Callie Daugherty




Callie Daugherty




Callie Daugherty


Evelyn Salinger

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

National Quilting Association


Washington, D.C.


Evelyn Salinger


Evelyn Salinger (ES): Today is September 6, 2005. We are interviewing Callie M. Daugherty at around eleven o'clock during a Daughters of Dorcas meeting in Washington, D.C. Her number is 20002-015. The interviewer is Evelyn Salinger. Hello, Callie.

Callie Daugherty (CD): Hi, how are you?

ES: Fine, thank you and how are you? It is nice of you to come today to do this.

CD: It's nice to be invited.

ES: First, I am looking at a most beautiful wall-hanging here and I'd like for you to tell us what this is.

CD: This is [called.] a dish garden.

ES: A what garden?

CD: Dish Garden. Like the flowers you get from maybe any flower shop. And we have different flowers as you notice. We have rucheing, regular flowers, a butterfly. We have a rose. And we appliquéd it. We have leaves appliquéd down and we have leaves that you can turn up so you can pull the leaves up and see underneath the leaves. This is my sampler. I was taught by Carmel Washington. So, all of this is from samples that she taught me to do.

ES: Absolutely beautiful. And when did you make this?

CD: June, I believe, of 2000.

ES: You've done a lot of embroidery on this as well.

CD: I love embroidery.

ES: Is it hand quilted or is it machine quilted?

CD: It's hand quilted.

ES: The stitches are so small. Very beautiful. All those different colors. What do you do with this at home? Do you display it?

CD: Not really, because this is the first thing I learned to do when I was at home with my mother. She taught me how to embroider, not the fancy kind like I have here. I've always wanted to do that. Plus, my mother quilted. But she didn't do appliqué. I was very interested in appliquéing and embroidery.

ES: It's just lovely. All the colors. Let's look at the back. It's pretty much a white but it has some of the feather stitches coming right through it, from the borders. Beautiful job. Would you tell me for whom this wall hanging is? Is this something for yourself?

CD: It's just for myself. Everything else I made, I made for the family, but these two are for myself.

ES: OK. Let's look at your second one now. This one's a little bit longer and narrower. The other one is square, and this is rectangular. Will you describe this one?

CD: This one has a little story behind it. When I was a little girl, my father's aunt had this huge farm and, on the farm, she had a fishpond. She had a goldfish pond. And the flowers she had around it looked so beautiful. I, in my mind, was making this like a fishpond. On one side of the yard was lower than the other and she had all these flowers and huge goldfish in the pond. That's why I named it Lily Pond.

ES: These flowers are of your imagination or are they particular--

CD: In my mind, they were like this. I'm sure they weren't as big as this.

ES: To a little person, they probably seemed big. [laughter.] Would you describe the techniques that you used here?

CD: It's appliqué and embroidery.

ES: And the centers of these flowers?

CD: That's rucheing. I use 24-inch straight piece of material and you sew it like you're sewing a fish tooth. You pull the string, and it comes out round and it looks like a flower.

ES: Oh, I see. And you continue a long strand of it?

CD: Right. The more material you use, the bigger the flower is.

ES: Ah. That was 24 inches--

CD: Yes,

ES: And how broad, the other direction?

CD: About an inch.

ES: And then you fold it over?

CD: Right.

ES: And sew it like you are gathering it?

CD: You sew it like shark teeth.

ES: OK. That's a very interesting technique. And these little pieces become the stamens?

CD: That's a French knot.

ES: Oh. On a straight piece. [of thread.]

CD: Yes.

ES: And again, you have the leaves with the embroidered veins on them. It's a beautiful wall hanging. Do you have a place to hang this one at home?

CD: No. I have both in a cedar chest.

ES: Oh, dear.

CD: [laughs.] Maybe, I should--

ES: You said you did this one second.

CD: Yes. This one I did all by myself.

ES: And it is also in the same year, 2000. Both are absolutely lovely.

CD: The colors, if you notice, I use a lot of purple. It's because I love purple and yellow. When I was like in first grade, we had to put colors together and at first, the only thing I did was purple and yellow. My teacher, Mrs. Holloway, had to tell me, 'You use other colors. You don't use just purple and yellow.'

ES: Aren't they the royal colors, purple and yellow, plus red? The bright orange on the side just sets it off. [interruption.] Your favorite techniques right now seem to be--

CD: Appliqué and embroidery.

