Saturday, July 25, 2020

And Now For Something Completely Different: My First Three Quilts

Last year, Pat Sloan participated in a quilt along series with the Fat Quarter Shop called "The Ultimate Beginner Quilt".  To  kick things off,  Pat and the other designers showed their first quilts --- check out her post here if you'd like to see hers and access links to all the designer's first quilts.  Today, in Pat's YouTube Quilt Challenge/Topics video she is again asking her viewers to share their first quilt.  I don't have all of my early quilts posted here on the blog --- up to now I had only posted a few things as far back as 2007.  I figured I might as well start correcting that by adding my own first quilt story.

While I made my first rotary cut in 2002, my relationship with quilting had actually started decades before.  In 1979, an aunt let me "borrow" a booklet she had recently purchased.

I don't remember what it was about that booklet that appealed to me so much but it did.  At that time, I was graduating high school and was primarily a clothing sewer with occasional other craft projects in crochet, knitting, embroidery or macrame.  However, I remember sitting in her kitchen and pouring over it, completely drawn to the images in it.  Back then, I thought Quilts were only made for beds.  So I guess the first appeal of the booklet was that it contradicted that idea --- it showed that you could make other quilted items, like pillow covers, hanger covers, bibs, table mats and even a skirt!  

My aunt said I could take the book home since she didn't see herself making anything in it any time soon.  We lived near each other so if she wanted it back at any point, it would have been easy for me to return it to her.  Well, I guess she forgot about it because she never asked for it back!  Over the years (no, decades!), I kept it with my sewing books and magazines where it stayed through two later moves.  I would occasionally pull it out and look through it but didn't make any specific plans to make anything out of it.

Then in 2001, the year I left my job to be home full-time with my two sons, I happened on the TV show "Simply Quilts" on HGTV.  

This new encounter with quilts really blew my mind because not only did it reiterate the fact that "Quilt" did not only mean making a "Bed Covering" but that even a quilt made for a bed could be hung on the wall like art!  Since I had never read the project instructions in the Simplicity booklet closely, I had never noticed that it also said that the fabric for the projects could be purchased (What? Quilts aren't only made from scraps?!?) or made completely on a sewing machine.  Simply Quilts taught me all of that and that rotary cutters (in contrast to the scissors I used for clothing making), specialty rulers and piecing shortcuts were the "tools of the day" to make traditional blocks simple or easier to make.  

The whole process was immediately fascinating!  I watched the show every weekday (and back then it aired twice a day) for a whole summer before seeking out my first quilt books.....

.... and a couple of months later, I went to my first quilt exhibit.....

However, it took until the start of the next year to work up the confidence to make my first quilt!   

My first project came from -- where else -- the Simply Quilts show.  The episode was #605 titled "Quilting 101".  While I still have (and occasionally watch) the loads of videos (on VHS!!!) that I recorded of the show, that is one of the few episodes I don't have on tape, darn it!  Marianne Fons showed viewers how to make a four block quilt called "Ribbons" (and I didn't know then just how famous she was until much, much later) .  It was constructed of Friendship Star blocks and pieced to make the blocks tesselate.  At the time it seemed like a simple (all HSTs) yet visually complex design which I thought was the perfect challenge for a first project. 

Since I didn't know if I was going to like this "quilting thing", I didn't want to buy fabric for it if I could help it --- although even then, as a fabriholic from way back, I was very tempted!  So I dug through my clothing fabric stash to see if I had any cottons.  I found three that just happened to coordinate even though they hadn't been purchased to do so.  The colors were a little out of the ordinary (turquoise, orange, light blue and beige/tan) and I needed a fourth fabric to complete the design.  I found that in a strange place!

I had learned from Simply Quilts that in addition to hundreds of quilting books there were also many quilt related websites.  On one of those I saw a tip that said if you were new to quilting, on a budget and lived in a city with a garment center (check, check and check!), you might be able to source free fabric from cutting room discards.  

Fortunately for me, my husband was at that time a package driver for UPS and was often assigned to the garment district in Manhattan.  I asked if he had ever seen them throw out fabric and if so, could he get some.  When he asked me what to get, I told him to just bring me anything that didn't look like suit fabric, since I knew he could distinguish what that was.  I figured I could sort through whatever he bought home and see what I could find that would be useful.  A few days later a huge black garbage bag of stuff was deposited into my then very small quilt space!  While 90% of what was in it was of no use to me, I found a bunch of things that were and that I have put to use over the years.  Best of all, the perfect fabric to coordinate with my own fabric stash pull was in the bag!  The polyester floral print that came from that bag was the last puzzle piece I needed to create the quilt.

The only fabric I purchased was the batting and the binding/backing which was a Jinny Beyer print.  I got it from the City Quilter store (no longer a brick and mortar store but they are still selling online) which was my first foray into a dedicated quilt shop.  I was very proud of that little quilt and thrilled that one of the lessons I learned from the Reader's Digest book --- about varying print scale within a quilt design --- got successfully put to use in this project.  I hung this one over my night stand.

Well since I made one to hang over mine, of course I had to make one to hang over my husband's night stand.  That was my third quilt:

This one was the product from Lesson One of Gai Perry's book "Color From the Heart" (1999).  It was a lesson in random color selection.  Those little squares were from fabric sample mailings I used to get from a mail order fabric supplier in the clothing sewing days.  That quilt was updated in 2016 to become the background for a (hand) embroidery project and currently hangs in our downstairs bathroom.

