Evelyn Harvey Wade




Evelyn Harvey Wade




Evelyn Harvey Wade


Evelyn Salinger

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Martha Sielman


Albuquerque, New Mexico


Evelyn Salinger


Evelyn Salinger (ES): This is Evelyn Salinger, and I am conducting a Quilters' S.O.S - Save Our Stories interview with Evelyn Harvey Wade. Today's date is May 12, 2009. It is 1:45 p.m. We are at my home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Hi, Evelyn.

Evelyn Wade (EW): Hi, Evelyn.

ES: It is interesting that we both have the same name here. I have met you through the Bear Canyon Quilters here in Albuquerque and I would like to discuss today your beautiful quilt that you brought to show us. Would you tell us about your quilt?

EW: Okay. We lived in North Ridge, California. I would have to think about the date. I'm not real sure. And we met an older couple who were in their eighties. We were then in our fifties I would think, and this older couple was very, very wonderful people. They sort of became part of our family. We had dinners together. Their names were Betty and David Bushnell. David had been a chef and owned a couple of restaurants and Betty was I hate to say 'just a housewife' because she was a very interesting woman and so we got together for dinners at both houses, and they told me the story of the quilt.

ES: What is the name of the quilt?

EW: Grandmother's Flower Garden. And there are very tiny pieces that were put together. First, I need to say that this couple married later on in life. Two brothers, David's brother, married Betty's sister. So, there were two brothers and two sisters. They bought a chicken farm South in California, almost to the Mexican border. I think it is in the Imperial Valley, maybe. And in the evenings, what they did for amusement, they put these little, tiny pieces together. And the men sewed the pieces as well as the women. I don't know. I always thought they did not want to stop because the quilt eventually was about a hundred and three by a hundred and six. So, it's a large quilt.

Then my husband changed jobs and we sold our house in North Ridge, California, and moved to Albuquerque. And of course, my daughter, Jan, who was still in California sort of took over their care. She always said--she'd call us and say, 'Guess what? I took David to buy a pair of shoes.' And they treated her like a granddaughter, probably. And so, when Betty was not doing very well, she brought this quilt out and gave it to my daughter. It was just a quilt top. And my daughter probably forgot about it for quite a while and after a while she took it out and asked me if I could use it.

And that was when I decided that I had to learn to quilt. And so, I took a class, a quilting class with one of the women who worked at the quilt shop here in town. And then I also, I was just retired in 1987, going to an exercise class at Bear Canyon Senior Center. I met a woman named Janet Moffatt and another woman named Densie [Chiarrapa.] and we would talk. When I told Janet about this quilt I had, she said, 'Oh, you have to get that quilted.' It had never been quilted, so I brought it in and of course everyone 'oohed and ahhed' about it. It was a beautiful thing. And so, they helped me sandwich it with the batting and the backing and we quilted it. It is quite a conversation piece.

I don't think I mentioned that when they did all this sewing the pieces together, that was in the 1920's.

ES: Really, that early.

EW: Yeah. That early. And that's the way I got into quilting. I had no background for quilting. My mother did not sew. I did not have a grandmother who did that type of work and so I decided that I had to learn to quilt.

ES: How did you learn to sew before you quilted, or was that all one and the same?

EW: Well, back when I was married, and I became pregnant with my first child, and I decided that I was going to sew. And so, I just took classes. Lots and lots of sewing classes. And I sewed all my life and made all my children's clothes, most of them except for snowsuits, of course, up until high school, I think. I made some of my own clothes and I loved to sew, but I did not know anything about quilting at all.

ES: But you had the skills, then, that was good.

EW: Well, the sewing skills. The people in the Bear Canyon Senior Center quilting group helped. They helped me [learn.].

ES: Do you have a date that you remember that the quilt was finished?

EW: Oh. No, I don't. When they helped me sandwich the quilt--you know how we take turns.

ES: Yes.

EW: But then we moved to Northern California for five years. So, I took that with me. I never found a quilting group out there. I just didn't. I was doing other things, so we came back in 1995 and that's when I brought it into the group at Bear Canyon. It was after 1995. It took a long time to do this because it was a very large quilt. And every little flower had to be quilted around. The women decided that. And so, it was before 2000 but I don't know exactly.

ES: What do you enjoy doing in the quilting process?

