Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Mary Perini, October 13, 2001

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: My name is Amy Henderson, and I'm conducting an interview with Mary Perini.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer, Amy Henderson, introduces her interview subject, Mary Perini. They are conducting the interview at an American Quilt Study Group Conference, held at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

Keywords: American quilting; American quilts; Colonial Williamsburg; Interviews; Perini, Mary; Quilt interviews; Quilting

Subjects: American Quilt Study Group.; Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg, Va.); Quilts

00:00:17 - Personal background

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Partial Transcript: Mary, why don't you begin by telling me where you're from?

Segment Synopsis: Perini talks about her past experiences as a sailor living in Annapolis and around the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area.

Keywords: Background; Casual sailing; Mid-Atlantic Region.

Subjects: Quilting; Quilts; Washington (D.C.)

00:00:45 - Work-in-progress quilt description and personal meaning

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Partial Transcript: Well, you've brought a work-in-progress today.

Segment Synopsis: Perini discusses the quilt she is currently working on, which will become a wall-hanging quilt. She runs a textile gallery, collecting and selling vintage textiles. She talks about deconstructing a damaged and unfinished quilt from 1895 she received and how she used the materials to make a new series of quilts. Perini talks about why she enjoys the quilt and the history of the quilts with which she works. Perini also discusses what she plans to do with the quilt and the meaning of quilts as gifts in her life.

Keywords: Damaged quilts; Domestic crafts; Feet sacks; Quilt blocks; Quilt tops; Reusing materials; Textile galleries; Vintage quilts; Vintage textiles; Wall quilts

Subjects: Indigo; Muslin; Quilting; Quilts; Textile industry; Women

00:05:13 - Creating quilts / Craftwork experience

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Partial Transcript: Uh, at what age did you begin to quilt?

Segment Synopsis: Perini talks about her background prior to her quilting, which was an academic career as a quilt historian. She left her job to pursue creating quilts for herself. Perini talks about how knowing how to create quilts makes her a more proficient quilt and textile appraiser. She cites her southern U.S. heritage as part of her interest in quilts. She discusses her experience with craftwork, including how she learned needlework from her grandmother.

Keywords: Craft quilting; Decorative quilts; Domestic crafts; Textile appraisers; Vintage quilts

Subjects: Appraisers; Crafts & decorating; Quilting; Quilts; Textile artists; Textile industry; Women

00:09:19 - Learning to quilt / Quilting culture

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Partial Transcript: And how did you learn to quilt?

Segment Synopsis: Perini discusses the books which were the foundation of her quilt knowledge, Georgia Bonesteel’s books about lap quilting and Barbara Brackman’s "Clues in the Calico." She talks about why she enjoys these books and recommends them. She then tells Henderson about taking quilting classes in the Baltimore area. Perini discusses her social circle and how quilting has influenced her social circle.

Keywords: American quilting; Bonesteel, Georgia; Brackman, Barbara; Lap quilting; Quilting culture; Social circles; Social life

Subjects: Baltimore (Md.); Cultural history; Needlework; Quilting; Quilts; Women

00:11:41 - Quilting’s impact on daily life

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Partial Transcript: How does quilting impact your daily life?

Segment Synopsis: Perini talks about how she quilts for 2 hours a day every day or involves quilting in some way in her everyday life.

Keywords: Daily life; Quilting in daily life; Quilting routines; Routines; Social life

Subjects: Quilting; Quilts; Relaxation; Textiles; Women

00:12:19 - Aspects of quilting

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Partial Transcript: What do you like most and what do you like least about quilting?

Segment Synopsis: Perini discusses the difference between quilting and piecing in the quilting world. She talks about the personal aspects and joys of quilting and how she dislikes piecing and sewing. Perini then talks about the artistic aspects of quilts and what she enjoys seeing in a quilt in an artistic sense. Perini discusses what she looks for in a quilt when she is judging quilts, including balance, symmetry, and value for resale. Perini tells Henderson what she believes makes a person a great quilter. She believes caring about tradition and having a generous nature makes someone a great quilter. She also discusses how a vast majority of quilters are women.

