Hand Quilt Along: An Old-Fashioned Quilter

quilting-2581992_1920“You think you’ve got it bad?? When I was your age, we walked 5 miles to school. In blinding snow. And it was uphill . . . both ways!”

We’ve all heard this sort of harkening back to the olden days and how much easier the younger generation’s life is. And we’ve been annoyed by it.

Well, this is Hand Quilt Along Sunday and Kathy Reeves had this notion that maybe the hand quilters were busy doing other holiday-type things, with little time for quilting these past three weeks. She suggested we write, instead, about how we got our start in the world of quilt making.

For a lapsed hand quilter, such as I, this was a welcome invitation! 

And what I have to say to the newer, younger generation of quilters is:

You think you’ve got it bad?? When I started quilting there were no rotary cutters! There were no specialty quilt shops, no celebrity quilters with YouTube channels. No fancy, odd-shaped rulers and dandy cutting mats and twee kits for every conceivable quilty creation.

We had scissors. Cardboard templates. Fabric from JC Penneys. 

I made my first quilt wen I was about 17. I have no idea why I made it, really.

I come from a crafty family but no one quilted. I don’t remember ever seeing a quilt. Fine hand-crafted clothing, crocheted afghans, embroidered pillowcases abounded but no quilts . . . 

But, when I was 17 or 18 years old, I had a book and there was a black and white photo of a double Irish chain quilt. And I was smitten.

I went to Woolworth’s, the local 5 and 10 cent store, and bought fabric in three colors, off-white, pink, and a deep red that matched the ruby glassware my grandmother loved.

The book didn’t provide a pattern but I figured things out and used my mother’s old sewing machine and made that quilt, big enough for my double bed. I used a light blanket as batting and tied the corners instead of quilting it. 

And I loved that quilt to pieces. It is long gone but fondly remembered. I wish I had a photo to share!

I didn’t make another quilt for nearly 20 years and rotary cutters still hadn’t been invented, or at least they hadn’t made it to my small town. But I had a good book to guide me, the classic Quilts, Quilts, Quilts, by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes, and I bought somewhat better fabric. I learned to hand quilt and made two or three quilts, and then took another multi-year hiatus from quilting.

Then I retired and have had time to get back to quilting but, my, how that world has changed! New techniques, new tools, new, and expensive, machinery. New ways of teaching and learning, and tons of sources of information. In my quilt guild of about 180, only two or three of us quilt by hand, everyone knows the names of the fabric designers, and most of the quilts are made from instructions by famous quilters, or from kits.     

I felt, and still do, really, that quilting had left me behind. I feel as out of touch with modern quilting as my grandmothers would feel if they were alive and set down in our modern computer-driven, social media world. 

I could, of course, move into the modern. I could get the long-arm quilting machine and the fancy rulers and a big stash of expensive designer fabric.

I started my quilting life modestly and I think that’s where I’ll end it. I am drawn to what quilting used to be more than what it is now.

I will stick to the traditional patterns and come up with my own colors and ways of putting blocks together, using graph paper and colored pencils. I’ll sew with my reliable Singer Featherweight. I’ll come up with an idea and go find fabric rather than accumulating a huge stash. I’ll quilt by hand and finish, maybe, a couple more quilts in this lifetime. 

I’ll admire, stand in awe of, quilts by modern quilters . . . but to my own self be true.

But don’t try to take my rotary cutter away from me! You’d have to pry it from my cold, dead hands . . . 


This Hand Quilt Along is an opportunity for hand quilters and piecers to share and motivate one another. We post every three weeks, to show our progress and encourage one another.  If you have a hand quilting project and would like to join our group contact Kathy at the link below.

KathyLoriMargaretKerryEmmaTracyDebConnieSusan,  NanetteSassy , EdithSharonKarrin, and Gretchen

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