Shirley Hart



Shirley Hart




Shirley Hart


Linda Brammer

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Carolyn Mazloomi


Newark, Delaware


Shira Walny


Linda Brammer (LB): We are starting. This is Linda Brammer. Today's date is January 12th, 2004, at 6:30 p.m. and I am conducting an interview with Shirley Hart for Quilters' S.O.S. [- Save Our Stories.] in Newark, Delaware. Shirley, tell me where you are from.

Shirley Hart (SH): Originally, I'm from Columbus, Ohio. I was born and raised there, and we've lived in Delaware for 31 years.

LB: Tell me about the quilt that you brought in today that we're looking at.

SH: That particular quilt is a quilt as you go, which is the only one I've ever done, and it was interesting. It was out of a calendar.

LB: Piece Makers

SH: Piece Makers, that one.

LB: You have it right on your label, so you don't have to remember it.

SH: Well, that's why you put a label on it.

LB: If you remember to put a label on it. And what year did you make this?

SH: '97 I believe.

LB: Your finish time is on there and what do you mean by quilt as you go? How did that work?

SH: You make your block which probably, with a twelve-inch block and you layer it and quilt it and leave enough edges on it so that you can sew it together when you're all finished with every block you've quilted.

LB: Was the sashing--okay, there's not a sashing on it.

SH: No.

LB: So, you quilted right to the edge of your block.

SH: Right.

LB: And you, how did you quilt it, machine or hand?

SH: By machine. Now wouldn't that be sashing around there?

LB: The outside, the outside borders.

SH: Yes.

LB: Right, but you don't have anything in between the blocks. I was looking at your off-setting blocks and then thinking that that was sashing at first but that's your off-setting blocks. A lot of appliqué in there.

SH: Probably more than I normally do because I'm not an appliquér. I prefer the piecing. It was all done by machine it was not done by hand.

LB: That still was a lot of work.

SH: I don't remember. [laughs.]

LB: [laughs.] You don't remember even how long it took you would have been on to the next. Why did you choose this quilt to bring to the interview?

SH: Because it was the only clean one. [laughs.] I don't know, that sounds silly. No, I went down to my quilt room, and I saw that one laying there and I thought well, okay, that's what I'll take because maybe it's a little bit different.

LB: It is. It is very different. Do you remember where you got your fabrics or anything about the process?

SH: Whenever I'm anyplace where they sell material, I'm buying fabric. And probably Wal-Mart, Jo Ann's, around there. That was back when the Hive, not the Hive--

LB: Quilt Essential.

SH: Quilt Essential right, and even down in Middletown and so it's hard to tell where it all came from.

LB: How do you use this quilt now?

SH: I haven't been using it. It's laying on my quilt rack.

LB: And what do you plan to do with it?

SH: I don't have any plans. Probably my kids will take it. I really do not have any plans.

LB: You were thinking that it might look very nice on a bed?

SH: Well, yes, I was thinking that too but then you'd have to have fancy pillows.

LB: Yes, some kind of pillow shams or something around that area [inaudible.] Well, you can make that too. [laughs.] Tell me about your interest in quilting? At what age did you start quilting?

SH: Let's see, how can I explain this? I've always loved quilts. My mother, when she was a little girl, they homesteaded in Michigan. She was born in 1911, my grandmother made quilts at that time and out of anything she could get her hands on and my mother hated quilts but I always loved them, the ones that my grandmother had given my mother and I've always, from the time I was a little kid, I've sewed and I decided I wanted to try to make a quilt about, oh, I'm guessing probably 1990 or maybe before. And I took a class with Madge Ziegler and that's where I started. And now, I don't keep them myself. I give them to my kids or family.

LB: How did you find Madge's teaching; was it quilt shop or did you--

SH: Yes, it was at the shop, I went into, it wasn't the Hive back then it was the one that's on Kirkwood Highway, I can't think what the name is.

LB: Creations Plus.

SH: Creations Plus, that's right. And I was just interested in quilting, I had tried to do it on my own by making just the squares and patches and sewing things together and was never happy with it. I took a class and I have been quilting ever since. Probably, maybe for twenty years.

LB: Does anyone in the family still have your grandmother's quilts?

SH: I have one, she had not finished it, I had the blocks and I sewed it together, I can't think right now what pattern it was, it might have been the flower garden with little--

LB: Hexagons?

SH: Hexagons, it might have been that and so I sewed the blocks together and I have that, but that would be all I have, and I have an aunt that has some of the quilts.

LB: They're still in the family.

SH: That's right, I hope.

LB: How many hours a week do you quilt?

SH: That's a hard one. It used to be I quilted a lot but I would say the last six months or so I have not touched anything which is sad because I do enjoy doing it. I've got one that I'm doing by hand right now. It will take me twenty years to do it, it's a big king size, ocean wave and I was trying to use--

LB: All by hand?

SH: I've been trying to use up my blue scraps and I've put sail boats around the edges. Am I talking too fast?

LB: No, you're fine.

SH: And I hope to finish it someday and use it but I just don't have enough time. I spend a lot of time here at the Senior Center doing things other than quilting.

LB: Life and truth. What is your first quilt memory? You were always fond of quilts so when did you sort of know what a quilt was?

SH: I remember my mother had one that her mother had made, it was always on the bed, and it was daffodils, and it must, being a child, I didn't know but I assume it was a appliquéd white with the green and the yellow daffodils. It was so pretty, and my mother never liked it so, I wish I had it today, I really do.

LB: Yes, I bet you do.

SH: Because my grandmother died in '42 I believe it was.

LB: A long time ago. Are there other quilters among your family members? Anybody else?

SH: Oh, I have a cousin who quilts.

