Maryanne Nardello




Maryanne Nardello




Maryanne Nardello


Sue Bowman

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Corvallis, Oregon


Sue Bowman


Sue Bowman (SB): [My name is Sue Bowman and today's date is March 27, 2010, and it is 1:40 p.m. I'm conducting an interview with Maryanne Nardello, for the Quilters' S.O.S.- Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Oregon State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Maryanne is a quilter and a member of the Winema Chapter of Corvallis, Oregon.] Okay, Maryanne tell me about the quilt we are discussing today. I think you made it, tell me about when you made it and why.

Maryanne Nardello (MN): Well, I made it when my daughter had just adopted a little infant in San Diego, California and I wanted to make a quilt for the new baby.

SB: And that was when, about?

MN: Well, the baby was born August 18, 2001, so she's nine years old now and I just wanted to have a cute quilt for her. I had made another one for my daughter and her husband when they adopted a little boy three years prior to that. So that was the second one for the two babies as they adopted these babies.

SB: So were these the first baby quilts you had made?

MN: No, I made I think around 20 altogether. For the little boy I made a cute quilt for him that had a little boy fishing on it. Frankly, I think the quilts were not used as covers for the children but they were hung on the wall instead. They are too beautiful to use. They were really more ornamental.

SB: Do you think this one was used on the wall for your granddaughter?

MN: Oh yes, I'm sure it was.

SB: It's obviously very special.

MN: It's never been washed. It's just like it was to begin with.

SB: What do you think someone looking at your quilt for the first time might conclude about you?

MN: Oh goodness, that's hard to answer. I have no idea. I've never given it any thought. I guess they know that I enjoy sewing and doing things for my children which of course anybody does.

SB: And grandchildren.

MN: Well, I made this for my daughter really; but of course it will be something that her daughter will have when she's grown.

SB: Tell me about the significance of the letter B up at the top of the quilt in the middle.

MN: The B, I embroidered up there in addition to the quilting pattern because I wanted the association with their last name which is Bratz and the B, of course, stands for that name.

SB: That's beautiful. So it's really a piece of family history. So we know that they probably used this for decoration in their home and what do you suppose the plans for the quilt will be when the little girl grows up?

MN: Well, I'm sure she will have it for her own little girl, if she ever has one. That's what we hope.

SB: Tell me about when you got interested in quilt making. Can you remember when it just really caught your interest?

MN: Years and years and years ago when I was a little girl, I can remember my grandmother and her sewing bee. She had a big dining room table and these women were sitting all around there and quilting and that was--

SB: When do you think that was and where?

MN: I was just going to say it was probably maybe 1925 or 26 along in there, in Richmond, Indiana and this was my grandmother's church sewing group but it was really a sewing bee and a social place too because everybody gathered regularly every week.

SB: Do you think it was once a week?

MN: Yes, I do.

SB: What was your grandmother's name?

MN: Carrie Del Turner.

SB: So it was a church group and they met in people's homes?

MN: They met in my grandmother's home. She had the big dining table and that's why they were there.

SB: So that's when you really became interested in it. When did you start working on things yourself? Quilts.

MN: Well, let's see. Not until after I had retired. No wait a minute, no it was during my time with Catholic Daughters and that would have been in the Fifties and Sixties.

SB: When you had kids of your own?

MN: Yes, it was after my husband died too. He died in 1968. So it was--let's see, no I didn't do it before he died. It was after I got into Catholic Daughters and we started making quilts and sewing.

SB: Why did you make those quilts? Was it a charity?

MN: Oh, we made quilts to auction off at the bazaars we would have. And let's see, I got started making comforts and I graduated on to quilts. Quilts are much more refined than just comforts. Comforts and tied and quilts are quilted with hand stitching and you do it by hand.

SB: Did you learn to do that by being in this group? The hand stitching?

MN: Well, that's where I got my good practice. I knew what I had to do but just hadn't done it until I got into the quilting with the church, the Catholic Daughters.

SB: And it takes practice, doesn't it?

MN: You bet and those little tiny stitches are hard to make sometimes when you are going through three or four thicknesses including the backing that poufs the quilt.

SB: When you were hand quilting, actually, did you use a hoop? Or did you use a frame?

MN: A frame. Now with the little ones, I often used hand frames.

SB: You could do it in your lap. Let me see here, this may take a little minute to think about. What was your very first quilting memory? Not necessarily you doing it but just your first memory?

MN: Well, my mother made quilts. She made one for each of us children. I had a quilt that my grandmother had made and it was pretty faded by the time I got it but it was a hand quilted quilt and then mother had made one for each of her children including me and I had washed it so it wasn't as poufy as it had been but those were lovely quilts. They were hand done quilts and I gave those to the DAR down in Lakeview. She collected quilts, she took quilts to the DAR national convention but I don't think I gave them to her in time for that. But that's where they are.

