Thursday, May 23, 2013

All I want for Christmas is my Bernina

The dilemma of not having a sewing machine quickly came to an end Christmas of 2011 when my Grannie, Idotha Poling, gifted me with one of two machines she had on hand.  She was moving and only wanted to keep the smaller of the two.  This is how I came to own a Bernina 1030.


I was elated to have a machine even though at the time I had never heard of the Bernina brand.  She also gave me her sewing cabinet and all her miscellaneous sewing tools and thread.  My mother-in-law gave me two rotary cutters and a cutting mat for Christmas.  Goodbye 12-inch ruler!  I was all set to start my next set of quilts and so I did. This time, I was making 2 quilts at the same time over Christmas break for two dear friends of mine, Lesli and Molly.  They were each pregnant with their second child and were both expecting boys.  I Google searched "simple baby quilt" and found an easy 6-inch squared quilt pattern that looked promising.  I spent lots of time on and found fabric that I thought was suitable.  Lesli and Molly both have very specific tastes in decor and I tried to make something that would fit in their homes.  I had no idea what their nurseries were going to look like, but I knew how particular they could be.  I stalked their Pinterest pages to try and get some ideas. I wanted to make the quilts look similar, yet different at the same time.  Some of the fabrics in each quilt are the same and some are unique.  I did baste these quilts, sort of, and ended up using the backing as the binding by folding over the edges.  I knew the pillow sewing technique wasn't appropriate and needed to change my approach.  I used embroidery thread again to quilt, but was quickly learning how challenging it was to pull such a thick grouping of threads through the material over and over again.  Another trend I was finding online was the idea of creating interesting backings for quilts.  The idea that the back of a quilt could just as easily stand alone as its own quilt was an exciting challenge, so I decided the backing wasn't going to be one piece of fabric.  I also wanted to try my hand at hand-applique.  My Grannie was a master at hand-applique and I thought it was only fitting that I not only use her machine to make these two quilts but I also take the time to hand-applique a piece on each quilt.  I think they turned out pretty well.

Here is Molly's Quilt:

Here is Lesli's Quilt:

Such a handsome little guy.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Push the Pedal Down

My first quilt was a HUGE learning experience and I decided that each quilt I made would offer me the opportunity to learn something new.  Since my first quilt was hand-pieced, I wanted to machine-piece my next one. 

Sitting behind a sewing machine was not completely new to me, but it was still an uncomfortable place to be.  My grandmother taught me how to make a dress when I was 12.  I flew to Amarillo, TX, by myself and stayed with her during the summer for a couple of weeks.  During that time, we went to the fabric store, picked out a dress pattern and fabric and started on the journey of learning to sew.  I learned to cut out my pattern and cut the fabric with all the notches.  I learned to piece each part together and rip apart seams when I did something like sew the arm sleeve closed.  I didn't truly appreciate the lessons she was teaching me at the time and I walked away from the experience proud of the dress I had made, but lacking any real interest in trying it again.  Why make clothes when you can purchase them so easily?  I still kinda feel that way. More recently I sat behind a machine a couple of times making things for my babies before they were born.  My friend, Erin, helped me make the bedding and curtains for my daughter's nursery.  I'll be honest in saying that she did most of the work.  My friend, Mary Catherine, helped me sew together bumper pads for my son's nursery.  Again, I was mostly a spectator.  I did make half-a-dozen receiving blankets for my son and I did that project all by myself with a couple of YouTube videos instructing me on how to wind a bobbin.  Those receiving blankets are still holding strong and my son has been dragging them around for over 2 years now.

Alright, back to the next quilt.  I only had 2 weeks before my next friend's baby shower and I didn't have 3 months to finish a quilt by hand again.  All I needed was a sewing machine, but I didn't have one.  Luckily, I know people who do.  I called up my friend Mary Catherine and asked if I could come to her house and use her machine.  She willingly opened up her home and I spent 2-3 evenings closed off in her upstairs room sewing like a mad woman.  I was determined! Here is the finished product:

This is bigger than a baby quilt, but it will grow with the child.
I still didn't baste the quilt.  I still used the cuddle mink fabric and I still put it all together like you would if you were recovering a pillow.  I hand-quilted using embroidery thread and followed the pattern of the quilt.  I now know this technique is called echo quilting, but I just thought it was a neat idea at the time.  It was a adventurous pattern for a newbie since I didn't have traditional blocks.  This was also a challenging quilt since it's for a girl.  My friend Jessica wanted a navy and white nursery for a baby girl and I was determined to make something in her color scheme that was appropriate for the baby.  I feel I least no one has told me otherwise.

