My Mom Was Not a Quilter

My mom was not a quilter. She sewed garments-and with four daughters, she did a lot of sewing. She taught me at an early age to make my own skirts and dresses. Over the years, I also developed a love for sewing bags, curtains, and small gifts.

Yikes! Quilts have a lot of pieces.

I am not a proud quilter. I use stickies
to remind myself when I've gone astray.
(Future potholder fodder….) 
The top needs a final pressing and
then I'm ready to start quilting. 
Pattern: Bloomin' Steps
from Hummingbird Highway.

When I had my two daughters, I sewed frequently for them. Even though they are now adults, I continue to sew for them. Last month I stitched them matching summer shirts—which were well received.

As you can imagine, working for Stitch has been a daily delight.

But, growing up, I didn't know any quilters. My grandmother knit extensively. (As do I.) My sisters and I dabbled in every craft that passed along-macramé, cross-stitch, needlepoint, and ceramic painting. However, no quilting.

Then, about ten years ago, I found myself adrift in a sea of quilters. Even though I was very adept at setting in sleeves, I knew nothing about sashes and borders and echo quilting.

So I set out to learn. I took a few classes at my local quilt store, bought some books, and began to quilt. First a few small lap quilts, then a placemat, and finally a full-size quilt.

I loved the fabrics and I found I loved the process. I moved gracefully from setting in two sleeves to creating 160 (Yes! 160!) half-square triangles. After years of working with 5/8" seams, I learned to make a precise ¼" seam.

And now I am transitioning from Stitch to Quilting Arts here at Interweave. I've recently accepted the position as managing editor for the Quilt Group, which includes Quilting Arts, Modern Patchwork, and QuiltScene, as well as Quilting Arts TV.

It is hard to say goodbye to my daily interaction with the Stitch community, but Amber has promised me a few guest blogs, so I'll be back to visit soon enough.

And if there is anything I have learned, it is that one of the best ways to learn is to watch an expert. If you're interested in making a great bag, check out Linda Lee's new DVD, How to Sew a Bag that's Sturdy + Stylish.

Clothes or quilts—which came first for you? I'd love to know!

Happy stitching … and quilting!


Other sewing topics you may enjoy:



21 thoughts on “My Mom Was Not a Quilter

  1. Rose,
    Congratulations on your new adventure!
    I learned to sew clothes first. I took a class at a Singer Sewing Cemter and made a pretty complicated sundress and went on to make my own clothes and many outfits for my daughters.
    As you probably already know, quilters tend to be able to form communities easier than those of us who make clothes but you will often see both sides of the spectrum in the groups.

  2. My grandfather was a Singer dealer and all the women in my family sewed. I grew up watching them make wonderful clothes and could hardly wait until I was old enough to sew too! So clothes came first for me. My grandmother and mother also quilted too, but the quilt bug did not bit me until my kids were in their teens! Now I am an addict and only make clothing once in a while . . . Quilting Forever, Housework Whenever!

  3. I sewed garments first, mostly dresses and nightgowns for my daughter, then I discovered patchwork quilting and made quilts for about 20 years. I am now sewing garments again, this time for precious granddaughters. I know sew nightgowns, robes and dresses and a few jumpers too. Sewing is a joy for me.

  4. My mother was not a quilter, either! She made clothes for us (3 girls & 1 boy). I started making clothes also. Now I’m an avid quilter! Thank you for your great articles, they are always interesting!

  5. I was making mine & my sister’s clothes by the time I was in the 4th grade but didn’t find quilting until wanting to find a group while my husband was in the military. I still belong to one of those groups even though my husband has retired from the Army. I am working on my blocks for our yearly swap.

  6. I too had a mother who sewed garments for we three girls. My grandmother quilted and I quilted on her quilts as did all her grands. I didn’t start quilting until the late 1990’s when I took a class. Now I sew many things and do all kinds of needle crafts.

  7. Like you, I came from a clothing background to quilting. Mom made all my clothes (or I would have been naked!) but she did not quilt. Her mother quilted and wasn’t a very good seamstress. I have done a lot of the other crafts and finally tried quilting. Now I have the 1/4″ seam down pat (thanks to a nifty foot) and can deal with squares, triangles, hexagons, strips, octagons and everything else that comes down the quilter’s path. Haven’t made myself anything to wear in ages (maybe because it is easier to inset a triangle than it is fit my body).

  8. Clothes came first. I started sewing as a teenager, and 50 years later, now still sewing clothes for my daughter and 2 granddaughters. However, 3 years ago, I met a group of quilters and got bit by the quilting bug! Still working on the 1/4″ seam. That is a transition from 5/8″.

