I sat in front of the sewing machine, palms sweaty, my foot barely reaching the pedal, and my mother standing over my shoulder. My seams weren’t straight and the shirt I sewed didn’t fit. I hated the entire process. I swore I would never sew again.
A decade and a half later (in 2010), I got an unexplainable urge to sew a quilt for a friend’s new baby. Armed with a hand-me-down sewing machine, I turned to the best teacher I know: the internet. I watched YouTube videos and read tutorials for every step. I called my mom and grandmothers more times than I can count.
I bought the fabrics for the quilt at the only fabric store I knew of - JoAnn's. I bought a fabric book panel, coordinating solids, and a stripe. (The book panel was a Daisy Kingdom panel named "Jesus and Me" by Michelle L. Palmer.)
I cut the book pages apart to be blocks and added the solid fabrics around each page. I did not follow a pattern, just made it up as I went.
After just a few stitches, I knew the "just-in-case" sewing machine my mom had made me take upon adulthood was not going to cut it. I started a search for a new one. After talking with my mom and grandmothers again, I decided I wanted a vintage Bernina due to the all-metal parts and ability to service it myself. We were living in Las Vegas, NV at the time. I called all the sewing machine stores and repair shops to find one. Nothing. I searched eBay. Nothing. I was teaching middle school math and the school I taught at had a "sewing class." I decided to ask the teacher, Karen LaPratt, if she had any suggestions. When I asked, she said, "that's the only kind I sew on! I don't want to sell any of mine though!" A few days later, she came to me and said she had changed her mind. She didn't need all of the ones she had. I drove to her home and picked up a Bernina 930 Record. I paid $500 - a ridiculous amount of money for a sewing machine for someone that had no idea what she was doing! I vividly remember Karen gathering up some sewing machine oil, the extra feet, and was looking for the manual. She asked me if I knew how to use it, to which I replied, "Of course!" She said, "So you know when you put the bobbin in that the thread makes a nine?" Again, I fibbed and said, "Yep!" She never knew how much that one remark has stuck with me! (Karen passed away in 2015.)
I immediately knew the sewing machine was a fantastic purchase. The difference in my sewing was enormous. The frustration I had felt when using the old machine was gone!
After sewing the blocks together, I used Heat-N-Bond to fuse the letters of the baby's name and a few fussy cut images from the book panel to the center block.
I tried doing everything the "right" way, so I thought I needed to free motion quilt around the designs in each block and around the letters I fused in the middle. I had no idea how to fmq on my new-to-me machine. I discovered if I used the knee lift to lift the presser foot just off the top of the quilt, I could move the quilt around and stitch around each item. I kept the regular 1/4" foot on the machine.
For binding, Karen often stitched the binding on her quilts using a decorative machine stitch. Given my limited knowledge of quilting, I thought this was the quickest and easiest option for me. I used a curved stitch, however many times the stitches were closer together than I would have liked, so the look wasn't uniform.
I was able to present the quilt to my friend in person when her baby was just a few months old. A couple years later, my friend shared a photo of her daughter on the quilt. I was thrilled to know the quilt was still being used and loved!
The learning curve with that first quilt was huge. Everything was new - and I loved it! As soon as the quilt was finished, I wanted to start a new one to try out all the new things I had learned. I decided right then that I would try something new with every quilt I made. I wanted to keep learning and more importantly, keep creating.
A quilter was born.
Linking up with Devoted Quilter's My First Quilt linky party.