Shirley Garafano




Shirley Garafano




Shirley Campbell Garafano


Nola Forbes

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Del Thomas


Bethel, Vermont


Dianne Rolfe


Nola Forbes (NF): This is Nola Forbes for the DAR Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project in agreement with The Alliance for the American Quilts. I'm a DAR member [Saint John de Crevecoeur Chapter, Vermont.] and today is July 22, 2008. Shirley would introduce yourself.

Shirley Garafano (SG): I'm Shirley Campbell Garafano from Barnard [Vermont.]. I live in Barnard and my address is Bethel, Vermont.

NF: Tell me a little about the quilt that you brought today.

SG: I started making the Cathedral Window quilt back in 2005 and it took me two years to finish it and I said if when I got it done, I would never do another one but presently I'm working on one to finish for another gal who died of cancer.

NF: What prompted you to choose that pattern?

SG: I thought it was beautiful. It was very pretty, yes. I'd seen them before.

NF: And how do you plan to use this quilt?

SG: On my bed. [laughs.] It's spending its second summer on my bed right now. It is very cheerful.

NF: How did you get interested in quilt making to start with?

SG: I really don't remember. From reading articles, knowing people who did quilt, and I have sewed all my life, so it was just a continuation of sewing.

NF: And I understand that you had a part in the formation of the Green Mountain Quilters Guild here in Vermont.

SG: I furnished the Homemaking room at Whitcomb High School [Bethel, Vermont.], where they organized, for the first few years. I don't recall how many years. It was two, three, four, something like that.

NF: Were you already making quilts at that point?

SG: No, no I wasn't, no. I was working, because I do believe that our Barnard Delectable Mountain Quilters had been organized. So, we were in the beginning of it.

NF: Are there any other quiltmakers in your family?

SG: No there aren't, no. No, not another soul. That's not true. My sister Beth has started making quilts, just within the last few years. She very much wants my Cathedral Window quilt. [laughs.]

NF: Tell me if you have ever used quilts to get through a difficult time.

SG: No, it's very time consuming. And I am a widow. And I have many hours on my schedule each day. And I, when I'm watching television, will sit and quilt at the same time. And television is company, and the quilt is something to do to keep my hands busy.

NF: Are there any special patterns that you like more than others? Or styles?

SG: I've made many quilts, wedding quilts, baby quilts. Around The World, I made several of those. And just if I find one in a magazine that I particularly like, I make it. Or a pattern.

NF: Are there any special colors that you gravitate towards?

SG: Well, the Cathedral Window is of course every color but blues, and reds, the dark reds, the greens. I found out that the reds, as we all know, fade from the sun. [laughs.] So, you have to be careful. I keep my east window shade down until the sun has gone by and then I open it. So, it protects my window, my Cathedral Windows.

NF: What is your first quilt memory? Or maybe a first quilt that you worked on?

SG: The first one as a part of our group, the Delectable Mountain Quilters, we made quilts for all of the different members. We did squares so that we all participated in the making of the squares, and also as put together. We have done many, many. I don't know that there is any one particular one that is my favorite. They all were.

NF: You mentioned you do a lot of quilting while your television is keeping you company. Would you estimate how many hours a week you quilt?

SG: Oh, I thought you was going to say a day.

NF: Either. That's fine.

SG: The last three or four days it's been actually six hours a day. But normally probably three or four. I do always have a quilt going, lots of baby quilts, Christmas gifts, wedding gifts.

NF: Describe your studio or place where you create your quilts.

SG: This is rather inter--

NF: Your sewing space.

SG: [laughs.] I moved from an eight-room house to what I call a cottage, which is bedroom and bath, and the rest of it is open. And so, the dining room table is where my sewing machine goes. And I quilt either at the dining room table or sitting on the couch in the living room. So, it's very small but it's good. It will be particularly good this winter when I buy fuel. [laughs.]

NF: Do you have a preference for piecing or for appliqué?

SG: I have always said that I did not like to appliqué but then I did that Cathedral Window, which is all appliqué. And I enjoyed doing that. I like to machine piece and hand quilt, pretty much.

NF: When you go to quilt shows or when you view the work of others in your guild, what do you think makes a great quilt?

SG: That's a difficult question. It all depends on the person. It reflects the person's personality. Their likes and so forth. And the colors of things. You either like it instantly or you think, it's not, it wouldn't be my choice.

NF: Whose works are you drawn to?

SG: Well, Lucile Leister, of course. [laughs.] But she's made more quilts than anyone else I know. And they're all--and wall hangings sort of things. We, our guild does a challenge, wall hangings, every other year at the Billings Farm Museum [Woodstock, Vermont.] and you see those in all of the quilter's homes all over the place, the different wall hangings.

