A brief interlude or Fanfare

Folks, I had to break from my so called storyline to write a few words  about my latest project.  I’m doing this on the iPad, so it should be brief.

Amongst the items I found at Mom’s house was a box with a bunch of 5″ Grandmother’s fan blocks.  Although I’m not certain, I believe my Grandmother did them.  I have a fan quilt I know she made in the 30’s or 40’s, because Mom had it in a bag with a card saying who made it and when.  These blocks I found are exactly like the blocks in the finished quilt only 1/2 inch smaller and with pink as the bottom part of the fan instead of peach. Words can not do this quilt justice, so here it is.



For over two years, these blocks have been in the back of my mind as a project I desperately want to complete.   I worked on washing these little blocks hoping to remove some of the stains and yellowing and embroidered the edges of  some of the blocks that had the fan basted on but not finished.   I also made many other quilts, seeming always to have some other project that needed to be finished before I could get on to this one.


Finally, there has been a lull, and I was able to come up with a couple designs and make a decision on the pattern.  I have now completed sewing half of the quilt top together and proceeded to lay the rest out on my bed so I could make the stacks of blocks to sew.


Many nights, I browse eBay looking at vintage quilt tops, even bidding on a few. I haven’t won any yet.  I must have good taste because the ones I bid on usually go for more than I can afford.  For me, there’s something about finishing a project that started 20, 30, 40, or 50 or more years ago.


As I viewed this laid out display, tears came to my eyes, out of the blue and a bit unexpected, but not because of the breathtaking design, though it is.  Even though I have a few more vintage quilt tops of my Mom’s to finish, this is the only one of my Grandmother’s projects I get to complete and who even knows when it was started?  Despite the fact that I’m still not 100% sure they were her blocks, I feel connected to her as I’m sewing, and know I will also as I’m quilting it.


Perhaps you, too, can feel connected by this preview:





I don’t care about spots, stains, or yellowing. This is going to be a beautiful quilt. And somewhere in the quilting, I’ll place the words, “In Memory of, and partially made by, my Grandmother, Clara Niemann.”


QTip#4 – Quilting can be emotional.


Why I’m a machine quilter.

Now, even though my Mom and Grandmas and probably even Great-Grandmas were hand quilters, you may wonder why I chose to forge into the 21st century and become a machine quilter. Maybe not, but if you are interested, my story follows.

After I decided to become a quilter, albeit a temporary one, I recall not even thinking about doing it by machine because that just isn’t how it was done, back in the day. Maybe there was a small part of me that wanted to carry on the hand quilting tradition, after all. After deciding that I must complete at least my own and my dad’s quilt, and maybe a couple others, I selected the tools to try my new craft, to try my hand at what would, supposedly, become a future tradition, and an easy task.

Now, I remember well how difficult it was to do my first crochet projects, so I knew there would be a learning curve. I remember the process well. First, I selected a small swatch of fabric I was sure I’d never want to use on any quilt “I” would ever make (red and gray cotton plaid). With one of mom’s between needles in hand, a big embroidery hoop, batting and backing in place, quilting thread properly knotted on the end, wearing one of the myriad thimbles mom had collected over the years on my middle finger, I attempted my first few stitches. This was so much harder than I remember the quilting ladies at the church group made it look, bent over the quilt as I walked in to say “Hello”, and they went on their merry way quilting along, and talking at the same time!

As I sat there, I tried to recall their movements. Surely, I was missing something. Think, Sue, think, how did they do it? For the life of me, all I could remember is them quilting along, knotting, tying off and loading a new needle as if done by some kind of magic, never missing a beat, or even a syllable as they talked, up, down, up, down, perfect little stitches. Hmm, one never to back away from a challenge, I forged on.

After half an hour and having only achieved about 6-8 inches of quilting, and not good quality at that, I set it aside and realized, it would potentially, at this rate, take me a year to complete one quilt, let alone the many potential projects for myself, my dad, and the family. It was then I started searching for a different way.

How did I stumble upon the term “free-motion quilting” – I don’t really remember now. Maybe I was searching YouTube videos on quilting tutorials. I am only certain that I browsed the internet with a passion for learning and found the idea – “Hey, maybe I can do this by machine!”

