Teresa Alvarez




Teresa Alvarez


Teresa Alvarez is a Spanish-speaking quiltmaker living in Boonville, California. She began with crocheting and needlepoint before moving to quiltmaking. Alvarez describes two quilts she's completed, "Tinkerbelle," and "The Fruit Basket," the latter of which has been displayed in exhibits around the country.




Melanie Grear


Teresa Alvarez


Karen Musgrave

Interview sponsor

The Salser Family Foundation


Boonville, California


Kim Greene


**This transcript was created by QSOS volunteers and was reviewed and, in some cases, edited by the interviewee. It may not exactly match the audio recording. For citations and interview quotations, please refer to the audio-recorded interview.** Note: Yolanda Ibarra was the translator.

Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave. I am conducting a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Teresa Alvarez. It is 5:00 in the evening on March 7, 2007, and I am in Boonville, Illinois. Thank you for doing this.

Teresa Alvarez (TA): California maybe.

KM: California. See I'm getting tired. See, when I get tired I go home. Thank you for doing this interview with me, and tell me about the quilt that you brought today for the interview.

TA: It is a work. We came to learn to quilt. We learned that we could do a lot of things. We learned how to draw, how to sew better. Learn how to express how one has lived, and what has happened to us and what is past.

KM: So talk about the quilt. Tell me the story.

TA: This quilt represents the border. So when somebody comes over the border they feel like they are in the dark. So, you come here having to better yourself, to get ahead. Tinkerbelle represents the light. The light represents--Tinkerbelle represents light and also the stars represent the light and of the home of the family to get ahead.

KM: What do the flowers represent?

TA: She put them for inspiration to be happy, to have some happiness in the future.

KM: And the calla lilies?

TA: They are like bell flowers.

KM: Orchid. So it is an orchid.

TA: Si??.

KM: They are good. How many quilts have you made?

TA: About four, five.

KM: Four or five. Which quilt is this in order?

TA: The fourth one.

KM: The fourth one.

TA: Si?.

KM: The quilt work in here is amazing. Yeah, it is very heavily quilted. Did you enjoy that?

TA: Yeah it is really pretty, but it is hard.

KM: It is hard, but it is wonderful. The texture is wonderful. So, tell me a little bit about how you put this together.

TA: So it has the toil on it to take down the pieces. I just start in different places and go around and around and around to do the quilting.

KM: Did you plan this out or just let it happen?

TA: I started in one place and just went to the next place and the next place. I start with one and then I finish that and go to the next one when I run out of space. I just start another one, I just start another one. She said she started at the bottom and worked. First I start with "Tinkerbelle" on it, then the flowers, then the middle. Then later I started with the circle and quilting patterns.

KM: So how long did it take you to put this quilt together?

TA: So probably took a month because I work a lot. I work constantly.

KM: Is this typical of your work? Do they look similar?

TA: No.

KM: What do your other quilts look like?

TA: This one is a little bit similar. [shows another quilt.]

KM: It has a lot of machine quilting again. Well you like the machine, you like this?

TA: Very tight.

KM: Very tight, it is wonderful. So tell me about this quilt.

TA: This is the story of my sister's story. When she was in Mexico she was in a, how old was she? When she was nine she was working in a house. We were more poor then we are now. She saw a basket with fruit and she had like a craving. She was craving it. She wanted to eat it. Since then it has been stuck in her mind, it has been recorded on her mind so that image inspired this.

KM: Very nice. You like to heavily machine quilt her backgrounds. Are all your quilts like this?

TA: No.

KM: No. How many?

TA: Just these two. I have two new ones. I haven't shown them.

KM: Oh, they are smaller, smaller ones.

TA: My style is developing.

KM: Good.

TA: This is really cool.

KM: So, tell me, has this quilt been exhibited?

TA: Si?.

KM: Yes, so where has it been exhibited.

TA: In San Francisco [California Institute of Integral Studies.], Lauren's [restaurant in Anderson Valley.], Ukiah [Mendocino College Art Gallery.].

KM: Lauren's, Ukiah, San Francisco, and then?

