If I Were a Quilter

I have to be perfectly honest:  I am no quilter. But I would like to be.


I keep a reminder of my
grandmother in my sewing room.

 I come from a long line of quilters. My ancestors were Scotch-Irish stock who settled in the Ozarks in the 19th century and then "mingled" with German, French, and Cherokee. You needed to stay warm on those chilly mountain nights and quilts fit the bill.

I remember as a child, lying dreamily on my grandmother's four poster bed in the front bedroom of her Missouri farmhouse, endless tracing the interlocking circles of her blue-and-white wedding quilt. It was hand-quilted by my great-grandmother, Jessie Emeraldine, in perfect, tiny stitches.

I loved that quilt, as well as the one in the second bedroom, which was painted a deep shell pink and had a picture of Blue Boy, Pinkie, and A Young Girl Reading on the wall. And inside my grandmother's cedar chest (where I was permitted to look only in her presence, but I sometimes snuck a surreptitious peek alone), were countless other quilts, all neatly folded. I remember taking a deep breath, inhaling the spicy scent of cedar as I admired my forbearers' handiwork.

I didn't inherit any of those quilts (yet), and Pinkie and Blue Boy disappeared in some estate sale. But when I unpacked my sewing room in my new home on Long Island, I also hung my grandmother's picture of A Young Girl Reading above my sewing machine space on a wall that is painted the lightest of shell-pinks. It's there as a reminder of the grandmother who first taught me to sew, among so many other things, and also her home where I learned to love hand-sewing by tracing stitching lines on my great-grandmother's quilt. 

My sewing has taken me in the direction of garments and couture, but I have always had it in the back of my mind that I will turn to quilting someday. And now that I am surrounded by quilters (Stitch and Quilting Arts are sister publications), it seems unavoidable.

If you are also a lover of quilts, I would suggest you look at Quilting Arts magazine.

Are you a quilter? Or do you just want to be one, like me? I would love to know.

Happy stitching!

 

Other sewing topics you may enjoy:

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Quilts
Amber

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and SewDaily.com. She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and SewDaily.com. She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

30 thoughts on “If I Were a Quilter

  1. I am a quilter, but at a beginner’s stage I think. I made several patchwork items like potholders and tablecloths and two denim quilts from worn-out jeans. So not that much, but I enjoy sewing.

  2. Just start. Don’t be scared. That is how I did it 26 years ago. I went to a Log Cabin Quilt in a Day class (Eleanor Burns method) and learned some basic skills I have used on many different quilts. I have also taught this class for many years. I also teach hand quilting, which I think needs to be preserved. Nothing wrong with machine qulting, but the look and feel of hand qulting cannot be duplicated. I am the chair for Block of the Month for the Pajaro Valley Quilt Guild in Santa Cruz, CA. Next year, I will do their newsletter. I am also going to chair PIF (Pay it Forward) for the South Bay Area Modern Quilt Guild in Santa Cruz, CA., where we will make small qults for various local charities. Lately, I have morphed into to what I refer to as “modtra” quilts..,.modern mixed with traditional. I love nothing more than to take a traditional pattern and give it a modern twist. I love quilting and will continue it as long as I possibly can! I envy your beginning…you have many adventures ahead. If I can help in any way, let me know!!

  3. Two words for you…quilt couture. Start quilting some garments. If you don’t think that’s very fashionable, check out some of Mary Ray’s work in quilted jackets. Or make your own quilted bag. You can add some marvelous textures to your wardrobe. Happy Stitching!

  4. I have a “journal” my grandmother wrote, in which she documented the quilts she’d made. I’ve made a couple of small quilts, both traditional and non, some art quilts, many fleece quilts, which are fun and fast. I’ve helped other people hand-quilt. But I still don’t feel like I am a real quilter, I’m still a novice at it. Maybe if I had my own long-arm machine I would feel like the real thing….

  5. I am a quilter and have been for years after doing some courses back in the 80’s. Although I am now getting back into it more since cutting down on my work hours. I also have 5 grandchildren to make clothes etc for, an etsy shop and I enjoy crochet and knitting so my quilting time is shared with other tasks.

    I like to hand quilt and find this a really enjoyable and relaxing past time. I would certainly encourage you to get into quilting if only for this reason 🙂

  6. I am a quilter, self taught, started when I had babies. A long time ago. Now I teach quilting to others and make it fun for all. I also make quilt tops for charity and the group at the Senior Center has made three (3) quilts of valor.

  7. Just starting, but I have definitely caught the “quilt bug”. I’ve made one quilt, almost done (half quilted, needs binding) and am already planning out the next one, lol. I took a class based on Alex Anderson’s “Start Quilting” and it was fabulous. It gave me enough confidence to continue quilting and, as a bonus, gave me the skills and confidence I needed to try new sewing patterns too!

