Friday, December 12, 2014

Humble Beginnings

Recently, Mollie, one of my readers and commenters asked what was the first quilt I ever made.  I can answer that by telling you about the first quilt I ever completed.

A little background . . . 

Our daughter graduated from high school in 1989.  I wanted to make her a quilt to mark the occasion.  (What was I thinking?)  Although I had a strong background in sewing, I had never quilted.  But I jumped in with both feet and selected a pattern I thought looked simple enough (hahaha!) and the two of us picked out fabric.

I didn't know all of the fabrics should have been 100% cotton.  Two of the three pieces were, but one was polyester.  (Big mistake.)

The pattern called for templates to be made which were then placed on the fabric, traced and cut out with scissors.  What a chore!  Considering this was the way all quilting was first done, I quickly gained a huge amount of respect for the beautiful works-of-art quilts those dear, old gals of days gone by turned out.

Long story short, I had no idea what I was doing and shortly found myself way over my head and had to abandon the project.  Nothing was going right and I didn't know how to fix it.

A year or so later, I made my second attempt at quilting.  This time I started smaller and tried to make a simple nine-patch baby quilt for a good friend's daughter who was pregnant with their first child.  All went fairly well until I tried to quilt it.  I chose to do so by machine because hand quilting doesn't hold up very well if a piece is going to be laundered frequently.

I didn't have a walking foot for my old clunker of a machine and every line of simple, straight stitching I did smooshed, smashed, and wrinkled the fabric and made a terrible mess of the top, batting and backing I was trying to put together.

That effort ended up in the trash.  Is it a wonder I tried again?

Well, I did.  In 1994 I joined a quilting group, some members of which were much more talented than I and were a big, big help.  

So to finally get to my first (completed) quilt, Mollie, here it is in all its (long since lost) glory.


It's about the simplest patchwork one can do and the only fabrics I had were pretty ugly, but I think it's passed the test of a (utilitarian) quilt because it's lasted all these years.


I still didn't have the proper tools for quilting it by machine so I tied it.  One can tie a quilt using yarn or embroidery thread on a stout needle.  You go down through the front to the back and then through the back to the front again and tie a knot with the two ends of yarn or thread showing on the front side.  I used several strands of an ecru embroidery thread to tie my quilt.  You can see that not only are the blocks of fabric faded now but the thread is worn and much shorter than it originally was.


This little floral fabric I used as one border is also what I used for the backing.

Where does this first quilt of mine live now?  In a box of emergency supplies in the back of our Suburban truck.  We figure it could be spread on the ground if we had to change a tire or had other vehicle problems.  In the winter it could provide warmth should that be necessary.  It's been used as packing for moving furniture and appliances after it was replaced as a couch quilt, extra warmth on our bed in the winter, picnic cloth and floor covering for visiting infants.

Because I've had it and used it for twenty years (and it's still hanging together), I so wish I had made it with more attractive fabrics.  But if nothing else, I can truly chalk my first quilt off as a humble beginning to my quilting endeavors.

26 comments:

  1. I agree, it is beautiful. It is the quilt version of the velveteen rabbit.

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    1. christina - What a sweet comparison. Thank you!

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  2. It's BIG! and beautiful.... :) I would have started with pot holders - but I'm not as brave as you...

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    1. Susan - Ha! I graduated (down) to potholders! :o}

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  3. It is a nice quilt, and all the better for having stood the test of time. I do enjoy quilts and the like with a story.

    We have an old one in the family that has long since past the day when it was used for warmth, and is a mix of original quilting and repairs. (Likely multiple repairs done over the decades). It's still a treasure because one of the original squares has an outline of one of my great-grandfather's footprints as a baby. It dates that square to the mid-1800s plus or minus. Any other information or stories about that article went with Dad when he died, and I've always wished I had appreciated the family histories more when I was younger and he was around to tell them.

    Perhaps a printed copy of your original post kept in a sleeve with your quilt would help preserve a piece of your bit in the family history. Just a thought...

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    1. Mark - Oh gosh, that quilt you have is a treasure! I'm in the same boat as you . . . since my parents have both passed I'm constantly thinking of things I wish I had asked them about our family history. Same with my grandparents. We grow too soon old and too late smart??

