Pauline Taylor




Pauline Taylor




Pauline Taylor

Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Kirby, Vermont


Nola Forbes


Please note: Polly 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 I'm conducting a Quilters' S. O. S.- Save Our Stories interview with [Pauline.] Polly Houghton Taylor. [in her home in Kirby, Vermont.] Today is July 26, 2010. It's 11:18 AM. I am conducting the interview as a member of the American Heritage Committee for the [Vermont State Society.] Daughters of the American Revolution. Polly is a quilter. Would you tell us, Polly, about the quilt we photographed today.

Polly Taylor (PT): I didn't have any patterns so I decided I would just make a Postcard Quilt. The part that I enjoyed the most while I was working was the materials that my daughters and I had used for dresses, skirts, tops and so forth. I decided it would be a full-sized quilt for my oldest daughter who had just gotten married. She liked green, so we had green for the backing and it went quite well with the other pieces that we had used for our sewing.

NF: About what year was that?

PT: 1971.

NF: We took close pictures of some of those fabrics. Would you describe some of those and what clothes had been made that matched? From those fabrics?

PT: We made a lot of dresses for the girls going to high school, all three of them. I made my own clothes, too. This quilt was my first quilt. So there's a lot of errors probably in it, too.

NF: So there was a big, pink rose fabric?

PT: Yes, the girls liked pretty flowers and pretty fabric like that. But they like most any pastel colors.

NF: That came from a dress that who made?

PT: Dresses that I made and the girls made, too.

NF: That was a shift for Carol?

PT: Yes, she made herself a shift.

NF: I saw one with little hearts.

PT: That was one Barbara had made Deborah a dress out of that.

NF: Then nearby was some blue, with small blue flowers.

PT: Barbara made a dress for herself out of that and a skirt for Deb, as I remember. Carol made the shift.

NF: There was a nice red fabric that showed different utensils on it.

PT: That was kind of interesting because my first-year Sewing Group made little cooking aprons. All three of my daughters, as well as my niece, all have aprons out of it.

NF: Was that a 4-H group? [4-H youth organization.]

PT: Yes.

NF: You helped with 4-H?

PT: I was a 4-H Leader for seventeen years.

NF: Seventeen years. Did you do sewing most of those years?

PT: I did. Most of the time sewing. The last two years I had really quit. They didn't have a Cooking Leader. I wanted to do something with my son Richard then, so we had two years of Cooking. One was boys and girls. That was a handful. So the next time it was boys and we had a wonderful time.

NF: They didn't have to make aprons for themselves.

PT: No, they didn't. [laughs.] They didn't wear aprons.

NF: I saw another fabric that had little bandanas on it.

PT: Of a similar material, I made Bandana Quilts. I made six of them, for all of my grandsons.

NF: Those were with full-sized bandanas?

PT: Yes. Then I made a queen-sized quilt for my oldest granddaughter Stephanie. That was a Trip Around the World. Terry Eaton did help me a lot in assembling that.

NF: Did you have special colors you used in that quilt?

PT: I think quite a bit of it was lavender and green et cetera.

NF: The size of that quilt?

PT: That one was the queen-sized. I think I had already said it was.

NF: What kinds of difficulty did you run into making that quilt?

PT: Lots of them. That is why I had to have Terry show me how to lay it out. Then I made a full-sized quilt for my youngest granddaughter Carrie. Carrie had to have a Nine-Patch. In the very center there was a kitty, because she liked cats very much.

NF: Was that one easier to handle than the Trip Around the World?

PT: Definitely. That one I didn't have to have help on. [laughs.]

NF: What did you have to do because of the huge size of the Trip Around the World?

PT: I took most of my furniture out of my living room and thought I would be able to assemble it there. Then I found out I couldn't get up and down as well as I used to. So we ended up taking it up to the Schoolhouse. [South Kirby one-room schoolhouse.] We had enough tables so we could put it together up there.

NF: Was there a quilt frame that was available?

PT: There was a quilt frame but I didn't use it. There was one up there at a later date.

NF: I see. Back to those Bandana Quilts, what color bandanas did you use?

PT: I used the red and blue bandanas. I used blue denim for sash work, the back and for the strip down through where each block went together.

NF: Were they quilted or tied?

PT: They were tied. All of them. Yes. I have never done a whole quilt quilted.

