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