Mildred Simpson




Mildred Simpson




Mildred Simpson


Le Rowell

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Laura McDowell Hopper


Westfield, New York


Tomme Fent


Note: This interview was conducted as a demonstration during the Westfield Quilt Guild meeting.

Le Rowell (LR): This is Le Rowell and today's date is May 18th, 2006. It is 8:38 p.m., and I'm conducting an interview with Mildred Simpson for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories, a project of The Alliance for American Quilts. And we are in Westfield, New York, in the Methodist Church with the Westfield Quilt Guild, which is a very special occasion. So, thank you, Millie, for coming for this interview, and you've selected this quilt as your touchstone piece, you selected it yourself. Tell me about the quilt that you've brought.

Mildred Simpson (MS): It was a quilt that I started quite a few years ago. I started thinking about things that had happened in my life and I thought, well, it would be kind of nice to put them on cloth. And as I only quilt in the wintertime, usually, and so it was several years in the making. My first piece was made--my husband was an iron worker, and my first piece was made for him, but I don't remember the date because I didn't date them at first. I didn't know how long it was going to take me and I didn't know whether I'd ever finish it or not. [laughs.] But as I went along, as I got nearer the end, I did date them, the years that they were made, and I finished it in '94, I guess it was. I called it "Pieces of My Life." I started out with the top of the quilt as my memories of my childhood, where I went to a country school, and--

LR: Let's turn it around so the quilt is in the background.

MS: And before I went to college, I worked at Chautauqua [New York.] at the St. Elmo Hotel. The church is a piece of the church here at home where my husband and I were married. And my garden meant very much, so there's a picture of my garden and my Martin house, and the house where I lived with the grape vineyard behind, my husband had a small vineyard behind. And a tree with the cats and--those are some of the cats and dogs that we have loved over the years. The picture down here is a vacation we took in Montana, and two, three different winters, we went to Texas, and then we were down in the Rio Grande Valley so we would just go into Mexico.

LR: Can you lift the bottom up so that they can see what she's talking about, this particular one in the corner?

MS: Went to Mexico, and the street vendors were selling lace tablecloths, garlands [of garlic.], and then of course there was a corn vendor. I had to have him on there because he was at an old washtub that he had a propane fire underneath with his corn in there, and nobody would cross the courtyard to eat that corn, I don't think. They would probably die. [laughs.] He was getting sticks to put into the corn from the gutter, scrape them off a little bit and then stick them in the corn. [gasps and exclamations from the crowd.] And he'd pick them up either hot or natural; they had kind of a hot sauce to put on them for some reason or other.

Another one is I used to exhibit my cans and jellies at the Chautauqua County Fair, and my husband and I also did Farmer's Market. This was after we retired, we did Farmer's Market in Warren [Pennsylvania.], and we always--the park was right across the street from the United Refining office, so that's why it says United Refining there. And the last one is a picture of my dining room when we had Thanksgiving dinner with our family.

LR: [interruption from background crowd noise.] We'll continue. Just a couple more questions because, yes, I understand that you want to applaud [LR addresses the group.] [laughs.]. You'll have a chance to read Millie's complete interview. It'll take a couple of months, but it'll be there.

So, how do you use this quilt, Millie?

MS: I will use it on my bed on occasion but a lot of times, I just store it away. Where I live now, I don't have a wall big enough to hang it on, so I've never had to put a sleeve on it to hang.

LR: When did you start quilt making?

MS: I think I was about twenty-one when I made my first quilt, and I knew nothing about quilting, but I put it together, and it was made out of pieces of dress fabrics that my sisters and I had had while we were children. And I gave it to my mother and then it later came back to me. But I didn't know about quilting. The knots are all on the back of that quilt. [laughs.]

LR: So how did you learn to quilt?

MS: Well, that was just something I did. But I did attend a couple of classes, a couple at Calico Cat and let's see, I think I remember taking a quilt class on crazy quilts, yes. And then I read different things and observed, and there's still a lot to learn.

LR: What do you find most pleasing about quilt making?

MS: It's very relaxing to sit and do your piecing, and it kind of puts you in tune with nature and yourself.

LR: What is the least pleasing aspect of quilt making?

MS: Marking quilts. [laughs.]

LR: Okay. Our time is just about up, but I want to thank you very much for doing this little demo interview. And our interview was concluded at 8:45 p.m. Thank you.

MS: Thank you. [applause.]



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