ES: So where are your pieced quilts?

CD: Usually I do my pieced quilts by hand. But now I've made three full sized quilts by hand.

And it takes so long to do them. I'm trying to learn to do them on the machine.

ES: The piecing part and the quilting part?

CD: I'd like to do that, but I don't know about the quilting part. The quilting part is a little different. So, maybe I'd better continue trying to do it by hand.

ES: Uh-hum. When did you start sewing?

CD: I started sewing when I was about five. I was trying to make doll dresses. My mother was a seamstress for the neighborhood, ever since I can remember.

ES: She did it as a job?

CD: Yes.

ES: People paid her for sewing?

CD: People paid her. But as far as quilting is concerned, in the winter in the South, at our house, my mother and three other ladies would come and quilt together each week. While we'd go to school, we'd come back from school, you would go in and they had the quilt all over the dining room. So, we'd have to run under the quilt and even another area in order for them to continue to quilt. She would make different dishes on quilting day. So, it would take like maybe two days to finish a quilt.

ES: The four ladies working together.

CD: The four ladies working together for two days.

ES: For whom were the quilts that they made? Were they for sale?

CD: Each house, my mother would have her week. This week it would be at my mother's house, next week it would be at Aunt Minnie's house, the next week Miss Connie's house, and the next week they'd be at Aunt Sadie's house. So that would make the four ladies.

ES: Wow. And the quilts were for themselves?

CD: Each house. If you come to my mother's house, like this week, the quilts were for her. The next week, Aunt Sadie's, the quilt is for her. Each house you go to, the quilt belonged to that person.

ES: Your family must have had a good supply.

CD: We had lots of quilts. We had a huge trunk; I've never seen a trunk that size. It must have been 36 inches tall, maybe it wasn't, but at the time it seemed to me to be 36 inches, and from the 36 inches on up to the ceiling, my mother had quilts. Because it was like 8 children and then my mother and father, so it took a lot of quilts. My Aunt Sadie had 10 children and Miss Connie had one little girl and Aunt Minnie had two children.

ES: A couple of them were 'Aunt,' were they all related to your family?

CD: They were all related. Miss Connie wasn't related to us. But she was a very close friend of my mother.

ES: Sounds like a wonderful life. Where was this?

CD: Vanceboro, North Carolina. That was between New Bern and Washington, North Carolina. Of course, you know that years ago, New Bern was the county seat [of Craven County.], North Carolina. We have still had lots of historical areas there.

ES: You said you have a family of eight children? Where were you in the lineup?

CD: I am the sixth child. I'm the only one that tried to sew, and I tried to cook like my mother and things like that.

ES: The others in the family--

CD: All the others were busy doing whatever they liked. And at one point I would go hunting. My father would allow me to go hunting with him. So, a few times I went hunting. I felt like my life was so exciting.

ES: You had a little school right there where you could go.

CD: When I was very small, we had a one room school. And the teacher had the first grade through the seventh. [When I was in fifth grade, they built a new school.] And then we'd go to the school for the blacks, so we had about 12 rooms. And the library was in the principal's office. The principal had to teach in his office. And we had one school bus. [laughs.]

ES: Oh, my. Do you feel that you got a pretty good education at that time?

CD: At the time, I think so. We had to walk like 5 miles to get to school and five miles back. But it didn't seem like that long because everybody was in the road walking. And then we got the one school bus, and I went to another school-- that was after we found out they did not have enough credits. The school wasn't graduated to go to college. I went to another school, and we still had to walk five miles to meet the bus because it would come to one point. So, at that time, it seemed as if I didn't know it was doing things to my feet. My feet were getting frost bit.

ES: Has that affected you for your whole life?

CD: Yeah. My father--I was kind of small so my father would buy special shoes from Montgomery Ward's. And the shoes had fur in them. I was the only child that had the fur in the shoes. So, the children would laugh because I had black stockings on and fur in my shoes and I had to wear long underwear that had to go down in my stockings.

ES: But you had to keep warm.

CD: Yes. I had to keep warm and after my brothers found out that the children were laughing at me, they put a stop to that, so I didn't have to worry.

ES: It helps to have older brothers. [laughter.]

CD: Yeah.

ES: When did you leave North Carolina?

