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I am a Quilter ?? January 25, 2009

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in My Life as I See It, Personal Observations.
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I started sewing when I was a young girl of seven or eight growing up in an oil boom town on the Texas panhandle. I learned in 4-H. And I am grateful to those wonderful patient women who helped me muddle my way through the mysteries of sewing. They taught me, among other things, that right sides always go together and that seams are always 5/8 inch and not a variance of that measurement. But probably the most valuable lesson I learned was how to rip out my substandard work. Of course now you’ll hear it called “releasing the seam” rather than ripping it out. But let’s be honest here, it’s an activity done when you’ve goofed up and need to make it right. If only it were that easy elsewhere in life. But I digress…

Since I was growing up in the fifties, we were still in the time when women sewed their own clothing in order to save money. And that was what I did all through high school and college. Then I got a career and became a mother and all bets were off when it came to sewing. I returned to it in the late 90’s. Since I had always sewn clothes that’s what I continued to do, however, my body had changed and I learned that there were a plethora of pattern alterations that had to be done to have a garment fit me when I was finished.

During that time I took up ballroom dancing, becoming totally addicted to it and going on to compete on a regular basis. As you may know, competitive ballroom dancing requires a costume. What you may not know is that those babies cost a minimum of $1500—if you get a bargain that is. Most often they are upwards of $2000. After buying two costumes, I decided that it was time to start making my own. I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of that process. (Another time perhaps) What I can say is that in sewing a dance costume you are really sewing a sports uniform with rhinestones. I found it challenging and fun. I designed my own dresses and took weeks sewing each one.

Fast-forward to early 2008. I was still dancing but decided to take a hiatus (perhaps permanent) from competing. As a result, I found that I had more sewing time. It was then that I discovered quilting, quite by accident. When I say that I discovered quilting I mean that I stopped thinking of it as an activity that produced the kitschy country-themed wall hangings that are oh-so-cute. That’s definitely not my taste. I tend toward the Zen simplistic style—no frills, no cute little dolls or antique items that started out life being very functional items.

What got me started was the desire to make something for my youngest grandchild, Thomas. Being the youngest he often gets left in the dust or consigned to hand-me-downs from the other kids. So I made Thomas a funky monkey quilt and the rest, as they say, is history. I was hooked. Right now I am piecing my sixth quilt top. If you had told me that I would become obsessed with quilting I would have said “Never, not in a million years. What the heck can you do with all those quilts?”

I haven’t yet solved the problem of what to do with them. When they’re finished they are like  my children so I am not inclined to give them away. And I don’t do wall hangings. But I’m sure that I’ll solve that problem at some time in the future. For the moment though, I am loving every minute of my quilting odyssey.

My friend Mary, a sewing buddy of mine, who likes to sew clothing, asked me a simple question one day. “Why do you like quilting?” Hmm…that gave me pause. I’ve been thinking about it ever since and here’s what I’ve come up with.

First, as a lover of possibilities, I am nourished by the endless possibilities that are available. There are art quilts, traditional quilts, appliquéd quilts, Japanese-inspired quilts, and on and on. One month I was working on a traditional Maple Leaf quilt and the next I started a quilt that incorporated civil war reproduction fabric.

Second, I can indulge my love of fabric and color. When I was sewing clothing I would come across beautiful prints and try to envision them in a piece of clothing. Mostly I couldn’t do that because I had no desire to look like a patchwork quilt as I went off to my job in Corporate America. But quilting is a totally different animal. I can go totally crazy in my fabric selection, confident that at some point that great pink and grey print will find its way into a quilt top. The other nice thing is that I don’t have to buy multiple yards of fabric—a quarter of a yard will often fit the bill quite nicely. Can you say S-T-A-S-H?

Today as I was thinking about this writing, I also realized perhaps the most important reason that I love quilting. I love the idea that a quilt that I am making in the early part of the 21st century will survive through the years to be used by others. My grandchildren will be able to say,” My Grammie made that quilt when I was a kid.” Or someone in an antique shop one day will purchase the quilt and wonder about the person who created it and will treasure it as a piece of history. So I am creating just a little bit of immortality. After all, don’t we all desire to know that the world has been changed by our presence in it?

Well, enough of my philosophical meanderings. I have to go now….there’s an unfinished quilt waiting for me in my sewing studio.

Oh and there’s one other thing…it’s so much nicer to write that you are a quilter rather than a sewer…know what I mean???



1. Jane - January 27, 2009

Yes, the stash thing definitely improves as a quilter…not too many “fitting quilts.” What fun to read. And thank you for the Google reader instructions. I think I’ve got it.

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