Phyllis Jordan (PJ): This is Phyllis Jordan. Today’s date is September 27, 2012. It is 1:49 p.m. and I am conducting an interview with Betty Boehle for Quilter’s S.O.S. Save Our Stories project in the Sophienburg Museum, New Braunfels, Texas. Betty, tell me about the quilt you brought today. The one that you had hanging out there.
Betty Boehle (BB): What did you want to know about it, how many ties are in it?
PJ: You just tell me about the quilt.
BB: Well, I saved all my husband’s ties. He went into the service when war was declared, World War II, stayed in until it was over with and he had a different tie each time he had to attend meetings. So I kept these ties all these years, and so I decided to make a quilt for him, and that’s what I did.
BB: There’s 42 ties in the quilt.
PJ: Well, this really has a special meaning for you. When did you finish this quilt?
BB: In ’85.
PJ: Yep. Is this a favorite quilt of yours?
BB: One of them, yes.
PJ: Good. Why did you choose that? Because of the memories?
BB: Because it meant so much to me. Each tie had a certain meaning to me. One was when he was in the service. Next was when we got married, and then when we had our children, when they graduated from college, grandchildren, and on down the line.
PJ: How did you keep track of all of that?
BB: I wrote it down in a notebook.
PJ: OK. What do you think that someone looking at your quilt might conclude about you?
BB: What they might think about me?
PJ: Yeah, what they might think about you.
BB: Well, that I was just interested in doing something that pertained to myself and my family.
PJ: OK. How do you use this quilt?
BB: At the present time it hangs on the wall. It’s a memorial in other words in memory of my husband and for our family.
PJ: Do you have any other plans for this quilt?
PJ: Don’t plan ever to put it on a bed, because of it’s being so special?
BB: No, no. Then when I die, well, it’ll go to my son.
PJ: At what age did you start making quilts?
BB: I guess around, maybe 12 years old. I, my grandmother and mother taught me how to quilt and that’s how I learned and from that. . .
PJ: Was it on a machine? Did you. . .
BB: Yes, treadle machine, treadle sewing machine. That’s what we started out with.
PJ: And, when they taught you, did they do, did they teach you like in increments, you know, first they’d show you how to one part, or did they help you all along the way.
BB: All along the way and taught me how to sew and make a small stitch instead of a large.
PJ: How many hours a week do you estimate you quilt?
BB: Well, that just depends. If I’m on a quilt, then I spend about six or eight hours a day; but, if I’ve already got it finished, well then, I don’t spend that much time.
PJ: Do you only do hand quilting? You don’t do any machine quilting.
BB: No machine quilting.
PJ: Now, do you piece by machine?
BB: Yeah, I piece by machine, but I don’t quilt by machine.
PJ: OK. Can you think back about your first quilt memory?
BB: Yeah, it was a doll quilt.
PJ: And, did you make it?
BB: Yes, I did, with help of my mother and my grandmother.
PJ: Do you still have that quilt?
BB: That I don’t know. It could be at the ranch, I really don’t, in my cedar chest or my trunk; but, I don’t think so.
PJ: There are other quilt makers in your family; are there any friends that also, that quilt? Do you have a lot of friends that quilt?
BB: Oh yeah. My sister and I quilt quite a lot. See, what happened, my sister’s sister-in-law, worked for Joske’s [large department store chain] of Texas. I have to tell you this. And, whenever Joske’s of Texas sold out, they gave this lady all their materials; so, my sister said one day, “Betty, come over and we’ll go and get material. We took her station wagon and we got it full; brought it to my house, went back and got another. Then we got two for her; and then our husbands said “No more. Where are you gonna put it?” [BB laughs] Since then I’ve never had to buy material. All I had to do was go to this sister-in-law and she had all this beautiful material from Joske’s.
PJ: You’re saying “Joske’s,” is that. . .
BB: Joske’s of Texas. In San Antonio, you know where that is.
PJ: I know where San Antonio is, I don’t remember where. . .
BB: You don’t know where Joske’s is?
PJ: No. Are they still in business?
BB: Well, let me see, they closed out about eight years ago. Maybe not that many years ago, I’d say. . .
PJ: Well, was the fabric on bolts or was it just folded?
BB: Bolts, yes, some on bolts, some just small pieces, and. . .
