Saturday, November 26, 2011

First Quilts!

The first recognizable traditional patch-working I ever did was an Ohio Star block we made in home ec, my senior year of high school --- but I’d been sewing since about the 6th or 7th grade.

I LOVED to sew. My mom would take me shopping for remnants, looking at the little bundle wrapped with a paper label, telling us how much yardage the rolled up piece contained. Even today I get excited by remnant bins and their possibilities.

Mom always had a basket of scraps left from clothing construction, and I graduated from using these for doll clothes, to deciding to make “decorator” patchwork pillows as found in a magazine that we had laying around….It had to be about 7th grade, because my friend Julie, aka Jules, was with me, in my room, cutting out squares with scissors. Of course, NO template…just cut a square, they will fit together somehow!


This Thanksgiving, my friend Jules, whom I’ve reconnected with via facebook ((Oh the wonders of the internet!)) went back home to spend time with her family – they still live in the same house in San Jose, California ---Almaden Valley --- that was around the corner from my childhood home!

Imagine my surprise when she plastered my facebook wall with pictures her parents had taken of us when we were inseparable in our early teenage years! These are photos of photos, so not the greatest quality, but there we are.


This has to be about 1975 as far as I can gather. Dang, I’m old! LOL!

Why am I bringing up this story? Because my first experience at trying to make a pillow from rough cut squares, my attempt at following a pattern in a magazine left a mark on me!

It also left a mark on Jules, which she said she still has to this day, more than 35 years later --- She sat on the scissors, put a gash on her thigh, and had to have stitches! She’s got the scar to prove it! So when we reconnected, and I said I was a Quilter, she said it didn’t surprise her one bit.

The summer after 7th grade I went to girl’s camp ---and our camp counselors taught us embroidery on squares of denim. The squares were embroidered with flowers, with rainbows, with other symbols popular in that era! I remember owls and – mine--- a grouping of mushrooms, with red tops and white spots on them. Doesn’t that sound 70’s to you? When the blocks were completed, they were joined and we all took our turns tying this beautiful ((!!)) quilt with bright red acrylic yarn. I remember the backing was red flannel, and the binding was the backing turned over the edge and machine stitched to the front ---

All the girls who submitted a block put their names in the basket, and a winner was drawn ---guess who won the quilt? Me! I had that quilt for years and years and years until it finally wore out. It was the BACKING that gave up, but really, it was in shreds, and I don’t remember specifically when we let it go to wherever quilts go when they really NEED to….go ---I wish I had a picture of that quilt.

After highschool, but before marriage, I made a denim quilt “TOP” out of random cut up pieces of denim, crazy patch style. That thing weighed a TON and I can’t tell you how many needles I bent or broke in the process. I used a record album cover as a template --- to trace on top of my funky denim blocks and cut them out with scissors to square them up and join together. I have no idea whatever happened to that top either ----

When I headed off to College, thinking of dorm room living, I marched down to JC Pennys and bought two twin sized flat sheets in a print I liked. White with blue flowers. ((Of course they were a blend too! Percale! Lovely!!)) and my mom and I spent a weekend removing the hems, tacking them in the 2X4 frame we made for tying quilts up in the attic room of her house in Kuna, Idaho --We layered those sheets with a double layer of poly batting in the middle and tied it with WHITE acrylic yarn. I'd bought a twin sheet set to match too, and I was off to college life in style! That comforter was really NOT a quilt, but it had quilt elements. It finally hit the trash heap when we lived in Columbia, SC about 7 years ago or so. It was so soft and cozy, it was the one the boys wanted when they were sick and couch-bound. No quilt I have ever made since has replaced their sentimentality over that raggy tied sheet thing. I don't GET it!

This is a pic of my first “REAL” quilt! I was 20 when I made this in 1982 as a baby quilt for my baby sister when she was born.

It's faded over the years of course, but it touched me when Mary sent the pic that showed she still had and treasured this little humble quilt.

DH's grandmother showed me how to make cardboard templates, trace them and then cut the pieces with scissors. It's a wonder I ever finished this thing at all because I really hated that process, but it got me well on the way to my quilting obsession, and I haven't stopped since!

