Sunday, January 5, 2014

Why I am NOT a Quilter. Part 1.


It was the Roman Square quilt pattern. It was two contrasting colors, red and white. It was queen size.  It became my sewing nemesis.

The Beast, as I came to call it, was my very first serious sewing project at the age of early twenty something. It was the beginning and ending of a very short sewing period spanning over a couple of years and “it” followed me through too many moves to count, including our last move to Indiana 10 years ago. For twenty plus years I carried the Beast around.

Hours and hours were spent cutting those little rectangles and organizing them and sewing them together to make my first quilt top. Then more hours sewing the small blocks in to bigger blocks. After many months, I  managed to get the Beast pieced.  Amazing really, now that I think of it.  It was huge and daunting and I had never heard of and didn't know how to research “machine piecing” or any other number of quilting techniques that would have made the job much more doable and enjoyable.

If I had only knew, the "easy" part was done because then came the much dreaded quilting. If it had never occurred to me to machine piece, then you can imagine I did not know one could actually quilt on a sewing machine! How revolutionary!! Even more revolutionary, the idea that one could pay someone else to quilt your Beast.  Not that I could have done that anyway, we were young and flat broke.

On a remote air base in the long winter months of Upper Michigan,

I would dutifully haul out the large quilting hoop and dutifully get my hand quilting thread and attempt to hand quilt the Beast. Strangely the Beast never seem to change. I know it did because I had to move the hoop and that thread WAS going somewhere. Dutifully, bury my knots, dutifully [try] to keep my stitches small and even. Dutifully, I learned to hate the Beast and quilting. 

It is odd to me now, but except for a few small projects such as a table runner or a set of napkins, I was loyal to the Beast. I never started another major project, always feeling I HAD to complete the Beast first. Over time it became official. The Beast defined me as a sewer. I couldn’t move on to something else and I couldn’t finish the Beast so... I just stopped sewing altogether.

It might have gone differently if I had help. My mother-in-law was a quilter. I have several quilts she lovingly and painstakingly hand pieced and quilted but, she was 600 miles away. My own mother, while not a quilter, was an avid garment sewer and my Aunt worked at a textile factory whipping up clothing for Levi’s and LL Bean in nothing flat. 600 miles away. It didn’t occur to me to find someone in my own community to help me. I wouldn’t have known where to start but I knew people quilted. I lovingly and longingly looked at the magazines my mother-in-law had given me.

The quilts were glorious! Laying there in all their rich colors and seemingly complicated patterns! The Ohio star, the coveted Log Cabin, Grandmother’s Garden, Double Wedding Ring, the list was endless.  It seemed so simple to match up all those corners and rectangles in the pictures. And triangles! Oh my, the points were matched as well. In the pictures anyway. Despite the magazines and my desires to learn, the Beast and my sewing languished together.

Then, as time encourages, things changed.  My daughter was born, the internet exploded  and we moved to Indiana. I actually forgot about the Beast! I wanted to sew for my daughter, I wanted to make things (not quilts), I wanted skirts and shirts and dresses in fabrics I enjoyed, I wanted to make garments for my husband, I wanted to sew gifts for everyone I knew. Why…. I couldn’t stop thinking of all the things I wanted to sew. I became a person serious about sewing. I know this because I have an insane amount of fabric in my stash to prove it! And to further fuel my sewing desires, information or tutorials on just about any sewing project I could imagine was online just waiting there for me to use and learn.

Still, the Beast languished in the basement. Occasionally, I would come across it while looking for fabric or reorganizing things. Until one day, I actually took a long hard look at the Beast. Would I really finish it? Did I even want to? The Beast reminded me of a time in my personal life that was painful and in which I had made some poor choices. What was that big stain on one side? The Beast still was huge and intimidating so I did the logical thing... I threw the Beast away!! It is true. In the garbage it went. I didn’t even think twice. It was liberating!

Oddly after the Beast was safely in the landfill, I started looking at quilt patterns online! I would sometimes think about sewing a quilt but quickly would dismiss the idea. Then, I happened upon the Indiana chapter of Quilts for Kids. Now, this was a quilt I could possibly master. A simple square and 4 patch sewed together in a kid sized quilt. I ordered a quilt kit to put together.  My squares actually matched up! I machine quilted the whole thing myself. I proudly put the quilt in the mail back to Quilts for Kids and ordered two more kits which I have almost completed.

That was 2013. For 2014 and in my new quilting enthusiasm I signed up for a quilting sew-a-long called Goodnight Irene over at Terry's Treasures.

It certainly looked simple enough. A sixteen patch and a X block (whatever that was).  But after getting started and cutting over 700 2 ½” squares, having to rip numerous seams, sewing some squares wrong sides together, many of my corners not lining up and oh, those wretched triangles…I find myself once again thinking about the Beast...

To be continued…..


  1. This quilt is no beast. Use it as a learning experience, and as a chance for you to improve your sewing skills. You ought to see the first quilt I made four years ago...the seams were terrible and nothing matched. Thank goodness I've gotten better with practice! You will too! :0)

  2. Oh darlin don't give up, we've all been there ! Lord knows I made my first quilt when I was 11 (40yrs ago now !).. if you didn't look at it to closely you'd mistake it for a rag rug, I still have it mistakes an all, but I cherrish it for the journey it became. I had nobody to show me how to do this patchwork thang, I learned the hard way to always make sure my seams lie offset if I dont want a quilting nightmare. Don't view your quilt as a beast, look at it as a journey & take the tourist route, spend time practicing until your happy with your seams & your corners & triangles, and yell out if your stuck, there's always someone willing to help & perhaps guide you through an easier way of doing things.