Elizabeth Garber




Elizabeth Garber




Elizabeth Garber


Judy Roybal

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Sandra Anne Frazier


Fort Worth, TX


Joanne Gasperik


Judy Roybal (JR): [tape begin midsentence.] …18th, 2002. We are interviewing Elizabeth Garber for our [Quilters' S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project, Fort Worth, Texas, the Trinity Guild. [sighs.] Well, and Elizabeth Garber is our guest today. And she likes to be called Beth, so that's what we're going to for now on be asking her questions and call her Beth. First of all you have brought a couple of quilts today.

Elizabeth Garber (EG): Yes.

JR: Do you want to tell us about your quilts, or one of them? I know you brought two.

EG: Well, they're kind of connected, because my grandmother quilted and in the early eighties she went blind.

JR: Oh.

EG: And I got a bag of her scraps and my first quilt that I made out of the scraps I later realized that the quilt she made me for my wedding in 1979, this material was the same. [JR: Oh.] So the quilt, the last quilt that she made before she went blind has scraps – same fabrics in it. That's the first quilt that I ever made. So [JR: Oh.] I thought it was [inaudible as both are talking at the same time.].

JR: Bring that out; let us take a look at it.

EG: Sure.

JR: Yeah, we'd love to see it. So she made this what year?

EG: I got it for my wedding in 1979.

JR: '79, okay. What size are they?

EG: The one she made is a big bed quilt. [JR: Okay.] The one I made, I just dove into quilting feet first and didn't have anybody to show me or tell me anything and mine is a hexagon shaped, because I didn't know any better at the time. [both laugh.]

JR: That's okay. [short pause.] Oh isn't that nice.

EG: Hers is just--

JR: So this is the one that grandmother made.

EG: Yes.

JR: Okay.

EG: And what she did was she asked me, she asked me what colors I wanted and I said that at the time I liked blues and yellows. And she asked me what pattern and I said: 'I like leaves.' And she actually had me draw the leaf. [JR: Okay.] And she used that for the pattern for the leaves. [JR: Okay.] So, this is the one she made [background talking.]

JR: And what are these called?

EG: And it's got a prairie point border.

JR: That's a lot of prairie points.

EG: And it is hand quilted. And then the one that I made is Grandmother's Flower Garden [JR: Oh.]. And I did not know the name of the pattern when I chose this [JR: Oh, okay.]. Later when I found out about quilting, I was really pleased because it is a lot of the same fabrics that are in my quilt.

JR: Oh, that's wonderful. Those are nice big hexagons. Did you use a template like a--for English paper piecing or what did you do?

JR: I drew a piece around a piece of cardboard and went and drew around my fabric and cut it out and sewed them together and at the time I didn't know how to finish and edge, so I quilted it first and then I went back later and turned my edges under to match a quarter of an inch, because I didn't know what binding was [chuckles.]

JR: It looks great.

EG: And I used a sheet, so I quilted through a sheet for my first quilt ever. [chuckling.] I'm really surprised I'm still doing it because I just tore my hair out with it. [laughs.]

JR: Pretty difficult. Those are both really nice. Do you use them display or are they on the bed or--

EG: Yes, my grandmother's I keep on the bed in my spare room and this one I keep folded in a rack in the living room.

JR: Ok. So this really--now your grandmother has passed away now, so--

EG: Yes she is.

JR: - So this has a really lot of special meaning--

EG: Yes, because she quilted and she used, a lot of times she used fabric that she had made us clothing. In fact I believe one of the fabrics in here is the fabric that she made my pep club shirt out of in high school [JR: Oh.] is in here. And just that it was the last quilt that she made and, you know before she went blind.

JR: Great story. Well tell me about your interest in quilting. So what year did you start quilting?

EG: I got her bag of scraps in 1986, in March, because I had a three week-old baby and [laughs.] I leapt into quilting with a 3 week-old baby sitting there, and been doing it ever since.

JR: It's great, great. So have you taken lessons since then? Or--

EG: I've taken a couple of classes. I've taken several, especially appliqué, because I'm really, I'm an appliquér. I rarely piece anything any more. I do lots of appliqué.

JR: So you do like the needle turn appliqué?

