Socorro Carlos




Socorro Carlos




Socorro Carlos


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date



Chicago, Illinois


Kim Greene


Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I'm conducting a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Socorro Carlos. Today's date is March 14, 2009, and it is 2:10 in the afternoon. We are at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, Illinois. Thank you so much for taking time to do this interview with me. Tell me about your quilt ["Mi Viaje."].

Socorro Carlos (SC): Basically my story is one of when I first came here, which was when I was two and from what I recall I remember wearing a red coat getting off an airplane. I remember that day. It was a September day and it was really, really windy and back in those days you didn't have the extension--what do you call that? The flight dock. You had to actually be out on the runway and come down the ladder and I remember stepping outside and it just being windy, windy, windy and having my mother on the side of me with my baby brother and my sister also. She [my sister, Christina.] said that I wasn't wearing the red coat, but I remember a red coat and she says that I didn't have it. She says that maybe she had it, but I'm like, 'No, I had it.' [laughs.] And so we've always gotten into a fight about that.

My mother used to always dress us up with the frilly socks [points to the lace on the quilt.] and the little black patent leather shoes we always had that. That was a must and also little gold earrings [points to buttons on the quilt.] and they usually were like this little ball earring because that way it didn't get in your hair. It didn't get attached to any clothing or anything. I remember that and down here on my quilt, this house reminds me of my grandparents' house, just the color and my grandfather had this rooster that would chase me. [laughs.] I don't know why he preferred to chase me, but he did. I put him in the picture. My other grandmother, she would always have plants outside of her house and flowers and all kinds of herbs and I put that here. Also I remember when we were coming, I had to leave a doll and they were these big huge plastic dolls that my mom would always buy and I have her in this because I remember her. She was just something that I treasured, so I put that in here and then down here I have roots because those are my roots that even though we moved I bring all that with me when we came here. Here I have a Saint Christopher medal, which is the Patron Saint of all travelers, so I have that here. Then in the background in Zitacuaro, where I was born, there are like tons of gardens that I remember visiting, but this was like later in my years. I always remember these gardens and also from where my grandparents' house, you could see the mountains. After it would rain, you could just see them glistening, which is why I chose this fabric in here because you can see just the glisten off the mountains, after the rainstorms. Here I drew the plains and I just thought of clouds and this shows [points to the image of the wind.], because I see all the Aztec and this is a picture that I drew. I had to incorporate it and when I found these [points to beads.], my sister actually found these for me, it looked like what I was looking for and imagined. I had drawn it on my drawing and it just went perfectly. I found this little button also. Here we have Chicago, which was really hard because I had to research to make sure I wasn't adding any other buildings because at the time I had to make sure the John Hancock wasn't up and around, which wasn't when we came. That was kind of weird. [laughs.] That is basically it.

KM: What was your favorite part of making the quilt?

SC: Just trying to get the story all together. Trying to figure out how to put it together and trying to get ideas and trying to incorporate things that were really meaningful, like the coat and it is just funny that me and my sister, 'No you didn't have a red coat,' and I'm like, 'Yes I did.' I remember looking down and seeing this coat and being only two years old they don't think that I remembered, but I remembered all these other things before we came. I remember braids, always wearing tight braids. My mother would make us have tight, tight braids where I felt like my eyes were being pulled [laughs.], and then also Infant of Prague. When I first came here it was probably years later, but I remember sleeping in my room and waking up in the middle of the night and seeing the image of Prague on my dresser. My sister says I was crazy, [laughs.] but I remember seeing him and he has always had a very special meaning in my life, so that is why I put him in there. I just remember seeing him on my dresser and him having a rosary and I pinched myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. I remember, 'Okay I'm not dreaming,' [pinches self.] [laughs.] and it hurt and just him telling me to go back to sleep and I went back to sleep but I've always had that image with me and he is just treasured for me.

KM: What are your plans for the quilt?

SC: My father wants it. [laughs.] He wants to put it up in the house and he also wants me to make him one of his immigration story, which I plan on doing for him.

KM: Are you going to give it to him?

SC: I'm going to give it to him. My daughters also want it too but I think they want to sleep with it [laughs.] and my granddaughter has asked me to make her a 3-D [points to person.], she wants a rag doll.

KM: Are you going to make a rag doll?

SC: Yes, I'm going to make her a rag doll with her face she says.

KM: This is your very first quilt.

SC: Very first yes. I'm not a very good sewer. [laughs.]

KM: I think it is fabulous. I think it is an excellent first attempt.

SC: Thank you.

KM: I really do and I would not lie to you. How many other quilts do you have planned?

SC: I have my father's quilt and also the other one Juarez quilt. [the group is now working on quilts about the women of Juarez, Mexico.]

KM: Did you ever think about making quilts before the class?

SC: No, I never thought about making quilt. When I think quilts, I think bedspread. I never thought it could be put into something like this, a story. I never thought of it that way. Now that I see what I can work with or how I can work with it, it makes it a whole lot more exciting. I get excited now. [laughs.] I get very excited.

KM: What was your least favorite part of putting the quilt together?

SC: Probably just, I think I just went a little too big with it for my first one. I didn't realize how big it was when I started quilting it. That is what I think was my challenge, but besides that I love doing the embellishments, trying to find all the little details. Then I thought maybe if I add this, but then I was like no and then I think it would be too much and it would take away from some of the meaning so I pulled back on some other things, and thought that could work on another quilt [laughs.]. Yes, but I do plan on making more, not only my story but also for my children because they, actually when I was working at it, 'Oh what is this?' And they would ask me questions about it and I would tell them and I think that is another form of storytelling which they were, 'You remember that mom. How old are you?' [laughs.] That also says, because it is going to be in the family it is going to be part of our history. I think that has a lot of meaning for my family.