      Your idea of keeping the "history" of a quilt with it is a very, very good one. That's why they say a quilter should always sign a quilt with at least name, location and date made.

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  4. You can still be proud ..... 20 years is a long time for a quilt that has seen that much use

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    1. Tombstone Livestock - Thanks, A. The fabric may not have been purdy, but it has proven out to have been sturdy!!

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  5. That is a very nice story. I love the quilt and the story behind it all. Thanks for sharing it.

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  6. Thank you for the story, Mama Pea! You didn't give up and that's the lesson I needed to hear/learn. And I really like your first completed quilt. It has character! And character has its own beauty.

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    1. Mollie - Well, it's easy "not give up" if it's something you really want to do or learn to do.

      Yes, my first quilt has character. Character. Yep, that it! CHARACTER! ;o]

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  7. I can relate to your story. I went thru the same thing. I still have a quilted I did that is more lopsided then straight. But I loved the pattern and colors, so I just fold it and hung it on a wall quilt rack. No buddy knows it's not straight but me.

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    1. Michelle - Good for you! You're probably more critical of that quilt than anyone else would be. Glad you can still enjoy it.

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  8. My mother was a quilter and so I knew a lot about quilting than I thought I did. Even so, I've had my share of unfinished works. I'm not able to waste all that hard work so lots of them became wall hangings, hot pads, stuff like that. And I admit, some I still have.... I'm finishing up a wall hanging now that I've had for years. Black, white and red, 4 blocks of Road to Oklahoma, with a Kliban Sneak Cat applique cut from a garage sale pillow case on the bottom border. The border is edged in red polkadot prairie points and the backing is white with red rows of "I love you". This all limits who you can give it to, mind you.... but now I'm finishing it for my little two-year-old great-granddaughter. She can drag it around for awhile. And then it can be put away for her for after she's grown, to help her remember her "Gum-Maw". Heh.

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    1. Ilene Jones - What a wonderfully sweet, awesome quilt will be for your great-daughdaughter!

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  9. What a great post. My great grandmother was bedridden and a quilter. I grew to love it because of her, although I haven't made a quilt in years.

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    1. Thank you, Leigh. You are so fortunate to have had family members who quilted. None of my family did, so I'm not really sure where I got the urge to quilt. I think the very first homemade quilt I ever saw was when a guy I was dating took me to visit his grandmother and she pulled out an avalanche (!) of beautiful quilts she had made. I was in awe!

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  10. Your quilt is beautiful and your story makes it even more precious. I like what Mark suggested, because it is now, and forever will be, part of your family's 'history'.

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    1. Aw, thanks, Lisa. I think it is stretching the truth a bit to call my first quilt "beautiful." Serviceable maybe! Mark's suggestion and now you echoing it makes me think about writing something about all the quilts and wall hangings I still have in my possession. I know my daughter would like that as she's the family historian and is ever after me to "write things down!" (I think she's afraid I will lose my mind soon . . . and it will be too late! ;o] )

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  11. I personally think that it's gorgeous, and those "utilitarian" things that hold up all those years will be the most prized possessions of your family down the road. Think of all the memories that quilt brings back!

    http://caffeinatedhomestead.weebly.com/blog

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    1. Stephanie - You're right. This old quilt has already lived many lives . . . and still has lotsa life left in it!

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  12. I have a couple of old quilts that I wish someone had told me more about - I got one from each grandmother but they were not the quilters so they had to have been from one more generation back. Beautiful but unsigned and no one left to give me any history on them.

    I do at least sign my quilts!

    All of my first quilts were baby quilts, one of which was a pre-cut kit - of hexagon!!! It was mostly sewn by hand, including quilting, and so far as I am aware it held up fine and is in a box at my sister's house somewhere.

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    1. Jen - What a real shame you don't have any information on those two old family quilts. You just know there is a story behind each of them.

      I have a friend who makes quilt after quilt and doesn't use a sewing machine at all. All of her piecing is done by hand along with the quilting. I admire anyone who does that. I have a feeling you're a much better hand quilter than I'll ever be so I'm not surprised the baby quilt your sister has has stayed in good shape!

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