EG: Yes.

JR: So do you have like a particular kind of needle that you like?

EG: I use a small quilting needle, just because I did originally teach myself appliqué and that was the needle I got comfortable with and I've tried the larger ones, you know the straw needles--yeah, that they teach you with in class. I've tried them and I just--I prefer something a little bit smaller, so--

JR: Do you have a type of thread that you like to appliqué with?

EG: No I just like to match the color to my piece. [inaudible.]

JR: How many hours a week would you say that you quilt?

EG: Oh, [sigh.] I probably do at least a couple of hours a day. Sometimes more sometimes less, but--

JR: Do you have a room or a particular place that you get to--

EG: Yeah. I have a sewing room. [laughs.]

JR: That you can kind of close the door and--

EG: Yeah. Everything's growing out of it but, yeah, [chuckles.] I have a room.

JR: What is your first quilt memory?

EH: [sighs.] I think it would have to be a quilt that I slept with as far as I can remember that after I wore it to a rag I found out that my mother [Mary Wilson.] had made it [JR: Awe.] and this of course was before I had an interest in quilting or anything like that. But I remember sleeping with it all through, as a kid and after I got married and it was raggy. And I cut the edges off and I used it for a curtain for a while and it gradually just disintegrated. And now you know I could shoot myself but you know when I did it I had no idea what I was doing. But that's my first real remembrance of having a quilt or anything.

JR: Are there other quilters in your family besides your grandmother?

EG: There are now, yes. My mom started quilting in 1985 and I have a younger sister [Ginny Grigery.] that started quilting a couple of years after I did, and her daughter Meghan who is 10, is a big quilter. She has made several quilts and then my 3 daughters [Carrie Chase, Stacey Chase and Kayleigh Garber.] also took a quilt class and each made one quilt and one of my daughters [Carrie.] has made several other things.

JR: And how old is she?

EG: She's 16 now. [JR: Okay.] And she took the class when she was about 12.

JR: So it's something that you can enjoy with your mother and sisters and daughter and that's great. So really--

EG: They all live up in [Old Monroe.] Missouri, except for my daughter of course, but boy, when I go up there we do the quilt shopping and we always have a project that we do together.

JR: You usually do like one quilt together or--

EG: No, we usually pick a smaller, a wall hanging or something that we can do in a couple of days, and then we each make our own in our own colors. Because we're real different as far as colors go. So--

JR: Do you usually give away your quilts or have most of them stayed in your family?

EG: I haven't given away anything big. I've given away smaller things. Really my goal is to have a quilt, bed quilt for each of my kids when they get married [laughs.] I have two tops done towards that. I make lots of baby quilts for the JPS [John Peter Smith Hospital which has a program for under privileged mothers. If they keep all their prenatal doctor appointments and remain drug and alcohol free, they receive a quilt when the baby is born. Trinity Valley Quilt Guild supports the JPS program and EG donates 15-20 baby quilts a year to this project. ] and give those away.

JR: Have you ever used quilting to get you through a difficult time in your life?

EG: Oh, yes. Yes. When my husband, my first husband left about 8 years ago I quilted a lot. [laughs.]

JR: I can see that.

EG: And, some of those pieces are not finished and I may never go back, I don't feel the need to go back and finish them, but they got me through, you know what I was going through then.

JR: You hear women say that it's cheaper than quilting is cheaper than therapy or-- [laughs.]

EG: In fact the t-shirt I have on today says quilting is better than therapy, so-- [laughs.]

JR: See. See. There you go. That's great. What do you find most pleasing with quilting?

EG: [sighs.] The color and just the feel of the fabric. And color is really important I think so. And I just, I'm one of those that takes the fabric home and pets it for a while, you know.

JR: You heard that a lot.

EG: Yeah.

JR: What aspects of quilting do you not enjoy?

EG: I don't do any machine quilting. I do piece a little on the machine, but the machine is not my friend and so I don't enjoy any, I don't enjoy having to do something on the machine. Now I do put my blocks together that I appliqué on the machine. I love doing by hand.

JR: Do you have any special equipment you use, special lights or special magnifiers or anything?