The fabrics came from a children's clothing outlet in Boise, Idaho. They would sell the bags of factory scraps and I had bought two bags, one pink, and one blue floral stripe. I guess I didn't know too much about contrast then! I quilted it in the ditch, not knowing any other way to do it, and learned to do prairie points instead of binding. Oh, my quilting thread? Regular sewing thread, a double strand! I'm not sure I buried knots on the back either...Oh how far we have come, and enjoyed the journey!

DH and I were married in August of 1981, and Jason was born to us in November of 1983. When he was about 9 months old I went to work part time at the “Art & Craft Supply” store in Ontario, Oregon. They had some fabric, and I made shop samples of all kinds of things from dolls to stuffed animals and even a bit of quilting. When a neighbor lady heard that I loved to sew --- she donated me a WHOLE BOX of scraps from her dress making business. This was when the “prairie skirts” were really big, and most everything was 100% cotton. Gunny Sax dresses were also very popular ---remember? That box was SUCH a gift to me. I knew I wanted to make a quilt out of it, but what to do and how to start? The pieces were really odd shaped,and I needed something that would work with them.

Remember, this is before rotary cutters, rulers and mats. They were coming shortly, just over the horizon, but this is about 1984 ---I had a baby, a part time job to help out, and a husband in college who also was working a full time job driving forklift at a place that made trailer house molding to support us. I had to make do with what I had --- and my $99 kenmore machine was my best friend!

I used a yard stick to mark lines on the back of the fabric, using the width of the yardstick as my guide. I cut on my lines with scissors. I started a log cabin quilt using all the scraps in that box. I knew from pictures that Log Cabin quilts traditionally had red centers, and I liked that idea---but I didn’t KNOW that some of my fabric wasn’t 100% cotton. I sewed with what I had! My red centers are a poly/cotton broadcloth.

firstquilts 001

This is that quilt today……well worn, very much used. I backed the top with drapery lining I got at my job at a discount. It’s more of a sateen weave than a cotton weave, almost slinky. I didn’t know any better. Polyester batting was the thing of the day. There’s not much of it left inside this quilt!

firstquilts 002

I hand quilted down the center of each log ----I didn’t know anything about squaring blocks up before joining, and I KNOW some of these logs are wider than others, but I didn’t care. I put all the neutrals on one side of the block, and all the colors on the other side. You know what? I still pretty much follow this formula, don’t I?!

firstquilts 003

Do you recognize some of these prints? No one told me that the border should have as much quilting as the quilt center…and I didn’t know what else to do, so I quilted one line down the center just to hold everything. Wide binding! And I hadn’t figured out mitered corners yet either….but this was the first “bed size” quilt that was completed and used. It went on Jason’s first “big boy” bed ----

firstquilts 004

At this time, I thought that I’d number all my quilts and embroider my initials and the date for posterity to see --- that went by the wayside long ago! But I’m so happy that I did do it here. Quilt #3, Mary has Quilt #1 ---Quilt #2 is long gone with the using. 1986. I was 24 years old with a small 2 year old, a hubby in college struggling to make ends meet --- and filling my quiet time by putting the pieces together.

You know what else I just remembered? I entered this quilt in the County Fair. And it won 1st place….another lovely polyester batting was the prize! LOL! Would I enter this quilt NOW? HECK NO!! I’d be laughed right out of competition, but I love the place it’s played in my history ---

Do YOU have a first quilt or quilts and a story to go with it? Feel free to link your blog post below! Remember that we need the url of the specific POST, not the address for your whole blog. To get the correct address in the linky –right click on the subject line of your post you wrote about your first quilt. Chose “copy link address” and paste this url in the form when you link.

For instance, my blog address is http://quiltville.blogspot.com but that isn't enough. I can't link to the WHOLE blog, I need the address of the post. The address of THIS post is http://quiltville.blogspot.com/2011/11/first-quilts.html See the difference?

If you link to your whole blog, I’ll have to remove your link and have you try again because I can’t fix it FOR you.

We'll leave this open for a week to give you time to write your posts!


  1. Loved seeing your first quilts! I will try to link up my own later. I never have taken a picture of it but I still have it and use it!

