Carmen Acker Dorey




Carmen Acker Dorey




Carmen Acker Dorey


Mary Bulsfordes

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Fort Worth, Texas


Tomme Fent


Mary Bulsfordes (MB): This is Mary Bulsfordes and today is May the 20th, 2001, and let's see, it's about 2:15 [p.m.]. And I'm conducting an interview with Carmen [Acker.] Dorey for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project in Fort Worth, Texas. Carmen, I'd like to ask you how you got started in quilting?

Carmen Acker Dorey (CD): Well, I started--my mother [Juanita Van DeVort Acker.] like a lot of people, before I was even around, my mother did a lot of not only quilting but all kinds of needlework, crocheting, knitting, and all of this. And she even had a shop, and she did this before she became a businesswoman and had to go into that life. And I learned how to do the basic quilting from her. Then through the years I got away from it because I went through all the schools and went to college and all this, and I got in the business world. I was into real estate. And then I just decided I needed something more and I went back and started picking up my quilting.

MB: Well, do you have a quilt today--

CD: Yes, I have one to show you.

MB: For us to see? Okay, we'd appreciate seeing it. I'm sure it has some special meanings for you from the way you're starting out. [pause.] This is wonderful. Could you tell me what occasion you had to make this, and some of the features of it would be nice?

CD: Well, this is what I call my Texas quilt because the center of it is a Lone Star, the star block, and I took this in a class. There was a bunch of ladies, we got together, and we made all these different blocks with the patriotic material and put it together in a quilt. That was for a king-sized quilt, but I don't have king sized beds, so I made two quilts, and this is my Texas one, and then I have one that's an Americana one that I put these blocks in. And I like this for patriotic because I'm in like four different patriotic groups. I'm in the Daughters of the American Revolution, and I've been in--I'm a third generation to be in that. And I started in the Children of the American Revolution, my mother put me in there and I'm still in, and I'm American Heritage Chairman plus Historian. And one of my desires is to keep not just quilting but all handwork from the past in the public so we can have it now and have it tomorrow, and so this is one of my goals, to keep on doing this. So, I got together and have taken all these patriotic materials and made these quilts for--not just for quilting, but to show with my American Heritage, and I use it in my D.A.R., too. What else do you want, just to keep talking?

MB: Yes, if you'd like, go right ahead.

CD: Well, I'm also in Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims and the American Colonists, and all this works together to preserve the history. And not only do I--I work with children a lot, I go around--like for Trinity [Valley Quilt Guild.], we go down to Greenbriar and I show the quilts and talk about quilts to the kids. I do this through my patriotic groups, too, and I am the Special Projects Chair in this chapter. So that works along with my American Heritage chairmanship in the D.A.R. We all work together in it, both.

MB: Have you made more than one in that regard?

CD: Yes, I've got quite a few quilts and I use them for these projects, and I make--have work that I've made that the kids can participate in and do. And also, let's see, another interest too is cats, I have a lot of cat quilts and I have a lot of cat things that I collect and do, too. So, between patriotic and cats, that's me.

MB: But you enjoy all aspects of quilting, don't you?

CD: Oh, yes, I do. Like I said, I do teach, I teach from nine-year-olds up and I started out teaching at my church [Messiah Lutheran Church.]. And I teach beginning quilting because I want the people to learn how to do it to preserve the quilting. So, I start them out, they're all beginners, and I teach them basic quilting. In fact, I'm going to put a sampler together with all the basic ones because it's hard to find a sampler that has all simple blocks. I put one together and I've been teaching it through the church and getting a lot of new quilters and I'm real proud of them.

MB: That's great. Well, I'm sure that through the basic teaching, the children and people that you are with really take more of an interest because they know how to do it.

CD: Yes, I think so, and then you have to be easy-going with them because they get nervous just like I do and just like I am. But also, other things, I don't know if you're into it yet or not, but I've gotten some awards and that for the quilting. I've got, I guess from the county fair three different years, I think, I have awards. And if you want to look on my web page and I'll get it to you, you can--I'll have them all listed for you.

MB: Well, do you have a web page, could we have that now?

CD: I don't have it right with me.

MB: In your memory, I mean?

CD: No, I don't have it in my memory so that's why I had it on a piece of paper and I'll have to either find the paper or I'll mail it to you.

[MB talking at same time as interviewee; can't make out what MB is saying.]

CD: And it tells all about that. And I got an Honorable Mention for Bear Creek for one year and also one I'm excited about now is last year, I was in a national art and crafts contest for the Daughters of the American Revolution and I got second in State last year and I got second in South Central Division. This year, I have received first in State and first in South Central Division, and my block I guess is still going because I haven't gotten it back yet.

MB: That's wonderful.

