Pat Connally




Pat Connally




Pat Connally


Sandi Goldman

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Iris Karp


Houston, Texas


Katie Demery


Sandi Goldman (SG): Pat, will you please tell me about this quilt you brought with you today?

Pat Connally (PC): This quilt is from a class that I took with Jan Krentz probably in 2004 and like most of my class projects it was in a box for a while before I pulled it out to complete it. It has some techniques that I had not done before and she was a wonderful teacher, so I tried the hardest things that were possible in the class, and I was pleased to get it finished and it won a couple of prizes in shows, also.

SG: How many shows?

PC: I think I've had it in two different shows, just regional shows.

SG: Is this your normal color palette?

PC: No. This is the first quilt I did that was sort of a contemporary color field. I did grandma style quilts, traditional, piecing, and just really basic things until I joined the quilt guild in 2000 and we have wonderful teachers that come to our guild, so I've really branched out and tried to push myself.

SG: So, is this a newer piece?

PC: No. This was finished in 2005 I believe. It made me feel good because of the colors. I picked colors that I liked and were fun as opposed to a blue quilt which my friends say, "you're a blue person" and then I did a red and white traditional quilt and then they think that I am a traditional person and then they saw this one and nobody could believe that this was my quilt.

SG: That's really interesting. Is it paper pieced or --?

PC: No. It's a different technique that she teaches on strip piecing a lone star, but the very outside corners were paper pieced, the star parts. But the inside was strip pieced.

SG: I see that you use some bright lamé fabrics in there --

PC: Yes.

SG: Were they hard to use?

PC: The lamé was very difficult. They fray really badly and so you have to be careful about touching them. I picked a lot of lamé where I thought the colors were good. I had to be real careful because I was afraid, I was going to lose them before I ever got the quilt made because of the strings fraying out.

SG: Have you used lamé since?

PC: No, I have not, but I still have some and I have a quilt that I'm thinking about putting some more in. I think too much of it can be too much, but I thought this was about the right amount to just bring out the colors and put a little shine in it.

SG: Do you hang this quilt at your home or where does it live?

PC: This quilt lives on my dining room wall, which is right in the entry of my house and it's one of the only few quilts that are hanging at my house. It's a decorator piece for my dining room. The colors just work perfect. I have a vase of flowers that matches it. It gets a lot of attention there from people that come to visit.

SG: You don't live with many quilts in your house?

PC: I have the quilts, but I don't have them hung all around. I have one other little area in my hallway that goes to my sewing room that I put a couple of small pieces, but I don't really decorate with my quilts.

SG: Do you collect anybody else's work?

PC: For years, I collected rejected quilts from the Salvation Army and garage sales just to save them because I felt bad that they were being discarded. I did crafts for years and I made things out of the quilts that were not good enough to be a whole quilt. I would cut them up and make Santas or snowmen. I've loved quilts that way for a long time.

SG: Did you sell those pieces or just give them away?

PC: I sold them, and I gave them to friends.

SG: Are you still doing that?

PC: Not as much anymore since I've started quilting and doing long arm quilting for other people it takes up too much time.

SG: I didn't realize you were a long arm quilter also.

PC: I am. I got my long arm machine in 2001 and immediately started doing quilts for customers. It takes up a lot of time. You can get booked up and not have time for yourself, so the last two years I've been backing off on customers and I just have very few that I work for right now.

SG: Where do you keep your long arm? Is it in your studio?

PC: Yes. It's sort of a mish mash. When I got my long arm originally, I had it in the den of the house. When we moved, we shopped for a house that had a big enough space and there just aren't that many. We had two bedrooms on one end of the house and took out a wall so my long arm can stick out from one room and into the other and then I also have my sewing machines and my design wall and everything in the same room.

SG: How many sewing machines do you have?

PC: Two that I have set up and use. I have probably seven or eight sewing machines. Sewing machines from my mother and a feather weight from my mother-in-law that she gave me when she passed away. I just collected several other machines that I like.

SG: That's nice. Before you had a long arm, you've always been a machine quilter, or did you start with hand quilting?

PC: When I first learned to quilt, I hand quilted some small wall pieces that when I got into quilting more, piecing more, I had probably 11 quilt tops that I had not finished. I knew that if it were taking hand quilting to get those quilts done that, they would never be quilts. I didn't really want other people to quilt them for me because I want them to be my quilts and I was able to get a long arm so that I could finish my quilts.