SB: And they ended up in one of the DAR museums?

MN: Yes, the Schmink DAR Museum in Lakeview, Oregon.

SB: How nice, what a wonderful thing to do. And your mother, what was your mother's name?

MN: Lucy Turner Allison.

SB: You grew up, Maryanne, where?

MN: In Iowa. Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

SB: Tell me if you ever used quilts to help you get through a difficult time.

MN: Can't say that I did.

SB: I think they are comforting, though, don't you?

MN: Oh yes.

SB: What do you find pleasing about quilt making?

MN: Well, it's calming. You get engrossed in your own thoughts while you are quilting and it is a calming, quiet time for you. It depends, if you are quilting with a group, it's fun; it's a social time and everybody talks and nobody's fussing or fighting but they might be getting things off their mind that they wouldn't otherwise. It's a calming effect even with the group. At least that's been my experience. What was the question?

SB: That was it. Some say it's almost like a therapy session.

MN: That's right.

SB: Let's talk about the kind of techniques you like to use. Oh, let's say sewing machine versus hand quilting.

MN: Well, that's what quilting is, is hand quilting. This sewing machine quilting is a different medium entirely and people have to have a special sewing machine really to do it right because you are going through at least three thicknesses of something and it would be the front and the back and filling. And you just have to have something that will hold it very tight to use the sewing machine. I did that at one time thinking that it would be great, but it wasn't satisfactory for me to use the sewing machine.

SB: I think it turns out to be more stressful than--not fun.

MN: It just wasn't pretty.

SB: You're a hand quilter, I would say. What kind of materials do you like to use? Mostly cotton?

MN: All cotton. One hundred percent cotton--has to be.

SB: What about your batting, what's your favorite?

MN: I use the fiberfill; wait a minute, that's not it. It comes by the yard and it's not fiberfill.

SB: Like the Warm and Natural or one of those? Kind of soft.

MN: Oh yes, and you can get it in various thicknesses, but you get it pretty thin for quilts.

SB: Do you like the puffiness?

MN: Yes. It gives you a trapunto effect.

SB: That's especially noticeable on this quilt. Have you made any big quilts, Maryanne?

MN: No but I've made big comforters--the tied kind. I've made several of them. They're not as--the hand done quilts are the elite compared to the comforters. I'm not taking anything away from the comforts because they provide a lot of warms.

SB: That's right. They are two different mediums. What do you think makes a great quilt?

MN: The design, the workmanship. You have to have good workmanship to have a good quilt. I mean stitched are even and everything is perfect or as near perfect as you can get it. Nobody can get it perfect.

SB: What colors are you drawn to in a quilt? Perhaps one that you would make or one that you would see?

MN: I like to mix lavenders and greens together. Pink and lavender and green--the cool colors.

SB: I think this would be a good time if you want to turn around and look at your quilt and describe to me, to us, the colors that you see.

MN: I see purple. I don't see any green, that's funny, but I was making this for somebody else. There's gold.

SB: I was trying to make a point there that you were holding to your purple and lavender theme.

MN: Yes, but I don't have the green that I normally would have but this was not for me. This was for the baby and my daughter.

SB: Did you use a pattern?

MN: Yes.

SB: Where did you get the pattern?

MN: I got the pattern from a pattern shop in Alsea, Oregon and the lady there is not in business any more but she had quite a fabulous business in Alsea. She made everything including animals that would stand up and all kind of fabrics. She had beautiful fabrics and beautiful patterns.

SB: Now where is Alsea?

MN: Alsea is about 30 miles west of here close to the Pacific Ocean. It's just right off the highway. It's quite a town, actually.

SB: Maryanne, when you quilt, where do you work on your quilts? Do you have a designated spot that you do in your home?

MN: Well, I have my own sewing room that I use. It's one of my bedrooms. And that's to kind of put it together. To cut it out and do all that but when I am actually quilting it, sometimes I'll be in my family room in my easy chair, watching television.

SB: Do you think you will be quilting much more in your life?

MN: Probably not.

SB: I know that you have another interest in your life. Tell me about the painting.

MN: Well, I'm still involved in china painting and right now my kiln died and I'm in the process of getting a new kiln. If you don't have the kiln and you're a china painter, you feel like your hands are cut off. I'll have another kiln in a week or two so I can continue with the china painting.

SB: Let's go back to the broad topic of craftsmanship in quilts. What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?

