Editor’s Note: A Stitch in Time

Editor Rebecca Martin shares the story of her first attempt at a quilt project, as part of a quilting group, and how the finished quilt top didn’t lay flat and had to be reworked.

| Winter 2019

  • Editor Rebecca Martin's first quilt didn't lay flat when it was finished, so it had to be reworked.
    Photo by Rebecca Martin

My grandmothers were both prolific quilters, but quilting skipped my mother’s generation. When she started sewing, quilting was considered old-fashioned.

So, my friends and I had to teach ourselves when we decided to take up quilting at a young age. YouTube videos didn’t exist in those days, but quilting was gaining in popularity again, and we figured we’d find someone to help us if we got stuck. The public library had a great how-to book for beginners, so we plunged in at Chapter 1.

We drew names to decide who got the first quilt. I was the lucky winner, and chose a traditional geometric pattern by the name of Sherman’s March, or Double Monkey Wrench. You can find instructions to make the Sherman’s March Quilt Block Pattern in this issue.

Seven of us started meeting once a week to hand-sew quilt blocks. After we’d sewn 30, we stitched them together in six rows of five blocks each, and added a couple of borders to the edges. That’s when our confidence deflated: Our quilt top didn’t lay flat or square. Today, I expect to tear out stitches on every sewing project, but back then I didn’t know any better — and it was traumatic. So we held a deconstruction session, to which we brought desserts and seam rippers. After an afternoon of tearing apart and reassembling, our quilt top looked respectable.

The next stage was to layer the top, batting, and backing, and baste them together. We rolled the quilt sandwich onto my grandma’s room-sized quilting frame (salvaged from Dad’s barn) and began teaching ourselves how to stitch decorative quilting designs. Rocking a needle back and forth through fabric looks easy when you see an experienced quilter do it, but to us beginners it felt unnatural. After only a few weekly meetings, a few people dropped out of our group. Two years and many desserts later, the quilt was finished. Then, because we enjoyed it so much, we started another. We had become quilters.

After I moved to another city, I joined a different group of quilters, who especially enjoyed working on projects for others — baby quilts, wedding quilts, and wall hangings to mark major passages in life, such as the death of a parent. These quilters are still among my friends.

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