Piecing through the Decades


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Have you ever been reading such a good book that you deliberately would read only a page or two because you just didn’t want it to end?  I think that subconsciously I did that with this quilt.  I loved pulling it out and laying the blocks together.  I would shuffle them like cards trying to decide how to put them together.  I love how the fabric feels in my hands.  Now because I did not finish the class, I never got the instructions for how to put all of the blocks together.  So, while I had all of the block patterns, I hadn’t a clue what to do with them.  My education was incomplete and I was afraid of ruining the blocks.  So they waited and waited while I quilted other quilts for family and friends; took classes, honed my skills, and became comfortable in my own ability to be free and quilt for me and me alone. 

Three years ago a wonderful thing happened to me.  I was among the thousands of Simply Quilts and Alex Anderson fans.  Alex always had interesting guests on her show, but while I enjoyed watching it, I never felt like I learned enough to actually try some of the techniques the guests demonstrated.  And as much as I would love to travel and attend live classes from these terrific quilters/artists, it was just not to be.  Then in 2007, Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims started an online quilting Mecca called The Quilt Show.  I joined before there were any classes simply because I believed in Alex Anderson.  After I joined, I learned more about the co-creator, Ricky Tims.  He has an amazing gift and he artistically shows the most incredible quilts.  Ricky also is very generous in his knowledge, which I truly appreciate.  Since 2007, I have been blown away by the talented individuals that they have brought to TQS and the honest sharing that Alex and Ricky give each and every day and show.  Last year was the first time ever that I quit worrying about a pattern and begun designing my own quilts.   I believe this is a direct result from having exposure to all these ‘greats’ of the quilt world.  I can’t begin to tell you how freeing this has been for me.  I can now step outside my box and no longer do I feel the need to have to have a pattern to follow.  Talk about releasing enormous amounts of creativity!  I’ve become more fearless and think my newer quilts are reflecting my growth and new attitude. 

During this same time, I was fortunate to attend a Janet Fogg class.  She is an incredible artist and quilter.  Janet lives in Oregon and I was so excited to learn that she offered classes in her studio.  Her one-day class taught me the basics of taking a picture and creating a quilt around the picture.  She also taught how to incorporate traditional blocks into the art quilt.  Another freeing moment and more freedom released to quilt in unexpected ways.  Her class directly influenced my ‘The Lady’ quilt. 

I attribute pulling out my PTTD quilt, hand piecing the final block, and designing the rest of the quilt to fit my blocks with where I am now in my life.  In a way, this quilt is my life.  Piece by piece it reflects not only where I was in my quilting journey but also in my life journey.  I smile when I look at the butterfly block because not only was I a brand new quilter, I was also brand new in my faith when I began this block.  The circles in the wings are not smooth and perfect and neither was I.  God was just beginning to mold me and teach me.  I’m still not a perfect circle, but through His grace and love, my edges are smoother.   There’s much joy in those blocks and equally there’s much sadness.  Life isn’t always perfect nor is this quilt.

Now that the top is done, I have a hard decision to make.  Should I attempt to free motion the top myself, which I’m really new at; hand quilt it, which will take me at least 6 months; or give my quilt to a longarm expert and have him or her add a new dimension to it.  It turned out to be a nice, big quilt which will keep us warm both in heat and memories.

As I sit here typing this and admiring the top, I can’t help but think of other people just starting their journey and hoping that they have as wonderful a time as I have had living their life and quilting. 

Thank you to all of the selfless teachers I’ve met during my journey.  Without your sharing of your talents, the world would definately be a less colorful and joyful place.

Introducing my complete top of Piecing through the Decades (1987 – 2010).

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And Dillan’s approval, of course.  :)

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The above picture is one of the first blocks completed.  All of the background that is light colored is that creamy yellow fabric that I had picked out.  The center yellow squares was an additional yellow that I found to add to it.  You can never have enough yellow — that’s my motto!  :)

Remember in the last post where I said I love the process?  That was before I realized how much work there was to washing a bunch of fabric and then ironing it until there were no wrinkles.  I’ve learned since then that it is much easier to wash the fabric and dry it for just a little bit and then iron it the rest of the way dry.  If you do iron it dry, it comes out perfect every time, and I do love the feel of the washed fabric.  Another thing I’ve learned since then is that nearly all laws can be broken.  So if you are a person that doesn’t wash their fabrics, no one is going to come to your house and arrest you.  It’s okay, really.  I have made items without washing the fabric, but I tend to enjoy working with fabric more if it has been washed.  I also have awful allergies, and washing the fabric helps me from constantly sniffing when I’m trying to sew.