EG: I bought an OTT lamp recently, because when I turned forty, I started going blind myself [laughs.], but other than that now I just use needle and thread. No I don't even use a thimble or anything. Needle, thread and scissors, and I can sit down and sew.

JR: Great. What do you think makes a great quilt?

EG: I get my first impact when I look at it. If it's striking, that's my first impact, you know. I like to see pretty quilting especially hand quilting, but I don't know, a great quilt is something different to everybody.

JR: What makes a quilt artistically powerful? I think you probably just kind of answered that in a way; it's probably the color--

EG: For me it's the color. I'm drawn to orange and yellow and red. So anything that's got a lot of orange in it just wows me over. Just how it looks, you know, pattern doesn't really matter so much as just the visual.

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

EG: I don't think I've ever thought about that.

JR: Do you know of any quilts in particular that are hung in a museum that [5 second pause.]

EG: I enjoyed that traveling exhibit, the [Twentieth.] Century's 100 Best [Quilts.] was at Houston a couple of years ago. I don't know if those were in museums or not. But they had a little bit of everything and you know, some real different looking things, stuff that you just don't see on every street corner.

JR: What makes a great quilter?

EG: Anybody who's friendly and willing to share and, I don't know, I haven't met any people that aren't great quilters. [chuckles.]

JR: I know. We are nice people. How do great quilters learn the art of quilting especially how to design a pattern or choose fabrics and colors?

EG: I think some of it you're just born with. And the great thing about the quilting world is, is that so many people will share what they know. [loudspeaker announcement. tape is shut off for about 50 seconds.]

JR: Okay. So you told me already, I was going to ask you about machine or hand quilting, but you like the hand quilting.

EG: I like hand work. That's why I finish so few.

JR: What about the long arm quilting? Have you had anything, any experience with that?

EG: I haven't done any myself. I did for the first time last year send out a couple of tops and had them quilted, just because they were things that I had--well actually one of them was a top that I did when my husband left. I was something that I knew I would not treasure because it reminds me of that time. I did send it out and have it machine quilted, and that was the first time I had done any of that. But I haven't done any of it myself.

JR: Why is quilting important to your life?

EG: It just I don't know I guess it's just my creative urge. I started out when I was little doing crocheting and knitting and have done cross-stitch when that was popular and when I found quilting everything else just went out the window.

JR: I agree. What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

EG: I think it just gives you something to snuggle up to and for the person that makes it, it gives them a way to create and you can use it to give to somebody who's maybe less fortunate. It draws women together and that's something that we need. I still think women are discriminated against pretty much in business, but you know when it comes to quilting it gives women a chance to draw together.

JR: I was going to ask you about this. In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history and experience in America and it's what you're saying--

EG: Yeah, it's something that, I mean it's mainly women, there are great men quilters, but it's mainly women and it's finally an area where people look and say 'Women can accomplish something.' I mean we're out there supporting a billion dollar industry, so-- [laughs.]

JR: Great. How do you think quilts can be used?

EG: Almost any way. You can give one to somebody that shows you care-- [tape recorder off briefly.]

JR: Okay. How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

EG: [sighs.] Well, I think a lot of women that are quilting now-a-days are worried about preserving them. In my own house we just use them gently. We don't, my kids don't really don't have any, that they have, that they carry around like I did when I was a kid and ruining my mother's. I did make some string quilts and tie them and those they take camping and in the car and all that. Stuff that didn't take a lot of time. The nicer ones, we use them once in a while, but we are careful about putting them up and keep them on the bed in the room with no light [loudspeakers and background din is louder.]

JR: Do you put labels, do you sew labels on the back of the ones that you've made?

EG: [sighs.] I have on some things. It's, to me it's not so important if two hundred years from now somebody knows who did it. You know. I'm not going to be here to care and [giggles.] I know this is a terrible thing to say on a Save Our History thing, but once I get it out of my system and it's done, I don't feel the need to label it, or even show it. I don't feel the need to show it. It's just, once it's done it's [inaudible.]

JR: Well, I'd like to thank you, Beth for participating today, for allowing me to interview you as part of the 2001 [Quilters' S.O.S.- ] Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded today, 3:02, May the 18, 2002. Thanks Beth.


“Elizabeth Garber,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1991.