NF: Back to the Postcard Quilt. Would you tell where you got your pattern from?

PT: My mother had made one quilt. It's the only quilt that she ever made, that I know of. It was a Postcard Quilt. I don't know but what she just took a postcard and drew around it.

NF: That worked.

PT: Yes.

NF: What do you think someone viewing this Postcard Quilt might conclude about you?

PT: I think they would think we'd done a lot of sewing in the family. Probably needed a lot of perfections, too.

NF: How is this quilt used now?

PT: My oldest daughter uses it on her bed.

NF: What do you think she has for future plans for this quilt?

PT: I don't have any idea.

NF: Do you think maybe one of her children will want it?

PT: It might be. She has two boys.

NF: I'd like you to tell me about your interest in quilt making.

PT: I find it very interesting and in most cases quite relaxing.

NF: Would you care to tell us about what age you were when you started making quilts?

PT: I'd have to do a little figuring here. It was in 1971. Subtract from 2010.

NF: You were an adult, for sure.

PT: Definitely. With five children, so I guess so.

NF: Are there others that you learned to make quilts from or would you say you were self-taught?

PT: Later after I'd made that quilt, of course, the Kirby Quilters. I don't have anybody in the family that quilts.

NF: These days, do you have a certain amount of time that you might spend making quilt blocks?

PT: No. I find that I don't right now because my husband needs my help during the day. I really don't have a lot of time to quilt now.

NF: Thinking back, what is your very first quilt memory?

PT: [pause for twelve seconds.] I think I got really interested when I saw that first Trip Around the World. It was a small quilt but it intrigued me. The pattern. I enjoyed doing that one.

NF: Where did you see that?

PT: It was at Kirby Quilters.

NF: At one of their Quilt Shows?

PT: No, it was in fact, [both speak.] that and the Log Cabin Quilt.

NF: Was it one of Mary Lamont's?

PT: No. They were made for members of my family. A baby quilt [for her daughter Carol.], come to think of it. I was very interested in the Log Cabin quilt. I think I was perhaps most interested in that because of Alice McClaughry. She helped make my son Richard and daughter-in-law Sue's wedding quilt. They had the first wedding quilt in Kirby.

NF: From the Kirby Quilters.

PT: Yes. Alice kind of liked Dick because he helped her out when she got stuck a few times. [both laugh.]

NF: In the cold winters, full of snow.

PT: Yes. It was absolutely the most beautiful quilt I ever saw. The dark shades were green and red. The lighter shades were yellow and off-white, I think. It was certainly beautiful.

NF: When you were growing up, were there any quilts in your home?

PT: Yes, there were one or two. My dad's aunt had three children. Unfortunately, she lost them all. To help fill the void, she went to quilting. She would donate two quilts a year to the poor. It used to be that you would have an Overseer of the Poor. I can't remember the lady's name that it was, in Lyndon. [Vermont.] She would give her two quilts every year that she made. Sometimes more, but always two at least. It was interesting because she always used unbleached cotton for the backing and for the sash work. They were beautiful quilts. A lot of them had been star quilts. A lot of different things. She made oodles of quilts.

NF: Were those full-size quilts?

PT: Yes. All full-sized. Yes. In fact I have one out in the dining room which I'll have to show you.

NF: I'll take a look after we finish taping. So no other family members?

PT: No.

NF: Your daughters have helped a little with some Kirby Quilter blocks?

PT: A few they did. I believe they made some. We had Nursery Rhymes that they used in Kirby Quilters for some of the quilts. I forget who the quilt was for, but yes, the girls did get busy. I think it was for someone in our family but I can't remember which one. Maybe it was for David Chase, the oldest grandson.

NF: That sounds about right. Would you talk about some of your friends who make quilts?

PT: I know Terry makes quilts. She is an excellent person to do quilts. She just seems to know. She always says, 'If I get in a little place where I don't know how I'm going to be able to sew it,' she says, 'I always do it by hand.' That was a good thing to know. A tip I didn't take advantage of before.

NF: In the early days of the Kirby Quilters, you helped with some of their first raffle quilts, perhaps?

PT: Yes. I think I helped with all of them except perhaps the last one. I haven't had the time lately.

NF: Are there some of the quilters that have passed away that you could mention, that were instrumental in the early days of the Kirby Quilters?