EW: I have made a few quilts that I have given away to my daughters. We take turns as you know [quilting on each other's quilts.]. When our name comes up on the list that our leader keeps, then we bring our quilts in. So, I have put together a few quilts. The first thing I made when I was taking a quilting class were place mats which I gave to my daughters and recently I asked if I could look at those. And of course, I looked at them and I said, 'Oh, my God. Look at those stitches.' [laughs.] Of course, she thinks they are wonderful so that's okay.

ES: I forgot to ask you, what do you do with the quilt that was made by your friends that you were showing today?

EW: It belongs to my daughter.

ES: Is it both daughters?

EW: It was Jan's because it was given to her. So, she hangs it on a wall because she has four standard poodles and of course they jump on the bed, and she does not want that because it is an antique quilt. And it's a beautiful wall hanging.

ES: It would be nice. Do you have any memories of quilts before? Did you ever see them as you were growing up anywhere or in anybody else's home?

EW: No. No sewing when we grew up. I had my father's sister. My father had two sisters who never married and one of them was a sewer. She would make me clothes when I was young. And growing up in the depression, we did not have a lot of clothes, so she made sure that we had little dresses. But she was the only person I knew in the family who sewed. No one had any interest in that at all. It just wasn't that kind of priority.

ES: Do you have a favorite part of the quilting process that you like to do?

EW: My favorite part is the actual quilting. I like that, because to me it is so peaceful.

ES: Have you done anything for other people? Charity quilts and things like that?

EW: No, I haven't done that. The volunteer work that I do seems to be driving.

ES: You do a lot of that.

EW: I drive people to doctors and that kind of thing.

ES: Do you have an opinion about machine quilting versus hand quilting?

EW: Well, I love hand quilting. I think hand quilting is very special, and particularly when you are quilting with a group, and you bring a quilt in to be quilted, just about everyone in that group takes part. And it gives you a feeling of friendship. Everyone quilts, maybe a little differently. It's not perfect and maybe that's what I like about it. Machine quilting is machine quilting. It's perfect, and so there's no mistakes I should say. That's the way I feel.

ES: That's why you really like the Bear Canyon Quilters because it's all hand quilting?

EW: They say that machine quilting is very popular, mostly with the younger people. And I can understand that because they're working, they don't have time and it does look beautiful. But as I say, it's perfect and I don't think quilts are supposed to be perfect.

ES: I don't always ask this, but I think you have an interesting life story starting from where you were, and where you grew up and the kind of family you grew up in. Do you want to just tell us a little bit, just for the history of your family? I know you are doing a lot of genealogy these days. What are you finding out?

EW: I have concentrated on my father's family, because when my grandmother died, my sister is the oldest in the family and somehow, she inherited all these different kinds of papers and letters dating from prior few hundred years. And she did not have any interest in doing anything with them and when she heard that I had already started researching genealogy, she gave me these and that's what got me started. And then, the more I did research, I found some very, very interesting. Well, my grandmother was French and Spanish, I found out, after quite a while. I never knew that.

My [grandmother's.] father, I'm not sure what year he came over from France, but he was made citizen in 1803. My great-grandfather. His name was Louis Hargous. And he taught at Princeton University. He taught French and Spanish, and he was the first professor who taught what you call the Romance languages. They had never been taught at least in that university; I don't know about the others. It was always and Greek and Latin and so he taught French and Spanish. He also had a shipping business in New York City and so my grandmother, at least in the stories that I heard from her when I was very young, she grew up in one of these mansions on Fifth Avenue. They went for rides in carriages with footmen, and there were butlers and servants. She was a very wealthy woman.

When I knew her, as a child, she lived in an apartment in Brooklyn, New York in not very nice neighborhood. Her husband had a book binding business at 58 John Street, which is in the heart of the financial district, right near Wall Street. That was his trade and evidently when he died, there was no Social Security in those days. She did not have very much, so she lived not the way she grew up. They were poor. My grandmother, she had two girls. One had had a stroke. I used to think she was maybe a little retarded and later on I found out she had had a stroke and then my little Aunt Mim, who sewed, and then my father was the youngest. Then my father would go there when he got paid and give his mother as much money as he could afford and then came home with the rest of his paycheck. So, I knew her as a poor person, but she was an extremely interesting woman.

She would dress in the morning. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother and my two old maid aunts. I loved them dearly. She would dress in a black and white print dress and for around the house. And when it was afternoon, she would dress in a black. I guess it was a sort of taffeta thing with a black velvet ribbon around her neck. Now they may have been the only two dresses she had; I don't know. But that's the way she was, and she would take me for a walk to the Five and Ten and she would give me a nickel, or a dime and I would buy a paper doll. And she would tell me about the way she grew up. And she would always say things like, 'A lady never lets her back touch the back of the chair.'