  2. Anonymous10:06 AM EST

    "So when we reconnected, and I said I was a quilter"

    Too funny! And WHAT A QUILTER YOU ARE!!! That's our modest Bonnie, though. I really enjoyed your story - made my day. Thanks, Bonnie.

  3. WOW! Of course your first quilt are BEAUTIFUL. . for one of your first quilts to be that totally AWEsome log cabin does NOT surprise me in the least!! And it's awesome that you used homedec/dress fabrics for the quilt. . . EVERYONE did back then!

  4. What a great blog... first quilts... Loving the stories... I hope you do a follow up blog on WHAT QUILT MEANS THE MOST TO YOU ... I have a great quilt and story for that one.



  5. I made my first quilt in my early 20s also. Scissor cut squares just stitched together. I had no help and no idea what I was doing when I tried to quilt it with diagonal lines. I didn't pin it well enough and before I was even partially done the top and bottom had shifted and nothing laid flat. Well, I finished it, unhappy with the results. Bound it with pre-packaged silky blanket binding and kept it in the car for emergencies. An emergency did arrise... I got stuck in the snow... shoved it under the tire for traction and managed to drive off... leaving it behind. Sometimes when I hear about other's firsts, I wish I had gone back to get it or at least had a picture of it.

  6. Dear Bonnie,

    I loved seeing and reading about your first attempts at quiltmaking.

    I started my first quilt soon after I got married in 1976. I had a cardboard template for my one-patch tumbler block and I used both dressmaking scraps and remnants. (I worked in a House of Fabrics before I got married.)

    I'd intended the quilt for our double-sized bed, but it soon became a UFO. Years later, when one of the kids was sick, we watched an episode of "Reading Rainbow" which featured a story book about making a quilt. As a diversion for the kids, I hauled out my unfinished quilt and quickly remade it into a bunk bed quilt and bound it with extra wide red bias tape. The kids used it for years. It was starting to fall apart when I decided that it would not survive one more washing. Someone had wet the bed that night, so I just shoved the quilt into a black plastic trash bag and threw it away. I wish I had a picture of it though.

  7. How neat to see your first quilts! I love seeing where we all began, and where we are now. :)

    My first quilt was made in January 1999 as a gift for a friend who just had her first baby. I couldn't yet imagine what a quilt pattern would look like in different colors, so I bought fabrics in just about the same colors as the sample in my pattern book. :) Here is a link to a photo:


    As fas as I know, she still has this quilt and her daughter is almost a teenager now.

  8. my first attempt at a quilt was a fence rail--or rail fence and that belongs to my daughter--it was my first attempt at machine quilting (HAHAHA), also--if I can get a picture will post to my FB page :-) *~*CAROLE*~*

  9. I loved this look into the history behind your quilt beginnings!

  10. Anonymous12:15 PM EST

    I loved reading about and seeing your first quilts.
    I don't have a picture of my first quilt. A quilt my grandma taught me to make by tracing a linoleum square with a pen on fabric left over from dressmaking or old clothes bought at an auction and cut apart.

  11. i just linked mine, I made my daugther a quilt- my first- when I was pregnant with her, it's SO loved, it's in shreds! she can't live without it though, it's super soft.

  12. Anonymous12:32 PM EST

    I posted about my first quilt on my blog last summer. Here's the link:


    Hard to believe that's where I started, but it makes where I am look that much better!

  13. I so love reading and seeing others first quilts. Most have a pretty good story behind them. How wonderful that your sister safe kept that great quilt you made for her!!!

    I added my link to my first one.

    I hate it that I typed in the www. in front of my link....it has not come out quite right. I realized it just about the time I clicked submit. I would repair it if only I could. SORRY!

  14. I linked a post I wrote about my first quilt, from back in July when I first started blogging. Thanks for sharing the story of your first quilt, and hosting this link. Will be fun to read other first quilt stories. :o)

  15. Well, I feel like such a doooofus!! Second time didn't work either! I have NEVER had a problem linking up in my years of posting

    The wind is blowing like a gale here today and it seems to always mess with my broadband a little........??????