But, even after watching a couple of YouTube videos on that topic, I still wasn’t convinced I could do either hand or machine quilting. I searched with fervor, machine quilting or free-motion quilting, a rather new term to me; because I was sure that I could never make all the quilts I wanted to make by hand quilting.

It took much more research than I care to admit, and a couple more attempts at hand-quilting, and watching supposed tutorials on free motion quilting, before I found the Free-Motion Quilting Project, Leah Day, on either her web-site, blog, or YouTube. http://freemotionquilting.blogspot.com/

I just have to say that it was her well narrated tutorials, her attitude of “do whatever works for you”, her using polyester embroidery thread instead of cotton, not dropping the feed dogs, and just her general attitude that anyone could quilt on a domestic sewing machine that allowed me the courage to attempt free-motion quilting. Never one to shy away from a certain challenge (did I say that before?), I slapped together a quilt sandwich, purchased a free motion foot, and went to town on my $99 Sears Kenmore sewing machine. Particularly, I remember Leah’s site being helpful because she mentioned the notion that you didn’t have to drop or cover up the feed dogs, and I didn’t know where the drop feed dogs was, or even if I had one, on my Kenmore.

I attempted the basic stippling, and my stiches were rather un-uniform. I skipped stiches, went too fast, went to slow, moved the fabric too little or too much, but after doing about an 18” x 18” piece, I wanted to try another. It was at this junction, when I was changing a bobbin, that I found the drop feed dogs on my machine. Wala! I was in business now! I slapped together another small quilt sandwich from scraps I never thought I would use, and went at it again. This time, I had a bit more confidence; after all, I’d already done one 18” x 18” piece!

I noticed right away that this needle down thing was kind of important, because I didn’t have it. Still, I learned to stop and put the needle down before repositioning my hands on the fabric, even though it was a pain in the you know what. I learned that I needed more space in the throat or harp of the machine almost immediately, even on the 18 x 18 swatches. Having no choice in the matter, as I wasn’t going to purchase a new machine just to figure this free motion stuff out, I trudged on.

After a couple more quilt sandwiches, I was ready to do an actual quilt. Now, I didn’t have anything particular in mind, and I wasn’t going to attempt mine or Dad’s queen-sized quilts first off, but my Mom had in her stash a yard of fabric that was what I thought, a cheater panel. Actually, it was to make pillows or something, but it had four squares with pumpkins on black, I thought, wouldn’t that make a nice lap blanket. I had already learned about lap blankets from Aunt Liz while giving some of Mom’s stuff away, as she took a little 36” x 36” bow tie number to “make into a lap blanket for the nursing home”.

I found some appropriate backing, orange, of course, and made a quilt sandwich with some of the batting Mom had in her stash. I outlined the pumpkins, did stippling on the center parts, slapped on a binding doing everything pretty much wrong. I can’t remember all the details, but let’s just say I should have watched more videos on everything before I attempted anything! In hindsight, I figured, it would make a nice nursing home lap blanket, and those old folks wouldn’t care or wouldn’t be able to see the horrible quilting, binding, or stitching. I was rather proud of myself for having made “a quilt” even if small and I was being charitable to boot!

Autumn lap blanket

Now, I had two quilts to do, but I still didn’t think I was ready for one of those, so I did another lap blanket. This one was also a cheater type panel, with four cats. They had some cross stitching on them, so I took them to my embroidery hoop and decided I would make a lap blanket for Ashley, because she loved kitties. I cross-stitched them in the colors of her current kitties and a couple we had in the past. After doing that, I found a nice piece of old, white, really soft cotton to use for the back, some batting, and made another sandwich.

Kitty lap blanket

This time, I had a probably 100 yards of quilting under my belt, so I was confident I could do a decent job. Even though this lap blanket wasn’t perfect, I learned quite a bit from the first one making this one at least 10 times better. I did a much better job on the quilting and the binding, naturally, of course, watching even more tutorials before I did these finishing touches.

On to my quilt, because I didn’t want to ruin the leaf blocks my Mom had done (for my Dad’s quilt), and it was quite a challenge. My Kenmore has a whole 6” throat space, and this is a queen size quilt. Regardless, once again, I learned a lot, tried out a few things, stitch in the ditch, shadowing, and even drew on some quilt designs with washable markers and stencil templates.

