Mary Hasenbeck




Mary Hasenbeck




Mary Hasenbeck


Jane Kucko

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Fort Worth, Texas


Shira Walny


Jane Kucko (JK): This is Jane Kucko. It is Friday, March 15th. It's 1:30 in the afternoon, and I am conducting an interview with Mary Hasenbeck for the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project here in Fort Worth, Texas and I would just like to welcome you here, Mary, we really appreciate you being interviewed and being a part of our project.

Mary Hasenbeck (MH): Thank you.

JK: I see you've brought a couple of quilts with you today one that is relatively large, would you like to start by talking about that one? Tell me about this quilt.

MH: Okay, [inaudible.] I took a class at the Berry Patch Shop back in 1991. The reason I remember it was '91 is because that was Desert Storm. My son served in Desert Storm, and it still gives me chills, most of us called it a peace quilt because when Desert Storm started, we had no idea it would be over so fast. So, it was a real special time I made really special friends, some of them I still keep in touch with.

JK: Now, was this your first quilt or--that you ever made?

MH: Okay, this is my first quilt with a capital Q. I have pieced quilts but this one I took a class to learn really how to do it, instead of faking my way through it.

JK: Yes, absolutely. Well, obviously this quilt has special meaning to you, was the fact that your son was away in Desert Storm is what kind of prompted you to take the class or had you planned on that?

MH: No because we were already into the class before this happened, this just was something a sort of catalyst that makes me remember, a way to date it.

JK: Sure. Tell me about the color selection and did you choose the colors?

MH: Yes. I chose the colors in the first class. It was color selection, and I don't do decisions well, color is one of my hardest things to do. I was the last one to leave that day after 3:00 but the quilt is something that I have never tired of. Once I found what I wanted, it just went together. And what's really amazing about it is there was another woman--we all made the same pattern. There were options in each block, because it is a sampler, there were options in each block that you could change and do it however you wanted, your connector blocks could be sort of varied. No two quilts in this whole thing looked alike even though two of us used the same fabric except for I used the white another one used the yellow. And they were just completely starkly different, it was so really amazing.

JK: Now this is a sampler quilt, you said, is that correct?

MH: Yes.

JK: And you have really pretty pinks and greens and yellows, are these your favorite colors?

MH: Yes. These are colors that make me feel good.

JK: I'm going to spread it out. What attracted you about this particular pattern? Was it the fact that it's a sampler?

MH: Well, I lack discipline in addition to making decisions. This was the thing that we had homework every month that we had to bring back like, the third class I think it was the 17 set blocks had to be finished. And then from then on, we did one to two blocks a month and this group stayed together beyond the year, until April of the following year. We all stayed together and helped get each other's quilts basted together, so it was really neat. The border, this is really neat too, I don't know how many of y'all watching the Home Show. They were in Vegas for a bathroom convention; the tile on the floor, the border of it was this border. I had tape on my video [laughs.] and sat down and drew it all in it exactly to scale it for this quilt.

JK: Isn't that wonderful?

MH: I thought that was so amazing, that was pretty interesting.

JK: Are you often inspired in that manner? You'll see an architecture detail or television show?

MH: Yes, I just think that's fun to do things like that and make use, use usually things in unusual ways. What else is a tile floor? It's just quilt work in a solid material. [laughs.]

JK: Exactly, pattern in all of that exists, doesn't it? What plans do you have for this quilt or how have you used it?

MH: This quilt stays on our bed. In fact, my husband doesn't know it's missing this morning. [laughs.] When he went into shower, I popped it off the bed and put the top quilt back on in place, so he doesn't know its missing.

JK: Well, it sounds like he's as attached to is as you are.

MH: He really is. He just doesn't like to sleep under blankets or anything. It's got to be a quilt or nothing. He just thinks quilts are it.

JK: Now you mentioned this quilt was made while your son was away of course during Desert Storm, has he seen this quilt, does he have any particular--does it mean the same to him, do you think, that it does to you?

MH: Yes. He sculpts and he does watercolor, oil paints and this kind of thing. And I made a quilt for a friend of his. When he had a real bad car wreck in '95 he had two friends that took care of him when we had to leave to come back home, he still wasn't on his feet. He was in a wheelchair. We'd been out there three weeks and he was tired of us. These guys took care of him there. So, when one of the boys had a child last year, I made a quilt and took it to them. It was just a real simple, you know, the Jody Barrows, square in a square thing, you know, just real easy. And when she thanked me, she was sick and she called back after her husband took it home to her and she called back crying, she said, 'You don't know how much I treasure this.' She said, 'This is an heirloom that will stay with this child's family forever.' And I said, 'Oh, it was nothing.' When I got off the phone, my son says, 'Mother, don't you ever say it was nothing. That's a work of art. You created that. Don't you ever tell anybody that your quilts are nothing.' So, I thought that was really neat that they both appreciated it. And I have a son and a daughter and both of them really think it's pretty neat that I've taken this up now that I'm old. [laughs.]

