Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The History of Quiltmaking


Ok, not THE history of quiltmaking … MY history of quiltmaking.  Winking smile 


I have a love of needle and thread.  I came by it naturally … my mom was a sew-er and quilter and was determined to teach us girls to sew.  When I was around 9, she signed us up to join 4-H.  In addition to learning how to bake brownies and snickerdoodles from scratch, I learned to sew … my first project was a simple A-line skirt.  During high school, I learned to embroider … I remember making several sets of embroidered pillow cases – from pre-stamped pillowcases.  This came in handy when embroidered jeans became popular in the late 60’s … I could embroider my own jeans! 


When I was 18, my grandma gave each one of her grandchildren a hand-pieced quilt top.  My mom told me that she was not going to do all the quilting on my quilt and insisted that I help.  At 18, the last thing I wanted to do was sit at the quilting frame … and I’m sure that my stitches would have borne that out.  Winking smile


In 1982 I decided to make DD a quilt.  I don’t remember what possessed me to make a quilt … nor am I sure how I decided on a quilt pattern, fabric selection, etc.  But I do remember going to a quilt shop way over in West County St. Louis (probably an hour’s drive?) to select fabrics … I chose blues and pinks of varying shade to make a log cabin quilt.  Since I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I purchased the book Log Cabin Quilts by Bonnie Leman and Judy Martin to use as a guide.   I remember cutting the fabric into long strips (with scissors, not with a rotary cutter) and assembling the blocks from those strips.  I hand quilted it (with a hoop – no room in my tiny apartment for a quilt frame), and it took me a good long time.  I remember setting it aside for a while, and when I started in again, I caught the “hand quilting bug”.  Here’s a picture of the quilt today … if you click on it, you can see that the colors have faded and the edges are frayed … it’s definitely been loved and used.Robin's quilt 001


My next quilt was a double wedding ring wall quilt – a wedding present for two dear friends.  I know, I know … I must have been insane … I don’t think I had enough “quilting sense” to realize that I should have been too intimated to try to make a double wedding ring that soon!!  I used Mary Ellen Hopkins’ The Double Wedding Ring Book


I also made a simple patchwork baby quilt when a good friend’s son was born a few years after that.  It was at this point when quilting took a back burner in my life … working full time, raising a pre-teen, and a new husband took up most of my time.  I discovered counted cross stitching … and certainly the shorter completion time for most projects had its appeal. 


It wasn’t until 2001 when DD shared the good news that she was expecting T#1 that I got back to quilting … I just knew that I had to make my first grand a baby quilt.  Of course, when we got news that she was expecting T#2, I had to make her a baby quilt, too … and with the arrival of another baby, it was time for T#1 to “graduate” to a “big boy bed” which meant that I needed to make him a quilt for his “big boy bed”. 


I had definitely rekindled my passion for quilting … and now I start a new quilt just as soon as I’ve finished the last stitch in the binding of the previous quilt.  I finished T#4’s big girl quilt Fall 2011 … since that meant all the grands had baby quilts and big boy/big girl quilts, it was time to make a quilt for us … finally after quilting for almost 30 years. 


My quilts are certainly not masterpieces and will never win any awards … in fact, if the “Quilt Police” ever inspected my quilts, I’d be serving a life sentence in the Quilt Police Jail.   Winking smile  But it really doesn’t matter to me … my quilts are labors of love … made to be used and loved.  I love seeing DD’s first quilt … faded and tattered and used.  Plus, a worn-out quilt means that it’s time to make another quilt! 


I hear and read so many who are intimidated by quilting … to which I say, if you can sew (by machine and by hand), you can quilt.  There are so many resources available today that weren’t available back when I started quilting: books, magazines, You Tube videos, in-store classes, quilt guilds.  Making a quilt top is simply cutting up fabric and sewing it back together.  There are so many simple patterns out there … made up entirely of squares or rectangles.  And if a bed-sized quilt seems too intimidating, start with a smaller project (such as a table runner or wall quilt).   Hand quilting does take a fairly long time … it can take me 2-3 months to hand quilt a twin-sized quilt (and that’s with “just” a moderate amount of quilting).  And to many, handwork is tedious.  Many quilters today do nothing other than sew together quilt tops and have them machine quilted by someone else.  There are just so many possibilities when it comes to quilting. 


  1. Once again, you have me all hyped up. I said before I bought a piece long ago in mind of making an afghan sized quilt for the couch. For Halloween of course. And I just recently have been looking for fabrics to 'trim' around the huge fabric block. I WILL do it. I'm determined to try, and I have YOU to thank for the inspiration. Of course, mine will be hand quilted I'm sure. It's gonna be just an experimental attempt.