My embroidered quilt

Still not ready to buy a new machine, though I had scoped out a specific one with a 9” throat, I moved on to Dad’s quilt. Also a queen size, this time, I was able to manage better, but I knew, this Kenmore’s days were numbered for free motion quilting, or any quilting over a throw size.


Then, onto my son’s strip quilt, which was all stitch in the ditch, and even being a full size, was beyond the true scope of my Kenmore. However, I was able to complete it, and even add a nice zig zag clef, as it was a musical quilt.

Musical strip quilt

One more quilt top Mom had finished on the Kenmore, also a queen size, and at this time, I was ready to call myself a machine quilter and get something that would make the task much easier. Ah, but that’s a story for another post.

25 Patch

Q-Tip #4 – The rules in quilting – there are no rules and there are no quilting police.

Actually, some would say there are rules, but they are more like “guidelines”, and some with very good reason. After all, if you are making a quilt to last, following certain quilting and care guidelines will add to the longevity of the quilt. While no one is out there to arrest you or put you in quilter’s jail for anything you do differently than you “should” or what is considered “good quilting” or “the normal way” – don’t be afraid to buck the system to do “what works best for you.” Because my machine didn’t like cotton thread and I didn’t know where the feed dogs were, that one phrase truly allowed me the license to become the fairly savvy machine quilter I am today.

So, there you have it – I am a machine quilter because basically I CAN do it! I was able to pick it up fairly quickly or maybe I was just determined to “get it” so I could get on to the true matter at hand – not whether the quilt was quilted by hand or by machine – but finishing quilt tops into actual quilts.

My First Quilt – The final saga

Thank you for sticking with me. I promise I will answer the question about what really is my first quilt by the end of this post. Perhaps I was procrastinating, because I knew the story was going to take an emotional turn, maudlin, sentimental, and even a bit melancholy. I’ve already had to stop writing a couple times because I couldn’t see through the tears. Don’t say I didn’t warn you to have tissues handy.

Stall tactics aside, now continues the saga of the first quilt.

Sadly, as it turns out, the passé-partout, the master key, to my first completed quilt began with my Mom first and then Grandma (Mom’s mom) both passing in February 2008, in the same week. It wasn’t then, but later, that I regretted not talking to them about quilting in more depth. My teenage years, 20’s, 30’s and part of my 40’s were spent in pursuit of other ventures. I was busy being the typical teenager, raising my children, moving (a lot), crocheting, working, scrapbooking, etc. – anything it seems, but not quilting, not even sewing together one quilt block. I never asked them to teach me how to quilt or talked to them about how they learned or even if they really enjoyed it or why. The few times over those years that I visited them or the quilting group at the church educational building, my interest in learning this art for myself was not piqued. Even as I sat at one funeral, then another that week, it didn’t occur to me to mourn for the void that would now be present in our family – not just for their mere presence, but that with them that week, perhaps died a special family tradition that may never continue in our family again.

Now, Mom was and there’s no gentle say of saying this, a pack rat. Before and when she died, the house would have made a good episode of Hoarders. Shortly after the cold dirt was heaped on my grandmother’s grave, my siblings and I started the process of pitching, sorting, storing, giving away, recycling, and even burning the vast majority of the accumulated, to us, mess. I think we were pushed on by the shock of Mom’s quick and unexpected passing, or maybe it was just a coping mechanism. We’d, each of us, at one point or another since the collecting started in the late 70’s, talked to her about it, tried to help clean some, or even threw something away when she wasn’t looking. Needless to say, we now knew we could do as we wanted for so many years. I knew that in the back of each of our minds was the terrible but true notion that if we could no longer make a difference for her, we could do it for Dad.

It took the entire family, my dad, my four siblings and I, a couple years to get the house cleaned up. We were at least organized enough to box things up in categories, so all of the glassware in many boxes, knick knacks in another, and all of the material and quilting supplies had its own packaging. Particularly, we separated out the quilt tops that were finished. For four years, these boxes sat in a room over Dad’s garage. At that point, I decided I was ready to proceed out of the mourning period and that we were never going to have that yard sale my sister swore would happen after year two or three. Knowing that we’d never sell those quilts anyway, I headed up to the garage and got that box out. I brought it home, went through it, and posted pictures of all the quilts on Facebook for family and friends to choose what they would like to inherit. After that was divvied up, I’m still not sure what possessed me, but I brought all the boxes of quilting, crochet and material home to sort through them.

