So Quilting Daily, the emailed newsletter from Interweave Press, is daring us to write the story of our first quilt. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I will take up their prompt and take you back to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when I was still in high school.
I had started sewing my own clothes, and got the idea to make a quilt from the leftover bits. I can't say why I got the idea; my grandmothers had both quilted, but apparently looked upon it as work rather than creativity and neither one of them thought to pass the skill on to me, even though they had been enthusiastic about my embroidery and garment-sewing. But somehow I had come to know that you could stitch fabric down to a ground, and maybe put some embroidery on it, and eventually you would have a quilt.
This was pre-polyester, so at least my first quilting attempts did not involve double knits. My leftovers were cotton, many of them in a weight that we would today call quilting fabric, although there were some heavier ones in there. I was especially fond of a fabric called Kettle Cloth, resembling homespun with some slubs, but more firmly woven. It made fabulous dresses and I had used it in many different colors (interestingly, I only saw one printed Kettle Cloth in all the years it was on the market, and some of it is in the quilt).
This was also before the quilting craze hit the U.S. and I had no books or magazines to provide helpful hints. So, for instance, I used 5/8" seams, just like in garment sewing. And despite my math proficiency, I somehow hadn't figured out that it would be a good idea to make all my blocks the same size. But eventually, over a period of several years, I accumulated enough scraps, and enough blocks, for a quilt, and got them sewed together.
I did lots of embroidery, and sewed on bits and pieces of upholstery trimming and other miscellaneous fabric-like substances.
Decades passed. We moved. I noticed that the quilt was covered in dust and worse, so I threw it in the washing machine. Oops. Mattress ticking shrinks about 10%, while most of the rest of the quilt didn't. And since it was tied, rather skimpily, the new effect featured bulges and droops. After I kicked myself for a while, I decided the quilt was still beautiful and hung it back on the wall, droops and all. And you know what? The light wasn't very good in that room, and nobody even noticed the droops unless I masochistically pointed them out.
More years passed. I inherited a huge painting from my father and the quilt wall was the only place to put it. I took the quilt down, inspected it, and decided it needed a second life. So I washed it again and took it apart. Note to self: don't use decorative stitches if you plan to unsew later -- the stitches were so close together I couldn't get a seam ripper in. It took weeks of TV watching and cussing to get the facings off.
The flannel "batting" layer had started to disintegrate, so I pitched it. The mattress ticking, which I had also enhanced with additional decorative stitching, still looked fine (although it was several inches smaller than the quilt top). And the quilt top itself still looked great -- at least from the front. From the back, it's obvious that I didn't waste any time worrying about workmanship, pressing, or other such niceties.
Update: If this turns out to be the best first-quilt story in the bunch, here are the five books I want from the Interweave store (which by the way has a bunch of nice marked-down books that you might want to check out: