Mary Cadorette




Mary Cadorette




Mary Cadorette


Lynn Kinsell

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

A Friend of the Quilt Alliance


Fallon, Nevada


Lynn Kinsell


Note: Mary Cadorette is not a member of the DAR. While this is a DAR quiltmaker documentation project, membership in the DAR is not required.

Lynn Kinsell (LK): This is Dr. Lynn Kinsell, today's date is March 11, 2009, the time is 11:30 a.m., and I'm conducting an interview with Mary Cadorette for Quilts [Quilters'.] S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project for the Alliance of the American Quilts. We're meeting in Fallon, Nevada. Mary lives in Fallon. Thank you, Mary, for agreeing to be interviewed with this lovely quilt. Tell me about the quilt. What is the name of the quilt? How old is it?

Mary Cadorette (MC): I'm not sure of the name of it but it looks like Poppies. I think it was probably made in the 1940s. I got possession of it through a friend. I moved to California from Boston in 1950 and didn't know anybody and was fortunate enough to move next to a woman named Laverne Gould. Laverne was from Oklahoma, and I was from Boston, so our dialects were a lot different, and we had a lot of laughs over words. Laverne was raised on a farm in Oklahoma and sewed and quilted most of her life. At that time, in the 1950s, I was more interested in clothes, but I admired all of her quilts and her quilts were all hand pieced and hand quilted. Unfortunately, Laverne had bad asthma and her husband cleaned the house most of the time and Laverne quilted and pieced her quilts.

LK: Did Laverne make "Poppies"?

MC: I don't know. Laverne was raised on a farm and had all kinds of stories. Laverne and I were best of friends until she passed away 20 years ago.

LK: In 1989?

MC: Probably. Laverne quilted all her life. She quilted and started a little quilt group and I finally got into it with her, quilting, in the 1970s, let's say '73. Her little group, she didn't charge, we just met at her church, and quilted. So, from then on, that was it for me. I started hand quilting, and it took me awhile to accept the machine quilting, but of course it's all machine quilting now.

LK: How old were you when you started quilt making?

MC: Let's see, have to count years, I was probably in my early 40s and I'm now 84.

LK: And you learned from Laverne?

MC: I learned from Laverne and, of course, any experience.

LK: How many hours a week do you get to quilt now?

MC: Well, I've slowed down, but I quilt 2 or 3 days a week. Not all day like I used to, but in and out, back and forth. I still make quilts. Still have closets full of fabric that have to be done.

LK: and Laverne is part of your first quilt memory.

MC: Laverne is my life of quilting.

LK: Are there quiltmakers among your other friends and among your family?

MC: All my friends are quilters; they're the best friends. That's the best way to make friends. Of course, I have friends in other outlets, but none of my family quilts. I have probably in my possession, in my possession, about 30 quilts in my house. I hang them and they are on quilt racks. My husband makes quilt racks for me.

LK: Do you decorate with them?

MC: Yes, I have 2 quilt racks in the dining room, one in the living room, and one in each bedroom; 3 more.

LK: Does your husband quilt? Or is he happy to make the quilt racks?

MC: He makes the quilt racks; he doesn't do any of the quilting or anything like that.

LK: Has a quilt ever helped you get through a difficult time in your life?

MC: I don't think I have an answer to that. I just kinda cope with what goes on. Though they've been a lot of comfort to me, and I just enjoy them. I enjoy looking at them and all my family has--I've made everybody, nieces, nephews, kids, they all have, everybody has at least two, so I've lost count. And everybody loves them. Everybody wants them.

LK: This one you've brought with you today. What is it made out of?

MC: It's cotton. I think the batting is when they used that filling where they had to take the cottonseeds out. This quilt was my first quilt. Laverne used to collect antiques and so I traded her a cut glass bowl for this quilt. That was back in the '70s. I still have the quilt. I don't know where the bowl is. I imagine her daughter has it.

LK: And what would you call the pattern?

MC: It looks to me like a poppy. I think this might be a quilt that Lee Wards [craft store based in Elgin, Illinois, that was sold to Michaels in 1994.] used to sell with the marks for quilting; a kit. Lee Wards used to sell them all the time. I don't know if they have them now.

LK: Does it look hand appliquéd to you?

MC: Oh, it's all hand appliquéd. All hand quilted.

LK: And it's washable?

MC: Oh, it's been washed many times [laughs.]

LK: I like the way it's puckered.

MC: It's wearing out, but I still--I hang it on a rack.

