Mary Green




Mary Green




Mary Green


Judy Linn

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Sandra Anne Frazier


Fort Worth, TX


Joanne Gasperik


Judy Linn (JL): Okay, let's see if this is working now. Usually that little light is going to blink for us a little bit. There it goes. So we're testing this tape to see if it's going to work for us. [tape shuts off for 2 seconds.] Okay. This is Judy Lynn and today's date is May 19th, 2002. It is about 1:08 [p.m.] and I am conducting an interview with Mary Green for Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project in Fort Worth, Texas at Quilt Fest 2002. Mary, welcome.

Mary Green (MG): Thank you very much. So glad to be here.

JL: Good. Tell me a little bit; it's so nice because we don't know each other, so tell me a little bit how you got interested in quilting?

MG: Well, we are an Army family. My husband was in the Army for 27 and a half years and in the early years, I, of course was invited to some baby showers and wanted to have a gift. We were living in Germany at the time, and I remember just on my own tackling some baby quilts. I did like coloring book pictures, and machine appliqu├ęd with a zigzag onto the squares and then I'm pretty sure I put sashing in between them but I don't remember what I did for sure. And I think I might have just tied them, but they were well-received. And then in '75 when it was time for our own baby I thought, 'Well I want to have a quilt for her--for it' [Judy laughs.] because we didn't know what it was going to be yet. And I thought, well I really want to make one that's more gender specific after the child appears, so I'll just make a temporary one. And I just took two fabrics and sewed them together and, you know, a whole cloth quilt.

JL: Right.

MG: One was the animal fabrics and unfortunately Jennifer used that quilt for all of her childhood because I [laughs.] never got another one made for her until she went to college [both laugh.]. But actually it was in 1984, when we were living in Carlyle, Pennsylvania, up in the Carlisle Amish country [Judy: Ah.] that one of the ladies whose husband was on the staff at the Army War College which my husband was attending at the time. Nancy Stuckey was her name and she was a quilt lover and she volunteered to teach us how to quilt. So we met every week up at the church [Judy: Ah.] in the meeting hall [Judy hums approval.] and she started us out on a book. In fact I brought my book--

JL: [laughs.] That's what I started on.

MG: Yes, it's called "The Sampler Quilt" by Diana Leone [JL hums approval.] and she suggested this book and told us what supplies to use and then we went out and bought our fabrics and came back the next week and showed our fabrics and Nancy basically said, 'Okay now this is the first pattern' and she talked us through it and I hand-pieced a king-sized sampler. And unfortunately it is not quilted yet. [JL laughs.] I still, I'm going to hand quilt it but I only did a couple of blocks a few years ago and then I put it away and then--

JL: In what year was that?

MG: Started in 1984.

JL: '84.

MG: And I'm still going, I'm going to have that on the bed. I told my husband it would be on the bed by the new millennium. But I didn't make that. I figure the next one? [both laugh.]

It was during that time that I went home for Christmas and--

JL: And where is home?

MG: Home is [Minneapolis.] Minnesota. So I went from Pennsylvania to Minnesota and was telling my mother about this. And she said, 'Well I've got one of Grandma's quilts.' [JL: Oh.] And I'm just getting all excited and so she showed it to me. And it is the quilt that I'm going to be talking about today.

JL: Oh, how fun.

MG: It was made by the--the squares were made by my great-grandmother and then my grandmother got it and put it together much later on.

JL: Let's go ahead and pull it out.

MG: Okay.

JL: So you don't have any memories of quilting or anything like that.

MG: No. Actually my father's mother [Mary Baxter Hass.] did quilt, but hers were whole cloth quilts to be used. And she would use the two fabrics and batting in between and tied them with yarn. And my brothers do each have a quilt that was wool pieces that she pieced together, but no pattern or anything. And so that's what I always thought quilts were, when I was growing up, until I found out differently. And then that same grandmother I found out did piece two quilts that my Aunt [Marjorie.] got and I have one of them in the show this weekend. And it's a double wedding ring that she made about the time that I was born in the 1940's for my aunt who didn't marry till she was 60. So the quilt never got used [JL laughs.] and it's a double wedding ring with purple and pale yellow. It's real pretty too. So I didn't know that grandma pieced, that that grandma pieced. And I surely didn't know that this grandma did any.

JL: Ah, so this is your mother's mother?

MG: This is my mother's mother. I have pictures.

JL: Oh.

MG: And I've also photo transferred her pictures to the back of the quilt.

JL: Oh, what a good idea.

MG: I make an explanation with my label. [4 second pause.] Yes.

JL: Oh, what a great idea.

MG: Thank you. Elodia [Woods Garrity.] is my grandmother. So she is the child in the tin-type. And her mother was Philomena [ Jerome DuBois Woods.] and then the larger picture is also Philomena. They were Canadian-French.