CD: So, I'm all excited about that.

MB: Sounds like you won't ever get finished on what expanse that you can go to.

CD: Like I said, this is a national contest that we're talking about and I'm probably up against twelve other people right now.

MB: Did anybody in your family--you started to tell about--

CD: My mother, she did some, all kinds of handwork before she went into the business world. She had the quilt shop and what she did that was neat, her neat thing is that she told me she even taught the football players how to crochet to get their hands loose, their fingers loose. And so, they'd have them come in and teach them how to crochet and knit to loosen their fingers up.

MB: Do you have sisters, you say, that--

CD: No, I don't have any of them. I'm an only child. Right now, the only ones that are left is my aunt [Cora Taft.] which is 95, and me, and my son, [Edward Dorey.] and we're kind of all scattered. So, I'm kind of like an orphan and I try to get adopted by everybody, so whoever wants to adopt me because I don't have family around here.

MB: Your groups--I see that quilting is really important--

CD: I quilt because I like to help people and I like to create whatever it is, even when I was in real estate before I retired, it was like you could create because here you were creating a home for someone. And I've got all these crafts I do and the quilting that's creative. I love to create. And I majored in art in school, in commercial art, and I've kind of gotten away from the commercial art part and more got in the handwork. It's all creative and that's very important to me.

MB: Well, do you use your quilts on your bed?

CD: Not only do I put them on my bed, I hang them on the wall.

MB: Good.

CD: I've got one in my bedroom; I have a quilt on my wall and then a pillow that goes with it and it all coordinates with everything that's on my bed in the room. And then I have a big quilt on the wall by my recliner and everything kind of coordinates with the quilt.

MB: Well, I see that you covered what you really think about it being important to expand your talents to include other people.

CD: I like to show other people so that they will continue to have and know about not just quilting but all needlework, too. And I go around, and I have a talk that I give and one of them I give is at the Celtic Heritage Festival, I give a talk on the needlework and show all kinds of needlework and the history of them. And also, I do the quilts and all with it. I'm in charge there of the whole crafts pavilion and we have all kinds of crafts that we have in there for the public to see because it could get lost and we don't want any of this to get lost. Just like you do.

MB: Where is this held?

CD: This is Bedford Boys' Ranch in Bedford, Texas. And it's in October. And then I go around to schools and use this same talk and use it for school kids, and they're really interested in it.

MB: Let's see if we skipped something here. Well, I think you've expressed a little bit about what the quilt means to you because you're a Daughter of the American Revolution.

CD: Yes, and it's so patriotic. It is very important to me, is the history of our country and what we can do for it and preserving as much as we can of it in all forms.

MB: I thought maybe you might have had a relative, you do have to have relatives, don't you?

CD: Right. Another thing is I have an ancestor who goes back--most people say, 'Well, we came over on the Mayflower,' well my ancestor sent him over. He was Reverend John Robertson, the pastor of the pilgrims. He didn't get to come from Holland, but he sent his congregation over and his son came later, and so I can go all the back through that. And that's on my mother side. On my father's side, we came from Canada, so we go then back to England. I also have a little Irish in me back there.

MB: Do you have relatives that you saw quilt as a child?

CD: Just my mother.

MB: I thought maybe you had a grandparent.

CD: My grandmother wasn't able to do any work at that time. She had been ill so I didn't get to see her doing anything. It's mainly a built-in instinct to create, I think, is what I have.

MB: Well, and you're passing it along, I think, aren't you?

CD: I'm trying to. I have a son, I don't know what he's going to do, but I'm trying to pass it around to everybody else I can--that'll come around.

MB: Have you made him quilts?

CD: Yes, he's got a quilt, he's got one with a lion on it because he's a Leo.

MB: What age is he, is he grown?

CD: He's grown. He's grown and off on his own.

MB: I see. I thought maybe he had married or--

CD: Not yet, not yet.

MB: -- just working on somebody. Could we rest a minute? I've lost my voice.


MB: Which do you really prefer, the machine or hand quilting?

CD: Well, I've done a little bit of both the hand quilting and the machine quilting, but I have a little arthritis in my hands, so it makes it a little harder for me to do things by hand. So, I have gone to the machine quilting and use it and I teach the machine quilting because people – nowadays, people don't want to take the time to do the hand quilting, but they want to produce something, so I'm willing to go and show them how to do the machine so they can produce something and at least learn something about it. This quilt here that I have, I picked the fabric out, it's a hundred percent cotton, and I picked the fabric out that would relate to red--not red, I guess you'd say burgundy, more burgundy, and the white and off-white and tan and then the blues. And it's more--it's patriotic but yet it's earth tones, too, the quilt is and it just gives kind of like the homey, the homey look and it's not just, 'Ouch!' red, white and blue, it's kind of a homey look with the tans and the burgundy in it.