PT: Phyllis Wood was a quilter, as long as she was able. Minnie Wood was always making them. She made some quilts, too, herself, for her family. Joan Hahr moved away, so we miss her, too. She was an excellent quilter. She could do almost anything she starts out to. A very talented lady. I guess those are all of the ones that we've lost. [from her South Kirby neighborhood.]

NF: Now you have some younger relatives on the Houghton side that are learning to quilt?

PT: Yes. I do not know their names but there are six of them that are my cousin's grandchildren.

NF: So that next generation is going to help carry on some of the traditions.

PT: They are very talented young ladies. I've seen some of them [their quilts.] that they've done and they are beautiful.

NF: They have a lot of energy, too.

PT: Yes. Definitely.

NF: Have you ever used quilts to help get through a difficult time?

PT: Sometimes if you get depressed. I think lots of times you can pick up sewing and enjoy making another quilt block. I've made several. I have a book. It says something about Fifty Ways of Using the Nine-Patch. I've tried quite a few of them. I haven't tried them all. If I wonder what I'm going to do, I usually get that book out and find one that I can make.

NF: One that you haven't tried yet?

PT: It's interesting.

NF: Can you think about an amusing experience that has occurred related to your quilt making?

PT: No, I can't seem to think of one off-hand.

NF: Or stories about some of the Kirby Quilt Shows?

PT: The ones that we used to have?

NF: The ones at the Town Hall.

PT: I did go to those. I remember the ones up at the Lyndonville Fairgrounds. I usually worked and helped with the meals. I don't think of anything particularly.

NF: These days at the Kirby Quilt meetings, what are some of things that you bring for special refreshments? They always disappear.

PT: [laughs.] I like to try different recipes. If you saw my kitchen you'd understand. My grandson made the statement that, 'If you wanted to know how to make something, go to Grammy's house because she would have the recipe for it.' I must say I have got to eliminate some of my cookbooks and recipes.

NF: What do you find pleasing about quilt making?

PT: I've always loved to sew. It's one of the ways to do sewing.

NF: What aspects of quilt making do you not enjoy?

PT: I do not care for the appliqué quite as well as I do the patchwork, but I have done some of it. I don't enjoy it quite as much.

NF: Do you add embroidery sometimes on your quilt blocks?

PT: Yes, I have in a few cases.

NF: You've belonged to the Kirby Quilters for a long time.

PT: Since it started in 1976. [when the Kirby Quilters started and made their first raffle quilt, which was won by Fanny Simpson who lived in Kirby, Vermont.]

NF: How could you describe some of the changes that you've seen in the group over that time?

PT: We have increased the number of people that we have for quilters. It's almost up there so sometimes it's too big for meeting in a house. We have to go to the Schoolhouse or the Kirby Town Hall.

NF: Do you think some of the traditions the Kirby Quilters started should continue? Or tell us about some of those traditions?

PT: I kind of think it's fun to continue the same ones we've had. Every new baby got a quilt, no matter how many babies there were in that household, which I think is very special. Every bride and groom we've tried to give a quilt to and every couple married fifty years. I think we do pretty well to keep up.

NF: Did you receive one of those fifty-year quilts?

PT: I certainly did. It's the most beautiful quilt of all. All my grandchildren have had a quilt, [newborn gift from the Kirby Quilters.] which means eight of them. A couple of my great-grandchildren have gotten one. One was living in Concord [Vermont.] and not Kirby, but they said she'd got to get a quilt, too.

NF: Because of very close ties to Kirby.

PT: Right.

NF: Have you ever belonged to any other quilt groups?

PT: No. I've never been to any other quilt shows other than the Kirby Quilters.

NF: You've viewed quilts at the Caledonia County Fair. Have you seen quilts at the County Fair?

PT: Yes. Our raffle quilt is usually there.

NF: Have any advances in technology affected your work with quilts or quilt blocks?

PT: For my first quilt, I didn't have a cutting board and I didn't have the special cutter to cut the material with. It was quite an advancement. It made it a lot easier when I had the board and the plastic ruler. All those good things that help.

NF: What are your favorite techniques? You mentioned you like piecing better than appliqué?

PT: Yes.

NF: What about favorite materials? Any types that you like to use more than another?

PT: I can't think of any, as long as it's cotton. I don't think I like any better than others.

