BCQuilter's Weblog

How I became a quilter…

Posted on: 18 March 2010

I’m sure many of you remember my quilt in memory of my Dad, who passed away in 2006 from Cancer at 63.  I have 2 younger sisters.  After his passing, it occurred to me, to make something that my sisters and I could remember him by, and pass it on to our families.   I started thinking about taking up quilting.   I had no idea what I was in for (I know all of you have on that “knowing smile”… come on, admit it), nor did I know where to begin.

I started reading “stuff” on the internet.  One of the things that was mentioned was starting a “stash”.  Hmm… how was I going to do that, that’s a lot of fabric to start a stash, and at the time, money was not flowing through my fingers.  One of the things I remember was “buy the best you can afford”.  I can tell you, once you’ve done that, it doesn’t take long to figure out, to start saving and get the even better quality supplies.

Sooo… how can I build a stash, and start this quilt.  First you need a design.  Well, that was a lot of coloured pencil colouring.   One evening/night my dad’s common-law-wife was having some difficulty and had asked if I could stay with her.  I was willing.  Before she went to bed, we talked about a variety of things, and I asked her what her plans were for his shirts.  You see, my Dad’s favourite colour was blue, and his favourite shirt was a “cowboy” style with snaps.   I had this little niggling thought in my head, that I would use his shirts.  So after she had gone to bed, I took every shirt of his out of the closet, and laid them out.  Sorted them by primarily by colour, yes, he had a few that were not blue.    Then I bundled them all up, and put them back.  Then the coloured pencils and graph paper (1/4″) and I sat down and sketched.

I wanted to use a few things that were memories of my Dad, and his favourite things came to mind:  the colour blue, eagles, roses and water.  You see, he worked on the water driving tugs, dozers and side-winders.  He wrangled logs in the water, getting them ready to be loaded onto logging trucks.

Now back to the stash building.  I knew I wanted a “neutral” colour to work with his shirts.  I decided on an “ecru” colour, as I thought white might be too stark.   Hmm… I wonder where online that I could start building my stash, and do it economically.  eBay!  So off I went, and started scouring eBay.   Hey 4″ Squares would be a great way to build a stash, and I can bid on packs of 40 or 50 squares.  So I started on some of the off-white (ecru).   Hey… look at that there, blue, and green, and purple, oooh and butterflies.  To be honest, I cannot remember now how many “bids” I won.  I can tell you, I have not even put a “dint” into the beginning of my stash building exercise.   It wasn’t until I think the actual first Quilting class that I realized that 4″ squares may not have been the best use of my money to build my stash.

I decided on using triangles to help create his initial.  Let me tell you something, using half square triangles in a quilt is nothing… if you are using 100% cotton.   Most of my Dad’s shirts were from the 80’s and had a blend of nylon, polyester, and some other man-made materials I am sure.  They stretch like nothing you have seen before!   I noticed that my “squares” were not square.  What to do.   STABILIZE!  Dang, should have read about that, BEFORE, I cut and stitched all them triangles.   Of course now I know, that I could have used 2 squares and got 2 triangle squares from it… but I didn’t know that then!  So I bought some stabilizing stuff – I say stuff, because I have no idea what I bought.  My memories good, it’s just short.  So, I started stabilizing.  The patches I had already sewn together… well, I have to sew them to other pieces… this should help stabilize it… right???   Well it did, and I know now, probably a wasted effort, but hey, if you don’t do these things, you don’t learn.

(Triangles stitched into squares, and pinned)

I had decided that all the background (off-white) would be done in HSTs as well, to give the illusion of waves.   I had no idea what a quilting friend meant by using strips.  *LIGHTBULB*  Now I know what she meant… sewing the center piece together using strips would have been much, dare I say easier? to ensure that everything was lined up or squared up, as I was to learn much later.

Everything stitched together.

Somewhere during this time, I think I purchased EQ5.  Hey… a computer buff, I should be able to use this program and it should be a useful tool for quilting.  Well, yes and no.  (and no, I am not going into that at this point in time).  I did use EQ5 to help figure out what I was going to need in fabric requirements to finish the quilt!

EQ5 rendition of pattern

So then it was a hunt for “blue” yardage.  I chose the Moda Marbles in 3 different shades.  I was making 4 of these quilts you know!  Hmm.  I started checking locally for fabric with eagles, I thought of appliquing, until I read that… and uh uh now way.  I wanted to finish these fairly quickly!   I then searched online across Canada for Eagle fabric!  I couldn’t find anything.   Ordering from the US deterred me, due to the exchange rate and duty… but what else was I to do!  I didn’t need a lot, and most minimums was 1 yard.  eBay!  again.   I found two different eagle prints.  Bid on both, and won both.   Even though, I think one, had a tape measure to show the size of the eagles, it was hard to picture it.   And I didn’t want 8″ borders!  So now the eagle fabric is done!

Borders are done!   Oooh… and I checked out a shop and found a few different rose themed fabrics.

