Thursday, September 8, 2016

In the Beginning

I (Teri) never know where my inspiration for a blog post may be found. This post comes from an unlikely source: my visit to the dentist last week. While I was making my next appointment, I ran into an old friend, who works in the office. We chatted for a minute, and as I left, I realized what a huge impact she had had on my life. (I hope you are reading this, Jan!)

Twenty years ago, I had just purchased my first sewing machine. Other than in home economics class, I had never done much sewing. But I had a yearning to make a quilt, so I bought a machine. A couple of years later, the above-mentioned friend, Jan, said she would teach a few of us that worked at the school where I taught how to make a Quilt in a Day, a log cabin pattern by Eleanor Burns. I was naive enough to think it would really take me only a day, and I was quite excited. 

My first quilt, 1999
I had crocheted afghans for each of my three children, and I was planning to try to make quilts for my two soon-to-be step-daughters. I went to Jo-Ann's and chose some fabric that I thought went together. I had no knowledge of the pattern, of light and dark values of colors, or of design. I just picked material. Jan taught us how to use the rotary cutter, strip-piece, sew a 1/4" seam, and press the seams to the darker fabric. I think I got two blocks finished that day, and it took me a few months to finish the quilt, but I had learned the basic skills required to get me started. I stitched around the quilt, turned it, and tied it. And then I made another one, with lights on one side and darks on the other—a more traditional log cabin. (That one is packed away in the midst of a move, so I don't have a photo of it.)

Truth be told, when I look at this quilt, I'm tempted to see everything I would do differently today. But I force myself to look at it as a learning experience, for every stitch taught me something and started me on my journey of loving the art of quilts. And this quilt has wrapped love around my step-daughter for years.

Several years later, my daughter was about to graduate from high school. I had come across a piece of flannel that her late grandmother had purchased many years ago, probably to make a nightgown. I thought it would be nice to make a quilt using that piece of fabric, to include this grandma that my daughter had never had the chance to meet. Her favorite color was yellow, so I knew I needed to incorporate that color into the quilt, and since it was flannel, I thought I would try a rag quilt. This picture is old and poor quality, but it gives you the idea.

Arranging the blocks on the floor for placement before sewing them together.
The white print was the flannel from her grandmother.

A few months ago, I asked my daughter to send me a photo of her quilt, and she promptly replied with this photo. As I remember, it was a snowy day, and she was working from home. How nice to know that she stills sleeps—and sometimes works—under this quilt.

Soon after my older son went into the Air Force, I asked him what kind of quilt he wanted me to make for him. He chose a Disappearing Nine Patch, but he wanted it to have fish, not flowers. Knowing that I needed to make a masculine quilt, I found a couple of fish prints that both had brown, so they got me started. I also used a Civil War print, because he likes history. When I visit him in Alaska, I sleep under that quilt, which covers the bed in their guest room.

The fish prints are the dark outer border, and the lighter center print. Here it is before quilting.

This quilt has traveled to Texas, New Jersey, Turkey, Japan, and Alaska!

When my younger son reminded me that he was the only one who hadn't yet gotten a quilt, I was surprised that he wanted the same type of quilt as his sister—a flannel rag quilt. He was a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan, so he wanted it to be blue and gray, which are that football team's colors. Collecting a variety of blues and grays was a bit of an adventure. Those quilts are easy and fast to make, so I knew I could finish it for him quickly, but my hand wasn't looking forward to all that snipping of the seam allowances. 

When I finished this quilt, I would have completed quilts for all of my children. 

Grandson jumping on the bed in their guest room 

As I made that first quilt so many years ago, as well as the other quilts for my children, I would never have imagined where my quilting journey would take me. When I left the dentist's office last week, I realized how much I appreciated Jan sharing her talents with us that day. I remembered her showing us some of the projects she had stitched; I sat there thinking that I could never do that kind of work. But I was wrong. I had to take the time to learn many skills along the way, as well as to learn how to take risks and try newer, more difficult things. While I have grown to love the more intricate work of appliqué, embellished with embroidery, I still love the quilts that I've stitched for family and friends that were made to keep them warm. And I'm so grateful to the many people who have taught and inspired me along the way.  And it has been my honor to share that passion with others, as well!

Teaching a friend's daughter her first lesson in designing and hand-piecing a doll quilt


  1. I started my quilting journey by making a "quilt as you go" Martha Washington star quilt featured in an issue of Woman's Day. This was so long ago that Calicos were about all you could get in cotton. I made that quilt for my sister who had just joined the Army. That quilt has been in Germany, Korea, Texas, Washington DC, New York and finally fell apart in Washington State.

    1. That quilt has (had) a story to tell! Hope you have pictures of it.
      Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

  2. I started my quilting journey by making a "quilt as you go" Martha Washington star quilt featured in an issue of Woman's Day. This was so long ago that Calicos were about all you could get in cotton. I made that quilt for my sister who had just joined the Army. That quilt has been in Germany, Korea, Texas, Washington DC, New York and finally fell apart in Washington State.

  3. What a great way to start, with a good friend showing you the way :)
    Your quilts are so pretty! and look like a TON of work!!
    I have watched my aunt and mom sew and make quilts for years. I have been testing out my DIY skills for several years and started really sewing at the beginning of summer- to find that I LOVE it! I've quilted my very first project and just love the way it came out! I'm still hand quilting parts of that project so it's not quite ready to be assembled. I'm now working on my first quilt and can't wait to see the result!!

    1. Thanks, Amy! It sounds like you are off to a great start. Hope you'll send us a picture of your finished product so we can admire your work. How exciting!

  4. You make me cry! I started a quilt with bits and bobs from a variety of projects from the past! Barkcloth atomic cotton fabrics! Some pieces were from projects that were from TV shows, my stores, favorites of my hubby "Freeman" who is deceased. All have a story. I had no plan just the love of mid-century modern. I have had vintage stores all my life. From a medical background in another life. Vintage has always been a love. Colors. I used chartreuse and Blue with grey on the sides of the front and back. It was in the LAQuiltshow in August 2016. I cried. I used several of my vintage machines. Linda Curry my mate quilted it on a professional long arm. I almost fainted when I took it out the bag. WOW.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Kelly! Seeing our work all finished can be an emotional experience, for sure. How exciting to have your quilt in the LAQuiltshow. Keep stitching!

  5. How sweet! It is the simple beginnings that make us humble in our quest to be "perfect" quilters. I think making quilts for others is the most rewarding thing about quilting. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Teri, thanks for the inspiration and encouragement. Several months ago I started sewing pillow case dresses for the missions group at church. I am really enjoying sewing! Who knows what other projects I will come from this? Like you, my mother made quilts for us four daughters. Special keepsakes for all of us.

    1. How wonderful, Phyllis! Perhaps you will follow in your mother's "quilt"steps. Enjoy the journey!