Carolyn Goebel




Carolyn Goebel




Carolyn Goebel


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date



Marion, Indiana


Kim Greene


Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am doing a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Carolyn Goebel. We are in Marion, Indiana. It is July 20, 2007 and it is 4:09 in the afternoon. Thank you so much for doing this interview with me. I truly appreciate it. Carolyn, tell me about the quilt you brought today.

Carolyn Goebel (CG): This was probably my first quilt that I decided to make, and as you can see it was all done with different materials. They were from my daughters' clothes. I have three daughters and the materials are from their clothing, my mother's clothing that I sewed for her and my clothing. The white material that I did it in, which is Cathedral Windows, I used the wrong white fabric because it is so heavy and if you would sleep under this quilt you wouldn't be able to turn over because it weighs so much, and boy have I learned a lot in the next thirty-four years of quilting that you don't use that heavy of fabric. But I think it is a memorable quilt of my family, and I hope that my daughters will keep it and pass it on down through our family and be able to know that it was my daughters' clothing and my mother's clothing that I used in this quilt.

KM: How big is it?

CG: It is a queen size.

KM: It is queen size. It is very large.

CG: Yes, it is very large for back thirty-four years ago. You didn't have a lot of queen size beds, but it is a queen size quilt.

KM: What made you decide to make it that big?

CG: I guess because we did have a queen size bed by then and so I decided to go ahead and keep making. I will never do another one though. [laughs.] I've decided on that a long time ago. I never would do another one of these because it was very, very time consuming. Now they have patterns that you can do this without all the hand sewing, but this is all hand sewed, and it took me about I think three years. I kind of took a little vacation in there a little while, got tired of it, and then went back working on it again.

KM: Did you sleep under this quilt?

CG: No I never have. [laughs.] I told you it was too heavy to sleep under. [laughs.]

KM: Winters in Indiana are cold.

CG: I guess maybe I should try that.

KM: It would keep you warm. It is large and heavy. It is heavy. [picking up the quilt.] So how do you use this quilt?

CG: I just display it in my house. I want it for people to see and know that they are fabrics from my children. I don't have any granddaughters to pass it down to so my girls are going to have to pass it down to one of their sons, because I have four grandsons and maybe I will get a great-granddaughter someday that will appreciate it.

KM: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

CG: I first started when we moved to Marion, Indiana from Huntington, Indiana and my husband was working at General Motors and we started going to church at Morris Chapel, which was just a church down the road about a half a mile and they had a quilt group there at the church that met once a month and quilted. Before that, I guess they used to quilt quite often, maybe every week and quilted at ladies houses, but we quilted at the church in the church basement and would quilt for other people and that is where I learned my first quilting. My mother didn't quilt. I'm from a family of twelve and she did tied quilts or comforts as I called them, but when I got to going to that church and decided to join the women's group well they quilted and so we quilted every month and they kind of taught me how to quilt. I can remember the one elderly lady saying that after we got done with one of her quilts, she said, 'Well I found knots on the back of this.' Well I didn't know at the time that you were suppose to hid your knots in the middle of the quilt, so I was the guilty one that had the knots on the back of her quilt. [laughs.]

KM: How many women were in the group?

CG: Probably at that time there was probably a dozen that quilted, but then there were some of them that piece block and did them for lap robes and things like that, so all of them didn't quilt, but maybe ten or twelve probably. It was a small church.

KM: Do you still belong to a quilt group?

CG: No. Just The Quilters Hall of Fame group, I belong to that. I don't go to that church anymore, but we have a little sewing group that meets at my Temple, Congregational Church now that meets once a month and we bring whatever we want to work on, we are not quilting for anybody, but you are doing your own thing.

KM: Tell me about your involvement with The Quilters Hall of Fame.

CG: It started clear back after Rosaline had bought the house and gave it to The Quilters Hall of Fame and then we formed a group here in Marion, Indiana and I think there was maybe ten or twelve of us quilters that got together and started meeting and deciding what we could do to raise money to help the further improvement of the house which it needed a lot. I have always said that I think we have sold everything except the kitchen sink, because we tried to make money how ever we could to help make money to redo this house. We have seen it come to pass that we have got this house redone.

KM: When did this all start?

CG: In 1992 I think is when it became The Quilters Hall of Fame and so we started in '92 and we didn't personally do the work on the inside, but we helped raise money to see that this house was remodeled.

