Carole Bonda




Carole Bonda




Carole Bonda


Evelyn Salinger

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Le Rowell


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 Carole Thelin Bonda. Today is May 14, 2009, and it is 10:45 in the morning. We are at my home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Hi, Carole.

Carole Bonda (CB): Hi.

ES: Nice of you to be here today. First of all, let's talk about the quilt that you brought here. What is this quilt?

CB: I bought this quilt at a garage sale in 2002 and it was just the quilt top that had been purchased also at a previous garage sale and never completed. So, I never knew where it came from or who put it together, but I could tell that it was quite old and that probably a number of ladies put it together by hand.

ES: How could you tell that?

CB: It is now quilted so you cannot see the back, but it has kind of different stitching and different ways of putting it together and very different fabrics and even different muslins. Like they just used whatever fabrics they probably had.

ES: Where did you find this particular garage sale?

CB: It was in Albuquerque.

ES: Will you describe the colors and the pattern?

CB: It's what I've been told is that it is a Friendship Quilt pattern. It's blue patterns, squares, alternated with solid muslin squares. I took it, after I purchased it, to the Bear Canyon Quilters' group and we hand quilted it. We put muslin on the back so that it would all tie in with the muslin and as we looked at it, we were wondering how old it was. I was thinking maybe 1920's, but some of the quilters that were better at dating thought that it may have even been made just prior to 1900.

ES: The patterns are very nice. There are three or four different fabrics noticeably here. Now, why is it that you purchased this?

CB: I purchased it because I wanted a vintage quilt, and I didn't have any family quilt. I thought surely there must be one in the family. My mother sewed, but she didn't quilt. And my grandmother that I knew, and my great-grandmother never really mentioned anything about quilting. So, I figured if you want a family vintage quilt, sometimes you have to get it any way you can.

ES: Yes. It is very pleasant. It is too bad they didn't sign it on the little crisscross.

CB: Yeah. We have no idea where it came from or who made it, but several years after that, I was transcribing a letter that was written in 1896 in Birmingham, Iowa. I knew it could have been a family letter, but I didn't know since it started out, 'Dear Sister,' and ended, 'Your loving Sister.' I had no idea in the family who it was until I got about the second paragraph when it starts talking about my great grandparents' wedding day and after the description of the wedding day, they talk about what gifts the bride and groom got.

ES: Do you want to read some of that?

CB: I do. It says, 'They didn't get many presents that I know of. Fred's mother pieced a blue and white quilt for them, and I got muslin to set it together and line it with. I gave my fifteen pieced blocks that I pieced last winter. I have about as many more pieced. It takes twenty of them and I have a notion to quilt mine this fall.' So, it ties in. Once I read this, I kind of got chills because it seemed like this quilt top that I had bought several years prior, was very similar, not only in color and muslin, but in age. It would have been made at about this time period.

ES: And their wedding date was it around 1896?

CB: 1896. So, I just decided that if you don't have a family vintage quilt, you can get one, no matter how. [laughs.]

ES: It was serendipitous that you have one that coordinates in the time and the colors and all that.

CB: I think that even though this is not the exact quilt, it must be very similar.

ES: It speaks to you. That's really nice. Since you said that your mother and grandmother didn't quilt, when did you run into quilts for the first time?

CB: Well, I had a friend that had gotten into quilting in the early 1990's and she kept talking about it and she said that she would teach me how. She had taken some classes. I was working, so I did not have much time for classes, but she said to just come over some Saturday and she would teach me how to make a Triple Rail baby blanket. She said to buy so much fabric, three different colors, and she would show me how to make the Triple Rail. That got me started and I got addicted shortly thereafter.

ES: Was that hand quilted?

CB: No. I did not even think about, at that time. I thought, 'If you can machine quilt, why would anybody want to hand quilt?' I was machine quilting and even did some tying. And then I was talking to an elderly quilter, and she was talking about hand quilting, and I said, 'I machine quilt.' And she said, 'Honey, you'd better learn how to hand quilt.' So, when I retired, I joined a group and learned how to hand quilt.

ES: And how about piecing?

CB: I never pieced by hand.

