My life underwent a lot of changes in 2003-2004. I became engaged. I got laid off. I moved in with my then-fiance, now-husband. We planned our wedding. We were married. I came home from our honeymoon, married and still unemployed. Once S went back to work, I had a steady diet of job hunting and watching home improvement-related TV.
One of my favorite shows during that time was HGTV’s Simply Quilts, hosted by Alex Anderson. I did not start watching it with the intent to start quilting; I was mostly curious about the process and whether it was old-fashioned as I perceived it to be. However, the more I watched it, the more interested I became, and eventually, I decided that I would try quilting on for size–you know, like you do when you have no income. (Perhaps not the smartest decision I have ever made, but I needed something constructive to do!)
I did some research online and found instructions for creating a block that looked like a pinwheel. I also went to my local Joann Fabrics store and picked up some basic quilting supplies: fabric (it was June, so I had a lot of patriotic fabrics to choose from), a cutting mat, a ruler, and a rotary cutter. I already had a sewing machine and thread. So, one day, while S was at work, I started working on my first quilt. Here is the first block:
Looking at it now, I see the flaws. I also recognize it for the much-too-difficult thing that it is, given my quilting skill level at the time. (Two words: bias seams.) But, hey, the patches are all about the same size, the seams are more or less straight, and the block is more or less square. For my first time, I felt like this was a victory!
I cut and sewed, I looked for work, and I cut and sewed some more. It took me the better part of a few weeks to assemble all 90 blocks. For the most part, they all looked about the same as the first, although there were a few that came out stunningly smaller than the others. Not knowing any better, I continued on to the next step–laying out the quilt–and then on to assembly of the top.
At the time, we had plenty of room in the living room for me to lay out a nearly-queen sized quilt top on the floor. I wanted a randomized feel to the final quilt top, but I wanted to retain order as well. So, I set two “rules” for the layout–alternate red blocks and blue blocks, and no two edge-touching blocks should contain the same secondary fabric. The final layout, which looked like fireworks to me so I called this one Fireworks, looked like this:
I am fairly certain I was successful in sticking to my self-imposed rules, but even if I didn’t, what does it matter? I think the final product is beautiful, even if it does have some opportunities for improvement.
I have never quilted this top. There are some seams that will not stay sewed shut, whether due to too little seam allowance or too much fraying. There are many places where the pressed seam allowances are stacked up in so many layers that it is nearly impossible to sew through them. I had problems with machine tension, so there are some hairball-sized knots of thread in a few places.
Despite those flaws, I love this quilt. It’s my first, and even with all its issues, I am very proud of this accomplishment. I keep it with my fabric stash, and every once in a while, I pull it out and think about how far I’ve come and how excited I was to get started in this new hobby.
How about you? What hobby did you start at what most people would consider an inopportune time? What made you get started in the first place?