Today is National Quilting Day!

I know this is not an exciting announcement for most of the world, but I am a quilter through and through so just knowing today is a day to celebrate quiltmaking makes me happy.

National Quilting Day info: (and a free downloadable pattern!)

How did I become a quilter?

I began quilting in 1989.  I had a friend who taught at the same high school that I did.  She taught art, and I taught music.  We became good friends.  She convinced me that quilting was something I should try.  (She also taught me how to weave baskets and many other cool things, but I digress!  Thank you, dear Annette!)  We went to a nearby fabric store and I picked out 10 fabrics.  Half were shades of blue (light to dark) and half were shades of tan (light to medium).  It was decided I would be making a log cabin quilt for my first project.  I decided to “fussy cut” a center square that had a little design in it — I think it was a rusty colored flower.  (So long ago!  It is hard to remember for sure…)

I cut the strips using a rotary cutter and a cutting mat.  Annette showed me how to piece a block.

I already knew how to sew.  When I was in middle school all girls still took home economics, and we all learned to sew aprons, dresses, pants, etc.  I also was in 4-H (briefly for a couple of years).  Most importantly, though, my mom sewed quite a lot and had always made clothes for us as we were growing up.  I already loved picking out unique fabrics for making trendy clothing (think mid 70’s — lots of wild colors and prints!).  So, the love of fabric, textiles, and creating was already there which made it easy for me to become a quilter I think.

The construction of the log cabin block was pretty easy, and Annette was a patient and skilled teacher.  It took me a while to get the blocks all made.  Putting them together and putting on the borders was not a huge problem, but by the time I was ready to quilt it — Annette and her husband were living in a different state!

log cabin detail
log cabin detail (Photo credit: Britt Willis)

(This is not my quilt block, but it is a log cabin block very similar to what I made.  Mine was blue where the dark browns are.)

I turned to PBS and Kay Wood for help.  (See video above) I bought a couple of quilting books.  I forged ahead.  I taped the backing to our kitchen floor and somehow managed to get the thing basted and then machine quilted on my sewing machine.

At the same time, before I finished the blue/tan log cabin, I had begun working on a quilt for my very young nephew.  I had chosen a sailboat pattern.  The boats would be red with white sails on a dark blue night sky complete with tiny stars printed on the fabric sky.  The sashing (the strips that go between the blocks) would be a cool medium blue wavy print.  The backing was red w/ tiny white stripes.  This pattern had triangles and other things I had not tackled before in the quilt world.  I kept forging ahead.  I would try the next step on my tan/blue log cabin quilt, then do it on the sailboat quilt.  This was true for the borders, for the basting, for the quilting and for the binding.  I eventually got both quilts completed!  (My nephew was only two by the time I finished.) True quilters will notice that I had two projects going already!!

The blue and tan log cabin quilt.  My very first quilt!
The blue and tan log cabin quilt. My very first quilt!
Basting Joel's sailboat quilt
Basting Joel’s sailboat quilt
Joel's sailboat quilt finished!
Joel’s sailboat quilt finished!

I knew my Grandmother (my mom’s mom) was a quilter, but had never really talked to her about it.  (My mom was born in 1931, the oldest of four children.  They lived in a small town in Indiana.)  When we finally talked about quilts, I discovered that my Grandmother loved to quilt.  Grandma said it often, after she learned that I was becoming a quilter.  She also said, “I would rather quilt than eat!”  (That made quite an impression on me since our family loves to eat.)

Grandma loved the actual hand quilting part the most, she said.  I remember times when I was very young when there was a large quilting frame set up in their living room.  This happened rarely, and then not at all as she got older.  I later found out that she made many extremely beautiful quilts:  a trip around the world with very small postage stamp sized squares, a blazing star, a double wedding ring and others.  She told me she used to go help pick out the bags of feed and flour so she got the prettiest fabrics.  My mom had a double wedding ring that she used and used until it nearly wore out.  (Mom washed it in Tide and always had the curtains open with the sun shining on it, too!  Quilters cringe!)

