Saturday, July 11, 2009

My first quilt

I'm throwing caution to the winds and leaving myself open for ridicule here. Yes, I have joined the Parade of Quilts and decided to show you the first quilt I ever made!
You might find it hard to believe, but I had never actually seen a quilt "in real life" when I decided to tackle this project, and had no idea how to go about it, but I had seen a quilt on a bed in a magazine and decided to make one. I was just a kid at the time, and the photo I had as my starting point was just 2" square and was of the whole bedroom, so the actual image of the quilt was tiny, but big enough for me to work out how the squares and triangles were supposed to match up.
I drafted it all on graph paper. So far so good. But then there was the question of fabric. This was way back in the early eighties, and quilting fabric was not exactly easy to find. My ever supportive Mum kindly donated a length of blue and white floral that she had meant to make into a summer dress, and after a lot of searching I found the black, white and red florals. So those were the colours I ended up with. Not because those were the colours I had decided on, but because those were the only ones I could find! I had of course never heard of fancy stuff like templates and rotary cutters (not sure they even existed back then... ) so I drew the squares on the back of my fabric with the help of a ruler and a ballpoint pen and cut them out with a pair of scissors. I'm amazed that I actually persevered - I seem to remember a big blister on my thumb... Anyway. I eventually got to the point where I could start stitching the pieces together, and borrowed my mum's old Singer and stitched happily away. Consistency when it came to seam allowances? Never occurred to me! That was a fact that became very clear once I started to stitch the blocks together. That didn't stop me, though. I just pulled and pleated, and managed to get them all together somehow.
Then came the task of quilting. I could see from the photo that there had to be something fluffy inside the quilt, and seams "in the ditch" (although I didn't know that was what it was called...), and I realized that there had to be some kind of backing fabric. But to actually stitch through all three layers? No! That wouldn't do, because the seams would show on the back... (!)
So I got hold of some polyester batting and pinned my quilt top down with short pins that kept falling out or burying their points in my fingers as I forced those seams through the two layers, pulling the material with all my might to avoid puckers and scattering dozens of pins to stick in our carpet only to be found by our toes during the next months...
Somewhere along the way I had also seen a picture of a Japanese futon with white tufts of yarn tied at intervals, so that was how I ended up attaching the backing, before I added strips of black, rolled the excess batting along the edges into it and machine stitched the edges down.
I'm actually amazed that I managed to finish this baby - and look at this precise piecing... ;-). But actually, the quilt has held up very well, considering all the use it has got over the years. And at a distance it doesn't look too bad...
I must admit, though, that it took several years before I attempted to make another one. And this time around I took a class and learnt all the nitty gritty of how to quilt, so it all turned out much better.
I have made loads of quilts since then, and my techniques have improved, although I still have lots to learn, as I found out while following Oh Fransson!'s Quilt-along earlier this year, making this quilt. But learning new things and constantly being challenged to try something new is what makes me keep quilting after all these years. That, and getting to play with lovely patterns and colours and finding ever new excuses to buy glorious fabric...

4 comments :

Tine said...

Oh my goodness! That's quite impressive :) I like your first quilt a lot!

bonnie said...

oh, i just your story. it's great. your quilts look fantastic.

Leslie said...

the colors of your quilt a long quilt are so pretty...they look great.

Bowlby said...

Beautiful quilts. I love the fabric choices in the latest.