LK: What is it you find most pleasing about quilt making?

MC: Well, I've always done handwork and I don't know what I like best. I don't hand quilt anymore because that always takes so long. I think the best part is buying the fabric, picking out the colors. My friend Laverne, the thing she liked was--she loved cutting them out and picking out her fabrics.

LK: Are there any aspects of quilt making that you don't enjoy?

MC: No, I think I like it all. Now that I'm getting so old, I find that cutting, standing and cutting gets harder. I've slowed down.

LK: So, you use a rotary cutter and a ruler?

MC: Yes.

LK: Do you still use scissors?

MC: When I have to.

LK: Now let's talk about your design sense your aesthetic. What do you think makes a great quilt?

MC: I think probably the colors, would be the first thing then the pattern. That's a hard one to answer.

LK: What makes a quilt powerful?

MC: The design, the pattern, and again the color. Nowadays they have such gorgeous fabrics.

LK: Do you do any hand dying yourself?

MC: No. I took classes in that. I belonged to a quilt group in California, and I was past President 2 years, so we had classes there. We had guests come in, so I tried a lot of them, but I never really stayed with any.

LK: What was the name of your quilt group?

MC: Independence Hall Quilters.

LK: They'll all probably read about you now.

MC: Oh really? Well, some will be happy to see that.

LK: What makes a quilt appropriate to go into a museum or into a special collection?

MC: I think--I got into the real old quilts. Y'know people pay a lot of money for the ratty tatty quilts; I can't see that. I like these new--I like the old ones that are in good shape, but I like the new ones. It's just even like the '30s fabrics. I don't use the '30 s fabrics reproductions. I like the new fabrics.

LK: Brighter?

MC: Well, they're more colorful.

LK: And those quilts you have at home, those 30 quilts, are those quilts you made?

MC: I don't have '30s quilts. Made in the '30s. This is my only old quilt. Mine have all been made since I've been quilting.

LK: And the 20 something quilts you have at home, on the racks, decorating your house, are these all quilts that you made?

MC: Yes.

LK: I should mention that this spring, at the Nevada Desert in Bloom Outdoor Quilt Festival, you are going to be the featured special quilter who is going to have a gallery of all of your, as many as you want, quilts displayed so people should come and see your work.

MC: I am honored, very honored, to have been picked for that.

LK: So, you are going to have 40 years of quilts, aren't you?

MC: Yes; this is quite a thrill for me. And my friends are excited about it. I think we are going to do really well at this Nevada quilt thing. And I am honored to have been chosen.

LK: Tell me Mary, what do you think makes a great quilter?

MC: Patience, the love of quilting and patience.

LK: How do the great quilters learn the art of quilting? How to design a pattern, choose their fabrics and colors; is it different than the rest of us? From the way the rest of us learn.

MC: No, I learned pretty much basics; the same thing.

LK: Do you think a great quilter comes from inside or can it be learned?

MC: It can be learned and--but you have to want to--you have to really want to do it.
That's why I say Patience because I rip out as much as I've sewn. [laughs.] Which most of us have.

LK: That's true. Have you taught a lot of people to quilt?

MC: I have taught classes. Never charged for classes, but in my group, I've taught classes.

LK: In Arnold, California?

MC: I have taught a lot in Arnold, and I have done some here in Fallon.

LK: What about before Arnold, were you a member of another quilt groups?

MC: Just my friend Laverne and her little group. It didn't have a name. It was just a social gathering.

LK: and where was that?

MC: In San Pablo, California. [interrupted by hostess wanting us to come to the table and join group already eating.] My friend, Laverne, was a very devout Christian but never pushed it and we were allowed to meet at her church and at that time there were probably about 7 or 8 of us. And that's where we met then. But my husband retired in 1985 so we went to Arnold. But I joined the Arnold group before I ever moved up there because I had a friend, one of my Shriner friends, so that's how I got into that.

LK: And why is quilt making important to your life?

MC: It's a wonderful hobby and everybody loves quilts, and everybody wants quilts. My children speak up for them before they're finished but they don't always get them. I'm hoarding them right now.

LK: They may have to put their names on the back of the quilts that they want for when you're not using them anymore.

MC: I'm doing that. I'm definitely doing that because I have 3 grandchildren, a granddaughter- in-law, my daughter, and the grandson has a wife, but I also want my nieces in Houston to have some so that's why I'm putting names on quilts. There's enough to share.

LK: And then there's plenty of fabric in the closet for after that.