NF: Are you working on one of those yourself?

SG: I'm thinking about it. We do it every other year, so next year is. [laughs.] I've got another year to come up with this. [laughs.] Yeah.

NF: And what are the specifications for the challenge?

SG: This particular one, I can't remember. I really don't remember. [laughs.]

NF: Are there any other artists that have influenced you?

SG: No, I wouldn't say so. No.

NF: How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting?

SG: I much prefer the hand quilting. The machine quilting would never be my first choice. It's the--kind of robs the quilt's aesthetic value.

NF: What are some of the kinds of projects you work on with the Delectable Mountain Quilters?

SG: Well, as I said, we make a quilt for every member. When we get a new member, we make a quilt. We make valor quilts for the veterans. We do baby quilts for Guifford Memorial Hospital. [Randolph, Vermont.] We do quilt often for, we have a stash of quilts for people who get burned out or for some reason lose all of their belongings, could be a hurricane which we don't have here, but we do also, we just give them away.

NF: Did you work on some of the ones donated to [Hurricane.] Katrina victims a few years ago?

SG: Yes, we did. Yes, we did, and we mailed them down there. We do things for all over the world actually, that are mailed to them, whether it be quilts or wall hangings or what-have-you.

NF: In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history in America?

SG: In what ways do they have special meaning? Well, they certainly describe the time that they were made, the area that they are in, other than that--what they did, what they used for fabrics. In the olden days, my daughter's dress was from this and et cetera. From the grain sacks that were used for fabric and that sort of thing. [tape whistles.] What was available to them, not only in the fabric itself but in their portability.

NF: As part of your membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, tell me how quilt making ties in there.

SG: Well, in, I think it was in 2000, the state of Florida held a contest. They were making a quilt and they needed a square from each guild, each in the state, and of which there are over a hundred DARs in the state. And we, anyone who wanted to participate could make a square. And it was to represent your area. And so, I did the Birthplace of Speed, since I was in Ormond Beach. [Florida.] And that is, needless to say, Daytona Beach [Florida.] gets all the credit, but it actually began in Ormond Beach on the sandy shore.

NF: What did your block look like?

SG: It was a car, a racecar, on the beach, with the sand, and with our DAR number on the side, [3079 Captain James Ormond chapter.] and the ocean in the background. And I found pictures of the cars for that era. And I put it together. And it's in the state quilt.

NF: What did they do with the quilt?

SG: Actually, it was a raffle quilt. The DAR sell voices, they don't sell chances [inaudible.] Someone won it. [coughs.]

NF: What has happened to some of the other quilts you have made or worked on? Are there particular family or friends that have been favorite recipients?

SG: Yeah, all my nieces and nephews, of which I have fourteen, all have wedding quilts. All the new babies have quilts. My husband's nieces and nephews have quilts. Anyone else? [clears throat.] I guess that probably would be friends and friends' children have quilts that I've made. They all appreciate them, and keep them, and show them and enjoy them.

NF: Do you have any thoughts on what the biggest challenge confronting today's quiltmakers are?

SG: Well, I would say number one, the cost of fabrics. It has really gone up. It limits but hopefully you have a big supply at home of the things that you've purchased. [laughs.] And I am at that age where my good friends, the quilters, have passed away and the children have given me all their left-over fabric. So, I have quite a selection at home. And also, our guild, we have a stash of fabrics that we can go in, if there is something we particularly like and would use, then we're welcome to take it. So that makes it a little more reasonable than it would be to go buy all new fabrics.

NF: Do you prefer cotton fabrics?

SG: Yes, definitely, and prewashed.

NF: Have you had any bad experiences?

SG: No, I haven't but I just found a quilt in the bottom of a trunk that I was cleaning out and I have no idea where it came from. It's the Grandmother's Flower Garden, all those little, tiny pieces. And whoever made it applied it to a sheet, a regular flat sheet. And something wasn't prewashed because the topping doesn't--it's got more wrinkles in it than it should have. And I'm trying to decide what I should do with it. Whether it; I thought first I'll make a tablecloth out of it, but it's too big for the table. And then I thought maybe I'll just take it off and reapply it to something else, but that's a lot of work. [laughs.]

NF: Would you have any advice for someone who was just starting out in quilting?

SG: Well, be patient; patient and keep working at it. You're not going to accomplish it overnight. Don't expect to. Some people do think that they can do it in a weekend, and you can't. Don't try to because it's not going to be a success if you do. It's going to show that you did it in a weekend.

NF: Thank you for taking the time for the interview today. Good luck on all your upcoming projects.

SG: Thank you very much. Yes.

[interview concluded at 4:15 p.m.]


“Shirley Garafano,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024,