MB: I wondered about your patterns, I noticed they're –

CD: They're all different, every pattern is a different pattern and every block is different and it just represents lots of quilt blocks and of Texas, and there's stars in here and it's just about every type of block, Bear Paws, and just about every kind of block you think of, Hearts, are in this quilt just to give a well-rounded view of quilting but bring it out in a patriotic sense to go around this big star in the center.

MB: Are you somewhat of a historian?

CD: Yes, I do. In fact, not only that, I'm Historian at my church. I'm Historian in a lot of my patriotic groups because I like to preserve things in likeness and in with pictures.

MB: You and our guest lecturer – have you met her?

CD: Not yet, I haven't.

MB: She's interested in preserving the old patterns and what they mean, and that's what I figured out probably from your selection, that's what occurs to me, the different selection of patterns that you have.

CD: Well, on the back of the quilt I just took leftovers and made a patchwork out of them and put them on the back. And another thing is, another little note on this quilt is that in our quilting bee at church, we were asked to do a quilt for the Greater Council Women's Trust for them to auction off, and they saw this quilt, they saw my quilt, and they wanted one like it. So, we got together, and we made one similar to it for them to auction off, with the patriotic colors and everything because they liked this quilt. I told them they couldn't have my quilt.

MB: But you furnished them one.

CD: But we furnished them one and it was for their charities, for their different charities that they sponsor, they used this quilt. This was a few years ago and they made over a thousand dollars on the quilt. I was real proud of that because they liked my design.

MB: Sure. I love the design, too.

CD: The other thing besides this that I like is cats, and in the quilt group I'm known as the Cat Lady because I see cats, I see cat patterns, I've just got to have them. And I had a cat, she just passed away this year, and it was twenty-and-a-half years old, and it was a wonderful companion and I treat it like a person, you know. And so everybody knew it when I talk about someone, I'd always talk about Boots, and that was my --everybody knew who that was. And so, I'm known around here in the quilting world, lots of people know me as the Cat Lady and they'll show me a lot of cats and it's, 'Oh, you need this, you need that.'

MB: Well, I have seen a cat hair--

CD: Oh, there is, there is some. And not only is there that, I don't know if you noticed this block right here.

MB: So many ladies don't like cats on their quilts but you're the Cat Lady who loves them.

CD: Right, I have a cat love, and it represents [inaudible due to static on tape.] is the lady that helped us put all this together. So, I have to have a cat on most of my quilts.

MB: Well, do you have anything else that you might want to tell us about your plans?

CD: That's why I wish I had my sheet that had all this stuff on there that tells about me and what I do and that. Basically, I'll continue to work in these different organizations and promote saving things on all crafts, handwork, and teach from kids to adults the quilting, the basic quilting, so they'll learn, and I get excited when I see the excitement in their face because when you're working with a new person, you see them learning something, it makes you feel so good.

MB: It's worthwhile.

CD: Yes, it is. You feel like you have really helped them get excited in doing something.

MB: I'm getting excited about cats. [laughter.]

CD: Good! So I don't know what else to say.

Kay Jones (KJ): This is Kay Jones, and I'd just like to ask, how did you get connected so that you could do these teaching projects?

CD: Well, I just started at my church, the reason that one started is we didn't have any kind of bee or sewing or anything and I said--when I started going to that church and there was nothing, and it was a nice, little, country-type church and I really like it, it's very friendly and everything. And I said, 'Well, there should be quilting. We should have crafts.' So, I said, 'Well, I'm going to just start one.' And we call it the Quilt and Sew Bee because we do a little of everything. I thought we'd just call it that because you can't add all the other names on, it'd be too long. But we do a little of all kinds of work in there and so I'm just trying to push it and promote it, and started teaching what I call my "Sampler Quilt" there to anyone that wanted to learn and we've got, oh I'd say between eighteen and twenty-five people that are involved in the group now and they can't all come out, some are older and they can't get out, but whenever there's a special project we're doing, they always have their work ready because I always pass out something for everybody to do. And I guess I just get involved, I get excited, and I get involved and I get other people excited and it just seems to happen.

[pause for announcement over loudspeaker.]

KJ: I notice that you have on a garment that has some quilting motifs.

CD: Yes, it's got a heart and yoyo's and that all on it, just to make a design, and then kind of like a scrappy heart is what we've got here. And it's on a t-shirt and this is what I call, 'I'm in my quilting outfit.' This is it.

KJ: Earrings and all.

CD: Earrings and I have--when I go to the different things, I dress accordingly. I do my business things or my patriotic work, I dress accordingly.

KJ: Do you have lots of wearable art?

