CHQuilts: My quilting history

My quilting history

I have been quilting for nearly 30 years. Quilting was not something I was exposed to as a child, although I do recall my grandmother having an interest in opulent velvet and exquisitely embroidered crazy quilts.

In school, it seems I was more interested in math and science than typing or sewing, but have since taught myself to do both. When my mother bought a new sewing machine, she gave me her old one--a 1960's Kenmore in a cherry-wood cabinet. I used it mostly to repair seams.

My first real exposure to quilting came when I met and married my husband 37 years ago. His mother, though not a quilter, had made a quilt for each of her four children when they graduated from high school. She could sew anything. 

My husband's grandmother was a quilter. By the time I got into the family, she had begun to complain about her inability to see clearly and that the dexterity in her hands wasn't what it once was. That didn't stop her though. She used to buy quilt tops, pillows, and picture kits to stitch from Lee Wards, which was later purchased by Michaels. She did the most amazing crewel embroidery I'd ever seen. She often times made quilt tops that were either appliqued or cross stitched. I never knew her to do any piecing, although I'm sure she once did. I recall her working on the tiny pieces of a tree of heaven quilt. When the top was done, she would sit on the edge of her bed, sunlight streaming in the window, as she sewed the most exquisite, tiny stitches. She was 92 when she died, and until the very end, was still quilting.

When my daughter, Jenny, was just a baby, I used my mother's old sewing machine to sew alternating squares of yellow gingham and white cotton for a quilt for my daughter's bed. I tied the corners with yellow yarn. I was pregnant with my son, Chris, at the time, so I created a matching quilt for his crib. I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter to trace shapes into the white squares, which I quilted. That was likely my very first quilting project. I still have these to this day. My bedroom is still yellow. Chris' baby quilt is atop my dresser. Jenny's twin size quilt is folded and on the back of a rocking chair. I guess these could be considered my pre-quilting quilts. My husband's quilt from his late mother along with one of Granny's quilts and my first one, are folded neatly and displayed on a quilt frame.

I had the first hints of desire to quilt when the kids were small. I used to buy craft books. One, the Better Homes and Gardens Treasury of Needlework, had the most beautiful projects in them. Often times I would just page through it, dreaming of all the things I wished I could afford to make. Finances were limited; I never even thought about my complete lack of skill in those days. 

There was an applique sampler quilt I fell in love with. In fact, as I opened the book to find it, some of the templates I made out of note cards and a few of the brown fabric leaves and calico flower petals I had cut, just out fell out into my lap. I gave up on that project because it was way beyond my skill level at the time. There was no way I was ready for such an intricate project back then. I wonder if I could do it now.

When Chris started school and Jenny had been there for a year already, I began working for a newspaper, covering meetings and writing stories. That was the beginning of my quilting exposure. 

As I had written in a CHQuilts post, RIP Doris, the quilting world will not be the same, I noted that I often covered local quilt shows. It was there that the quilting bug had bitten me. I also wrote in that post about my first quilt. As I thumb through my Treasury of Needlework book, I see that is where the pattern originated. 

Who knows, perhaps one day I will make that applique sampler after all? It really is a beautiful quilt. 

Note: Interestingly, a picture, torn out of a catalogue or magazine also fell out of the front of that book. I had forgotten about what probably was my real first quilt--made more than 30 years ago. It was from a kit--it was a hand-pieced, hand-quilted baby quilt. It was pastel pink and blue with six appliqued blocks with sashing and borders. Decorative A B C blocks were opposite three little animal blocks. I had thought about that quilt from time-to-time. It really was adorable. It was fun running into it again.

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