, in thinking about what I wanted to do with it, I couldn't--all I could think of were the quilts you see, you know the old-fashioned quilts with the little schoolhouse and everything, and I was, wait, I don't think I want to do that. That's really not me. And how do I do this theme [School Days.] and still be me? And I have another good friend who teaches at one of the schools and she was talking about the traditionally black schools in D.C. That there actually were, they were considered amazing schools, and I thought, 'Well, you know, I'll let other people know that.' And another technique I wanted to look at was the photo transfer, so that quilt also has--

ES: When you said, 'Honorable Mention,' then that was the title of your quilt. Is it that you were mentioning the different schools?

RH: Right. That's also a practice I had, that quilt has a whole bunch of new quilting stitches that I never had used before, and I was trying them out.

ES: Is this now on the machine?

RH: Yes.

ES: Now, do you do mostly machine work?

RH: Mostly machine work because I'm not good with the hands. [laughs.]

ES: Some of us are not good with machines, so it is good to have somebody who is. What are your favorite aspects then, of the quilting process? Do you have a favorite or a non-favorite part?

RH: Yeah, I do. I love choosing the fabrics. I love piecing. I have lots of tops that have not been quilted. And lately, I am getting more interested in quilting because I know that whatever design I make, it will add a different dimension.

ES: It does.

RH: You know, I've just gotten to that point. I was like, 'I've got to quilt this. I'm going to learn how to do this well, because it changes it.' And I can control that, how it's going to look. So, mostly I like piecing. I like putting the cloth together. I like the colors. I like manipulating the cloth.

ES: That's good. Do you keep track of the things you've made? Do you have photo albums or anything like that?

RH: I have a photo album that does not have everything I've made. One of the problems is, that when I make something and one of my daughters sees it, it's like, 'I want that,' and so it's gone before I take pictures of it. I have sold some things. Last year, I was very excited about being asked to do a booth with my work at a Lebovich Women's Convention. And I was very nervous about it because this is a very different--these Challah covers are very different from what people are used to. And I did not know how they were going to go over, so I took twenty-two of them and I sold all but two. I was so excited.

ES: Where was this? Was this in New York?

RH: This was upstate New York.

ES: Where in New York?

RH: Mansey, New York. Do you know Mansey?

ES: No. Oh, is that in the Catskills?

RH: Yeah. It's sort of--it's a very Jewish Orthodox town and there are all kinds of groups that go there--Hassidic groups that live there. And this is where this Convention was. I was so worried 'cause I thought, 'They're not used to this. They won't like this. It's only me that likes it.' And I sat there for about fifteen minutes, and it's like, 'See, this was a waste of time.' And then, you know, they liked it. I was so blown away by that.

ES: Great. Will you go again?

RH: I don't know if they'll do it again. But you have to be invited to do it. I'm always worried that what I like, other people won't like, and I quilt basically because I like to, and I do what I like. My kids, who don't like anything that I like, I'm always shocked when they say, 'I want that.' And they put it up in their homes and I'm just very humble about that. I just thank God.

ES: Are there any other outlets for your quilts besides selling things, and your daughters? Do you give to anybody else in the family?

RH: Yes. I've given quilts as wedding gifts. There have been a couple of young women who were off to college that I knew from babies that I wanted to send off with something beautiful. Because that's the whole thing--is to be able to create something beautiful. And mostly I give them away. I just sent a whole bunch to New Orleans. I don't know--

ES: If they get there.

RH: But I thought maybe some kids would see them and be comforted.

ES: Uh-hum. Have you done any teaching?

RH: Yes. There was a group at the clinic where I worked of women who were living with HIV and have families. And one of them asked me to teach them how to quilt and we did some amazing things. That was a fun thing. And I also taught at a Muslim school. There were some senior girls there who were interested in learning how to quilt. It's Martin Luther King School. We spent a year working on different quilts and learning how to quilt. That was all done by hand.

ES: Was that a once-a-week type thing or were you there as a teacher?

RH: No, no. It was a twice-a-week kind of thing, and they would work on it at home, whatever they were doing, and we would get together and look at that and go on to the next step. I actually saw one of those young women, who's now married, last month. And she said, 'You know, I'm still quilting.' It's like, hey, it gives me so much joy. I am so excited that you can teach someone else how to do it and they can get joy. Because, you know, we all need that. I think that we all need that calm and peace that you get from quilting.

ES: Yeah. How has quilting had meaning for the American woman? I'm thinking about peace and joy that you just said.

RH: I don't even know if this is the answer to your question, but I think we all, in America, get really get caught up in jobs and family and life to the point where there is no time for being who you are. Just stopping and being you. You know, just being with you. And that's what quilting does. Quilting allows you to take the time to get out what's inside that you never have a chance to do. I don't know if that makes sense, but that's what it is for me.

ES: Oh, I think that makes good sense. Very nice. Do you have any stories or experiences that you'd like to share--something in your past—to do with quilts?

RH: No, I really don't, but I will say this. I could never draw as a kid. Everybody else was drawing and my stuff always looked like--I don't know what. I can remember being sad that my pictures were not as pretty as everybody else's. Because I wanted to make them, but they weren't--people would look at them and say, 'That's nice, honey.' And so, after a while I got to the point where I really am not creative. This is not where my talents lie. And when I make a quilt and people look at it and they say, 'Oh. That's beautiful.' And I can look at it and say, 'Oh, that's beautiful,' then it gives me so much joy. You know, it just gives me so much joy and to look at it and say, 'Oh, I did that.'

ES: Yeah. I agree.

RH: That probably did not answer your question.

ES: Oh, it does. It answers beautifully.

RH: I'm very passionate about quilting, as you can see.

ES: Oh, I think it's wonderful, too.

RH: It's wonderful to be talking to another quilter, because I have this idea that you understand what it is that I am trying to say here.

ES: And you are saying it very beautifully because I cannot express myself either, but I feel those same things and I need that time myself and I need to produce something. But this is not my interview. [laughter.] Do you have advice for new quilters?

RH: Yeah. Don't try to get it perfect. Just have fun doing it. The perfection comes later. Just enjoy doing it. Get the other benefits from quilting before you worry about what people are going to think or what it looks like, or whatever. So, if it isn't straight, it isn't straight. There are lots of quilts out there in museums that aren't straight. [laughter.]

ES: That's right.

RH: You know, you have to feel good. Make sure you enjoy it. If you like the fabric, if you love it, buy it, put it in your quilt. Because every time you look at it, it's going to make you feel good.

ES: Do you have a lot of fabric at home?

RH: Oh, yeah. There's something wrong with me. I'm sick. [laughs.] I'm really sick. [interruption.]

ES: Well, if there is nothing else, we'd like to talk about at this point, I think we'll just close the interview. Thank you very much. It has been a very interesting interview.

RH: Thank you for listening to me.

ES: Thank you. Great.


“Resna Ximines Hammer,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 21, 2024,