Christine Carlos




Christine Carlos




Christine Carlos


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

National Quilting Association


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 Christina Carlos. Today's date is March 14, 2009. It is 2:35 in the afternoon, and we are at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. Christina, thank you for taking time to do this interview with me. Tell me about your quilt.

Christina Carlos (CC): The title of my quilt is called "Bendicion" which means blessing. Being a woman I think I'm fortunate enough to be raised in the United States, so that is why I call it "a blessing." My quilt shows the story of how we came to the United States and we were fortunate enough that my dad had a sponsor so he came before us and he already had a home for us. He had a job. Everything was set up when we arrived so all we had to do was just assimilate [laughs.] to the culture and that was easy for us because I was three and a half when we came to the United States with my sister who was about a year and a half and my brother who was about six months. The story just shows how we grew up in the Englewood neighborhood where it is predominately African American when we first came. They would see us playing out in the front lawn of the rectory where my dad used to work, he was a custodian there for the church and for the school. The kids, African American children, would watch us play in the front yard and I don't think they saw anybody of a different race, that is how segregated they were from other cultures. So they would see us and they would ask us, 'Are you all Chinese?' [laughs.] I thought that was funny. I thought for a long time like, 'No, we are Mexican.' [laughs.] That always stuck in my head and we were three little kids playing on the lawn. I was like, 'No we are Mexican. We are not Chinese.' [laughs.] We had braids and I'm a darker color than my sister. We are all different colors so I found that funny that they would think of us as all Chinese. [laughs.] For us, we grew up mostly with different races. We never grew up the majority with Mexicans. I didn't know there were other Mexicans until I was a little older, probably I was in third grade when my father finally found one of his friends that he grew up and worked with in the town of Mexico, Michoacán. That is where they were from and they met again and that is when we started hanging around with more Mexican families and that is when I learned there are more Mexicans. [laughs.] I didn't know. In first grade, I went to predominately African American grade school. In second grade, it was mostly other cultures, maybe one Hispanic and the rest were African American, white, Irish, Polish. So to me, I think I've always been colored blind since I was small and since I grew up with so many different cultures. To me, it is a blessing of being a woman in the United States.

KM: What does the angel represent?

CC: That someone has always been there with us, guiding us. We've never been alone. Everybody has helped us out, especially during the hard times. Everybody goes through difficult times, but some how we always seem to rise and the blessings are there if you look for them.

KM: This is your very first quilt.

CC: Yes, it is. I've always wanted to do a quilt. I used to work for a fashion designer and I would save all the scraps and I would always tell my friend, 'I'm going to make a quilt one day with all these scraps.' [laughs.] So you will see pieces incorporated of the fabric that I used to work with. I used to be a garment cutter. To see these pieces, it reminds me of all the garments that we cut.

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

CC: The different techniques used. I like movement and for me quilting with the sewing machine helped show the movement. I also liked the embellishments. I'm detail oriented so I like a lot of detail in my work [especially with hand sewing.].

KM: You were very confident in the beginning.

CC: Hand sewing, I enjoy hand sewing. Everybody said, 'Why don't you machine sew?' I said, 'That doesn't give me comfort.' For me, relaxation is hand sewing. You see all this detail put into it, it calms me down. It soothes your mind, like meditation. A form of meditation, I see it in the hand sewing and the detail work.

KM: What was your least favorite part?

CC: Machine.

KM: The machine work.

CC: The machine work. The thickness, I'm not used to the thickness so that made it kind of hard and the movement of trying to work with a home sewing machine than an industrial sewing machine. Finding the calm. Finding the peace. You want everything rushed and so for me sometimes you have to take time and just calm yourself down.

KM: What are your plans for the quilt?

CC: Just to put it up and display, probably give it to my dad. He has always been wanting a piece of my art work, so I think I'm going to give it to my dad and say, 'Here dad. Here is a piece that you've always wanted.'

KM: Do you have plans for more quilts?

CC: Definitely. I think I'm going to do portrait quilts. I want to start a portrait quilt.

KM: Of whom?

CC: Right now, I'm thinking of the Virgin of Guadalupe. That is what I have picked out pieces of cloth and trying to get pictures together, because I like faces so that is what I want, more detail with the faces, more into portraits, more into faces.

KM: What advice would you offer someone starting out?

CC: Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid, and don't get caught up in doing it too realistic. I think you want to do figures or faces, no go with shapes, just incorporate shapes, cut out pieces to put together and incorporate. Like with the angel, [points to angel in quilt.] it is triangle. It is not an actual figure. Over here it is just geometric shapes. Just go with shapes so you won't be afraid that you have to make it perfect. No, it is not perfect. You just have to put it together and combine, take your time and don't rush. [laughs.] It is nothing to rush into a quilt, it takes time and that is what everybody wants quick, quick results. No with this you have to take your time in the quilt.

KM: The quilt is going to be exhibited in the museum. How do you feel about that?