The quilts I remember Grandma making most were the Sunbonnet Sue quilts.   She loved those little girls in bonnets.  She chose fabrics for the dresses, the hats, the pockets and shoes.  There are lots of variations to this pattern, but she always used the same one.  I think I have her pattern somewhere in box down in our basement.  The pieces are traced onto thin cardboard (something like a cereal box) and have been traced around many, many, many times.

(This is a more modern and much larger version, but you can get the idea.)

Each of the pieces were meticulously hemmed (by machine, I think) and then hand appliqued using black floss with a blanket stitch around EACH tiny piece.

She died before she completed a quilt for each of her Grandchildren, or for any of us I believe.  My mom gathered enough blocks from Grandma’s stash after her death to have two quilts made for my sister and me.  An Amish woman pieced the tops and then hand quilted them.

My Grandmother wanted me to have her quilting frame.  It is still in our basement, though I’m pretty sure I’ll never use it. I’m honored that she wanted me to have it, though.

The few fabrics and blocks I have of Grandma’s are very precious.  I am proud to be in a line of quilters that reaches back who knows how far.  I know there were some other quilters because my mom was given a lovely baby quilt by one of her Aunts.  I have it now, and it is a treasure.  This picture of my then seven month old baby girl sitting on that quilt is also a treasure!  (Note:  This is a Sunbonnet Sue quilt very similar to those my Grandmother made, but this one was made by one of my mother’s Aunts.)

Sweet Sarah at Seven Months sitting on the quilt given to her Grandma Sliger in 1931.
Sweet Sarah at seven months sitting on the quilt given to her Grandma Sliger in 1931.

One of my favorite quilt related quotes is this:

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without

I think this was a phrase that was often used during the Depression and during the war years.  It is a good mantra for life today, too, I believe.

Cat quilt on the wall belonged to ME when I was a baby.  Made by a neighbor lady.
Cat quilt on the wall belonged to ME when I was a baby. Made by a neighbor lady. (This is my darling baby Sarah again, at about 6 weeks old.  She is taller than I am now.)

I’m very proud that I have convinced several friends to become quilters.  I call it “pushing them off the quilt cliff.”  Most of them were already sewers, but at least one wasn’t really.  Let’s see — Amy, Sue, Wendy — there are probably more but I can’t remember right now.  Sue became a quilt teacher, works at a quilt shop, and designs her own patterns.  She even had a pattern of hers published in a quilt magazine last year!  I don’t think Amy is quilting right now, but I know she enjoyed it when she did.  Wendy often makes her own patterns and is very creative and prolific.

As for me, I have been trying to get projects finished up and bound.  I had two quilts that need bindings put on and one that just needs the binding sewn down by hand.  I can’t say how many projects I have planned, but let’s just say they won’t all fit in two large Rubbermaid tubs…

I think my Grandma would be proud of me.  I love to quilt, too, but I’m not sure about the “more than eating” part.  😉

I’m thankful for the quilting friends in my life.  They are a constant source of inspiration, joy and comradery.

Note:  The “Leave a Reply” button is at the top of this post.  I don’t know how to move it down to the bottom.  Hopefully soon I will figure that out!  I welcome your comments.


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I am a pianist, musician, music teacher, choir director, mother, wife, daughter, sister, cousin, sister-in-law, friend, neighbor. I enjoy music (of course!), quilting, sewing, beading, traveling, kayaking, camping, biking, hiking, gardening, knitting, scrapbooking, cooking, reading, poetry, drinking good coffee, and having fun with family and friends. NOTE -- Creative Commons License: All work of The Tromp Queen (quirkyjazz, aka Jill) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 Unported License.

8 thoughts on “Today is National Quilting Day!”

  1. As you know, I just made my first quilt. It won’t be the last. I really enjoyed it. It was from a kit at Walmart. i know nothing about quilting but look forward to learning!

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