Quilt With Us

I thought some stories about how you started quilting might be interesting. I took a class in the mid eighties. It was back when the rulers had a lip that slid along the side of the mat. My first rotary cutter was very small. Then we moved and I started working outside of the home and did that until about a year ago. About 2 years ago, I did start making a few more quilts, and tried to learn machine quilting. I liked it ok for baby quilts that I gave as gifts, but I always wanted to hand quilt. I tried to learn by watching quilting shows but not to many episodes are geared to hand quilting. Then last fall I really started investigating and learning everything I could find about hand quilting. I don't think I am great at it but I feel I finally have a rhythm and really enjoy it. I also enjoy english paper piecing. I have never tried hand applique but, maybe it is because I find that is the one thing I really enjoy doing by machine. I know it doesn't make any sense. My goal is finish some minature traditional quilts. Lately I have been learning about techniques and tips to get my piecing as accurate as possible. There is no room for sloppyness when the pieces get smaller. I am not sure what makes me love quilts and sewing so much.....................but I can't imagine not quilting.

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Parts of my story are so similar to the ones I've read so far. I started sewing at a very young age, made tons of clothes as I grew up, got my first sewing machine in third grade because my mom needed hers. I watched the ladies at my church hand quilt around the frame from time to time, but since we moved a lot when I was young, opportunity didn't stick.

My grandmother collected quilts and one year she decided to give each of her daughters (they had 4 and no sons) quilts for Christmas. She gave each grandchild a quilt that year too. We were grown up and I think she was tired of trying to decide what to buy us. Anyway, that prompted me to start getting American Patchwork & Quilting magazine in the mail even though I didn't think I could make a quilt. That started in the mid 1990's.

In 2003, I had a friend that kept inviting me to a guild meeting, but since I was spending 4 nights a week at the gym or ball field watching my kids play sports, I kept declining. Then in March 2004 at the age of 48, I came to the realization that the high school sports were going to end the next year and I was going to need a hobby to fill my time (I'm a single mom) when the kids were grown and gone. I remembered the guild invite and called my friend. The meeting that month was the next night and luck was on my side, no ball games that night! I met her there, watched a trunk show and was hooked. I thought, "I can do that too!" I know how to sew, I have magazines, I have fabric from previous crafting projects (always over-buy) and I have a sewing machine.

Before the next meeting (when I joined the guild), I had my first quilt top nearly completed. I hand-quilted it over the next 9 months and have made 58 quilted projects since them. Not all of them are quilted yet. Many are machine quilted, but I am nearly finished with my 4th hand quilted bed quilt.

I still don't have a lot of time to hand quilt, but it's the part of quilting I enjoy the most. It has helped me deal with many stresses over the last 5 years.

I quilt because I have to. Not because someone is making me, but because something inside me says I have to. I'm so glad I found that voice inside me! I'm also glad I found all of you.

Pam
My maternal grandmother always had some handwork by her chair. I was always fascinated by it. She would always have a tea towel or pillowcase to embroider and she started me on that when I was about 5. (I have no idea if she picked out my stitches and redid them when I was gone or not. It would be fun to know.) She impressed upon me to take pride in my work and keep my stitches small, even, and neat and that the back should look as good as the front. She also taught me to crochet. My mother did neither, but she did knit and taught me that. I made my first cross-stitch sampler when I was 8.

That is also when I learned to sew on my mother's featherweight Singer in 4-H. Mom didn't sew, either, which was probably good because you know how girls never want to listen to their mothers! :0) I learned from a neighbor (also the 4-H leader) and from trial and error. They also stressed perfection and seemed to have a lot of "rules". I spent many hours with a seam ripper, and decided I wasn't all that excited about sewing. However, when I was in home ec in high school, I found I could keep what I'd learned from 4-H and decide which "rules" I wanted to follow and which shortcuts worked just as well. I made my prom dress, a "Gunnie Sax" pattern (early 80's) and found I enjoyed garment sewing.

My brother married a great granddaughter of Grace Snyder, a fairly well-known Nebraska quilter. (You can google her on the internet to read some of her story and see one of her most famous quilts, the Flower Basket Petit Point). When I was 15, Grace was still alive and all of her show quilts (and some utility quilts too) were all laid out on a bed in her daughter's spare bedroom. I remember we went there one day so my future sister-in-law could photograph them and they peeled these incredibly beautiful quilts off the bed one by one. I was in awe even then, but not "into" quilts enough then to truly appreciate what I was seeing. I've since had an opportunity to see them again at a quilt show a couple of years ago in Kearney where they featured her quilts. My sister-in-law did inherit one of her quilts and my neighber (a granddaughter of Grace) has a couple of her quilts that she will show locally every now and then. They are even more amazing now that I know what I'm looking at. But I digress.

