Shyrlee Stanley




Shyrlee Stanley




Shyrlee Stanley


Judy Roybal

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The Nat'l Quilting Assn


Fort Worth, Texas


Jennifer Priddy


**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.** Judy Roybal (JR): This is Judy Roybal. Today's date is May 19, 2001. It is 1:35 p.m. I am conducting an interview with Shyrlee Stanley for Quilters' S.O. S. - Save Our Stories project in Fort Worth, Texas. How are you, Shyrlee?

Shyrlee Stanley (SS): Hi.

JR: Thank you, Shyrlee, for permitting us this opportunity to get to interview you. I'm going to ask you a few questions.

SS: Okay.

JR: And you just feel free to elaborate on whatever and you can stay on things if you are more interested in talking about certain topics. Just tell me first of all how you became interested in quilting.

SS: I guess when the revival of quilting started in the 80's.I was in an area of New Jersey, Southern New Jersey. And there was a teacher, her name was McDonald, who wrote a couple of quilt books. I don't remember her first name. She is now deceased. She had a shop in Haddonfield, New Jersey. I had always sewed. Quilting just sparked my interest. On that question, 'Are you self taught?' I found a teacher in Marlton, the town in which we lived. She didn't know what she was doing. At the beginning I was self taught, and then I joined a guild. The guild, Love Apples, had many workshops at which I learned many techniques--these quilters were my teachers.

JR: Okay. So, it's around twenty years then since you've been quilting.

SS: It was about 1981.

JR: Okay. Well, it's twenty years now. That's great.

SS: Yes, 1981.

JR: Had you ever tried quilting at an earlier age?

SS: No.

JR: Or just had done regular sewing.

SS: Yes.

JR: Garments and things? And now how many hours a week would you say you quilt?

SS: I just finished a Double Wedding Ring quilt and I was sewing and quilting many hours a day. But I really can't tell you how many hours a day I normally quilt. But with the Double Wedding Ring I was doing, oh, four hours, at least, a day.

JR: Do you teach other people how to quilt?

SS: I had in New Jersey, but I don't now.

JR: So, Have you passed this down to someone else in your family?

SS: I have three daughters, but none of them quilt. They're not interested in it.

JR: Do you give your quilts away primarily?

SS: Yes.

JR: Or do you sell your quilts?

SS: No, I give them away. I did sell some garments at one time, some vests.

JR: Did you use quilts as a little girl? Do you remember? Did you have quilts in the home?

SS: My mother quilted. My mother did lots of sewing. And this was my baby doll's.

JR: She's got a little piece that must be 10 by 12 or 8 by 12. And this was like the Flower Garden?

SS: Yes, this is the Flower Garden pattern.

JR: With some lavenders and yellow and green. I guess this was green.

SS: Yes, this was green at one time. It has faded.

JR: Green really fades.

SS: Yes, the greens at that time really faded.

JR: They fade a lot. I've heard that. So this was your little baby doll's quilt?

SS: Yes.

JR: So, you say your daughters don't quilt. Do you have anyone else, maybe aunts or grandmothers or great grandmothers?

SS: No, they all did other types of needlework. They all did some type of needlework, but none them were quilters. My mother made just two quilts, and I have one of hers with me.

JR: Okay. Do you do other types of handwork now, or you just primarily staying with quilting?

SS: Unless I'm just forced to do something, like making an easy skirt, you know or something like that. I prefer quilting.

JR: Do you have a room in your home that's primarily for quilting?

SS: Yes.

JR: What part of the quilting do you like the most? What's your favorite part?

SS: Two parts: one the designing. I enjoy designing my own, except for the Double Wedding Ring. That was a request by a new daughter-in-law. So, I had to follow a pattern with that, but I usually like to design my own. Then I love the hand quilting.

JR: Okay. Do you do any hand applique work?

SS: Yes. Some.

JR: What about choosing colors? Usually quilters either really like it or not.

SS: No, that's my forte.

JR: Really?

SS: Yes, I'm very comfortable with colors. In fact that's what I taught in New Jersey.

JR: Have you ever used quilting as a means of getting you through a difficult time in your life, would you say?

SS: No.

JR: You're just a happy quilter all the time.

SS: Yes. [both laugh.]

JR: What do you think makes a great quilt?

