Hazel Packer




Hazel Packer




Hazel Packer


Edie Jones

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Del Thomas


Fort Worth, Texas


Shira Walny


Edith Jones (EJ): This is 76121-047, Hazel Packer. We are working at the [Quilters’ S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project, the Trinity Valley Quilt Guild quilt show. I will be doing the tape and scribing today. This is Edith Jones. Well, Hazel, I’m so glad to see you and talk about your quilt today and you’ve already told me that it’s Zach’s Quilt and I want you to tell me how you made it and how you got started and everything.

Hazel Packer (HP): Well, Zach is a great-grandson, and he was 13, he’s looking at 14 this year but he was 13 when I made this. He was still using and taking to bed at night the quilt I’d made for him when he was a baby and I decided that it was high time that it was replaced. Zach is car crazy. He lives in Rhome which is close to the racetrack so I knew it had to be cars. It took me a while to settle on just what I wanted to do until I saw some of his sketches that he made of cars, and I said, ‘Zach, could you make more of those?’ ‘Oh yes, I’d be glad to do that.’ So, the blocks in this quilt are Redwork and they are made from Zach’s sketches which I, by computer, got to be the right size for the blocks and on the glass top of my kitchen table with a light underneath it, I copied them onto the Muslim squares. The centerpiece is his monogram which he made in block letters. I did that in four colors, so I’d have a little color in the quilt and used signal flags because he’s so enamored of the racetrack and signal flags with the colors. I was able to use his design of the exhaust which seems to be a universal design for car kids in a couple of places in the quilt. When I got these patches, all done, Zach put them together the way he wanted them to be in the quilt and then I did the sashing. And a fabric with cars on it for a border and also used the signal flag fabric in black and white check as the first border and even on the back is a bunch of cars. I put a sleeve on it thinking Zach would like to hang this on the wall but that wasn’t the way of it, it went right on Zach’s bed and in order to show it to you today, I had to take it right off his bed.

EJ: So, Zach helped you in laying out which way he wanted the blocks to go?

HP: Right. This was, he considers this his quilt. The fact that I made it, that’s besides the point.

EJ: Tell me, when exactly did you make this, what year did you make it now?

HP: Last year.

EJ: Last year? So that would have been in 2001.

HP: He is 13 going on 14.

EJ: I know you’ve made many quilts in your life, why did you pick Zach’s quilt for today to share?

HP: Because I thought it was unique and when I’m making quilts. I never save them. I always give them away. I try to key them for people I made them for and I was able to do this quite well with Zach, you can’t always do that so I thought that made it unusual and it isn’t a pattern that anyone else would be interested in but if you can individualize the quilts that you make, I think they’re more meaningful to the people you make them for. The biggest quilt I made, the most time I spent on it was the Boston Common I made for a granddaughter who lives in, comes from the Boston area and she has it. It’s king sized, it took me two years to hand quilt the thing but it’s a beautiful quilt and that was for Holly.

EJ: Well, you have a long history in quilting; tell me about when you began to quilt.

HP: Not until I retired from teaching--I’m a retired teacher. When my husband and I left Kansas City, where I had lived, and moved to Bella Vista, Arkansas, at the First Christian Church in Bentonville, a group of ladies decided that we use the old frames that we found in the basement and set up a quilting group, so we did. And first we all took a little course in how to go about this business, some of them were good quilters, they took the course for a refresher and that’s when I really started, that would be in the middle ‘70s or something. We quilted for whoever wanted to bring us a top, first within the church and then we got pretty well known in the area, we didn’t charge very much, but anything we made, we gave to the church. And oh, in a couple of years we gave them something like $1500 so we felt we were doing a good job and it was a nice group to work with.

EJ: So, it was a quilting bee?

HP: Well, in a sense.

EJ: In a sense. Has anybody in your family quilted before?

HP: My mother’s mother quilted. My mother didn’t quilt. Mother did beautiful fancy work, she did hand-drawn work and made lace and stuff like that, but when I told my husband I was going to do quilting he was so surprised, he said, ‘Well, I never thought you would do that!’ His mother was a quilter, but she was farm raised and then they made quilts because they needed them for covers and quilting now is so different, of course this kid sleeps under this quilt, but many of these quilts that are made today are art pieces and I don’t compete with that but I love seeing them and I enjoy going to the guild, but quilting has changed a lot.

EJ: You’ve seen a lot of changes haven’t you?

HP: Yes.

EJ: Well, are you in a process of making another quilt right now?

HP: Yes, I’m making one for my daughter who lives in the Boston area. She lives in Winchester, Massachusetts. I want to remind her of the many summers we spent in Minnesota at the lake, and I hope to incorporate some loons in it and some cattails. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I’m working on it.

EJ: So, it sounds like you make quilts for almost everybody in your family.

HP: Just about. And I’ve got quite a few.

EJ: What do you think makes a great quilt?

HP: I don’t really, that’s difficult to answer. I see so many beautiful quilts here at the shows every year and my work is so pedestrian compared to them. I’m glad my family doesn’t come to the quilt shows because they think what I do is pretty [laughs.] they don’t know any better. So, I really couldn’t answer that, it depends on what you’re doing it for.

EJ: You mentioned, when we were visiting that you had done some historical restorations. Would you tell me about that?