KM: How did you go about raising money?

CG: We did bake sales. We sold any kind of quilted things. One of the ladies made key chains that we sold. I don't know, hundreds of key chains made in Log Cabin pattern. Let me think it has been so long I can't remember now, but we sold all kinds of things to make money to help the house.

KM: What is your role now?

CG: I was president at one time. I can't even remember the year that I was president. It has been about probably eight years ago, ten years ago that I was president. I was the person that was in charge of the vendors at the quilt show, while it was first at the YWCA and then we moved to one of the schools here in Marion at Riverview and then we changed and went to Kindel where it is at now, and so I was head of the quilt show for about ten years I think. We even had a quilt show before that. We had it at the Center Mall, which is a store downtown that had an open space where we could put some quilts and so we started there and it just grew from our little bitty beginning to having quite a few quilts now. I retired from that last year. I had shoulder surgery and couldn't reach up like I used to and so I retired from that and I help wherever I can now, but I'm not chairman of that event.

KM: You said that there wasn't quiltmaking in your past, but there is quiltmaking happening in your family now?

CG: Yes, I have two sisters that do quite a bit of quilting and one sister that does a little bit, not near as much as I do, but they do some quilting. I have sewn all my life, I think I started sewing when I was pretty small. My mom had a treadle sewing machine and back then girls belonged to 4-H and you had Home Ec in school that you had to sew, they didn't give you a choice, you had to sew. So I took 4-H for ten years and sewed on that treadle machine and made whatever we had to on that machine, and then I guess right after I got married, which was in 1956, my husband bought me a new Kenmore sewing machine. Boy that was, electric sewing machine, that was really stepping up you know and I used that for about twenty years before I traded in and got a new machine and three years ago I traded in and got me one of the new fancy sewing machines and will probably due the rest of my life.

KM: How many hours a week do you spend?

CG: In the winter time I do a lot of sewing. I do alterations for people and I do just things here for the shop at The Quilters Hall of Fame, and then I love to make jackets. I make all kinds of jackets and love to embellish them and make something different than you can't find in the stores.

KM: So you do a lot of wearables?

CG: Yes.

KM: Just jackets?

CG: Mostly jackets, I just love to do jackets. I can buy the pants. You know pants are just pants.

KM: What about vests?

CG: I have done a few vests, yes. Jackets are my main thing that I like to do. I have taught a class on jackets, a beginning class on jackets and maybe I will do another one that is a little bit harder. Start at the beginning of it and maybe I will do one that is a little bit harder.

KM: Do your daughters quilt at all?

CG: I have one that sews and she has done one quilt and maybe when she retires from work maybe she will have more time. She does draperies and things like that, so she does sew. The other two find it easier to bring it to mom and get mom to sew it.

KM: How has quiltmaking impacted your family?

CG: I don't know, to me it is a soothing comfortable thing that makes you feel good and you know that you have accomplished something when you get it done. Everybody says, 'Why don't you have a computer?' Well I don't have a computer because I don't want one. [someone talking in the background.] To me it is just a soothing thing and you feel like you have accomplished something when you have got done and you can pass it on to your family. I hope that each one of my grandsons will get a quilt when they get married. I don't have any married yet, but one is twenty-two and so some where along the line I could give each one of them a quilt. Hopefully I want to do baby quilts. I have done some baby quilts, but I would like to have baby quilts done for my great-grandchildren. Hopefully I will get a great granddaughter somewhere down the line and I can give this little girl, well I will give the boys one too, but I would like to have a little girl quilt to give to maybe my first great granddaughter.

KM: What do you find pleasing about quiltmaking besides being calming, what else to you like?

CG: You have the nicest friends. I think quilters are the nicest friends. I don't know that I have met very many quilters that I didn't like. They just seem like that everybody is just friendly and always glad to help you or you to help them, or it is just a joy to be around quilters, because I think they are happy people.

KM: I will agree. Tell me about the place where you sew. Do you have a studio?

CG: No I do not. I have one little bedroom that I have all my stuff in and sometimes my husband says it looks like a junk room, but I know where everything is. I think I know where everything is, but it is just in a small bedroom. I get up and go press in the kitchen because they say you shouldn't sit for so long, so I don't put an ironing board up in my bedroom, I go out in the kitchen and walk and press when I have to press, and so it keeps me up and moving.

KM: What does your husband think of your quiltmaking?