CD: I left North Carolina when I was eighteen. We have a Marine base down there and my father did not believe in you talking to soldiers. Everybody who was Marine, Sailor was soldiers to him. And I met this fella from the Marine base. But I thought I was trying to be very careful not to meet someone from there. I thought that if you had the white shirt and regular clothes on, you weren't in the Marines. You had to wear a uniform. I didn't know, by living in the woods, that you could wear any clothes you wanted to. So, I met this fella and I talked to him, and my father found out after I had almost graduated from high school. Milton, [later.] my husband, came over in his uniform. He came to see me. He'd been coming to see me all the time. He came to see me in his uniform and my father got terribly upset because he was thinking Milton was from Cherry Point, but Milton was from [Kinston, North Carolina.] They sent him to Texas. So, he got terribly upset and he gave me money and sent me up here [to D.C.] Milton went to Germany and when he came back from Germany, we got married.

ES: Oh. That's how you ended up in Washington.

CD: That's right. My father sent me up here with my sister. [laughs.] He didn't want his children to talk to anybody from the service. The Marines would fight so in New Bern. And he didn't believe in that.

ES: What was your father's job?

CD: My father farmed. He did tobacco, corn, and soybeans. So, my brothers and father took care of the farm. Of course, we worked in the summer. We didn't have to work in the winter. In the deep winter, my father would trap. He sort of lived like the Indians. We ate food from the woods. I really thought we had money. We didn't have any money.

ES: You didn't feel it?

CD: Oh, no, because they had everything there for us. So, when I came to Washington, it was quite different.

ES: Did you get a job when you got here?

CD: I got a job, and I took care of this lady's baby. And the baby was like, she must have been about six months old, I guess. Then the lady moved. Her last name was Maxwell. She moved to Florida and her husband took me to Rocky Mountain, North Carolina. They were moving down there, so he drove, and he took me to Rocky Mountain, North Carolina and I got the bus and went home. Anyway, before the lady left, she called her cousin and asked him to hire me to take care of his baby. So, I took care of the cousin's baby. There was Jack Cooper and Janet Cooper. I took care of their baby. Her name was Lois Beth. And until today, they're still my friends. Janet Cooper's son-in-law--she had two girls--is my dentist.

ES: Oh, my.

CD: So, he takes care of my teeth and I never had to pay him like other people. [laughs.]

ES: Isn't that wonderful. You must be a very good caregiver, because that seems to be your role in life for many years, right?

CD: Maybe so. The wife comes over to my house when she gets ready. If someone is sick or whatever, she'll come over and make dinner. She'll bring dinner over and serve us. So, we're still doing that. We go from one house to the other. And my birthday is the 16th [May.] Her name is Leslie--I call her Les--so Les' birthday is the 14th. So sometimes we go out to dinner, to celebrate on her birthday together. Last year, if you noticed, they came to the Sumner. [Museum.] They were talking to Maria [Goodwin.] probably a lot. And the year before, they were there. Ronnie is Viola's [Canady.], Sarajane's [Goodwin.], Maria's [Goodwin.], and Vivian's [Hoban.] dentist. [all are members of Daughters of Dorcas.]

ES: Oh, Okay. Isn't that wonderful.

CD: He's the nicest man you ever met.

ES: Very good. A good connection from very early.

CD: And now, my granddaughter is getting ready to graduate from a boarding school in Delaware. Lois had my son, his wife and Dana, to come up to Connecticut, or Massachusetts. They want her to go to school at the school that Beth and her husband worked. So, she'll probably go to school up there. She'll graduate next May.

ES: Very nice.

CD: I feel so happy.

ES: You certainly have a long friendship.

CD: [laughs.] Long time. Leslie was 10 years old when I met them. I have enjoyed being their friend. They're very good friends.

ES: You started them off right by being their helper in the family. Let's go back a little bit. When did you do your sewing? Did you learn from your mother?

CD: I learned from my mother. When I was in high school, I think it was tenth grade, I made a dress. It was blue and white. I made this dress. I sewed so good until my teacher Miss Best; she didn't pay any attention to my sewing because she thought everything was right. She had me help her making rosettes and things for evening dresses that she was selling to children during prom time. So, I put my sleeves in the dress. I had my dress finished before anybody else. Usually, I sew very slow. I took my dress home to show it to my mother and as soon as she looked at it, she said, 'Take the sleeves out.' 'Take the sleeves out?' 'Yes, take the sleeves out.' I said, 'Miss Best said they were okay.' She said, 'They're in backwards.'