    This post was truly a good read on your love of quilting.

  2. Thanks for posting! I am sure all your quilts are cherised pieces by your children and grandchildren. My grandmother crocheted afghans if there were ever a fire in my house that would be the first thing I would grab. When I put them around me when its cold I feel its a hug from here. She made many so there are ones for Ashley and Lindsey to take when they get married. I enjoyed this post!

  3. Good morning! Your right...I am one of those people who has always been intimidated by quilting...and I am a sewer. Not much I haven't made. I look at a quilt and think to myself (sometimes) I COULD do that. It is just a bunch of fabric, cut in different sized strips sewn together, haha...and I have made pretty elaborate stitchery pieces so I can definitely hand sew too, so I am pretty sure I could hand "quilt" it too....and YET I have never even tried. I honestly think I could sit and watch you put one together, and THEN I could attempt. Maybe a u-tube, your right. Maybe you should do one?? Enjoy this day, and I am a little closer to giving it a whirl...Have a good day!

  4. I really enjoyed reading about how you learned to quilt, Kathy! I can promise you that anyone who's lucky enough to receive one of your quilts will cherish it forever. My grandma made a quilt for me when I turned 18 and it's one of my most cherished possessions.

  5. It's always fun to read how quilters started in their love of the hobby. A Double Wedding Ring so early....I am impressed. I wonder if they still have it.

  6. Learning to quilt is on my bucket list. I've always admired those hand stitched heirlooms my Grandma used to make.

  7. The pink and blue quilt is beautiful!

  8. I am so in awe of your quilting. I have a sewing machine that I have had for 3 years & have yet to even turn on... or learn how to even turn on :)

  9. I totally enjoyed your history of quilt making. I can't believe you did a double wedding ring quilt so early in your history. I made my first quilt when I was pregnant with my daughter in 1981 isn't that funny.
    I quilted lots more than I do now. I love how you are always ready to start a new one. I liked that you did counted cross stitch too.
    I need to just get at it again. I enjoy it once I start.
    I love the log cabin you did for your daughter.
    I think because it is my first pattern I learned, I still like the log cabin the best.

  10. I keep wanting to quilt sometime, but I'm not sure I'm ready yet. So instead I started a new baby afghan. This time it's a granny square one. I'm loving it so far.

    I love the picture of the first quilt you made. It does look well-loved.

    Actually the young girl staying with us started a quilt. She cut it out while she was still pregnant and this weekend she actually put most of the top pieces together. She's wanting to embroider some stuff on the center square so the rest has to wait until she gets that done. She doesn't know how to embroider, so I'll be working with her on that. I'm glad she's trying something new. I hope she develops a real love for it.

    Thanks for sharing your history of quilt making. It was fun hearing how you got started.

  11. Hi Kathy, I'm so glad you shared how you got into quilting and the lessons you've learned. Girl, if anyone was going to be put in the quilt-police jail it would be me, but like you my quilts are all labors of love. I love the hand work and just use a large hoop. Hubby once made me a quilting frame but it was too big and bulky to have out all the time. I was going to sew today but think I will take a little nap; have fun this afternoon.
    Hugs, Noreen

  12. I have always loved quilts but have never tried to make one. I have an old tattered one hanging over my banister at home given to us by my husbands aunt and just love it. Enjoyed hearing how you started with your quilts. Your quilts will be treasured in years to come

  13. What a very good post! You have set forth your case for quilting eloquently and illustrated it with that well-loved quilt. I am so impressed that you made it by cutting all those strips with scissors and then all that hand sewing - just amazing!

  14. Such a fun read! I, too, learned to sew when I was 9. My first project was a laundry bag. I still have it! I was in 4H from age 9 all through high school. (My dad worked for the Extension Service...what was I to do?) When I started quilting, someone showed me a quilt they had made and had someone else do the quilting. I thought that was silly because they really didn't make the whole thing. Now, I've come to realize my least favorite things about quilting are sandwiching the layers together and the quilting. I will do small projects, but the bigger ones get sent to someone else. :) When I got over the "it has to be perfect or forget it" stage, I grew to totally love quilting. I am always thinking of what I want to do next.

  15. That quilt is beautiful. I love your passion. I often think about getting a sewing machine. I would like to try one of those rag quilts someday.

  16. Oh, Kathy, this was so interesting and glad I didn't miss seeing it. My Grandmother quilted all the time and I can't believe she didn't teach me. I have several quilts that she made and they are real treasures. Happy quilting!


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