Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Quilting: The Early Days

A long time ago, I worked with a lady who was an avid quilter. Her name was Donna and she had been widowed not long before she came to be my co-worker. I considered her to be fairly old, but at the time I was only in my late 20’s. I’m 52 as I type and I’m thinking she might have been about the age that I am now. ~sigh~

Anyway! She loved to quilt and one day I mentioned to her that I might like to try making a quilt for my little girl’s new bed. Carrie was just outgrowing her crib at the time, and while I had made a few baby quilts, I was ready to take on something larger. She was so excited at the prospect of helping me make a quilt top, and I was a ready and willing student!
So one Saturday afternoon I took some fabric and found my way out to her house and her kitchen table. On her table were a cutting mat, a large clear ruler, and a scary looking round-razor-cutter (a rotary blade). She showed me how to use the cutter and every time I went to put it down on the table she’d remind me, “Close your blade. Get in the habit of closing your blade as you lay it down on the table.” Over and over until I got it. I eventually got it.

We cut strips of fabric that would later be sewn on my machine at home. She walked me through the pages of the quilt top instructions, making sure I understood how the whole thing would eventually come together.
We drank iced tea and shared cookies, and she showed me around her sewing room. I remember feeling sad for her when it was time to leave. I was anxious to get home and start sewing, but it was clear that Donna had really enjoyed my company.
By Monday morning I had a completed quilt top to take to work to show my sweet friend. She was so proud I thought she would cry! The afternoon I spent leaning over Donna’s kitchen table, learning how to use her cutting tools, and coming to understand a quilting pattern would prove to have a lasting impression on me. I really wish I knew Donna’s whereabouts now – I’d write her a note and tell her so.

I’ve had many creative hobbies during my life, and somehow I always come back around to sewing. The quilt square shown in this blog post is one that I made for Alexa as part of Fiona's Friendship Quilt project.

There seems to be a quilting trend going on lately, and I’ve had a couple of requests for some tips on how to get started. Gosh, I really wish I could just invite you over to stand at my kitchen table and use my mat, ruler, and rotary cutter! Instead I'll share a couple of tips and a few links and I hope these prove helpful for those of you who have asked.
Invest in the right tools:
If you're going to be quilting, I highly recommend that you just go ahead and invest in a large clear ruler, a cutting mat, and a rotary cutter. Besides enabling you to cut with precision  - which is very important when piecing a quilt - using a ruler and rotary cutter makes the cutting process go so much quicker! Here's a video that shows how to use them. {And be sure to close the blade of the rotary cutter before you put it down!}
Use Google.
I searched "Tips for Beginning Quilters" and found a link to this blog that looks really helpful.
Search for free patterns and tutorials.
The quilt that I made with my friend, Donna, was a Double Irish Chain. I searched for a free pattern and found one here.
Find quilting blogs and add them to your reader list.
I found Bee in my Bonnet blog through my local scrapbook/quilty friend Jean and I love her colorful projects! If you have any quilting blogs that you enjoy please share them in the comments.
Ask for help.
Your local fabric store or quilt shop should have resources available to assist you. Some of our local stores even offer quilting classes which I think is a great idea.
Make the commitment and take the plunge.
Making a quilt is a bit of a commitment, but it’s totally doable if you set your mind to it. It also really helps if you have the right tools! 
And as with any other hobby, practice makes perfect.
Practice sewing a straight line - it will come! Practice cutting straight pieces, and pressing your seams. Practice asking for help and putting advice into action. Practice. Practice. Practice.


Sian said...

I would love to have you show me what to do face to face! I always think one of the good things about being a grown up is realising that it's okay to spend money on the right tools and having the good sense to go out and do it! No more hunting about through whatever is in the family stock of poor scissors

Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita said...

I'm not a sewing person, but I so admire those who do it well. Looks like you were a great student!

Karen said...

I am soooooo tempted by all the lovely quilts that my friends/blog friends are making but I know it will cause such ructions at home if I take up yet another hobby! Lovely work and how fortunate to have been taught properly in the first place.

Susi said...

I am so excited about this post. I'd love to be standing at your kitchen table learning from you about quilting. Those little quilt squares you made for the Friendship Quilt Project are awesome. And although it may be awhile before I start sewing anything,(packing and building a new house)I can at least pick up the tools and material and start cutting. Thank you for the tips. I can't wait to get started.

scrappyjacky said...

You are so right about investing in the right tools....my cutting mat seemed really expensive when I bought it....but 20 years later it's still going strong!!
I love Helen Philipps blog....it's not only cute quilting....but other stitching and crochet as well....UK readers may have heard of her as she's written some books and has projects in magazines over here.

Audrey said...

Oh Deb, I have all the tools. I've been waiting to meet my own "Donna" but I've been waiting a long time. I know I need to just do it on my own but I guess it's a little intimidating. I loved this post and also wish you knew how to contact Donna. Imagine how happy you'd make her! Your quilt square is muy lindo! XOXO

debs14 said...

How lucky to find such a patient, knowledgable teacher. I love the posts about your sewing and I'd give anything to sit around a sewing table with you learning about quilting! Please make your next house move to the UK!

Maria Ontiveros said...

I would love to buy stuff, bring it over and watch you make me a quilt. Does that count? LOL! I am so not a sewer, but I do love quilts.
Your square is gorgeous!

Lisa-Jane said...

Just catching up after the Christmas and New Year hiatus so Happy New Year! I love that little sailing boat and I love the story of Donna. Wouldn't it be lovely if you found each other again through the power of the internet x

Fiona@Staring at the Sea said...

Oh, I love this post Deb :o) I'm enjoying seeing your cleverly pieced blocks depicting something to represent the recipient. Can't wait to see the next one.

Beverly said...

You are creating such beautiful creative pieces for the friendship quilt. I love the story about Donna, I bet she mentored a few others along the way.

Jo said...

That is a beautiful block with lovely colours. Donna sounds like a lovely lady, it would be amazing if you could find her x

alexa said...

Hopefully somewhere in the ether, Donna will feel your good wishes and gratitude :). And as the recipient of that lovely quilt square, I am indebted to her too!

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post Deb. I wish you could find Donna. I tried taking up quilting but my sewing skills are not great.

tainted with a positive view said...

You are inspiring me to break out of my mold and try some new things.

Julie said...

What a lovely story. It's very cosy. I love those moments!

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