Nadj Pankey




Nadj Pankey




Nadj Pankey


Jane Kucko

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Sandra Anne Frazier


Fort Worth, TX


Shira Walny


Judy Koybal (JK): This is Judy Koybal. Today's date is May 19th, 2002 and I am conducting an interview with Nadj Pankey with the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project in Fort Worth, Texas and we are also doing this in conjunction with the Trinity Valley Quilt's Guild Quilt Show and I'd like to thank you for being with us and allowing us to interview you as part of this project.

Nadj Pankey (NP): Thank you.

JK: And I understand you have a quilt on exhibit for this show and could you tell us a little bit about it?

NP: Well, the quilt is called "Buckeye Beauty." Beauty which is a traditional pattern after I opened my store with a quilting machine, my daughter decided that I needed some quilts to sell so she decided to make this quilt for me to sell and it was her first quilt.

JK: Oh, that's wonderful.

NP: And of course, once she got through piecing, I couldn't sell it, being her first quilt. So I hand quilted it and we're keeping it and now she's trying to claim it back but she's not getting it. [laughs.]

JK: [laughs.] It's yours.

NP: That's right.

JK: Well, that's a wonderful story. How long have you been quilting?

NP: Probably since 1960s, in that era.

JK: What got you into quilting?

NP: Making baby quilts for gifts.

JK: And did you have ancestors that quilted as well?

NP: Oh yes, I grew up under a quilt in the bedroom hanging from the ceiling. [laughs.]

JK: Tell us a little bit--hanging from the ceiling? Tell us a little bit about your history then, how you remember quilting in your family. Who quilted?

NP: Well, I had--I was raised motherless, my father raised me and my aunts that helped take care of me during the daytime, well, my father was a farmer and they took care of me during the daytime and they always had quilts hanging from the ceiling and you'd be surprised how many times I've heard that story in my shop, you know, I grew up with a quilt hanging from the ceiling. But I did the same thing, they would put the quilt down in the daytime and they would work on it and they'd raise it back to the ceiling at night for people to sleep in the bed that was in that room and that's kind of how I got introduced to quilts, and of course, I slept on a quilt always.

JK: Do you remember helping them with the quilts in anyway?

NP: No, I just played underneath them. They were in our playhouse. The children would play under the quilts while the mothers would sit around and quilt. No, I didn't quilt. I didn't help them at all.

JK: Do you think that piqued your interest?

NP: Oh, I'm sure it did. I was always fascinated by the stitches and the patterns sewn together and all that.

JK: So what was your first quilt, you shared with us your daughter's first quilt.

NP: My first quilt, I'm sure it was a baby quilt. I don't even remember my first quilt. The first big quilt I have on my bed.

JK: Tell us about that one.

NP: Actually, it was not mine, I quilted it but I didn't make the top, I bought the top on somewhere when we were driving through Arkansas, this lady had quilt tops for sale and I stopped and bought the quilt top, decided I was going to quilt it, I didn't have time to make the pieces of the top, so that was my very first quilted quilt and the first pieced one I probably sold it, I don't even remember, a good long while ago and I have been making and selling quilts for a long while.

JK: Is that the nature of your business?

NP: Yes, I have a quilting service where I do machine quilting and also have the fabric, the fabric notions books and typical store stuff.

JK: Where is your store located?

NP: In Azle [Texas.]. We're Quilts by Eagle Mountain Products.

JK: Okay, how long have you had that?

NP: I started in business selling quilts in 1992 and I opened my quilt shop in 1996 and then I added fabric in 1997 with another machine so I have, now have two quilt machines and a quilt line in a quilt store.

JK: I see, so in your store you make and sell quilts that you also offer machine quilting to those who--

NP: Right.

JK: Now how do you decide what kind of quilt you're going to make to sell?

NP: I do custom quilts.

JK: Okay.

NP: Yeah, customers come in and order what they want. Generally they'll pick out a pattern and the fabric colors and then I just select the fabric and make the quilt but they request it. I have some that I make myself but it's just quilts that I particularly like to make and of course I do my own display models that hang in the store usually, so that generally dictates what I'm going to make.

JK: Do you find most that you make whether it's quilt commission or ones that you choose to make are traditional or contemporary?

NP: Well, they're really both. We do a lot of commission using other people's collectables, baby clothes, shirts from the husband, t-shirts from some sporting event, and if it's just a pieced top, it's generally a traditional. We don't do a lot of art quilt type things unless it's using their articles to make it then we design and make the quilt.