NF: What kinds of battings do you like to use, or that you used in your quilts for your family?

PT: I really don't know. Whatever they had at the store. The May's Store in Lyndonville, [Vermont.] where I used to get them.

NF: Do you think they were polyester or cotton?

PT: I do not know.

NF: Would you describe the sewing area that you have, where you create your quilt projects?

PT: I have a sewing room but it is very small. When I've had something in the quilt line, when I needed more room, I would run up to the Schoolhouse and use that.

NF: That Schoolhouse was one of the last one-room schoolhouses in town, wasn't it?

PT: My three daughters graduated up there. My son was in the fourth grade, when he went to the Concord school.

NF: When it closed.

PT: Yes. I can't tell you exactly when the school was closed, in the late sixties.

[power fluctuation caused loss of some sentences. discussed the 1820's farmhouse Albert Taylor's family purchased in 1865 where they now live.]

NF: --updating from over the years.

PT: Quite a bit. I had a brand new kitchen and living room upstairs when I first went to housekeeping. It was taken out of the attic room. When I moved downstairs, I had a brand-new kitchen again.

NF: That meant you could cook up refreshments and meals, as well as make some time for sewing.

PT: That's right.

NF: When you were planning a quilt, what kind of process do you use to help design? Or do you see a picture that you want to follow?

PT: As I say, I often fall back to my Nine-Patch book. It does have a lot of different designs in it. No, I don't have a lot of patterns. I just go along with the Kirby Quilters and what they are planning to do for a particular pattern for a quilt.

NF: That fits the theme. Now I'd like to talk about more general things about quilts and quilt making. What do you think makes a great quilt?

PT: I think what makes a great quilt would be in choosing your colors. Sometimes I think I like a little help. I ask others in the family if they think certain ones go together better than others. And again, let me think. [pause for seven seconds.] I seem to have drawn a blank.

NF. Something about the colors. Suggestions from others.

PT: Mrs. Hahr was working in fabrics in St. J. [St. Johnsbury, Vermont.] in a store. I used to go to her, and she would help me to coordinate. She did that for the quilt I made my granddaughter, when I made that queen-sized quilt. She'd help me a lot on picking out colors and it came out very, very pretty.

NF: What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?

PT: Oh, I don't know. Maybe the pattern.

NF: Something beyond that Nine-Patch book maybe?

PT: Anything that the Kirby Quilters pick out and suggest what to do.

NF: Is there one recently that you can think of that you really liked? That they made?

PT: I know that when it comes to my working on a quilt, I like to do animals for the baby quilts. That's my favorite.

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

PT: Maybe it would be one of those quilts that they made years ago. I don't know what they were called. They used silks and wool. Then they did all the beautiful embroidery in putting it together. Different.

NF: Is it the Crazy Quilt?

PT: I couldn't tell you.

[power outage caused short gap in taping.]

NF: Sorry for the technical difficulty.

NF: Polly, what makes a great quiltmaker? What characteristics do you think a great quiltmaker would need to have?

PT: [pause for ten seconds.] They have to like to sew definitely and have to have the time to put into it. A lot of ingenuity, [laughs.] which I don't seem to have too much of.

NF: That's where some of the friends and the books help out.

PT: That's where they all come in handy.

NF: Is there any quilter whose works you are drawn to, that you always want to see what they're working on?

PT: Terry, I know, is one. She is quite a little artist. She won't hardly admit that she is, but she really is quite artistic. You're going to talk to her.

NF: Are there any artists in the art world that are not quilters that might influence your ideas?

PT: No, I can't think of any.

NF: How do you feel about quilts that are machine-quilted instead of hand-quilted?

PT: They may be more durable, but I really like to see hand quilting better.

NF: Why is quilt making important in your life? [both speak.] Why do you keep going with the Kirby Quilters?

PT: I find that you can always learn something more if you watch the others and work with them.

NF: You mentioned you like to do animals on the baby quilts. Would you tell a little more about why you like those?

PT: Partly because I have six grandsons and two granddaughters.

NF: You live here on a farm.

PT: That's why I like the farm animals.

NF: Which kinds of animals do you have here?

PT: We have cows, of course. We always have a dog or two. Right now, we have thirty or forty cats out to the barn, but I don't have a housecat. I've tried and tried to bring one in, but I haven't been very successful. They didn't mind very well once they got inside.