Note that the backing/binding for this quilt is more of the same tan solid fabric I used in the first "Ribbons" quilt --- see, from the beginning I learned to use up my leftovers and scraps!  The plaid border for that quilt came from (what I now know were) a full set of plaid fabric samples from the Garment Center Discards bag.  The rest of those plaids were later used to make  this quilt in 2008:

It's the "Point of No Return" design by the Country Threads ladies.  It was in the very first issue of American Patchwork and Quilting magazine which I had purchased as a back issue on eBay.  I still love Connie Tesene and Mary Etherington's designs and have since purchased more of their patterns and books.  I also used just a bit of the leftovers of one of the plaids from that project to make the tackle box applique on a gift quilt in 2014 for my neighbors who like to go fishing

To complete the record, since I've shown you my first and third quilt, let me present my second:

This little mini was also made that first year for an aunt who collects dolls.  When I started quilting,I had vowed to only be a machine quilter.  As noted earlier, one of the big things that had attracted me about quilting as I watched Simply Quilts was that although people still did do hand stitching, it was possible to make quilts totally by machine.  

My favorite clothing making story was when I learned that you could hem pants and skirts (which back in the day was half of what I made) completely by machine.  I was taught that task had to be done by hand so finding out you could hem by machine was the greatest day of my clothing sewing life!  For me, hemming was like what hand binding is for quilters --- the one thing that could cause an almost completely finished project to come to a compete halt and sit unfinished for weeks!  

So when I learned about quilting, I swore I would never 1) Hand Applique, 2) Hand Piece and 3) Hand Quilt.  However, I saw and appreciated the beauty, versatility and skill of applique so was excited when I found this book:

I wanted desperately to try it and then as now, it helped to have a project with a definite purpose to push me to start something.  In this case it was realizing that since my Mom would travel to visit my Aunt (her sister-in-law and best friend from childhood) every Fall in Virginia, I could make something for her to take to her.  Well, I didn't finish it in time for it to be ferried by my Mom as courier but I did  mail it to my Aunt when it was done.  This was not the last doll quilt I made for her either:  I made two more in 2010 which can be seen here and I was just thinking this year that it may be time to make her another one.  Of course I also had to eat my words that year when I did finally succumb to all the hand worked beauty I saw around the web and learned to Hand Applique and Hand Quilt.  I climbed over the last hand work mountain when I was forced (because of ailing sewing machines) to Hand Piece a project in 2015!

Lastly it should be noted that I did finally make one of the quilt projects from that early Simplicity booklet.   It was a quilt for the second grandchild of the Aunt that gave me the book!  

The booklet version:

What I made:

You can read more about that quilt in this post.  So that's it for the earliest of my early quilts.  Hopefully over time I will get a few more early projects posted and extend the story of my "quilt journey"!

Friday, July 10, 2020

Back In the Saddle....

....and holding onto the reins for dear life!  Actually I am grateful that COVID has meant that family, friends and neighbors (those that were informed about my surgery) were even more available and supportive than might have been possible if a pandemic hadn't upended all of our lives.  Much better and sooner than I expected, I was able to sit up (and so commenced the hand work project pictured above), then walk around, then take short and then longer walks all within the week after the procedure.  

As part of the recovery, I've also made a few visits to our community garden and used those trips so my DH and I could harvest our garlic.

Here's some of the garlic curing.

Unfortunately all of this on top of the quarantine has cut into starting seeds for transplants for summer planting.  I've direct sown some pepper plant seeds and we had a few "volunteer" tomato starts that had popped up so we'll see if we wind up getting anything out of our garden bed as the summer progresses.

At the start of the second post-surgery week, I was able to sit up at our house desk top computer and now in week three I'm preparing for a return to working at the sewing machine.  Woo hoo!!  First tasks will be to stitch down the applique on the "Hope QOV" and for a little mini quilt kit that provided some fabric for yet another larger Quarantine project I started that I hope I'll get to work on and share later.

Another downside in the past few weeks was that my laptop (my day-to-day working computer) decided it had "had enough" and stopped booting up the week before the surgery so recovery time was also spent figuring out what I wanted in a new machine.  Fortunately that's been resolved as I type this on the new one I picked up this week.  I have a commission project for a friend that will push me to finally, really learn to use the EQ8 software I purchased last year in order to begin the design work on it.  So that need should put some fire in my belly to get a move on to get comfortable using this new computer equipment and moving the files over from my old one.

Thank you again to all that sent well wishes!  This all is a reminder for all of us to take each day as it comes and cherish it!  I am eternally grateful for being a quilter when it came time to be "down for the count".  A stack of "Haven't Started Yet" hand work projects, the ability to read Bloglovin' posts on my phone and a (maybe too generous) collection of quilt books and magazines (both the latest issue of American Patchwork and Quilting and the release of  the new Fons & Porter Quick & Easy Quilts digital edition arrived just in time!) meant illness wouldn't keep a dedicated quilter down!

So with that, I now continue the forward momentum of both healing and (Semi-)Quarantine Quilting!  Happy to be back quilting with all of you!