SG: Was it hard to learn to use the long arm?

PC: No. I took a class before I got my long arm, and I jumped in immediately. I did a raffle quilt for one of our guilds that was auctioned off. I just felt really comfortable with the long arm machine. It came really natural. I've advanced. I feel like I've advanced because I take a lot of classes from a lot of different people any time, I have a chance. I just try to learn new techniques and get better at what I know.

SG: Did you take classes here in Houston?

PC: I did. This year I took some classes but not long arm classes. I go to the Machine Quilter Showcase in Kansas City, and I take long arm classes there. But a few years ago, a group had long arm classes out at the Houston International airport during the festival, so I spend a whole week doing classes there and then coming to the show. I just about wore myself out traveling in Houston. I take classes anytime I can. We have a group of long armers in our area, probably 15 regular people. I helped get that started and every year to every two years we try to bring in a well-known long armer to do classes for our group.

SG: I imagine that there are different styles of long armers. Is that true?

PC: Yes. Some long armers just want the machine for themselves. Some want to have a business. Some just want to do a pantograph type quilting. That's the basic thing. In our area, we don't have many that want to do customer custom quilts. That's how I got overloaded doing that. I've just had to cut back a little bit.

SG: Do you guys set the price together so you're on par with each other?

PC: No. I don't think that's really allowed. I don't really think that's an ethical thing, price fixing. Some of us discuss what we do, but as far as the prices it's from one end to the other. Some still charge a really low price and the people that are just getting started will start their prices a little lower -

SG: That makes sense.

PC: I put mine up a little bit from where I started.

SG: That's great. I think that you mentioned your friends; family members too, expect this quilt from you.

PC: Right.

SG: But you are happy with it.

PC: I am very happy with it. I love the more contemporary designs now and after doing so many nine-patches or just basic quilts, I kind of got burned out and wanted to try a little bit harder thing. I've been trying to appliqué some lately and stretch myself in every quilt that I make. I try to go a little bit harder than I've done before. One of the quilts that I have in the show this year I drafted from a photograph that I took on a cruise of the Greek islands.

SG: Was it difficult?

PC: No, it wasn't. It's like a tile floor. That's the hardest thing that I've done so far. I've drafted it out on paper, I did circles, had to get the angles of those curves correct and every next later I had to draft that in and make it fit.

SG: Did you do it with templates? Did you make templates?

PC: I drafted it onto paper that I had taped together to be big enough because it's a large quilt. I originally made a smaller version and then I could copy one quarter of it and enlarge it. But then when I got the center part finished, I had to recalculate the numbers for each circle that came after that. It was quite a job.

SG: Then you tried to stay true to the colors of the floors?

PC: Yes. I tried really hard to be exactly like the picture was except for the center design. The center circle had a Medusa head with the hair and the snakes all wound around and I just absolutely ran out of time on drafting that and several friends said 'No, you don't want to do that. That would be ugly to have that on your quilt.' They didn't think that it was a 'quilty thing' so I made a different center and then I redrafted the vases on the outside corners. I redrafted the vase because I couldn't get it exactly like the picture was, so I used the picture in a guidebook of an urn in a museum and did that for the vases with the vines coming out.

SG: Did you have the fabric in your stash, or did you have to go shopping?

PC: I had shopped and shopped for fabric for another quilt, and it was actually going to be the quilt before this one, another mosaic quilt. I had the color palette. I had to try to find some more of the background fabric because it kind of got too large [laughing.]

SG: It grew and grew and grew [laughing.]

PC: It grew.

SG: Do you have a huge stash?

PC: I have a pretty huge stash. I'm in the process of redoing my room and hopefully taking out some of the older fabric and donating it to a group that I sew with. On Tuesday we do donation quilts for several organizations in town. We give quilts to the cancer center where they do chemo treatments, and we have quilts there for them. We do quilts for a rape crisis center to handout to the people there and a children's advocacy group. There are three or four groups we make quilts for every Tuesday. They're smaller quilts, cuddle quilts for children and adults. I'm hopefully going to get some of my fabric out of my room and into that area.

SG: Do you feel that your taste in fabric has changed?

