Sewing and Quilting
I have many little memories of sewing as a girl.
I remember attempting to make clothing for dolls and stuffed animals, using my mom’s Bernina sewing machine. I still have a quilt my mother tied for me many years ago, although it’s pretty torn up now. I remember my mom doing various kinds of needlework and cross stitch, making many of them into pillows. I also remember the year that I was totally swept away with cross stitch. My friend and I would get together and stitch. Our mothers made us these cute little fabric bags that held all our supplies. I wish I still had mine.
As I got older, I don’t remember doing as much. I was super busy. But I’ve always been creative and artistically inclined. I remember being interested in interior design for a time in high school. One Christmas vacation when I was home from college for the holiday, I made myself a flannel blanket that I really loved. It was burgundy and navy blue and white plaid. I mean I really loved the fabric. I loved the colors, the plaid. The problem was that I had purchased all that was left of it and wanted a bigger blanket than I could get by just laying it out, backing it and then tying it. In spite of having no real training whatsoever, I figured out a way to cut the fabric, add a contrasting border, and then add the remaining plaid as an outer border. Yes, very simple. But I was sure proud of myself!
Now it seems funny to me to think of some of my early ideas about sewing. I remember reading things that told me about using a 3/8 inch seam allowance, and the idea scared me. It seemed too risky to have the seam be that close to the edge of the fabric! I felt like if I stayed farther away from the edge, my project would somehow be better. Ha! No wonder they didn’t turn out! I really didn’t know what I was doing.
While I was in college, I did little but study. There was another passion alive in me: a craving for knowledge. I ended up studying history, which I still love. History reads like fiction to me, and most of my favorite books are in this category. After my junior year, I took a break from school and spent 19 months on a mission for my Church. I went to Washington state, and spent much of my time on the peninsula and in coastal cities. This was a time in my life when all my senses seemed to become fully alive and receptive to the incredible beauty of that part of the country. I spent so much time outdoors, walking, talking to people, and literally drinking in the green of the Pacific Northwest. I remember one night, driving home after dark. I drove up over the top of a hill and began the descent down the hill to the harbor in Gig Harbor. The beauty of the city’s lights reflecting off the water literally made me cry with gratitude. I felt that whatever good I did in life couldn’t possibly be worth the privilege of the beauty I was beholding. I realized that no matter how I tried, I would never be able to repay God for the exquisite gift of seeing, of drinking in the physical beauties of the earth. I was learning a lot about God as an artist.
The year after I came home from this mission was a whirlwind. I married the man of my dreams a few months after returning. We decided not to put off having a family, and I was soon expecting our first baby. He was born 9 1/2 months after our wedding, just 6 weeks after I graduated from college. My amazing husband felt strongly that it was his responsibility to provide for his family and I gratefully accepted the role of mother and homemaker. This little baby had come and made us a family! This gave me the opportunity to spend my time with our wonderful little baby and to begin experimenting with my creativity and skills in the adventure of making a home for us.
Looking back on those early adventures, I’m so grateful that we started out with so little. I also have to laugh a little at my first attempts. I made a few friends, and one of them wanted to make things to sell at craft boutiques. This was in the mid- 90’s when craft boutiques were a lot more cutesy. Now they’re far more sophisticated. As I participated in that experience, I began to discover some things:
1. The difference between mass quantities and attention to detail.
2. The joy of making things not to sell, but to share freely. I learned that I loved to give things away; I hated to ask for money for them.
3. The fun of looking around and seeing so many good ideas everywhere.
4. Trying to lose my fear of failure and considering that I might have some good ideas of my own.
I remember another experience I had early in my marriage. I went to a little class where we put together these tiny turkey wallhangings for Thanksgiving. I was in awe of the lady who had chosen all the fabrics. I sat and marveled at how well she had chosen fabrics of differing colors, patterns, and scale. I tried to make my own Christmas wallhanging and hated how it turned out. I admitted to myself that I had no clue how to choose fabrics. So I studied her selections and began paying closer attention to fabrics and how they worked together. In many ways, this was the real beginning.
About this time I also picked up the hobby of embroidery. Eventually I began learning how to crochet. I always sewed some blankets, simple ones, and in the back of my mind I promised myself that SOMEDAY I would make a “real” quilt.
That someday came sooner than I had thought. I pictured myself quilting when my kids were grown and gone, but a few months before my 6th baby was born I walked into a quilt shop and saw a quilt on the wall that called to me. It was the pattern, “My Three Stars” by Buggy Barn. What I loved was the stars, and that there could be a way to cut fabric to make them like that. I stood there in the store and pondered and pondered. I was having baby number six! I had no time to start something like this! But I couldn’t walk away. They had one pattern book left in the store. Before I knew it, I had picked out my fabrics (I was much better at doing that now) and was paying for the pattern and an armload of fat quarters.
The rest is history. My last act of fear was to make a bunch of miniature stars from scrap fabrics before I cut into the small fortune that was now sitting in a pile. I made a little baby quilt out of four inch blue and white stars for my soon-to-arrive son. Having assured myself that I was capable, I took a deep breath and cut away. Within a few days I had assembled my first ever “real” quilt top. I swallowed hard, took it to a quilter and had it quilted. While I waited for that I took a class on binding so that I could learn how to make my edges look like everyone else’s. And ta da! I had just completed one of those “before I die” kind of goals. How good it felt!
I’ve been quilting ever since, and doing less of every other hobby. As my family has grown and my responsibilities as a mother have become more demanding, I’ve left a lot of interests by the wayside. And that’s ok. But quilting is different. Somehow fabric satisfies my need for color, texture and pattern. When I make a quilt, I am making something that is not only beautiful, but useful. And it’s something I don’t have to re-do in 2 hours. So much of motherhood has to be revisited many times a day: cooking, dishes, diapers, sweeping, cleaning, and so forth. Not a quilt. It stays done. And I can just stand there and look at it and feel happy.
I do more than just quilt. A couple of years ago I took another deep breath and without a pattern made a slipcover for my couch. I like it. I enjoy making bags, pillow covers, and anything else. The bottom line is, sewing makes me happy. I’m not the seamstress I would like to be, not by a long shot. I have friends who are brilliant seamstresses. But I’m happy where I’m at. I have a list of things I want to learn, and a list of projects I want to make. I have a small armoire full of fabric that I love, and a room of my own to do it in, confidence in my own sense of style, and a lovely home to use as my laboratory. I really can’t ask for much more.