JK: So you will custom design then?

NP: Yes, I do.

JK: A client comes in and tells you a story or whatever, you--

NP: Right, we do.

JK: Now, have you ever made a quilt that was for someone else and you didn't want to give it away? [laughs.]

NP: Yes. [laughs.]

JK: Can you tell us a little bit?

NP: Well, I have a lady that does some piecing for me because I don't have time to piece all of them and one of my customers brought in her children's baby clothes and she also had pictures of the baby and she had put them on the print, sort of a transfer type thing. And the lady designed using the quilts, I mean, using the articles of clothing and the children were in those articles of clothing through the pictures made and it turned out to be so beautiful that I didn't want to give it away. [laughs.] But she'd already paid for it so I did learn.

JK: You felt obligated. [laughs.]

NP: Yes, I reserved rights to look at it.

JK: Is there a particular quilt that's your favorite or is that the one you just described?

NP: No, I don't have a favorite, there's just not an ugly quilt out there and I've quilted some that not really qualify as beautiful quilts but they're beautiful when the quilt is used.

JK: Is there a quilt out there that you have yet to make that you really know you want to make it?

NP: Oh, gosh, yes there's lots of those. Not any particular one, I really would like to do some art quilts and I just simply don't have time. I'm reserving it for when I retire if that comes [laughs.] if and when that ever gets here.

JK: How do you define art quilt?

NP: Probably free motion type piecing and colors and quilting, that sort of thing.

JK: Is most of your work in machine piece and art when you talk about machine quilting.

NP: Yes, well, primarily yes. I do some hand quilting and I have people who do hand quilting for me.

JK: So you do get that as a request sometimes from your customers?

NP: Yes.

JK: What do you get most out of quilting? Or what do you enjoy most?

NP: Creativity. I think. It means expressing my creativity for other people and it just, I don't give it to them but I could easily if I didn't need that money to pay bills.

JK: Would you describe yourself as being self-taught?

NP: Yes.

JK: So you talked about family always being around--

NP: No one taught me to make quilts that's kind of skipped over me because I was not personally involved with it, like I didn't sit with my grandmother and of course my mother died when I was really young so I didn't have that so yeah I really taught myself. They influenced me I'm sure but I really taught myself.

JK: Do you have some of their quilts?

NP: No.

JK: No?

NP: No, I don't have any. I missed out on all that.

JK: Are there any particular color palettes you work with?

NP: Probably I prefer to work with jewel colors but I do any of them. As a matter of fact I'm working on one now that has a lot of yellow in it and I don't particularly, I'm not particularly fond of yellow but I love working with all the colors.

JK: Your daughter now knows how to quilt.

NP: Yes, both my daughters.

JK: Both your daughters. Now did you teach them?

NP: I really taught them to sew as they were growing up and then my older daughter just went to a quilting class and learned and just taught herself to quilt and they did that after they were grown and gone from home and then the younger daughter was taught by the older daughter to quilt so their background in sewing came from me but their quilting really didn't until I opened the shop and then they would come and we'd work together.

JK: So have you done a quilt together that are the three of yours?

NP: Not really. They do their own quilts and now, I have had them do some designs but not particularly in making the quilts and gosh they're better than I am at this point.

JK: Great. Do you see any trends in quilt making that you are either excited about or you are concerned about, directions that you have observed?

NP: Not really. You mean as far as art quilts or traditional? Traditional quilts are by far the most popular and I think that's because there are so many patterns out and people have memories of traditional quilts. Usually contemporary type people quilt more for the art quilts and you don't see as much of that where we're located. We're more in the country and we get a lot of customers from the metroplex but we primarily are out in the farm and ranch area so traditional type things are more prevalent.

JK: The evidence or the perceived increase in interesting quilt making particularly with younger people, what do you think accounts for that?

NP: Creativity. They need an outlet from their working world and most of the younger people have to work to have two family income. I mean have two members of the family working to make it go and they need an outlet for their creativity and quilting is definitely that so you see a lot of that. And really, probably by far more creative art type quilts come from that age group than from the older quilters.

JK: Now when a person comes to you and asks for that quilting service, do they have a quilting design in mind or do they usually leave that up to you?

NP: When they first start coming in, before I have gained their trust, they'll tell me what they want done. After the first quilt or so, they'll say we'll just leave it up to you, do whatever you think is best.