A year and a half later, this quilt is still thriving.  It's been used to provide warmth, used as a safe place for the baby to lie on the floor, used to bring family together and used to give comfort with a good snuggle.  This is the best compliment a quilter could ever receive.

A grandmother with her grandchild.
Hangs nicely on the crib.
I like to do this with my quilts as well.
She's a cutie!
Thanks Jess for the pictures!

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Journey Begins

Quilting has always been something my grandmothers did.  At an early age, my twin bed had a quilt on it that my Grannie, Idotha Poling, made for me.  When I graduated from high school in 1998, my other grandmother, Jorene Kirkland, made me a twin-size quilt to take with me to college.  When I got married in 2005, she made me another quilt as a wedding gift.  When I had each of my children, my grandmother made them each a baby quilt.  This past fall, she also made them each twin-size quilts.  Each quilt is unique and made with so much love.  These quilts are apart of my everyday life.  My husband, children and I curl up under these quilts on a regular basis.  They are soft and their bindings are worn.  I always took for granted the amount of work and time that went into each quilt.  I took for granted the artistry and talent that went into each piece sewn and the quilting binding everything together.

Back in April of 2011, my grandmother, Jorene, wanted all her children and grandchildren to gather together for her 80th birthday.  So, I loaded up my daughter, 22 months old, and my son, 6 months old, hopped on a plane, and flew to Amarillo, TX, to celebrate together with my family.  Jorene called all her grandchildren together and gave us each a quilt that she had made.  When she got to me, she handed me a quilt that was unique and different from the other ones.  My quilt wasn't new.  My quilt had a legacy that started well before my grandmother started quilting.  The front of my quilt, named "Peeled Orange," was hand-pieced in the 1930's by Sarah Frances Morris Taylor Faught, my great-great grandmother, in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  My grandmother, Jorene, hand-quilted the quilt in 1985.  I knew then she gave me a treasure.

After I got home, I spent a lot of time studying this quilt and the other quilts I had received over the years. Thoughts started going through my mind that told me I could do this if I wanted to.  The only problem was that I didn't have a sewing machine.  I didn't have any fabric.  I didn't have anyone around who could help me figure it out.  My grandmother was back in Amarillo, TX, and I was in Memphis, TN.  

A few months later, I was walking through Hobby Lobby and passed an end cap with pre-cut fabric.  A jelly roll caught my eye.  I grabbed it and threw it into my cart as an impulse buy.  When I got home, I grabbed my sewing kit my grandmother gave me several years back as a Christmas present and sat down to formulate a plan on what I was going to make.  I had a couple of friends who were pregnant and a baby quilt seemed like the most logical thing to put together.  I knew I needed to make blocks and I drew out a quilt using graph paper.  With a pair of fabric scissors, a 12-inch ruler, a needle and thread, I cut my fabric based on what I had drawn.  I didn't take into consideration quarter-inch seams...I knew nothing about seam allowances.  I just started piecing and trimming to clean it up.  After diligently sewing for 7 weeks, this is what I had:

It wasn't fancy, but it was done.  I then went to Joann's fabrics and bought batting (I don't even remember the type) and cuddle mink fabric for my backing.  I didn't know until after I was trying to put my layers together what a mistake that was, but I managed and pushed through any difficulties I faced.  I didn't baste my quilt.  I sewed it together like I would have a pillow cover.  Again, I didn't know any better.  After that, the idea of quilting this blanket I had just spent 2 months putting together by hand seemed daunting.  I remembered a quilt my parents had that was tie-quilted and decided that was probably the easiest and most practical way to go.  Here is the finished product:

Did I forget to mention that I also didn't have the foggiest idea how to take a picture of a quilt either? I folded it up, put it into a gift bag and gave it to my friend, Erika, as a baby gift for her daughter.

She was thrilled and surprised.  I wasn't one of those people who made gifts for my friends.  I was also thrilled and surprised that the quilt didn't fall apart the first time she started using it.  I knew I had started something that was going to impact my life.  I knew this was just the beginning of a quilting journey.
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