    Soooo, I guess you can delete me again! SORRY!

  16. So FUN! I probably would have never shared my first quilt on my own. I love your first quilt -- and the memories you shared. Take Care

  17. I love that the kids favorite was the tied sheets!! I wonder what it is that causes them to get attached to certain quilts and blankets? Too cute!

  18. Love it! My first quilts was done with double thread and prairie points, too! I'm glad that someone else has done the double thread thing, too.

  19. What a wonderful blog post. It brings so many memories of my own sewing and quilting beginnings.

    My first completed quilt was a denim quilt made from my husband’s work jeans; stains, patches and pockets were included in the quilt. We used it on our bed and as a picnic quilt for years until it finally fell apart and had to be trashed.

    My first appliqué quilt was a Sun Bonnet Sue. We used it on our bed for years until each Sue finally pulled away from the quilt and it eventually was trashed.

    Even though these quilts are no longer in existence it’s nice to think about them and how they served us well for many years.

  20. Anonymous7:38 PM EST

    My first quilt was a baby quilt made for my cousin's first child. It was made with pastel gingham fabric cut in squares. Does that tell you how long ago that was?!? Cottom fabric was hard to come by then. As I read your blog and saw the pictures my first thought was, OMG, I still have that blue fabric in my stash! What a laugh. I can't seem to throw anything away. That must be why I like making your quilts. Thanks a bunch. raven@centurytel.net

  21. We all need to thank that kind lady who gave you the bag of scraps. I think it may have started you on your scrappy journey! Love the pics of you and the quilts. It is good to look back sometimes and see how much we have grown.

  22. My first quilt top was made in 1972 when I was 17, didn't finish it until I was 33. I drew a rose out on paper, drew a grid over it then followed that grid, stitching square to square until it was done. There are pieces of clothes I had made for myself in highschool along with pieces from clothes my mother had made for me and my sisters when we were little. If it was a pink scrap, it went in the quilt. When I finished it, I put borders on it and put in a wool batting that my mother had given me from sheep she had raised. Of course it is hand quilted. I don't have a blog so can't link and show you all a picture but you know this quilt is precious to me!

  23. Anonymous10:24 AM EST

    Great post! I don't have a picture, but want to tell you about my first quilt. I believe my sister was 9 and I was 7 (might be wrong on those ages, but we were quite young) when we decided to make our mother a quilt for Mother's Day one year. It was the Saturday before Mother's Day; my mom had gone out with my grandma and aunt for a while. So my sister and I dug through the drawer full of fabric that my mom kept and started cutting. Some of the 'squares' (if you could call them that - no templates, just free-form cutting with scissors) were quite large, and others were very small. We both cut fabric until we thought we had enough. My sister could sew on the machine, but I hadn't learned how yet, so I hand-stitched squares together (with very long stitches, I might add) while my sister used the machine, and we formed our squares into a very puckered and crooked patchwork quilt top, of which we were very proud. We then searched for something to use as batting and backing. We found a blanket that we thought would work as batting and used a table cloth (my mother's best one that went on the dining room table under the china on Sundays) to back the quilt. The quilt was sewn together around the outside edge (no quilting or ties in the middle at all), with the table cloth folded over the raw edges in place of the binding. Our gift was finished and wrapped before mom got home. Our mother cried when she saw opened her gift. She once said that until the quilt fell apart, she never knew what had happened to that blanket. And we were never scolded for destroying her best table cloth or all the fabric that had been planned for other uses.

    By the way, I once lived in Kuna, ID too! My dad's side of the family lived about half-way between Kuna and Meridian, off of Ten Mile Road. I feel even more connected to you now!

    Diane Durrant

  24. You inspired me to dig out pictures of my first quilt and to reminisce about how it all came about - and to post it on my blog. Today it comes full circle!! Thanks for all of your inspiration!

  25. Hey Bonnie, that was a fun trip down Memory Lane! I love seeing others' first quilts. I've posted mine and linked up. Thanks for the fun!

  26. Hi, I popped over from Brown Dirt Cottage blog. "Perfect" quilts are beautiful, but I like the less perfect ones the best. (BTW, I'm originally from Boise.)


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