PJ: Do you still go to your sister-in-law, her fabric store?
BB: If I need some. She has quite a bit at her house. She lives in San Antonio, close to Saint Mary’s University. So, if I need material, all I have to do is go there or to her sister, her sister-in-law; and, I haven’t bought quilting material in a number of years.
PJ: Now, do you have to buy other supplies, like threads and needles?
BB: Oh, yeah. Threads and needles and cotton. We have to buy that, but not the materials.
PJ: You’ve been very fortunate that way.
BB: I have and I’ve made some beautiful quilts.
PJ: Tell us, have you ever used a quilt to get you through a difficult time? Or quilting to get you through a difficult time?
BB: Well, I guess I would say that with my grandmother, she was very active like that and if I needed help or something, she was always willing to, I could go to her home, she lived in Bandera [Texas] and see we lived in Hondo [Texas] and I could stay with her after I got through high school.
PJ: Betty, there is a symbol on the quilt you brought today. Tell us what that symbol means.
BB: That was my husband’s brand that he branded his cattle with, and that was his brand.
PJ: OK. What do you like the best about quilt making or pleasing about quilt making?
BB: I don’t know, I’ve always loved to quilt. It’s just something that I can relax and I know how to do it and my mother and grandmother taught me how to do things like that and relax and I could do it. And my grandmother had a quilting machine and she did a lot of knitting. They had cotton, raised cotton and things and we’d spin that and we could tromp that treadle and spin that thread and then she’d make. . . I have a sweater that she made me when I was a little teenage girl, about 12 years old, and I have that in my cedar chest. I hope it’s still there. [BB laughs.] But, other than that Grandmother and Mother were wonderful helpers. All of us, I have two sisters, they all knew how to quilt and sew.
PJ: Have you some kind of amusing story about anything that’s occurred from your quilt making?
BB: I don’t think so.
PJ: OK. Do you belong to any quilt groups?
BB: Yes, I do. I belong to the Quihi one, in Quihi [Texas], and then I belong to one in Hondo [Texas], and then the one here in New Braunfels [Texas].
PJ: And then you belong to a Bee, don’t you?
PJ: Here in New Braunfels, also? Technology has changed things in quilting; has any of that technology influenced your work?
BB: No. I still go by the way I was taught, and . . .
PJ: Do you use a rotary cutter?
BB: Yes, I do.
PJ: And, that’s about the only technology that you . . .
BB: That, and scissors, is about the two things that I use to cut the material, and a pattern, of course I always have a pattern.
PJ: What are your favorite techniques?
BB: I guess it’s my son, who puts the quilt in the frame for me. He measures it after I have cut it out or made the quilt top and he, we have a frame that, he knows how to measure the quilt and puts it in there and puts the cotton in there and puts the top on it, then rolls it and I start quilting.
PJ: Where is that frame kept?
BB: Either in a closet or in his garage.
PJ: Oh, so, it’s not out all the time?
BB: No, just whenever I’m using it.
PJ: Do you have a studio or a place where you quilt?
BB: Yes, their living room. That’s my studio now. Donna has made me a nice little sign and put up there, “Betty’s Studio”. [both BB and PJ laugh.]
PJ: How do you balance your time? I know you’re retired, but, how much time, like how many hours, you know, how do you break up the day? Do you start in the morning?
BB: I start in the morning, and then stop for lunch and rest an hour or so at lunch and then I start working until evening and then I find out if I need to add more on to it or get through with it sooner, I keep on quilting.
PJ: OK. Do you use a design wall? Do you put it up on a wall when you’re working on something, designing something?
PJ: Do you use patterns?
BB: I always have a pattern.
PJ: Do you ever make up your own patterns?
BB: I do. Just like those ties.
BB: I didn’t cut them down or anything. I left them as is and placed them side by side, then that’s how I used that many ties.
PJ: What kinds of things make for a great quilt?
BB: Is your material. That’s one of the things that you should always think about, is your material that you’re gonna use, because that quilt will be handled quite a bit. So you want the material to be a good grade of material and then you use a good brand of cotton.
PJ: Is there a particular color that you seem to be drawn to?
PJ: OK. In your estimation what makes a quilt artistically powerful?
BB: The way it’s made.
PJ: Do you always do large quilts?
