Ardelle Rich




Ardelle Rich




Ardelle Tiffany Rich


Nola Forbes

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Saint Albans, Vermont


Nola Forbes


Nola Forbes (NF): My name is Nola A. Forbes and today's date is October 23, 2009, at 11:22 a.m. I am conducting an interview with Ardelle Tiffany Rich in her home in Saint Albans, 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. Ardelle is a quilter and is a member of Captain Jedediah Hyde Chapter NSDAR. Tell me about the quilt you brought in today.

Ardelle Rich (AR): I just like it. It's a Flying Geese quilt. I like the colors in it. I just like it. [laughs.]

NF: What did you do in choosing your fabrics for that one?

AR: A lot of the fabrics we had in our stash. What we didn't have, of course, we had to go and purchase it at a couple of the quilting shops.

NF: How long did it take you to make that one?

AR: Probably about six months I would guess. We really don't hurry about doing these. We're in no particular hurry for them. We have other things going, besides just quilting.

NF: So, some others worked on parts of this quilt with you?

AR: Yes, my sister.

NF: That would be Helen?

AR: That would be Helen. [Helen Tiffany Hibbard.]

NF: After you got the quilt top finished, did you have someone else do machine quilting?

AR: Yes, a lady in Saint George by the name of Carol Philbin. She does an excellent job, I think. I think a lot of other people do, too. [laughs.]

NF: Can you describe a little of the quilting pattern that was chosen? She does the sparkles sometimes?

AR: She does different designs is what I like. Around the geese she would do a different design. Then [both speak at the same time.] in the borders she does a different design. That's what I like about her.

NF: Do you choose some of the designs with her or do you let her make the choice?

AR: She showed me some of the designs of what I would like and so we did it together, really.

NF: When you are cutting out the pieces for your quilts, do you plan for the whole quilt at once, or do you start with some of the fabrics that you like first?

AR: No, generally my sister does most of the cutting. I do most of the sewing. We cut it all out at once.

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

AR: [laughs.] There is no special meaning.

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

AR: I thought it was a nice quilt. The colors are nice. They're bright. I use it on my bed in the summertime. I have a quilt for winter and for summer. [laughs.]

NF: And at this time of year the geese are flying.

AR: Yeah. That's right. They're flying.

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

AR: I really don't know what people would conclude about me. [laughs.] Whether I did a good job or not. [laughs.]

NF: What are your plans for the quilt in the future?

AR: Probably give it to one of my family members either my daughter or my granddaughter.

NF: Tell me about your interest in quilt making.

AR: My mother always did quilting. I remember when I was a little girl, I used to help her tie her quilts. She'd set this quilting frame upstairs, in one of the spare bedrooms, where it was warm. Probably that quilt would be up there for three or four months, until we could get it tied. Sometimes her lady friends, a couple of them would come over and they would tie the quilts.

NF: Kind of like a quilting bee, or a tying bee?

AR: A tying bee. Yeah. She used to cut all those little squares all by hand. Now we have the zip. [both laugh.]

NF: That rotary cutter?

AR: The rotary cutter. Of course, she wouldn't know anything about that.

NF: What did she use to mark her quilts, before cutting with the scissors, do you remember? Chalk or pencil?

AR: I really don't know. Probably a pencil because I don't think she had any chalk.

NF: That was at your home nearby here?

AR: No, it was in Fairfield. About twenty-five miles from here.

NF: At what age do you remember helping with those early quilts?

AR: I was around ten. I was the oldest girl. I was the oldest one in the family of five. I was expected to help my mother.

NF: When did you make your own first quilt?

AR: That wasn't too long ago. Probably twenty years ago. I didn't do much quilting until Helen retired. Then that was when we started doing some quilting.

NF: She roped you in on it?

AR: Well, I don't know if she roped me in, [laughs.] but I didn't want to do it. I wouldn't. I liked to sew. We started sewing when we were very young. We were poor. A very poor family. These boxes of clothes used to come in from cousins in Pennsylvania. We'd make those clothes over so we could wear them.

NF: So, you'd resize them?

AR: Yes. We did.

NF: So perhaps some of those scraps ended up in your mother's scrap basket?

AR: Yes. They did. I'd say they ended up there.