MN: Well, the design. Because it can be very elaborate or it can be quite simple. A design can be quilted onto a quilt and that can be very effective. But I really think the pieces are prettier. I just think that way, that's my own opinion.

SB: You like the piecing.

MN: Right. But the design and the workmanship is what it amounts to. You can see a sloppy quilt and it turns you aside from it.

SB: What kind of quilts are you personally drawn to? I'm thinking like say the traditional maybe Log Cabin or the crazy quilt or the more artistic.

MN: I like the ones with pretty floral patterns. I think they are quite effective.

SB: We talked a little bit about machine quilting versus hand quilting. I think you made that pretty much clear.

MN: Well, it's just a different medium really.

SB: Have you ever done any longarm quilting with the big machine?

MN: No. I have a niece that does all that.

SB: Let's talk about quilt making in our American life. Why do you think quilt making has been important to our heritage down through the years?

MN: Oh, because it tells a story. The quilts were used as the medium of direction back in the Civil War, pre-Civil War days. People would hang quilts on fences that had an arrow sewn into the quilt directing the black people north or whatever direction they should go to the next safe place and that was part of the underground to get the blacks away from bad situations in the South.

SB: That really tells a story.

MN: To me that was one of the most important parts of it and then in some of the places in the mountains where people didn't have much they would take sugar sacks and cut them up and dye them and cut them and make quilts out of sugar sacks or flour sacks. That was part of where people got the material to make a quilt.

SB: Do you know what they used for the dye?

MN: I have no idea.

SB: Probably natural things.

MN: That's right. Might have been from the berries; fruit mostly is where the color comes from, although vegetables would provide and maybe they had some chemicals that we don't know about.

SB: How do you think quilts reflect your community or your region? I know you grew up not in Oregon and you have travelled all over the world. How do you think it reflects your place, your physical place? Say quilting in the South or quilting in the Pacific Northwest or Indiana?

MN: Well, they quilt everywhere. Especially there is a lot of quilting done in Oregon. The women over in Albany and up around oh--it's town that starts with an H, I can't think of the name of it. And then over in Sisters they have an annual convention and women go over there to teach, to learn, they take their sewing machines. It's really a holiday for them usually around the Fourth of July and they are hanging quilts all over the downtown of Sisters.

SB: Have you been there? Tell me about.

MN: It was wonderful to see the outdoors. There would be quilts hanging in store windows or up above the stores, outside; providing the weather is good and there would be a group over there with a class with a teacher telling her experience and what she could do. It was just fantastic. The celebration they have for quilts in Sisters, Oregon.

SB: Lots of people?

MN: Just scads of people.

SB: Where is Sisters?

MN: Well, Sisters is close to Bend, Oregon. On the way from Corvallis to Bend.

SB: In Central Oregon, then.

MN: That's right.

SB: Why do you think quilts have such a special meaning for women's history in America?

MN: Well, it's something they had to be involved with. Some of them were growing their own fabrics. I was thinking of sheep, but they don't make them out of wool usually, although they can. Quilts actually can be made out of any kind of fabric.

SB: Have you ever made a crazy quilt?

MN: No. I would love to. I bought the material one time to do it but never got around to it.

SB: They are so beautiful. So what has happened to the quilts that you have made for friends or family? Are they still around?

MN: I have no idea. Most of the quilts that I made were those baby quilts and they have all gone; they aren't around here. Some of them went to Alabama and just different girls that had babies. My daughter's friends all got a quilt when their babies came.

SB: So they are still out there. You know they are.

MN: Some of them never got on the baby. Some of them just went straight to the wall. Some of them got washed and treated just like an old rag or something which made me sick. I just wanted to cry when I saw a couple of them.

SB: After all that work. I'm intrigued by the quilting bee. Let's go back to your grandma's house. I'm trying to picture that. Tell me how many people do you think were there at one time?

MN: Well, I would say probably eight, give or take. It was a big dining table so three could easily sit on each side and one at each end.

SB: They must have put something under the quilt so it wouldn't scratch the table?

MN: Oh a blanket, always.

SB: What do you think they did with those quilts? Do you think they gave them away or did they work on a quilt for each other?

MN: I have no idea what they did with them. I would imagine they auctioned some of them off. It could have been a revenue producing effort.

SB: Or a mission effort, maybe?

MN: Right, they might have gone to a missionary. Who knows? I was just too young really.

SB: How old were you?

MN: I was about ten or eleven.

SB: That was a good experience to see that. Did you spend time there?

MN: I stayed with my grandmother for a year and my grandfather was there of course too, when my mother was ill and they shipped me off to my grandparents while she recovered.

SB: Did you sleep under a quilt there?