  9. Clothes came first. I took a class at the Singer Sewing Center in Boston summer. It was fun and frustrating. I learned after sewing my bust dart that waffle pique can be difficult to work with when you sew the dart on the wrong side. What did I know at 13? From there I sewed my own clothes and many, many outfits for my daughter. Now that I am much older, quilting is now my “thing.”

  10. Clothes came first for me, way back in 1954 with sewing lessens at Singer Sewing Machine Co, Been sewing ever since. I always knew I’d make a quilt some day then when I discovered rotary cutting a couple years ago I knew the day had arrived. Been quilting ever since. Good luck in your new job.

  11. Congrats on your move! Like you, I started out with my mother sewing all sorts of things for both myself and helping her do home dec projects (amazing how vividly I recall making yards and yards of cording for new slipcovers!). She was not a quilter, yet did most everything else wonderfully. I loved that she would make clothes for me that were unique. Then I sewed for me, my daughter, and a few relatives — until I woke up one morning and decided I wanted to be a quilter! Never looked back. I have found that you can do almost anything with a multitude of fabric types. It’s been a wonderful journey, and I keeping making turns along the way!

  12. I began sewing doll dresses by hand at age 5-6. I would lay my doll on the newspaper and cut out patterns. I was in junior high school when I took home ec and began sewing for myself. My Mom taught me most of all. She sewed all my clothes for as long as I can remember. I would pick out the material and tell her just how I wanted the garment to look. She would “create” by using different patterns. Great Grandma, Grandma & Mom all quilted. That’s what you did with all the scraps from all those clothes!. At age 61 I began quilting, too. With all the new techniques and rotary cutters I’m hooked. I also knit and crochet. You are never too old to learn! I’m now trying to learn to make my own patterns!! I’m loving retirement!!

  13. I learned to sew clothing and accessories when I was twelve and continued to sew all of my clothes through high school. As an adult I enjoyed sewing clothing for my children too. Although I’ve always had a fascination in quilts, I didn’t make my first quilt until my children were teens and I’m so glad I did because it gives me so much pleasure to see my friends and family enjoy my gifts.

    Good luck in your new position.

  14. Hi Rose – [sewing first/quilting MUCH later]
    My Mom did some sewing in part out of necessity and in part because she enjoyed textiles and is a very pragmatic person. I remember her making me a fine woolen coat in a muted gray/blue with pewter buttons for Christmas when I was 5. I heard her sewing machine humming away on Christmas Eve and I remember thinking “what is she making?’ She did not teach me to sew, but did take me to fabric stores where I too was drawn to fabric. My Grandmother [French Canadian] was a knitter & a smocker of fine baby clothes, and I deeply admired her work. She did not teach me to sew. Someone gave me one of those little sets of cotton crosstich – maybe some doll-sized napkins and placemats, and I asked – probably my mother – how to crosstich. She showed me [I was maybe 9 or 10]. In a couple of years I was doing fine crewel & embroidery, and I was in Junior High where I took Home Economics. THAT is where I learned to sew. Oddly enough, I recently became interested in Art Quilting/Free Motion and I had a small Art Quilting studio with a partner. Very visual and creative technique! Yes, watch a skilled person in anything done by hand and it is like learning a language! Susan C. Burghes

  15. Clothes were first for me at age 8 I started sewing with my Mom. But my great grandmother quilted and did it all by hand. She used leftover fabrics and made a lot of quilts for all of her grand children and great grandchildren (and there were a lot of them). When she passed we found about 10-15 quilt tops or squares that were never finished. My mother had them all finished, either by her or friends so all of the great great grandchildren could have a quilt. My mother started quilting then and about 3 years ago I decided that I should start since all the kids were grown and I knew that I would start having grandchildren and wanted to be able to give them something to have forever. I have started with making quilts for my daughter and 4 step kids and hope to make enough for them to have some for their kids when they ever start a family.

  16. Congratulations on your new move! Clothes was first for me. I come from a family of clothing sewers – my dad a tailor, my aunts(2) sewed samples for 7th avenue sample rooms – so I learned lots about structure and putting garments together. Then I went to cloth dolls where I love the costuming part and now art quilts.

  17. Sewing came first for me. My aunts sewed outfits for me and my dolls when I was little. Took Home Ec all through junior and high school. Then took stretch and sew in the 70’s and made everything I wore from the skin out. Saw a quilt in a magazine 1972 of Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs. tried to copy it. Not my best effort- used a regular bed sheet for the back ground and rick rack for pizazz–. gave it up. Then in 1991 took a log cabin in a day class and since then have been hooked on cutting up fabric and sewing the pieces together.

  18. I started with clothing, because I have a daughter and wanted to make dresses, I would allow her to wear. Then I had a son within that same year I did a quilt for him!