My first quilt class was with Ann Albertson. I saw her work in the San Diego magazine and thought it was beautiful. She rarely taught. Ten years after I started making quilts as baby gifts at Christmas I signed up for a class at the local quilt shop with Ann. It was a scrap quilt class. I walked in with an armload of fabrics. She took one look at me and said, “this is a scrap quilt class.” I set my fabric down on the table and said — “these will be scraps soon.”
The first class was explaining what a quilt was and what a scrap quilt was. She also gave many ideas for a scrappy quilt: Friendship Stars, Nine Patches, Puss in the Corner. I wanted to make a quilt with the pattern I had seen in the magazine. Challenging for someone who had never used templates.
The next class would be in two weeks. So I had time to make blocks. I fell in love with the picture of the quilt in the magazine. It was a Star within a Star block. I could only manage to make one quilt block a day. I had a toddler at home. I was very used to making freeform quilts and using templates was beyond me. Getting those points pointy was a struggle. I decided not to rush it because for the most part it was all new to me.
I decided to go back to the beginning and remember what beginning quilting was like. One major problem was lack of cotton fabrics for the longest time. Diana Leone wrote a Sampler Quilt book and I used polyester fabrics. Polyester fabrics were not stable and would shift when you sewed them.
The quilt above quilt is one I took it to a conference I took with Nancy Crow. It was machine pieced. And I machine and hand-quilted it.
To be continued
I started buying the Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine when it came out printed on a mimeograph machine. I collected them even though I was not a quilter. I was a seamstress, I made clothing, including wedding apparel. When we moved from the East Coast to San Jose a group of the ladies in the neighborhood, all from New York, formed a Tuesday night group. We brought whatever handy work we were doing at the time. I did Needlepoint, my own designs inspired by a picture I might see in a magazine. Sometimes it was from a kit, but kits were expensive. I designed an occasional canvas that my friend Sharon Maher would buy from me.
One of the ladies in the group who kept the shell of an old VW bug in her backyard decided that she alone would bring a renaissance of quilting. I admired that. I thought someday I might be a quilter. With two toddlers I was sure it wouldn’t be anytime soon. I couldn’t even afford to buy a quilt at a flea market. If one was on the side of the road, I might stop for it, but that would be the only way I would own one.
I did love fabric and occasionally for an outing as a family we would ride the train into San Mateo. There was a mall there and in one of the stores they had a bin with scraps of fabrics leftover from silk ties. I learned to make men’s ties. My mother made the boys cute little short sets out of seersucker to wear so any sewing I did was usually for myself.
When we moved from San Jose to San Diego it was small and quiet. There wasn’t much to do and I didn’t know anyone. It was a young neighborhood with a lot of young children. Cheryl Herr lived down the street and in her living room sat a quilting frame. She could make a whole cloth quilt in a week completely hand quilted. She’d shop at K-Mart and buy two twin-sized sheets and a roll of polyester batting. All the furniture would be pushed to the side until she finished the quilt. I was inspired. I was not interested in a quilt made from sheets although her quilts were beautiful. She told me I could do it. Funny thing, I believed her. You have to believe you can do something or it will never happen.
The only place to buy fabric was at Sears. We had two and neither one was close, both were approximately the same distance in opposite directions. One day I was out with my next door neighbor and shopping buddy Barbara Johnson. She acted as my welcome wagon. She would drive me around and show me how to get places. One day we ended up in Escondido at Sears approximately 20 miles north of us. There was a needlework shop to buy threads for my needlepoint and Sears. I had scrap fabrics and an idea. My first quilt almost became my last quilt. When you say, how hard could this be, you then find out. Putting the top together was not as difficult as sitting and hand quilting the top. It was summer and it was hot. I had a large embroidery hoop on a frame. I would quilt during the day in the sunlight while the boys napped. My quilting time could be very limited.
I limited my pallet which simplified the design process.
I still like this quilt, which belongs to my oldest son.
Ever ask yourself about your quilting goals? What do you think you want to accomplish? There are so many different answers possible here. Are you a project person or a process person. Do you want to sell your quilts? Do you want to keep your quilts or give them away?
A project person has a distinct goal in mind — a finished quilt. There is usually a beginning and of course an end. You have a pattern, you have colors in mind, maybe you even have a location designated for it.
I am a process person. I may have a stack of fabrics and an idea but I have no general purpose except to create. I may not create a quilt — I may create pieces or parts and then decide where to go from there. Or I may lay them aside and move on to something else until I decide what to do next. This often gets me in trouble.
My friend Stephanie is a project person. She is always making something with fabric to use in her décor. One year it was a quilt for her daughter’s room. Since I didn’t have a daughter I thought I would make the same blocks for fun and sometime in the future I may need a quilt for a little girl.
I made these Bow Blocks. Definitely for a girl. I made blocks until I got tired and them put them in a box, labeled it and set them aside. Then one year, many years later, I needed a Christmas present. It was late October. I don’t know about you but once it is October time flies that much faster to the holidays. It is not just normal life events but also all the unexpected happenings. I turned things upside down looking for the box of blocks — then how to set them, What colors to use? With little Abi being the predictable little girl that she was pink and purple were the perfect choices.
Being a process person who plans less with a project you may find yourself in a pickle. You may not have enough of what you need. You used fabric saved for this project on a different project. You have no clue what or where you put the pattern if you want to make more pieces. You have to be much more creative and open to new ideas and a change your plans.
What I have learned from times like this: Set up a box with all the supplies together. Keep them there until the project is completed. Keep the book or make a copy of the pattern and keep it in the box as well.