Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why am I quilter?

Today was a preparation day in the ole sewing room.  I cut 5 strips for the headers on the drapes, you can see them draped in the middle of the panels.  I ironed all the tabs, they are hidden by the headers.  This was hard, the part where I had to really focus was when I cut the panels.  I cut 5 of them, each 85" long.  This required LOTS of measuring.  I would measure and then measure again.  Gladys, the lovely Longarm, is very useful for storing these huge pieces of fabric.  Tomorrow I will repeat the process for the lining.  It's not the fun stage where you get great looking product.  This is like the stage where you tape the room and drape the drop cloths to protect the floors before you paint.  It's painstaking but if you mess it up, the drapes will be dopey looking forever and I plan on having them for a very long time!

While I was working on these I mused about a question my step mom recently posed to me, why did you become a quilter?  I answered her but I have kept thinking about it and here is why I became a quilter.

If you look at this picture you see my Grandmother, Katherine,  standing in the back row.  Seated on the couch in front of her are her sisters and my great Aunts, Marie and Margie.  When I was young, I stayed with my Aunts on family trips to Alton.  They never married, always lived together and took over the Grandmother job after Katherine was killed when I was five.  Aunt Marie and Margie lived in Alton, Illinois where both of my parents were from and they were quilters.  When I stayed with them I would see them working on a quilt on a frame.  I would ask to be able to quilt but was denied.  (In the 1950's kids had rules! and boundaries!)  One visit, they sat me on the back porch and let me pick out fabrics for my own first quilt.  I picked out white and an orange calico.  They showed me how to trace a pattern and sew the pieces together by hand.  They sent me home with a shoe box and my pieces.  I stored the box under my bed and never finished it but it stayed in my head.

Flash forward to 8th grade home economics class and we were about to start the sewing unit.  My Mom did not know how to sew, her Mother and Aunts did all the sewing and the sewing machine was too expensive to fix to let my Mom learn on it.  She really wanted me to sew so she let me pick out any fabric and pattern I wanted.  I chose expensive fabric and she went for it, wow.  (She was a frugal woman so I figured this sewing must be pretty magical.)  I chose a dress with sleeves for my first project and somehow I made it and it all worked out.  My Mother practically flipped out with joy that she had a sewer in the family once more.  I had never gotten so much praise!  Compliments!  Favorable comparisons with other family members!  I was hooked.   I was immediately put to work sewing for her, her sister and my sister and if I ran into any problems, I walked around the corner where my home ec teacher lived and got private help.  That woman let me come over all that summer after 8th grade!  Once I perfected my technique,  I realized I had a huge bargaining chip with my Mom and I would drive ruthless bargains.  I would get fabric for the clothes of my dreams if I would make clothes for other people, always at a "two for me/one for someone else" ratio.  (Fine, I wasn't very nice to my Mom at that stage, I admit it!)  I sewed my way through High School, college and my first pregnancy.  As I was turning 30, I wanted something new and exciting in my life.  You are thinking, finally!  Did I pick yoga, scuba diving or sky diving?  Nope, quilting!  My Mom paid for my first quilting lessons for my 30th birthday and she died 3 weeks later.  It was her last gift to me and what a gift!

In the quilting class we made 12 blocks for a sampler quilt.  I decided I might as well make two of each.

So that summer I made 2 sampler tops, cutting each piece out after I traced it with a pattern, marking every single seam line with a pencil and stitching every piece together by hand.

No one in the class finished except for me and I finished two of them.  I then hand quilted them obsessively. 

Can I have a good time over a summer or what?  For a while those quilts were in my bedroom, then pictured here on the guest beds. 

Now those quilts hang on the walls of my sewing room.

Here is one of them!

This was a pretty long answer to a simple question.  I am a quilter because of my Aunts.  I am a quilter because my Mother gave me so much positive reinforcement when I learned to sew.  I am a quilter because it was the lasting and last gift from my Mother.  I am a quilter because, quite frankly, I can't imagine my life if I was not.  I am a quilter because I love the look, feel and smell of fabric.  I am a quilter because I love being able to see something and think, I can make that. 

I am a quilter because that's who I am!


  1. I now know how we ended up with two quilts that are the same. I loved your story on how you became a quilter.

  2. Thanks! It was enjoyable for me to formulate my thoughts on this!


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