I also couldn’t believe how many little items I was collecting for quilting.  In an effort to try and keep track of all of it, I went shopping and purchased a new to me small luggage bag.  Do you remember luggage bags made out of material instead of microfiber or leather-like fabric?  Well, this was the cutest small luggage bag and all of my fabric and notions fit into it perfectly.  I was so proud that I would be able to go to class and have everything tucked neatly into my little suitcase. 

The day of the class I packed everything up in my car so I could leave right from work and drive to the quilt store.  Remember I’m living in Southern California and traffic is gruelingly slow.  I had already finished making all the templates for the blocks and was ready to make my first block.

During class we were instructed to take our templates and place them on the wrong side of the fabric.  Then take the pencil and draw around the template being very careful to mark lightly and accurately.  The line we had just marked was our sewing line.  We were then shown how to use the bronze circle disk (I have no idea of what this thing is really called and have always called it a circle disk).  What you do is put the point of the pencil inside the small hole in the center of the disk and then roll around the template you just drew around.  The circle rolls around the template and you draw another line exactly ¼ inch away from the sewing line.  This new line is your cutting line.  Now do this over and over again 39 times on various fabrics and you have your first block all drawn out.  Next, take your fabric scissors and while cutting on the cutting line, cut all of the pieces out.  Remember that pillowcase we were instructed to bring?  Well, now we took all those pieces and arranged them on the pillowcase in the way they would look if the block was all sewn together.  Then we pinned the pieces to the pillowcase so that they wouldn’t fall off.  Now, you can take two pieces off the pillowcase and sew them together by hand.  Once you are done, you pin those back on the pillowcase and get two more.  We were shown how to join them in twos, then in groups, then in halves, and then all together.  Here’s a picture of the back of my first block.  Can you believe you can still see my pencil lines?  And, I drew lightly.

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In the midst of attending the classes, life happened and we were facing another move out of state.  I’ve always been excited to move, but this move was particularly difficult.  I loved my church and was making quilt friends, but life sometimes has a way of changing things around when you least expect it.  The great news is that Oregon was a much more affordable place to live, and we would be able to buy a house.  My husband and I really missed owning our own home. 

With the move to a new state, getting a new job, and settling in, the block was safely packed away until sometime later.  After living in Oregon for a year, we planned a vacation and the quilt block popped into my head.  I’ve always hated sitting at the airport waiting and waiting to board.  I would take my block with me to work on during waiting times at the airport.  Needless to say, from that time forward anytime we went on vacation, I took a block with me to work on, and my PTTD’s quilt became my vacation project.  Unfortunately, we did not go on vacation regularly so there were times when the quilt waited patiently for me. 

Part 4:  Journey

foundation

If this is your first visit, you may want to start off reading the first part of the story here.

Do any of you recognize these objects as items needed for quilting?

  • sandpaper
  • cardboard
  • rubber cement glue
  • bronze circle disk
  • paper template
  • scissors for fabric
  • scissors for everything but fabric
  • pencil

No?  Well, that means you probably are a quilter that was able to benefit right off the bat with things such as the rotary cutter, mat, and ruler.  The rotary cutter first appeared in 1979 by OLFA and life as a quilter has continued to get better and better each year.  Tools of a trade are very important and can make life much easier, more accurate, and definitely faster.

I began my quilt life without any of the cool tools of the trade, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.  I think this is because I’m a process person.  I love creating and finishing, but the process to me is the most interesting and fascinating part of quilt making.

My first evening of class I arrived early (like over an hour early!).  I wanted to be able to look at all the fabric and start thinking about what colors I liked best.  I don’t remember ever seeing so many bolts of fabric in the same place before.  At least all the same type of fabric, which was 100 percent cotton.  I was told beforehand not to buy the fabric before the class because the teacher wanted to help us with the decision-making process.

