Every journey has a beginning. My story of why I love quilts began the morning that I gathered enough courage to walk up a path to a little log cabin near the campsite where my companion and I were staying in the Great Smokey Mountains.
I had seen places like this before, quaint, inviting, with quilts hanging on lines outside, with a sign overhead that read “Quilts for Sale,” and a sign on the door that said “Open.” It was beneath a beautiful summer sky at the foot of the mountains by a creek. There was time to kill while waiting for everyone to wake up and get ready to hike up the mountain side to the top of the ridge.
There is so much to take in inside of that little cabin, the color and the pattern of the design, the fabrics, and how they all fit together were a great sight to behold. I found some quilted potholders that were within my price range and bought them for my mother. The lady behind the counter looked to be in her late 30’s. She seemed content to have company and began a conversation with me about herself and the shop. She lived with her father and the shop was her source of livelihood.
She had created all the quilts and that amazed me, because the place was full of them. During the autumn, through the winter, and into spring she sews. The shop is open in the summer when all the tourists arrive. I wanted to know how she managed to do so much work. She explained, her quilts are machine sewn and quilted. She was quick to add that a lot of people don’t like machine sewn quilts, they only want hand-stitched ones. Then, she declares, “But this is what I do, and they can go somewhere else to buy hand-stitched ones if they want, I don’t care.” Unaware that quilts could be sewn by machine, I asked a lot of questions and she was open to answering them all. At her suggestion, I left her shop mentally prepared to sew my first quilt.
The First Quilt
My first quilt was of the worst quality fabric, no design, a true patch- work consisting of every imaginable piece of fabric I could get my hands on. It is the one my boys loved and fought over the most. I think it was Scott who hauled off that shredded wore-out bundle of fabric to Austin when he left for college.
The Second Quilt
I was in my early 20’s pulling a night shift at the Children’s in Dayton, Ohio, during my short-lived nursing career when the decision to make my second quilt was made. I was assigned to the (ICU) Intensive Care Unit to work with one patient; taking vital signs and watching my tiny patient breathe. I read magazines to help me stay awake. There was a photo of a quilt alongside a pattern in a Women’s Day magazine that I returned to over and over again during that long shift. About 3 AM, I decided to make that simple quilt. I used a sheet of chart paper to draw the pattern out and write down the instructions. It was several years in the making, but I used it as a bedspread for years. It is laying at the end of the bed in the office where I work— it keeps my company warm in the winter when they visit.
The Third Quilt
When I got a larger mattress, I made another quilt for the bed. The coverings both have two layers of batting and are tied with yarn, not quilted— they were machine pieced. The third quilt I still use in addition to a bedcover because I am cold by nature. Nothing warms me like my quilts. I made the quilts for my room because that’s my way of making do with what I had. I could buy the fabric over some time and work on them when I had more fabric.
An Artist Who Quilts
I started to understand that quilts could be artwork when I was pregnant for my second son and attending a Women’s Bible Study at my church. A lady there made quilts for our newborn babies. I was not there when Sean my oldest son was born, but I was told Nancy was making a quilt for me too. She enlisted us to help her by having us create center squares. Some squares had designs of embroidery, while some were cross-stitch. Ladies used fabric paint, lace, iron-on design, there was no limit to what we created. I adopted making stenciled designs with fabric paint for the squares that I created for other babies. What came with Scott’s quilt was more precious to me than the quilt itself. There were almost weekly phone calls from Nancy that started with a question about the quilt’s creation. Was it for the crib or would it go on a wall? What were the nursery colors? When my children were born, we did not know the sex until the doctor told us. We chose colors that could be used for either sex. The nursery theme I chose for my second baby was rocking horses.
I liked quilting because it was the one thing, I could see progress on. You weed a garden or clean a house and the weeds grow back and the house soon needs cleaning again. A quilt eventually gets finished.
Nancy was an encourager. Her calls soon took on that nature after she had all her information. When she found out that I was an artist and I knew how to quilt, she encouraged me to be an artist who quilts. She had studied at Parsons in New York and she told me artists are the best quilt makers. It would be several years before I the seed she had planted in me would grow and blossom, but it eventually did. For 5- years I sold small quilted banners at local arts and craft shows using what I had learned from Nancy. I liked quilting because it was the one thing, I could see progress on. You weed a garden or clean a house and the weeds grow back and the house soon needs cleaning again. A quilt eventually gets finished.
I also created a few larger pieces for my bedroom wall using more contemporary fabric choices. I was planning to learn how to do what I call quilt paintings when it was decided that I needed to go back to work. By that time, I had quite a collection of fabric and was actively filling in all the color. I never really did sew after I went back to work. My fabric sat in boxes and moved with me from house to house after my divorce— I needed to get rid of it, but I couldn’t unless I found the right person.
I was getting ready to move again and I decide my co-worker Sarah was that person.