Monday, August 30, 2010

Sewing for 50 years!

I sewed all day on Saturday—my birthday—and my husband made me steak au poivre, a peppery steak with brandy sauce. We drank good red wine, and it was a great day.

A friend wished me happy birthday on my Facebook page, writing, “Only two more years until the big one!” (She means 60.) After thinking about that a bit (only two more years and I’ll reach another decade…), I decided that after the year I’ve had, every birthday is “a big one.” In the past year, my daughter had a liver transplant and has struggled with chemotherapy and getting off steroids and morphine. Then I resigned from my job as an English teacher in a dispute over personal leave time. Life is fragile and things can change fast. Everybody knows that, but the reminders can be hard to take.

I also thought about how many years I’ve been sewing—at least 50! Here is a picture of one of my most prized possessions—the first quilt I ever made. My grandmother saved it, and my father found it and gave it to me after her death.
I was probably about 7 or 8 when I made this. It is about 11 inches “square,” made of 1½-inch pieces stitched together by hand. I can see the big stitches in the seams. My grandmother quilted it in diagonal lines using her treadle sewing machine, and bound it. I remember playing dolls with it. To this day, I love to use reproduction fabrics from the 1930s through the ‘50s. They make me happy and bring back memories.

So, I’ve been sewing for 50 years. I became a serious quilter in 1995 after years of sewing garments, gifts, and items for my home. By 1997 I was all in—a serious quilter. As my daughters became teenagers, there was no more need for cute little appliquéd jumpers, and quilting definitely satisfied my need to be creative. But when I began teaching in 2001, I almost stopped sewing altogether as I worked on an online master’s degree and teacher certification. And I always had a stack of compositions to grade. Had I been in the classroom this year, I would have had 150 students, an overwhelming load for an English teacher. Now I am “retired,” and after 50 years of sewing, I get to “reinvent myself,” as my sister says. I am sewing every day.

During the last several years, I became frustrated when I couldn’t get into my sewing room—too many papers to grade, lessons to prepare. When I wanted to sew but didn’t have much time, I would make a few log cabin blocks from my reproduction fabrics, and that would make me happy for a little while. I put together the start of two different quilt tops, shown below, but I never finished anything. I just stashed away the blocks for a project—someday.

This weekend, I “unsewed” these blocks, added another row to the smaller blocks, made 12 more, and now have 178 blocks ready to go for two twin-size quilts. My inspiration is the rectangle shape and Kaffe Fassett’s Target Log Cabin quilt in his book Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts. But why start over when I already have log cabin blocks in the fabrics that make me happy? Just look at this lovely stack of blocks!


  1. Now if it were me, I would frame that little quilt (the one you made as a child) or hang it on a rod, and give it pride of place somewhere in the house where I'd see it often. Just sayin' ...

  2. If I framed it, I couldn't touch it. I like to keep it in the dark so it won't fade, but I would also like to see it every day... Maybe I can find a place where there is no natural light.

  3. Do you have a walk-in closet? How about the inside of the closet door, or somewhere in the closet?