With pen and paper in hand, I grabbed the best seat in the room and sat there anxiously awaiting the beginning of the class.  Slowly, other students began arriving and we got to meet and chat before class started.  Everyone hushed up as soon as the teacher arrived and started talking about our class, the assignments, preparations, and fabric.  Unfortunately, I cannot remember her name, but she was a wonderful teacher who was patient and kind with all of her newbie quilters. 

Our first quilt was called a sampler, which she explained was a quilt that had many different type blocks that were put together using different methods.  This way, we would gain experience in all of the various ways of making a block.  Some were appliqué, both needle turn and reverse.  Piecing was all over the board – straight blocks, curved blocks, set-in blocks, and more.  My head was beginning to spin as I feverishly wrote trying to capture everything she said.  I had no idea what any of the terms meant but I was confident in my blissful ignorance.

The pattern was handed out on copy paper, and we were instructed that this was just the start to us creating the pattern.   It was time for us to take a mini break (read she brought us homemade fudge) and time to do a little tool shopping.  We all eagerly followed her throughout the store as we gathered the items she spoke about.

With everything in hand, we gathered back into our seats and began cutting out the paper drawing for the first block.  My very first block is called Pine Tree, and has four pieces for the construction:  a square, a small triangle, a big triangle and a rectangle cut at the point on one end.  We also learned that this first block would have a total of 39 pieces to it once all the fabric was cut out of those four main pattern pieces.    

Using our paper scissors, we cut out all four of the individual pieces for the block and then sat waiting for the next step.  Next, we are instructed to put the rubber cement on the back side of the paper template we had just cut out and to glue the template to the cardboard.  Next we glued the template/cardboard piece to the back side of a piece of sandpaper.  Now, as you can imagine this template is now a pretty nice thickness and will not slide around anywhere because of the sandpaper.  Now we stack all of our work face down on the table and place blocks on them so they dry absolutely flat.

It’s break time now and while the templates are drying, we are learning about fabric and how much we will need for our quilt.  Once we know how much fabric we need, she releases the hounds (that would be all of us newbies) out on our own to roam the store.  You’d think we all had been drinking something stronger than iced tea by our giggling, chatting nervously, and generally running about.  It’s funny now that I remember because none of the store employees seem to even notice our craziness. 

I honed in on an area of the store where the colors were calling my name.  Browns and greens really struck me as the colors I wanted to use, but all the time I’m thinking in the back of my mind about my husband.  My dear husband, Tracy, is stone cold color blind – browns, greens, blues all look exactly alike to him.  BUT, there is one color that he loves and it’s because he sees this shade of color whereas all the others look the same.  Have you guessed the color yet?  Well, it is yellow.  I had to have yellow in the quilt and there had to be a lot of it so he would be able to see it.  I decided (all on my own mind you) that yellow would be the primary color of my ‘real’ quilt, and it would be for my honey.  I picked out all the fabric, had it cut, paid for it, and proudly went back to the class waiting for the next step.  I could hardly sit still because I wanted to start cutting and sewing!

Well if you know anything about color and the olden days of quilt making, you will already be shaking your head because you know that as soon as the teacher saw all that YELLOW fabric, she cringed and proceeded loudly to tell me how yellow was one of ‘those colors’ that should only be used sparingly if at all.  I felt like a failure already, and I hadn’t cut a single piece of fabric.  All of the other students chose perfect fabrics but me.  I’m still a little surprised that I didn’t cave in and do what the teacher recommended – pick another color other than yellow for my main fabric, but the more I looked at that yellow (and it’s such a soft pretty yellow), the more I loved it.  All I could think about was Tracy being able to see the shade differences.  I dug my heels in and said I wanted to use what I had picked out and the discussion was graciously dropped.

Our templates now dry; we are instructed to cut them out using our paper scissors.  This was not an easy chore I’ll tell you, but we all persevered until the first block was all cut out.  Now, if you can believe it, I still have all of my original pattern pieces that I made for the PTTD’s quilt.  Would you like to see a picture?  Okay, it’s not hard to twist my arm, here is the first block — Pine Tree.