LB: Well, you know, I think that does speak through the people who are quilters and sewers that they are very generous people.

SH: I think so too. I was thrilled when she said that and of course Jane is too, she's seen all the fabric. That would be the only family there were that I know of.

LB: How does quilting impact your family? I don't know, do you live alone or--

SH: No, I live with my husband Bob. He's fantastic. He's helped me put a, I call it a quilt studio, in my basement which is all finished and in fact my 9-year-old grandson was there a couple weeks ago, and we were downstairs playing a game and he said, 'Grammy, we could live down here. [laughs.] It's that nice.'

LB: Sounds very comfortable.

SH: And, but I have a daughter and son and of course I've made for my grandchildren and so forth, so.

LB: It's nice to have people to make quilts for. [laughs.]

SH: Right.

LB: Tell me if you've ever used quilting to get through a difficult time.

SH: I can't say that I've had a difficult time. Oh well, yes, I'm a cat person. I lost one that I'd had for nineteen years, and I had another cat, you're getting me talking about cats and you're asking about quilts [laughs.], he was half Tabby and half Siamese and he had all the colorings to a point except he was 25 pounds. And you'll see Ted's name on this quilt. We had him for 10 years and he became diabetic, and I gave him insulin for two years and finally he got so sick I had him put down and then I had Sammy and Lucy, anyways, I've had a lot of cats. The one I have now is a white long-haired.

LB: And so, you made a cat quilt.

SH: And I made a cat quilt.

LB: To commemorate your--

SH: All my cats.

LB: Your cats that you've loved and lost.

SH: Right, and the ones I have today too, all cats.

LB: That's very nice. Looks like you had a good time making that.

SH: It went, you can tell, it's all just scraps and put together real fast, and I did have fun with it.

LB: What do you find pleasing about quilting?

SH: Pleasing?

LB: What appeals to you?

SH: Just everything that everything about quilting. I love sewing, the machine particularly. I like to look at the finished product. I've never seen an ugly quilt if that makes sense.

LB: It does. Are there any aspects of quilting that aren't your favorite part to do? What's your least favorite thing?

SH: My least favorite would be appliqué.

LB: Appliqué. My goodness, I'd never know that from your--

SH: I was in a class with Mimi and that quilt is on my bed now. I did finish it and it's all done by hand, and I enjoyed doing it, while I was doing it, but I prefer to piece, I like piecing.

LB: What do you think makes a great quilt?

SH: What makes a great quilt. Color and fabric and, never really thought about it, they're all great, in their own way.

LB: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

SH: I think color. I like bright colors, I guess you can tell from this one that, there are some bright colors on this one too, but I mean really--

LB: I like your choice of colors. I love pink and blue personally.

SH: I kind of like the African colors, you find the really bright--

LB: Vibrant.

SH: Vibrant colors.

LB: What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

SH: What makes it special for that? I think a label on it. Particularly if you can find a hundred-year-old quilt with a label on it, that's really to me, would be, I would be so excited. I have been to auctions, and I have bought a couple of old quilts but there's no label on it so I would love to know where they come from. I have one that's a drunkard's path, it is hanging down in my quilt room and it looks like it's made out of shirt fabric, and I figured it was probably made about 1890 just from the fabrics that--

LB: Why is quilting important to your life?

SH: I love doing it. That's it.

LB: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or your region?

SH: I don't think they do; they just reflect me.

LB: In what ways do you think quilting have a special meaning for women's history and their experience in America?

SH: That's a hard one. Well, they do have a lot of history. I'm thinking of my grandmother making them, of course they were on a farm and that's history. It's important.

LB: How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting and longarm quilting? Have any thoughts on any of that?

SH: Personally, I prefer machine quilting and I think it wears better, it washes better and so forth. The nice, beautiful hand quilting, I love that too.

LB: And you're hand quilting the one that you're working on now.

SH: Oh, it doesn't compare to some of the machine quilting. [laughs.] All these tiny little stitches with the machine to do that.

LB: How about the longarm quilting?

SH: What do you mean by longarm?

LB: The big machines that people--

SH: I'm not--I know what you're talking about but I've never been around any of those so I really can't comment on them.

LB: How do you think quilts can be used?

SH: How can they be used? As artistic, on beds, rolling up on the floor, my grandchildren they love to get one and, so you make them so that if they wear out, they wear out. And on hanging as a picture, I did one for my 9-year-old grandson when, before he was born and it has elephants on it and that's still hanging in his room, and I told his mother it's time to take that down.

LB: How old is he now?

SH: Nine.

LB: He's nine. What has happened to the quilts that you've made and given away to family and friends, do you know?

SH: My brother called me the other day and he said, 'You remember that quilt you gave us? I put it on the bed,' I gave him more than one, but he said, 'That's really pretty.'

LB: So, they're still out there being appreciated.

SH: Yes, they're still being appreciated, I think some of them.

LB: That's great.

SH: I hope.

LB: Are there any things that you'd like to tell me about your quilting or your life in quilting that I haven't asked about that you'd like to share?

SH: You've done a nice job. More than I've thought about quilting. I just don't. I just do it and I don't think about it. I just enjoy doing it.

LB: Well, you've done a very nice job and I thank you for participating in this project.

SH: Oh, you're welcome. I hope it helps.

LB: It gets the story of quilting out there.

SH: Well, is that what they're going to do? They're going to put it into a book or a--

LB: Well, they're all going into a database initially and the database has all these interviews, and they're all getting transcribed and hold on, I'm going to go ahead and end it. This is Linda Brammer and from Delaware interviewing Shirley Hart, we are ending our interview at 6:50.

[tape ends.]



“Shirley Hart,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 23, 2024,