HP: Restorations, in connection with old quilts, some that my husband’s mother had made, and she gave to us. They were badly frayed and some of the pieces had come apart, you know, dyes were quite different then than they are now. I learned through the museum in Rogers, Arkansas a technique for using net to cover a small tear by cutting the net, sizing the piece, it’s practically invisible where you don’t replace the piece entirely, you can cover it with net, and it works beautifully. I learned something also about the age of quilt, telling the age of quilts by the fabrics used in them. It’s really a subject in itself and I just dipped into it, I’ve not really investigated thoroughly. There’s a course taught at the DAR [Daughters of the American Revolution.] museum. I have had a number of shows using their slides. DAR quilt collection is really very unusual and--

EJ: Where is the DAR quilt collection?

HP: It’s housed in the museum in Washington D.C., but it is on loan often. I think the last it was on loan in Japan very recently. And these are quilts that members have donated to DAR and in giving these slide shows, if someone had a quilt, they would like considered with them. I could give them the information. They could contact the museum and send in their quilts. When you do one of those shows, you learn a great deal about the construction and history of quilts because that’s what the slide show is geared to. I guess I’ve had a little experience with that.

EJ: So, you’re pretty well self-taught about the history and how to date quilts?

HP: Well, it’s all there; you just have to pick it up. And as a schoolteacher, you do that. [laughs.]

EJ: [laughs.] How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future or do you think, how do you think we should preserve quilts for the future? In other words, you have a beautiful quilt here of Zach’s.

HP: Well, for this, I’m happy to have him use it. I don’t think that anything I make is worthy of preservation like the DAR collections are. There’s a collection in Little Rock, Arkansas, of quilts from throughout the countryside. There are a number of places where they are collected and preserved. I like to see quilts used. One of your questions is, do you sleep under a quilt, well, yes, I do. I have a double wedding ring that was made in Arkansas that I like very much, and I sleep under it every night. A quilt is a wonderful thing to use and preservation, yes, old ones should be preserved, and they are, but I also like to see them in use.

EJ: What’s your favorite part of making a quilt?

HP: I think designing it, planning it.

EJ: What’s your least favorite part? [laughs.]

HP: Binding. [laughs.]

EJ: How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting?

HP: I’ve had to come to machine quilting because of my hands, I did keep them agile by quilting but I can’t get as much done as I once did and I found that if you work with a machine quilter and try to get her to simulate hand quilting, it can be handled very nicely for instance, in this. I had this machine quilted because I wanted it to last, I wanted it to hold together but, on the sashing, I had her use the same color as the sashing itself so that it doesn’t jump at you and I think when you look at this quilt, it almost looks hand quilted. And it can be handled. I don’t like it when it looks a mattress cover. [laughs.] First of all, I knew it came out like that and the first new quilt I did, and they said, I’ll do it over and I said, no, that’s a lesson to me to be more definitive in what I want and not say, you do it.

EJ: Have the quilts that you have made always been related to a specific interest of the person, for example, you mentioned Zach and his cars or you granddaughter and the Boston Commons, or have you made quilts that--

HP: Well, I have made, Jacque Hansel’s Earth Angels and I’ve done two of those and one of them I gave to a granddaughter who has three girls, and they love it. I wouldn’t have given that quilt to someone with boys. So, and you can dress them up as Amish angels, they don’t have any faces. [laughs.] Do you remember a program we had on Sunbonnet Sues only they weren’t? They were flowered dolls; do you remember that program?

EJ: No, I’m sorry I don’t.

HP: It’s been about five years ago, and I made a wall hanging for a little great-granddaughter which she has on the wall in her bedroom and practically designed it for her, let her help me pick the fabrics for the dolls and the flower heads. Where the children are concerned, if I make something for them and they’re around, I try to involve them in the choice of fabric and the choice of design.

EJ: It sounds that part of the quilting that you do you like to involve the person that’s going to receive the quilt.

HP: Well, isn’t that the schoolteacher? Get the kid in the back row into the act, I still do that.

EJ: Do any of your grandchildren or children quilt?

HP: No. My daughter took a stab at it, but she’s much too busy. In time, they will if they have the time, I didn’t have time until I retired. I would like to say this, that for a retired person who has had a busy life, quilting offers an opportunity for almost a new career of making friends and being in the mainstream again and not tucked off in the corner someplace. The people you deal with are all ages, quilters aren’t just old ladies anymore, they’re young women and they’re interesting people and moving from Kansas City to Arkansas and then because of my husband’s health, coming to Texas, I found my Bee here and with my association with the guild friends are very valuable to me. Your family is there at emergencies, your friends are there every day and quilting gives you friends.

EJ: Quilting gives you friends.

HP: That’s my pitch.

EJ: That’s your pitch. Are there any other last messages you’d like to leave for anybody?

HP: No, I don’t think. I’m very fortunate to be associated with the Gypsy Bee, they’re from everyplace, a lot of them are military and they’ve been all over the world and they’re fun to be with.

EJ: And so, you’ve been a member of this Gypsy Bee ever since you’ve been here?

HP: Yes. When we moved, we came to live in Oakhurst and one of my neighbors who was a member of the Bee called on me and found that I was a quilter and invited me to the Bee and to the guild and that was in ’95 when we came, and I have enjoyed their friendship a great deal.

EJ: So, no matter where you are you’ll always find quilters.

HP: That’s right. And my DAR chapters so I have two places.

EJ: Do you still do more of those quilt programs here for your DAR chapter?

HP: No. I haven’t given any programs since I came here.

EJ: But you might think about it?

HP: At 94? I think I may hang up that shield.

EJ: Well, I’m glad you haven’t hung up the shield for quilting. And we thank you Hazel for being with us today and sharing your story for the [Quilters’ S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories program.

HP: Well, I thought it worth making a pitch that quilting is important to retired people.

EJ: I think so, thank you very much.


“Hazel Packer,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1980.