A few carloads of boxes, bins, and garbage bags later, my garage was half full of these items, and my living room became the sorting room. I had a box for buttons, one for quilt pieces/blocks partially sewn together, one for small scraps, one for old quilts, one for templates and notions, one for crochet thread and doilies, and quite a few more sorting boxes and bins full of material. The room started to look like I was becoming a packrat. My family worried I would become just like Mom, but I assured them, it was temporary. After all, I wasn’t keeping all of this stuff, just sorting through so we could donate or give away what family didn’t want to keep.

This process started in April of 2012 and wasn’t fully completed till late June of that year. Once again, I posted pictures on Facebook, had friends and family stop by to select items they would like, all free of course. I gave away a rotary mat, rotary cutter, doilies, crochet thread, buttons, material, tablecloths, embroidery thread, embroidery pieces, needles, thread, thimbles (lots of thimbles!), even a few started quilt blocks, but still had quite a bit left. I posted on Freecycle to give away even more things no one wanted.

So, now that EVERYTHING was gone through, I felt it was time to get something done. When all was said and done, I had quite a bit left, more than I originally knew what to do with. It was at this point that something clicked inside me. By default, I had inherited all the tools a quilter needs. I now had cutting tools, thread, yardsticks, thimbles, large format graph paper, lots and lots of pins, safety pins, quilting design pattern books, quilt pattern books, marking pencils, and much more. I wondered if it was serendipity, meant to be. I never became a quilter while Mom was alive. It took her death and no one else in the family showing interest in it that spurred me on to tread into waters unknown. What was this burning desire to complete some of Mom’s WIPs? I think somehow, it was a bit of trying to hold on to her presence, touching things that she touched, finishing something she started, giving me the feeling she wasn’t really gone. I didn’t really realize it then, I only think of it now as I attempt to relive this story in writing.

So, I had to get at least three quilts done – my daughter’s t-shirt quilt, my high school embroidered quilt blocks, and a quilt for Dad from embroidered maple leaf blocks (oh, darn, forgot about that one). Dad and I found the 12 blocks while cleaning the house in 2008 or 2009, in a gift box in my old bedroom, gently wrapped in now yellowed tissue paper, embroidery complete. Though no one seemed to remember Mom embroidering them, she had dated them in the seam allowance on the back as being done mostly in 1966. When Dad and I found those blocks, he said he would like a quilt out of them, and I said I would do it. Of course, once again, we rushed off to the local quilt shop to buy the needed materials, so I also had pretty much everything needed for his quilt, and had attempted a few designs on graph paper, also shortly after taking on the project. And, somehow, that got set aside for a few years.

Once I had decided it was time to complete these three projects, my daughter’s quilt had top billing, because her’s was first promised. I was in luck, though, as she now had a queen size bed! Hallelujah!! Not only that, I now owned any possible quilting tool or notion I could think of (at the time) to speed along the process and make it easier. My determination, the new bed size, and these helpful tools allowed me to get the t-shirt quilt design figured out in virtually no time, a couple evenings at most. Cutting the shirts and fusible stabilizer to the specified size and sewing them together took two or three days tops. Then, because I wasn’t fully decided on becoming a machine quilter and because it was a heavy t-shirt quilt, I took it to the local quilt shop to be done on a long arm in July 2012. It took them three weeks, and I had to call and remind them. I was ready to pick it up! Once I got it home, I attempted continuous bias binding, making much too much naturally, and proceeded to sew the binding onto the front and hand stitching to the back. That alone took hours! But, once the final stitch was knotted off, it was finished. And, as if you haven’t seen it already, here it is again.


Ashley's t-shirt quilt

Yes, this was it, this has to be it, My First Quilt. It wasn’t my quilt, or Dad’s or the lap quilts. Even though I didn’t quilt it, I still feel that most of the hard work, the design and piecing labor, make this “my first”.

