Hazel Pendley grew up in Mitchell County at the head of Beaver Creek. Though she did not start quilting until she was fifty-five years old, her quilting friend Cecelia Erhardt said, “She was a born quilter.” Hazel’s stitching was so precise that she was once accused of using a sewing machine at a craft show. She did not use a machine for any of her quilting, but instead worked with a number-seven quilting needle guided her own hands.
Hazel was raised by her mother and grandparents in a home without electricity or running water. Gardening and canning ensured a year-round food supply. Her grandmother made quilts, but Hazel was not interested. “I was a lot happier in the woods,” she said. As a teenager, she gathered and sold galax leaves. She worked as a machinist in a local mica house processing rocks and, later, as a dishwasher for local restaurants in Spruce Pine.
In the 1980s, a slipped disc in her back disabled her. Needing something to do with her hands, she began to quilt. She learned from local quilters, including Doris Williams, Sybil Woody, and Cecilia Erhardt.
After a quilting session at the senior center, Hazel returned with about a dozen squares ready to be quilted, and Erhardt knew that she was a natural. “She is by far the best quilter around here,” Erhardt said.
Hazel earned a reputation for her fine craftsmanship. The three patterns she focused on most included Grandmother’s Flower Garden, Longstar, and Trip Around the World. “I just enjoy doing it,” she said.