Quilter's Tools & My History of Quilting

These are my new PrismaColor colored pencils. I decided to add to my collection and purchased an array of purples, 2 greens, a light blue, and a yellow ochre. I'm going to continue to work on the flower sampler from earlier this week.

This purchase got me to thinking about the tools quilters use now-a-days as opposed to what my grandmother used. The tools we have access to as quilters today are endless. I think about how my Grandmother quilted with just a needle, thimble, thread and a wooden quilt frame, and using pieces of cardboard for templates and a pencil for tracing them as well as marking quilting lines on the pieced top. Wait! That's how I started out quilting!

My paternal grandmother was the only other quilting family member that I knew of when I started quilting, and she died when I was 2 years old. I learned to quilt from the descriptions in the "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My first quilt was made from embroidered blocks - the kind you could get at the "Five & Dime" stores. My mother bought these for me to hand-embroider while I was recovering from major surgery when I was 15 years old. I completed the embroidery during my 9 month recovery period and started piecing them shortly thereafter. I used solid colored batiste for the alternate blocks, and pieced them together on my mother's Touch & Sew domestic machine. I hand-quilted the top with All-purpose thread with huge stitches - I mean 1/4" long stitches! I wanted to get that quilt done and found that larger quilting stitches went faster-ha!

My second quilt was never finished, and I've long since lost the blocks I was making. It was a 9-patch made from leftover fabric from garment sewing. I used to sew all my own clothes so I had lots of leftover scraps to use. I didn't like how the blocks were turning out, so I set it aside and forgot about it. After 11 moves, the blocks have been lost.

Then about a year after we were married I started another quilt. It's a Trip-Around-the-World made from poly-cotton fabrics in pinks and blues. 100% cottons weren't plentiful back then. (You guess what time-frame I'm talking about). I used a cardboard template for the squares and machine pieced them together and hand quilted the top. I discovered hand-quilting thread by this time and made my quilting stitches smaller. That quilt is still used by my DD's from time to time.

A few years later, I discovered quilting shows on TV and a new gadget called a "rotary cutter"! Wow!! What neat idea! I ran right out and bought a cutter and mat and went to town. My quilts, however, became smaller. I was still hand quilting and wanted to get the project finished quickly so I could move on to the next top. I was so excited about the piecing stage that I was creating tops faster than I could quilt them, and the stack of unfinished tops was getting larger - you've never been there, I know ;)

So, I tried quilting on my domestic sewing machine. I could never get the hang of that. Thinking it was my machine, I bought a new one. My old machine really was old and the rubber feed-dogs were wearing out, so I was able to justified the new purchase. The new machine didn't help, though. So the stack of unfinished tops kept growing.

A few years later, I purchased another new domestic machine. This one did quilt better, but I didn't like the process. After making a queen-sized quilt top for a charity event, I hired a longarm machine quilter to finish it for me. I wasn't up to quilting a quilt that large on my domestic machine. She was very generous in showing me her machine and how it worked. I was hooked! Unfortunately I didn't have a room in my house large enough to accomodate a large machine, so the stack of quilt tops kept growing.

Then after 2 more moves, we finally had a house with a basement and room for a quilting machine. After a year of research and trying out different machines, I chose the Gammill Classic. I didn't have enough money to purchase it with a stitch-regulator, so I went without. Soon I was quilting for others. That was over 7 years ago and I just had the stitch-regulator added and I love it!

Today when I look at my studio and all the tools I have now, I'm amazed that I ever created quilts with the basics. Not only do I have a quilting machine, but I have acrylic templates, tools, patterns, books, instructional DVD's, magazines galore, and drawers full of fabric to work with. Not to mention drawers of quilting thread, fusible web, yarns, trims, beads, fabric pens, colored pencils, fabric dyes, etc., etc., etc.! And then ther is all the information on the internet, and quilt shows with classes!

I think if my grandmother stepped into my studio, she would be overwhelmed, but thrilled to see all the tools available for quilting. One day I'll finish making a top out of her hand-pieced, Cactus Basket quilt blocks, and quilt the top on my Gammill Classic Plus. I think Grandma would be pleased.


TracyC said…
I remember when you got your long arm. I had a strange dream about it. You make so many beautiful quilts with all your tools. :-)
Susan Loftin said…
Tracy - Now I have to hear about this dream of yours!

Popular posts from this blog

Log Cabin

Hawaiian Quilt Progress and a Finished Double Wedding Ring Quilt

Zipper Leader Tutorial - Part 1