CG: He likes it, he doesn't, I mean I can't say that, what do I want to say. He appreciates it, but not like some men would. He knows it is a lot of hard work. He says, 'Why don't you sell some of these?' I tell him I can't part with them after I have made them and they are kind of like part of me, I can't sell them, so I don't sell them. I have given some of them away, but I can't sell them because they are part of me.

KM: Have you ever used quiltmaking to get through a difficult time?

CG: Yes I did. Six years ago I had a hip replacement, so I had one already to quilt and so while I was recuperating from my hip operation, I quilted a quilt in six weeks, which had lots of quilting in it and I was really proud of it when it got done, it looked really nice.

KM: Do you machine quilt?

CG: A little bit. I don't do big quilts on the machine. I feel like I'm not confident enough to do it without having puckers on the back, but I do wall hangings and smaller things.

KM: Do you do hand quilt?

CG: Yes I do hand quilt. That is my favorite thing I think is to hand quilt. I'm working on one right now. It is a reproduction of a 1930's Nine Patch and I'm about three-fourths of the way done on it.

KM: Do you have a frame or a hoop?

CG: No I work with the PVC pipe frame. I have tried all different things. I don't like leaning over an old quilting frame because it is hard on my back. I have tried the hoops, but when they came out with the PVC pipe things, I tried those and I like them because of the tension that you can do with the four sides of it. I use the one that is about 15 X 15 and sit in my lounge chair and put the quilt on my lap and I quilt away.

KM: Have you designed any of your own quilts, or do you do traditional patterns, what kind?

CG: I do more traditional patterns. I like the old patterns and I'm not an artsy quiltmaker.

KM: What about your jackets?

CG: They are more artsy I guess. I have to admit that, I just some of my jackets are more artsy. I guess there is a little bit of artsy in me.

KM: I tend to think so. What do you think makes a great quilt?

CG: I think the love that is put into it. Not necessarily every quilt is going to be champion, I think it is a lot of the love that you put into the quilt that makes it meaningful to you and to whomever you are going to give it to, or whoever is going to have it. I think it is just the love that is put into the quilt and the time that it takes you to do it. I have timed myself to see how long it takes me to quilt a quilt and one of them was one hundred and sixty-seven hours and another one was one hundred and forty-two hours, so you have to love it to want to hand quilt a quilt to give to somebody else.

KM: What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?

CG: I think it can either be the coloring in the quilt or it can be the quilting itself. Sometimes it might not look like much of a quilt until you put the quilting in it and the quilting I think kind of speaks what the quilt is.

KM: It makes it come alive.

CG: Yes.

KM: I think I agree with you. Do you sleep under a quilt?

CG: Yes I do. It is one that I bought at an antique shop. I guess I call it I'm finishing what somebody else didn't get to finish and the top is one that I'm sleeping under right now, was a top that somebody had hand pieced and I'm trying to think what the pattern is, but anyhow, I bought it and took it home and I quilted it all and I love it now. It is just a pale yellow and orange and a little bit of a green in it.

KM: How old do you think it is?

CG: I would say it was probably pieced maybe in the '50s or '60s probably. The material looks about that age.

KM: What color. I mean this is a very white quilt that you started out with. What is your typical palette like, what colors do you like to work in.

CG: I have kind of just jumped around in a lot of different colors, because I did them in pinks and blues and a blue and yellow. I did a darker one, which I normally don't do a lot of dark ones, but I did one for my daughter that was in burgundies or kind of a--I guess I would call it burgundy and an olive green, and a tan in it, and it was not probably a color that I wouldn't normally chose, but I did it for her to put in her bedroom.

KM: Was that difficult to do, working in a color like that?

CG: No I like the--it was like the border print material that had repeats of the border and I used that as the main stripping part in-between and then I did four patches that were set on point that went down through each stripe. It was pretty. I had run out of material though. I bought the material and didn't know exactly what I was going to do with it at the time and I ran out of one of the materials, and I thought 'oh no what do I do now.' This has been like two years probably since I bought the material. I went to my daughters in Ohio and we went down into the Amish country and would you know by luck I found it at one of the Amish shops there in Ohio. So I got to finish the quilt.

KM: Very lucky.

CG: Yes. I was thrilled.

KM: Serendipity. [laughs.] How did she like the quilt?

