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How I Learned to Quilt

by Morgan
(Garland, TX, USA)

One Christmas more than ten years ago, my best friend gave me an antique quilt top that was hand stitched by one of her long deceased relatives.

While I certainly had admired all those different quilts my Mom and Aunts had made over the years, I realized I did not really have the first clue about how to turn that quilt top into an actual quilt.

With a well placed telephone call to my Mom I told her I wanted to make a quilt and asked her how did you do it?

"What kind of quilt top is it?" She asked.

I said, "old!"

Realizing that she needed a more serious response I tried to explain it was a patchwork of colored squares (about 2 x 2 inches) made in blocks. The blocks were connected with chartreuse green squares alternating with ones of red polka dots on a white background.

I’m sure my explanation left plenty to be desired.

"How big a quilt top is it?"

After laying the top on different beds in my house I determined it was for a full size bed.

I followed Mom’s instructions and purchased batting and a white bed sheet (queen size) to use for the backing.

With the help of a well-intended saleslady an array of perceived quilting necessities was assembled. Since I had no quilting frame, I came home with embroidery hoops (large and small) safety pins, quilting treads, quilting needles and of course some quilting magazines.

Just as instructed I begin by putting the bed sheet down on the floor, the batting on top and then the quilt top. I pinned the three layers together only to discover the back would not hold the pinning without bunching up.

I ended up
hanging the bed sheet over the curtain rod to the sliding glass door. It took a stepladder to finally get the three pieced pinned together where they were straight.

Between shopping and pinning the better part of two days had passed and I had not sewn a stitch.

A second phone call to Mom was needed. "Okay I said, what’s next?"

"Start in the middle" she explained, "just stitch around each square. When you have completed the first block in the middle, move your hoop over and repeat, always working in a circle to the outside."

Well, some two winters later I finally stitched around each and every square. Oh, did I mention that I actually stitched around each square twice, once on the inside and once of the outside. Mom never said anything about the ditch. The result of my mistake was it created a beautiful double diamond pattern instead of a single diamond.

Each block was stitched and it still had to be bound. That required another trip to the store to find just the right color binding. This time I went to a quilt shop that specialized in quilting. I took my two-year-old project with me.

I’m pretty sure it was about 100 degrees outside that July when I saw the light of maybe finishing this on-going project.

Lucky for me, the sale lady quickly pulled several different colors to match for binding. I settled on a chartreuse green with tiny little white dots and got some last minute tips on how to bind the edges and miter the corners.

All in all I was proud of myself for completing what I started. I have never regretted the time and effort I put into quilting this now family heirloom.

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Aug 16, 2013
Way to go girl!!!
by: Your best friend

Great article and pictures. I know this will encourage other newbies to jump into quilting. There are lots of old quilt tops just waiting to be completed. Each generation seems to leave those old quilt tops boxed on the closet shelf, garage or attic. I frequently see them at estate sales and occassionally at garage sales. They might not be today's color choices, but they sure work up beautifully!

Aug 07, 2013
by: Julie


I applaud your desire and courage to make your first quilting project a full size bed quilt! Many people just start with a table runner, or even a potholder!

It takes a lot of guts to take an antique quilt top and launch into finishing it with no experience, and just your Mom coaching you over the telephone.

What a lot of work, and it sure took a lot of perseverance to keep at it for two years. Kudos on a BEAUTIFUL heirloom!

Aug 03, 2013
by: Evelyn

I loved reading your tale of the first quilt. I love the fact that you did a double diamond! That makes it just that much more special.

I still haven't figured out the Stitch In the Ditch. So if anyone would like to share exactly what that is to a newbie like me, I would very much appreciate it.

I have never hand-stitched my quilts; I love the convenience of my sewing machine. But on 100 + degree days this does sound very relaxing and I may have to purchase some embroidery hoops and give it a try.

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