I don't know if I have it right anymore, it's so long ago, but she would say, 'Serve to the left, and take away from your right.' [laughs.] That's the way I remember her. She was a fascinating woman. So, I feel very fortunate in having that background.

On the other hand, my mother's family was Irish, from Ireland. I haven't done the genealogy on them yet. I have some census and the dates, but I do not have them in the top of my head, but there were seven children. My mother was the oldest. My mother was the beautiful one. So, my grandmother, I think, spoiled her terribly. She was a very beautiful woman. And so, of course, with seven, it was a very interesting family. [laughs.] They were funny. I think the humor was the best part. I don't really have a lot to say about them.

ES: How do you get to your father and your mother?

EW: My father worked for an import/export [company.] for fine fabrics. You see how that comes into my life. And he would bring home samples. So, this little Aunt who sewed would make my mother these sample dresses, beautiful chiffon hand embroidered fabric. But there were two things that happened. First the depression came along and his firm, I'm pretty sure, went into bankruptcy, but then he was also sick. He had nephritis and a bad heart. And I have his death certificate, but that's all it says so which killed him, I do not know. He died really young at 43. He was a very handsome man, dark.

I think I forgot something. My Spanish grandmother, my great-grandmother. She was French and Spanish. I didn't discover that for a long, long time. Louis Hargous, her father, my great- grandfather was appointed, it was called it an Envoy. It was like an ambassadorship to Vera Cruz. And he traveled down there, and he was in the shipping business at that time and somehow, he met this young Spanish girl. Her name was Maria Trigeri, but I cannot spell it off the top of my head. He married her and they had ten children. I found this out when I started doing the genealogy. Ten children. Part of them, I don't know how many, were born in Mexico, Vera Cruz. My grandmother was born in New York. And I guess the last few were born in the United States. I thought that was very interesting because I thought I was part English and part French, but I never knew I had a Spanish great grandmother. I think that is just wonderful. And the other half is just Irish.

ES: Very interesting. Is there any experience that you would like to share about quilting and things you have been doing with your friends?

EW: I don't know if there is any particular experience. When I started, because of this quilt that I had that Janet [Moffatt.] had told me that needed to be quilted, I was nervous, a little frightened. I did not think I knew anything about quilting at all. Except that I had taken a class. And I knew how to quilt. And so, I found the group and I do not know exactly how many quilters there were, maybe about eighteen. I found them to be very welcoming, very friendly. And I was just frightened out of my mind to quilt on someone else's quilt, but then Bonnie [Davidson.] who I still see, and saw today, I told her, 'I'm just scared to do this.' And she said, 'If they wanted it quilted perfectly, they should do it at home.' And she said, 'I don't think you need to feel that way, at all.' And that's what I remember about coming into that group. [laughs.] I am sure I gradually improved. My stitches are okay I suppose, not wonderful, but okay. But I just thought that they were a lovely group of women. They did not think anything about the fact that I did not know anything about quilting. They just shared with me.

ES: Would you have any advice for new quilters?

EW: Go to class. [laughs.] Take a class before you come in. I still think that people are willing to share their knowledge. It's not a simple thing. In fact, when people ask me about quilting, 'What do you do?' I tell them, 'Well you go out and you buy very expensive fabrics. One hundred per cent cotton, lovely, beautiful fabric and they you proceed to cut that fabric into all kinds of pieces. And then you have all these pieces and then you sew them together to create different patterns. And once you have them all sewed together, that's the quilt top. [laughs.] And then you have to sandwich. We call it sandwiching. You lay the backing on top of a large table, or series of tables, you put the batting in the middle and then you put the quilt top on, and they you pin it. It's quite a process.'

ES: And that's before you put a stitch to it.

EW: Yes. Before you put a stitch.

ES: Have you kept track of your quilts? Do you have an album?

EW: No. I've given them mostly to my family. I know where they are.

ES: What does your family think about your hobby?

EW: Oh. They think it's wonderful. I think almost any children are happy, particularly when their mother reaches the age that I have. I think they're just happy that she's busy and productive.

ES: Well, thank you very much for speaking today.

EW: Thank you.

ES: It is about 2:15 p.m. at the end of the interview.



“Evelyn Harvey Wade,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 19, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1878.