 Pine Tree

We are told the class is over but our work was not because we were to go home and wash and iron all of the fabric we had just purchased.  The first law of quilting was that all fabric MUST BE WASHED before using.  Oh shoot, I’m not ready to go home yet.  We didn’t get to cut any fabric.

The good news is she told us to be prepared because next class we get to cut out our first block and begin sewing.  She reminded us that we needed to buy a certain type of sewing needle and that’s when it really clicked in my mind that this quilt would not be sewn together using a sewing machine — I was the sewing machine.  Oh no….no sewing machine!  There was no way I was going to tell her that I had previously sewn quilts using a sewing machine.  Maybe that’s why my quilts didn’t look like the ones on the wall.  With much more determination than I started with, I knew this quilt was going to be my treasure because after all – I’m now learning how to do it correctly.

Her last reminder was to bring a clean pillowcase with us to the next class.  I didn’t ask why – just scribbled notes and loaded up my first official ‘stash’ into the car as I’m grinning ear-to-ear now because next week I get to cut and sew!  Albeit, it will be hand sewing but still it will be sewing and with all quilt store bought 100 percent cotton fabric that I must now go wash and iron.  Aargh!

Part 3:  Process.

radio shows

I was born way back when things were pretty simple.   The radio ruled in our home, and I loved listening to the mystery series that would come on nightly.  Our radio had a light that glowed, and I would stare at that light while my brain envisioned all of the pictures the ‘man in the radio’ described.  I’m positive that my imagination was way better than it could possibly have been because I have an avid imagination.  I think I was 7 years old before we had a TV in our house, and my dad had me convinced that there were little people in the back of the TV.  I was amazed and wanted to pry open the back to get a peak at them.  I still can’t believe I believed him, but parents can get their kids to believe the silliest things. 

My mother did not quilt but she loved to crochet.  Crocheting was her thing and she made beautiful Barbie dresses.  They were elaborate and finely detailed.  My first experience with sewing on a sewing machine didn’t arrive until Home Economics’ class in grade school.  I can still remember the wonder and excitement I had the first time I laid eyes on that machine.  The teacher made us all sew for weeks on lined paper with no thread,  and only after you mastered staying on the gridded lines could you graduate to being able to use real thread!  It took me longer to graduate than the other girls in the class because I wanted to sew on the lines and down the center of the lines.  The teacher was ‘not’ amused.  Finally, I graduated and got to choose my first sewing project.  It was a blouse, and of course I chose a pattern way to advanced for my skills, and the outcome left me disappointed but determined to get better.  I fell in love with the sewing machine and all of the possibilities of ‘what if’ at a very tender age.  My love has grown stronger throughout the years as my experience in life and sewing has grown.

Sewing was an important part of my life all through school and beyond into adult life.  I can’t say I remember why or exactly when I wanted to make my first quilt, only that I did make one.  No classes, no pattern, and with no experience I plowed into that quilt like it needed to be beaten into submission.  My attempts were feeble at best but I adored that quilt and used it until it couldn’t be used any more.  I sure wish I had a picture of those early creations.

I was a young adult who needed to find employment, and life got intensely more exciting when I packed up everything I owned in an old station wagon and moved out west to Colorado.  Okay, I was young and didn’t own hardly anything so it wasn’t hard to fit everything in a station wagon.  Colorado is a beautiful state and was very different from where I grew up.  Imagine this in your mind – farm girl from Kentucky meets city folks (that have no southern accent) in big city.  It was a shock to my system and I know folks wondered what truck I fell off of, but I loved it and it didn’t take long to get my feet firmly planted in and get comfortable.  I met my husband soon afterwards in Colorado.  And if this doesn’t show you how fate really does happen when you least expect it.  My husband whom I met in Colorado is from Kentucky also.  Okay, so he’s from a big city in Kentucky but still he’s from Kentucky.  Is that fate or what! 