SS: Well. I think color and how the colors are used in the design. Because--using the Double Wedding Ring as an example--there are a lot of people who have done the Double Wedding Ring and they are very, very blah. And as I said, just using that as an example, you can tell that color can make a difference.

JR: Like a lot of contrast, or--

SS: Yes. In taking advantage of the color wheel and using colors that complement one another.

JR: Okay. Do you stay with some of the same colors, or do you find yourself varying your--

SS: The only colors I don't make quilts out of are brown ones.

JR: What do you think makes a quilt?

SS: The artistry of it. Just one look at it and say, 'That's a really good piece of artwork.'

JR: What would really catch your attention? Would it be the quilting, the colors?

SS: I think first it's the color and then it's the quilting. Because now there are so many computerized quilts. When you are viewing them like here at our show, the first thing you notice is color. And then when you get close, you notice the quilting.

JR: Okay.

SS: Quilting can, however, enhance the design. When you take a square block and you start putting curving lines on it, it changes the design.

JR: Okay. What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum?

SS: Oh my, [pause.] I think of Irma Gail Hatcher. You mean museum quality quilts?

JR: Um. Hum.

SS: Her color choices are really great. And she has depth in a quilt because she embellishes it. She hand quilts the begezzes out of the quilt. To me that would be a museum quality.

JR: Do you collect a lot of fabric? Is that something you like to do? Or do you buy fabric for a particular quilt?

SS: No, I have a collection, [laughs.] a good-sized stash. And then when I get ready to make a quilt, I have to go out and buy fabric. [laughs.]

JR: Do you usually buy large amounts at one time, like a yard of something or five yards of something? Or are you a fat quarter purchaser?

SS: No, I'm kind of a fat quarter, unless I know I'm going to make a certain kind of quilt, then I buy yardage; however I do have a stash of fabric for the backs of quilts when I can find that on sale.

JR: Tell me how do you feel about the controversy of machine quilting and hand quilting. Do you have strong feelings?

SS: Oh, yes, I do. I think we're going to have to go to having separate awards. Also, computerized quilting versus machine quilting. Because machine quilting by a novice like me is very difficult if you have a bed sized quilt. A couple of years ago, I made one for my niece. It was a quilt of my own design and it was the hardest thing to get that under my machine to do what I wanted to do. I don't think now we can judge the computerized machine quilting with just the normal machine quilting. I think we're going to have a separate category there. You know, versus the hand quilting. I was talking to a friend of mine just yesterday who is a dealer of antiques. She was saying that she thinks hand quilting is going to be a lost art within the next ten to twenty years. I hadn't really thought of that, but as you can see in our quilt show today, there are fewer and fewer hand quilted full bed quilts.

JR: Why is quilting important to your life?

SS: Oh, I just love to do it. I love to work with fabric. I'm one of those fabriholics like you probably are too. I love color. I love to work with color. We have five children and I make quilts for them as an heirloom quilt, which is the one I have in the show today. That's theirs. And then baby quilts; they say will you make so and so a baby quilt? I just enjoy it.

JR: In what way do your quilts reflect you community or your region?

SS: Well, I belong to the Granbury Newcomers Club. And in 1989 I was asked to be the chairman of a quilt project. Someone had picked a quilt design out of a magazine and said we would like this, and you're going to do it. It was like a donation quilt. We're going to sell chances at the Fourth of July, and that was, I believe, in April or May, and they said according to your job description, this comes under you. We heard that you are a quilter. So I had those very few months make something of a quilt that would look like this picture which would represent Granbury. If you've been to Granbury, we have the courthouse clock and we have that on the quilt. It was three months of nightmare. [laughs.] That was, I'll say, the only thing I've done that would represent my community, or the state. Quilting, I think is pretty much international.

JR: I've heard that. You can go almost any place in the world and you can see a little bit.

SS: Um hum. Of course, in the United States we have a lot of our own patterns.

JR: Right, right. Have you ever thought about designing your own fabric? Is that something you think you would like to do?

SS: You know, I have. Yeah. But you know I probably never will.

JR: That always seems like it would be so interesting.

SS: Um hum.

JR: In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history and experience in America?

