My First Quilt - How My Quilty Journey Began

I first got into quilting in my early 30's.  Quilts weren't a part of my life up to that point.  In fact, I had never sewn anything up to that point! Not even a button. So when my co-worker told me "you should learn to quilt" I laughed at the idea. 

But when this co-worker, who had been quilting for 20 plus years, brought her quilts into to work one day...I was blown away!  They were stunning.  And not at all what I had always thoughts quilts were.  These were works of art.  It changed my world view of quilts which ultimately has changed my life. 

With her recommendation I bought a $100 sewing machine on Amazon and took a beginning sewing class at the local Sewing and Vacuum shop just to learn the basics.  Once that was done I signed up for a beginning quilting class at the local fabric store. 

I learned pretty quickly with this first quilting class the importance of quality fabrics.  I had bought fabric at the large big-box commercial store, whom shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, and didn't pay attention to the fact that it wasn't 100% cotton.  Having never purchased quilting fabric before I just bought what I thought was cotton that ended up being a cotton-polyester blend.  

In case you didn't already know this, polyester doesn't like super hot irons; it can melt or warp.  I learned this when I was trying to press up my strips for the 4 patch and it kept getting warped.  My teacher noticed my frustration and that's when we discovered what my fabric really was. The next day I went the quilt fabric shop and bought quality quilt cotton.  Below is the result of switching to this better fabric.  This is my first quilt I ever made.

I was so proud of myself for making this quilt and I was instantly hooked.  I knew at that point, quilting would always be a part of my life.  

I gave this quilt to my grandmother.  She has always been my biggest fan and support system.  

I recently got this quilt back from her when she passed away on July 6th, 2019.  She was 99 years old.  Even though at that point in someone's life you know the inevitable is coming, it still never prepares you for the actual moment.  I miss her terribly.

She always displayed this quilt proudly in her apartment and cherished it.  I'm glad I was able to give her something that was meaningful.  And now that the quilt is back in my arms I will cherish it even more.  It now has more meaning for me than when I first made it.  

I love to hear stories of everyone's first quilt experience.  What was yours like?  Do you still have your first quilt or did you give it away? Let me know in the comments below. 

3 comments

Katie Doemland

Katie Doemland

Lesley, what a pretty palette!

Vivian

Vivian

Your story of giving your first quilt to your grandmother, who passed at age 99 struck a chord with me. I lost my dad at age 99 this October. I’d given my mom and dad the first quilt I made, and it’s on my bed at home now. Mom is still living, but several years ago she asked me to take it back because “it was too pretty to use…”. It reminds me of them constantly, and I enjoy using it every day. 😊

Anne Sidell

Anne Sidell

Hi Lesley! Love your ‘first quilt’ story and that you were able to persevere and make something that was so cherished by someone you loved and who loved you. I’m glad it returned to you (the universe has spoken) – my first quilt teacher told us ‘everyone should keep their first quilt’ – I still own mine, but worked on two at the same time, just finished that one quicker, by a day or two. The other one, a twin bed quilt, was gifted to my son when he was still in high school (I have it now, he’s outgrown it, but someday for a grandchild, maybe?) … My first ‘first quilt’ though was a small cat wall-hanging, which I made for me, though if my son, now 35 and his wife ever get busy having babies, I will make another just like it as a first baby quilt. I still treasure it and occasionally hang it (I rotate through my wall-hangings for ever-changing displays in the house)…
Side note: I was not new to sewing when I started quilting. I’d been sewing since I was 4ish, when my grandmother would sit me on her lap and I’d handle the fabric while she used the foot pedal I couldn’t reach. When I was 7ish, I started sewing my own stuff – mostly Barbie clothes, because my mother never wanted to buy the expensive doll clothes in the stores!… At 12ish, I started noticing what I wore and began making my own clothes too. I sewed most of my own clothes through high school, college and young adulthood. About the 80s, I realized I could buy clothes cheaper than making them, and stopped making all but the most expensive items (suits for work sand such)… In about 1987, I walked into a quilt store because my husband was at an electronics store next door and I was bored. I was entranced at the colors and designs and wanted to try my hand at it, but not that day… I just enjoyed the eye candy and had dreams of creating my own… (Quilting had not been in my family – my maternal grandmother had worked in a sweatshop as a young immigrant, and hated sewing, her daughter (my mother) sewed clothes, did alterations, and made some household items, but not a lot of clothing. My paternal grandmother, who was the one who taught me to use the machine) had a been a milliner as a young woman and loved anything related to textile arts, but was no quilter – she made hats, sewed clothing for her 3 children when they were young, knitted, crocheted and made lace (tatting), and could sew anything (but apparently, not quilts). (I inherited her sewing machine – a 1924 Singer – when she passed). Anyway – back to quilting…
Because there were no quilters in my family, I decided I’d take a class, so I went to the local adult school to sign up for one of their quilting classes (the shop didn’t have a classroom at the time). I walked over to the classroom to check it out and there were all these old women who stared at me, most not-so-friendly looking, like I was from another planet when I was just standing outside looking in. Not sure which one was the teacher, but they all glared like I was interrupting something sacred and secret. I left the adult school without registering. Disappointed, I put aside the idea of quilting for a while. I threw myself into my work and forgot about quilting… We moved a couple of times and quilting wasn’t even in my thoughts.
About 7 years later, we moved back to the city with the quilt shop and the adult school with quilting classes, but I was busy with other things (working, new house, new schools for my son)… In 2003, a friend said her almost-adult daughter (who was also a friend) wanted to take a quilting class at the adult school, but was shy and didn’t want to go alone. She asked if I would go with her daughter and take the class with her. I agreed, albeit reluctantly because of my reception the last time I went there. I went – new teacher, new students, many younger (in their 30s and 40s as opposed to the cadre of grey-haired matrons who were there during my first visit). I was in my 50s but felt more at home with these younger ladies.
It was there I made my first quilts, and learned the basics… but with my strong sewing background, I quickly went beyond what the teacher was offering… I stayed in the class (my friend’s daughter made her first quilt (for her mother’s birthday present), and then quit – She was young and was having some mental issues and wanted to go to college.) My third quilt was a spiral lone star, my fifth quilt was a miniature spiral lone star with NYB blocks as the setting squares. I threw myself into quilting.
It’s been an amazing journey, and I’m not done yet! There’s always something new to learn, or achieve, or aspire to!

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