MC: That will probably end up going to quilting friends. I think we all have a lot of fabric.

LK: Mary, are there some ways your quilts reflect Fallon, or the southwest or Nevada?

MC: No.

LK: Boston? Do they reflect Boston?

MC: No. No. The only one is--I like the traditional patterns and I did one with birds; my sister liked birds so that might have had a theme.

LK: Do you like piecing or appliqué or whole cloth?

MC: I like piecing. I like embellished clothing and I took--my sister lives in Boston and at that time she was trying to get into quilting and there were in her group, they had seen what my sister had, so I went back there and did a trunk show on my embellished jackets. And we didn't have a class, but we had--I had illustrations. We talked about that-and they enjoyed it.

LK: I'll bet--that's a nice way to share your work. What about the importance of quilts in American life- in general?

MC: I think everybody should have a quilt to sleep under. Quilts are comfy, but that's not everybody's thing.

LK: Do you make quilts to give away? For the endangered child project? Tell me about that.

MC: Our group here in Fallon, the Hearts Of Gold Quilters. I joined this group before I moved here. I would not have moved to Fallon if I didn't have a quilt group to go to, but this group is very ambitious and they make many, many, many donations and I'd say over 100 a year.

LK: And what's the organization they give them to?

MC: Battered women. Every now and then there'll be a case where some child has operations, or a kidney transplant and we've always given that child and their family a quilt. There's several organizations. I can't think of all of them, but this group is very active in making quilts, donation quilts. My quilt group in California, we used to donate to Ronald McDonald and then they expanded to other places. They're very appreciated, [pause.] so that's that.

LK: And in what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history in America?

MC: Y'know quilting was a dying art, and the hippies brought that art back. As well as--that was in the '50s or '60s it was after that and Crazy Quilts they brought a lot of arts back- the weaving and tatting, but the quilts, you know when I first started with Laverne, it was hard to find cotton fabrics so we used mixed ones but the cottons are finally taking over and it's a big thing now and a good thing, so everybody is--but there's no friends like quilting friends.

LK: You've told us about a couple of ways quilts are used. Can you think of any other ways quilts can be used?

MC: Yes, artistically, there are a lot of landscape quilts. I have quilts that I made that I learned from Guy Perry. Guy Perry does a lot of florals like planting a garden. As a matter of fact, I will give that class in, I believe, April it is, or May or sometime.

LK: Who are some other teachers you have studied with that you like their work?

MC: Ruth McDonald, I never remember names. [pause.] Isn't that bad? I went to Asilomar [Empty Spools Asilomar Conference, Pacific Grove, California.] every year they have a week of classes. Guy Perry, and the one that does the--I'm sorry I can't remember.

LK: That's all right. Can you remember what they look like?

MC: Yes, and could you shut that off for a moment? [break was taken.]

MC: I took 2 classes from Doreen Speckman and her Peaky and Spike. Peaky and Spike were her templates, and it was the most fun classes I've ever had. She was so funny and that class you actually designed your own pattern and unfortunately Doreen Speckman passed away on one of her cruises. Now a cruise is something I would like to do, but on one of these cruises Doreen Speckman passed away from a heart attack.

LK: Well at least she was having fun.

MC: Yes, she was, and she was a fun, fun woman.

LK: How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

MC: Well, I know they have this acid-free paper if you're going to store them, or you should put them in pillowcases but not fold them. Someone told me one time that if you have an empty bed, just lay all your quilts on that bed.

LK: Or on the box spring and lay the mattress on them

MC: That's a good one, too, but I have all mine on racks and hanging. Quilts are made to be used.

LK: Do you know what has happened to the ones you gave away?

MC: The ones I gave away are still with the people I gave them to--my sister has several. My sister had seven children, so they all had quilts. And now we're into the next generation and I just made--we have new twins in this generation, and I just made them 2 quilts apiece so now they all have quilts. And now I am expecting my first great grandbaby and she already has four. [both laugh.]

LK: What color combinations do you favor most?

MC: Everybody thinks I favor blue and yellow because I have four blue and yellow, but I like them all. I just like them all. I have no favorite.

LK: Is there anything else you would like to talk about in your interview? That will be there for everyone to read?

MC: Well, I could just say join a quilt group. There's nobody more loving and more true than quilters.

LK: Thank you, Mary Cadorette, for this interview that is ending at 11:55 a.m. Thank you very much.


“Mary Cadorette,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 18, 2024,