Be it middle age or the sentimental journey, though, as I finish the story of “My First Quilt”, I think back to other first quilts in my life. I sit here and recall quilts from my youth sewn and quilted by Grandma. My sister and I adored the one scrappy quilt that we slept under and played the “find the matching fabric square” game when we were supposed to be going to sleep. I recall the heavy tie flannel-backed quilt my Grandmother made that my brother slept under upstairs where it was so cold. I remember the first quilt that I owned, that my Mom and Grandma made for me in 1979 but can’t remember for the life of me where it disappeared to or when. I used the queen size quilt Grandma gave me when I got married in 1981 so much that it became torn up something awful, so much so that it has now been cut up to be included in my old-quilt throws.

But, even as my mind wanders to these quilts, I also recollect an old quilt that came home with me amongst some of the items I brought home to wash for Dad. This quilt had a base color of yellow, a scrappy number, very worn and torn, most likely made by Grandma, that I washed up and slept under for months after Mom and Grandma both died. It gave me some kind of comfort knowing that Grandma’s hands had worked to sew all the pieces together. Many nights, after the funerals, I cried while snuggling under that quilt. After going through all the material and supplies, I finally relegated it to the bin of old quilts to be cut up for throws, so it’s magic and comfort continue.

So, you see, while this story appeared to be about my first quilt, it was really a trip down memory lane. It became, over the course of writing, not only my first quilt story, but the story of how I became a quilter. I’d like to sum up the why’s into one simple sentence; but that ability eludes me at the present moment. What I do know is that I didn’t do it to carry on a family tradition. I did do it to finish some of Mom’s and Grandma’s projects, and for my own and family member’s sentimental reasons. And, I continue because I enjoy it. I don’t have everything they started finished yet, I enjoy making things that will last, and I know that someday, perhaps, my grandkids and their children, and their grandchildren, maybe, will have a piece of me by having a quilt I made. One night, in the distant future, my child, grand-child, or great grand-child, will get the same kind of comfort I have experienced snuggling under an old, worn, torn, soft, and loved quilt that Sue Maxon stitched together on some hot summer day in August of 2012, some snowy day in December 2013,or some starry night in February 2014, and so on, and so on, and so on.

Q-Tip #3 – Whether by machine or hand, quilts are a work of art, skill, and love that bring warmth, comfort, joy and a sense of peace and contentment. No further explanation necessary.


My First Quilt

The challenge – to write about my first quilt, for a contest.  Start a blog and post the story of your first quilt.

Challenge Accepted!

I’ve thought about a quilt blog, seriously I have, several times!  But, I’ve been so busy quilting!

As I sit at my kitchen table, computer on top of cutting mat, rotary cutter pushed aside (closed, of course), I think of an entire downstairs room devoted to quilting, a batting roll next to the cedar chest stuffed full of old clothes for scrap quilts and quilting materials, boxes and bins of vintage material in the garage, and my Brother PQ1500 sewing machine set up on two card tables, I struggle to find concise wording to describe my first quilt.

Two years ago, I hadn’t even sewn one stitch of a quilt or pieced one quilt block. Now, I can barely go through one day without quilting, piecing, cutting, binding, looking through a quilt book or magazine, viewing quilt tops on Ebay, or watching a quilting tutorial on YouTube.

I think about how two years ago, my life was not like this. I didn’t have boxes and bins of material in my garage, even one rotary mat let alone plural, quilter’s curved safety pins, and all the other quilter’s accoutrements.

Now, I’m actually starting that blog I thought of doing a year and a half ago. What’s next? Opening my own quilt shop?!

This is my second attempt at writing “My First Quilt” blog post, and once again, I’m getting wordy (the first attempt was 1700 words and I wasn’t finished yet!). My first quilt story, truth be told, is so complex, it could be a short story, perhaps even a novella.

The story is not just about my first quilt, though. It’s really about how I became a quilter, like my Mom and Grandma before me, yet different, too. I never learned the ways of cotton material, quilting thread, thimbles, cutting and hand piecing from them. All the little tips and tricks they knew will not be passed on to me by them. There was a time when I regretted not showing more interest in their quilting endeavors and wished I had, of course, once they were gone. Still, I make my own way, thank goodness for the library, the internet, bloggers, and the helpful quilters at local quilt shops.

I started quilting to finish some of the projects Mom had started, but did not complete, before she passed in 2008. That was all – I was going to finish her projects and be done.

As of today, two years after this process started, I still haven’t finished all of her projects, and I’ve done many projects all my own. Now, I can’t see myself not being a quilter.