CG: She likes it real well. She likes darker colors than I do, but I think I mostly go for more pastels. I jumped out of my box one time. I took a class and I used black and I used red and green hot peppers and kind of this green color of what peppers look like, so it was really out of my class. I normally wouldn't do anything like that, but I thought I have to do something different so I did kind of jump out of my box on that one.

KM: Do you take a lot of classes?

CG: No I don't take a lot of classes. I don't know, I just like to do my own thing. I see them and know what I want to do, and I have gotten like most ladies, I have more fabric than I probably will ever use in my lifetime. I have lots of feed sacks and I keep saying I'm going to make a feed sack quilt, because I have probably fifty feed sacks. And I still would like to do that in my lifetime, but whether I will get it done or not, I don't know, but I would like to. I remember having clothing made out of feed sacks and so it kind of brings back a little bit of memory of the clothes that I used to wear when I was in grade school that my mom used to make out of feed sacks.

KM: What other plans do you have for quilts?

CG: I've got two that I've started and I thought I would use them for wedding gifts for my grandsons and they are fan quilts made out of floral material and they are pinks and kind of a light green and white and a little bit of pale yellow in it. I need to be working on them, they are partly done but they are not all done. I have a lot of these--I know ladies here in Marion, Indiana get pizza boxes to store stuff in. So I have a lot of pizza boxes up in the closet. Everybody thinks there are pizzas in them, but no they are quilt blocks that are in these boxes, but they make nice boxes to store your quilt blocks in.

KM: So you never would be without work?

CG: No never. [laughs.]

KM: What kind of quilts are you drawn to?

CG: The more traditional type quilts. I just love the old patterns and what they used to do with them and thinking how they had, not the choice of fabric that we had and not the money that we have to buy new fabric, and how they made such good use of their old fabrics and reused fabrics that they had their clothes made out of and I just like the old look of quilts.

KM: Do you think your quilts kind of reflect your community?

CG: I think so. I think here in Marion, Indiana, I think we are more traditional quilters. There might be a few artsy quilters, but most of us are traditional quilters.

KM: Yet the exhibit that is hanging in the museum right now is very art.

CG: Very artsy, yes.

KM: What was your reaction to that? "She Made Her Mark." That is the name right.

CG: Yes, yes. I can appreciate them, but they are not what I like to see. I would be disappointed if I went to a place to look at quilts and all it was was art quilts. I would like to see some traditional quilts.

KM: I think there is a very nice variety. I haven't seen everything, but I think there is a very nice variety. I walked a little bit around town and I thought it was nice that you have quilts in all the different store windows.

CG: Yes, yes. We try to bring it to the whole town. We are hoping that we can get the town more involved.

KM: How involved is the town?

CG: It's not really, not to a great extent. We would like to see it get more involved. The store owners are nice about letting us put the quilts in the windows but we would like to see them advertise on their marquees and that there are quilters here and try to advertise that we are here and we are not leaving and we are going to stay and we are going to keep building on what we have done so far.

KM: How many participants come to Celebrations?

CG: I suppose all together maybe two thousand might be here this week, somewhere between fifteen hundred and two thousand.

KM: That is a nice turn out.

CG: Yes.

KM: There is a lot of activities.

CG: Yes they have a lot of things for them to do. A lot of classes you can take, or you can hear the lectures. Tonight is their auction. We do a challenge thing, where we get a piece of fabric and then you have to figure out what you are going to make with it and then they sell it at the auction. That is part of the auction, that is just one part of it. We have a silent auction where you can come and bid on things and then they ring a bell at a certain time and then if your name is the last one on the list, then you get it. You pay for that. Or then they have a regular auction and they make pretty good money on, you know people donate things and they make pretty good money. This helps fund expenses of the house.

KM: Did you participate?

CG: I didn't send anything this time. I brought my things here to the store to sell and sometimes I have. I did, I made a purse for the challenge. I made a purse for that. I have done that every year when we have had the challenge material to do.

KM: You make purses too?

CG: Yes I do, I make purses also.

KM: What do your purses look like?

CG: Pretty traditional. Just a box type thing. No I can't say that, because some of my jackets I have made purses to go with them too, and I made an animal jacket that has lions and tigers and zebras and things on it, so I made a purse that had a handle that looked like it was in the African style and then I did another jacket in black and brown and I made a purse for that. I don't know, I just like to do something different.

KM: How many jackets have you made?

CG: I probably made at least eight I suppose.

KM: How many purses?