Keywords: Artistic quilts; Quilt appraisal; Quilt judging; Quilt traditions; Quilters; Traditional quilts; Women in quilting

Subjects: Cultural history; Quilting; Quilts; Textiles; Women

00:16:47 - Storytelling qualities of quilts

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Partial Transcript: To what degree are quilts storytellers?

Segment Synopsis: Perini talks about how she believes quilts tell a story, from the materials they were made from to the quality of the craftsmanship. Perini discusses how a person sometimes has to interpret a story from a quilt, as it’s not always obvious. She believes quilts tell the stories of women which were not always told prior to the 1960s.

Keywords: Domestic crafts; Emotional stories; Personal aspects of crafts; Quilt interpretation; Quilt stories; Women's stories

Subjects: Quilting; Quilts; Storytelling; Textiles; Women; Women's history

00:19:25 - Personal and cultural importance of quilting

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Partial Transcript: Why is quiltn--quilting important in your life?

Segment Synopsis: Perini discusses the personal importance of quilting, which she does because she enjoys doing it. She also talks about the cultural significance of quilting to the American story, especially after 9/11, which occurred 32 days prior to this interview taking place. Perini believes quilts are a part of knowing American history and heritage. She also discusses the cathartic qualities of quilting and how the quilts become a part of the time they were created in. Perini talks about the patterns on the quilt tops she has created and how they relate to her feelings about 9/11.

Keywords: 9/11; 9/11/2001; Catharsis; Emotional aspects of quilting; Post- 9/11; September 11, 2001

Subjects: Emotions; Quilting; Quilts; September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001; Textiles; Women

00:23:07 - Questions for quilt historians and quilt makers

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Partial Transcript: What questions do you think we should be asking quilts-quilt historians, quilt makers, today?

Segment Synopsis: Perini discusses how quilt historians get caught up in the small details of their work and fail to see the bigger picture. She believes the emotional and creative choices behind the quilts which were created are the most important aspects of quilt history. Perini discusses how she gives her quilts to members of her family because she knows they will be well taken care of.

Keywords: Creativity in quilts; Emotionality in quilts; Personal stories in quilts; Questions; Quilt historians; Quilt historiography; Quilts as gifts

Subjects: Cultural history; Quilting; Quilts; Storytelling; Women; Women's history

00:24:57 - History of Perini’s current project

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Partial Transcript: When you're working on this antique top, do you derive any sense of what you think the original piecer was feeling or thinking when she put it together?

Segment Synopsis: Perini tells Henderson the questions she has about the quilt she is currently working on. She discusses the pattern and the questions she has for the woman who created the quilt about why she chose that pattern. She discusses how the quilt might have been a political statement about Prohibition or made out of a personal enjoyment of the pattern, called "the drunkard's path” pattern.

Keywords: Domestic crafts; Nineteenth century women; Quilt patterns; The drunkard's path; Women and prohibition; Women’s political statements

Subjects: Industrial revolution; Nineteenth century; Prohibition; Women’s and gender history; Women’s history

00:26:27 - Women’s history and quilting

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Partial Transcript: Can you elaborate a little bit more on the question, what ways do quilts have special meaning for women's history and experience in America?

Segment Synopsis: Perini talks about how women’s history is difficult to fully understand because women were largely left out of the historical narrative. She discusses the importance of the domestic role women played prior to the Industrial Revolution and how this role has been downplayed in history. Perini talks about the importance of quilting in understanding the lives of the women who created the quilts, including their personal feelings, means of artistic expression, and every day details about their lives, including economic status. Perini talks about how quilting, ultimately, is meant to be enjoyed and not taken too seriously.

Keywords: American women; Artistic expression; Cult of domesticity; Domestic history; Domestic life; Hearth and home; Nineteenth century women; Women in the home

Subjects: American women, 1600-1900; Hearth & home; Quilting; Quilts; Women in history; Women’s history