Quilting was a hobby that I picked up relatively late in life. There were some things that were taught to me as a child, such as embroidery. Tiny embroidery hoop and floss in hand, I started embroidering handkerchiefs along side mom who did table cloths and pillow cases. Then, before I could even read, I got my first sewing machine. Sure, it was just a Holly Hobbie sewing machine in sky blue--my favorite color, but I was going to conquer the world with it! But many years later a recessive gene that had laid dormant in me suddenly activated, and I wanted to quilt, too.
I started the way most quilters learn, with a basic nine patch that I still keep in my trunk of linens. The theme was blocks of purple and violet prints. The stitches, huge, but even. Completely hand sewn, from piecing to bind. When I look at it, I remember the excitement of learning something new. I was learning to quilt!
For my second project, I chose a table runner. Again, completely pieced and quilted by hand. I can still recall sitting up nights trying so hard to make small, even stitches. How hard it seemed to get a few stitches on a tiny needle!
"You must get at least three stitches on the needle," my aunt would say.
"Then I need a longer needle!"
This runner floated around for a bit, and we thought it might be lost. I only rediscovered it in my trunk while looking for something else. I remember it was such a relief when I finished this "bigger" project, but the quilting bug had bit, and I wanted to do more. So I moved on to my third quilting attempt, a baby quilt.
This one gave me my biggest challenge yet- picking out colors. I still have a difficult time coordinating pretty fabrics, and yet I also find it to be the most fun aspect of quilting. Who doesn't love to fabric shop? All these bright florals look a bit busy to my eye, but at the time I was sure they would blend perfectly. Looking back, it was rather baffling that I chose to make a baby quilt, but maybe my idea was to give it as a gift or save it. As it turned out, I've save it all this time and can't part with it. Also, being as it was only my third attempt at quilting and my second real project, the quality didn't seem good enough to give it as a gift. So it spends most of its year rolled up in a cedar chest full of linens, which explains why it is terribly wrinkled. My stitching started to improve with each new project. This one too, was completely hand done. I still hadn't learned machine-piecing!
Soon, I moved on to machine piecing, and bigger projects squeezed between more practical projects such as sewing clothes. One difficult thing with quilting was that all of the women in our family who did it are no longer here. The younger generation did not pick it up, and the ones who don't quilt are skilled and interested in other needle arts. This makes it tricky if I need fast advice, but I'm encouraged by all of the other women I've met who have either retained their quilting heritage or made it a new-found tradition. One thing that makes quilting exciting is that there is always some new technique to learn or something new to try. I love things that make me learn, and isn't that what a journey is all about?