JK: Have you made them quilts?

MH: Yeah, I made them quilts for ever and ever and ever. I've got a denim quilt that I made him. He doesn't have it yet. It was in a show two years ago, but it is a denim log cabin, full bed size denim front and back so it weighs about 40 pounds. [laughs.] But it is his jeans when he worked on his car. There's still oil stains on those jeans, there's still paint stains when he helped his dad paint the garage. It's just sort of a really neat thing. And I purposely did not wash those stains out. I left that in because I felt that it was part of the quilt.

JK: Part of the story.

MH: Uh-huh. I really did.

JK: Now you brought another quilt with you today too, what is this one?

MH: This is something else that quilting has meant to me, can you believe this was a gift?

JK: Beautiful. Now this is a miniature quilt?

MH: It's a miniature Baltimore Album and Keri Hanney, who was quilt show chair several years ago, made this for me. I still cannot believe that anybody would put this many hours into a quilt and give it away. It just--this touches my heart. When she started it, I was teasing her. I said, 'Hey, this goes in my living room.' Well, when we had been at my house, she took one look at my living room she said, 'It really does fit.' And that's all that was ever said. And then when she finished it, she handed it to me and said, 'Put this in the show.' So, this is what I put on the back of it.

JK: It's a beautiful heart label.

MH: My heart's in it.

JK: Yes. From the heart.

MH: It was really neat that in my will, this goes to her daughter. That it will be passed down. I just feel like there's too much work in it. My kids would love it, but I really think that it needs to stay in her family.

JK: Belongs to the family.

MH: And I'll let y'all look at it if you want to later.

JK: That's beautiful. The colors are just so spectacular, and she didn't know your décor or anything?

MH: She didn't know at the time.

JK: Beautiful burgundies and greens on white, it's very beautiful.

MH: Thank you.

JK: We appreciate you bringing both of these in so that we could see them today. Tell me about your interest in quilting. When did you start to become interested and then when did you learn to quilt?

MH: I don't remember ever not loving quilts. And my kids are this way, if I feel bad, I want a quilt to cover up with I don't want a blanket or anything else because I just feel better in a quilt. My grandmother quilted, from what I understand. My grandmother that I never knew quilted. My great-grandmother quilted, my aunts sewed, my mother quilted, it was just something that people in our family did, you know. I have some quilts that are really interesting from my husband's family. I thought these must be really lazy people because they are solid calico on one side and solid colored fabric on the other. Well, I thought, well these people were really lazy, they didn't piece. I didn't find out until later that there was a time when fabric became so readily available inexpensively that whole cloth quilts even colored whole cloth quilts were considered Sunday quilts that you put on the bed in the one room log cabin because this showed people you could afford to put a quilt together that was not pieced. [laughs.]

JK: Interesting.

MH: And so, I thought that was really neat. Alice Alan Cob taught a class that was telling me about that when I took that quilt in to show her. I thought that was neat. But it was made back in the early 1900s.

JK: When did you start quilting?

MH: Oh man, I guess the first quilt I ever made was scraps. My mother has stuff that I embroidered that I don't even remember doing when I was tiny, tiny. And I've sewed since, I don't remember when. But I saved the fabric from my kids' clothes, and I really went all out, I cut out one-foot squares and did them diagonally and made a quilt that's still my son-in-laws favorite quilt when he's sick. I have had to take it completely apart, seam by seam and remake that thing because it's his favorite. Done in poly-cottons which wasn't fun, but-- [laughs.]

JK: No, absolutely not.

MH: Like I said, that's why I took this class, to learn how because I had been faking it.

JK: Do you have a particular first quilt memory? Something that really stands in your mind?

MH: The quilts that my mother made, she always sashed them with flannel and her favorite pattern was a nine patch and one of my treasures in that, like the lady said this morning I didn't take as good care of it as I should have, but it's done in a pink flannel with a lamb on it. Mary had a little lamb you know. [laughs.] So, I always thought that was really neat that mother made me that quilt. I thought that was funny.

JK: What do you find most pleasing about your quilt making?

