Sunday, March 21, 2010

how I became a quilter and some firsts

A while ago the challenge to show our first quilts was put up.  Then it was the question of how did you become a quilter.  Now that I've fallen off the chair in front of my sewing machine from exhaustion, I thought I'd share.


College dorm room.  Me = sophomore.

Phone rings.  This is before caller ID and cell phones.  An actual land line hooked to an answering machine.

It's my good friend from high school, Sarah.

Here is a representation of the conversation (I do not claim to have a good enough memory to remember yesterday well, so please don't expect anything too exact from me here!):

Me: How are you doing?  What's up?

Sarah:  Are you sitting down?  Please sit down.

(At the ripe old age of 18 (friend = 19) there are very few things you're told to sit down for...but I sit down anyways.)

Me: Okay, what's wrong?

Sarah:  I'm pregnant.

I'm not sure what I may have said after that, but both she and her boyfriend had been told by doctors (real doctors) that they couldn't have kids.  Independently and previous to meeting each other.

But she was the first person I knew to get pregnant (outside of my mom's friends and much older neighbor kids) and I knew this wasn't going to go over well with anyone. 

By this time, my mom had been quilting for quite a few years.  I'd been helping (fabric shopping, laying out blocks on the design floor, pressing and being a runner to get the next two pieces off the floor to my mom at the machine), so I knew what I had to do: make Sarah a quilt for her baby.  Well, help my mom make one, as I was still convinced the sewing machine would cause me some sort of fatal injury.

Being over-ambitious and ill-informed, I chose to do a Snail Trail pattern.  And not just in two colors where there might be some hope of getting it together correctly on the first try.  No.  Every single snail was a different bright color!  We drew it out (maybe that is still floating around - my mom saves everything!) and set to work.  Ripped a LOT.  My mom probably said some unflattering words under her breath about me, but we got it done in time for her little girl to make a grand entrance.  That little girl is driving now!

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of it.  Yet.  I still talk with Sarah every so often, but she went on to marry the father of her child (at 8 months pregnant - I was in the wedding!), have two more little boys, divorce her husband (he turned out to be a very bad man) and remarry another guy who I like and seems to be turning out just as nice as I thought.  With no kids, I lose track of friends who do have them too easily.  Anyways, I need to contact her to get a picture because this would probably count as a first quilt on some levels.

Her other two kids also got quilts, so I can show those pictures instead:

This was the second quilt she got.  Looks to be tied, but I don't remember well...this "little" boy is probably about 14 now.

And this one wasn't made by me, but requested to be made.  Child #3 wasn't very healthy at birth and I wanted to make sure he had a quilt, so my mom whipped this one together fast for me.  Rail Fence is a good one for that.

I was pretty busy in college, what with all the science courses and studying, so I didn't quilt much, but I knew I wanted to try it some more.  For graduation, my parents bought me a sewing machine, rotary mat and a few other necessities.  I had a lease on an apartment that lasted 3 months after graduation and was lucky enough to find a summer job close to "home" so I finally had time to sew and read!  My mom claims I'd borrowed a machine of hers to work on this before getting my own, but I don't remember that.

This is the first quilt I did mostly by myself.  (My mom did that center applique because I was as afraid of hand applique as I was of the sewing machine!)  Started in probably 1996 or so, finished probably 2003.

This picture isn't great, but it was taken before I had a digital camera.  I can kinda date it because it was taken at my current house and I know when I moved in here.  Included is my first kitty, Naja.  In inherited him from a college boyfriend and he was a sweetie.  He's in a lot of my older quilt pictures, but unfortunately he was an indoor-outdoor kitty and didn't win the battle with a car quite a few years back.  He's posing for me.  He was good at that!

By the time I finished this quilt I didn't like it any more.  It's truly scrappy and I raided my mom's stash (she's got QUITE the stash!) for everything.  My mom loves it.  They built a log cabin (-ish - it's quarter-sawn logs used as siding) house to retire into and it goes perfectly...she's also a scrap quilter at her core.  So I gave it to her.  It's waiting to be sent out for quilting, but I truly don't think it's all that good...

The pattern was on the cover of, I believe, American Patchwork and Quilting years ago.  I borrowed the magazine from my mom and have since returned it, so I can't quote exactly when.

