Monday 3 June 2013

MY FIRST QUILT, with lots of help from the library

I come from the loins of a quilter, and now, finally, I have been motivated by the impending birth of a grandchild to make my first *real* quilt .  Real, as in pieced- together patchwork and quilted, not tied.  This is not said to offend anyone who makes tied quilts.  Rather it's to honour my mother, the maker of dozens of often hand-pieced, and always hand-quilted, ones.  (She was never too proud to say that singer and songwriter Anne Murray has two of them.)    

Choosing a pattern and material was absolutely mind-boggling!  This is where I begin promoting our quilting books, of which we have many. Sadly, my mother is no longer able to share her experience and expertise so I must rely on snippets of memory,  touching and studying the quilts she gave me, while poring over a dozen or more library books.  As a true beginner, with only the aforesaid background to guide me, I cannot stress enough how valuable it proved to look at as many books as possible.  Even ones that seem too advanced -- or have quilt styles not suited to your tastes -- serve to guide you in some way toward choosing a pattern or passing on a tip or two. You definitely don’t want to spend your money buying any books until you know what's best for you. 

 I found a book by Carol Doak to be a good starting tool.  Not surprisingly, it's called Your First Quilt book (or it should be!).   All your basic quilting lingo is described and explained simply.  It talks about the tools of the trade –  rotary cutters, rulers, and cutting mats; it lists common missteps and how to avoid them ;  it guides you through each function, with diagrams. The Quilter's Ultimate Visual Guide, by Ellen Pahl  is another one that proved very helpful.  These two books, along with many others, gave me the knowledge and confidence to take the first step.

 I can't go without saying that this initiative proved a nostalgic, sometimes emotional, revisit to my childhood.  It conjured up strong and very specific flashbacks of, as a toddler, being lulled to sleep by the whirr of a sewing machine; about age 4, my cat and I in our 'house' under the quilt, still in its frame taking up most of the dining area; around age 5, my cat and I fondling the patchwork pieces, counting and recounting the colourful finished squares;  age 7, marking and cutting swatches of material from cardboard templates;  at 10, sewing machine tutorials; and later, marking the patterns and actually quilting a few stitches with my mother and her needlework pals.   (I was often delegated to "move the cat" in order that the flow of quilting could go uninterrupted).   
With a grandchild on the horizon, I'm realizing how those early days of being surrounded by the art of quilting were educational in so many ways.  What a great opportunity to learn about colour, texture, math (count those squares for me, would you dear?), fractions and angles, fine motor skills and development. If you have children/grandchildren, definitely consider involving them in your quilting efforts!  I know I wasn't always helpful, but I certainly absorbed many pieces of the experience.

 I have digressed. Our books will undoubtedly help you take the plunge into your first quilting project.  Decide on a pattern, acquire your fabric, and make that first cut!  Prepare to have housework undone.  Inform your partner about the new Quilting Diet (few groceries in stock, and no meals prepared).  And buy a couple of extra lint brushes.  

 I thoroughly enjoyed making my first 'real' quilt ,  surrounded by many library books  -- and, of course, my cat, who now comes running the instant she hears the whirr of the sewing machine!  
PS   I used a sewing machine throughout my quilt project!

-Wendy Trimper
  Head of Branch Services

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