SS: Well, I was born in Iowa. I'm surprised that more of my relatives weren't quilters. I just think that's part of a women's tradition, the quilt making. The necessity of having a warm cover and using fabric that you have. I mean that is just a wonderful, wonderful story. That's how quilting in the United States began. They utilized everything. It was their way of entertainment. Especially, out in Granbury, it's further west. And whenever we would have any demonstrations or anything, so many men would come up and say, 'Oh, I remember when they hung from my mother's or my grandmother's ceiling and I used to sit under the quilt and listen to all their stories.' I just don't think you could write anything about American history and not have quilt making in it.

JR: Right, right. I agree. I agree. How do you think quilts can be used?

SS: How?

JR: Um hum, how?

SS: Well, I would say how can they not be used? Maybe I don't understand the question.

JR: Well, for instance, are you mainly involved in making quilts for people will use, like for bedcovers? Or, are you interested more in wall hangings, or--

SS: Oh. Whatever strikes me. I also think it is important that we make the baby quilts for John Peter Smith Hospital and in Granbury now there's a quilt guild and they are starting to do things for a charity. I think whatever strikes you as important. Does that answer your question? [background noise from the quilt show.]

JR: Um hum. Have you ever made a quilt for someone that really, that it really meant a lot to that person and how they expressed it to you?

SS: Let's see. One of my daughter's friends had a baby. They live in upstate New York in a log cabin. And my daughter wanted me to make a baby quilt for their first child. So, I made one in the log cabin pattern. That's the first time I've ever used browns in a quilt. She decided that she wanted to put it on the wall. She didn't want to--it was a cherished item and so she used it as a decoration for the baby's room. [quilt show noise.] It meant a lot to her.

JR: I want to ask you, do you document your quilts in any way?

SS: Oh, yes, oh yes. I always put labels. Beside the labels, I always just take one of the pens and put my initials and the date on it in another place because labels can wear out. I always do that too.

JR: Do you keep copies of pictures of your quilts?

SS: Um hum. Yes, I have a little quilt diary.

JR: Okay. That's a good idea. How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future? Quilts themselves?

SS: Of course, whatever I make is to be used; either as a wall hanging, or on the bed. The only thing I can do is to pass along information that I have to those recipients, to use the acid free paper in packing them away, if they are going to be packed away. And, to refold them and tell them not to keep them in bright lights or even strong reflective lights. And of course my mother's quilts, I have two of hers, I keep those packed away. [laughs.] I used to keep them on a bed, every now and then. It just depends on who's coming to the house but just using common sense to preserve them.

JR: You hear more sad stories of people who only have little bits and pieces--

SS: Oh, I have a good story on that. When we first moved to Granbury, right next to our house was this big house that had a big, huge doghouse. And tacked over the doorway of the doghouse was this quilt.

JR: It kind of a --made from a quilt.

SS: It was covering the door of the doghouse. They had these huge dogs; I can't remember the name of it. It was December when we moved there. It took me a couple of months, and I really didn't know the people. Finally I went there and I said, 'I will buy a blanket for your dogs, anything you want if you just take that quilt down.' The lady said, 'Oh, my grandmother made this and she said you can have it and I don't want it.' I said, 'No, no, you should keep it.' I tried to get them to keep it. 'No, no.' So they wouldn't even let me give them a blanket. They were very strange people, very strange. I mean very strange. They burned their house down; they threatened to kill my husband. It's quite a story. They were ousted from where we live. So, I started cutting the quilt up. I made lots of things from the quilt.

JR: Oh, my goodness.

SS: It's the only quilt I've ever cut up. I don't cut up antique quilts.

JR: Oh my goodness. That's a real patchwork quilt then.

SS: Yes! Yes it is.

JR: It's basically a nine patch, a nine-patch pattern.

SS: Yes, Yes it is.

JR: Or maybe eight.

SS: Well, total, maybe total.

JR: So you brought a quilt today for us to see?

SS: Um hum, besides the doll quilt.

JR: Besides the flower garden?

SS: Yes, are you ready to see it?

JR: Yes, you can just tell me about it when you get it all pulled out.

SS: Well, I wish I knew more about it because I don't know the name of the pattern. I imagine that this was from a kit form my mother sent away for. She did a lot of Aunt Martha's and things like that. She crocheted mostly, but made two quilts in her lifetime. She is now deceased.

JR: And you have a sleeve, so you have shown it some.

SS: Yes, I've shown it here before.

JR: It has a lot of quilting in it.

SS: Yes, my mother did beautiful work.