As if fulfilling a legacy, I want to pass on some of what I’ve learned.

Tip #1 – Don’t overthink it.

When it comes to quilting, one could spend hours at the design wall, walking the aisles of JoAnn’s searching for the “perfect” fabric choice, browsing quilt designs and patterns, but sooner or later, one must make a choice and go with it. It will be great!

So, not overthinking (taking my own advice) – here is my first quilt story.

My daughter brought me her high school choir and theater t-shirts about December 2004. It wasn’t the typical block and sash design. I couldn’t fit all the pieces she wanted into a full size quilt after measuring and figuring. It sat in bags in my laundry room for years. Then, she got a queen sized bed and figuring the layout was much easier. Sewing it together was a breeze, with the iron-on fabric stabilizer. Being my first quilt and a heavy t-shirt quilt, I had it quilted at my local quilt shop on a long arm instead of struggling with my first free motion project on my $99 Sears Kenmore with a 6” throat. Actual start to finish – about 7 years, but after final design to quilted and bound, about one month.

Since they say a picture is worth a thousand words (that you won’t have to read, btw), here is a picture.

Ashley's t-shirt quilt

Stay tuned for the full story – which may take more than one post!

Btw, should I win the contest, I would enjoy these items:

image image image image


I’ve used words in quilts, but would like to learn more, I’d like to know more on color, thread sketching looks very interesting, and a nifty, new project is always fun. The contest is sponsored by Interweavestore.com.

My first quilt – Part 2

Ah, my first quilt, what do I consider my first? I should remember my first quilt like my first kiss, right? And, I do remember how my life as a quilter started, but, of course, life isn’t always that simple is it?

Was it the first quilt I started? The first quilt I sewed together, or the first quilt I actually quilted? Hmm… maybe I will have decided by the end of this post…

Was it the 12 embroidered blocks I started in the 70’s while I was in high school, finished all but half of one block a year after graduation, gave to my Mom as I left for Texas in 1981 to finish embroidery, find fabric, piece and quilt or have quilted for me? After the first couple years, I didn’t ask Mom anymore how the quilt was coming. Now, I can see that maybe she might have needed that little nudge. I just felt after the first few times, she would complete it in her own time, and someday, she would present it to me as a Christmas gift or perhaps a birthday present. But, years went by, and I can’t even tell you now if she ever showed me the fabric she picked for it, or if she did, when that was.

When Mom passed in 2008, I found this quilt on a hanger, in two halves, with all of the sashing in place, but no borders, backing, batting or quilting! Twenty-seven years later, and it was still a WIP (work-in-progress). When I saw it on the hanger while cleaning at Dad’s house, on my old bedroom door, facing into the living room, I simply said “Oh, there it is.” No fanfare. No processional. Just “Oh. . ., there it is.”

Naturally, I thought, “I’m taking this, it’s mine.” So, I brought it home and proceeded to hang it on my bedroom door, not even sure if I wanted to finish it. Four more years passed before events transpired that gave me the motivation or desire to complete it myself, in August of 2012. Looks pretty good, yes?

My embroidered quilt

But, was that it, “the first”? You could say it was the cheater cloth lap blankets I made from Mom’s stash of fabrics I sort of inherited, sort of claimed four years after her passing, because no one else was interested in learning how to quilt. I wasn’t going to be a “quilter”. I just wanted to complete some of her unfinished projects, her WIPs.

Once I decided to become a momentary quilter, I quilted several 18 inch swatches of “quilt sandwiches”, my first attempt at free motion quilting, because after trying hand quilting (that’s another story), like my mother and grandmother both were, I realized it would take me a year just to do one quilt! I made two lap blankets to test and learn free-motion skills, sketchy at first, but, I wasn’t going to start with a queen size quilt!

Autumn lap blanket

Kitty lap blanket

Or maybe, it Was it my daughter’s high school choir and theater t-shirt quilt I pieced together like a puzzle to fit all of her shirt fronts and backs on the front of a queen size quilt and then had quilted on a long-arm at the local quilt shop in July of 2012? It was the first bed size, or should I say queen size, quilt that I sewed together all by myself, though I didn’t quilt it.