I started counted cross stitching in college and also did some candlewicking and needlepoint. Found I enjoyed hand work a lot. I still did quite a bit of garment sewing in the early years of our marriage and while my kids were little. I also did quite a bit of crocheting during that time.

My great aunt was a prolific hand piecer and hand quilter and I was fascinated by her quilts, most of which she gave away. Incidentally, she started quilting in the early '50's after a horrific head-on car accident kept her hospitalized in Denver for an extended period of time. She needed something to pass the time and started hand-piecing and quilting during that time.

I decided to piece (by machine) a lone star quilt and then hand-quilt it for my brother's graduation in 1990. That was my first big quilting project and it took me a year just to quilt. I had a lot to learn (and still do), but I was picky about small, even, hand-quilting stitches even as a beginner, probably a carry-over from my embroidery days. When I had questions, my aunt would advise me, but I am pretty much a self-taught quilter. I thought she was the authority, but have since learned there are lots of different ways to do things. I've been quilting since then. Once I started quilting, I lost my interest in garment sewing, except for the medical scrub tops I made for my mom during the late 80's through just a few years ago.

I've been quilting pretty steadily since 1998. Quilting (or pretty much any hand work) soothes my soul. I am fascinated by quilt history. I like pretty much all quilting methods, but am terrible (and don't enjoy) at needle-turn applique, probably because I've not been taught how to do it correctly. I am fascinated by antique quilts.

That was probably way more than you wanted to know about how I got my start, but there it is. My college-age daughter has had no interest in sewing or quilting yet, but is slowly starting to become interested in counted cross-stitch and knitting, so she may eventually gravitate to it. She does love and appreciate the hand-made quilts, though, as does my high-school age son, amazingly enough. I have some nieces who are very fascinated by quilting, so I have fun passing the love of quilting down to them.
Everytime someone writes their story, I am more amazed how similar our backgrounds are as far as other forms of needlework. And yet, it seems that once we reach the quilting step in our handwork growth, we feel we are where we need to be - and stay.
Everyone who reads these stories, please add your own. We're actually writing a history of our time.
When I read your story about your maternal grandmother, you could have knocked me over with a feather! I literally had to stop and reread the paragraph because I couldn't believe what I was reading!

We lived with my maternal grandparents from the time I was 4 yrs old until I was almost 12 yrs old, and while Grandma was very gifted in ceramics, enamel work, and teaching children who didn't know they were being taught, she was a terrible sewer and quilter. But it was she who taught me how to embroider when I was 4 or 5 years old, and she always taught me that the back of my work should look as good as the front.

Through that I learned a very important principle for life. If the front of your work is all you care about, the beauty and quality is only "skin deep". But for creating something truly beautiful, you need to care about it enough to put that same quality and beauty in the things that no one will ever see other than yourself. That's true quality...that's true beauty...and that's true character. Are you sure we didn't have the same Grandma??