ES: Miss Best never really looked, then, did she?

CD: Because she just knew I did everything right. [laughs.] My mother said, 'Take the sleeves out.' I took the sleeves out and she showed me where you, at that time you notched, you cut little notches, and she said, 'You match this notch to the other and that's the way you put it in.' I did that and it went so easy. Before, I had to sort of pull it a little bit. And I finished that dress. And I made a suit, I made a wool suit, and I got that right, so she checked that out and it was okay.

ES: It's good you had an expert in the family.

CD: My mother was a very good person.

ES: When did you start the quilting idea?

CD: Quilting? I always wanted to quilt after watching my mother quilt when I was growing up. And I was thinking to myself, one day when I retire, I'm going to start quilting. So, I retired in 1996 and I started quilting. I met Alice Skarda. She was a teacher for Oasis at the Hecht Company in Prince George's Plaza.

ES: I don't know that.

CD: Anyway, I met her, and she was [teaching.] quilting there. So that was the first quilt I made. My daughter wanted a quilt, so she took me to G Street [Fabrics.] and bought all these colors what she wanted, and I made her a fan of each month for my daughter. My granddaughter saw this quilt. She must have been about four or five. She wanted a quilt. She wanted one with ducks on it with polka dot bow ties. My son made one from the computer and sent me a duck [pattern.] to go by. And that's the way I made that quilt. But it took me a long time because it took me about two years to find material with polka dots.

ES: Is each duck a different color?

CD: No, all the ducks are the same. The only difference was the polka dot bow tie.

ES: Uh-hum.

CD: So, after I made that one, then I started coming here and met Mrs. Canady.

ES: To Daughters of Dorcas?

CD: Yes.

ES: How did you find out about Daughters of Dorcas?

CD: Alice told me about Daughters of Dorcas. She was getting ready to go to England, I think. She started teaching quilting on boats. So, she's like going back and forth on whatever boat is going out and she taught quilting.

ES: What an interesting life. [laughter.]

CD: And she was doing very tiny, little samples like an inch square.

ES: Why?

CD: Just to give the people something to do on the boat. It is very interesting. She was a [retired.] Major in the army. We had quite a few people at Oasis to do the quilting.

ES: Very interesting. How does quilting affect your family?

CD: They love it. It seems like that, yes. Two years ago, I made the wall hanging, the Cathedral Window.

ES: Oh, yes.

CD: It had an elephant's face and a man's face. [inaudible.] Anyway, I told my son about it. He was [living.] in Princeton, New Jersey, working there. Terrible snow was on the ground. And he came down in the snow [to see it.] because we had this wall hanging down at the Sumner [Museum.].

ES: A-huh.

CD: I had to call Viola to have someone to let me into the Museum on a Saturday. Viola called and they told her I could come down and my son could see my wall hanging there. The snow was so high until we started down one street and the bottom of the car was scraping, we couldn't go forward. It's really something. But they love my quilts. So, I have to make a quilt for each one of them.

ES: How far along are you in doing this?

CD: I've made a quilt for my daughter. I've made a quilt for my granddaughter. I have two granddaughters. I made a quilt for one of them. And I've made a quilt for my niece. She's very nice to me. Every trip I go on, I don't have to pay anything. She takes me on trips. She took me to California, she took me to Florida, and next year she wants to take me to Paris.

ES: Oh, how nice.

CD: So, I made one of those Star quilts. I bought blocks from Viola to make the quilt. The one that has the African fabric?

ES: Yes.

CD: I made that for her, and I gave it to here on a Christmas. I took her upstairs, and I said—her name is Shirlene--I said, 'Shirlene, let me take you upstairs and show you your Christmas gift.'

[reverse the tape.] [lost in this transition was her description of how her niece cried when she saw the quilt and found that it was for her.]

ES: You have mentioned before about being in the Sumner School exhibit. Have you been exhibiting?

CD: Every year except this year. I'm taking care of my great-grand. And she's so active. I only have a chance to just sit. I do all my cleaning at nighttime. And in the day, I just sit and watch her and let her run all over the place. Mostly, when it starts to get warm, I let her run around on the front porch, because it's all closed in.