JK: Interesting. You have to establish that relationship.

NP: You really do they're very protective of their quilts and I don't blame them, I would be too.

JK: How long does that usually take you? I mean, obviously that depends on size I suppose.

NP: You mean to quilt a quilt? Well, my machines are computerized so I can do a king sized quilt within four hours but it just depends. We stay booked out about six weeks to two months so we get a lot of repeat customers, a lot of new customers I have customers in Saudi Arabia, England, Switzerland, all over the United States, people come through here visiting or they have family visiting and they hear of our service and they'll send the quilt in for us to do and kind of give us a general description of what they want done and then we take it from there and using their preferences in batting and backing and all of that and try to do a good job on them. I think we do the best. [laughs.]

JK: They're coming from all over the world, I think you do.

NP: Yes.

JK: That's for sure. Can you describe some of the differences if any that you see in quilts that come from all these different parts from the country or the world that you just described?

NP: Not really, it's kind of all over; you see the same type of work done all over. It's interesting to see the similarity between all of the quilts that come from different areas.

JK: Do you have any thoughts on what might account for that?

NP: Tradition. Quilts have always been sort of traditional everywhere and some areas will use more scrap quilt type things and others are just the fabric and you know, coordinate the colors and that sort of thing which is what I like to see them do [laughs.] of course, selling fabric.

JK: Exactly. Now when you go home in the evening, do you quilt?

NP: Oh, of course. I have a quilting room at home as well. My husband says, 'How can you do that all day and come home and sit for three more hours and do that?' Yes, I do. It's a passion.

JK: Yes, it must be. So what is your sewing room like at home?

NP: A mess. [laughs.] It's just a common ordinary sewing room I would think, you know, stashes of fabric, books of patterns and my sewing table, I have to move in side step to cut something new and lots of projects going at the same time, and you know, I'm just kind of the typical quilter. I have projects at work in the shop and projects at home. I won't live nearly long enough to finish all of it.

JK: Now in terms of the fabric that you purchase, do you usually purchase with a project in mind or do you just purchase fabric when it hits you?

NP: I purchase fabric when it hits me, now, outside of buying for the company, you know, for the store, I buy a lot of fabric there that I don't particularly care for but I know my customers like and but then when something comes in that I really like, I get the first three yards. [laughs.]

JK: Good for you. What do you think makes a great quilt?

NP: I really think that the person who made it shows their creativity and their dedication to it and the reason for making it. I don't judge quilts as far as the seam, you know, the work done in it or what it really looks like to me, I think what makes it great is what it means to the person that made it. Now if I were judging, which I probably couldn't be the judge, because I'm too partial to certain things, but to me the love that goes into the quilt is what makes it great.

JK: What are some of the things you're partial to?

NP: You mean in patterns?

JK: Right, well, I think it's interesting your comment that I don't think I'd be a good judge because I'm partial to certain things, are there certain elements that you look for?

NP: Oh well, because I like to know something about the quilt.

JK: I see.

NP: The quality that made the quilt does not mean as much to me as the person that made it.

JK: I see, you'd like to know the story behind it, what its symbolism is like?

NP: Right, yes.

JK: Are there certain quilts or patterns that you think a quilt automatically reveal that? I guess what I'm leaning to is what kind of stories do you think we can glean from quilts?

NP: Oh gosh, probably, I don't know. I'd be hard to say, you know, quality of life, family relationships, you know, grandmothers making quilts for all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren and I get all of those stories when they come in to me and that helps me, it really dictates what I'm going to do to that quilt when I know the story behind it or if someone's grandmother passed away or grandmother wanted me to have this and this is what she did, it's made from her clothes or my clothes when I was a kid or you know, all of that sort of thing and that really dictates a lot of the things that I do to a quilt.

JK: Very interesting. So it dictates and helps with some of the symbols?

NP: Right.

JK: You couldn't have done a very [inaudible.]. Have you made quilts for your, you mentioned making a lot of baby quilts, have you made quilts for your daughters and other family members?

NP: No, it's funny, when my children were small I did not make quilts for them it's only after they got larger and I started making gifts for people that I worked with. I worked in the public for 25-30 years and as an accountant and the people that I worked with in the office, some young thing got pregnant and the younger people coming up in the company would get pregnant and then I'd make them a gift. I made a lot of gifts.

