How We Learned to Quilt (and Sew, and Knit ...)

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It probably won't surprise you to find out that the employees of C&T Publishing to love to quilt, sew, knit, crochet, and embroider! Today we're sharing our stories of how we learned to love working with fabric and thread. Enjoy, and feel free to share your own stories in the comments!

Liz: I was a stay-at-home mom of one- and four-year-old daughters and desperately needed some creative time out of the house. I had sewn for several years and thought it would be fun to make a quilt, so I took a beginning quiltmaking class at the local quilt shop. Thirty-four years later . . . quilts, classes, books . . . you know the rest.

Sue: An Orange Coast College adult ed teacher.

Angela: Mom taught me how to sew. When my brother and I were kids, she would make all of our Halloween costumes. I also remember the matching Mom/daughter outfits she made us! I miss you, Mom! xoxoxoxox

Kelly: I took a class at Mt. Diablo Adult Ed and attended group classes.

Roxane; My mom taught me to sew. She sewed a lot of clothes for my sister and I when we were young, and she taught me to sew along the way—even though at the time I don't think I really appreciated it. I learned to knit through lunch hour learn-to-knit lessons led by a very talented former coworker of mine.

Dawn: I don't really do any of these, but I am constantly inspired to try my hand at it since I am surrounded by all of these amazingly creative people.

Kerry: My grandma taught me how to crochet. She grew up in a small town in Australia. She and her sisters were the best dressed in town since their mother was the town seamstress. I learned how to quilt when I started at C&T. They sponsored a weeklong class at Cotton Patch, taught by Laura Nownes. She's an amazing teacher and the setting at Cotton Patch was beautiful. It was an experience I'll never forget.

Quilt made by Laura Nownes

Linda: My German aunt taught me how to knit. I was about nine at the time. Knitting is something I go back to time and again. But it was my mother who nurtured my interest in sewing. She is an amazing clothing repurposer (before it was called that) and haute-couture garment maker à la vintage Vogue. I loved the sound of the sewing machine, the array of fabrics, and the promise of endless possibilities. It was a love affair that started with making stuffed toys in kindergarten and progressed to creating my own tailored coat in sixth grade (a horrible green with a nice fit) and sewing much of my high school wardrobe and usually all of my Christmas gifts. It wasn't until much later that I discovered the magic of a quarter-inch seam, the world of chain piecing, and the genius of clever techniques.

Betsy: My mom taught me how to sew on her well-loved Necchi sewing machine. She would've happily taught me how to knit and crochet as well, but I couldn't sit still that long!

Alice: I learned to sew from my eighth-grade sewing teacher, back in the day of home ec classes in school. I remember being so excited with every new lesson. Then my mom showed me her old sewing machine, a 1950-something, extremely heavy Kenmore that flipped up from inside a beautiful cabinet. (Mom never sewed and had never told me before that the cabinet contained a sewing machine!) I read the manual and taught myself to use that great old machine, which I used for twenty years until I bought a new machine with more than a straight stitch on it.

Amy: I learned on my own. My mom has a Featherweight Singer, and when I was about twelve I started mending clothes on the machine. When I was twenty and expecting my first child, I started making baby clothes and a quilt. Then Halloween costumes and I've been sewing ever since. I made my first "real" quilt after I started at C&T in 2000. It was a queen-size denim block quilt for my son Jesse's graduation from high school, and Laura Lee Fritz free-motion quilted it for me at her shop while I watched. She put in our family names and dates of birth and anniversaries. She also put in the names of the musicals and the instrument he played. She really had a tough time with the seams, pockets, and rivets that I included in the quilt, but she did not say a word about it. She did a wonderful job and was a trooper!

An example of Laura Lee Fritz's incredible free-motion quilting

Lynn: My mom taught me how to sew when I was about ten years old. Not anything fancy, but she taught me how to hand sew clothing to make little fixes, as well as how to hem pants using a sewing machine.

April: The editors at C&T!

Deirdre: Like many of my coworkers, my mom taught me the basics of sewing when I was young, and I continued to learn more and more about altering clothing and sewing from patterns by working in the costume shops of my theater departments in high school and college. I dipped my toe into quilting by taking a class with Shelley Scott-Tobisch and Bernie Tobisch (two of our new authors!), but I haven't caught the quilting bug yet. 

Debbie: My mom started me on sewing clothing. Then she and my grandmother got into quilting, so I followed along. And I taught myself to knit. I enjoy any craft that involves thread, string, cord, fabric, or fiber.

Gailen: While my mom tried to teach me to sew when I was young (she helped me make a white denim wrap skirt in elementary school), I learned to quilt from books. While I made a few easy throw quilts from squares first, what I consider my first "real" quilt was actually from a C&T booklet: The Milky Way Quilt, part of Jean Wells's Patchwork Quilts Made Easy single-quilt volumes (Winter 1992). I made it California King–size. The stars are solid navy blue, and the background is white-on-white star fabric. The little squares that make it look like the stars are spinning are medium-blue solid. I added gold piping when I bound it and used gold on the back. I love that quilt! When we go camping we spread it on the floor of the tent (we have an eight-person tent so it covers well) under the four air mattresses. I love seeing it every summer!

Pattern for the Milky Way quilt

Ruthmary: My first sewing experience was in San Antonio, around age thirteen, when my mother bought a new Singer 401 and the store offered lessons. I sewed fitted long sleeves into a dress, with and inner-elbow dart on the inside of one arm and outside of the other. I didn't know how to bend my arms in that top! That's why I like piecing quilts . . . no fitting needed!

Amber: My grandmother was the first female sewing machine repair woman of California. I remember sitting on her knee when I was around five and her showing me how to thread a Singer. My other grandmother was an avid quiltmaker. Sewing and quilting make me feel connected to them.

Jennifer: I learned how to sew from my mom and from the many sewing tutorials available on the internet. My mom taught me the basics of how to use a sewing machine and how to cut fabric, and then I began making projects that I liked from other sewist’s blogs.

Jen: My mom taught me to sew buttons on, and she did embroidery, so she taught me stitches. However, she doesn't like to sew. My maternal grandmother was an art teacher and a milliner, and she taught me to sew fabric and use a machine (good old home ec class helped with that too). Then as I grew up, I became the defacto mender in my family. My first quilt was self-taught as an adult (and might have looked like it).

Sarah: My mom taught me to sew simply to fix clothing issues such as popped buttons, tears, and putting on name labels for camp trips. I fondly remember my mom sewing doll clothes for my Barbie dolls, but that never seemed to pass down to me. I do hope that one day I sew my first quilt. I did take up knitting recently and am still a beginner, but it's a good stress reliever when there is time to do it.

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