Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stitch Night Sampler

(or How I Got Into Quilting)

My mom gave me an old Singer student sewing machine for my 14th birthday. The thing is a tank.  I love it.  Mom then taught me how to sew with it and I still use it, after all these years.  When I was young, I mostly made clothing for myself.  Nowadays I mostly quilt and make non-clothing items.

I didn't try my hand at quilting until late 2001.  Stitch Night Sampler was my first quilt.  What an insane first project - it's a queen sized quilt.  A friend of mine organized a stitch-and-bitch at her house once a week; we called it Stitch Night.  One evening she invited a new member who taught us about quilting. The light-blue/pink/black nine-patch to the left of center on the quilt was my very first square. I was hooked. I decided to make a bunch of blocks with variations of nine-patch patterns. The other gals helped me with colors and placement; I did the research and the stitching.  After making several blocks, I wanted to make something with them.  This quilt is the final result (and thus the name of the quilt).

I had everyone sign their names and I embroidered the signatures onto the friendship star at the bottom of the quilt.  Pretty cool!

I have not done another quilt quite as large as my first one.  But I have enjoyed quilting.  The blocks appeal to my mathematical side.  It's the piecing that I really like.  I can spend hours picking colors and designing what I want to do.  I keep the actual quilting to a minimum; I never got the knack of hand quilting and my machine works best in straight lines.  I've tried stippling a few times on that machine and I haven't quite got the hang of it.  My first attempt turned out the best.

I'm never going to create any pieces of great art.  I am awed by the people who create quilts that look like paintings, don't follow a set repeating pattern or those who quilt intricate patterns (especially by hand).  But my quilts are fun and colorful and are intended to be used and take a beating.  I tell my friends if they ever get worn out, I'll make a replacement.

Baby quilts and table-runners seem more my speed.  I followed instructions for the first couple of baby quilts.  But after that, I would save photos of quilts I liked and design my own from there.  They are fun to make and I can finish a baby quilt or table runner in less than a week.  This baby quilt was based on an Amish scrappy quilt I had seen online.  I had a bunch of bits and pieces from a number of previous baby quilts, so it seemed like a fun project to do.  I initially miscalculated the internal block area, and suddenly needed to make the border a lot bigger than I had planned.  So I added the scrappy strip on the border, too.  It's one of my favorite quilts.

This was another make-it-up-as-I-go-along quilt, and I was very pleased with the results.  I had found the basic pinwheel design and thought it would be fun to make.  I loved the leafy green material and decided that had to go in this quilt.  I picked out four colors and started the quilt without even having considered what I'd do for the border.  The stripes just seemed to work; the pinwheels in the corners were a late-night inspiration.  It came out cool!

I did my first wall-hanging quilt a few years ago.  I need to do another one of those, too.  As usual, I didn't follow any instructions;  I saw a quilt like it online and calculated the sizes I needed for the pieces and total yardage.  I had to brush up on my geometry for this one.  I had such problems with the long diamonds, I ended up buying the beige material three times (although once was because the color on the bolt didn't match).

After all that, though, it came out amazing!  I think it's so neat that it is all straight edges, and yet it appears to have curves. I hated to part with it.  At least I know the recipient loves it as much as I do.

I try to do something new with each quilt:  new patterns or types of blocks.  I have several ideas on the drawing board, including a queen sized summer-weight quilt.  I just need to find the right material and start sewing!

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