Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My first quilt

Carrie and Camille have issued a challenge on their blogs—to show a photograph of your first quilt and your most recently finished quilt. I’ve enjoyed the stories I’ve read so far and want to offer my own story.

The story of my first quilt is similar to that of Laurie Simpson. My mother and my Aunt Mary were both excellent seamstresses, especially my Aunt Mary. I loved to go fabric shopping with them and would consistently beg them to buy me the little bags of scraps that I would use to sew doll clothes. But neither my mother nor my Aunt Mary made quilts. I didn’t know of anyone in my family who made quilts.

I was about 14 or 15 when I saw a quilt project in Seventeen magazine and fell in love with it. I was surprised to see a quilting project in Seventeen, which usually focused on fashion and hair and makeup. The quilt featured an appliqué block in a star setting. I thought it was beautiful, but my mother said she didn’t like appliqué (I’m not sure she had done much appliqué previously, but if she had it had been a bad experience) so I started drawing designs for embroidered blocks instead. By that time I had been embroidering for about 9 years and it was my favorite hobby.

We didn’t have much money and I really wanted the quilt to be like the one in the picture—which was in three colors—and not scrappy. I kept pestering my mom to get the fabric and while I was waiting I thought about color schemes. When she was finally ready to buy fabric I had decided on the color scheme I wanted—cobalt blue, apple green, and taxicab yellow. I even painted my bedroom furniture the same colors to match. This is the quilt.


Although my mom had never quilted, she attacked the project with her usual enthusiasm and determination and learned everything she could about it. She helped me cut the pieces with scissors. I wish she had been around long enough for me to show her rotary cutting. I’m sure she would have loved it.

She taught me how to sew the blocks together. And there was no question that points would match. One of the best things my parents taught me was to do something right the first time. And one of the worst things they taught me is to do something right the first time because if it isn’t right I will rip out the work and start over. That’s one of the reasons it takes me so long to finish projects.

I worked on embroidering the blocks over the next several years. The designs started out simple.


But became more complex.

And even more complex.


I finally finished all the blocks and we began assembling the quilt. Then we started tying it. But it wasn’t quite finished when I graduated from college and was ready to move up to Bellingham for my first job. My parents helped me move and my mom had a surprise for me--she had finished the quilt by tying it with yellow thread. Notice there is no binding. It had been nine years since we started it.

I had this quilt on my bed for over 20 years, even though it was made for a twin bed and after college I had bigger beds. But finally I couldn’t take the colors anymore and it has been retired. The colors have faded and it needs some repairs to both the embroidery and the seams. But I will always love this quilt because I learned so much about quilting and I had the opportunity to work on it with my mom.

My most recently finished quilt is one I made for my nephew Tegan. This was a solo effort. I was inspired by the Simon the Puppy pattern.


I didn’t like the pointed head in the original and modified the pattern. After I started piecing the block I could see the advantage of having the pointed head—it was a challenge to match the points on the ears with the head. I also changed the sashing to one I thought was more appropriate for the reproduction 1930s fabrics. I quilted it myself by machine.


I have several WIPs that better illustrate my preferences in quilting, but both these quilts hold a special place in my heart.

This was great fun. And it got me to write another post. I look forward to reading stories from other quilters. Thanks Carrie and Camille for the inspiration!

2 comments:

Carrie said...

Hi Helen ~ My favorite part of this parade has been the story behind everyone's first quilt. And in the telling of that story, the quilt tells so much about the makers. I love both quilts!

Maybe your parents were related to the basketball coach, John Wooden. Years ago, he said "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?" :)

Thank you for joining in!

pegsplace said...

Wow! I am in awe of your first quilt and the time and energy AND embroidery! I haven't taken part in this parade, (too late), but I have been going through each person's postings and your first quilt really touched me. I will be back to visit your blog. Do you combine embroidery and quilting now? Just beautiful and the little doggies too :).