BTW...I also made a Gunnysax dress, but it was for our daughter when she was 8 yrs old....and I did counted cross-stitch for many years, along with garment sewing, until I discovered quilting. I used to design sewing projects in my sleep and "reverse engineer" them so that I could go purchase the specific fabrics I needed. When I couldn't find the fabrics that were in my dream, I took weaving lessons! lol
Ah, yes...Gunnysax...what were we thinking? I guess the same thing as when my DH grew the muttonchop sideburns??? I'm amazed that I got into sewing and quilting at all (have to thank my HS home ec teacher) since nobody in my family does needlework, not even the inlaws. They do appreciate my quilts, so that's something! Barb
I always loved quilts. I remember mostly nine patches my great-grandmother made. She, Grandma, and Aunt Mildred made a wonder embordierd bird quilt for my mom's wedding. When I learned I was pregant, i wanted to make a quilt for my baby. I borrowed a book and bought some basic supplies, taugt myself, and have been quilting ever since. I find the hand quilting relaxing.
I can't believe how similar our stories are!! My maternal grandmother also lived with us and she was a seamstress. She insisted I learn to sew and knit. I enjoyed knitting but sewing I prefered to sew craft items , I found making my clothes boring. My grandmother did all type of sewing and needlework but I never saw her quilt. About 30years ago when I had 2 toddlers, a husband who worked long hours,I needed something to do to fill my evening after the kids were in bed. I would buy quilting magizines and read them from cover to cover wishing I knew how to quilt. I finally bit the bullet and decided to teach myself to quilt. I figured I knew how to sew and make clothes so I had the basics of sewing and reading patterns, and I had the disire. My first quilt was a Strawberry Shortcake comforter that I tie quilted for my daughter. I was not satisfied at all because I didn't quilt it, so my 2nd project was a sailboat quilt I found in a book by Georgia Bonesteel, I put it together by machine and quilted it by hand for my son and the rest is history!!
I am loving all the great stories. Thank you for your responses.
My paternal grandmother was a wonderful quilter. As a child I used to play under her quilt frames - I was the only girl amongst a bunch of farm boys so I stayed inside with Grandma instead of getting run over by the boys! One day around the age of 9 I noticed she was working on a Dutch Doll quilt and I loved it. I asked her to show me how to make one and the rest is history. Around the same time I learned how to crochet from my maternal grandmother. My quilting grandma has long since passed but I know she is with me every time I pick up a needle. I have such wonderful memories of those long summer days with my two grandmas learning about quilting, crochet, veggie and flower gardening, baking biscuits, and all those wonderful things little girls should enjoy with their grandmas. I know I was blessed to have these two wonderful ladies in my life. My maternal grandma never quilted much except for utility quilts - her mother and sister were the quilters in that family. However, as an adult I had the pleasure of "teaching" her how to quilt again and working on projects together. She suffers from Alzheimer's now and it is so sad to see how she no longer takes pleasure in the beautiful work she used to do - elegant, lacy crochet pieces and beautiful flowers. I'm also blessed to own several quilts made by different generations of my family. Can you tell I love quilting?! :-)
tnquilter: You truly are blessed...you have the lovely memories of times with your grandmothers and also quilts full of special memories...and you have inherited the love of quilting...what a beautiful legacy you are living.
tnquilter, my DM had Alzheimer's as well. The interesting thing is that the last thing she still remembered how to do (almost to the end) was piecing. It was pretty crazy looking, but she was able to put two pieces of fabric together and sew a seam. I took the biggest sections and put them together to make a top. It made a great snuggle quilt.
When I really first started quilting was in the late 1970s. Like many of the rest of you I had been sewing for many years before that. Living in a small town, and not being a petite or slender female (I was taller than many of the boys on our High School basketball team!) I had to learn to sew to make clothes that were both long enough and big enough. There was a time when I considered becoming a home economics teacher as I loved sewing, but was sort of discouraged from that as I had a hard time getting water to boil, if you get my drift.

Anyway, after I graduated and entered the real world, I soon discovered that my chosen profession was very stressful. It is also a profession where you never see the end results in this lifetime. Many of the males that I knew in this area take up carpentry so that they can see something through from the beginning to the completed end. I needed something I could do that would allow me to relax. Now, I also have a little bit of the work ethic instilled into me, so whatever I did had to be something that was practical and had an end result.

When I was growing up, my maternal great-grandmother made quilts. When ever I made clothes, I saved the scraps to give to great-grandma, so she could make a quilt. Most of the quilts I remember her making were used by the family, as they were often the only blankets we had. It was fun to look at all the patches and name whose dress or skirt and blouse or shirt or even apron that particular fabric came from.

A small church that I was at was making and embroidered state bird and flower quilt to try and raise some money. I volunteered to embroider one block, and when the top was finished I was invited to come down and do some quilting on it. Now, I remember seeing the frame at great-grandma's little house, but I do not recall seeing her quilting on it. But hand quilting could not be that hard, could it? I joined the ladies one afternoon and tried my hand at quilting. I enjoyed it, although I am pretty sure after I left they took my stitches out and redid them.

After having moved to another town, I decided to give quilting a try. I figured that it would be something I could do in the evenings to relax, I would have a useful end product, and it would be something at which I did not have to be a perfectionist. A small quilt shop advertised they were having a class for beginners, so I signed up to make a Boston Commons strip pieced quilt. I quickly learned that cutting strips of fabric with a scissors was a lot harder than cutting out clothing, and purchased a rotary cutter and paraphernalia to go with it. The only batting available at the time was high loft poly, but I managed to hand quilt it anyway.

I wound up taking two other classes at that shop and quickly learned that piecing does require some perfectionism. I also discovered it was the hand quilting that I really enjoyed the most.

I am not currently "employed" in my trained profession, but I still quilt to help relieve some of the stress of everyday life. I now enjoy the precision of the piecing process and have learned that fast and quick is not always easiest or best.

Part of my joy now days is teaching others the art of quilting.

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