CC: I'm excited. It will be my first time [laughs.] to have something exhibited so I'm excited about showing it to my friends and since I don't have any family here in the United States it is mostly friends, which I consider family now. That is the important thing, I will be glad to share it with them because friends to me is family. I will be very excited to show all of them [laughs.].

KM: How did your opinion and ideas changed as the class progressed?

CC: Mine stayed pretty much the same. Nothing really changed. Maybe a few pieces, but no this is mostly what I envisioned when I started off.

KM: You spent a lot of time on your sky. [CC hums agreement.] It looks very nice.

CC: Thank you. I like movement, I like for it to look like it is moving, so that is why I have all the pieces. I put like two different colors to represent balance. Sometimes we have to find balance, like even with the cultures, I was born in Mexico, but I was raised in America so for a long time everybody says, 'You don't speak Spanish in your house?' I'm like, 'No,' because I wasn't obligated to. I mean with them we spoke in English and they spoke in Spanish, so we always had the language stick in our head. For my parents, they wanted to learn the language of English so it was never obligated for us to learn, forced us to speak Spanish at home and English at school. It was easy for our brain to click back and forth. I didn't learn to speak a lot of Spanish until in my twenties when I had to work with more people who spoke Spanish, but before that it was mostly English because all my friends spoke English. For my sister [Socorro.], it was easier for her to speak Spanis because she lived in Mexico for a while [during her teenage years. She is the one who is fluent with her Spanish.]. [laughs.]

KM: Why is quiltmaking important to you?

CC: A form of art, expression, just to show everybody just how I feel. This is how I work with my work.

KM: What does your family think of your quilt?

CC: They are happy, they are happy, except for my boys [laughs.] they are really tired of it, seeing it every night working on it. They are like, when does it have to be done mother. [laughs.] They go, 'You call us procrastinators,' and I go, 'No, I still have time. I like to work on it little by little.' They are happy. They like it a lot. They are proud. [laughs.]

KM: That is good, that is really good. Is there anything you want to add, anything you would like to share?

CC: It was very relaxing working with your friends, you become friends working together. You meet, we just share stories. You are just sitting there. Since I live with my sister, while we are doing our quilts together, we just laugh with whatever and just talk and time flies when you are doing your quilts. Even though it takes time, time does go by quickly when you are doing a quilt. I was happy to share that with my sister. I was very happy, and we shared something in common because for a long time we were so opposites. The art work and making the quilt brought us closer together. I'm happy and I'm happy to see what she is able to do also because she has so many talents and everybody tells her, 'Who made that?' about her quilt and she is like. 'I did.' [laughs.] They are so surprised that she could do it, but I've always known that she was able to do it. I'm happy that I'm able to share something with her.

KM: That was great. What was your favorite part about being in the group?

CC: Just being around the people every week, every month that you become friends, sisters and I think that is important with quilting that everybody becomes closer together, shares stories, shares life, shares their troubles. It is kind of a therapy. Now I understand why women a long time ago would get together and socialize because back then they didn't have a voice. You couldn't talk freely and that was their time to say whatever they had to say about whatever they wanted to talk about. That is how I felt here. We all come and communicate and talk and enjoy each others' company and relieve whatever we have inside. It is a form of therapy. [laughs.]

KM: Tell me a little more about your creative process. Tell me about how you determine how to do things.

CC: For me it just comes, colors, ideas. I mean dreams that I have or just visions that I have in my head, they just pop up and I put it on paper and then just try to incorporate the colors. Once I have it in my head how I want to see it, then I just put it down and then little by little just add more details, more details. It does take me time for me to get it all together because you want it perfect. One thing I've learned, it can never be perfect. [laughs.] Never going to be the way you want it to be and sometimes like you said, you just have to let it be. What is going to be is going to be and don't go any further and just leave. I think that is also a metaphor in life [laughs.], if you can't change it let it be and move on.

KM: How do you want to be remembered?

CC: Just as a caring person, as a caring person, helped others, creative, and kind. That is how I want to be remembered.

KM: I think you are all those things.

CC: [laughs.] Thank you.

KM: And more.

CC: Thank you.

KM: I want to thank you for taking time.

CC: Thank you for teaching us. You've opened up my mind. [laughs.] I want to pursue this further personally and see what happens. I really enjoyed it a lot and like I always said one day I will make a quilt and I have. [laughs.]

KM: Is it the quilt you envisioned? Did you think this was the kind of quilt you were going to make when you were thinking about making a quilt?

CC: Yes, yes, because of all the pieces that I see remind me of every time I would grab a piece of fabric it was for my quilt. [laughs.]

KM: I think that is so wonderful.

CC: Now I see it and it is true, it has happened [laughs.]. I am so happy.

KM: It is wonderful.

CC: Thank you. Thank you very much for teaching. [laughs.]

KM: You are more than welcome. We are going to conclude our interview at 2:53.


“Christine Carlos,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 24, 2024,