Cindy Carey




Cindy Carey




Cindy Carey


Elaine Ventre

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Nancy O'Bryant Puentes


Newark, Delaware


Shira Walny


Elaine Ventre (EV): This is Elaine Ventre. Today's date is September 16th, 2003. It's quarter to 8 in the evening, I'm at Cindy Carey's home in Newark, Delaware. I'm interviewing her for the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. Cindy, where you are from?

Cindy Carey (CC): I'm originally from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

EV: I saw that on your question sheet here and when you answered it you said you had one quilter in your family?

CC: Yes, she is my great-aunt and I just found out a few years ago that she quilted. I didn't know that she was quilting before I got started. My inspiration came from [tape stops and starts.] my grandmother. I think the reason I really got stated in sewing was from my grandmother. My grandmother has been sewing ever since I can remember and she was my biggest inspiration because she is a wonderful person, very encouraging, very loving, I always remember her working at her sewing machine and always working on something for someone else.

EV: What was her name and where did she live?

CC: Helen Butruce and she lives in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

EV: [inaudible.]

CC: I've gone there.

EV: Good, good. Is she still doing a lot of sewing?

CC: Some, yes, her eyes are not so good anymore.

EV: You have an interesting quilt here. I've always seen the labels and the label says "Climbing Vines, quilted by Cindy Carey, completed August 2003." When we were talking about it initially, you said you couldn't put a date on it because you really had begun it in multiple places; you'd been working on it in multiple places and for many years.

CC: Yes.

EV: Can you tell me a little bit about it?

CC: One of the hardest things for me when I started quilting was finding the right colors and colors that go together. My first quilt is very ugly. So my friend, who encouraged me to take my first quilting class, helped me to pick the fabrics for this quilt. This was a pattern I really liked and I wanted to do a nice job with it. I said, ‘Teddy, take me fabric shopping.' She took me fabric shopping. I'm very happy with how the quilt turned out.

EV: May we see it, may I see it? I haven't seen it yet.

CC: When Teddy took me fabric shopping, at the time she lived in Lake Gaston, North Carolina, so that's where the quilt got started. There's not much out there in Lake Gaston so we went into Raleigh to the quilt shop there.

EV: Can you tell me a little bit about the particular pattern?

CC: This is a Thimbleberries pattern. Thimbleberries' patterns are my favorite.

EV: Does it have a special meaning for you, this particular quilt, or is it a fact that you persevered?

CC: I've grown attached to it because I've been working on it over a long period of time. It has a lot of memories in it. Now that it's finished, I can look at this quilt and I remember different things in my life while I was working on it. For instance, it started in North Carolina; I brought home and worked on it in Newark, Delaware. It's been on many vacations, it's been to Florida two times, it's been to Virginia where we had the worst vacation of our lives.

EV: [laughs.] Oh no.

CC: In Virginia, we rented a houseboat but the houseboat broke down and stranded us three times in a day. We left that vacation early. The best part of the trip was the six hour drive each way. During the driving time, I was hand stitching on this quilt.

EV: Do you sleep under this quilt?

CC: No, it was originally intended to go on my bed but, we redecorated the bedroom and now it doesn't match.

EV: Oh golly.

CC: My son has adopted it though.

EV: Okay, so it's now his quilt?

CC: It's on his bed, yes.

EV: Okay, his name is Bryce and he is four years old currently.

CC: Yes.

EV: Okay, that's what you were talking about, you weren't sure if you would get possession of it. [laughs.]

CC: Yes.

EV: [laughs.] To bring it.

CC: Yes, well, I took it off his bed and I folded it and he said, ‘Mom, that's my quilt.' ‘I know, I know honey, you'll get it back tonight.'

EV: [laughs.] So he sleeps under it.

CC: He sleeps under it, yes.

EV: Cindy, tell me about your interest in quilting? What age did you start quilting?

CC: I was 27. I took a class at the Quilter's Hive. It was Intro to Machine Quilting. It brought you through picking your fabrics to piecing everything together, layering it up, quilting it, and putting the binding on. It showed you everything you needed to complete a quilt. So I made that first quilt and then I just took it from there and kept going.

EV: How many hours a week do you quilt?

CC: Six to eight hours. I make time for my sewing. I'll try to pick a particular night and make sure I have everything done that I need to have done in the house and then as soon as my son goes to bed, I go right back to my sewing room. I actually schedule time to go in there because I'm working and I'm raising a family and cooking dinner and you know, you have to make time for what's important and I do.