NF: From whom did you learn to quilt? You said you watched your mother and helped some. Any others that you learned from? In the later years, here?

AR: When I was older. Not when I was young. My sister, Martha, she's three years younger than I, she was a big quilter. We got a lot of tips from her. She used to teach. She lived in Montpelier [Vermont.]. She used to have a class of eight or ten women every week. She was such a good quilter.

NF: About when was that, when she was teaching those classes?

AR: Probably it had to be twenty years ago in the '80s.

NF: What was her last name?

AR: Clifford.

NF: She must have affected quite a few people when she got them started with their quilting.

AR: Yes, she did.

NF: How many hours a week do you work on quilts? An estimate?

AR: Probably four. Maybe four, I'd say.

NF: Would you talk about any other quiltmakers in your family?

AR: I've got a first cousin. [Charlotte.] She's the same age as I am. She was the Superintendent of Nurses at the hospitals here. She never did a bit of sewing until she retired. After she retired, she started sewing. She belongs to the quilt guild here. She does a lot of hand quilting.

NF: Do you have other friends that are quiltmakers that you might want to talk about?

AR: Not in the immediate area. The people I know of are the ones that sell yardage. No, not many of our friends are quilters.

NF: How does your quilt making impact your family?

AR: Oh, of course they like it. They think it's a great thing. To be able to do something and you can use it. [laughs.] Keep warm in the winter.

NF: They don't think of it as a bad thing?

AR: Oh, no. No, no.

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

AR: No, I don't think so.

NF: Is there an amusing experience that has occurred as part of your quilt making?

AR: I suppose there is, but I can't think of one right now.

NF: Is there a part that is especially pleasing about quilt making to you?

AR: Yes. It's nice. I have quilts on all my beds. I have three bedrooms. Every bed has a quilt that we have made. Helen and I have made.

NF: Each different patterns?

AR: Yes. All different patterns. People come around and they want to see my house, 'Oh, quilts.' I say, 'Yes, we made these quilts.' [laughs.]

NF: It surprises some folks?

AR: Yes, because some folks don't sew a stitch. [traffic noise in background.] I've got a friend. Anyways, she does not do any handiwork. I just don't know. Here I'm knitting. [gestures to items by the chair.]

NF: You have many projects you're working on.

AR: Yes.

NF: Are there some aspects of quilt making you do not enjoy?

AR: Yes. Putting it together. We love to do the tops but getting the backing and the batting, or whatever you want to call it--

NF: The filling?

AR: Yeah, the filling in between. We don't like to do that but of course you've got to do it if you're going to finish that quilt.

NF: Are there any quilt groups that you belong to?

AR: No. I never belonged to a quilt group.

NF: Have you gone to some quilt shows?

AR: Yes, we've been to a few. We used to go to that one in Northfield but now it has moved up to Essex. [Vermont Quilt Festival.] We haven't been lately. That experience we had in Northfield. It was so deadly hot. It wasn't air conditioned. I think that really turned us off not to go again. I guess it's nice now at Essex. I guess it's air conditioned and all. Do you go there?

NF: Oh, I do. Always a lot of stimulation between the quilts and the people.

AR: Of course, then you can find different kinds of material to work with. We'll go sometime again.

NF: Are there some local quilt shows?

AR: Not around here that I know of.

NF: You've seen the quilts at the Shelburne Museum?

AR: Oh, yes.

NF: Any favorites in that group?

AR: I really don't have a favorite. I know if I like it or if I don't like it whether it's a different fabric. My daughter made those pillows over there. [points to sofa.] I like the stars. Stars in the patterns. They're a little bit hard to make and make sure that your points are even.

NF: You can still incorporate many colors. Have advances in technology influenced your work?

AR: Probably. I imagine it has with the rotary cutter and all. I think the pieces are so much more accurate than when they used to cut them by scissors or shears, but my mother did. I don't know how she ever cut all those little squares.

NF: It took time.

AR: Oh. Yes.

NF: What are your favorite techniques when you are making quilts? Do you prefer piecing or appliqué?

AR: I have done appliqué but I'm not very crazy about it.

NF: So, most of your quilts are pieced?

AR: Yes.