ES: How old is she now?

CD: She's about 15 months old.

ES: That's a very active time. Do you do this five days a week?

CD: Every day except Tuesday. Tuesday, I'm off.

ES: So, Tuesday you can come to Daughters of Dorcas, right?

CD: [laughs.] That's why you don't see me doing any work.

ES: Uh-hum.

CD: I'm going to make a quillow [a small quilt that folds into a pillow.] for this group. [hurricane Katrina people coming to Washington.] Of course, when we had the group before--remember in North Carolina--[flood victims.] I did a full-size bed, a twin-size bed and a baby.

ES: Right. I also contributed to that.

CD: Right.

ES: We'll certainly have to help the people from the Katrina. They're coming up here to the Armory?

CD: Four hundred.

ES: Have you entered any other shows along the way?

CD: No.

ES: Have you ever sold any of your quilts?

CD: No, I wouldn't sell.

ES: Do you keep track of what you make, in photos or in albums?

CD: Yes. I have a picture of each thing I made.

ES: Do you have a preference for traditional patterns or contemporary patterns? Do you make your own designs usually?

CD: Some, I make my own. And traditional, I like traditional patterns.

ES: How had quilting been meaningful for the American woman?

CD: In a way, going back in time, I think it sometimes brings people closer together. And you get to know a lot of other people, besides going to church, or whatever. So, I think this has help, and plus it gives us a chance to work together to help the needy. It helps a lot of people who don't know how to quilt, to start--of course, years ago people had to quilt in order to cover the children, to keep the children warm. But now we don't have to do it. We're doing it for hobbies. So, lot of people should really enjoy it as I do. I enjoy making things for other people and myself.

ES: I meant to ask you before, when your mother was making these quilts, what sort of quilts did they do? Was it made out of extra fabrics or--

CD: My mother sewed a lot, and she made them from scraps she had. So, people that she sewed for, she had scraps from that. She didn't just go out and buy material to make a quilt, plus, if you raised cotton, the government would give you material. My mother made mattresses, too. A lot of people, when I was growing up, didn't have a mattress to sleep on. So, my mother made our mattresses. The government gave you the material to make the mattress of and the stuff to put in it. So, my mother made her own. They had a special place there for people who wanted to make the mattresses. So, my mother would go there, and we had a lady by the name of Carrington, she would teach people how to do things in the home.

ES: Did it require a bigger machine for those mattresses?

CD: I don't remember my mother doing that. I thought she did it by hand. I don't remember a machine. Maybe they did have a machine.

ES: Your mother did not have any machine she did all her sewing by hand?

CD: Oh, no. She had a Singer sewing machine at home.

ES: Oh, for the seamstress.

CD: Right. But she did not do the mattress [at home.]. I think she did it by hand. I don't remember a machine at that place. They could have had it there because I was very small little girl at the time.

ES: Did they use clothing and things like that to put into quilts?

CD: Old clothing?

ES: Yeah.

CD: The old clothing, mostly, if it had lots of flowers, she used it for the girls. And the boys, she made the quilts from the denim, from the overalls. Uh-huh. And my father would put guano fertilizer on the tobacco and the corn, and it came in white bags. But it was thicker and heavier than the feed bags. This stuff, you take the fertilizer out and when you finish, it felt like linen. And the more you wash it, the softer it got. So that's what was the backing for the boys' quilts. Sometimes my mother would make the top and there was something she would use, these, you could put pictures on it. Do you remember years ago when they had little printing you'd buy, they put it on pillowcases? They had flowers, birds, and stuff like that. Well, sometimes she would put that in the fertilizer bags to make some kind of a little design on it and then embroidered it. So that's what they had.

ES: The little print things which you iron on?

CD: Yeah.

ES: We used to have those, too. We'd do those on pillowcases.

CD: Right.

ES: And then you'd embroider the pillowcase?

CD: Yes. So, it was rough stuff for the boys. Of course, they were rough on their own. She had five boys.

ES: Do you have advice for new quilters?

CE: Not really. If you don't like to quilt, then just forget it. It looks very easy, but you have to be really involved. You have to like what you're doing.

ES: Well, this has been very interesting. Thank you so much.

CD: Oh, really? [laughs.]

ES: Yes, I have enjoyed learning about your life and your quilting.


“Callie Daugherty,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024,