EV: That's very true. What is your first quilt memory?

CC: I really didn't have much experience with quilts other than when I started quilting. My friend Teddy really encouraged me to take a class. When I was at her home I admired the quilts she was working on.

EV: So she was your inspiration, can you tell me about your family or friends that are quilters; you said you had a great aunt and then Teddy?

CC: I'm not really close to my great aunt. I don't really see her very much. She's in Wilkes-Barre still.

EV: Okay.

CC: But Teddy really got me started in quilting.

EV: Did you like fabric prior to that?

CC: No.

EV: No? So you didn't come that way.

CC: No, I had a general interest in sewing because of my grandmother. My grandmother gave me my first sewing machine. I really didn't know what to do with it. I really needed some instruction and some help but she was in Wilkes-Barre. That is almost three hours away. Taking that first quilting class taught me how to make a quilt.

EV: Okay. Did quilting impact your family in any way?

CC: Yes, my husband is very supportive. He helps me to make sure I have time to go in my sewing room. Like on the weekends if we're all home, he'll make sure to watch Bryce so I can go in there and do some sewing. He's taken me to some quilt shows and watched Brice so I can look around at the different tables. He actually is really good with colors. If I'm not sure what goes together, I'll ask him and he's got a good eye for color.

EV: Excellent.

CC: And Bryce seems to adopt my quilts after they're done. I have a snowman quilt that I'm working on. I was still hand stitching the binding on it yesterday, and I laid it on the floor to open it up and see what it looks like. It has a checkerboard sashing in it and he thought those were little highways. He was running his matchbox cars on it and he just loved that quilt. He's going to want that one when it's done.

EV: Do you give many away as gifts?

CC: I do a lot of baby quilts, yes. Babies are so special and unique. I like to give them a special handmade quilt.

EV: What do you find pleasing about quilting?

CC: The use of color really gets me interested. I just like to see how it's going to come together. Picking the fabrics is a good start, but then you really don't know what it's going to look like until you cut it up and put it all back together. So that's what really keeps me motivated, I want to see what it's going to look like when it's together.

EV: What aspects of quilting do you not enjoy? Are there any?

CC: Yes, the quilting process can be difficult when you're working with a large quilt. That's the hardest thing.

EV: Do you have a frame or a hoop?

CC: I have a small hand quilting hoop, but mostly I'll do machine quilting. When the quilt gets so big, it's just hard to get it under the machine, but the baby quilts are not a problem. So they're not only good gifts, but they're fun to make the whole way through.

EV: They are aren't they?

CC: Yes.

EV: Okay. These are judgmental questions. What do you think makes a great quilt?

CC: The use of color and balance.

EV: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

CC: Intricate details, I think. Some of the Baltimore Album quilts are very intricate and very detailed and they're truly artful.

EV: So that would make it a quilt for a museum or a special collection?

CC: Oh yes.

EV: What, in your opinion, makes a great quilter?

CC: A great quilter?

EV: Yes.

CC: I don't know. What makes a great quilter? Well-- [tape stops and starts.]

EV: We have to pause--What makes a great quilter?

CC: As long as your quilts are not ugly, you're a good quilter.

EV: Okay and do you have any opinions about machine quilting versus hand quilting? I notice that there is a gorgeous flower and vine in the corner of the quilt that you put--that you brought in this, for the interview and it's beautifully hand quilted but you mentioned machine quilting as well.

CC: This is the only quilt that I've hand quilted. That's another reason that I've been working on it for three or four years because the hand quilting takes forever. I work and I've got a son so you have less time. I like the machine quilting because it accomplishes what I want to do. It will be quilted in a short amount of time and with some practice you get used to handling the larger quilt. I moved into doing some free motion and I really like that because you can cover a big area and it looks nice. Yes, the hand quilting is beautiful but it does take a lot of time. I decided I wanted to take some time on this quilt anyway.

EV: Why is quilting important to your life?

CC: It's a way of expression I think. There's something about the use of color that really inspires me.

[tape stops and starts.]

EV: Do you think, in what ways do quilts reflect your community or region? Do you think the Pennsylvania quilts are different from the Delaware quilts or--

CC: Yeah, I think that can be true, like definitely the quilts that come out of Lancaster County have their own influence on them and particular colors that they like to use, yeah. And I have particular colors that I like to use too.

