Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Quilting Post: The Reveal, Plus 10 Reasons Why You Should Try

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I'd been taking a quilting class as a birthday present from my parents. It was a great learning experience and actually more fun than I thought it would be. Anyway, I've finally finished hand-stitching the binding around the edge of the baby quilt, so it's officially finished!

Drum roll, please...

Ta-da! My first quilt. The top side follows a sampler style (as shown in the book mentioned below). It has a mix a mix of rail fence, log cabin, friendship star, nine-square, and windmill squares.

On the back, I used a light yellow fabric called minkee -- it's really, really soft. It's a little tricky to use, but I know baby will love it.

It's not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. If you look closely, you'll see crooked stitches, seams that don't line up, and random repair jobs on squares. Still, I'm proud of my first effort.

For the class, we did the sampler quilt, as outlined in the book, Start Quilting with Alex Anderson. A couple people in the class complained about the book, but I think it's a great introduction to the art of quilting. The only thing I'm dubious about when it comes to the book is the claim on the cover: '8 Quick Projects'. Quick? Errrr...maybe someday. This quilt was not a quick project for me, but I'm still learning.

Anyway, why mention quilting on this blog? Am I just showing off? What does it have to do with living frugally? Here are some of the reasons why you should consider quilting. Really.

1. Anyone can do it.
When the class started, I was the only student who had recently used a sewing machine. Seriously. My mom wasn't comfortable with hers, the other lady in the class borrowed a neighbor's machine, and the other woman pulled hers out of a dusty box. All four of us made quilts, though -- and they all turned out great. To quilt, you just need to do a lot of cutting and you have to know how to sew a straight 1/4" seam. No fancy skills required.

2. It can be economical.
Please note the emphasis on the word "can".  If you're like me, you can step into certain fabric stores and want to buy everything in them. I can see how someone could get really, really carried away and spend a fortune on quilting. That said, quilting really can be economical if you choose your materials wisely. One of project I've been working on for a while is my denim quilt. I love the idea of reusing old jeans, old ones that you can't even donate, in a practical way.  My quilt is still in the collecting phase, but I think I may start putting some squares together. The quilt will take time to make, but not a lot of money since I'll only need to buy some material for the binding and backing and some batting for the middle.

3. Quilts are practical.
Some sewing projects may seem kind of superfluous, but quilts are practical and useful. Granted, there are some quilt designs that are a little over the top and not necessarily meant for their function (also known as 'art quilts'). That said, I know I plan on frequently using the quilt I just made.

4. It's actually kind of fun.
I was suprised how much I liked doing this. It's satisfying to see the quilt squares come together. Plus, if you're working with someone, it's just fun to chat while you sew. My mom and I spent hours together finishing our quilting class "homework" and it was a nice way to pass the time. The whole concept of those old quilting bees actually makes sense to me now.

5. It can also clear your head and help you relax.
One of the reasons I picked up sewing over a year ago was to clear my head. I was really struggling with anxiety at the time and my mind would just race with worries. When I sew (and now, quilt), I have to focus 100% because it doesn't come naturally to me. I really have to think about what I'm doing. As a result, I forget my worries and feel so much better afterwards. The teacher of the quilting class told us she picked up quilting for the same reason -- she was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer ten years ago and needed an outlet. She said it kept her sane during that trying time of her life. I know working on this quilt helped me focus less on how uncomfortably pregnant I am and how the baby feels like he'll never come. When I finished working on it, I felt clear-headed and ready to face everything else. A stress-reducer that ends in a tangible, beautiful result is a win-win situation.

6.  You create something uniquely yours.
Sure, you could go to the store and buy a quilt made by someone else. I have a beautiful storebought quilt on my bed right now and I absolutely love it. That said, there's something special about having things in your house, whether they be quilts or placemats or a bathroom rug or an apron or whatever, that are one-of-a-kind because you made them. You get exactly what you want when you make it. In our world of mass-produced everything, I find something really satisfying in having something unique in my home.

7. You can go at your own pace.
There's no need to feel overwhelmed with quilting. You can do as much or as little as you want or as your time demands. You can spend an afternoon designing, cutting, and sewing all your squares, or you can just spend an hour putting a couple together. You can leave the project and pick it up whenever. I really like that about quilting compared to full-on sewing projects. With sewing projects, if I don't just get it all done at once, I can lose my place and get frustrated. With quilting, I can do it piece by piece, step by step, whenever I feel like it.

8. Quilts make awesome gifts.
When my son was born, my mom and dad made a beautiful quilt for him out of squares of colorful fabric and various  sock monkey prints.  (Dad is the first quilter of the family -- he's been doing it for years. He even made me a tied quilt when I left for college. I love that guy.).  Mom even handstitched the binding while they were driving to the hospital to meet my little guy, their first grandchild. My sister-in-law also made a lovely star quilt for my my son when he was born and a friend of ours made an adorable frog patchwork quilt for him.  I loved all the gifts I got from people when my son was born, but there was something extra-special about those quilts. Not only are they useful gifts, but really meaningful because quilts take time. Knowing that someone would go to the trouble to devote hours to making them is the best gift of all.

9. It's a link to the past.
I know I'm a little weird about this. I'm an admitted history geek. I get all nostalgic about using a clothesline and canning produce because it feels old-fashioned, like something that my grandmothers did for generations. But I think there's something to be said for making homemaking a type of art. I mean, you have to do it anyway, why not make it enjoyable and beautiful while you're at it. As I sewed the log cabin quilt square design, which is pretty old and traditional design, I couldn't help but feel a connection to the women who came before me.

10. You can create an heirloom.
It doesn't have to be perfect to be at heirloom status. I think that the sentimentality of a quilt made by hand is enough. I know that I still have a couple of my own baby quilts stored away.  One of my future projects is to work with my mom and make a quilt out of all the fabric scraps and remnants we found while cleaning out my grandpa's house after he passed away. My late grandmother was an incredible seamstress and had tons of fabric left from her projects. Lots of the fabric is from the 60s and 70s and I can't wait to put to use all those fun prints in a quilt. This way, all that fabric will get used, plus we'll have a neat, tangible way to remember my grandma.  It's amazing the kind of feeling you can get from something thoughtfully stitched together.


The Wies Family said...

Oh, Heather! I love it! You did an amazing job! The fabrics are adorable! I'm sure your little baby will adore it...I can't wait to meet him:)

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

I am currently learning to sew beanbags on a machine. Someday. . .

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