My quilting story

Recently, I joined a Yahoo! group for people who own the Brother DreamWeaver sewing/embroidery machine. I don’t currently own this machine, but in March, I plan to buy the DreamCreator, which is one step down from the DreamWeaver. I was asked to provide a bit of background on myself there, and it started me to thinking about how I got into quilting. I thought I’d share the story here, because I don’t know if I’ve ever really told it before. But stop me if you’ve heard this one before …

In September 1999, I celebrated my eighth wedding anniversary with my husband. Things weren’t perfect between us; we’d had our problems, but ever the optimistic wife, I was certain things would continue to get better between us. We had two young children, a daughter who was six at the time, and a son who’d just turned five the previous month. My husband held my hand, looked into my eyes that night and said, “I’m glad we’ve stuck it out because I think things will finally start to turn around for us. I love you.” Two weeks later, he had moved out of the house, confessing to an affair, and I was left scared and alone with two small kids and a temporary job that didn’t nearly cover all the bills. Two weeks after that, I started a new job making considerably more money and he came back (coincidence? Maybe … or maybe not). At any rate, by the end of January 2000, it was over for good, and I was quickly turning into a workaholic as a way to keep myself from thinking about everything. I would go to work at 6 am after dropping the kids at daycare, pick them up around 5:30-ish, go home, make dinner, spend time with them doing homework and baths and a little tv before their bedtime at 8 pm, then work from the time the kids went to bed until midnight, when I’d go to bed myself. A few months later, the kids and I moved from that house to a townhouse closer to my parents, and in the fall of 2001, right after the World Trade Center buildings fell, I attended my first International Quilt Festival with my mom and a friend of hers. (After this point, I’m a little fuzzy on the timeline. I can’t recall if I made my first quilt using the MW machine mentioned below, or my Brother machine – in fact, I can’t recall exactly when I bought the Brother; it was either 2002 or 2003, but I can’t recall exactly. I want to say 2002 but I don’t have any photos to back that up. I have a photo of my first quilt that I’ve filed in 2003 photos, but the digital image doesn’t have a date attached, so it could have been a year earlier; I’m just not sure. I’d ask my mom but … HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! I love her but memory is not her strong suit.)

I’d never made a quilt, or even had a lot of interest in sewing, though I thought it would be cool to make a quilt. I don’t remember taking any photos at that first show – I probably didn’t think there was a reason to take photos, and probably didn’t realize that I COULD take photos if I wanted to – but I walked away in awe of the talent and skill that was represented in that convention center. At that point, I had a hand me down Montgomery Ward machine from my mom that I used to repair items and I’d made a couple of pairs of shorts with it, but nothing as big as a quilt. My mom made all my clothing growing up but she’d only made one or two quilts, and I recall that it seemed to be a daunting process. In either 2002 or 2003, I used my work bonus (or maybe it was my tax return) to buy a used Brother PC-8500 sewing/embroidery combination machine. I think I made my first quilt on that machine, but … maybe not. It could have been the Montgomery Ward machine …

What I DO remember, very clearly, is walking into the local quilt shop (LQS) and telling the girl that I wanted to learn how to quilt. She said, “Sure! Let’s get you signed up for a class.” I said, “No, I don’t have time for a class; I just need a book that has clear directions.” She responded with, “But you can’t learn to quilt like that! You really need a class!” After reiterating that I wasn’t taking a class, she finally went to the bookshelves and pulled out Alex Anderson’s learn to quilt book. I chose a pattern and we picked out some fabric, and after paying for my purchases as I was walking out, the girl that had helped me said, “We’ll be waiting to sign you up for classes when you can’t do it on your own!” The following week, I took my completed quilt back to the shop to show that I could indeed learn to quilt without taking a class.

The first quilt I ever made. A nine patch.

The first quilt I ever made. A nine patch.

It’s not exactly a great quilt. It has a couple of places where the material didn’t get caught in the seam, and the squares aren’t consistently sized. But it was DONE and I did it without a class.

From that point on, my house was never the same again. I began collecting fabrics, and making quilts. I don’t even have photos of all the quilts I’ve made, and I lost count many years ago. It’s great therapy for me, and it keeps me from completely losing my mind. Through raising kids, getting married again, stressful jobs and personal situations, quilting has helped me balance everything.

Being in the studio is a great way to spend an afternoon.

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