I completed three quilts.  The one for myself is patiently waiting for me to get to it.  I think I’m afraid of it.  Now, I know you’re laughing.  Me?  The one who can and has often jumped into things with both feet, afraid?   Yup, it intimidates me… something like applique, but I’m slowly getting over that one.  I know sooo much more now, then I did then.  I look at the photos and I see the mistakes I made, and notice seams are not aligned (okay, it’s not really a requirement for the pattern, kind of, sort of,… well, you know what I mean).  Another thing I learned on the way… we do not make Mistakes!  Do NOT ever use that word in your vocabulary.   What we do is all learning experiences!  Does a toddler, first learning to walk, make mistakes?  Nooo… he/she is learning, they are having experiences!  Dang it… I want it to be perfect, just like in the magazines!  Bet you have thought that a time or two!  I know I have… but then I have come to realize, in order to get as good as the ones in the magazines (and books), I need lots of practice, and lots of learning experiences!  And boy, let me tell you….

Oh you are really going to laugh.  I had no idea about free-motion quilting using the darning foot.   The bottom and top border have cresting waves (water symbolism).  I stitched them using the “accu-feed” system on my machine,  (similar to the walking foot, but its a little different).  Stitch, stitch, stitch, stop, lift pressure foot, turn, lower, stitch, stitch, lift, turn, lower, stitch… you get the picture.

Which leads me back to building my stash building experience.   Now I had all these 4″ squares, and looking at the patterns in magazines… waaaaaait a minute… hang on… something’s wrong here.  These patterns call for yardage?  How am I supposed to convert these squares into this pattern, or that one?  Simple answer… I can’t.   After much more reading… I realized that I had learned a lot in just a few short months… well, it was not quite a year (and even now on this adventure finishing my 4th year… I’m still learning and gaining lots of experience.

You may ask what has happened to all those 4″ squares I gathered?  Well, a few have found there ways into other projects.  My Newbie Follie is one…

I made this  quilt just using those squares, and it only used 100… I must have had about 1000 or more!   So my stash building experience has led to a scrap building experience.   Some squares have been used, and replaced by others, as I learned to “cut” my scraps into usable pieces – squares (1.5″ up to 8″ – sometimes bigger), and strips (1″ – 6″).   Some of you have bravely shown your scrap basket(s).  I’m working on getting all mine in one place to take a photo to show you.   Keep in mind, that not all the scraps are from my eBay excursions, nor are they left-overs from quilts I’ve made.  My daughter has taken up quilting too, and has been given baskets and baskets of scraps.  We (meaning me), were finally able to organize and sort them.   So my scrap basket is organized, and I will discuss that in another post.

Do you feel up to another blog challenge?   I’ve challenged you to dig out your first quilt and tell us about it.   Would you like to share how you became a quilter?  Or even how you started building your stash?


12 Responses to "How I became a quilter…"

Love your story, LOL! I don’t make mistakes either, I have learning experiences. I have already blogged about my first quilt and my stash sorta took care of itself with no help from me, except for the cash in hand, LOL, but I would love to read about others.


I love your story! My mom started quilting when I was in probably middle school, so she took the classes, read the books and joined the groups and made all the…um…learning experiences for me! I still make a number of my own, though, so I can relate. And because of them, we have wonderful stories to pass down about the quilts we’ve created while earning those experiences, which to me are almost more important than the quilt itself!

Excellent story Alice! The best quilters are the ones who admit their mistakes, AND learn from them! 🙂

These days I don’t think I like perfect quilts, it’s almost as if they’re saying “Don’t come near me! I’m perfect so get your grubby hands away!!”. Or is that just me……. 😀

Great story!! Its funny how we all come to this addiction, I mean hobby, in different ways. I’ll have to dig out the pics of my first quilt from the class “quilting for dummies” 🙂 Christine

You have a great story. I like the little quilt you made with the squares. I bought a bunch of 4″ squares on Ebay. I used them for a rag quilt, there is a picture on the link from my blog page. It looks great, made of homespun fabric and really scrappy. But those little squares shrunk really fast when I stitched them together. It seemed to take forever to have enough for the quilt!

Unfortunately I make more than my share of mistakes, but I do try to learn from them. I remember your quilt story from APQ, and I’m amazed at how far you’ve come, Baby! *grin* —“Love”

Great story. Learning to quilt has given me a lot of duh moments. Most projects involve some degree of “learning”.
I went a little crazy with fat quarters when I started quilting. Liked you, I found that while fat quarters are lots of fun, they probably are not the best way to build a stash. Luckily herfe are a lot of FQA patterns aroun now so I am using some of those FQ.

I enjoy the story of your quilting journey very much Alice. You have come such a long way since then – look at all the styles and technique challenges you have accepted along the way. Even better, you share your knowledge and experiences with us. Thank you. Ann 🙂

I think it’s great that we’ve even taken on an art/craft that alot of us had to learn on our own, unlike those in quilting past that learned it from their mothers/grandmothers, etc.
Mistakes…..no, learning…yes;) Those quilts that are a bit off show the humanity that went into the project. Perfection is for machinery and shows;)
Happy Quilting!!

You’ve made so much progress, and learning experiences make quilts more interesting. I’ve learned mostly from books, though I haven’t stretched much as far as techniques go. If I can piece with straight lines, then I’m good to go. I should try curves sometime.

Are you going to share your thoughts about EQ5 as a useful and less useful quilting tool? You’ve piqued my curiosity 🙂 I’ve wondered if the software would be worth my while, or just give me more quilt designs than I’ll ever be able to keep up with.

Alice I love your story, thank you for sharing your experiences. You have continued to build on what you learned and have been an inspiration.
Great Job!
Thank you for your kindness.

What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing your wonderful blog with us. Check out the American Quilter’s Society blog at: http://www.aqsquiltnews.blogspot.com/

Keep up the beautiful quilting!

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