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Friday, January 7, 2011

From Quitter to Quilter: Making My First Quilt

From Quitter to Quilter: Making My First Quilt

The first memory I have of me even touching a sewing machine was a scary one. It was a crisp October day in middle school, 8th grade to be exact, when I found out that I had to make an apron in my Home Economics class. That had to be one of the most frightening moments in my middle school career. I was right. I was literally scared of the sewing machine. I trembled with fear as I sat down in front of the old sewing machine. Not only was the sewing machine old, but it was fast and loud. I was looking like a poor little deer caught in headlights. The first few sewing classes were filled with drills, sort of like a series of "get to know your machine" classes. For me, even the orientation classes were difficult. I couldn't sew a straight line, I had trouble keeping the fabric still, and I was always jamming up the needle in the needle plate. I felt hopeless. In my 8th grade Home Economics class we had two sewing assignments, an apron and a sweater. Needless to say, I didn't complete either assignment. I left my 8th grade Home Economics class "knowing" in my heart that I would never touch a sewing machine again. That was 18 years ago.

Fast-Forward 16 years and my life took a turn I never thought it would take. I relocated, and as a result needed to find a job. I have no doubt I landed the job because I had strong customer service skills. Trust me, I did not get hired because I had wonderful sewing skills (this was a store that catered to sewers and crafters). I am grateful, however, that I am a quick learner. Being a quick learner is what kept me employed. Here was an opportunity to conquer my fear of sewing machines. My first project was sewing a simple gathered rod pocket curtain. I must say I did pretty good. As time progressed, I learned embroidery. Through embroidery is how I ended up learning how to quilt.

Ah, Quilting! My first experience with quilting came through an idea my boss had about sewing dog and cat beds and donating them to our local Humane Society. The beds didn't have to be perfect; just unique and cute. I began experiencing with different feet and quilting techniques, and from there I knew I was ready to make my first quilt. It was November 2008, and the store's Christmas shipment had come in. Among the countless supplies was a book titled "12 Days of Christmas" by Nancy Halvorsen, which contained the pattern I used to make my first quilt. I chose that pattern because it wasn't a complex quilt, but instead, it had clean lines and consisted of squares and rectangles. Of course, I can't leave out the fact that it was an embroidered quilt. Embroidery was my first love in terms of sewing. By the time I made my first quilt, I had been teaching embroidery classes for a few months. Making the quilt was quite a new experience for me.

Deciding to make my first quilt took guts. I was still unsure of my skills, but I wanted to see what I could do. I found the process to be an enjoyable one. I relished in every step: picking out the fabric, cutting out the pieces, embroidering the squares, to hand-sewing the binding. I couldn't believe I had it in me to do. Every part of the process belonged to me. I made some mistakes along the way. I had to take out a few stitches, re-cut some embroidered squares, and I even had to redo some embroidered squares (due to them not being centered properly). What I learned along the way was that if I stayed calm, embraced my mistakes, learned how to fix them, ask questions to those who know more than I did, and be patient with myself- I would have better success in completing the quilt. Oh, and I need to give credit where credit is due: the 1/4" patchwork foot is a Godsend to any quilter, whether you are a beginner or advanced quilter. The 1/4" patchwork quilt saved my life because I still have trouble sewing a straight line.

Once the quilt was completed and hung, customers could not believe that a first time quilter had made the quilt. I must say it was quite an accomplishment.

If you are thinking about making your first quilt or if you are a beginner, I am here to tell you- if I can do it, you can do it. Remember, this is coming from someone who said that they would never sew again.

Happy Quilting,

Barbara Grant

No Longer Sewing/ Quilt Challenged