ES: You must be very adept at the machine. When did you learn to sew?

CB: Well, my mother was a fantastic sewer. She made all my clothes. I was the only girl in the family. She made all my clothes growing up. I took Home Ec in junior high, but I really never had to sew much because all I had to do was suggest to my mother I needed or wanted something, and before I knew it, it was made. So, really until I was married, and then I had all boys, which they're not quite as much fun to sew for, I made a few little things for them. I did make a baby blanket quilt that I embroidered, but I really didn't do any quilting on it, for the first son. And then after that I did more decors sewing than actual clothes.

ES: When did you start coming to Bear Canyon Quilters?

CB: That was in 2000. I hand quilted my own quilts. I think I've done four. And the other three that I did are ones that I also sewed, pieced, by machine.

ES: What is your preference in what kinds of quilt to make?

CB: Well, I love Log Cabin. I've made four or five Log Cabins.

ES: I remember that you were working on something with horses, when I first moved here.

CB: Oh, for my stepdaughter. She's an equine vet and she wears scrub tops in her practice. And she had all these scrub tops that had horses on them that had worn apart at the shoulders, but the front and back were still good. I cut squares from the front and back and sewed them together. And I had a feed sack that had never had feed in it. It was just printed on the front of the feed sack, and so I put that in that quilt, too.

ES: That was very nice. I remember that. Do you sleep under this new, vintage quilt?

CB: I have. I'm not right now. But I have.

ES: Do you have it displayed sometimes?

CB: Only when I'm doing show and tell. [laughs.]

ES: Have you entered anything into shows?

CB: Not really. I did make a T-shirt quilt for my husband for a birthday present and it had T-shirts in it that each one of them he had worn for twenty years. They were, I guess you could say, thread bare. You could almost see through them, but by the time I fused them, they looked almost brand new. I sewed them together and I did display the quilt.

ES: Did it have logos that you used?

CB: Yeah, there was a logo on each.

ES: And did you put some sashing in them?

CB: I did. I put sashing around each one.

ES: Have you given quilts as gifts to people?

CB: That's what I enjoy doing most. Several years ago, I started for friends that were having surgery or experiencing some kind of a major illness. I would make a lap quilt and call it a 'healing quilt.' And I did quite a few of those. And then of course, our group did the Ronald McDonald quilts, too. I've made a number of them. I love to make quilts and give them away. People always say, 'Do you sell your quilts?' And I say, 'No, I give them away' [laughs.] because I only give them to people I love.

ES: Yeah. That's such a good thing. Do you keep pictures of your quilts?

CB: I do. I try to take a picture of each quilt when I finish it and I have a photo album with all the pictures in it. And when I look back, I am amazed at the number that I have made; most of them in the past 10 years.

ES: What is your favorite aspect of quilting?

CB: One favorite aspect is picking the fabric. Sometimes it's very difficult, but I love picking fabric especially if it can be very creative and interesting to pick unusual fabrics. I tend to pick unusual shades of colors and make the job even harder it really has to be. [laughs.]

ES: Do you design your own patterns sometimes?

CB: I've done some designing, pretty much not on big quilts, but especially on the smaller quilts, the lap quilts and stuff. I get carried away.

ES: I know you do a lot of machine work. Do you have a preference now that you are doing hand quilting?

CB: I do love hand quilting because it makes the quilt so soft. It just seems like it brings an energy to the quilt that is just not quite there with machine quilting. I am addicted. [laughs.]

ES: Okay. Do you have any other stories or experiences you'd like to share?

CB: Well, one that taught me about hand quilting was when I very first started and didn't know what I was doing, and I am not sure that I still do. Thank goodness it was only a crib sized quilt. But I really wanted to finish it and so I just kept practicing my stitches on that quilt and I guess it's true, the more you do it the better you get at it.

ES: Do you have one thing at a time or more than one thing at a time working at home?

CB: Oh, I've always got tons of UFOs [unfinished objects.] and I even have UFOs from 15 years ago that some of them--I've tried to finish as many as I could but some of them, I probably will never finish. I was interested in it at the time. Most of them are just small, like table runners or ones I've lost pieces to. [laughs.]

