Madeline Hooper




Madeline Hooper




Madeline Hooper


Nola Forbes

Interview Date



Morrisville, Vermont


Edna Curtin


Note: Madeline Hooper is not a member of the DAR. While this is a DAR quiltmaker documentation project, membership in the DAR is not required for participation.

Nola Forbes (NF): My name is Nola A. Forbes and today's date is July 9, 2009, at 4:18 p.m. I am conducting an interview with Madeline Hooper in her home in Morrisville, Vermont for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories Project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Vermont State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Madeline is a quilter. Tell me about the quilt you brought today. The Hawaiian quilt.

Madeline Hooper (MH): I started it in 1977. Each month I got a pattern for a block from Quilter's Newsletter. Eight years later I finished it. I thought I could do a block a month, but that was crazy. It took me forever to get it quilted.

NF: Did it take longer for the appliqué, or for the quilting?

MH: [pause for 5 seconds.] Hours wise, I don't know.

NF: What special meaning does this quilt have for you?

MH: Having been to Hawaii a couple of times I think more of it, although theirs are different.

NF: Did you tell me you worked on part of this while you were visiting Hawaii?

MH: Yes. I took it everywhere. I used to travel a lot, and I used to take it wherever I went.

NF: Why did you choose this quilt to use for today's interview?

MH: It's the only really big one that I have. That I've kept. Most of them I've given away.

NF: What do you think someone viewing your quilt might conclude about you?

MH: I have no idea.

NF: How do you use this quilt?

MH: I use it as a spread on my bed.

NF: And what are your future plans for this quilt?

MH: Exactly the same. I intend, somebody will inherit it, probably my niece.

NF: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

MH: I lost my husband in 1974. I was working in the operating room. I was on call every other night, every other weekend and I knew I'd have lots of lonely evenings. I'd done a little, as a kid. But I started--Selina French taught a class at Lamoille Union that fall and I went over knowing that I would have a lot of lonely evenings because I had to be by the phone. We didn't have beepers in those days and I got hooked. Big time. [laughs.]

NF: So, at what age did you start quiltmaking?

MH: Let me think.

NF: And maybe you did some earlier?

MH: Oh, I did a little as a kid, but nothing very much. [pause for 12 seconds.] I was 52.

NF: So, you mentioned Selina French was one of your teachers. Did you have some other teachers?

MH: Yes, Laurie Walsh.

NF: What style of quilts did she show you?

MH: [traffic noise.] Just ordinary. No special pattern that I remember.

NF: Did you learn the quilting stitch with her?

MH: Not particularly, that I remember.

NF: So you were self taught with some aspects of quiltmaking?

MH: Yeah.

NF: How many hours a week do you quilt, or spend making quilts?

MH: In the winter time I spend many hours. I don't know. I'm up very early in the morning and I'm cutting quilt blocks when it's dark. Then I come out on the porch and sew when it gets light. I don't know.

NF: You showed me pictures of and quilts that are Carrie Nation pattern?

MH: Umhum.

NF: Would you describe those?

MH: Well it's a scrap. It's supposed to have been thirties prints, but I don't have that, so I didn't use anything. I only do scrap quilts now, anyway. And the Carrie Nation has to have lots of 1 ¾ inch blocks that make diamonds through the pattern.

NF: It reminds me a little of an Irish Chain.

MH: It's more complicated I think.

NF: It is. What's your very first quilt memory?

MH: Hm. Oh. Making Sunbonnet Sue when I was in High School.

NF: Tell me more.

MH: And I grew to hate them.

NF: Was it a project? For a class?

MH: No.

NF: A family project?

MH: No. We just lived on a farm and I didn't have a chance to go anywhere. We didn't have a car.

NF: Were those for family or were they for sale?

MH: No. For family.

NF: Are there other quiltmakers among your family?

MH: Well, once I got hooked my mother got hooked. And she did, the rest of her life, as long as she was able, she quilted. I used to cut Double Irish Chain quilt tops. It would take me an hour and a half or so in the morning, to get the strips cut. She'd sew them together. The next morning or a couple of days later I could press them, and cut them in the other direction. She could make the blocks but I had to sew them together. And when she died we had eleven quilt tops, never finished. I mean, they weren't put together. I have one left, for my niece. She chose which one she wanted, and the rest are all gone.

