Growing up- How I started Quilting…

Someone asked me how I got into quilting and I had to stop and think about it…

I started sewing when I was very young. Somewhere there is a picture of me sitting at the sewing machine and I’m about two years old. Since I began hand sewing before I graduated to the machine, I can’t even guess when I began that!

Also my reading material was a bit old fashioned… Little Women, Little House in the Big Woods, Anne of Green Gables (there were a lot of other, less standard, books too)… and they mention sewing or quilting in passing fairly often. So I grew up with the idea that sewing was just something you did if you were a girl.

At the time I spent a good bit of time making doll clothes… and sometimes my own clothes… and I would have scraps of fabric that I liked well enough that I didn’t want to get rid of them but that were really too small to do anything effective with. There’s a strain of Scotch blood in me that abhors throwing away things that I could possibly use.

When I was 13, I went to a street fair with one of my mother’s friends. She was exhibiting some of her work (doll houses) and needed someone to help with moving and set up. When I took my lunch break, I went wandering about the fair. There was a group of ladies giving a quilting exhibition in the middle of the street and as I came up, one of them got up to go to lunch. I asked her if I could take her place for a little while she was gone and she smiled and said that I could.

I sat down at the frame and started quilting. I’d never quilted before, never even seen it done… but this was easy. This was fun! I didn’t know the other ladies (they were all quite elderly… even looking back, that is still my assessment) so I didn’t join in their conversation but I listened a little and then stopped listening to them or to the fair or anything else. I got lost in a world where things made sense… an almost mathematical meditative state… and when the lady who’s place I had taken came back, I was startled. She looked at my work and told me that it was very good… she wouldn’t have to rip any of it out… and I could see that my quilting was as good a quality as any on the quilt which made me very happy about it.

The next day at school, I had several friends ask me about it… and found out that I had been so immersed in what I was doing that I hadn’t even noticed the TV camera for the evening news shooting footage. !!!!

Needless to say, I was hooked. I started several quilt tops without having the first idea of what I was doing. The first two never got finished. The third one took me years and eventually became Memories my first quilt top.

Then I had to find a way to get it quilted. By this time I was out of the house and even out of college, so I had a little more leeway than I had had at 13. But, truthfully, not much more money. So I borrowed a set of frames that my mother had bought at Sears but had never had the time to even set up. Sears must have counted on that kind of person… the frames broke before I finished the first quilt.

I was so totally disgusted by this that I began doing some research into frames and quilting in general… which led me to discover not only a good frame but a lot of tips and techniques that I would have done well to know earlier. And hundreds of patterns! I had run across a couple while I was piecing my first quilt that I wanted to do once I was finished with the first one (notably Storm at Sea) and now there were so many that I’d never be able to make them all.

But I’m going to try!

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