Sunday, March 17, 2013

Plastic Templates - a thing of the past?

How many of you have been quilting long enough to remember plastic templates?  I learned to make them out of tracing paper, old x-ray film and fine grade sandpaper when I took my first quilting class in 1974.  Rotary cutters, plastic rulers and rotary mats didn't exist then.  I made so many of these templates, then painstakingly traced around each one many times and cut out each piece using scissors.  My first quilt was a Triple Irish Chain with a plastic template 1 1/2" square.  I traced around it well over 2500 times, carefully cutting out each square. 

I stored them in carefully labeled envelopes so I was ready when I wanted to make the quilt.  Some were too big for small envelopes, so I stored them in the larger brown-gold-buff (or whatever you call that color) envelopes that I could fine at the stationary store (there weren't any office supply stores then.


I found all these envelopes in my filing cabinet when I was cleaning today. Several dozen of them.  I can't imagine they are of much use to most quilters today.  When I have something odd shaped I trace it onto freezer paper and then iron it to the fabric before cutting it out.  If it has straight sides - which most of these templates do - I just tape it to the bottom of a rotary ruler so I know what size to cut.  Or I buy a template suitable for rotary cutting if one exists (my preferred method!)

Different design companies came out with collections of templates to make specific quilts.  I subscribed to this one from Leisure Arts for at least a year.  The templates came printed on heavy plastic suitable for tracing around.

A definite improvement over gluing sandpaper, x-ray film and tracing paper together, though they didn't stick to the fabrics that well and could move while being traced.  This also didn't allow you any leeway in making size changes to the blocks.  You had to cut the lines straight to assure your pieces were straight.  Being the obsessive-compulsive quilter I am, I used a metal edged ruler and exacto knife to cut mine.

Obviously I never used some of them, as they were never cut out.

I really enjoyed looking through my quilting past while going through these.  No pictures exist of any of the quilts I made at that time, and my first quilt is the only one I still have access to.  I gave so many away to various aunts and uncles, and have no idea whatever happened to them.  Long before the digital era, it just didn't seem important to take pictures of my creations.  After all, film was expensive and developing even more so.  And being a stay-at-home mom with two preschoolers I had to squeeze every penny to make it squeal.

How many of you quilted with these things too?  I'd love to hear your memories - either in a comment or a blog post of your own.

10 comments:

sophie said...

Coincidentally, today I pulled out a project I put away in 2010. It's a set of hand-pieced blocks and yes, I used (and saved) the templates–most are made from card stock, but there are some plastic templates in there, too :-)

cityquilter grace said...

i've got 2 plastic baggies filled with plastic templates, holding on to them for now but probably won't ever use them again. they predate the rotary cutter obviously...

Vicki said...

I still use plastic templates. Even if tracing onto freezer paper, I find it quicker to trace around the plastic template than to trace each one from the pattern. And I have no doubt that yours would be very accurate. the little devils can be hard to find sometimes though! I'm hoping to make a template pattern from the dresden block I bought yesterday so I can reproduce the block and will use plastic to trace on the freezer paper once made.

sewkalico said...

I still have some templates my mother cut out when she quilted back in the day. Never used them, but every now and then I come across them and it's a lovely memory. I bought a Marti Mitchel pattern with templates that you were supposed to purchase as well as the pattern, but I English paper-pieced the entire quilt so I didn't need the official templates.

Linda J said...

I started with them back in the late 80's but of course learned strip piecing methods right along with it. I still make some on occasion but more or less to confirm the cut when I have a diamond shape or trapezoid. A few applications and of course, templar too if making a round or oval shape for applique. They still have their uses--we don't toss the baby out with the bathwater!

Kigwit said...

I haven't really used templates much but I didn't start quilting until my second son was born in 2007. In fact, since I was already a spinner, knitter, tatter etc, I tried very hard not to quilt. I already had enough of a stash!

Tara Lynn Darr said...

Loved this post! I enjoy using templates and hand piecing! I have several of the plastic templates, in fact I am working on blocks right now using plastic templates!

betweens said...

I still use the plastic templates and hand applique and hand piece I don`t that will ever change there are some patterns that you just cannot rotary cut and piece plus it is so relaxing!

Miz Karen said...

I haven't used plastic templates in a long time. I have a whole book of patterns with templates that I got years ago. Got a different one each month. I still look through it but haven't found anything that appealed to me recently.

sewkalico said...

There isn't perchance a double wedding ring in the plastic templates is there? - nudge nudge wink wink LOL
I fancy doing that as my next big handwork project as soon as my Carolina Lilys are finished.