300 Words about Quilting: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Quilters Newsletter invites you to share your quilt stories with other QN readers in 300 words or less. If you have a quilt story that fits the topics listed, be it funny, sad, poignant or anything in between, we want to hear from you. Send your story, its title and your complete contact information to submissions@qnm.com. Put “300 Words” in the subject line.

Upcoming topics and deadlines are:

Dreams and goals for my quilting: July 15, 2012
I won't give up: September 1, 2012
Quilting and charity: November 1, 2012                                  

I sew and sew and sew and why the stash doesn’t shrink, no one knows.
Oh, the joy of collecting fabrics that fill shelves at quilt shops.  Building a stash – it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Who could resist the beautiful colors, alluring patterns, silky feel of fabric and endless possibilities?

The fabric stash has outgrown shelves, and the closet is bursting at the seams. There are stacks of finished quilts, unquilted tops and quilts in progress. And still, the stash does not seem to diminish.  There have been quilts lovingly sewn for gifts, charitable donations and a quilt made to barter for a painting.  Some stash has been relocated in to other quilters’ homes. The stash is still the stash.   How is this possible?  What is a quilter to do?  Add more shelves?  Slide bins of fabrics under beds?  Stop buying new fabric and only use the stash? 
The corner hutch that temporarily landed in my sewing room when we moved into our home over 18 years ago has got to go. In its place will be a bookcase.  No more books on the fabric shelves. Why didn’t I think of this sooner? Fabric will be flying out of bins, pressed, refolded and arranged in full view. Fabric already on the shelves will be reorganized, too.

Purchases that seemed like a good idea at the time and led to an out-of-control stash are now neatly organized and visible. Oh, the joy of touching the stash with all the beautiful colors, alluring patterns, silky feel and, yes, the possibilities are still endless.   


My husband and I used to ride Harleys. For several years I collected Harley bandanas with the thought that I would make a quilt out of them one day.  I wasn’t a quilter yet then. I had made two or three baby quilts, but they were modest attempts. My grandmothers had been quilt makers though and I always had it in mind that I wanted to make quilts too. I knew how to sew and made quite a few of my own clothes but had not yet learned how to make a proper quilt.

I washed the bandanas, cut them into large triangles, and made pinwheel blocks using a white background fabric. A few of my bandanas were white though so I found a piece of black fabric, probably gabardine left over from slacks I had made, and used that for the background of the white pinwheels. I put those four blocks on the corners. The top was huge – probably king sized – complete with 5/8” seams all pressed neatly open.

When I finished piecing my quilt top I had the brilliant idea to wash it before putting the batting and backing on. What a mistake! I don’t know what I was thinking. All of the seams raveled into a tangled mess and the black fabric, which had not been pre-washed, turned the white background fabric pink!

In hindsight, it was good that I washed it then and not after I completed the quilt. But, discouraged at the time, I put that awful top away somewhere and forgot about it. Several years later I was ready to learn to quilt so I bought a beginners book, cut all of the bandana pieces out of that old top, and used them to make a sampler quilt. It turned out great.

I had just purchased a bundle of fabric I loved.  I took the fabric with me when I went to visit my mother for the weekend.  She had always been interested in things that her daughters did, especially if it involved quilting.  My mother was two weeks away from being 98 years young! I put the fabric on her lap while we visited.  She told me she couldn’t see well anymore, but that she loved to feel the fabric beneath her hands.  She said, “I know you’ll make something pretty with this.”

Mother died six weeks later.  I still had the fabric and wanted to sew something as a remembrance of her.  I have three sisters, and a sister-in-law.  We belong to a family quilt bee that meets once a year.  We always have special surprises for each other.  I thought, “I’ll make a quilt from this fabric, and have a drawing for one of them to win it.”  It seemed like a good idea at the time! Then I thought, “How can I have only one girl receive the fabric that Mother touched so lovingly?” I couldn’t do that, so I decided to make each of them a quilt using the fabric.  That too seemed like a good idea at the time.

And it was a good idea.  I made four quilts, using the same pattern for each quilt.  I had to purchase more fabric, but I made sure that some of the fabric Mother touched was in each quilt.  After I finished all four quilts, I noticed that one of them had a strip missing! But that’s what is going to make these quilts special.  They are all alike, but just a little bit different, and all have some of the fabric that Mother touched.

The top of my first quilt was pieced: a huge star constructed of large fabric pieces chosen for their color rather than content or thread count.  After all, it was the 70’s and even those who knew what they were doing sometimes had to settle for whatever fabric was available.

We had more children than money and I set out to look for something to use as batting.  At a rummage sale I spied an electric blanket and thought “just the thing.”  After parting with a dollar or two I took my prize home and pulled out the wires. Now all that remained was to find a suitable backing.  Again I thought I was in luck.  A local dry goods store had “orphan” sheets on sale and I purchased one in just the right shade of brown.  After carefully basting my masterpiece together, I began to hand quilt.  Hmm – it did seem rather hard to get the needle through all that, but I persevered and eventually the quilt was finished and bound and wrapping children curled up on the family room couch.

Had I known that electric blankets were not the preferred batting nor sheets the perfect backing, I might have rethought my purchases.  Now almost thirty-five years later, I’ve learned much and now use commercial batting and 100% cotton backing!  But the star quilt?  It still brings back happy memories of hours of warmth and comfort it brought to children of all sizes.

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