  8. It is a slippery slope once you begin to slide from the garment sewing camp to the quilting one. Be prepared for a wonderful ride. The possibilities will make your head spin! I have so enjoyed the transposition. I no longer know what a 5/8″ seam is!

    As for the quilt I remember, It was a well worn Grandmothers Flower Garden pattern that resided on my Great Aunt Isabelle’s bed in Michigan. I too memorized the design as I lay upon it’s a child.
    Cheri Ucci, Miami, FL

  9. I am so happy to hear that your grandmother taught you how to sew. My grandmother was a master seamstress and tailor out of necessity. My grandfather had a tailor shop in downtown Newark, New Jersey and as immigrants, they worked hard at what they did to make a better life for their children. Sewing was not something she did for fun or passed on, unfortunately. She could construct garments by looking at an example..no pattern. She could knit the same way. I taught myself what little I know about sewing. I had three girls so that meant lots of dresses. When a friend introduced me to quilting,it opened up a whole new world of enjoyment. I have learned that detail and perserverance are so important. I am no expert but this has been fun and you can let your creativity flourish. There is so much to learn and enjoy. I hope you can experience the joy. I want to teach my granddaughter to quilt. She has been with me creating her own masterpieces on the floor with the scraps. One day she told my daughter, ” I don’t quilt very well. Nana is real good at quilting. Maybe when I’m four I will quilt good!” I look forward to passing on the joy.

  10. I am so happy to hear that your grandmother taught you how to sew. My grandmother was a master seamstress and tailor out of necessity. My grandfather had a tailor shop in downtown Newark, New Jersey and as immigrants, they worked hard at what they did to make a better life for their children. Sewing was not something she did for fun or passed on, unfortunately. She could construct garments by looking at an example..no pattern. She could knit the same way. I taught myself what little I know about sewing. I had three girls so that meant lots of dresses. When a friend introduced me to quilting,it opened up a whole new world of enjoyment. I have learned that detail and perserverance are so important. I am no expert but this has been fun and you can let your creativity flourish. There is so much to learn and enjoy. I hope you can experience the joy. I want to teach my granddaughter to quilt. She has been with me creating her own masterpieces on the floor with the scraps. One day she told my daughter, ” I don’t quilt very well. Nana is real good at quilting. Maybe when I’m four I will quilt good!” I look forward to passing on the joy.

  11. I am a quilter. There are no other quilters in my family. Never have been. I wish I could do other types of sewing (like you do), but it’s hard enough for me to follow directions on a quilting pattern, nevermind anything else. Quilting is so much fun!!! You should try it! 🙂

  12. YES, I am a quilter and late coming to it. I took a class 2 years ago and haven’t looked back. I spent my teen and young adult years crafting my own clothing, often tailoring jackets out of plaids, just so I could match the pattern. I started a decorating business at age 36 and put sewing aside for many years. Now, as I am nearing retirement, I look to quilting as my new passion. Take a class, you will love it! Carol

  13. I am not a quilter, either. I do remember as a child, going with my grandmother to quilting bees. I made 2 very small quilts last year for my now 1-year old great grandson. Maybe I’ll do more, who knows? But I love to look at quilting mags and dream!

  14. Memories of Grandmas and Quilts! I too am not a quilter, but wish I were. I have in my possession a quilt from my Grandma that is covered with tulips. Each block is different color tulips on a creamy white background. All so finely hand stitched that it amazes me every time I look at it. I love quilts and wish i could own more handmade ones. The few I have I treasure deeply.
    My Best,
    Tracey

  15. As the sports logo goes Just Do It, you already know how to measure cut and sew so are halfway there. Take a class and make sure the first one you make is an easy design you love (don’t start with the double wedding ring). I too learned to sew from my Grandmother who could make a dress from a picture shown to her I need a pattern but do love to quilt. After 15 years my favorite design is the log cabin because it uses up my scraps and depending on how you place your blocks can look different each time. I do not hand sew and prefer machine quilting for its strength and beauty but to each her own.

  16. I am a mother of two ‘speacial needs’ children. I made several baby & twin sized quuilts for them when they were younger. Then I moved onto making those adorable Daisy Kingdom dresses for my daughter. Now they are grown & in college, I am back to making quilts for my home & ‘show’ quilts. My daughter is an artist and has asked me to teach her how to make quilts based on her artwork! ! 🙂

  17. I want to be a quilter like many members of my family are. My husband and I were given wedding present of an exquisitely hand-sewn quilt from three of my cousins with whom I had grown up. I know I’ll never be able to hand-sew a quilt due to arthritis and repetitive motion injury, but I can sew on the sewing machine for short period of time. I’ve practiced quilting by making mug rugs and large pads for putting hot dishes on. I’ve progressed to hemming knit pants andd t-shirts. I know I can sew a quilt if I start on a small wall hanging for practice…and if I can find the time. I’m 69 and in my third semester of college, working on an associate degree in Business Administrative Assistant. I was one for 25 years and now want the piece of paper! Thanks for your post. It encourages me to get started on quilting.

