I made my first “real” quilt in 1992. My husband and I were fresh out of college and had our first teaching jobs in Vermillion, South Dakota. We were several hours from our hometowns in Minnesota, and we didn’t know many people. We rented a house that sat up on a bluff ten miles from town, and while it was exciting for us to finally be grown-ups earning a real income, I think I was lonely.
On Saturday mornings I got into the routine of watching Eleanor Burns and her “Quilt in a Day” series on PBS. I had sewn before and I enjoyed making things. Over the years my mom and I had done our fair share of counted cross stitch, macramé, decoupage, and candle making. I also admired the lovely doilies and afghan blankets that both my grandmothers would crochet. But there was something about listening to Eleanor and watching the process of building a quilt that appealed to me differently, and I think I was hooked before I bought my first yard of cotton.
|Sadly this is the only picture I have of my first quilt, barely|
in view on the bed. The following year I made the coordinating
small quilt to spruce up our little home's decor. (1992-1993)
After several Saturdays with PBS as my friend, my husband and I made the 40 mile trek to the Jo-Ann Fabric Store in Sioux City, Iowa, where I purchased . . . well . . . EVERYTHING. I needed one of Eleanor’s books (Quilt in a Day: Around the World), all the fabric and batting to make a full sized quilt, thread, scissors, a large cutting mat, rotary cutter, a few notions, and one ruler. I'm sure the grand total on the bill was huge, but my husband didn’t bat an eye. (A very good sign for things to come!) I borrowed my mom’s old Singer sewing machine which was on its last leg. We even had to duct tape the tension mechanism down so it wouldn’t shoot off at me while I was sewing. That first quilt took more than “a day” to make, and there were moments I was so frustrated I wanted to quit. But the end result was a decent looking quilt made with a lot of love (and maybe a couple of tears and swear words). It served as the comforter on our bed for many years, and was eventually relegated to a guest room bed, and some years later became an everyday “use and abuse” quilt. Finally, the family dog inherited the quilt for her bed, until “Around the World” had seen enough days and left this world for the dumpster.
I feel a sort tenderness for that young wife and teacher who was living in a new place, missing home and family, and feeling pangs of loneliness. I am so glad that girl found her passion and then got a bit carried away on her first shopping trip. And I’m even more thankful for the young guy at her side, who didn’t get upset about the expense, and carried most of her loot to the car. I’ve made several quilts for him over the years to try and even the score.
Oh, and I am STILL using the same large cutting mat. I love it!
I hope you'll take a few moments to recall your first "real" quilt, what inspired you to give it a try, and what it meant to you once you were done.
Here’s hoping you get carried away quilting often!