When my daughter gave me the t-shirts in the fall of 2004, was I excited, my first quilt design? Maybe I’ll become a quilter yet? And, carry on the family tradition. I don’t remember if there was hesitancy in my voice when, as we sat on the floor, looking over these t-shirts that particular evening in a dimly lit living room, as I said “Sure, I can do that.” Maybe it was dark enough that she couldn’t see the doubt on my face?

First things first. The next day, I called my Mom to ask her how big a full size quilt was (my daughter’s bed size at the time), and in true doubting child fashion, still looked up the dimensions on the internet. My daughter and I, the next morning, figured (guesstimated) how much material we would need for around the blocks, backing and binding. Excited, we rushed off to JoAnn’s to purchase batting and material.

At the fabric store, my brain started whirring calculating inches and yards as we looked at wide width fabrics and the typical 44” wide solids. I didn’t know then about shrinkage and binding, but somehow I knew, when in doubt, buy more than you think you will need! That way you won’t run out, because you don’t know how long the project will take and if you have to come back, the fabric may no longer be in stock. And, of course, scraps make even more quilts! I wondered if it was something I picked up from conversations Mom and Grandma had about quilts that I wasn’t actually listening to, but somehow I just knew then, many years later. Was it quilter’s osmosis?

We looked at knits. We looked at fleece. We looked at flannel. But, I had explained to my daughter that typically, cotton was the fabric of choice for quilts. Therefore, in our minds, a “real” quilt was made of cotton. The store was ever so helpful, by labeling those wide cotton solids as “quilter’s solids”? So, she insisted on a nice baby blue cotton solid for the back and just plain old white cotton for the sashing. We purchased the fabrics, and even with a 40% off coupon in hand, we were a bit shocked at the final total. I always thought quilting was thrifty and frugal because my grandma always made scrap quilts. After this purchase, though, We deduced, quilting can be expensive! She paid for it, or did I, too much time has passed to remember that small detail. We drove back home, she went back to Chicago, and I sat down to start figuring out the design.

Little did I know, this would be no easy task. I measured each t-shirt’s design meticulously, exact width and height, knowing I could cut it bigger if needed. Then, I sat down with some graph paper and started the process of figuring out where to place each piece so they all fit on a full size quilt. I mean, how difficult could it be? I took geometry in high school. They were all squares or rectangles.

I struggled with it for days, and no matter how I tried, those pieces just would not fit in a full size quilt! I called my daughter and asked her if it could be bigger. “No”, she replied, she really wanted it for her full size bed. Frustrated, I gave up and set it aside for a while. A while turned into years.

Of course, a couple of times while cleaning or moving things around, I’d find that graph paper with the block dimensions and the sketched out potential quilt design, and once again, try to finagle and squeeze, and measure away the inches that just wouldn’t fit into a full size, only to give up again, and set it aside for a while more. I’d run across the t-shirts, all tucked away in a bin by the washing machine in a plastic bag, which was several times covered with a hefty layer of dust.

What’s that you ask? What was the miraculous event that transpired and allowed me the gumption to finish this quilt? What finally clicked inside me to be able to complete this WIP, or using the present day term, unfinished object (UFO)? I didn’t even know what UFO meant back then. I thought it was an unidentified flying object. I didn’t know that term, UFO, scary as it could be to those who believe they have been abducted by aliens, could become the bane of my existence, like many other crafters before me.

In fact, as if you haven’t already guessed by now, that, too, is a WIP, a complex tale for another post. Aww… don’t fret. It’s already partially written, just needs a few tweaks. It won’t be a long wait for the conclusion of the story.

I would, however, like to share another tip. I think it will be the connecting thread (get it) to all my posts. My brain produced, the other night, a potential flash of minor brilliance. Since these are quilting tips, I thought, “Oh, Q-Tips!”

Q-Tip #2: Always close your rotary cutter after use and be very careful while cutting.

Rotary cutters are extremely sharp and may be more dangerous than razors, kitchen knives, and even guns. Yes, I learned the hard way. Though, so far, none of my quilts have blood stains and I still have all of my fingers, there have been a few close calls. Luckily, the wounds were not deep, and the bathroom with bandaids and antibiotic gel is a few steps from my cutting table.

Tune in next post for the conclusion of this WIP.

Stitchin' together words and quilts.