Thursday, April 3, 2014

My First Quilt

If you spend any time in the quilting blogosphere you might have noticed that people are writing about "My First Quilt." There's a contest going around asking quilters to submit stories on their blogs about the first quilt they ever made. It's fun to read different stories and it's also fun to win free stuff, so here's my story!


I can see the blocks of the first quilt I put together in my mind's eye. The blocks are 2x2". One is navy. The other white. My mom has used a pencil to draw a line marking the 1/4" seam.  I make my quilters knot and try to keep the two pieces together with one hand while using the other to push the needle in and out along the pencil line.

I think I am about seven or eight. I don't remember much else except for finishing that first seam, knotting the thread and opening the seam up to see the two pieces sewn together. I can still feel the sense of accomplishment. Twenty-five-plus-years later I still feel that accomplishment when I open a seam and see points perfectly joined. Corners perfectly matched. The shape of a bigger block or scene beginning to emerge.

If I remember correctly that became nothing more than a little nine patch quilt for my dolly. I'm sure my mom helped me finish it. Who knows if it was actually quilted together. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of it.

Eighteen years and two thousand miles later I would find myself living alone in a small town in Western Washington. I hadn't made any more quilts but had been sewing in one form or another during all that time. Sewing had always been a way for me to be creative and to unwind. I liked using a different part of my brain and letting my thoughts trail off with the hopes that I would find some inspiration for the next essay I would write in high school or college. If I'm completely honest, I sewed to occupy my time since I didn't have a lot of friends.

Now, here I was living in Small Town, USA and I didn't have many friends outside of my job and the ones I did have lived 35 miles away across high desert. I was working at my first job outside of college and living in a studio apartment above a lawyer's office. There was a fabric store across the street from me and I noticed they were going to start a beginner quilting class. We were going to make a table runner.

I'm pretty sure every beginner quilting class makes the same table runner.

From far away, not so bad
Looking back, it wasn't a great class: we didn't learn how to properly cut the fabric; there were at least a dozen of us in the class but had only the space for a third as many; the instructor flew through various techniques and assumed we all understood after one explanation. But I had nothing better to do after work so I continued to go each week. Cutting out the fabric and sewing them by hand each night became my new nighttime routine. I looked forward to the class and to the women I had met there.

At that time I was working at administering a federally funded welfare program. It was stressful. I was having constant heart burn and a gall bladder attack every day. After a particularly bad day at work I raced home to get my quilting stuff, shove some sort of sustenance down my throat and run across the street trying not to be too late to class. We were sewing triangles together. Or maybe squares to make half-square triangles. All I know is that three times in a row I didn't sew the two pieces front sides together. Remember, I have no machine so I have to rip it all out and then start again with just my needle and thread. I'm falling farther and farther behind the rest of the class that night. After having a bad day at work I just couldn't handle having a bad day at quilting class-this was supposed to be my oasis.

So many problems with this table runner!

As I am working with my head down I realize I can't see the two blocks in my hands anymore. They are completely obscured by the tears forming in my eyes. I quickly wipe them away and see dark smudges from my mascara on my hands and I think to myself, "I'm not going to cry like a small child here in front of all these women." I grabbed all my stuff, walked out of the store, across the street and back into my studio apartment.

I never went back. Not to the class. Not into that store.

I quit my job not too long after that experience. My fiancee was living in Seattle and I wanted to be closer to him. The stress of that job was affecting my health. Looking back, I think I knew that crying over something as simple as a quilt wasn't about the fabric in my hands at all. I was lonely. I was stressed. I didn't know it yet, but I was starting to get pretty sick. Sewing-something that I had loved in one way or another-couldn't help me to find relief in my life.

After that class my parents bought me a sewing machine the following Christmas. I still use it. In fact, I used it in the first home my husband and I had to make a quilt I saw in a store in Poulsbo, WA. I used it to make baby quilts for cousin's children, nieces, and my own children. Since I walked out of that quilting class eight or nine years ago I have made at least a dozen quilts. But I haven't finished that table runner. You see, after the birth of my last child I went through some postpartum depression; with three children under the age of 5 I just couldn't find the time to sew, to carve that time out for myself. But here in the last few months, as sleeping patterns have gotten better, teeth have started to come in and cold season is for the most part over, I've been able to start sewing again. It's brought me a lot of happiness. That sense of accomplishment.

Just needs some binding!
So, maybe I don't have the cleanest house on the block (or the city); maybe there are toys on the floor and laundry that needs to be put away. My kids are happy and healthy. You know why? Because Mama's happily sewing away!

Oh, and those navy and white squares I used to make my first quilt? My mom gave them to me while she was making a quilt for my younger brother. I'll be adding the binding to that quilt and laying it on my son's bed just as soon as I'm done working on my current quilt!

I still haven't finished that table runner. Typical. It's #23 on My List.


If I am lucky enough to win this contest, I would like A Quilter's Mixology and The Quilter's Appliqué Workshop Books, a subscription to Quilting Arts and Stitch Magazine, and Mollie Makes Ultimate Book Bundle.

If YOU would like to enter the contest (and you should!) find all the information here.


  1. Lovely story! I am so glad that your life is more fulfilling now. And what you show of your projects is lovely. We are always our hardest critics.... Happy quilting!

    1. Thank you, Regina. We are our hardest critics-I will finish the table runner one day and use it proudly-it shows how far I have come as a quilter!

  2. Kate personally I think you should leave that table runner unfinished. Not as a testament to the poor class teacher but as a reminder of the painful past you left behind. Your finished works are pleasant reminder of a positive (even if stressful) present and future. Thank you for sharing your story!

  3. What a great way of thinking of the table runner, Becky. Thanks for stopping by!