JK: That's wonderful. Well, maybe someday you'll make for your daughters, I mean, do you have a quilt in mind you'd like to make someday?

NP: Well, I've made them- actually I have made them since they have gotten to be adults.

JK: I see.

NP: My youngest daughter before she started quilting I made her a Lone Star. The first one that I made turned out to be the wrong size, so it went on the wall as a wall hanging [laughs.] and I went back and made one to match it for her but I've made both of them quilts after they've gotten grown but they are both in quilting too so they already had quilts when I made them quilts. They still consider it a great gift to get a quilt.

JK: And you have a quilt in the show.

NP: Yes.

JK: Do you enter shows frequently?

NP: Yes but not in judging, not for the judging part of it I don't care, I mean, people's choice, I do not make a quilt to win a prize. I don't have that in mind when I'm making quilts. If it happens to win one, great but I don't make them for that.

JK: Have you won before?

NP: Yes. I won people's choice here in 1998 I think.

JK: That's terrific.

NP: It's a quilt that I put together for another lady.

JK: What was the pattern for that quilt?

NP: It was Candlewick blocks and it was all white and I put it together with muslin and lace and candle wicking and it was gorgeous, it was a gorgeous quilt. My daughter made one just like it two or three years before that and it won third place in the Texas State Fair.

JK: So you actually did some of the candle wicking?

NP: Yes.

JK: Are there other techniques like that that you use in quilts or have used in quilts?

NP: Embroidery, I do other crafts. I like English smocking. I loved that. I used to crochet and embroidery but I don't have time for that anymore so it kind of got lost. I do everything but Tatting, I've never learned that one yet. [laughs.]

JK: Do you think you want to someday?

NP: No, not really, it really doesn't interest me, it's too intricate.

JK: [laughs.] Sounds like you have a lot going on anyway. [laughs.] How do you want your quilts used?

NP: With a lot of love. You mean the ones I make for people?

JK: Right.

NP: Yeah, I want them to use them, I make them for people to use them I don't make them to go on a wall or look pretty however I do make some of those and if that's the way they prefer to use them then that's fine but I make them to be enjoyed.

JK: Do you have any quilts in museums or would you like to ever see one in a museum?

NP: It'd be nice, but I don't make them for that. I don't expect them to last that long. If they're using them, they won't last long enough to get into a museum.

JK: Well, it's been so interesting talking to you.

NP: Well, you too.

JK: And listening to your stories and all that you do, gosh do you have any idea how many quilts you have quilted for others or made for yourself?

NP: No, no.

JK: Not with your business like it is.

NP: I have no idea, I don't know that I'd even be able to go back and count. I keep a worksheet on everybody that I've done one for but I've never actually gone back and counted to see. I'd probably do, let's see, there's 365 days of the year, I probably have gone as high as 800-900 quilts a year.

JK: Really?

NP: Yes.

JK: Really?

NP: Yes. Just quilting on them, making them and finishing them and not all of those did we finish off, some of them were just quilted and some of them were small, some are large. The largest quilt I've ever quilted is 134" by 134".

JK: Good lord.

NP: It went from one end of my machine to the other end of the machine. [laughs.] That was big.

JK: That was big.

NP: Yes.

JK: Significantly larger than king size.

NP: Yes.

JK: What was the occasion for that?

NP: It was an oversized king sized bed that they had foam, foam blocks or a foam some kind of a mattress and they wanted it to hang all the way to the floor. It took me about two days to quilt it even with the computerized machines.

JK: That's a long time to do, you talked about four hours as kind of a range for most quilts. Two days would be--so you're not an 8-5 job person, listening to you talk about the number of quilts you've produced.

NP: No, not 8-5. [laughs.] More like 7-9. 7am to 9pm yeah, but a lot of weeks I've put in 60-80 hours and it's, I love it, you know, it's just something that I do because I love it, not for the money.

JK: Right.

NP: Lord no, it's not for the money.

JK: So your passion for quilting will continue forever.

NP: Oh, I'm sure it will. When they carry me out feet first, I want to be covered in a quilt. [laughs.]

JK: Well, we really appreciate you talking with us this afternoon and listening to your stories; it's very, very interesting. And I just want to thank you again for being part of our Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project and I think I failed to mention at the beginning, the interview started about 2:15--2:20 and it is now approximately 3:50 in the afternoon, and thanks again.

NP: Okay, thank you.


“Nadj Pankey,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 16, 2024,