Thursday, February 07, 2008

Quilt Class

If you read my last column you know that my SIL Lois arranged for a quilting class for herself, me, Bonnie, and Rosie for our Christmas present.

So, twice now, the four of us have gathered at Thimbles & Threads in Junction City, a colorful feminine store that used to be Ralph's Pharmacy or something but is now home to fascinating arrays of fabric and yarn, with the words "Cards and Gifts" still visible behind the yellow fabric stapled onto the back wall.

The first day, I walked into the classroom in the back, looked around at all the quilt samples on the walls, and realized I was not in Kansas anymore. Which is to say, these bizarre, eye-popping quilts were a long, long, way from Mom's traditional calico Drunkard's Path and Burgoyne Surrounded and Robbing Peter to Pay Paul.

We learned basic strip-piecing at the first class. My sisters and I remember hours and hours spent marking hundreds of squares or triangles with a cardboard template and a pen on Mom's fabric, then cutting them out with scissors. With strip-piecing, in great contrast, you take a pizza-cutter-type tool and cut a bunch of long strips the width of the square you want--say 3 inches--and then you sew the strips together, side by side, and then you cut them the other way into 3" strips and there you have a bunch of squares cut out and already sewed together.

This of course expands into hundreds of variations and applications, and yesterday as I sat in class I suddenly picked up on the great truth of quilting--there's always more to learn; there are always more patterns to try; there are always more colors and fabrics and books you just have to have.

All of which explains why Mom had rooms full of fabric and notebooks full of ideas, yet never seemed to reach the end of her curiosity and coveting after more.

We learn a new technique, then make three or four different blocks using it. We'll have enough blocks for a big quilt if we do all the homework, we were told. Instead, I'm trying to do two twin-sized quilts, for Ben and Steven.

I started with a large-print base fabric--again, this was nothing like Mom ever did--choosing a beautiful tan with clusters of African-safari animals all over it for Steven.

So much of this is all new to me, but it's amazing what is instinctive. Once I have the strips cut, it all comes back--this side against this one, quarter-inch seam, this piece goes on next. The teacher says things to me like, "Oh, you're doing that already--I guess you jumped ahead of me," and "I want to teach you a little trick with these Log Cabins--Oh! I guess you already figured it out yourself," which shows, I think, that Mom taught me more than probably she or I ever realized.

I don't know where I'll go with quilt-making when the class is over. I could really get into some of these modern art quilts, yet I'm old-fashioned enough that I'd much rather cut up scraps from the attic and sew them together than buy $10-a-yard fabric and whack it to pieces.

After my last column, an editor at Harvest House Publishers here in Eugene told me to make sure I keep a journal of all this, that there's a book in it somewhere. I don't know about a book, but I have a growing pile of beautiful quilt blocks I put together all by myself, and I know there's a real quilt in there, and that is a very good feeling.

Quote of the Day:
"It seems like an unethical shortcut!"
--my sis Becky, when I told her about strip-piecing


  1. Now before everyone all goes out and gets those pizza cutter style cutters. There is an ergonomically savvy one I saw at a fair. The young guy who was demonstrating it established the company himself and they are selling like hot cakes for a price compatible with the pizza cutter. I see Joann sells them called Ergo 2000. The beauty of these are that you can cut twice as much fabric with half the effort because of how your hand holds the blade.

  2. Wow, what an awesome Christmas gift. I have found it to be such a rewarding hobby. Ask your children for the Stack & Whack quilt book(s) for your birthday. There's nothing more satisfying than chopping THESE pieces, sewing them, and then pressing the last seam open to find what you have created. It's highly addictive (and, thankfully for me, doesn't take a ton of concentration).

  3. thank you!! :)

  4. I love strip-piecing. I probably wouldn't have attempted quilting otherwise. I am saving all my favorite clothes that my children have worn as infants and toddlers, and one day my plan is to cut them to pieces and make a quilt just for me.

  5. I kinda agree with your sis Becky, BUT if I had opportunity to take a quilting class like this, I'd go for it. My mom made gobs of quilts the right and spiritual way, but honestly, I'll never do it like that. Now when are YOU going to have the time to fit THAT in?? ~Love you~