BB: No. I make baby quilts. I make just regular quilts that you’d put on a chair or something like that and I make the king size or queen size.
PJ: Well, I know that you’d come to Guild and you have had a lot of queen, king size.
PJ: Is that your favorite color? Favorite one to do?
PJ: The bigger ones?
BB: The bigger ones are; because, one thing, I have the material to do it. Why not do it, rather than cut it and throw it away?
PJ: Do you ever go to museums and look at quilts?
PJ: And what makes a quilt appropriate for a museum?
BB: the way it’s made and the material. Not just the person that did it, but, the material and what’s in it.
PJ: What about the pattern that they’ve used?
PJ: What makes a good or a great quilt maker? What kind of things do you have to have to be a good . .
BB: I would say the way it’s made, your quilting, your cutting, and the pattern.
PJ: And how precise you are?
BB: Yes. And if it’s for a certain, if you’re making it for a certain thing. Like I’ve been doing, I would say the last 30, 40, years, or ever since our church has had the sausage supper. I have donated a quilt every year.
PJ: And that church is?
BB: Quihi Lutheran Church in Quihi [Texas].
PJ: And that is down southwest of.
BB: West, close to Hondo [Texas].
PJ: Down near San Antonio [Texas].
BB: Yeah, it’s west.
PJ: West of San Antonio [Texas]. Is there one particular, when you go into a quilt show, is there one particular thing that you go to first? I mean do you like the art quilts? Do you like the traditional?
BB: I try to see them all. To see what has taken place.
PJ: But, you’re drawn more to what, for you to make?
BB: I guess just, I don’t know, how would you explain it. It’s just, where it would just be normal.
PJ: Like a traditional, like Grandma.
BB: Traditional, that’s what I started to say
PJ: Like Grandma would make?
PJ: Has there been any one book that you looked at, or an artist, or a designer whose patterns you favor more than another?
BB: Well, there’s a friend of mine that lives in Castroville [Texas], you probably know her [asks unknown person] “What’s Shark’s last name?” [Unknown person replies “Faustina”] Shark, Dr. Shark’s wife and her picture is in this book I’ve got and she started out like I did. She’s been a quilter all her life.
PJ: Did you take some inspiration from that book?
BB: You always get a little something from a book.
PJ: I agree. How do you feel about machine quilting vs. hand quilting?
BB: Well, I am a hand quilter; so, machine, I haven’t done much of that, so, that’s hard for me to say; but, I am hand quilting.
PJ: What about longarm quilting?
BB: I’ve never done that either and neither has my grandmother or mother that I know of. Now I have a sister who quilts; but, she’s in a rest home right now, but, she, I think she had a quilting machine. But other than that, no, I do all of my own handwork.
PJ: You’re fairly fast, aren’t you? I mean. . .
BB: The longest it has took me, is being on a quilt, a week and I’ve got it finished. But that’s. . .
PJ: Now, is that from start to finish?
BB: To finish. Yes.
PJ: And that is all. . .
BB: That is a huge size quilt, king size. It’s pieced, I mean it’s a pieced quilt. It’s not blocks, it’s pieced.
PJ: Why is quilt making important in your life?
BB: It’s just something I love. Just like people have other things that they like to do, I just love to quilt.
PJ: Do you think your quilts ever reflect the community you live in or the region you live in?
BB: Yes, like I have friends right now, they live in Hondo [Texas]. They call me different times and want to know if I’m coming out or if they could help me with a quilt or something like that.
PJ: And do they come and help you with the quilt?
BB: They used to, but now that I live here in San Antonio [they don’t ever come]; but, they did when I still lived at Hondo [Texas]. I usually had, when I put a quilt in the frame, I would have two or three quilters helping me all the time.
PJ: Coming to your house and . . .
BB: Yeah, coming to the house.
PJ: Have you had that frame a long time?
BB: Wooden frame? Yeah, I’ve had two or three. [BB laughs.]
PJ: Oh, it’s not your first one?
BB: It’s not my first one, no.
PJ: Do you think that your quilts reflect how you feel about the world, I mean?
BB: I hope so.
PJ: Well definitely with the one about the ties, that you did for your husband.
PJ: And for yourself.
