Friday, October 23, 2009

Biography of a Quilter

I enjoy lecturing to guilds, mostly because I love to meet quilters. When I receive a request to lecture, I, of course, must sign a contract. Recently I was asked to also provide a biography by answering questions from a questionnaire so the guild could know a little about me before they heard me speak. Oh, a biography. . . what do I say? Will I be able to sound interesting without risking egotism? Should I start at the very beginning, embellish the facts, leave out the failures? It was a challenge, but this is what I came up with.


My interest in quilting started at the age of 6 when my mother taught me to embroider. As an only child, solitary interests were most natural to me and sewing fit right in. I next learned to sew on the sewing machine starting with the aprons my mother wore then graduated to clothing in 4-H and Home Ec at school. I’ve always enjoyed mixing and playing with color and patterns so quilting was an obvious progression. Also, the fact that I could feed my tactile passions without actually having to make anything FIT, as in clothing, made quilting an obvious choice.

I’ve been quilting for 15 years and have begun to dabble in art quilts but always come back to traditional quilting. I think of modern quilts as variations on a traditional theme. I’m particularly fond of green and have no use for drab quilts so anything bright and colorful is that I enjoy working with.

As far as techniques, I love hand work but not necessarily when working on quilts. I see sitting at a sewing machine, jumping up to press, moving to the cutting table to square up my prices then attaching them to my design wall as active, calorie-burning fun! Applique or embroidery is saved for the waiting room of my car repair shop and plane trips.

Original designs? I rarely take a published pattern and make it 100% as designed usually changing the configuration of the blocks, maybe setting them on point, or adding components, but I buy lots of patterns and books for inspiration.

I didn’t grow up with quilts. Every memory of my maternal Grandmother includes her sitting in her rocker by the window crocheting. I never saw her cooking or sleeping, just crocheting and I have a bureau full of bedspreads, tablecloths, doilies and dresser scarves to prove it! Although my mother taught me the basics at the sewing machine, she had little patience for reading patterns or following directions, always thinking she had a better, faster way. No one ever taught her how to avoid “bird nests” of thread at the beginning of a seam and I remember her throwing the sewing machine out of frustration on more than one occasion!! Actually I credit my father with teaching me a lot about sewing. He was a shoemaker by trade so knew how to sew things together and match patterns expertly. He even helped me to make my prom dress--a difficult Vogue pattern I constructed out of lavender satin!

I am most inspired to make quilts when I go to quilt shows or by looking through quilt books, old and new but I often think of a song title, movie title or phrase and dream up something to make that way. I find when I’m working on a quilt for someone else (a gift or a group project) I’m inspired by that person. But the most fun is going into a quilt shop and being stopped dead by some amazing fabric or fabric line and just HAVING to make something out of it!

I’m a born shopper so, when you get right down to it, my favorite aspect of quilting, is visiting every quilt shop on every trip I take and selecting fabric, patterns and books to buy! Putting the top of a quilt together is the fun part and pinning the quilt is the chore I dislike most. Getting down on the ground to pin the quilt is one thing--getting back up, quite another! When fusible batting came out, I thought I’d died and went to heaven but I find regular batting, with its softer drape, more to my liking.

Has quilting changed my life? Completely! In 15 years, I’ve gone from a consummate Soccer Mom to my dream of teaching, lecturing and, when asked what I do for a living, being able to say, “I’m a quilter!”. My home is filled with quilts I’ve made and antique quilts I’ve collected (90 at last count). I’ve endeavored to become proficient enough at this craft so I can teach quilting--then I can live vicariously through my students and thus, don’t have to personally make every quilt I find beaautiful! It’s such a pleasure to watch someone who really didn’t think they could do it, assemble their small scraps of fabric into beautiful works of art. And when I see my fellow quilters’ smiling faces in the audiences when I lecture, I know I’ve truly reached my dream of filling my life with quilts and quilting!