KM: What do they think of the actual quilt?

SC: They only saw her without a head. [laughs.] My dad, they couldn't believe that I had done that. They were like 'You made that.' I was like, 'Yes, I made this.' I feel really proud that I can show it off now. [laughs.]

KM: We are having an opening at the museum with all the quilts so the whole world is going to see. How do you feel about that?

SC: I like the finished product so I'm really excited about it. I don't feel that it belongs in the corner [laughs.] or in my closet anymore [laughs.]. Like I said my daughters loved it and I think it is an accomplishment and that makes me feel good. I thought I couldn't do it, but seeing what I did and then hearing everybody else coming and it is just exciting. I just can't wait until the opening to see what everybody else thinks of it, but I love it. I love it and I'm happy with it and I learned a lot. Poked my fingers a few times, but it was well worth it. [laughs.]

KM: What advice would you offer somebody making their first quilt?

SC: Think it out first, start on a small scale [laughs.], something small and then work your way up to something larger. That would be my best advice.

KM: What size is your dad's quilt going to be?

SC: That is going to be smaller than this [laughs.].

KM: This is 44 inches by 36 inches so it is not that big.

SC: Not that big but for me it was. Maybe something half this size for my dad, something he can display in his room since his room is full of stuff [laughs.]. My mom is always complaining, 'Where did you dig that out?' [laughs.] I have letter that my son found in a Bible that has a letter of recommendation that the priest gave to immigration why my father should stay here because he was a very hard worker. I hope the next one is really special and I hope to have it done by his birthday. It is in October too. I'm going to be pretty busy. [laughs.] I don't know how long he will be with us though.

KM: I think it is wonderful that he wants a quilt though.

SC: That is why I was like 'You want?' [laughs.] Especially from me, because my sister is the other one who is the sewer, I'm really not. I will be very happy to make it.

KM: Very nice. What do you think makes a great quilt?

SC: Color and detail. I love the colors and details I've seen in the other quilts of my little classmates and just the way their stories go. I love stories like I said and I see this as another form of storytelling and that is what I like too about it. Like I said, when you think quilts you think bedspread and its not that way, that there is other, it is a form of art.

KM: Has making this quilt changed your opinion of your artistic abilities?

SC: Oh yes, [laughs.] it has found things that I didn't even think I had, just trying to, it is like a painting but in a different form. That is how I see it and hopefully I will make many more.

KM: I hope so too. You are a great embellisher I have to say.

SC: Thank you.

KM: Embellishing is definitely your thing.

SC: That is what I loved at the end of it, going okay. Like I said I was afraid I would put too much and I found that I guess I do have the knack to just put just enough. I wanted to put something, and then I was like no, this won't look right with that.

KM: I love your wind.

SC: I love my wind too. That was one of the first things that I started with, the wind because I remember that day, it was just so windy, so cold and we were from warm country coming to cold country and it was like such a shock. I'm very happy with the outcome of it.

KM: Why would you say quiltmaking is important to you?

SC: It is very relaxing. I did find myself at times not breathing and then reminding myself to breathe [laughs.] and it did relax me, it just brought me to a whole different place. It was a happy place, it wasn't something stressful, which I thought it would be, but kind of an issue with me since with my grandchildren and things like that.

KM: You got it done.

SC: I got it done. I found the time and I think that is another thing, that you do find the time for yourself and this was definitely something that I wanted to do and I found the time to do it and to finish. I love the outcome of it. [laughs.] I was very surprised.

KM: What was your favorite, favorite technique?

SC: I like the machine. The machine I did enjoy and I think I'm going to have to invest in one only because then I can play with the buttons [laughs.], because I did see a lot of stitches that did make a difference in my quilt. I was like, oh found them and some of them I did keep consistent with, but since we were sharing it the stitch did change.

KM: It is a great machine to appliqué.

SC: I did enjoy it, and also the hand sewing. I did learn how to sew [laughs.], because usually when I hem pants I just do it on two sides and that is it, and my sister yells at me because of that [laughs.]. I did find that I do have other talents. It is always good to know.

KM: Definitely, definitely. Do you consider yourself an artist?

SC: Yes.

KM: Very good.

SC: Definitely. I mean it is like you picture it in your mind and then when you see the finished product and you see it. It didn't turn out the way, some changes were made but only because to make it how would you say reasonable. I love this, her head finally went on. [laughs.]

KM: It was very bizarre to have a headless person on the quilt for so long. It is very nice.

SC: I hope to use, I mean the writing to think that you sewed, I will use those in the future because I really do like that and it is like, because I have so many quotes, I love quotes so I want to use those and I've been thinking of just putting them all together, but now that I can use them in something else it doesn't have to be on paper so that is going to bring a whole.

KM: You can make more work.

SC: I was even thinking pillows [laughs.]. It opened up a whole new site for art for me.

KM: What was your impression of the first class?

SC: [laughs.] A little overwhelming at first but when we got into the flow of things everything started to click together and I enjoyed the company. The company was awesome.

KM: Great group of women.

SC: I made new friends. Had lots of laughs. Everybody just trying to figure out what they were going to do and seeing everybody's potential come out, it was great. Not only mine, but everybody else's.

KM: I agree. Is there anything else that you would like to share?

SC: No.

KM: I want to thank you for taking time to do this interview with me.

SC: Thank you for being the good teacher that you are.

KM: Thank you very much, I appreciate that. You are a wonderful student so that also helps.

SC: Thank you.

KM: We are going to conclude our interview at 2:30.


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