JL: So when do you think is this piece?

MG: Well, we figured out that Philomena was born about 1850 and she died about 1883.

JL: You're kidding.

MG: And so the blocks were pieced by Philomena. And then Elodia, her daughter was about 8 years old at the time of her death, of her mother's death. And she had an older half-sister, probably, we're assuming who got the squares and that was Mary [Jeroma.] LaPage. And she did nothing with them. And then when she closed up her house Elodea got the squares, about in the 1940's. And so Elodea assembled them together with the orange fabric and then [noise near the tape recorder.] got the backing which has got these cherries on it and [screeching noise in the background.] had her church group in the little town of McGrath, Minnesota quilt it for her.

JL: Wow.

MG: So.

JL: It's in incredibly good condition.

MG: It is. Well the squares were put away for all that time.

JL: Right, right. So describe some of the fabrics for us.

MG: Well I'm not certain what they are. They're a lot of browns and here in this square she has browns and I guess you call that brown, a rusty brown stripes, but they do not necessarily match and there is no rhythm as to where her placement was [JL: Right.] And in a couple places, let's see about one in particular where she has the, she substituted, here she's got more browns, but they are a floral stripe and there is some placement strategy here, but this one is out of place. [JL hums approval.] And I'm not certain if they are shirts or if they are actual fabric, although it is interesting when I was in Pennsylvania that quilting group did have a quilt show. And I hung this because my mother gave it to me at Christmas time. So I took it back to Pennsylvania and hung it in a show. And a woman came into the show and she walked across the room to it and she looked at my quilt and she said 'This quilt is very interesting, because the squares are from the mid eighteen hundreds, but it's put together in the 1930's or 40's. And she said it's from the Midwest. And then she looked around and she said, 'Whose quilt is it?' And she had it pegged, because Minnesota is being considered Midwest. And she was able to date the fabrics there because apparently it was the testing ground for prints. Companies that printed their cotton would send it to the Midwest to see if the ladies liked it. And if they did, then they would make them more available in the East.

JL: What a treasure for her to be able to inform you about that.

MG: Yes, yes.

JL: And then this orange [MG laughs.] and then this bright yellow--

MG: [laughs.] Oh, I know, this orange--

JL: It's orange.

MG: It's orange. [JL laughs.] There is no doubt about it. And I don't even know if it's cotton. It might--was there polyester?

JL: Oh--

MG: Well I don't know what do you think? What would they have had in the 1930's, 40's. I guess would it have been cotton? Here, I love this though, [JL: Yes.] can you see, the batting does not go all the way to the--

JL: Yes, it sure doesn't--

MG: And I haven't opened it up, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was cotton [JL: Right.] that had been pulled out.

JL: Sure, yes. And the back is so interesting, because it's just a real pretty yellow.

MG: Yellow with a brown and white diagonal check on it and then cherries with blue leaves.

JL: Yes. No, this is just--

MG: Red and green cherries.

JL: What a treasure.

MG: It is. I love it.

JL: Such a treasure.

MG: Some of the squares--

JL: It's a blue one.

MG: A blue one. There are not very many that were blue, most of them were browns.

JL: So where does this quilt reside?

MG: It's in my sewing room.

JL: Is it.

MG: Yes.

JL: Very good.

MG: On a quilt rack in my sewing room.

JL: And do you have plans for it? Has anybody in the family claimed it? [clunking in the background.]

MG: We only have the one child [Jennifer.] and so she will be getting it.

JL: Well that's nice. That is real nice. So do you have a separate room that is your sewing room?

MG: Yes I do. When we moved up here to Fort Worth eight years ago, we were looking for a house and we saw this one had a--I think you called it a rec room or a play room. [JL: Uh.Uh.] And the closet for it was not intended for clothing, but it's a very big room, has lots of windows and window seats and I claimed it and it is full to the hilt [JL: Oh.], but I love it. And I had an entrance to the patio from it and--

JL: It sounds like it's a real nice studio. [laughs.]

MG: It is. I have bookcases with my fabrics on them and then on top of that I have a cutting board, so it's higher. I'm taller. I'm 5 [foot.] eight and a half. So I need a little bit higher cutting board for ease. I have that set up and I have my ironing board set up and my sewing machine so that I have an alcove that I can just turn from one to the other.

JL: Yes. So if you had to estimate, do you quilt like on a regular basis, every week?

MG: No, I go in spurts. I quilt, I do projects. I work on things as gifts. That's what most of my quilting is done. It's intended to give away. [JL hums approval.] And so I have an incentive, a due date or a wedding date or something like that I work toward. And so I work on it till it's done and then I'll take a while off and cogitate and come up with some more projects.