NF: They enjoy the company of the cows and their freedom a little bit more?

PT: I think so.

NF: What about birds. Do you use birds on your quilt blocks?

PT: Yes. I feed the birds and I don't get a big variety of them. Every now and again one will come where I have to get out the bird book and try to figure out what bird it is. Sometimes I'm not too successful on that. I do love to feed them and see them come.

NF: Would you think about how quilts that you've worked on reflect this community or region? [pause for four seconds.] How would somebody know, looking at one of our Kirby Quilter quilts, that it was made here in this part of Vermont, maybe?

PT: I can't seem to think. I told you I wouldn't be very good at this.

NF: The rural aspect of the back roads of Kirby and scenery.

PT: It would probably help to inspire some of our Kirby Quilters' quilts.

NF: Like the wallhanging that Kirby Quilters made for the Town Hall.

PT: They are very nice.

PT: There's a couple of them over there, isn't there?

NF: The new ones. There are a couple. I was thinking about the one made for the Town Bicentennial.

PT: That quilt. Wasn't it won by Fannie Simpson? That was our first quilt. Our very first one.

NF: Oh, it is different.

PT: That's not the one you were talking about?

NF: I had a different one in mind.

PT: I'm sorry.

NF: But that first quilt. [both speak.]

PT: That first quilt, we were all happy to think that there was one of our Kirby people that got the quilt. She just loved it.

NF: What did people put on their blocks for that quilt? Because that started it all for the Kirby Quilters.

PT: I think what they did was they tried to depict something that was in Kirby and to duplicate it. Like the schoolhouses. I myself thought I had something different. My father-in-law used to haul granite out of Kirby to the Concord sheds. There were three, I believe, granite sheds in Concord at the time. They would haul it down there. We still had the wagon. So, I made the wagon that my father-in-law hauled it on. Later, I owned the quarries. I owned fifty acres of land, and it had the two quarries on it in Kirby.

NF: Is one of those the quarry they took the piece of granite, to put at the Town Hall by their sign? When they had the Bicentennial for Kirby?

PT: I believe it must have come from there because I think that's all the ones there are in Kirby. My great-uncle owned it and he gave it to me when we got married. They had logged it so that was what they had it for originally. I think it was in 1946 down in Concord there was a man by the name of Mr. Salvucci. I believe he was Italian. He wanted to buy all the granite that was just waste material that they had left. Not to actually dig out any more granite. So, I sold him all the waste material. It went into the first house as you go into Concord, going down from the Health Center. It's where Mr. Ewens lives now. That whole wall is Kirby granite. Then down near where once upon a time was the Concord Creamery. I can't remember, did that burn? I'm not sure. I think Mr. Hahr owned some of it. Anyway, down by the old Concord Creamery is a whole wall that is all granite there. That all came out of my granite quarry.

NF: I think on the little wall quilt that is in the Town Hall from the Bicentennial year, I think there are some fabrics on there that are supposed to represent granite.

PT: Isn't that wonderful. In Concord do you mean?

NF: Right here in Kirby.

PT: Here in Kirby? Now, which quilt was that?

NF: It's hanging behind the Town Moderator at Town Meeting.

PT: Oh. I will have to look especially.

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

PT: I think the early settlers definitely did a lot of quilting. That was probably one way that they got to meet, see their neighbors, work together and have something to do. People didn't travel a lot back in those days. They needed them also to keep warm.

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

PT: One thing is to keep getting some of the young people interested. That is why I am pleased that we have six new members over from North Kirby.

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

PT: I think maybe it would be the fabric. We like to have all cotton. So much of the material nowadays, it will say that you don't have to iron it because it has polyester in it. Sometimes that can lead to something that will pill or lump a little. I really don't care for the polyester that much.

NF: Is there anything else, Polly, that you would like to add to today's interview?

PT: I can't think of any except I know I've enjoyed Kirby Quilters a lot. I feel bad if I have to miss one.

NF: It's become a big part of your life.

PT: Yes. It's something I enjoy very much.

NF: I'd like to thank Pauline "Polly" Houghton Taylor for being interviewed today. [as part of the Quilters' S.O.S.-Save Our Stories.] It is 12:06 PM. Thank you.

PT: You're welcome.


“Pauline Taylor,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed November 30, 2023,