MH: I don't know, like I said I can't explain it, quilting just touches a place in me that nothing else does. I have made clothes for my kids, I have made blue jeans, I have made suits for men, I have made--I did my daughter's entire wedding, I did her dress, her veil, you know, all the attendants' dresses, my dress, the whole nine yards. Until I hit quilting, I never have reached something that touched something emotional as well as creative, you know, and it is--when I retired, I tried all these different crafts, I've tried smocking, etc. When I hit quilting, I thought, this is it. It's a lock.

JK: Now what kind of quilting do you usually do, or can you categorize it like that?

MH: I really, I enjoy hand quilting. I think I enjoy the piecing more. I enjoy hand quilting but I'm so anxious to get onto the next thing that I'm not going to live long enough to hand quilt everything that I hope to get made. I find that I love to piece because I like to see the different patterns. This one was done, the big one was done with a border print and as you can tell, it falls together and I'm sort of obsessive compulsive about these things. I took one of these things apart about six times to get it to come together to where its center looks like it's got little cherries in it. But see, this is part of the border print that I pulled in and got carnations in a four pair. And then this one has the little daffodils that came together from this border print. This was something else this class was a bonus. I didn't realize was learning to play with border prints. They're so much fun and they're so much--it's like taking a kaleidoscope to your eye. I don't care how many times you turn it; you're going to come up with something different. And it just, like I said, it just touches something in me that I can't explain. Here's one of the ones that I fussy cut. Did the points into the center. Got all those little blue roses in there.

JK: Now do you usually piece by machine? You talked about the importance of--

MH: This is entirely pieced by machine.

JK: This is all machine.

MH: Uh-huh.

JK: And do you do your hand quilting, or do you do--?

MH: This is entirely hand quilted. This one had to be in my mind, had to be pieced by me and quilted by me. I'm not that sentimental anymore, [laughs.] like I said, it depends on who it is for and what I'm doing is to whether it has to be all mine or not. And the borders would have been a lot--I mean, the binding would be a lot more narrow now, I've learned how to do it right. But like I said this was my--

JK: Absolutely, it's a beautiful first quilt, with a capital Q, I didn't miss that. It's wonderful. Is there certain aspects of quilting that you don't enjoy?

MH: Not really, unless it's washing them. [laughs.]

JK: Just the laundry of it [laughs.]

MH: I'm always afraid when I get ready to wash it, you know, I can just see things, coming apart but no, I really enjoy all of it. I guess the thing that I don't enjoy, and I should try to develop this, is the colors. Colors just blow me away unless I've got something to go by as to where I'm going to start. For somebody to say, 'I want a quilt.' Just, okay, tell me what color, give me an idea of what you want on it, but just to say, 'I want a quilt,' boggles me.

JK: You like some kind of guidance or some kind of direction?

MH: Yeah, I really do. And that's how I started with this one. I went to that border print and then came back through so this is probably one of those quilts that Mary Ellen Hopkins would say is too matchy-matchy. [laughs.] But I like it.

JK: Well, it's a beautiful quilt. For sure. Do you want to talk to us a little bit about magazines you subscribe to, how obsessed are you in terms of buying fabric, you know, anything like that you care to divulge? [laughs.]

MH: [laughs.] Okay, everybody, right hand up, swear you to secrecy [laughs.]. Okay. I have a walk-in closet in my sewing room that is full. Not only with my stash, but now this is the part you can't tell anybody, I don't know how many of y'all remember Peggy Sands? She died about three years ago. She was a member of our guild. Her stash and all her sewing room were delivered in the back end of a pickup to my house. I sorted through it and kept only the good fabrics, but she's got three grandchildren that she was teaching to quilt. I was so afraid that stuff would be discarded and as y'all know, that fabric just comes through those stores, and it's gone, and you can't get it anymore. This is their legacy from their grandmother. To me they had a right when they're a little older to decide if they want or don't want this fabric. I have five boxes this size of computer paper that are hers. But yeah, you could say I have a small stash. [laughs.] And I subscribe to six quilting magazines. I am a member of our local quilting book club. I am a frequent flyer at half-priced books [laughs.] Oh, this is so cathartic, all this confession. I have six feet long bookcases that are six feet high that are filled with incompleted projects and books and magazines and ideas and then I have my project wall, covered up with ideas so I've got to make a new project wall.

JK: That's wonderful. Do you design your own quilts?

MH: Sometimes, not usually, usually I take a little bit of this and a little bit of that and--

JK: It sounds like you do some manipulation though.

MH: Yeah, I like to sort of skew it just a little bit, make it uniquely mine.