JL: So do you sketch out designs ahead of time or lay in your head, where do they come to fruition?

MG: Well, some of them do come from book so that I'm using somebody else's ideas. Can't remember the woman's name right now book that I've just made a couple of baby quilts out of. But then there are others that I--I have one that I made for a godchild. The mother had given me a bag that had some fabric in it from some clothes that she had made for the sisters. So I wanted to use some of that fabric and then I tried to think of things that were pertinent to her. Oh, I made a little flower garden, [JL: Oh, wow.] a t-square because she was born in Texas and a Irish Chain because she had Irish heritage and a Sunbonnet Sue that was one that mommy had picked out of a book that I use. So I kind of just pull things from different sources and throw them together.

JL: Oh, that sounds like fun. Now do you keep more than one project going at the same time or are you a starter [both talk at the same time. inaudible.] Oh I was going to say, you sounded like a starter and finisher, and I went 'oh, not good.' [both laugh.]

MG: Oh, no. No I think if I looked in my sewing room I'd probably have 10 different things going right now. [both laugh.] In fact my husband wishes I would be more of a finisher.

JL: Oh, I know, I know. Do you do any work on the computer?

MG: With quilts? No.

JL: Yes.

MG: No. Although I have looked at quilting sites and I have a [click in the tape.] home computer now and subscribe to a quilter's digest that comes every day with the input from the members.

JL: But the design on the computer--

MG: No I don't have a program for that. I always look at them. I just don't know whether I want to do that or not.

JL: Oh. Okay. What do you think about America and American life? What do you think the impact of quilting is in the culture?

MG: First of all, I think of our pioneer women. I have such strong ties to that. There is such a love of that era and admiration of those women. And I think that quilting of course was just a necessity for them, obviously because they needed to have something to cover the beds. But it could have been, first of all, they were pieced because of the frugality of the women and the limited supplies and sources for them. But they could have just haphazardly thrown the things together, but they had such a pride in what they were doing [JL: hums approval.] that they took time to design--maybe not necessarily design the way we think of it, but to plan ahead and made something appealing, something that would remind them of home. Think of all the hardships they had to go through. They were able to look at the quilt and think of the love from the family that they had to leave behind and made things to remember each other. And I tried to look up the title of the book that I had read one time and I was unable to find it, but it was a journey of women westward and how their lives were and how quilts were such a part of their lives and it's just such a wonderful book and I'm sorry I don't have it for you to share. [JL: Yes.] But there are other sources like that too and I think--I don't remember the author again--is it Bracken [JL: Yeah.] [Barbara Brackman: "Civil War Women: Their Quilts, Their Roles, Activities for Re-enactors."] who has the photograph on one side and then a history of the quilts are on the other page? [JL inaudible.] Some of those and then on through the years too from then. And I think that women may not have had much of a place, not--I'll say, women may not have had very high regard by the men, but they still had pride in themselves and they were able to comfort and support each other. And they came together in their quilting and so the pioneer women and those early women are what I really think of. Through the years now, of course we lost the quilting interest for a while there and it's come back again thankfully and we have both the traditional, lovely old patterns and colors and even the reproduction fabrics [JL hums approval.] and then we also have the wonderfully artistic designed art quilts [JL: hums approval.] and everything in between. [JL hums approval.] And again it is still a way for women to express themselves, to be creative, to console themselves. There are a couple of quilts in the exhibit this time that are made from the clothing of a child who was killed at 6 years old. [JL hums approval.] And I have a box of clothing from a girl friend of mine whose 15 year-old child died and I am going to be making a quilt for her, and I'm still working on that one. That one is going through my head still. [JL: Oh.] But these are things that help us connect.

JL: What does the quilt guild mean to you?

MG: Oh, it's wonderful. [JL laughs.] It's really helped me to connect to other women who have the same interests as I do. It was a wonderful way to get acquainted when we moved up here 8 years ago. I had heard through my guild down at Fort Hood that there was a guild here so I had a number to call and contact and I came I think within 2 months of moving in here. [JL laughs.] And I've come to nearly every meeting I've been active in the guild. It's not only what it gives to me, but I am also able to give to others. I support other women in their quilting efforts and then of course our guild supports the community through our JPS baby quilts and through the monies that we earn through our show each year and the dispensation to charities in the public area. And Fridays I'm--that once a month Friday that we have guild--I just get so excited. I have a carload of ladies that I bring. I've gotten two girlfriends of mine involved in quilting right now [JL: Oh, my.] and they're members of the guild and--

JL: And they haven't quilted before? What do you think?

