Alma Mendoza




Alma Mendoza




Alma Mendoza


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The Salser Family Foundation


Boonville, California


Kim Greene


Note: Lee Serrie was filming this interview for the group's DVD which will be released later in the year. Yolanda Ibarra was the interpreter.

Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave, and I am doing a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save our Stories interview with Alma Mendoza. It is March 7, 2007, and I'm in Boonville, California. It is 1:05 in the afternoon. Alma, thank you for doing this interview with me. Please tell me about the quilt that you brought today.

Alma Mendoza (AM): This quilt is dedicated to my son because I want a lot for him; so he can be the president of the United States when he gets older.

KM: How many quilts have you made?

AM: Ten.

KM: Which number is this one?

AM: This is my first.

KM: That is your first quilt? Oh, you did a good job. Why did you choose to do this quilt?

AM: It is very special for me, because that is my first boy. The quilt represents my first child.

KM: Mother's love. I like that you, the hair, so tell me about the construction.

AM: I cuts thread, embroidery thread and then I braided and then I--

KM: Is this how you wear your hair?

AM: Yeah. Si, I used to wear my hair like that.

KM: You did embroidery?

AM: Si.

KM: This is not machine done but hand done?

AM: By machine.

KM: All of this was done by machine?

AM: First I drew it and then I went over with a machine.

KM: You did a drawing of the whole quilt?

AM: Si. Why is the period away from si?

KM: Is this very typical of your quilts?

AM: Si. That is the way I do my quilts. I draw them out first and then I do them. First, I do like art on a paper and then I do it with the material.

KM: Do you like writing the story behind the quilt?

AM: Si.

KM: Do you come up with the story first or the idea first, or together?

AM: Together. I create as I am going.

KM: You think about the story in your head as you are creating a quilt.

AM: That gives me the idea of how to go.

KM: You like having the story with the quilt?

AM: Si.

KM: Have you sold any of your quilts?

AM: Si. Of dolls and two more.

KM: What did the other two look like?

AM: Angel, my family.

KM: How did it make you feel to sell a quilt?

AM: Very happy.

KM: Do you have a sewing machine at home.

AM: Yes.

KM: Where do you sew in your home?

AM: In the kitchen.

KM: In the kitchen. We have found that many of the women, including me, have sewn at the kitchen table.

AM: We have the biggest table in the kitchen.

KM: What does your family think of your quilting?

AM: That I am an artist.

KM: How did that make you feel?

AM: Very happy.

KM: Good, that is good. Does anyone else quilt in your family?

AM: Si.

KM: Who else quilts in your family?

AM: My sister, Carmela is my sister, and my mom.

KM: What are the future plans that you have? What do you have going on in your head for more quilts?

AM: I am going to make some more stories of when we were in Mexico.

KM: Do a story quilt about Mexico?

AM: Si.

KM: What do you do with this quilt?

AM: I am going to try and sell it.

KM: Do you have any quilts hanging at home that you made?

AM: Si, yes, I do.

KM: What do they look like?

AM: They are of the Virgin Mary. My daughter has one she made too. My daughter. My son has another one with the Virgin Mary, Jose and the baby.

KM: How old are your children?

AM: My boy is twelve and my little girl is ten.

KM: What do they think of the quilts in their room?

AM: They all want them because they think they are so pretty. So they want to keep them. [laughs.] We have another one, Virgin Mary, big one that I made.

KM: Where do they keep that one?

AM: I made that right there.

KM: Oh, I didn't know she was being filmed.

Lee Serrie (LS): I need you Karen to talk for a little bit now. We are not going to use it, but I need to see your jaw line.

KM: Tell me about the doll. I need to hear.

LS: No, I need you to talk like--

KM: But I need to do the interview, it is on a tape. I'm sorry. Tell me about the doll?

AM: I always have socks everywhere, so I have to think of something to do. My daughter had a whole drawer full of socks and they were just everywhere. Since I noticed that her draw was too full, I made this doll bag to hold them. So, I went through my daughter's socks. This doll is for bags, the plastic bags. It is good for anything, because it has the bottom open.

KM: Who is she supposed to be?

