Tuesday, July 21, 2009

There's been a thing going around about first quilts and last quilts, and it's always interesting to compare the two. My first completed quilt was a red and black and white Double Irish Chain that Keryn bullied me into helping her with in 1978. She'd been quilting for quite some time, and I was fairly lukewarm about it, my interests being lace knitting, art and poetry. This patchwork thing was OK , and I'd started a few smaller projects but a whole quilt seemed too much.

Keryn took no notice of this attitude, and like a brisk English nanny she handed me a stack of cut pieces, some advice on how to put them together and firmly expected me to get sewing. The only solid cotton fabric we could get was lawn - far too flimsy or headcloth, a thick coarse weave that was very um..., sturdy, shall we say.

I'm quite amazed at how I put that first block of squares together; I went wandering around with my needle attaching bits here and there and filling in the gaps later. It worked, but for some reason the notion of seperating it into rows didn't occur to me until later, probably another tip from Keryn.
I was quite impressed when the top was finally in one piece; I thought my job was done. Not so, we had to quilt it now Keryn announced, and she organised lengths of wood, clamps, a black and white houndstooth check for the backing and some un-named batting for the centre. I helped by tacking and rolling things when I was told to, but I still had no real understanding of the process or what we were going to do. Stitch through all three layers I supposed, and waited for Keryn to show me.

Then began a very happy little space of time that I always look back on fondly. I was newly married and apart from a few farm duties had no real commitments. Keryn lived about five miles away in a neighbouring town and every afternoon I jumped on my little motorbike and whipped around to her place. We set the frame up in her lounge room balanced on four chairs, sat on little stools and watched telly for hours while we quilted away. We became great fans of Coronation Street because it was on for about an hour and a half each afternoon and we copied the accents and the characters to amuse ourselves.
We did outline quilting and needletracked a grid into the plain blocks so we didn't have to mark anything, which I thought was pretty neat.

It was quite exciting the day we finally finished and unrolled the whole thing from the frame. During the quilting I was still merely just interested in the process, happy to be able to say that I'd 'done' quilting and patchwork but not sure I'd keep at it. But we went outside, hung the quilt on the line and sat sipping a cup of coffee, admiring it as it lazily flapped back and forth in the breeze; and something strange happened. I fell in love with patchwork in that very minute, not during all the stitching and quilting that I'd done, but there sitting in the garden looking at the finished result and thinking "I can't believe we did that!" A finished quilt has some sort of integrity, some final significance that is quite intoxicating, and all I wanted to do was start another one. Which I did immediately, and I've never stopped, nor have I wanted to.

The poor old quilt, over thirty years old, has definitely seen better days, is grubby and stained and one of Keryn's children left an open pen on it so it's permanently marked. I still love it, and I'm proud of what we did back then, when there were no magazines or information available except for a few scattered references in craft books.

Mary asked recently if we could see ourselves losing interst in patchwork, and I'm pretty certain I never will. It's been thirty-one years so far, and I am really grateful for the fact that Keryn and I started when we were so young. We very often hear women lament that they wish they'd started quilting sooner, but we don't have that regret. I love the fact that we have had this interest to tie us together through the years, and that our enthusiasm is still there, and that now we're helping others get their quilts finished.

I'm sure we never could have foreseen where our love of stitching would take us, when we were sitting in that garden thirty-one years ago but it's been a good journey, and it's not over yet.


Mary Johnson July 23, 2009  

>>>>But we went outside, hung the quilt on the line and sat sipping a cup of coffee, admiring it as it lazily flapped back and forth in the breeze; and something strange happened. I fell in love with patchwork in that very minute,>>>>

I know exactly what you mean!! Tonight I finished the last stitch on a binding, embroidered my initials and the year, and spread the quilt open on the living room floor and just admired it. I too am enthralled - with every quilt I finish - with the idea that I made this myself.

I love the Irish Chain too, stain and all.

antique quilter July 23, 2009  

Isn't it amazing that our passion for quiltmaking just keeps growing?
I can never imagine not making quilts...
yes I go in phases applique, piecing....
30's or 1800's reproduction fabrics and throw in a Kaffe quilt once in a while...keeps it all an interesting ride!
Yes its been a good journey that just keeps getting better.

Brenda July 24, 2009  

You summed up how I feel about a finished quilt. Whenever i see the finished product I am still amazed at how wonderful it is with all it's textured loveliness.

julieQ July 25, 2009  

I love your story...may it go on for another 31 years at least!

Dineke July 25, 2009  

What a lovely story about your first quilt an how you began.

Meggie July 26, 2009  

Love this story and the quilt! How lucky you were to have Kerryn so close, & be able to share the making of this lovely quilt,

Quilty Cat July 26, 2009  

Loved the story and how you told it. C

scraphappy November 28, 2011  

What a lovely story. How lucky you were to have a friend to walk you through all the steps.

Jean Carlton December 02, 2011  

Your first quilt is great - and the ink stain just shows it was loved and used....kind of nice that it fell pretty much on a dark square...but it creates a memory. thanks for sharing.

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