BB: And I’ve made each one of the little granddaughters a doll quilt and then we’ve made the boys a “Spinner”. That’s a strip quilt and different ones I’ve used different patterns.
PJ: Do you have any idea how many quilts you might have made in a lifetime?
BB: No, I don’t.
PJ: You’ve never kept track, or. . .?
BB: I used to have a book that I had them in; but, I don’t know where my book is now.
PJ: Why do you think quilts are so important in American life?
BB: Well, to me, it’s relaxing. It gives me something to think about and to do rather than go to a nightclub and sit there and drink beer. This way I can quilt, make something, to give to somebody.
PJ: Is that what you do mostly, give your quilts away?
BB: Most of them, I do. But, now that I have all this material, then I can
PJ: You’ve taught quilting, is that correct, at times?
PJ: And who did you teach to quilt?
BB: The ladies who belonged to our Lutheran Church in Quihi [Texas] and also whenever, I had friends when my children were in school, some of them would come over to the house. We would quilt, or I’d have them cut out a quilt, different things like that.
PJ: Did you teach your daughter-in-law to quilt?
BB: No. Donna [Boehle] knows how to quilt without me teaching her.
PJ: And what about the grandbabies that you made the quilts for?
BB: All of the daughters, or daughter-in-laws, they know how.
PJ: Was that because you taught them?
BB: Well, yeah, that or my mother did, or my sister. See, my sister can quilt just as well as I can and she lived at Bandera [Texas], well lived on the ranch, out from Bandera [Texas] and she, more or less, taught quilting, where I let them come to my house and we did it that way.
PH: How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?
BB: Well, for one thing, if you’re going to take care of them, be sure, if they have a stamp on them, to wash them and dry them real good and then keep them in like in a cedar chest or trunk or something like that.
PJ: Do you wash all your fabrics before you. . .?
BB: Most of it I do.
PJ: Most of it?
PJ: What would you not wash?
BB: Well, if I was in a hurry to get a quilt done and I needed to get it finished and I had to have some of the material, well then, I wouldn’t wash it, but, most of it I wash.
PJ: What happens to all the quilts that you’ve made for family and friends? Do you, like, do the children sleep under them?
PJ: The grandchildren?
PJ; You give most of them away?
PJ: How do you make selections when you’re choosing? Do you choose the pattern first, or the fabric first, or is it done at the same time?
BB: Same time.
PJ: Do you see a quilt and it tells you, “This is how I have to made this.”?
PJ: So it , actually. . .
BB: I have to have a pattern.
PJ: OK. The fabric will tell you that. . .
BB: Yes. I can do. . .
PJ: OK. Do you use templates?
BB: Well, I cut my own pattern. I can look at it and take my measurement that I know, say the quilt is going to be 80 by 90 [inches], well then I know how to cut the blocks and how many to put in that and I know how to cut it.
PJ: Now, do you use template plastic?
BB: No. Paper.
PJ: Paper? OK.
BB: Cause if I’m gonna cut it down, I can cut it down. You use template, it’s too hard to do it.
PJ: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quilters today?
BB: I would say, make up their mind that they’re going to do it and do it.
PJ: Because of time or. . .?
BB: Time, yeah. Because a lot of times you’ll see something and you’ll say “Oh, well, I’ll do that tomorrow.” and then you don’t do it. But, I had a list. I had a notebook and I had a list of different things I wanted to do and I did it.
PJ: Was, have you done everything on the list
BB: Just about, yeah.
PJ: What are some of the things that you still want to do?
BB: I did that “Lone Star” about, I don’t know how many times, and then I’ve done others; “The Doll Quilt”, I’ve done that and just regular quilts.
PJ: Do you do appliqué at all?
PJ: Because I have, I know at the Guild I’ve never seen you bring things in, but I had heard that you did appliqué.
PJ: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us that we have not covered?
BB: Well, all I can say is don’t, don’t just give up. Whenever you can’t get something going right, sit down and think about it or go talk to somebody who will advise you and help you and then do it; but, don’t give up.
PJ: Thank you very much.
BB: You’re welcome.
Interviewee: Betty Boehle
Interviewer: Phyllis Jordan
Transcriber: Michelle Glenn
Project Name: The Texas QSOS
Location: Sophienburg Museum, New Braunfels, TX
Time: 1:49 p.m.
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