AM: A black person, and then her apron. She has an apron on.

KM: Your daughter has one and you have one?

AM: Yes.

KM: How many have you made?

AM: Three.

KM: This is for sale.

AM: Si.

KM: You have one for sale and one for your daughter and one for you. That is good, very good. Let's bring this other quilt in of yours. We will talk about this one. Tell me about this quilt.

AM: This one represents all of my family. There was thirteen of us.

KM: Thirteen in your immediate family?

AM: Yes.

KM: This is your immediate family? This represents brothers and sisters, mother and father.

AM: Yes. There are only twelve of us now. My mom had sixteen kids.

KM: Wow. Some women.

AM: My brothers and sisters.

KM: What do these represent?

AM: Her grandparents.

KM: This is your grandparents on either side. What do the butterflies represent?

AM: That is just decoration.

KM: It is nice decoration. You machine quilted this one?

AM: Si.

KM: Because this other one is not machine quilted, is it? Oh yes, it is. Do you like machine quilting?

AM: Si. I love it.

KM: What is your favorite part of quilting?

AM: The story, trying to decide the story and trying to arrange it, and then after it is done just to see if after it is done. I am very happy.

KM: Do you have a least favorite part of quilting?

AM: No.

KM: This is so sweet, faces in the center of the flowers. It is very pretty.

Yolanda Ibarra (YI): All have a smile on them. [laughs.]

AM: I love them that way. I want to see them happy all the time.

KM: Is that true?

AM: Si.

KM: That is very good. What does your family think of your quilt making?

AM: Everybody wants one.

KM: Are you going to make them for everyone?

AM: I made one for all of my sisters.

KM: How many sisters do you have?

AM: Eight.

KM: What did you make them?

AM: Virgin Mary. Oh, and I did little ones for--little tortilla warmers.

KM: She doesn't have a Virgin Mary quilt here; I would like to see one.

AM: I made one for Molly [Johnson Martinez.].

KM: You made one for Molly too. Molly has one of your Virgin Mary quilts. Is it in the classroom? It is the one that is hanging up on the wall in the classroom. So that is yours. Are you going to make more Virgin Mary quilts?

AM: Si. I am going to make three more to sell.

KM: How much do your Virgin Mary quilts sell for?

AM: $90 or $100. Around that size.

KM: What size do you like to make?

AM: Small. I make three a day if I sit down.

KM: You make three quilts a day?

AM: That is why I like to do small ones. I make three of Virgin Mary quilts a day.

KM: Wow.

AM: This one I made in one day. When I came to class, and everybody gave me an idea of what color to put down.

KM: It is very cheerful. When did you start quilting?

AM: It was last year when I started to come to class. Carmela had already talked to me about the class and then I finally decided to come, and I loved it. I like it a lot. I am going to continue coming.

KM: Continue making quilts. That is good. Tell me about the group.

AM: Very happy, very nice. It is here for us.

KM: What is your favorite part?

AM: That everybody is talking about what they are going to do and each one of us share the ideas of what we are going to do and what we are planning to do.

KM: Do you have a quilt in the book?

AM: Si.

KM: Which one? Tell me the story behind it.

AM: It's the one about my son--El poder de ser mama-The Power of Being Mother

KM: You can draw. Did you sew before you started making quilts?

AM: No. Just a hem or something like that, easy things. Now I want to make dresses for my daughter's dolls and since I came to class, I learned to do all of this.

KM: How many hours a day do you spend making quilts?

AM: Three hours.

KM: Three hours every day?

AM: Si.

KM: How does it make you feel?

AM: Contented. [laughs.] Happy.

KM: What do you think about all of your quilting?

AM: They are beautiful.

KM: What do you think about them?

AM: Make more, keep on making more. Getting more ideas and different things. I want to make a purse.

KM: Purses now.

AM: And more quilts of stories that she has.

KM: What is your favorite technique? Quilting, machine appliqué?

AM: Arrange the materials.

KM: What are your favorite materials?

AM: That kind of material.

KM: So, you like cotton materials with a little bit of soft--

AM: Anything that I can iron well.