TA: Philo.

KM: So it has been around a lot.

TA: Yeah. Long Beach.

KM: So it was in Long Beach also? So it has been exhibited a lot. So how does it make you feel having your quilts out there exhibited?

TA: It is nice. It is beautiful. It is interesting. Even more than the traveling part, it is just great to have learned to sew and to draw.

KM: So did you sew before you started making quilts?

TA: I was doing crocheting and needlepoint before this.

KM: But not sewing.

TA: No. I was only repairing things.

KM: Do you have a sewing machine at home?

TA: Yes.

KM: So where do you sew in your home?

TA: In the living room.

KM: In the living room, so there is space just for you?

TA: No, just take it out and put it back.

KM: Been there, I have done that also. So what does your family think of your quiltmaking?

TA: My family likes it more or less, but my sister has been really supportive.

KM: Your sisters say you have. How many sisters quilt also?

TA: I have sister quilters who help me quilt.

KM: Three sisters. So how long have you been quilting, when did you start?

[conversation between YI and TA in Spanish.]

KM: So for two years. So you were there from the beginning.

TA: Yes.

KM: Yes, so you came from the very start. So what do you think of the group?

TA: It gives us good opportunities. To learn art, to get rid of the stress of being in the house all the time. To have something to relieve the house and being at work all the time. Talking with people.

KM: Good. So why is quilting important to you?

TA: To see what a person can do. What you are capable of.

KM: Have you sold a quilt?

TA: Si´.

KM: Which quilt did you sell?

TA: I did one of lilies, it was a very traditional design, but it was cut with raw edges. And one called "The Mask."

KM: So which quilt is going to be in the book?

Yolanda Ibarra (YI): Both ["The Fruit Basket" and "Tinkerbelle" quilts.] of them are going to be in the book because one of them is under her sister's name, and this one is under her name.

KM: So she will have two in the book. So what do you think about the book?

TA: It will be, she will be happy to see it.

KM: So what are your plans for quilting in the future?

TA: Sell them and make more. [laughs.]

KM: You do a very nice job. Are you going to do more intense quilting?

TA: Si?.

KM: Like this?

TA: Si?. Very pretty.

KM: It is very pretty, it is wonderful. So you like to draw?

TA: Not so much.

KM: Not so much?

TA: A little bit. My children and my sister help me draw.

KM: What do your children think of your quilt?

TA: They like it, not really a lot, I have two big boys.

KM: Two big boys.

TA: And now she has a baby.

KM: How old is your baby?

TA: Five months.

KM: Is he a boy or girl?

TA: Boy.

KM: Three boys.

TA: Five boys.

KM: So, five boys.

TA: Yes, five boys.

KM: That is a lot of men.

YI: I wonder why she is so calm.

KM: So what is your favorite part of making quilts?

TA: The whole thing. The quilting.

KM: She likes the quilting part?

TA: Yes, the quilting.

KM: The quilted parts. Is there any part that you don't like?

TA: Border.

KM: Doing the borders. And the mitered corners.

TA: Si´.

KM: But you do a good job.

TA: It is like nerve racking.

KM: You don't have to have borders.

TA: No.

KM: Yeah, you can have it without borders. There are no rules.

TA: This is pretty.

KM: I agree, it is wonderful, but you don't have to. It should be the work that decides whether you need to have something extra or not. But you are doing a great job, very good. It will get easier the more you do it. So what advice would you give someone starting out?

TA: Make quilts.

KM: So why is quilting important to your life?

TA: It is distracting. I like to sell.

KM: You like the selling part.

TA: Si´.

KM: Yeah, and "Tinkerbelle" is for sale.

TA: Si´.

KM: Do you have any quilts at home hanging on your wall?

TA: I had one but it was falling apart. My sister took it to Sacramento.

KM: Do you give quilts as gifts?

TA: For my niece. It is Tinkerbelle that is going.

KM: Another Tinkerbelle, how wonderful. So we need to end.

MM (Molly Johnson Martinez): She has to go.

KM: That is okay. Thank you very much.


“Teresa Alvarez,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 16, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/14.