NF: Do you do any foundation piecing? Where you use either fabric or paper to sew the pieces on?

AR: Yes, we've done some of those.

NF: But that's not your favorite?

AR: No. No.

NF: What about favorite materials that you like to use?

AR: Of course, nice cotton that feels like silk. At the quilt stores, I buy the nice Hoffmans, Jinny Beyer and some others.

NF: Would you describe the place where you work on your quilts?

AR: It's my lower level of the house. It's big and my sewing machine is right off from that. You will see it. [laughs.]

NF: I'm looking forward to that. When you are laying out the quilts, the blocks, do you use the floor or a big table?

AR: We use the cutting table that was my sister's [Martha.]. I had a pool table there. My granddaughter, I gave it to her and her husband, so we've got the table downstairs that belonged to her.

NF: So, it's easy to move the blocks and make adjustments. Is there anything you use to help you in designing a quilt? Or do you always follow a pattern?

AR: No, I don't know as we've always followed the pattern. It's color-wise. Helen is good at picking out colors to make sure they match and everything.

NF: You like to help pick the particular fabrics?

AR: Oh, yes. [laughs.] I don't know as I would like it if I didn't help with that.

NF: Are there any special prints that you like more than others?

AR: I don't like the thirties prints. I don't know why.

NF: So as long as it's not the thirties.

AR: No, I don't care for the thirties' prints. We bought some the other day, too, because I've got some Sunbonnet Sues that my sister had started and, of course, she died. So, I've been doing the buttonhole stitch but not by hand. I use the machine. I'm just trying to figure out what we're going to do with them.

NF: What do you think makes a great quilt?

AR: Makes a great quilt. Colors. Color and size and pattern, that's for sure.

NF: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

AR: I do believe the colors you use like that black quilt that we have down here. [gestures towards Helen's quilt.] That is powerful, I guess.

NF: When we photographed Helen's quilt that looked very nice hanging vertically.

AR: It did. [laughs.] It looked better than on the bed, I think. [laughs.]

NF: So that was artistically powerful.

AR: Yeah, I thought it was.

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

AR: I suppose it would be something different. My sister had a quilt that she entered down at the museum, and I think she got second prize, if I'm not mistaken. I can't remember the name of it.

NF: How long ago was that?

AR: Probably four or five years ago because she's been gone now a year-and-a-half.

NF: She made quilts for a lot of contests, maybe?

AR: Yeah, I think she did. I think she entered quite a few.

NF: Do they have a local fair here where you might enter any your quilts?

AR: No. Not that I know about. Fairfield is the closest. Twenty miles away. Of course, that's not very far.

NF: What makes a great quiltmaker?

AR: Patience. [both laugh.] Sometimes you've got to rip. Sometimes. Especially after church on Sunday. A lot of times, we might sit down to sew, and I'll say to Helen, 'Today is Sunday because we've got to rip.'

NF: It happens more on Sundays?

AR: It seems like it does.

NF: Maybe you shouldn't sew on Sundays?

AR: Sew on Sunday. Take it out with your nose on Monday. [laughs.] We get home from church. 'What are we going to do today?' 'Well, let's go down cellar and sew.'

NF: It starts out well.

AR: Yeah, I guess. [laughs.]

NF: Whose works are you drawn to? Is there another quiltmaker that you always enjoy seeing their work? [pauses for 2 seconds.] Either famous or local?

AR: I can't think of any.

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

AR: [pauses for 3 seconds.] Influenced us to quilt. That would be my sister Martha. She influenced us to quilt. Some of her material survived. But she didn't have the color sense, I didn't think.

NF: Do you think, being a Tiffany as your maiden name, do you think any of those creative juices came down through the family?

AR: Could be because we do have Tiffany prints. We've got some Tiffany prints downstairs. I don't know where we picked those up.

NF: Are some of the colors in those of influence to you?

AR: Yes. They're vibrant. Most of those Tiffany prints are vibrant. We have some that are more of the light greens and the light blues.

NF: Do you have a favorite color yourself?

AR: Yes. I'm a winter. I like reds. [laughs.] Reds. All of the reds that go by. I don't wear a lot of reds. But my husband, when he was alive, he liked me in red. I'd say, 'Yes, I'm just like the American Flag flying when I've got red all over me.' [laughs.]

