First Quilts

photo ashley

Anyone who has sewn remembers their firsts; the first time they threaded a needle, the first time they used a machine, the first person who helped and guided them through the process, and the first project they completed.

My mother and grandmother taught me to sew. I remember the shiny scissors, the gold laminate bench I sat on, the black singer machine, and the small bean bag baby I made with the help of my Nana. I don’t remember exactly how young I was, but I remember the experience like it was yesterday. I felt so incredibly special. My beautiful and patient Nana, bringing me step by step through the process of sewing lines through the used pillow case to create the body, searching for it’s eyes through the spare button jar, and selecting which beans to fill it with. The whole process was magic.

I love teaching. I can not explain how amazing it feels to be a part of a “first” in a youngsters life. Especially if I can tell it’s something they are excited about. Excited enough to pursue it beyond just our time together. Who knows where it will take them. Teaching a child to sew, especially on the machine never gets old for me. When I know they are ready for me to “let go” and take the control on their own, I get chills. Every time.

My mother and Nana’s passion for sewing was clothing; more specifically, dresses. In fact, my mother recently ran across a dress my grandmother had made her when she was probably 8 or 9. It was impeccable. Incredible. Perfect. These are all important traits when attempting a quilt. However, I am not a perfectionist sewer. I approach sewing as I do a painting, or a sculpture, or any type of design. I start with an inspiration, and then roll with it.

Recently, my Sewing II class started a new session. These girls have been coming to my studio for months now and are incredibly focused and excited about sewing. They are pure joy for me. We discussed what types of projects we wanted to work on during our time together. After looking through books for inspiration, they all agreed on quilts! I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

When teaching how to quilt, I decided to start small and simple. Make a 4 x 4 square(ish) quilt, suitable for a doll, stuffed animal, or any type of small friend. Everyone chose their fabric. Some chose two, some chose three. We then got into the math of quilting. I always say “art is math”. But not many people understand the correlation. Anyone who has mixed paint, built a maquette, or made a quilt knows what I mean. Art is about proportion, perspective, composition, and balance. All mathematical equations.

Everyone cut their pieces, arranged their quilts and started. I have to admit, I was very excited when they each completed their first row. It felt monumental.

Once the first row was completed, they were on a roll. I was there merely to help them press their seams open and instruct them on the final steps of assembling the back, measuring and creating the binding, and assisting with pining the binding into place for them to sew and complete. Nearly everyone completed the quilt in two 80 minute sessions. Incredible. Above is Ashley. Her mini quilt is so well put together. I couldn’t be more proud of her!

Now, let’s see how they do with the full-sized version.


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