NF: You mentioned that you and your mother made some charity quilts?

MH: Oh, yes. We used to make twenty five or thirty lap quilts for the Clarina Nichols Howard Center, the battered women's shelter here in town. And I still do. I think I'm the only one that does for them. I try to keep six at a time there but they have new people now, and sometimes they call and they're all out.

NF: They don't count correctly, perhaps.

MH: No. Well, they have new people.

NF: Are there quiltmakers among your friends?

MH: Yeah. A few.

NF: How does your quiltmaking impact your family?

MH: They want a quilt they let me know. They've all had some.

NF: How many people would you estimate, in the family, have your quilts?

MH: I have no idea. Several.

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

MH: Not that I recall. [equipment noise.]

NF: Tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred from your quiltmaking or quilt travels.

MH: Hm. [pause 5 seconds.]

NF: Or maybe some memories of some of the quilt shows that you've attended over the years.

MH: Well, Madonna Belval and I used to hang quilts for the Vermont Quilt Festival, for years. We started almost when they started. We did it for many years, until a few years ago. But we still go to the Quilt Festival every year.

NF: What are some of the other quilt shows you've gone to?

MH: One year we went down to the Quilt Museum. Down in Massachusetts somewhere.

NF: At Lowell, Massachusetts?

MH: Yes.

NF: The New England Quilt Museum?

MH: Yeah. A long time ago. I don't remember much about it.

NF: Did you enjoy the quilts that you saw that day?

MH: Yeah.

NF: And you went to the Kirby Quilt Show? [Kirby, Vermont.]

MH: Oh, that was my favorite.

NF: Did you enter the Hawaiian quilt there?

MH: Yes. And that's when I got a Best of Show ribbon for 1982.

NF: What else stands out in your mind about that show? [both speak at the same time.] Over the years at that show?

MH: It was always over the 4th of July. It was always very hot. Once in a while it rained. But that was my favorite.

NF: Is there a local quilt show that you have, here?

MH: Yeah. Every other year. We'll have one this fall, in October.

NF: And do you volunteer with that, in some way?

MH: No, they have enough.

NF: You used to.

MH: Well, I did a little, but I'm getting too old for that sort of thing.

NF: What do you find pleasing about quiltmaking?

MH: It's my tranquilizer.

NF: And what aspects of quiltmaking do you not enjoy?

MH: Not really anything. I only make tied quilts now. I don't hand quilt anymore.

NF: Now you used to be well-known for some of the garments that you made that you used to quilt--

MH: Yeah. I used to teach quilted jackets at the local quilt shop, which is no longer here. I did for a while. It's been a long time.

NF: Can you describe what was involved in that jacket pattern? Was it with a strip?

MH: Yeah.

NF: Various strips?

MH: Yes. It was strips. And then it was like, Log Cabin on the back, and such.

NF: How many students do you think learned how to make that jacket in your classes?

MH: I don't know. [traffic noise.] But something very interesting happened about three years ago. I volunteer on Saturday mornings at the local thrift shop that helps the hospital, and I bought one that somebody had made and brought in. I swear it hadn't ever been worn much. I bought it for five dollars.

NF: Oh, my. I'll have to watch for some of those.

MH: I was asked recently if I would do it again, but I don't know if I will, or not.

NF: Maybe you can teach another teacher, to do that.

MH: I don't know.

NF: What quilt groups did you used to belong to?

MH: The Montgomery Quilt Group. The Cabot Quilters. We met in Danville at a lady's home. [all are towns in Vermont.]

NF: [both speak at the same time.] Were there many people in those groups?

MH: Oh, a fair amount. Not as large as the one we have now, but this is getting too big.

NF: And the current one, your local group is--

MH: Common Threads.

NF: And so, Connie Page is one of those members?

MH: Yeah.

NF: And you are a member of the Green Mountain Quilters' Guild?

MH: Oh, yes. Have been for many years.

NF: What are some of your memories from those meetings? [pause for 4 seconds.] Or what part of the meetings do you like?

MH: I like the spring meeting. The fall meeting, I don't know what they'll do this year, but they stopped having classes. So my own self and Madonna Belval, we sort of cut out at lunchtime and go to a quilt shop, or something.