JK: Is there that one quilt or maybe ten quilts or a hundred quilts that one that you really want to make that you haven't done yet?

MH: Yes. I am in the middle of Moon Glow.

JK: Okay.

MH: Y'all know about Jenny Byers? I have twenty blocks made in Moon Glow. Lord, just let me live long enough to finish that. [laughs.]

JK: How many more is there to go?

MH: I don't know but I've done the easy ones.

JK: Good, yeah.

MH: The courthouse steps are the set blocks. And I did all those before the class ever started.

JK: Right.

MH: And I mean everything is cut, everything is in the little boxes. If y'all don't know, Moon Glow is Mariner's Compass; the hardest one has 28 points.

JK: Yeah. How do you mentally prepare for something like that? I mean, do you have certain things--

MH: I do. Now I have to be in the mood to sew and when I bought that Moon Glow fabric, can I tell you? [laughs.] I put it all on skirt hangers and hung it in my sewing room by color gradation. Nearest thing to a spiritual experience with fabric that I ever had; I want you to know. [laughs.] I called Glennis Bradley and she said, 'You know, our husbands don't have any worry of us straying if fabrics all that turns us on.' [laughs.]

JK: [laughs.] Great.

MH: You know I really, it just really--if I'm upset though, at the time I bought Moon Glow, my brother was going through some very severe emotional problems and had to be hospitalized. I could just escape to my sewing room and just mindlessly stitch, you know, the four patches for Peggy Mayfield for the Peter Smith baby quilts, you know just whatever, because that really relaxes me. I can just get in there and just go 90 miles an hour.

JK: It does seem that you do use quilting to get through different times in your life when it might be very stressful or emotional, that's a fair statement to say.

MH: It is. But sewing has always been a de-stressor for me, of any kind. Especially quilting because you can just, you know, cut out 400 million strips and you're just sitting there and just feed them through the sewing machine. The trick is remember to look to see if you ran out of bobbin. [laughs.]

JK: [laughs.] Yeah. What do you think makes a great quilter?

MH: I think a great quilter is somebody that loves what they do. You know, it doesn't have to be a gorgeous quilt in every bodies mind, as long as it's special to her. And I know my mother's quilts probably would not be pretty to anybody but family. But my mother put so many hours into that and I know how it relaxed her to work on those quilts. She didn't have a whole lot of room in that little house we lived in. Her quilt frame dropped down over her bed and at night they pulled it up on the pulleys to the ceiling. But you know what was really funny, I never remember learning how to sandwich a quilt and that was another reason I took the class. I had helped mother quilt; I had helped her do everything. Mother loved to quilt so Mary cooked supper, Mary took care of the baby because I have a little sister that's 13 years younger than I am. But I had never really watched the sandwich thing. I bought a sheet at Sears, a double wedding ring. Nobody ever told me you had to square the sucker off, and get it lined up with the one on the bottom, so I started in the middle quilting, I didn't know about it. By the time I got to the ends it was sort of, so I just sort of slipped it over a little bit. That is the funniest looking quilt now. Y'all may as seen it at quilt show last year because I used it to cover a table when people say they can't quilt, I drag them over and let them see this quilt. It is quilted with six strands of embroidered floss. Why embroidered floss? I do not know. Knots are on the top. I didn't even put them on the bottom, forget hiding them. [laughs.] But I learned that there was a whole lot I didn't know about quilting working on that sucker [laughs.] and that's when I decided to take the class.

JK: You teach quilting.

MH: That needed to be qualified. I have taught a quilting class that was the most interesting thing I have ever done. We attend a small church out in Rendon. I travel out of town. I live in Crowley, I travel to Rendon, and I've gone out of town. But we have about 73 on a good Sunday. But we had a new minister that had a baby and so I got together as many of the women that were willing to make a block. We did a very simple appliquéd bear block. It's going to be in this year's show, I borrowed it back from Lydia, and of course I had to bribe her with a new pillow that matches it but [laughs.] every one that was willing made a block. The ones that didn't want to appliqué did the bear paw, so they're set with bear paw blocks. You probably saw it in Quiltmaker's magazine. We've had one lady move away and two of them have died since we made this quilt. It's really a treasure. I had one lady in the class that says, 'I've never sewed before, can you teach me to thread my sewing machine?' I taught her how to thread her sewing machine. Two months after class was over, she had a completed quilt for her granddaughter. Blew me away. My first success with teaching, it was really neat. [laughs.] O, did I do a bad thing, that little girl came to visit, and she had the quilt with her, and it was laying on the pew at church and I picked it up to look at it, she burst into tears. Nobody, nobody touches her quilt. [laughs.] You know, and so we tried to explain to her that it was okay for me to look at it for just a minute. [laughs.]