PC: Yes, and I've been collecting for 20 years and some of it is just not appealing to what I want to do now, like the thimble berry collections that are very muted, and brown are not what I would probably use right now. Some of those will probably be other quilts. We also make Quilts of Valor. We have ladies that piece those or we piece them as a group and then get them quilted. I have done the long arm quilting on some of those. So that way we can use up some stash also.

SG: What are your goals for your studio? How are you changing it?

PC: Basically, tidying up because it just gets where I hardly have a walkway. I'm not organized in keeping things put up. I can get it out, then I'll use it, and then I'm doing several different things at once. Things stay out. Sometimes I just have to stop and put things up. But I'm hoping to move things around and probably swap my areas, my sewing area and my long arm area to different ends to make a bigger sewing area. That's what I hope.

SG: That sounds nice and probably you have a lot of windows with lots of nice light.

PC: We have windows on two sides, and we get the north light and the west light, which are very bright. Sometimes I have to close the windows, but I did add fluorescents over my long arm machines, which is a good light for me to see and sew in.

SG: Do you use a design wall also?

PC: Yes, I have one whole wall that's a design wall. It's an eight-foot wall from floor to ceiling and I put up the foam insulation covered in flannel grid. I use it as a design wall and sometimes it catches ribbons and patterns and other things besides what I'm working on. It has to be cleaned off sometimes, too. But it's a really great area and I also use that design wall to block my quilts when they're finished and getting squared up.

SG: How do you do that?

PC: I basically put it in water in the bathtub. A lot of times I use the blue disappearing pen for my marks, and you need to soak that to get it out, so I'll immerse the whole thing in the bathtub. Then I put it in a basket and let some of the water drain out and then I take it to the washer and spin some of the water out. Next, I actually stretch it out to a size on the design wall and pin it all out when it's wet so when it dries it's nice and smooth and straight.

SG: You block all of your quilts?

PC: The last four big quilts I've blocked.

SG: How did you know how to do that?

PC: I have read about it. We have people in our guild that have shared that, and I took a class from a lady in Kansas City in the spring. She had a class on that, how she did her blocking. She does it flat on the ground with the same kind of material but to me it's easier upright just because you don't have to get down on your knees and stretch and smooth. I had done the first quilt that I blocked that way, and it was hard. It was physically hard on the body.

SG: You're just blocking your own quilts?

PC: Yes. When I do a quilt for someone on my long arm, I don't trim it. I just quilt it and then they get it back to trim it and do the binding and the blocking for themselves.

SG: Did you tell me about all of the different guilds you belong to? I know you mentioned three, I think.

PC: Our local quilt guild, Midland Quilters Guild, I belong to that, and I've served as officer in that one. I did programs in that for a few years and bringing in our program people. That was fun because I got to meet and be close up with those people. We have a guild that's kind of a regional area - Ogallala Quilt Guild in Dimmitt, [Texas], that has a quilt festival once a year. Our Tuesday bee is our quilting group where we quilt every Tuesday. Some of us cut and design quilts and put them on the design wall. Some other ladies are sewing them. Some are pressing. And then we have the ladies that are tying the quilts and getting them ready to bind. Then we farm them out to anyone who will take them to put the bindings on. There are probably 20 people that work on Tuesday, in and out, different people.

SG: Where do you do that?

PC: One of our members belongs to a church that has a house kitty corner to their church. They use it for Sunday school classes, so they had taken some walls out. It's basically a front area and a back area that were the bedrooms. We're able to put fabric and machines in the back area and lock it up during the week when they're having other activities. It's a wonderful place.

SG: You leave your stuff behind?

PC: We leave everything there. Before that, we were working in a different church. We had to carry everything back and forth except they had a closet that we could leave our ironing boards in. But everything else we brought back and forth. We'd bring boxes and boxes of fabric and have to take them back and forth. This church is the ideal place for a bee to work out of. We have probably two whole walls that are floor to ceiling shelves of fabric that we can choose from.

SG: That's a whole day project. Do you guys spend the entire day together?

PC: We go from nine to noon and we get a lot done in that amount of time. Some of us take things home and work on it. Other than the morning, the binding and some of the things that are quilted on our other machines and bring them back.

SG: Do you feel like this could take over more of your time than you want it to? It seems like you're doing so many things.