CG: About three I think. I am about to make another one real soon to go with this lavender jacket that I made, so I'm about ready to do another one. When winter gets here, it is better for me for winter to be able to sew, because there isn't so much distractions as there is in the summertime. You have a lot more things to do outside in the summertime.

KM: I agree. How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

CG: I think that people need to know how to preserve them. I know I have friends that don't know. They say well I have grandmother's quilt, I don't do anything special with it. I tell them not to put it in plastic bags, I tell them to make sure your mark it, that you know grandma so and so made this and when she made it and everything. I think it is informing people that this is an art and things that need to be preserved and trying to help them know how to keep their quilts nice.

KM: Is there a lot of outreach with this whole thing?

CG: We try to, I don't know that we do as much as we should probably be doing. We go to different shows and try to let them know that The Quilters Hall of Fame is here and try to get them to come and visit us here, and I think once they get here, they always want to come back again, because they know the shows are going to change, and they can come back.

KM: I guess we should explain probably a little bit more about The Quilters Hall of Fame in case somebody reads your interview and they are in the dark about this, maybe we should fill them in a little bit.

CG: This house was given to The Quilters Hall of Fame in 1991, 1992, and then that was when we started the process of renovating this house, which took us about twelve years because of the cost and just getting the work done.

KM: This is the Marie Webster House?

CG: Yes, the Marie Webster House, and she started her business here in this house and then she lived here until after her husband passed away and then she moved out east to be with her son, and then the house was turned into an apartment, or about three or four apartments because it is three stories high and then it went downhill from there, and was in bad repair when Rosaline Perry decided to come to Indiana when she was rewriting her grandmother's book and to see where her grandmother had lived, and I think she fell through the front porch, if I remember the story right. It has been a great challenge to turn this into what it is now, and we are really proud of it. We are not a big town and we don't have an industry to support us, so we have to do our own, keeping our own bills paid and everything. I'm just really proud of it.

KM: Let's talk about The Quilters Hall of Fame part.

CG: We induct a quilter into The Quilters Hall of Fame, usually every year. There has been a few years when there hasn't been somebody inducted into The Quilters Hall of Fame, but we have a celebration in the week of Marie's birthday usually, and then we induct a famous quilter into the Quilters' Hall of Fame and have a big celebration in the evening when we can celebrate them and induct them into the Quilters Hall of Fame.

KM: Do you know off the top of your head how many people you have inducted?

CG: Not for sure, there must be twenty or thirty, I mean twenty-seven, thirty some people that we have inducted into The Quilters Hall of Fame. I think it has been since 1979 maybe.

KM: I'm trying to remember and I can't.

CG: It is not people that all are quilters per say. Some of them are quilt collectors, some of them are block collectors, some are quilt history, it is not all ones that quilt. I guess you don't have to be a quilter to be interested in quilting, and some of our ladies that are in our group are not really quilters, but they are interested in quilting and want to see it keep going.

KM: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

CG: I think probably part of it is that people realize that it is something important. I mean they have quilted for hundreds of years, and it went downhill for a long time where quilting was not important and then in the '70s it started coming back and I think it is just something that needs to be still promoted, that this is an art and they can enjoy it and use it at the same time.

KM: Is there anything else that you would like to add to our interview today?

CG: I'm just glad that I come to find quilting because I think it has been a joy in my life to be able to quilt. I'm not sure what else, I guess I was a cake decorator, I'm not so much now a cake decorator but out of all the craft things that I have probably done, I think that quilting probably is the top one that I have enjoyed the most and get the most comfort out of.

KM: What made you seek out the quilt group and start making quilts?

CG: I guess I met Phoebe Smith and she was a quilter then and she worked at a fabric shop here in Marion and she called me and wanted to know if I wanted to be part of this group. She was the one I think that wrote a letter to Rosaline, because Rosaline had put a notice, I don't know if it was in our paper or what she wanted to know if we could get a group started here and Phoebe Smith was the one that wrote Rosaline and told her that she would try to get a group started, and so with Phoebe Smith, she was our first club president and that was how we started. Like I say, I think we had ten or twelve people that started out with this quilt group. We have stuck together through thick and thin.

KM: That is wonderful. Well, should we conclude our interview and I will take a picture.

CG: Thank you.

KM: I want to thank you very much.

CG: You are welcome.

KM: For taking your time to do this interview and it is 4:43 in the afternoon.


“Carolyn Goebel,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 22, 2024,