I have fond memories of my mother and her church friends who, each Wednesday, gathered in a circle around one or two
quilt frames. Those women were wonderful ladies who enjoyed each other’s company for decades. I’m not sure how
many quilts they hand-stitched into beautiful creations that blessed so many- newly married couples, newly born babies,
newly baptized or confirmed parishioners, and even those who were new to the neighborhood or local nursing homes.
Several hundreds of quilts, each unique, and each stitched with love as the ladies shared their daily happenings or
memories. Within their circle of friendship, the shared work mixed with laughter, tears, successes, flops, recipes, patterns,
and lots of prayers. Such was my mother’s generation, as was my grandmothers’, great-grandmothers’, and their
great-grandmothers’ generations- a long list of quilt makers in my family. Then, there is me.
All of the women in my maternal family were skilled quilters. Most of the quilts made were entirely hand-stitched. My
mother broke that tradition somewhat when she began sewing on a machine. She pieced her quilt tops on the machine,
but took them to the sewing circle to be quilted by hand. I have several hand-sewn quilts made by my mom and aunts, but
hand-quilting was becoming a fading art. To my knowledge, no one in my family was continuing the tradition, and I was
determined that I would make at least one totally hand-stitched quilt in my lifetime.
In 2005, to mark the nation’s patriotic unity following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, I chose
fabric in patriotic patterns of red, white, and blue. Since I knew nothing about patterns or templates, I decided to make a
sampler quilt of 20 different block patterns. I bought the pattern book and fabric and a new pair of scissors. I pulled out my
ruler and chalk from my sewing bag. So far, so good.
I had no idea it would take 15 years to complete my sampler quilt. I am pleased to report that the quilt is finished and has
been given to my daughter who loves it.
If my sampler quilt were a movie, it would be a horror flick. From a distance, or
without my glasses on, it doesn’t look too frightful, but I know that a skilled quilter
would take one horrified glance and beg me to bury the thing in the backyard. Yes,
it is that terrifyingly bad, but I have learned some truly valuable lessons along the
When making a quilt:
1. Pre-wash your fabric. Cotton shrinks. Colors bleed.
2. Use the right tools. Measure twice. Cut precisely.
3. Mark your seam allowances.
4. Press your seams as you go. All of them.
5. A quilt frame may be better than a hoop.
6. Thread knots should not be seen. You use a running stitch.
7. A regular pencil is not a marking pencil.
8. Choose the best thread you can afford.
9. A seam ripper is your friend.
10. No matter what it looks like, congratulate yourself for making the effort.
I may never make another hand-stitched quilt, but I’m fine with that. Traditions evolve. I have a super new sewing
machine, and I’ve made a few machine sewn quilts for gifts. I’m pleased that I can continue the quilting tradition in the
family, however small the scale is. I’ve even added machine-quilted items to my shop.
Michelle Waters Creator from Scrapper’s Snips and Stitches,