PC: I have a tendency to get into too many things, but being just Tuesday morning is workable and I am not one that does a lot of that outside of that Tuesday morning space. Every once in a while, I'll take a quilt to quilt on the long arm. It's not on a time schedule usually when you have to return something back if you take it. I think two or three years we've made and given 225 quilts to the different organizations.

SG: That's a great feeling.

PC: It's nice.

SG: Are you spending every day in your studio? Are you a full-time studio person?

PC: Not usually. If I've got a big project going, I'll spend sometimes day and night. But if I'm not working on a show quilt or a customer quilt, I have grandchildren and I like to do other things. I have friends that I meet for lunch, and I try to stay well-rounded. I do volunteer work for our church. I'm into a lot of different things but I try not to overload.

SG: You sound busy. Do you listen to music when you quilt?

PC: I love to put the music on really loud. I have a five-disc CD holder and I'll put in on and crank it up really loud. My husband will come home from work and say, 'I can't hear anything.' [laughing.] But when I'm there by myself I'll just have the TV on for myself for when I'm doing things but sometimes it'll be in the afternoon and I'll realize it's been quiet all day, which is really nice too.

SG: Do you teach?

PC: No, I don't. If someone wants to know something, I will tell them what I know. But I don't formally do classes right now.

SG: Do you ever have people come over and sew in your studio? It sounds so fun. I want to come sew there.

PC: Not lately, I haven't. There's not a lot of room for other people. We could spread out in other areas of the house and do that, but we have other places that we usually go and do that.

SG: That's nice. Who did you learn to quilt from?

PC: My grandmother was a quilter, and my mother and aunts were quilters. When we would go to grandma's, there was usually a quilt in the frame somewhere, not one that hung from the ceiling, she had long frames that she would prop up on a stand and there would be five or six people quilting at one time. I was introduced to it from the time I could remember. Grandma would let me put stitches on the quilt if I wanted to. She would let me help with anything. I could peel apples or shell peas, she let me help with whatever she was doing. I learned crafts that way, but my mother also was a sewer and a quilter, so I was just around it all the time. When my mom and dad retired, they moved close to my grandparents to help take care of them. They quilted once a week with my mother, my grandmother, my aunts, and my great grandmother at times was there. It was just part of their lives. There were always quilts at grandma's when we went to stay. We went and picked out the quilts we wanted to make our pallet on the floor because there weren't enough beds for that many people so we could just get quilts, and everybody had their space on the floor. There was a pile of quilts from the floor to the ceiling in my grandmother's bedroom closet and they were just stacked one on top of each other on shelves. I always would pull back the cloth curtain and look at the colors because they were scrap quilts they were to be used for beds.

SG: Do you have any of those?

PC: I have a couple of those and there are still a few of them at my mother's house that I haven't brought home since my mother passed away, but they will be for me or my sister. My dad is still there. He said, 'Leave a couple of quilts for me to sleep under.' Quilting had really fun memories from way back.

SG: Yes. It seems like you have many generations in your family of quilters. Do you have children that are quilters?

PC: No. I have two boys. One of them is married and his wife is not quite to the point where she needs that kind of a hobby with two children and being a wife and mother. She hasn't shown interest. I bought her a sewing machine a few years ago to have for just basic things.

SG: Maybe you'll get a grandchild that's a quilter.

PC: I have a granddaughter and a couple of weeks ago she came and stayed several days while her parents were out of town. I asked her if she wanted to start her very first quilt, so she got one sack of five-inch squares, and I showed her how to place them on the design wall. She's got it all laid out and I let her sew one row with the machine to get her comfortable with that. She's not there every day or every other day. But when she comes over, she'll be able to work on her quilt.

SG: How old is she?

PC: She's 11 now.

SG: What's her name?

PC: Cassidy.

SG: Cassidy. That's exciting.

PC: Yes.

SG: Maybe it will skip a generation and then continue on. That's great. I thought of something else but now I've forgotten. How did you feel about getting your awards here in Houston [Texas.]? Were you surprised?

PC: I was surprised. I've had two quilts juried into the show before in 2004 and 2006. It's just the best feeling to know that out of 700 quilts, they had to choose half of that many and mine was one of them. From an international field, it's really a special feeling. This year I entered two quilts, and they were both juried in, and I won the honorable mention on one of my quilts. It was very exciting to walk up on the stage on award night and to see that ribbon hanging on the quilt during the show.