KM: So, you don't use like the corduroys or the velvets and things on your work?

AM: No. I don't like that other kind of material. I have never used it. I think that once I iron it, it will stick to the iron, so I don't want to ruin it.

KM: Good thought. Why is quilting important to your life?

AM: Because people know me that way. I earn more and I have more ideas and I hope that they like what I do. I have a lot of ideas.

KM: Good.

AM: I haves them in my head already.

KM: How many?

AM: Five.

KM: Five in your head that need to come out. You will have that done in one and a half days.

AM: [laughs.] I am more of those person that says, ‘I will finish it,' and then I do it. Like in the afternoon when I have nothing to do and I am bored, I sit down and draw my idea, and I just start the whole thing from there.

KM: You do the drawing, you do the quilt, and then you do another drawing and another quilt?

AM: Um, hum.

KM: But you don't have lots of drawings?

AM: I work on three at one time, when I get bored. Then I finish them one by one. My husband says, ‘Go to sleep, no more sewing,' because I make too much noise. I need a machine that doesn't make so much noise.

KM: What does your husband think of your work?

AM: He doesn't want me to sell any of them.

KM: He wants you to keep them all? That is very nice. Sell them?

AM: Si.

KM: Do you ever buy any of your own materials?

AM: Si.

KM: You do.

AM: Sometimes I can't find the material I want, so I buy. Thread and needles and all that stuff. All this thread, shiny thread.

YI: I asked if she likes to us it.

KM: Your sewing machine likes the metallic thread?

AM: Um, hum.

KM: What kind of sewing machine do you have?

AM: Singer.

KM: An old Singer. I had an old Singer. I burnt out the motor I quilted so much. I was living in Aruba, which is an island near Venezuela and there was a man on the island who could fix anything. When I took in my sewing machine because it wouldn't work anymore, he said, ‘Karen it is dead.' [laughs.] [AM laughs.] ‘You burned the motor out.'

AM: It gets tired. We have to sell them so we can buy another one if it burns down.

KM: Do you take some of the money from selling and use it for your work?

AM: Part.

KM: What do you do with the other part?

AM: I am saving.

KM: Putting it away, what are you saving for?

AM: For her and her son.

KM: How did you feel about being part of the movie?

AM: Very happy.

KM: Good, I hope that they cut me out. [laughs.]

AM: [laughs.] Why.

KM: Just focus on you. You make wonderful work. Do you think that your work reflects your culture?

AM: She does.

KM: Are these sunflowers?

AM: I love, that is her favorite flower. I like that and roses, I love those. Yes, these are sunflowers.

KM: I love sunflowers too. This is very dimensional. You did a great job.

AM: I want the thing we use in the middle.

KM: That batting.

AM: I put them.

KM: I noticed that you like to stuff things. It is called, isn't it? trapunto. Very dimensional. Do you like texture and dimension?

AM: Si.

KM: When did you make the sunflowers?

AM: Same day that I made that.

KM: The same day?

YI: She makes three, remember. [laughs.]

AM: I am focused. Every time my sisters call me, I said, ‘I'm sorry,' my other sister calls me, ‘I'm sorry, I'm sewing I have three already.'

YI: Oh my gosh.

KM: How do they feel about--

AM: My friends come and check out my work and they love what we are doing. I show all of them before I bring them to class. They can't believe I have made all of these beautiful things. Somebody wants one. A friend wants me to one like this, of the sunflower. I am going to sell that one. The one I have here, they are for sale.

KM: You keep the ones at home that you don't want to sell?

YI: Then she brings the other ones here that she wants to sell.

AM: I keep one and I bring the other two here. Molly says that she likes it for show. If she thinks it is nice for me to sell it, then I let her keep it.

KM: What do you think of Molly?

AM: A lovely person. She gives me courage, like ‘yes you can do it.' But I don't think I can. That first one I started. She gives you more, she keeps you going, not to quit.

KM: What did you do before you quilted?

AM: I worked. But I never did do anything like this before.

KM: Is there anything else you would like to add?

AM: No.

KM: Thank you, I'm going to conclude our interview and it is 1:37.


“Alma Mendoza,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 16, 2024,