NF: How do you feel about machine quilting vs. hand quilting?

AR: Hand quilting is the nicest of course but my gosh, it takes a long while. My sister used to work for a couple of years on a big quilt that she was hand quilting. It's nice.

NF: Did she use a hoop or a frame?

AR: She used a frame.

NF: She'd leave it set up as she worked?

AR: Yes. I don't know as I talked about her daughter Mary. She was also a quilter. She died before her mother, of cancer. She was only fifty. They used to do a lot of quilting together.

NF: Did Mary have any special colors or patterns that she liked to use?

AR: Yes. She did have special ones. She had some nieces that she thought a lot of, and she used to make a lot of clothes for them. [clock starts to chime.] Made dresses and Halloween outfits.

NF: What was Mary's last name?

AR: Clifford. She never was married.

NF: Where did she live?

AR: She lived with her mother in Montpelier. In later years, the last five years before she died, they lived in Essex Junction.

NF: Why is quilt making important to your life?

AR: I like to do it. Of course, it's been years and years and years and years that people have quilted. I don't know. We don't want to lose that, I don't think.

NF: Have you helped give any lessons to others?

AR: Oh, no. I don't. I'm not a teacher. Helen's a teacher, but I'm not a teacher.

NF: You're a better student?

AR: I'm a better student. I can follow orders but not to give them or anything.

NF: Would you say there are any ways that your quilts reflect your community or region?

AR: I don't think so.

NF: In most of your quilts you've used brand-new fabrics?

AR: Yes.

NF: Have you ever made quilts that were from the scrap bag like your mother's quilts?

AR: No.

NF: You've been fortunate.

AR: I guess when you get along in years you have got a little more extra money. When you're a poor family, you use what you've got, and you pieced. I remember my mother piecing and piecing and piecing to make it. Sometimes we piece, but not too much.

NF: By hand?

AR: Yes.

NF: What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

AR: I think they're really important. Women have quilted ever since time, I guess. [laughs.] To keep us warm, too. My mother used to have to make quilts to put on our beds to keep us warm in the wintertime. In our house, our bedrooms were unheated. You had to have something to put over you.

NF: They are long winters here in Vermont.

AR. Yes. That's right.

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

AR: Creativity. So many women who really need it. I know I get that booklet from that quilt place up in New Hampshire [Keepsake Quilting, a quilt shop in Center Harbor, New Hampshire.]

NF: From Keepsake?

AR: Keepsake. You see a lot of pictures in there that they have made the design. It's kind of nice. Different ideas, I guess.

NF: Some of those are traditional patterns?

AR: Yes. It's nice. I couldn't ever do that. I can't make up anything out of my head like that. [laughs.]

NF: Nothing different.

AR: No.

NF: How do you think quilts can be used?

AR: They can be used for decoration. Of course, they can be used for warmth and [pauses for 3 seconds.] hanging on the walls.

NF: Do you put any on your walls?

AR: I haven't put a quilt on my wall, but I have got some pretty big wallhangings that I put on the wall like the Chinese Lanterns I have in my living room right now. That's pretty.

NF: Would you describe that one?

AR: It's got blues and the golds. The lantern is a dark blue with gold in it. It's very pretty, I think.

NF: Is it one lantern or many?

AR: Oh, there's several. One, two, three, four by one, two, three. There must be twelve lanterns. Have you seen that pattern? The Chinese Lanterns?

NF: I've seen some patterns of that, so I'll have to see yours before I leave today.

AR: Yes. We will.

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

AR: That's a question. [pauses for 3 seconds.] You want them to be out, so people can see them. Probably not to have bright sunlight shining on them. You can't certainly wrap them in paper or anything.

NF: Do you store yours during the summer?

AR: No. I just fold it up and put it in the closet but it's out of the sun. It isn't in the sunlight especially that black quilt of Helen's. The other one we just had down here.

NF: Do you keep some quilts in your Florida home?

AR: No. I don't have any quilts in my Florida home.

NF: Don't need them for the warmth?

AR: I just don't want them down there; in case something should happen to me, and I can't go down. Those quilts that would be on the two beds down there, so I don't leave any.