SG: Did you get any ribbons in previous years?

PC: No. This is the first time I've won an award on the four quilts that have been juried in. This was the first to get a ribbon.

SG: That's very exciting.

PC: Yes, it is.

SG: How did you feel when you found out you got a quilt in the Lone Stars III book?

PC: It was really strange because I got an email from Carrie and Nancy asking if they could consider two of the quilts that had been in the show before. I guess they went through their records and looked for Texas quilters. That was exciting. It was a really neat feeling to turn to that page and see my quilts in a book.

SG: Is this the first time you were published?

PC: Yes. The quilt that won the honorable mention was in the Machine Quilters Unlimited Magazine, in the last issue as being a winner at the MQS Show.

SG: Is that the other quilt?

PC: Yes, the blue one. Yes.

SG: That's amazing. Is this the style that you like to work in now?

PC: Yes. I did that quilt from a pattern and then it was smaller than I wanted it to be, so I drafted the outer border, the spiky border. I was really pleased the way it held the quilt kind of together because it was kind of like all over the place. I felt like that completed it. That was really the first time that I had drafted something for a quilt, a complete border.

SG: Do you work on more than one quilt at the same time?

PC: Usually not. Usually, I'll have one going that is a big project.

SG: Is there any aspect of the quilt making process that you don't like?

PC: By the time I've worked at drafting and piecing and quilting it, when I get to the binding, I don't like to do that. It's a process that has to be done, but it's really time consuming to get it done the way I want it. I enjoy the part of applying it and then when it comes to stitching it down by hand, that's not my favorite part. I'm tired of it by then.

SG: So, you'd like –

PC: That and the sleeve.

SG: I think that a lot of people say the same thing, the binding and the sleeves.

PC: But you have to have them [laughing.]

SG: And then, the cleanup.

PC: Yeah. The clean-up.

SG: That's not my favorite part either. What do you think makes a great quilt? What are you attracted to in a quilt?

PC: I kind of think all quilts are great if they're a quilt. At this point, I'm attracted to the brighter colors. But I still like a traditional two-color quilt too. That's a really hard question for me because I just like quilts. Some of the little one-patch quilts that we do in our Tuesday bee are just a scrappy quilt and they're just as happy and fun for me as anything.

SG: Do you feel like you're influenced by any quilters?

PC: No. I can't think of a specific person.

SG: What direction do you see your quilt making going or do you think you're going to stay on this theme?

PC: I feel like I want to make up my own pattern instead of using someone else's patterns, unless it were a traditional pattern which you know can go all different ways. Instead of buying a pattern and making someone else's quilts. I'm at the point where I want to design my own from the beginning and then it will be my quilt.

SG: This sounds like this is going to be a turning point in your quilting.

PC: I hope so.

SG: Switching directions a bit.

PC: Just branching out. Just trying to do a little bit harder things, different techniques. Figure out things on my own to prove that I can do it, mainly.

SG: What do you think is going to happen to quilting in the future?

PC: I hope it continues to grow. I see the trend when I come down here. There are so many people. In our town, it seems like we have a lot of quilters. Then you'll meet someone who never thinks about a quilt. They didn't grow up with quilts. I hope it continues to be an art form.

SG: Have you ever done anything like this before, with quilt preservation and passing along the stories?

PC: No, I haven't but I'm hoping to take this to our guild and see if we can implement it in part of our guild, get the history. The founder of our guild is 81 years old, and I would like for her to be interviewed and give her story. She's a very neat lady.

SG: Now you'll be ready to do that.

PC: Yes. Hopefully, I will.

SG: Do you feel like we've covered a lot of the things that you'd like to say for posterity?

PC: Yes. Yes, I think so. I feel like my background came out and quilting is just part of me. There were years when I was raising my family and being a wife, I didn't really quilt. I did a lot of garment sewing and home decorating fabric, curtains and bedspreads. I was always doing something creative, and I feel like this is my creative outlet now.

SG: I want to say thank you so much to Pat for allowing me to interview her for the Quilters' S.O.S. – Save Our Stories Oral History Project. Our interview has concluded at 11:31.

PC: Thank you Sandi, you made it possible.


“Pat Connally,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 19, 2024,