February 4, 2013

My Quilt Journey - Part 1

Sewing has been part of my life for a very long time. My Mum sewed! Her Mum sewed! Generations of women in my family (both sides) have sewed, some were even seamstresses. Even a few of the men in my family do the occasional bit of sewing. So I guess it was only natural that I would want to do it to!

The first thing I remember sewing was a dress for one of my dolls. I used green and white checked fabric, and even sewed some white lace on the hem.

Buy the time I was 11, I had also dabbled in tapestry and cross stitch; then I also tried long stitch and embroidery (not to mention knitting, bead jewellery, and a host of other crafts - papercrafts came later).

My introduction to patchwork and quilting came when I was in Grade 6. One of the mums offered to do lunch time patchwork classes and I jumped at the chance. That mum was Julie Wallace, now the owner of Quilter's Barn and a designer of fabric and quilt patterns. She taught us using her Quick Patchwork Papers, a product she was developing. I learned about fabric, colour matching, and quilting, and the final result was a small tote bag, that I still use on occasion.

Moving into secondary school, I continued to sew and do a variety of needle craft projects. I also chose Home Economics classes at school where we spent half the year sewing and half cooking - I liked the sew half better.

One of the projects we were able to choose was a log cabin bag. We were required to choose our own fabrics and spent several weeks making it. I loved the challenge and learning new skills.

By this time I was also making some of my own clothes and doing more and more cross stitch.
One of the cross stitch projects I did was a sampler (from Soverign Hill).

With the cross stitch sampler finished, I had the idea to make a sampler quilt. And that is how my quilt plan began. Not a quilt, but a quilted doona cover. I decided to use the cross stitch sampler as the centrepiece of my quilt, then put a sample of patchwork squares around it.

I began looking through quilting books and magazines to find the patterns that I liked most, then planned to use matching fabric to tie all the squares together.

The problem with this idea was that I liked 9 patch, 5 patch, 10 patch, 4 patch and 8 patch squares, and it would be difficult to get them all the right size, not to mention that it really wasn't going to work, and the cross stitch wouldn't go well in the wash.

The whole project was put on hold as I completed my final 2 years of school, then hunted for a job during a gap year and finally when I headed off to uni. During my time at uni I did start to buy some fabric - just whatever caught my fancy and when I had a little money to spare (that I hadn't spent on books).

Uni finished, I moved back home (although everyone moved, so it wasn't quite the same), but I was doing a lot of cross stitch, so quilting was at the back of my mind. I did work through which squares I wanted to do, made some templates, and even cut one square out, but then I started full-time work and the quilt was put on the backburner once again.

It got to 10 years after I originally started to plan, and I thought, ok, let's get this done. But by then my ideas, likes and dislikes had begun to change. I had also read about quilts where people put in fabrics to remind them of family and friends - like using fabric from an old shirt or baby dress, bits of left overs from a wedding dress, anything that reminded them of special events and people. So I began to think about doing a scrap quilt instead of the original idea. I also didn't really like the cross stitch sampler anymore and didn't want that on my bed.

So it was back to the drawing board. About this time Mum and Dad gave me a small applique to to. you've seen it - The Lighthouse (see older post).

 By the time I finished it in 2010, I decided to make this the centre of my quilt, and do crazy patchwork in blues around it to look like the ocean.

So, my reasearch into crazy quilts began, and I started to accumulate more and more fabric - all with blue somewhere in the pattern. The problem with crazy quilts is that they are all done in small areas and then joined together. I just wanted to have one big ocean, without the square joins, plus I wasn't planning to do any of the normal embellishment seen on crazy quilts because it needed to be washable.
About the only thing that hasn't changed in the planning of this quilt over the last 16 years is that it will be a doona cover, not a regular quilt.

Now we come to 2012. The quilt has been in the planning stages for 15 years (half my life, literally). It's time to get things done.
I'd worked out the backing fabric I needed to do the crazy quilt, and purchased it. I had the rest of the fabric to make the doona, and my fabric stash of a whole variety of blues was growing, and growing, and growing.

Then I went to a quilt and craft show in the middle of the year! I needed advice on how to use some of the ideas I'd discovered about crazy patchwork, BUT I was beginning to realise that what I wanted to do probably wasn't possible, and certainly not very practical.
I attended a couple of workshops, and then popped in to one done by, yes, the one and only, Julie Wallace - the woman who had first introduced me to patchwork and quilting.
The workshop was about her Quick Quilting Papers, and right at the start she mentioned how she had begun using this with a group of children at the school where her children had gone! That was me!!!!!
At the end of the workshop I went up to talk to her, and she actually remembered me!!! One of the quilts she had on display was a zig zag pattern, and that started me thinking. The zig zags would be like waves if I ran them horizontally across the quilt (Julie's pattern is vertical).

So now I've come full circle in my quilting journey. Instead of a crazy quilt, I'm now going to be using Julie's papers. My stash has grown a little more as I realised I needed some white/cream in the quilt (sea foam or the crest of the waves).

Now I just need the time to quilt ...