NF: And get some more fabric?

MH: Yeah. Well, see what's out there. I certainly don't need more fabric. I've got a house full.

NF: The Vermont Quilt Festival? Who are some of the people you have met there that you keep in contact with?

MH: Not anybody in particular.

NF: Or some of the quilts that you have seen over the years that are memorable for you?

MH: Oh, yes. There was some lady that did a wall hanging called "Cliff's Quilt." Do you remember seeing that?

NF: Was that Eliza Greenhoe-Bergh's?

MH: Yeah.

NF: Could you describe that a little bit?

MH: Well, not really. But then she had it somewhere else, and I said, 'Oh, I've got to touch "Cliff's Quilt."' It was so interesting.

NF: Have advances in technology influenced your work?

MH: Well, once I started using a cutter.

NF: The rotary cutter?

MH: The rotary cutter. Oh my, did that save time.

NF: I see that you like to chain stitch the pieces here at your sewing machine.

MH: Oh, yes. Saves a lot of thread.

NF: What are some of your favorite techniques for sewing styles?

MH: I just do scrap quilts, and if I'm doing the same thing, I keep chaining them through and then I'll add more to it and keep going.

NF: Do you do much appliqué any more?

MH: No.

NF: What kinds of materials do you prefer?

MH: Cotton. All cotton. I also do Cathedral Window pillows.

NF: And what happens to those, after they're finished?

MH: Sometimes they sell them at quilt shops. But I give away a lot.

NF: Describe the place where you create your quilts.

MH: On my porch. My sun porch.

NF: And your ironing board is out here, too?

MH: No, my ironing board's part of my living room. I have it in one spot where I can see to cut fabric blocks. The other way I can hitch up to a flat iron.

NF: Do you use a design wall, when you're working?

MH: No.

NF: Are there any other things you use to help you in your creative process?

MH: I don't think so.

NF: Could you describe this booklet that you have? [equipment noise.]

MH: I've taken sheets out of old quilt magazines that I've been interested in, and I came to a quick halt, and I have to do more.

NF: So, it's a source of inspiration?

MH: Yeah.

NF: Tell me how you balance your time. You talked about some volunteering.

MH: I do Saturday mornings. That's it. Eight to twelve. That's it.

NF: And so, a lot of the rest of your time is working with your quilts.

MH: Yes. Or in my garden which isn't doing very well this year.

NF: Because o --

MH: Well, it's too wet. It rains every day.

NF: Have you worked in a quilt shop?

MH: I used to, a little.

NF: And that was where?

MH: In Morrisville. I used to teach jackets. I may have done some other things, too, but it was a long time ago and I've sort of forgotten.

NF: Did you teach the Cathedral Window technique to others?

MH: I don't think so.

NF: What do you think makes a great quilt?

MH: Anything you want to do with them.

NF: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

MH: I have to think about that. I really don't know.

NF: When you go to Vermont Quilt Festival and you take a look at the quilts, what kind of quilt are you apt to walk up to and want to take a picture of?

MH: Traditional. There's so many that are way out, now.

NF: So, the contemporary quilts--

MH: They don't interest me very much.

NF: What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

MH: Probably just because it's old.

NF: What makes a great quiltmaker? What kinds of characteristics would you say they possess?

MH: I wouldn't really know.

NF: Is there a quiltmaker whose works you are drawn to?

MH: Not particularly.

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

MH: No.

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

MH: Well, the first time that they were judging at Northfield [Vermont.], judging quilts. And the first ones they had that were machine quilted, they were so good that they almost got by the judges. Now I see some that are very good and some that are so-so. I notice that many of them don't hang squarely. They're kind of rippled.

NF: Do you think the longarm quilting is different than a domestic machine quilting?

MH: Oh, yes. Some of them are done very well.

NF: Are there any quilting patterns that you like better than others?

MH: No.

NF: Or styles? [ MH no audible response.] Why is quiltmaking important in your life?

MH: It keeps me from being bored. I'm an old lady. I just have to have something to do. I've always kept busy.

NF: You've had two visitors this afternoon that spied your quilt when we were photographing it.

MH: Yeah. The neighbors.

NF: Did they know that you're a quiltmaker?

MH: Oh, sure, oh yeah.

NF: They sounded very in awe of this piece.