  18. I’m a knitter. Many of my knitting friends are quilters. I’d like to start, but don’t want quilting to interfere with my knitting! My yarn stash is already way to large, so I cannot accumulate fabric to that degree – won’t – no way, no how. How do you experienced quilters suggest I begin? Thanks in advance, I think!

  19. I made garments for 20 years–formals, suits, men’s pants, wedding dresses, children clothing–before I started quilting. I have found that quilts always fit no matter how much weight I gain or lose; there are no zippers or set in sleeves, I can use colors I love, but would never wear, and the quilts never go out of style. Occasionally, I’ll still dip my toe in the garment waters, but I always go back to quilts.

  20. Quilting was never in my vocabulary until very recently. I am 65 and stopped working fulltime so there was more “free” time. My husband and I inherited quilts from several generations on his side of family and I inherited my mothers old pfaff (which I struggled mightily with when learning to sew). SO I have started sewing lap quilts and some clothing and find that sewing is finally making sense and it’s really fun now. New techiques, etc. make it much easier. I also found out that the old pfaff 130 had issues with the tension due to design flaws (not me!). Your “sewing daily” and many other websites, blogs, youtube video’s help SO MUCH. Thank You!

  21. Be careful what you wish for! I know of one person who “no longer” quilts, and I have heard that there are others. But there are uncountable numbers of people who now are passionate quilters and “no longer” do whatever they did before quilting. For the vast majority of us, quilting is “it,” a passion, a devotion, an addiction that meets an inner need in a way that nothing else does. So be careful! Be prepared to love it to the exclusion of all else and live happily ever after! So what are you waiting for?

  22. I made a few baby quilts on my own as gifts in the 70’s but took my first quilting course in the fall of 1984. When we were at my parents’ home that Christmas, our 10-yr old daughter noticed the quilt on her bed; it was the shoefly pattern and one block had fabric of little Indian girl faces with braids – just too cute for words.

    I have since gotten that quilt plus one with blocks pieced by my maternal great-grandmother in the 1880’s and assembled by my grandmother in the 1940’s. It is a treasure and it has been posted on the Alliance for American Quilts in their Save Our Quilts program – include my name (Mary Green) in your google search.

    Now I like to think of myself as a quilter. I’ve machine pieced and quilted many lapquilts and baby quilts for gifts and done several t-shirt quilts for teens going off to college (for our daughter and my godson and his siblings).

  23. I love your stories! I also am not a quilter – yet – and admire the patience and artistic talent of quilters.

    In today’s article you mention your Scotch-Irish ancestors. Being married to a man of Scottish ancestry I learned early on not to say “Scotch-Irish” but instead say Scottish-Irish or Scots-Irish. I was told scotch is a drink; a Scot is a person. Just thought you’d like to know.

    Keep up your wonderful stories.

  24. I am a quilter that loves it but never has enough time. My husband even bought me a gracie quilting frame that uses my sewing machine to quit them with it is so much better than the old way.

  25. I too was only a garment and couture seamstress. But now, in my mid fifties, I have tried a quilt or two and found that I LOVE it!!! It satisfies my need for design, both in color and content/subject matter. Try it soon! You’ll wish you did sooner.

  26. I love your story, Amber, especially the part about the picture you’ve hung over your sewing machine. My parents did not value family history at all, and consequently I have very few things even from my own childhood (‘not using it- out it goes!’), and nothing at all from my grandparents. I have been trying to interest my own children in collecting even just a few precious family/personal pieces, but they are resisting strenuously!! (Must be genetic… :-[ )

  27. I make memory quilts for people who need them as well as personal quilts for family members. I taught myself how to quilt with the help of some people on a yahoo quilting group. Any time I had a question someone would always give me a good answer. My grandmother, mother and all of mother’s sisters knew how to quilt but most did not bother to teach their daughters this craft. Take it one step at a time and don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong.

  28. Oh, how I want to be. I actually started a very simple quilt 20 years ago to give to my daughter on her 16th birthday (she is now 37). It is hanging on a quilt rack in by bedroom with the quilted part showing…I just need time and great instructions. I am a lover of hand-sewing, have always been. I enjoy hemming, mending, anything I can do with my hands, which is why I love crocheting as I can do it while reading as I am a divinity school student, who is also a fulltime employee, pastor of a small church, a mother to two wonderful daughters, grandmother to three little girls and a wife. My time is precious, but I still have a yearning to learn to quilt well!

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