MG: They may have been closet quilters, I think. [JL laughs.] You know, thinking they weren't able to do anything worthwhile and when I asked them they said, 'Oh I can't do that.' I said, 'Oh yes you can.' [JL laughs.] And then of course I've made so many friends through here [JL hums approval.] and I do belong to a bee [The Gypsy Quilters.]. [JL: Oh good.] We started out being a kind of a regional bee, trying to be up in our area, so we wouldn't have very far to drive, but then of course we meet other people that we like and we now have 10 members. We meet twice a month at each others homes--

JL: Do you? Oh.

MG: And we do our own quilting. Occasionally we work on a project together, [JL hums approval.] but normally we each bring our projects and it can be anywhere from planning and cutting out a quilt to quilting on it, putting on the binding, everything in between. [JL hums approval.] But we also, somebody will say 'Oh I want to learn how to do this'. And somebody will say 'I know how to do that.' And so we have little workshops, where we teach each other [JL: Great.] or one-on-one classes, you know, somebody is working on something and having a problem, [JL: Right.] and it's a wonderful time for show and tell. [JL: Yes.] To show off what we've done.

JL: Yes, it kind of gives you another deadline.

MG: That's right. [both laugh.] You've got it.

JL: Have it done by then. [both laugh.] Can you remember--is there any particular time in your life where quilting got you through a difficult time? It sounds like you have helped other people through difficult times.

MG: Yes, I think I have, but for myself, I can't say that it's helped me through a difficult time. I think that that course that turned out to be 9 months in Pennsylvania, when I was learning helped me--helped pass that time and it was a good place to live there too, but it was wonderful to have that kind of resp--not responsibility. What am I trying to say, activity to be involved in [JL: Sure.] but I don't think I have had any difficult times. [laughs.]

JL: Oh that, isn't that great. Well you sound like you've lived in so many different places and some people would think that would be difficult and for you it was not.

MG: Oh, it hasn't been, no. It's very easy to get up and move, because well for one thing we were with the military and so we did have that military connection. And we lived in Germany for 9 years and I had a sewing room there and worked on quilts in my basement in the sewing room there.

JL: Nine years is a long time to be overseas.

MG: That was three different times. It was broken up into three different tours. And actually over there I met some German women who were quilting [JL: Oh.] and I quilted with them too.

JL: So is there any connection still with them?

MG: No.

JL: Very good. Very good. This has just been delightful. We hardly even looked at the questions, [both laugh.] you know just going on and on and on. So, is there anything else that you can think of that you wanted to share with us or--

MG: Well I was going to tell you that our daughter Jennifer finally did get a real quilt. [JL: laughs.] Two years ago when she turned 25 I made a t-shirt quilt for her. I had been saving t-shirts through her childhood and on one side of the quilt--it turned out to be king-sized, but one side of the quilt was t-shirts from her youth, including a Donny and Marie t-shirt that she had when she was 3 years old. [JL: Oh, wow.] And then the back side of it was [announcement over the loudspeaker in the background.] t-shirts from when she was in college and had gone to concerts and blood drives and things that she participated in. So it was pretty awesome. And then on the border of that I put a very large black binding on it and then I did large stitching, almost like utility stitching [JL hums approval.] and embroidered her name and her birth date and where she was born, because she was born in Heidelberg, Germany [JL Oh.] and then all of the cities and states that we had lived in, around all four edges, [JL: Oh, my.] up until where she is now, which is Seattle, Washington.

JL: Oh, that has got to be such a treasure for her.

MG: It is.

JL: That was probably hard to decide which one to bring, this one or that one.

MG: Well that one is in Seattle with Jennifer [both laugh and talk at the same time.] No question this time.

JL: Oh, very good. Oh that's great. Thanks for sharing that. Thank you. Anything else you can think of?

MG: No, except that I just highly recommend that women who are quilters find some place where they can connect with other quilters, in a guild or bee. [JL: Yeah.] I want to tell you, I was finishing up here yesterday at the quilt show and a little family was peeking through the window at the front door and I said 'We're closed. Come back tomorrow.' And the sweet little French voice said, 'But we're going back to Austin today. We are here only for the day.' So I opened the door and I let her in [JL: Oh.] and we ran up and down two of the aisles. A French girl who is living in Austin for 6 months now, [JL: Oh.] just six months ago she started quilting.

[JL: Oh, no.] And so she was so impressed by the quilts and it was just so fun to share that with her and fortunately no language barrier because she spoke wonderful English. But quilting can connect people who are strangers. [JL: Right.] It's incredible. It's really beautiful.

JL: Oh, that's really neat. Oh I'm glad you got to bring them in then. Okay. Well I'd like to thank you Mary--Mary Green for allowing me to interview you as part of 2002 Quilters' S.O.S. [- Save Our Stories.] And our interview is concluding at 1:31 [p.m.] on May 19th, 2002. Thank you.

MG: Thank you, Judy.


“Mary Green,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 15, 2024,