NF: Can you tell where some of your quilts have ended up, around the country?

AR: [laughs.] I have a couple I don't know where they went to. I don't know whether my daughter's got them or what. One was a Log Cabin in red that was on her brass bed. It was pretty. So, I don't know if she's still got that or not.

NF: Where does she live?

AR: She lives in Georgia.

NF: Vermont?

AR: Yes. Georgia, Vermont. Right. It's about ten miles from here.

NF: Some of your other relatives that you've given quilts to?

AR: Oh, yes, my granddaughter. I gave her one when she was married. Then my grandson, also, when he was married.

NF: Where do they live?

AR: They both live over in Colchester.

NF: So those quilts are still in Vermont.

AR: Yes. I've got a little great-grandson who's twenty-one months old. We haven't made him a quilt yet. [both speak at same time.]

NF: Maybe he should get onto the list. [laughs.]

AR: I'm making him mittens right now. I don't know. [laughs.]

NF: Mittens are important.

AR: I'm making him mittens. My daughter says, 'Put a long cuff on them.' She said, 'So he can't yank them off.' Oh, gosh.

NF: There was a little snow last night.

AR: There was but he doesn't like mittens. He doesn't like to be clothed period. He's going to have to be.

NF: Maybe when he gets to build a snowman, he'll enjoy them.

AR: Yeah. Maybe.

NF: What are some of the current ideas you have for quilts?

AR: Current ideas.

NF: Have you started to think about some that you might make this winter?

AR: We're getting so at our age we don't make plans. I've got one now at the quilters. It's the Churn Dash. I have twin beds in my bedroom upstairs. This is for one of the beds. I hope I can get another one made for the other bed anyway. [laughs.]

NF: Will it need to match, or can it be a different pattern?

AR: No. Well, I want the same colors but different patterns. Helen thought I'd get it back here before you came but I didn't. She had about thirty quilts she had to do. I said, well, I was in no particular hurry.

NF: Your quilter is very well sought after and busy.

AR: She's right here. [in St. Albans, Vermont.] Babette Coon. She does a good job. She's got a son that's getting ready to go to Afghanistan and she's spending all the time she can with him. That's why she's so--[late.]

NF: Of course. A little behind?

AR: Yes.

NF: It's important to spend time with him.

AR: Oh, yeah.

NF: Have you made any quilts for other charities? To give away or to help with fundraising?

AR: I don't think we've done many quilts to give to charity.

NF: Mostly for family.

AR: Yes. [Ardelle and Helen are giving many of sister Martha's fabrics, with additional white material, to a new fabric shop “Flowers in Bloom” for them to use in making charity quilts.]

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

AR: The cost of material. Of course, it's nice material, but it's expensive. My mother, why she would drop dead if she saw some of it at nine dollars a yard or eight-fifty a yard. [laughs.] When she used to get her cloth, I think she used to get her cloth in Penney's when Penney's were actually selling cloth. My aunt. I had an aunt who quilted. Oh, she wouldn't pay that price for cloth. No way.

NF: So, you have a good stash to draw from?

AR: Oh, yes. You'll see it. We've got boxes down cellar.

NF: One of the fabrics that you had in the Flying Geese quilt today, we recognized that it was from some time ago.

AR: Yes. A long time ago. We've used it several times.

NF: One of those V.I.P. prints.

AR: Yes. It's a nice print with a lot of colors in it, too.

NF: So that was actually made right in New England. In Cranston, Rhode Island, I believe. Ardelle is there anything that you would like to add to this interview?

AR: No, I think you've covered about everything. [laughs.]

NF: Is there enough time in the day to work on your ideas?

AR: Not really, they always go by pretty fast. Helen gets up a lot earlier than I do. I don't get up much before six o'clock. She's already had two or three hours.

NF: Is it a race between the two of you, sometimes?

AR: No. There's no race.

NF: Sounds like you work very well together.

AR: We do. We're as different as day and night but we always got along. I think when you have somebody that's so close to you, you might not get along but we're different. We're so different. I'm like my mother and she's like my father.

NF: I'd like to thank Ardelle Tiffany Rich for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. Our interview concluded at 11:56 a.m. on October 23, 2009.

[interview concludes.]


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