May 27, 2015

My First Quilt - The Story

As a child, I learned to sew clothes from my mom.  We kept all the scraps in a cardboard box near the sewing machine on the bottom shelf, and she told me we would make a quilt someday.  She even collected some Aunt Martha quilt pattern pamphlets.

That's as far as she and I ever got, but the "someday" kept echoing in my head.  After college, while doing data entry on a primatology project, I took a little 6-week intro to quilting class.  I made a pillow. I was needing something colorful and handy to entertain myself while "waiting" for the huge "mainframe" computer to return my "output".  Ancient concepts now.  The year was 1978.

After the class, I figured I could tackle making a quilt on my own.  I really wanted to make a log cabin.  I eventually decided against that though, since I couldn't figure out how to divide all the multi-colored pieces into a pile of lights and a pile of darks.

I eventually settled on a pattern called Grandmother's Cross that I found in Ruby McKim's classic book 101 Patchwork Patterns.  I thought it would be so cool to use two coordinating fabrics in each block.  I used most of the fabrics twice, being super careful to use each one once in the inner 9-patch and once in the outer pieces, and each time paired with a different fabric.
And later on, I came up with the cool idea to sort of echo the patchwork pattern in the layout of the blocks.

I chose dark green, my favorite color, for the main color.  I went to the store and bought the best dark green I could find, a kettle cloth, a sturdy and stiff polyester blend.  I would later learn that this wasn't the best choice for hand quilting.  I ended up tying the quilt instead of quilting it.  I also didn't buy enough, so the quilt ended up with two different dye lots of kettle cloth.

Sitting at the "computing center" stitching every day, I became kind of famous.  In fact, that's kind of what attracted my husband - I guess wondering about this curious person who was sewing somedays and learning hieroglyphics on others.  Well, there's a lesson in not being afraid to look a little odd!

I tied off the quilt around 1980 or so.  The back fabric, pattern nicknamed pawprint, is testament to that date.  It was available then in pretty much any color under the sun.  We use the quilt all the time, and I've had to make some repairs, but not too many.

The binding is very special to me, so I'm sad that it's giving out.  My mom decorated my bedroom when I was young of course.  And, (sorry Mommy!) I never liked her color choices at all.  At All.  When I was in high school, I was given the chance to redecorate.  The binding is made from my curtain fabric.  Notice that it is, of course, green.  It dates to about 1969.

The following post has photos of individual blocks and the dates of the fabrics as I can best remember them.

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