CD: Oh, yes, probably too much but they're all different kinds. They go from the t-shirts to the vests to I put things on denim. I've made the Texas skirt and vest with the appliqué, I did all that, and that was one of the ones that won a prize at the county fair. And I guess I like clothes and I just like to dress appropriate for the occasion. I like to make wearables and I like to do appliqué, too, on things.

KJ: What's your favorite part of quilting?

CD: I guess the real favorite part is I enjoy doing it but what I like is teaching someone else to do it, I think that's my favorite.

KJ: Is there any part of it you don't like?

CD: Well, they say one of the hardest things to get me to do is put the binding on. I don't know why but I get it all ready but the binding and then they sit awhile. So really, it's not that hard once I get started, but it's just I've got a whole bunch at the house and they're all waiting for the binding.

KJ: If you had to name someone currently who's been a real influence in terms of quilting, who would that be and why?

CD: Oh, dear. I guess it would have to be my mother because she started me in the interest and when I was little, to show me how to do it with my hands and how to do it by hand because I guess even from the little on, I like to create and do things with my hands. And she showed me how to do individual, the little blocks and then I just went from there. In fact, when I, after I'd gotten away from it and came back to it, I went, 'Well, I'll just take a class, a quilt class,' and it happened to be an appliqué. I walk in there, I hear it, I say, 'But I know this, I already know all this,' but I didn't realize that's what it was called. And I basically don't take that many classes because I just kind of do it myself. I just got through designing a second sampler quilt that I'm going to do because I think if you call it a sampler, if it's for beginners, all the blocks should be simple. They shouldn't throw difficult ones in because that will discourage them. So, I've kind of designed my own kits so that they won't get discouraged and want to do more blocks.

MB: Do you publish anything?

CD: No, I haven't, I haven't published anything. I never think about that, I just think about creating things to help people. I never think about I should go out there and make money on it.

MB: Well, do you have a--are you in a regular class other than your church?

CD: Other than the church? Yes, we're trying--I go like--I'm a pioneer, I guess you'd say, in a way, at heart because I'm starting to teach classes at Michael's. Now Michael's has no fabric, but they have all the quilting supplies and so I'm trying to introduce quilting to the Michael's people because there's a whole group of people that aren't really oriented for quilting that would love to do it, but they're scared to go into a quilt shop because it's like awesome to them, you know, at least that's what they have said to me. But they'll go into Michael's and do all these other crafts, so there I am, 'Hey, why don't you try doing quilting to? I'll teach it right here to you.' And so, it's starting out and we're getting a few people.

MB: Are you going to hang one of your quilts in the shop?

CD: No, I don't have it in the shop, I won't be able to hang the quilt there.

MB: That would really be a good send-off.

CD: I know but they have some quilt blocks up front on a table, just individual blocks, and they have one of my pictures there when--to show the last time when I won the seven ribbons at the county fair last year. And so they have that picture up there, too.

MB: Was that the Tarrant County?

CD: That was the Tarrant County Fair that goes along with the Chisholm Trail. And I've got, I think it's--you'll have to look at the web page so you can verify, but I think it's--I got seven, it's either two or three first and then three second and two or three third, I'm not sure which.

KJ: What were those for, Carmen?

CD: They were for--two of them were for quilts and then I had an afghan, a crocheted afghan, and then I had some of that puffed art in there, was one, and then some other hand crafts. So, it was for a variety of crafts, not just quilting, all kinds, the decorated t-shirt and stuff like that.

MB: When do you sleep?

CD: Not very much. Even when I try to sleep, I don't seem to stay asleep, my mind keeps going. It doesn't want to go to bed.

MB: Too creative.

CD: Yes, I think it's creative, it just doesn't want to stop. I try to tell it to take a nap, you know.

MB: Do you already have something in mind when you wake up?

CD: Sometimes I do. It's either a project or what I could do to complete something or how to help somebody else out or something, there's always something.

MB: [inaudible question.]

CD: The only thing else is that I was saying to you my web page and you could go look it up and see what the quilts look like on there and the awards, what I've won the award for, it's all listed.

KJ: So, you do have a web page that has information about you?

CD: Right. It's called "Carmen's Paws."

KJ: "Carmen's Paws."

CD: P-a-w-s. Has to do with my cat, and the page is dedicated to Boots, my cat.

MB: We want to thank you for the interesting discussion that you've given us.

CD: Well, thank you, and thank you for inviting me to do this.

MB: We appreciate you taking part in the S.O.S. I think it will mean a lot to people to hear.

CD: Well, I'm glad to do this. I'm preserving my way like you're preserving in your way. So, thank you so much.

MB: I guess our interview is concluded at 2:45, isn't it? 2:45 [p.m.].


“Carmen Acker Dorey,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024,