MN: Yes

SB: Did she have homemade quilts on her beds?

MN: She had featherbeds and quilts and it was cozy.

SB: I'll bet it was.

MN: Ice cold sleeping porch too. But I had my own bedroom in there though at that time.

SB: Was it a farmhouse?

MN: No, it was in town.

SB: What do you know about quilting in Corvallis? I think there are quite a few quilters here?

MN: There are a lot of quilters. I've never been involved with any of them as a group. Oh wait a minute, what am I saying? I was with the Catholic Daughters, I was involved with them. But just about every church group I think in town has a quilt group or has had.

SB: It seems so.

MN: Yes and a lot of them make them fast to distribute to needy people. Some of them are artistic. I have a friend who is really into machine quilting. She goes over to Sisters every year; they are going this weekend I think. No, they are getting ready to go pretty soon. But hers is all machine and she takes her wares to the bazaars at Christmastime and does well. They are beautiful. Well, she makes all sorts of things too. From table mats, or place mats, just all sort of sizes.

SB: Well, you obviously have an appreciation for quilts in general and quilting and there are so many beautiful things.

MN: All needlework I appreciate.

SB: What other kinds of handwork have you done over the years?

MN: Let me think.

SB: Do you do needlepoint?

MN: Needlepoint and knitting. Crocheting. I've made three crocheted bedspreads and two large table cloths and a set of eight place mats with the runner to go with it and then eight place mats where I've used tapestry cloth and edged them in gold tape and then a backing so there's a thickness there.

SB: Almost a quilt itself!

MN: It was just a solid piece of material so it was heavy. It was beautiful. Seems like there were flowers; magnolias or something like that. I'll show them to you after awhile.

SB: You mentioned to me that--one of our quick questions was about wearable art and you told me that you had knit some clothing?

MN: Oh yes, I've knitted sweaters and skirts. I knitted that quilt over there. That coat is about 20 years old. I still wear it. It's the warmest thing I've got.

SB: Another one of the questions was about have you participated in quilt history preservation and before the interview you mentioned an interesting DAR program about quilts. Do you remember that?

MN: Vaguely, but this lady came down and brought some of her wares or her quilts and told us the stories about the southern women hanging quilts on fences with arrows. She told us a lot of history about quilts. That was the one thing that stuck with me because it was so interesting. I've always been interested in pre-Civil War times. I think my grandmother was part of the underground system. The Underground Railroad.

SB: So now remind me, the quilts that you gave to the Schmink Museum were your grandmother's?

MN: One that my grandmother had made, probably for my mother and then the other one was one my mother had made. I had a brother and a sister and she made each one of us a quilt. I don't know whatever happened to them. I'm sure my sister has the one made for her but I don't know what happened to the other one.

SB: Do you think quilting will continue on through our American life?

MN: I think so. People just don't want to let it die. It's a social thing and women enjoy it but as long as they can tear up material and put it back together again that's what they do.

SB: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quilt makers today?

MN: Time maybe. If it's time, they can make it on a sewing machine. It's a social thing and it's a therapeutic thing in a way, but it's also, we make quilts for needy people out of scraps of material.

SB: And I think that's an American thing, pretty much.

MN: I don't know. I doubt it. I'm sure they made quilts in Europe before the mad dash to build up our nation.

SB: That would be an interesting thing to know about the history of quilting.

MN: Well, you know the nuns did such beautiful needlepoint. They have made needlepoint that is beyond our knowledge. It was so refined. Things that have been handed down from them are fantastic.

SB: Do you have any quilts in your home besides this little girl? Or have you given everything away?

MN: I don't have any quilts. I have a couple comforts which are tied not quilted.

SB: We need to tell the people who will be listening to his interview the story about how we got the quilt back here into your house.

MN: Well, I called my daughter and asked her to please send the quilt back so we could have this event. She sent it to me and we hung it up over my china closet so we could show it off.

SB: Where does she live?

MN: She lives in San Diego, California.

SB: I suppose she wants us to send it back.

MN: You'd better believe she does.

SB: Maryanne, this has been so wonderful to talk to you. Can you think of anything you would like to say in closing?

MN: Not particularly. I just hope I have answered all these question that you wanted to know.

SB: You've just done a great job. I'm new at this and this has been so special for me. Maryanne is a very special person to me and we are honored to do this as a DAR project. I would like to thank you Maryanne for allowing me to interview you as part of the Quilters' S.O.S.[- Save our.] Stories.

MN: Thank you so much. You have done me so much honor here and I appreciate it.

SB: We are going to conclude this interview at 2:15 p.m., March 20, 2010.


“Maryanne Nardello,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 18, 2024,