So I’m going to keep on with the intro theme and talk about how I, as a young woman, got into the old art of quilting.
My mother was always a quilter when I was growing up. She’s the old style of quilter, no machine, no rotary cutter and mat, all pieced and quilted by hand. She’s also make our Halloween costumes in the fall by hand as well, using patterns and fabric from JoAnn’s of course. Once we moved away from Vincennes though life became busy and she let her hobby fall by the way side as she was responsible for making sure my sister and I got to where we needed to go with our increasing activities.
When we moved to Bloomington, and my sister and I became a bit more independent with driver’s licenses and cars mom started to think about getting back into the hobby. Bloomington has a large, very active quilt guild and she found out a few fellow co-workers were also quilters and encouraged her to attend meetings with her. So she started up again, slowly at first, right before the current “crafty” wave hit.
I never thought much of it but had some experience with the sewing machine through a small foray into the cosplay world. If you don’t know the world cosplay, it’s making costumes of characters and going to conventions and geeking out with fellow fans. It’s expensive, stressful but over all rewarding. I made a few costumes I liked but it just didn’t quite fulfill my creative intersts. Plus, did I mention it’s really expensive. And again this was LONG before cosplay was as popular as it is now, so patterns were hard to find, reference photos were hard to find and let’s not talk about finding just the right fabric. It was also hard for me to travel to conventions to hang out with fellow fans who would appreciate all my hard work. So I hung up my costume hat and put the sewing machine away.
Then one afternoon in the summer of 2007, after I returned from 10 days in Ireland I was bored. I was kind of done with college (let’s not talk about that right now) but had no job prospects, felt I wasn’t ever READY for a true non-profit job in the sector even after schooling. So I was listless, bored, terrified and looking for something to keep my mind off the big changes in life I knew were coming.
I wondered through the empty house and decided to get mom’s quilting fabric out and this new book of 100 Quilt Blocks she’d just acquired. I’d seen her work with the template plastic before and cut out the tiny bits and put them back together to make a block so I thought why not me? I decided I was going to do the birthstone blocks that were in the book and started going bonkers.
It was an unmitigated disaster to say the least.
Yes I got blocks together that looks somewhat OK but it was slow and frustrating process. But I was still enjoying myself.
Mom came home to a disaster zone and lots of questions for me.
That was it, I had the bug.
I learned more about block styles and realized the blocks I was trying to make were impossible to do the way I was trying to make them. They were more for paper piecing instead of traditional piecing which was, in the end, what I wanted to do really. I learned that you don’t have to do it by hand like mom does, you can use a machine. You can even use a machine to quilt the thing!
So I worked and studied magazines and the few online tutorials I could find. Remember this was before Pinterest and the DIY crafts boom that made this kind of thing cool for someone my age to do. I even decided I was going to make my OWN block, inspired by a photo I took of the tiled floor of Kilkenny’s St. Canice’s Cathedral in Ireland. It was perfect for a quilt block. I worked for hours on that thing, bought the fabric for it from JoAnn’s where else. Of course, didn’t buy enough fabric, knew nothing of putting the blocks together in the proper way (I thought you worked from the inside of the block out, not in rows or columns and couldn’t figure out why putting these squares and rectangles together was so bloody HARD) and again was facing frustration.
Mom talked me in to going to French Link on this thing called a quilt retreat. I didn’t know what to expect but I knew she came back from them and talked about how fun they were. So we paid our moneys and off we went, all my crap in tow and me feeling a tiny bit terrified of all these seasoned quilters and me, not knowing my head from my butt.
I’d brought the now infamous (in my head) Ireland quilt with me and was proudly sewing along when one of mom’s friends came up and said there was an easier way to do it. Shawn showed me the rows/columns technique, not the inside/out I was thinking was right. Changed my outlook on this new hobby. I never looked back.
Yes, it’s 2016. No I do not have a photo of this Ireland quilt that started it all. Why?
It’s not bloody done.
Not even CLOSE.
But since then I’ve made probably 40+ quilts for friends and family to celebrate anything from new babies to weddings, graduations to deaths. I have not made anything for myself until last year. Yup. out of all the quilts I’ve made I’ve only kept one truly finished piece.
Why? Because I love what I do, it makes me happy to give the gift of time and care and thought that goes into making a quilt. When I give you a quilt, it’s not a simple thing. I’ve thought about things you like, colors, patterns. I’ve spent hours finding the right fabrics, the right pattern. I’ve spent days, weeks, months cutting that fabric out according to the patterns, putting the top together and making it look as beautiful as I can. Then there is the actual quilting.
Mom and I talked about commissions and prices of these kinds of quilts that we make last night for a long time. A coworker asked her to make a quilt for her granddaughter like one mom had displayed at their workplace. She didn’t know what to say so she sat on it for a while. First, the fabric is from like 2008 or 2009. No way are we going to find it again. It was hard to find at that time it was so popular. Second, how do you tell someone you can’t afford me? It’s not conceit, it’s truth. The fabric, thread, batting and backing alone for a baby quilt is about $150+ depending on the quality of the fabric. Then you have the hours upon hours you yourself spending making the thing.
We decided there was no way to value the quilt any less that about $250. Just no way.
I have my moments of being a little “over” my hobby, although over isn’t the right word. It’s tied to my depression. I am going on a small retreat this coming weekend with my quilting friends and I have lots of plans to get things accomplished. Again, nothing in the cards for myself, they are all gifts for others. One is a high school graduation, one is a toddler quilt and one is show quilt that I’d like to display in some upcoming quilt shows this year and next. Then probably give away.
So that’s my long winded story of how I got into the hobby of quilting. I’ve met lots of great folk, been lots of great places because of this gig I have.