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Quilterly Beginnings

or if I knew then what I know now what would I do differently.

Quilting has been part of my life since 1993.  The very same year that the Quilt Alliance was founded.  As part of their fundraising effort a quilt contest is in the works.  Click on the link to find out more.  I didn’t realize that the Quilt Alliance was founded the same year quilting became part of my life.

hand quilting 001As I worked on a project for the kids we were working with and made patchwork placemats for my sister’s wedding.  My sweetie saw the joy I had in working on this project so much that he brought me to the local big box store for a few necessary items.  That first real quilt I made brings a mixture of quilterly emotion.  At once happy that I completed the quilt and gave it to the intended newborn before his Baptism and a bit of cringing knowing that a few newbie things happened along the way.  A friend showed me the rocking stitch for hand quilting and off I stitched.

Lesson 1 – get the good fabric.  In that first quilt one of the fabrics I purchased was a loosely woven poly/cotton batiste.   Like most quilters my iron is set on the linen setting so it’s hot.  Heat an polyester do not do well together.  No, they don’t do well together.  As I got stitching on this overly heated batiste the polyester fiber from the batting would occasionally come up through.  I’d patiently push the batting back through and keep stitching.

This lesson made a huge come back in Bob’s quilt that you can see here to the left.  Purchasing good quality fabric is essential.  I purchased solids from a variety of manufacturers and places (not an uncommon quilterly practice) and well after 11 years of being complete and 8 years in the making the fabric is well worn and truth be told I need to make a new quilt for our bed.  Look closely at the middle of the red fabric at the top the batting can be clearly seen.  Sigh, I still love this quilt.

Lesson 2 – change needles a bit more frequently.  Part of the reason the batting was coming through is that I would use the needle up.  Eventually the needles would bend first at the tip and then the shaft.  I bent more than one needle as I learned how to hand quilt.  You see if it wasn’t hand quilted it wasn’t a quilt.

Lesson 3 – not all beeswax is created equally.  I’d run the thread and needle through beeswax in an effort to have the needle and thread glide through the fabric and batting.  Well the beeswax would sometimes clump and stick to the needle and thread in a most unpleasant way and I’d just try to hand quilt anyway.  This is usually when the batting would migrate through.

Lesson 4 – and I’ve had to learn this lesson more than once.  Quilt evenly across the surface of the quilt.  On that very first quilt 40 x 60 or so.  I quilted 5 feathered hearts one in each corner and one in the center.  I can, with my vivid imagination, see the quilt after the very first washing.  And this is where I kind of cringe.  In my head the batting migrated clumped and lumped and  oh I’m sure you can see it too.

Lesson 5 – get the good tools.  I was talking with a student/customer the other day about cutting mats and said that if I knew then what I know now I’d get the big cutting mat the 24 x 36 because of the width and length of the fabric essentially having to move the fabric less.  I like not having to move fabric frequently as I cut.  The more the fabric is moved the more likely it won’t be well lined up when I cut.  I’d also get the 45 mm rotary cutter.  The 28 mm just wears out much more quickly than the 45.  For me the 60 is too big, this is a personal opinion as I know quilters who love their 60’s.

Lesson 6 – listen to the quilt shop employees they really do know what they’re talking about when it comes to tools and fabric.

Lesson 7 – keep the quilting magazines.  I was a charter subscriber to Better Homes and Gardens American Patchwork and Quilting and a few years ago I gave them all away.  Every single last one of them.  Why oh why did I do that?  There is great inspiration in each and every one of them and they started in 1995 just a mere 1 1/2 years after I started quilting.  Alex Anderson’s Simply Quilts began right around that time too!  I love seeing where Alex is now on TQS.

Lesson 8 – don’t be afraid to offer an opinion about someone’s quilt.  I’d ask and quilters for opinions but hesitate sharing my opinion.  Often what I have to say will allow a quilter to figure out what makes their heart sing in their quilt or what isn’t working for them.

Lesson 9 – look.  Remember those “Dick & Jane” books while we were learning how to read?  The first word, the biggest word in the book “LOOK!”  These 20 years of quilting have taught me to look and see beyond my initial impressions.  Looking has allowed me to see the subtleties of color, the intricacies of stitching and LOOKing allows me to see some really beautiful shapes, motifs and much more that can be incorporated into quilting.  LOOKing is a good thing!.

Lesson 10 – Appreciate the work that other quilters put into their quilts and particularly of their feelings.  Just because a quilter takes the risk of putting her quilt into a show does not mean she needs to hear negative comments from me about her quilts.  I’m not the quilt police nor am I a show judge.  I’m a quilter who works hard and can appreciate the gift and hard work of another quilter.

Lesson 11 – Gratitude.  Gratitude for the way quilting has become an amazing industry one that embraces creativity, one that is open to growth and change; one that offers learning and teaching opportunities and such amazing friendships.

I’m looking forward to what the next 20 years bring.  Happy 20th Anniversary to the Quilt Alliance!!!

Happy Quilting,



7 thoughts on “Quilterly Beginnings”

  1. Another great post! Yours and Thelma’s (Cupccakes & Daisies) about her 100th quilt remind me of what I like about quilting — the “zen” of it. We are constantly forced to reevaluate our viewpoints on what makes a great quilt and how to get the one we are working on to be one. Along the way we grow with every project both as a quilter and a person.

    People are right, quilting is better than therapy!

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