JR: It's yellow and. It's just beautiful.

SS: It's a daffodil design. This is the green. The green that was so popular in the thirties and the twenties. It must have been the twenties because it was made before I was born. That faded out.

JR: This yellow is still pretty true, huh?

SS: Oh yes.

JR: And what is this fabric?

SS: It's the cotton sateen used at the time.

JR: Okay, okay. It has a nice shimmer to it, doesn't it?

SS: Oh, yes, it's the prettiest thing there is.

JR: Lots and lots of quilting; some cross: hatching and some other design here; kind of a flower here in the middle. That is just beautiful.

SS: Um hum.

JR: This came from your mother?

SS: Yes.

JR: That is just beautiful.

SS: My mother enjoyed doing embroidery work and crocheting more than she did quilting.

JR: So this is hand embroidery.

SS: Oh yes.

JR: And that's little bitty tiny stitches here.

SS: Oh yes.

JR: Here on the outline design on the tulip, or iris. Is that an iris?

SS: Yes, that was her favorite flower.

JR: Okay. That is beautiful. Do you have it hanging in your home?

SS: No, no.

JR: Or do you have it put away?

SS: No, I have it put away.

JR: Do you have many quilts hanging in your home?

SS: I have wall quilts, yes.

JR: Okay.

SS: But, I don't have any full quilts hanging in my home.

JR: Okay

SS: I give all of those away.

JR: Okay.

SS: In fact, I don't even have a quilt on my bed.

JR: Is that right?

SS: I've never gotten around to making one for myself.

JR: Isn't that funny. I hear that a lot. You know. Some Quilters don't even think about sleeping under a quilt. They make these quilts and all their family has one. Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about quilting? Anything you'd like to pass: on that would be of interest to other Quilters or people that are not Quilters, people who might be listening to this interview.

SS: Off hand I can't think of anything more.

JR: Can't think of anything? I was going to ask you another question when you were talking about your quilt room. What do you think makes a good quilt room? Cause I've heard people like you--do you really need good light or.

SS: Oh, the light is number one.

JR: Do you have a design board that you put things on?

SS: Yes. I've put batting on two walls. And I can pin up whatever I want. I have the batting covered with ticking, but I also have white flannel over the ticking. Oh yes, my design wall is very important. A table at a convenient height is extremely important.

JR: Do you get most of your inspiration from magazines, books or other quilters?

SS: As far as designs go?

JR: Um hum.

SS: I don't know. I really haven't thought about it.

JR: Do you buy many books? Many quilt books?

SS: No, no I don't.

JR: What about magazines? Do you subscribe?

SS: I just take Quilters' Newsletter Magazine. I think I get most of my inspiration from pictures that other Quilters have sent in, so it would have to be Quilters. I see something that someone else has done. I also use designs from tile and oriental rugs.

JR: Do you go to many quilt shows?

SS: I haven't recently.

JR: Have you ever been a Board member or chaired a committee in a guild?

SS: Yes.

JR: What have you done before?

SS: Well, from President on down.

JR: Okay.

SS: I've done just about every job, I guess.

JR: Then you enjoy that.

SS: Yes. Yes, but I think it should be passed around.

JR: Okay. I think that's about all the questions that I wanted to ask. Also, have you won any awards?

SS: Yes I have.

JR: Have you? Don't be modest. At a quilt show? Here in the area, or was it when you were in New Jersey?

SS: Both.

JR: Both?

SS: Both

JR: Both. Okay

SS: Not best of show, but just an award. I guess one year, best of show for clothing.

JR: That's great.

SS: As far a being an officer, I think that it's important that everybody work on the quilt board at some time. You meet people and you get to know them. To me that's one of the most important things about the quilt guild is the camaraderie between the quilt guild members. You had asked if there was ever a time if quilting, if I used it as a solace. I have carried quilting projects to the hospital many times--my husband has had numerous trips/surgeries--and I think having my hands busy is a calming effect. I know that in the quilt guild there have been many members who have gone through some very troublesome times. Just being close to them and being able to help them out, has been very good.

JR: I find that quilters are very generous with their time and they can give comfort. That is good.

SS: Yes, that's great.

JR: All right. I'd like to thank you, Shyrlee, for allowing me to interview you today as part of the 2001 Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 2:05 p.m., May 19, 2001.


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