Mabel Short

Interviewed by: Carmen Davis
Date: November 24, 2006

Carmen Davis reports:

"Mrs. Short once taught a quilting class through the Virginia Extension Service in Wise County Virginia. This interview addresses Mrs. Short's experiences with quilting."

Interviewer: What was your favorite part about living in the Appalachian region as a child?

Short: I loved everything I did, and I learned a lot. I had a lot of opportunity and such growing up here. I learned a lot.

Interviewer: How long has quilting been in your family and how did this tradition get started?

Short: Over one hundred years. Back as far back as I can remember, my great-grandmother and great-grandfather and mother and father, my aunts.

Interviewer: When did you first begin quilting and how did you get interested?

Short: I guess I was ten or twelve years old. I began to help my mother. I always wanted to and loved to. I loved to do anything that I done. I'm eighty-three year old now.

Interviewer: Who taught you to quilt and how long did it take you to learn?

Short: I guess it was my mother. Of course, I had seen it done all my life, but I made a lot of quilts of different applique and I give them to the children.

Interviewer: What is your favorite kind of quilting pattern to make and why is it your favorite?

Short: I don't know if I have a favorite. [laughs] I don't know if I have a favorite or not but the prettiest type are applique. But when I grew up and got married and things began to get worn we took the backs of pants and dresses and made everyday quilts. My mother never knit anything other than mittens. I knit by instructions and my mother never did that.

Interviewer: Have you ever quilted in a social group? If so, what kind?

Short: I started workin' for Virginia Extension Service and that was one of the things I could do so they put me in it and I started teachin'. All of those things I taught, I do myself.

Interviewer: Have you ever made gifts for the purpose of selling them or as gifts?

Short: Yes, I sold a few. I made applique quilts for all of my children and a few others.

Interviewer: Have you ever received a quilt as a gift? From who? What did it mean to you?

Short: Well, I have my great aunt's quilt. It's over one hundred years old I bet.

Interviewer: Are there any quilts you absolutely refuse to part with?

Short: My cathedral window quilt. [She gets it out and shows it.] I made all these little patches and sewed them all together.

Interviewer: How long did that take you?

Short: I don't know. It took a long time. I did it when I could. I never really sat down and counted.

Interviewer: What's your favorite part of quilting?

Short: Why do I like it so much? Hmm, I never thought about it in that way. I like to do the work . . . the stitching . . . and the finished product. I just love to quilt. Of course, I loved to do anything I done. I was just at it all the time. I guess just for the love of doing something with my hands.

Interviewer: What is the oldest quilt you have? How old is it and who made it?

Short: My great aunt did that. Well, I would say that it's one hundred years old, at least, 'cause I'm eighty-three, and she was old when she died. She was a great dear aunt to me. I always loved to go see her. She pieced quilts all the time.

Interviewer: Are you still involved in making quilts? If so, how often do you make them and are you still teaching your class?

Short: No. Not now. Not since my stroke. My hands aren't that good anymore. I haven't did that for awhile. The last ones I did was the applique I quilted. No, I quilted some when we moved up here. I just made them from scraps. I just linked it together. They was colorful and pretty and durable.

Interviewer: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Short: Not anything that I can remember, but we made good quilts. I always put quilting cloth between the quilts but when we was kids I'd sew them and make the things from cow feed. Back when I was growin' up you saved everything you can. Because you had to. I made this pillow right here. It's just knots. Not French knots but . . . I can't think of it. . . [long pause] . . . well . . . anyways my grandkids got stuff all over it. It's easy to wash. I always put a zipper or fold it so's you can wash it easy. My great-grandkids was up here on Thanksgiving. I made these chairs too. It's just simple weaving. You just go up and down and then fasten it right here on the ends.

Interviewer: Well, I thank you very much for allowing me to visit and talking to me.

Short: Thank you. I always loved to help people. Always did in any way I could. I hope you learned a lot. Now you go quilt up a storm. Have you ever quilted?

Interviewer: No, not yet. I'd like to learn though, especially to crochet.

Short: Well I'd love to teach you but I'm not much good with my hands anymore.

Interviewer: Well, I thank you anyways. It was very nice to speak with you. Thank you very much.

Short: Now you'll come back and visit me one day won't you?

Interviewer: Of course, I will.