I was trying to figure out the other day how long I’ve been quilting. I love hearing stories about a childhood spent sewing along side mom or grandma. I do have some wonderful memories of “crafting” with my mom and her friends, but not much sewing. My mom was very crafty. She owned a sewing machine, but rarely used it. She did lots of cross stitching and many other crafts that usually involved a glue gun. She was very creative and loved going to craft fairs with her friends. If Pinterest was around during her crafting years, she would have been in heaven! Now she takes art classes, learning various mediums. I definitely got the crafting/artistic gene from mom and already see it in my 9 year old daughter.
When I was in my early 20’s (somewhere in the late 90’s) my mom helped me make my first quilt. My mom had made a few quilts before, but very differently than the methods we use today. I don’t think she was ever formally taught, but taught herself in ways that made sense to her. We made a square template out of the cardboard panel you get on the back of a tablet of paper. It must have been 8″ square. We traced the template on the back side of the fabric with a ballpoint pen and used pinking sheers to cut out the squares of fabric. I sewed them together, having no idea what a 1/4 inch seem allowance was. My seems weren’t even consistent and many of my blocks did not line up correctly. When I was finished, I sandwiched the 3 layers tied the quilt using knitting yarn and folded the backing around to the front for my binding. I don’t recall, but I’m pretty sure I did not miter the corners. It was definitely imperfect and very small. But I was proud of it and gifted it to a dear friend of mine that I have since lost touch with. The process was so tedious and time consuming that I swore I’d never make another quilt. I once borrowed my mom’s sewing machine to make basic curtain panels, but didn’t really know how to properly sew.
Fast forward about 8 years later, my mom gave me a sewing machine for Christmas. It was a very basic Brother model. It did have about 30 different stitch designs, which was pretty cool. None of which I knew how to use or what to do with. But it was a nice gift and I figured I’d use it once in awhile to make curtains or hem something. I brought it home, put it in a closet and never touched it for about a year (maybe 2). The summer of 2007, my husband and I bought our first home. By fall, we were already thinking ahead to figure out how to give inexpensive Christmas gifts that still had a lot of thought in them. I remembered my mom telling me that when she and my dad were first married, they made quilts for gifts to save money. I thought I’d do the same. Thankfully it was late October and I knew I had time to make at least one quilt. I went to Joann’s, bought a beginners quilting book, some fabric and batting. I had no pattern in mind so just bought 1 yard each of 3 different fabrics. Already this was getting expensive. But I already convinced my husband I could do this. When I got home and started reading my book, I realized I needed more supplies. A cutting mat, rotary cutter, rulers….you see where this is going. These inexpensive gift ideas were getting pricey. But I was now very interested in the process and pushed ahead. I was pleased to find out the machine my mom gave me had a 1/4 inch piecing foot and a walking foot. The book taught me very quick strip piecing methods. I actually enjoyed this (much easier) quilting process and was hooked!
Needless to say, that first quilt was not the inexpensive gift idea we were looking for. I made several more trips to Joann’s to buy more fabric for backing and binding. Thankfully it was small enough that it didn’t break our budget (not counting the extra cutting supplies I had to buy). That was the Christmas of 2007. Although it seems longer (in a good way), I’ve been making quilts for over 6 years. I’ve never taken a formal class. I’m mostly self-taught through youtube videos, books, magazines and have expanded on my skills through online Craftsy classes. I’ve even taught myself to free motion quilt! I’ve learned so much about sewing in general and have made many other things besides quilts. Handmade gifts are now my favorite things to give. I’ve upgraded my sewing machine to my dream machine, a Bernina 550 QE and I love it!
I’m sure my mom had no idea when she bought me that sewing machine 8 years ago that it would light a spark in me that has grown to be such a love in my life! I now spend just about every day sewing in some capacity. If I don’t get a chance to sew for some reason, I’m usually planning or thinking about my next project. So thanks Mom, for giving me my very first sewing machine and for letting me craft with you and your friends when I was a kid. You taught me to be creative and appreciate things made lovingly by hand. Maybe you’ll let me return the favor and teach you my way of quilt making some day.