My next quilting adventure came after we were married.  This time I used big blocks of colored fabric and proceeded to sew them all back together to make a quilt.  Still not enough experience, still no classes, but lots of gumption!  This time I did manage to go into a store that sold fabric (they sold other things too) and purchased batting.  And oh what wonderful batting I chose.  I think it was 3 inches thick and I thought it was perfect until I put the top, the batting, and the back on the floor and wondered how in the heck I was going to attach it all together.  It was soooooo darn thick.  I was so green and really didn’t have a clue, but after a little bit of thinking, I decided to tie it together with floss.  I still remember spending a day on the floor tying that quilt.  I was so darn proud of that quilt though and believe it or not, we still have it and it is still being used.  It’s funny because we both laugh thinking about how much that quilt has been through.  Our dog Dillan swears it has always been his quilt and won’t go to sleep unless it’s on the foot of the bed.

One of the fond things I remember of being young and newly married is that my husband and I got to live in many different states.  His job moved us from state to state about every 3 to 5 years.  Most people wouldn’t find this to be a fond memory but we loved it.  Our wandering hearts loved adventure, and it was so fun to see new places, meet new people, and learn new cities.  I did not relish getting a new drivers license each time though!  I still wish I could have just added one more sticker or something to my license.  Kind of like a badge of honor showing all of the states we’ve lived in.  Oh well. 

Several states later we landed in California and for the first time ever I was totally freaked out.   We had just moved to Southern California from Utah.  Utah is nothing like California and People from Utah act nothing like people from California.  California to me was harried, the people hurry from place to place and it takes forever to get from one place to another and, at the time, housing was ‘off the chart’ expensive.  I was lucky to be able to see two rental units a day and even luckier if the landlord actually showed up to show the available unit.  I was saved by my husband thankfully because he came to the rescue, and took the next flight to CA to help me find a place to live and get our belongings situated.  We started falling in love with California soon afterwards.  We ended up living fairly close to the ocean and could surf fish whenever we had time.  Tracy always brought home a seafood dinner. 

I grew up in a home where God wasn’t spoken of or about.  My father was Catholic and my mom Methodist and I suppose they decided to not foster any belief system on me.  As a child, I got to attend any of my friends’ churches and learn about many different religions.  No one religion ever stuck, but God was always with me.  I know this because I have felt His presence and guiding even before I really knew Him.  It wasn’t until we lived in California that I found God however.  He of course always knew me and where I was but I was slower in hearing His calling until my young adult years.  I gave my life to Him in California and was baptized in the ocean.  It was beyond words wonderful and my life today is still His even though I continue to struggle and grow to be the daughter He has envisioned for me.

Each week I attended church and would pass by a quilt store called Peacemakers.  I looked at it each time and thought I must come back during the week and go in.  Finally, I made time to step inside the quilt store and that is the place that started my love affair of real quilt making.  I must have looked like a doe staring at the headlights of a car because a very nice lady came over to me and asked if she could help me.  Help me?  Yes, please, I would like to make a nice quilt….a quilt like those on the walls.  I still remember her smile as she helped me look over different classes on beginning quilting until I chose the one that would start the next chapter in my life and continue on through years of hope, love, and challenges.  The Quilting through the Decades quilt (”QTTD quilt”) was on the verge of becoming. 

Part 2:  Foundations.

I am dedicating this online autobiography to my husband, Tracy, who has always been my biggest supporter and who has the biggest heart and love for all things I have created and am creating.
You are my rock, my joy, and my inspiration.  I love you.
JoJo

Prelude:

Notice that I did not use the plural word quilts in the title of the post.  I have two borders left, and I will have successfully finished the top of a quilt that I have been working on for over 23 years.  Those prolific quilters out there (they know who they are) will be gasping in unbelief I’m sure.  Even I this year felt uneasy at telling anyone that I actually was still working on a quilt for that long. 

If you are interested in my journey and don’t mind reading my online novel of my life through the piecing of a quilt, I’ll try my best to faithfully remember all the special moments during these many years.  This may take a while and hopefully you and I won’t become bored and quit before we cross the finish line.  My goal is to have something new to read every day.  This will help me get to the next phase which I’m longing for — quilting the quilt.  But before I get too far ahead of myself — I thought I should name this quilt.

After all, I have really been “Piecing through the Decades” and figured this would be as good a name as any for the title to this special quilt/my life.

Part 1:  Before the Piecing through the Decades’ Quilt