Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The evolution of a fabriholic

I've been in love with fabric, thread and needle since I was 5 years old. That's when my mother taught me to make a simple running stitch with embroidery thread so I could make a picture. I could get a kit for about 10 cents at J.J. Newberry's that included needle, thread, and small picture already mounted in a colored plastic frame that also served as a hoop. I still have a couple of those pictures that I did. I moved on to pillow cases and dish towels made of flour sack fabric that I hemmed myself. Vogart Iron-On Transfers were available in quantity for 10 cents. My mother always got a new set of dish towels from me for Christmas until I was in Junior High.

In junior high I took home ec. What a disaster! I had a terrible teacher - Mrs. Peters. She was shaped like a pouter pigeon. She walked with her chest thrust out, her behind swaying, and a handkerchief held in one hand. She would walk around the room saying "I want all you girls to grow up to be just like me."

Luckily my mother sewed, so she took me in hand and taught me to run her machine and make clothes. I made all my clothes - except for underwear and jeans - until I was in my 30's! I sewed for the kids and my husband also - even made all his slacks and a suit!

I started taking McCalls Needlework and Crafts when I was about 12. I fell in love with the quilts! My mother had one old quilt - a LeMoyne Star that had been pieced by my paternal grandmother who died before I was born. By the time I remember it, it was in tatters. I had no other quilting history in my background but I fell in love nevertheless. I dreamed about quilting for years. When I was 14 I took my babysitting money and purchased "101 Patchwork Patterns" by Ruby McKim. That was the only quilting book I could find. It was originally published in 1931 - my edition was pubished in 1962. I devoured the quilt patterns in the magazines, but had no money for fabrics. A couple years later I found another book - The Standard Book of Quilt Making and Collecting by Marguerite Ickis. It was originally published in 1949 but mine is a later Dover edition. I was in heaven - two quilting books in addition to the quilts in the McCalls magazines.

When we moved to Vancouver in 1974 I took my first quilting class at the community college. It was taught by a woman who had a neat shop called "The Hole in the Barn Door". It was the predecessor of today's quilt shops. It had a small amount of fabric - there wasn't that much available - plus teddy bear, doll and other craft supplies. We did everything by hand in class using templates made from x-ray film and sandpaper. I loved it! I came home and started my first quilt - one for our bed. It was a triple Irish chain in red, green and white. I cut out thousands of little squares by drawing around a template! I did stitch it by machine however - the handwork was too slow for me. Took forever to finish that quilt - I'd used a sheet for the back and it was impossible to hand quilt through. I finally finished it by tying it with yarn. It never went on the bed - the curtains I made that matched it were old and faded long before it was done. I cut a slit from the side to the center, zigzagged it, and it served as our Christmas tree skirt for many years. Now our daughter and son-in-law use it under their tree.

Lots has happened since then - many, many finished quilts, the purchase of a long arm machine, teaching quilting for several years for the guild and Daisy Kingdom in Portland Oregon, and the collecting of a huge stash that fills two rooms. And I'm more in love with quilting than I've ever been before!

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