JK: That your intentions were good.

MH: But it was really wonderful to see because her grandmother's eyes just lit up that that quilt means that much to that little girl. But I thought that was so neat, she'd never sewed, she'd never appliquéd, she'd never embroidered, and she did this whole quilt, and it was all bears. She didn't do the bears' paw; I think it's 15 bears of different calicos and things and it's really cool.

JK: Would you like to do more teaching?

MH: I have a real argument with teaching I would really love to but my husband really likes to have me home a lot so I hesitate to set aside a block of time that I will promise this quilt shop or that quilt shop that I will do it. But one on one I've taught a lot of people in fact, [laughs.] Or at Joann's one day, a little girl was in there, was going to a shower that night and they were going to do an autograph quilt. Was trying to find an employee free enough to help her figure out how much fabric she needed. She had no earthly idea. I spent an hour and a half in the shop that day. We drew off a pattern for her, but I thought that was really neat. What's really neat, is she works in my post office, and I talk to her every week. [laughs.] But it's really, you know, she's brought the quilt in for me to see. Quilting just takes you places you'd never dream because everybody loves quilts. And men are the most interested to talk about quilts.

JK: In what way?

MH: Well, if you just wind up somewhere and you're stitching. I take my stitching everywhere I go, to the doctor's office men will sit down next to you and say, 'What's this going to be?' And I tell them. They say, 'My grandmother quilted. I wish my wife quilted.' You know, it's that comfort thing that you're a safe person because you're stitching. [laughs.]

JK: What do you look for in a quilt or what do you most value about a quilt when you're looking at it?

MH: I tend to like the traditional patterns but a quilt to me becomes more special because the story behind it and the quilter that made it. Now I think that this is a gorgeous quilt, but if I didn't love the gal that made it so much, yeah, it would be still special but not that special, you know, it really would, and she's moved away now which makes it doubly special that I've got a piece of her with me now.

JK: So what place do you think, you've touched on this some, but what place do you believe quilt, quilts, quilt making have in telling American history?

MH: I think it's such a vital part because, now this is probably folklore on my part that I've sort of embellished but to me, this was a craft that these women that had very little beauty in their lives came up with and worked with. Not only did it satisfy the art in their lives, but it was a very real need. These people needed something to keep them warm and it wasn't a matter of, well we don't have two quilts for our bed, we'll just turn up the central heat, there was no question of doing that. And so I just really, the things I've seen are amazing that I've seen that people--I have a friend that her grandmother had a quilt that she had made out of old wool worsted and she thought it was the ugliest thing in the world, but can you imagine her husband, he sold suits to haberdashery shops and this was his sample set and she turned it into something to keep her family warm and so to me, it was a gorgeous quilt even though it was just plaids and serges and this kind of thing that probably wouldn't go together in art class but it was a neat quilt. And it kept her family warm.

JK: Is there a particular style of quilt that you like or one like Amish or Baltimore Ladies or any particular style?

MH: I love Baltimore Album. Someday, when I do mine, would you call it my coup-de-gras? [laughs.] I hope to make this gorgeous quilt, this Baltimore Album. But I tend to stick more with geometric patterns; it touches a place in me. Last year I worked with a little girl that won first place at her school in their history fair. She did it on quilting and she made a little show board, I supplied a bunch of blocks and things like that. I still keep in touch with her mother, but she thought that was pretty cool because she won first place. She went on to city to compete and won second. But the little girl that won, her report was on the history of women in America and she touched on quilting too that was pretty cool, pretty neat.

JK: What is your sense of the state of quilting in the United States? In other words, do you think that the interest is continuing to grow, or is there any concerns?

MH: I think its growing by leaps and bounds now I hope we can just keep fanning the flame because it's just, to me it can only go up, you know and I would love for us to be able to saturate everybody with the enthusiasm for quilting so there's no market for those Chinese quilts that are coming in.

JK: This has been delightful visiting with you. Are there anything--any questions that I haven't asked or anything that you'd like to elaborate upon?

MH: No, we're good to go.

JK: Well, you've been a delight listening to you and your quilt stories and how important it is to you has obviously been revealed and we appreciate you spending your time with us this afternoon, having this on tape. And I'd like to thank Mary Hasenbeck for allowing me the time to interview her today as a part of the 2002 Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project and our interview has concluded at 2:05 p.m. again, March 15th, 2002. Thank you, Mary.


“Mary Hasenbeck,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 21, 2024,