MH: I thought I had shown it to them, but maybe they hadn't seen it hanging. They'd seen it on my bed, and it looks different.

NF: It looks more artsy, doesn't it? Hanging?

MH: Yes.

NF: In what ways do your quilts reflect this community or region?

MH: I don't know that they do.

NF: Do you think a lot of quilters in this area make scrap quilts?

MH: No. I see a lot of neat looking quilt tops that people have, they bring to the quilt meeting. But very few of them I ever see finished.

NF: What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life? Either through history or in today's world?

MH: I don't know. [pause for 5 seconds.] I haven't thought about it.

NF: Do you think it was important for the household women [both speak at the same time.] to have this activity?

MH: That's how they kept warm.

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

MG: I really don't have an idea. I don't know.

NF: Now you told me that you helped with some of the Vermont Quilt Search Documentation projects. Could you talk about some of that story?

MH: They came to Morrisville and documented several quilts. I have one lap quilt--

[door slams, equipment clicks.]

NF: We'll resume talking about the Quilt Search.

MH: Okay, I have kind of a lap quilt size that my grandmother made for me before I went in nursing. She made it probably, in the late thirties. It's a Swastika pattern, which is a no-no today.

NF: It was thought of as a Pinwheel type early on, wasn't it?

MH: Yeah, I think so. I have a couple of others that I can't remember what they really are that my other grandmother made. I've just accumulated. They come to me.

NF: Did both grandmothers make quilts throughout their lives?

MH: I have no idea.

NF: Do you know if their mothers--

MH: I have no idea.

NF: So, with the Vermont Quilt Search did you help volunteer at some of their times?

MH: No, when they did it here. That's all.

NF: Did they have a good turnout of quilts from this area?

MH: As I remember, there were quite a few.

NF: Some real old ones?

MH: Uh hm.

NF: How do you think quilts can be used? [equipment noise.]

MH: Anyway that anyone wants to. Some use them for wall hangings. I use them on my beds.

NF: And you've done some quilts for donation to some area charities?

MH: I give them to a lady who works for the Council on Aging, and she gives them to some of her clients and I get some very nice thank yous.

NF: So, they're using them for warmth.

MH: Yeah.

NF: You mentioned that you had taught another gal?

MH: I've helped. I've been teaching a lady that teaches at Johnson College. Every November or December they have a craft fair. They have a sale. And they use the money for a project called Operation Smile.

NF: So tell our--

MH: It's something like the pictures you see in the magazines of Smile Train, or something like that. And we make 45 inch, all cotton quilts for the surgeons to take when they go all over the world to do children with harelips, cleft palates. Sometimes they make enough money to do ten or twelve kids in a year. So, Amy and I try to make sure that we have a quilt for each child.

NF: So, these are beautiful pictures you have.

MH: Yeah.

NF: And thank-you notes.

MH: Yeah. Some of the kids are from China, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Kenya, Russia.

NF: So, your quilts are all over the world.

MH: Yeah.

NF: Helping to bring more smiles.

MH: Yeah.

NF: How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

MH: Okay. You don't wash them unless they absolutely have to be. You do not dry clean them. Mine I only air in the dryer, on air, once a year. I don't let people sleep on them.

NF: What has happened to the quilts you have made for friends and family?

MH: Oh, my. There's some, they're all over the country.

NF: What states?

MH: I have no idea. I can't remember. South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, a lot in Vermont.

NF: Some out west?

MH: Yes, some went to Oregon.

NF: My. What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

MH: [pause for 5 seconds.] I'm kind of a traditionalist, and I don't like the new flashy quilt fabric. They're too big.

NF: So, you have trouble finding the fabrics that you like?

MH: Yeah.

NF: Where have you found some of your favorite fabrics?

MH: Down in Stowe. Up at Greensboro. [towns in Vermont.] I don't go to buy fabric very often because I have too much. And people are always giving me fabrics.

NF: So, you're finding some of your favorites in those gifts, too?

MH: Oh, yes.

NF: Madeline, is there anything that you'd like to add to this interview?

MH: I can't think of anything.

NF: I'd like to thank Madeline Hooper for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. Our interview concluded at 4:57 p.m. on July 9th, 2009.

[interview concludes.]


“Madeline Hooper,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 23, 2024,