EV: So it could be a personal preference?

CC: Yeah.

EV: You collect or sell quilts?

CC: I don't think I collect any, I haven't bought any. I have a lot that I have made. I have made a quilt for someone that they wanted for a baby and they paid me for that. I have another person that just recently asked me to make them a baby quilt so I will be doing that soon.

EV: How many quilts do you think you have made through the years? Do you have any number? Are we talking about quilts versus quilt tops? Do you always finish them?

CC: No, I always finish them. They're no good unless it's finished.

EV: Okay, okay.

CC: Teddy, she loves making the tops and she's happy with that. She'll send them out to get them quilted.

EV: Okay.

CC: Sending your quilt out to be quilted is expensive. I do my own.

EV: It is. [laughs.]

CC: How many quilts have I made? I've been quilting about five years. I have a journal where I photograph them and because I give so many away. I have made 40 quilts so far.

EV: Okay, okay. You have a collection of quilting or sewing memorabilia?

CC: I like to collect knickknacks that have anything to do with sewing or quilting, like little sewing machines, thimbles sometimes from different areas, quilting pictures. I like to collect pictures when I go to quilt shows, you can find pictures that have quilts in them and I love to put those on my walls too.

EV: Do you think there's any limit in the way that quilts can be used?

CC: Not really, not really. You want to be careful; you don't want to destroy them.

[tape stops and starts.]

EV: I see that you belong to a quilt guild. Are you a member of a bee?

CC: I'm a member of the Ladybug Quilt Guild in Newark, Delaware. I'm not in any one of their Bees. I am involved in another quilt group too that's called Project Linus. They make quilts, blankets and afghans and donate them to their area hospitals and give them to sick children.

EV: And I see you've given quilts as gifts, have you given--about how many have you given as gifts do you think?

CC: I have given 25 as gifts.

EV: You said that you don't sleep under this quilt anymore. Do you sleep under a quilt that you made?

CC: No.

EV: Okay.

CC: No, I'm working on that though. I have one in process that I have in mind for my bed, but that's on the back burner at the moment.

EV: I know how that goes. How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

CC: I think quilt museums are a good idea, I think the program the University of Delaware has is a wonderful idea. It can also be preserved by teaching others how to quilt.

EV: Has your son shown any interest in playing with fabric scraps or anything?

CC: Empty spools of thread, because they roll. When he was a baby, he couldn't even walk yet, his favorite toy was a spool of thread, he would roll it on the floor.

EV: What has happened to the quilts that you have made?

CC: What's happened to them?

EV: Have you kept up with the people, do they use them? Do they hang them up? Do they put them in a closet? Do you know?

CC: Well, yeah because if I've given a quilt to someone, I know them fairly well. I just gave a baby quilt to someone at work and she told me that she loved it. Her nursery was done in Peter Rabbit and so I found a Peter Rabbit fabric to make her quilt. She just told me that they use it a lot. That really made me feel good because I think a lot of times people want to just hang it on a wall and look at it. I really would rather them be used.

EV: Do you have any siblings who are interested in quilting?

CC: No, I have siblings but they're not interested.

EV: Cousins?

CC: No. No, I'm the only one that sews. Well, my grandmother sewed and my mother sewed. My mother hasn't sewed in a long, long time. When we were little she used to make us outfits. My sister and I would have matching outfits sometimes but no, there's really no one else.

EV: Were there a lot of quilts in the household that you grew up in?

CC: No. My bright idea.

EV: I think it's a lovely idea. Did you have anything--well, how about do you think quilts have a special meaning for women's history and experience in America?

CC: For women's history and experience in America? Any quilter, any woman that may have been quilting I think you kind of sewed your own experiences into that fabric as you're working on it. Also certain patterns do have certain meanings.

EV: Okay. Did you have anything you wanted to add?

CC: No, I can't think of anything. [added after the interview from CC: In addition to quilting, I also do machine embroidery. I embroider the quilt labels. I also embroider on clothing.]

EV: Thank you. My name is Elaine Ventre. I have been interviewing Cindy Carey as part of the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. Our interview concluded at 8:15. Thank you very much.

[tape ends.]

[note: Cindy Carey is a University of Delaware Alumni-1994.]



“Cindy Carey,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 15, 2024,