Then, a few years after graduating from college and getting a real job and buying my beloved Neon, I finally had worked my way up the ladder enough to move out of my parents' house.  (I was lucky enough to find a job I could live at home and commute - so I did - and it was just as well because I realize I wasn't being paid very well at the time!)  By then I had started dating my husband and he introduced me to the small town he lives in.  I really like this town.  Small enough to not be fighting crazy traffic and have friendly people, but large enough that there are places like Super Wal-Mart if I need simple things.  So I started looking for an apartment near him because the hour drive each way to see each other was killing us.  I found a fantastic place for about half what it would cost in a bigger city - 2 bedrooms on the top floor for under $500 a month!  That included hot water and cable TV!

I moved in, but had cruddy college apartment furniture and I had a REAL job now, so I started shopping around.  I found some really neat furniture and bought it.  It's yellow and off-white and I have a list of people that want it if I ever get rid of it!  But then my apartment walls were bare and I decided it was time to tackle hand applique and make a wall-hanging. 

You can see the furniture in there in the corner.  Do you notice it's not finished?  Do you notice how the flower petals are angular?  I used the technique where you press the edges back onto freezer paper and didn't know to loosen the fabric and round the corners.  Live and learn.  This is how I discovered I do not like, nor do I have the patience for, hand quilting.  It didn't help that all my blue water-soluble markings faded away and I couldn't figure out how to line up the template again (just wasn't working) to re-mark.  My mom says a black light will bring out those markings, but until I become crazy again, that won't be necessary!

This was started in 1999.  Probably won't ever be finished!

At the time, I also thought I didn't like hand applique much, but I've come to tolerate it more.  There are so many fantastic patterns out there that have a combination of machine piecing and hand applique that I sometimes have to force myself to do it.  Other days, I enjoy it...

And finally, the first quilt I made totally, completely by myself.  Some of you have seen this one.  My brother and his wife bought me some fat quarter packs for a birthday a few years back.  My mom bought me a fat quarter-friendly book for Christmas a few years later.  Then my brother and his wife bought their first house in 2007.  This was their house-warming gift:

I have made so many quilts between and since these.  Last count was over 50 and I don't have pictures of anywhere near all of them.  I'm working on getting those photos and have started a scrapbook (which many of you know about) to document them.  And I've learned to take pictures of EVERYTHING!  (This blog is helping...)

So that's my story.  Now I have to buy groceries.  Yuck.



Marsha said...

Yours is a great story, too. I like all of the quilts pictured, they are great! It is all a process of learning and that is what you have documented. These are all wonderful and look where you are now!

---"Love" said...

You, too, have come a long way, Baby! Through sheer determination, we all learn a lot, don't we? I think I've told you before, but I really like that last blue quilt! And I'm so glad you have begun taking pictures of EVERYTHING! *grin* I'm especially glad you are in our little group here! ---"Love"

bcquilter said...

Katie - what a wonderful story! I'm glad you took up the challenge, and thank you for sharing.

Sometimes, I find it is hard to blog about anything, so much going on, or in some cases, so much should be going on and isn't.

I can't wait to read your next installment!


a good yarn said...

A fantastic account of your quilting journey! It's interesting to see where we start and how our tastes change over the years with our ever growing confidence. You have made some wonderful projects. Ann :-)

Liriopia said...

Cool story! Amazing what "life" does to/for us. Love that last quilt! How did you do the narrow strips?


Beth said...

Great story and great photos. I remember that quilt (that you gave your Mom)from the magazine cover. You did a great job.
I can't believe it took you so long to fall off your chair exhausted. LOL You got a lot done over the last week.

WindsomWinds said...

What a great story! I got started quilting in much the same way, and I still have some early unfinished projects sitting around as well. I love the blue quilt, but I am wondering how much arguing went on between your right and left brain before you finished.

Christine said...

Great story!!! You've come a long way since then. Thanks for sharing your quilt history :) Christine

canuckquilter said...

What a journey. And you have how many quilts on your finish list ?!!! You're terribly prolific! Are you sure you won't finish that yellow flower applique quilt? It sems so close to being done... -Joanne

seventhsister26 said...

Thanks for sharing that story with us;) I think everyone of us has a really different, but somehow similar introduction into quilting...the need to make something usable that shows we care;)
Happy Quilting!!