ES: How many hours a day do you work on quilts?

CB: I just get in moods. I'm sure some days I don't quilt and I'm sure there are some weeks I don't quilt, but I always get back to it. My sewing machine is always up and ready to go. And around it is baskets full of projects.

ES: Do you have any other craft hobbies?

CB: I make jewelry. I love to do all kinds of craft type things. Scrap booking. I like to try a variety of crafts. Some embroidery. Knitting.

ES: How do you think quilting has had meaning for American women?

CB: I really think quilting is a unique American hand art that needs to be passed down or continued. I used to think that we needed to work on keeping it going, but now since it is so popular, I can see that there is no way it's ever going to stop.

ES: Do you remember when it wasn't so popular?

CB: Well, I don't know, in New Mexico, I didn't think too much about quilting when I was growing up in the '50's and '60's. Then, I think some time in the '80's, probably, it started getting really popular.

ES: Are you a native New Mexican?

CB: I am a native New Mexican.

ES: There are not too many of those.

CB: My grandfather was born in Albuquerque in 1896, actually. But it is a different part of the family.

ES: Do you have any advice to new quilters?

CB: I think just try it and don't get discouraged. I have a friend just starting to get into it. And she gets discouraged when she makes a mistake. And I said, 'It doesn't matter how long you have been sewing or quilting, you're always going to make a mistake. And sometimes you make the same mistake, over and over again.' [laughs.] But that's what is good about quilting, that's one of the sayings. I like a lot of quilt philosophy or sayings. And one of them is, 'There's only four rules in quilting and nobody can remember what they are.'

ES: Oh, good. [laughs.] Have you taught other people? You say you are helping this person now.

CB: Well, in the early 1990's when I started, and I finally did take a few classes. By the time you bought your fabric and paid for the class, it got to be a little pricey. So, I was working at Senior Centers, and I thought, 'Why can't I gather together a group of women who have taken classes and we could teach each other?'

ES: Oh, interesting.

CB: And so that's what we did. Some of the quilters in our group, that's how they started. We all started teaching each other some quilt techniques that we've learned in a class.

ES: Were you in the beginning when this quilt group [Bear Canyon Quilters.] was started?

CB: No. I don't even know who started it or what year it started.

ES: What did you call your class when you got people together?

CB: It was at Bear Canyon, and it was on Saturdays when the hand quilters were doing the Ronald McDonald. We just got together in the corner of the room and had our little class and made some different things.

ES: Is there anything else, anything historical, that you'd want to mention? You have been in this area so long.

CB: I enjoy going to quilt shows wherever I travel. And I think that Albuquerque has for the size and in an area where not as many warm quilts are needed. I think Albuquerque has some pretty good quilt shops. I love to go to quilt shows and quilt shops wherever I travel. I went to a quilt retreat in Minnesota several years ago. And it was show and tell and I was up on stage showing my little wall hanging and one of the women in the audience raised her hand and said, 'If it's summer all year round in New Mexico, when do you quilt?' And I didn't want to explain the difference between New Mexico and Arizona, the desert and mountains, and so I said, 'We just turn the air conditioner on.'

ES: But the truth is it does get cold here sometimes.

CB: It does.

ES: You do need a quilt.

CB: I think one of the first couple of projects, not the Triple Rail, but I did get into two early projects that were way over my head. One was a jacket, which I did finish, amazingly. I had to pay for extra classes because I really didn't know what I was doing but I got that finished. And then the second class that I took was a Log Cabin quilt-as-you-go [all three layers are sewn at one time.], queen size. It's a wonder that I'm still quilting because after those two projects, I could have given up quilting forever. [laughs.]

ES: This is your main hobby, would you say?

CB: I would say genealogy, quilting and traveling are my three main hobbies and I think they all tie in perfect.

ES: It is nice having some good quilt shows in the area having the State Fair here.

CB: And the Fabric Arts is going to be next week.

ES: Do you enter these shows?

CB: No. Too many quasi professionals out there. [laughs.]

ES: It has been very interesting. Thank you very much.

CB: Thank you.

ES: The interview is finished at 11:15 a.m.



“Carole Bonda,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed March 1, 2024,