Thursday, May 16, 2013

That's Not How Your Grandmother Does It

I was digging through my pattern drawer looking for something (duh, right? Why else would I be digging through it?) when I happened upon something from several years ago that I kept only because my mother said I should. I'm glad I did as I do like looking back at things I made when I was learning and seeing how much more I know now. Anyway, it was the very first quilty thing I had made ever. A very sad quilty thing.

My grandma makes all her quilts by hand, and makes it look quite easy. You go visit her and she's all "Oh, I did this, and I needle-turn appliqued that, and I made six of these for gifts" and she's quite amazing for a gal in her eighties. About six months after I had my very first sewing lesson, we were out her way for a visit and I decided I was going to home and make a quilt, by hand. Just like that. Because, you know, I had made a t-shirt and a skirt so I was obviously armed to the gills in knowledge and experience. I scouted around online and found a pattern for this candle mat, which was going to be one of many blocks, harharhar:

Somehow I managed to cobble this thing together. I had a bag of fabric scraps and pulled out the pieces that had maroon (because that would be all that mattered, obviously). I ignored the fact that sometimes triangles take convincing, and that y-seams might exist. I somehow made things fit, but how I did so is not in my memory. I'm sure I cursed, because I don't do much without doing that, but I don't remember what would have been frustrating to me and how so. When you look at the piecing, it doesn't look awful for a first crack. I have now come to know that pressing is essential to quilting, so let's just ignore that aspect of it.

That part's not the terrible part. It's the quilting part that's very funny. I had no idea how you quilted anything --the only hand-stitching I had ever done was to sew on a button or fix a hem. Running stitches sounded like a jogging ailment, and burying the knot was a phrase I had never heard. I just thought sewing was sewing, so I threaded my needle and went up-down-up-down-up-down in the ditches of my patchwork masterpiece. It took me a few nights, and fingertips worn away enough that I could have committed a crime and touched everything and they wouldn't get a print.

When I finished, and was turning it over and over to examine it, my mom said "Did you finish? Let me see it!" I had a major WTF look on my face, because this was not my grandma's quilting, but I meekly handed over my square thing. And she said "This can't be right. What did you do to it?" So I told her. And she said "I was wondering what you were doing over there stitching like that. When your grandma stitches you barely see her hands move." Thanks for saying something three days ago, Ma. But she was right. This is definitely not how you quilt:

So I spent a few hours with Google (is there anything you can't find there?) and came away armed with the knowledge necessary to not do this:

Normally I would have quit. Why bother? I was obviously terrible at it. But I love(d) quilts. I loved seeing what my grandmother created, and imagining pretty color combinations of endless bolts of fabric. So I had to keep on. I researched, I practiced, and maybe a month or two later I had finished a fall table runner for my mom (which I cannot find the picture of right now, so here's the Christmas one that followed):

I prefer to do all my quilting bits by machine now, when I can eek out the time to do so. I'm much too impatient to piece and quilt by hand (except for the binding...sometimes) but I didn't learn to do any of that until after I had a very bad go at hand quilting. But one must start somewhere, right?

What about you? Have you saved any early bits that you look back on now and chuckle?


  1. I love your post! I like looking back at my first pieces... So much I didn't know.

  2. Hehe, I remember some of the first things that I sewed... It's amazing how much I've learned, but what is really amazing is that I can look back and say that anew every year.

  3. ROLF, on the ball your mum, eh? ;o)



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