I was going through some pictures this week and came across some of my first quilt projects. I thought I would share these photos because I
think hope they show an improvement in my quilting and sewing skills. I’ve been sewing for over 50 years but in the beginning most of my sewing was garment sewing.
I can’t pinpoint the exact year I started quilting. I knew very little about quilting or sewing and I wasn’t raised by people who did either. My grandmother crocheted and knitted but I don’t remember her ever using the treadle sewing machine kept in her back room. My mother only did hand sewing to mend or hem things. When I went to a public high school, that offered Home Ec classes, I signed up for sewing. I worked on a strawberry farm the summer I turned 15 and earned enough money (with a little added by my parents) to buy a Singer Stylist Model 237. There was a fabric store about a mile from our house. My friend and I would sometimes walk there (because neither of us were old enough to drive) and buy a Simplicity Pattern for $1.25 and a yard of material to make a skirt.
By the time I was in my 20’s and 30’s I’d made some “tied” comforters and decorative pillows with thick batting for gifts. I don’t have any pictures of those to show because film costing so much to develop, taking pictures of sewing projects was sort of a waste.
My very, very first “quilt” was made for my high school friend, Marie and her husband, Bob who were expecting their first baby in 1974,. I made a patchwork quilt of multi-color gingham squares with a double eyelet ruffle around the edge. I used the ultra loft batting and tied it with ribbon bows. The predominant color was a soft orange because ultrasound wasn’t routinely used, so the sex of most babies remained a mystery until birth. I thought I was playing it safe with the orange.
The quilt above brings tears to my eyes because this picture is all I have left of it. Not knowing the first thing about quilting, I made this in 1982 for my then, baby daughter. I drew the heart shape freehand and it came out perfect w/out redrawing (I don’t think I’ve ever been that lucky again). I appliquéd each heart to a square of background fabric. The back is also made up of individual squares (I think I was reading Georgia Bonesteel’s book about lap quilting when I started this). I “typed’ the quilt label on my portable typewriter. I don’t think the white fabric was 100% cotton, it may have been a blend. I named this quilt “Primary Hearts”. Sadly, very sadly now--I let this quilt be donated when my daughter redecorated her room, in her late teens. If anyone happened to buy this at a Goodwill or charity shop, I would love to know that it is safe and in a good home.
1976 was the American Bicentennial and every town and village in the US was making a commemorative quilt. Our little NH town was no different and blocks were being made to represent each of the historical buildings, volunteer organizations, groups and businesses in town. Nel, the postmistress of our tiny little post office (the other half of the building was the locksmith’s shop)asked me if I would make a block to represent their building. I knew nothing about appliqué at the time which is pretty evident from this block which turned out to be about 2 inches smaller than it was supposed to be. It’s also the only block that has a person’s name on it. You can’t see it in this photo, but I embroidered my name in the lower left corner and found out later that I wasn’t supposed to do that. The quilt still hangs in the Historical Society.
Fast forward to 1986 and I attended my first quilt show! Wow, I was hooked and immediately joined MVQG (Merrimack Valley Quilter’s Guild). I was so inspired by the amazing quilts that I saw displayed and so excited that there existed a group of people who met regularly to talk about and make quilts! I loved attending the monthly meetings, there were lectures and workshops by well-known quilters as well as supplies and notions available to purchase. Each fall, the MVQ Executive Board selected fabrics and passed block kits out to members who volunteered to make blocks that were assembled into quilts and raffled off at the Christmas Party. The first year I joined I was a little late to get my block done, but the second year I made a mariner’s compass, pieced completely by hand. I thought the background fabric looked like ice crystals. My block made it into one of the four quilts that were raffled off —but I didn’t win any of them :(
In 1990 our library was trying to raise funds for a badly-needed addition. An appropriation to repair, remodel and expand the library had been turned down by voters at the town meeting so the Friends of the Library decided to try to raise funds for some immediate repairs. I donated a quilt for the Friends’ auction The room was packed and I was so proud of my quilt that I designed and made until another quilt that was so much better than mine came up for auction. There was furious bidding for that quilt and deservedly so. It was beautiful and I wanted to bid on it myself. At that moment I realized how poor my fabric choices were for the quilt I had made. Looking at the picture now, I know that it was too monotone. There needed to be contrast between the baskets and the flowers and background. And even though it was hand quilted, it did not raise as much money for the library as I had hoped.
To be continued…..Part II