I’m not sure if there is a word in our vocabulary that brings more heartfelt stories, warm and fuzzy feelings to us than the word “Quilt.” It seems that we all had one, wished we had one, saw one, or tired to make one that combines with a wonderful story. It is the later one that brings me to tell you my story.
In April 2005, I lost a good friend to cancer. She had fought it so well for 3 years that I never really thought she would die from it. I was her hairdresser for 17 years and we became dear friends. There were 13 of us gals that met every Wednesday night for drinks and usually pizza, we called ourselves the W’s. Wild, Wonderful, Wise, Wacky, Women of Wednesday. We supported each other in all the endeavors that life brings to women. It was a great group. Then my best friend, Priscilla got sick. Being her hairdresser, I shaved her head, styled her wigs, watched the hair slowly grow back, as we grew closer and closer. My family loved her and she loved us. We invited her to our family gatherings and shared holiday traditions together. However, when she ended up in the hospital, I got nervous. I would go and see her in the morning but never stayed too long. The visits were short. Hospitals make me nervous and uncomfortable, unlike Priscilla, who was a nurse.
This one particular morning after our visit I told her I was going to go downtown to a quilt store. She said, “Why are you doing that?” My response was “Just to look around”. Little did I know the real reason for going was to find some comfort and warmth in my very scary and uncertain feelings I was having. I have always loved fabric and done my share of costumes and dance recital outfits, but the whole quilting idea was a pretty untouchable area. As I was walking out of the store, I saw a small stack of fabric that looked inviting. All the edges were cut with pinking shears; they were cut in what looked to be about 5 inches square. There were probably 30 to 40 squares in the bundle. I looked at the price, $7.00, and purchased them. That night I laid them all out and was quite surprised that they all matched color wise. 40 pieces of fabric that all matched! What a novel idea! So, back to the quilt store I go to buy another bundle, not sure what I would do with one, so I might as well have two.
The gal that was waiting on me was the same one that was working the day before and she recognized me. She asked me if I was a quilter, I said “No, but these little bundles just intrigue me, what are you making with these?” She said,” I don’t know what the customers are doing with them, but we sure are selling a lot of them”. Then she got on her hands and knees and pulled out something from under the counter and said to me,”Even you could do this!” What she pulled from the counter was an interfacing that had lines on it, but what made this simple for me was that you would iron the fabric to it and it would stick. She was quickly showing me how to use it with the fabric squares and I was getting confused. We made a plan for me to come back into the quilt store the next day and she would show me in the classroom.
What I experienced was a technique of ironing squares of fabric on to a printed grid of an interfacing product. Around the squares of fabric we placed strips of fabric and ironed them in place also. Once all the fabric squares and fabric strips were ironed in place we took the piece of interfacing and folded it right sides together and she showed me how to sew between the squares and the strips. How simple could this be! We didn’t have time for me to sew that day but I got the jist of it.
Priscilla passed away the next day.
It was a week or so before I got back to my quilt, but once I did my life began to change. Oh, how it changed!
I was so excited, I took my quilt top back to the quilt store to show it off! It went over very well, so I bought two more fabric bundles, fabric for my strips and headed home to make another quilt. On my way out of the store I asked the patient clerk and my new friend, “Where is this written down?,Could I buy a pattern?” She said,” No one would write something that simple.”
All of a sudden I started thinking of the simplicity of this technique and how anyone could do this with no quilting experience, just like me! I immediately started the quilt. It was going to be just like the first one because I bought the exact same fabrics. I was so excited about finishing the first quilt I that didn’t care that I would have another one just like it. I just wanted to sew. I think this is where comfort and warmth helped me through the grieving of my best friend. I was getting it from the fabric and the idea that I was making something I never thought I would do. It was by hand and from a very heavy heart at the time.
While I was making the second quilt I kept thinking of how you would write down some simple instructions to make this quilt I was making, again!
This is when my life changed.
I was 48 years old, mother of two college girls, wife of 27 years, hairdresser for 29 years, owner of my beauty shop for 18 years and all I could think about was making quilts.
I became obsessed with it and then I became passionate about it. My customers saw all the quilts I was making and I would tell them all that they could do this too. I networked with gals that had done some quilting and could help me with the vocabulary and measurements and I began writing a quilt pattern.
I must say that I have never been one to think that things happen for a reason, but my friend Priscilla always reminded me that she thought that way. I guess my life changed for a reason, she was a very big part of that. I would have never walked in that quilt store that day if she hadn’t been in the hospital losing her battle. Yes, I do have a story, sometimes it is harder to tell than others, and sometimes I leave a lot of it out, but she is in my heart whenever I share it.
We all know how hard it is to find time to do all that we want to but there are so many that would love to make a handmade gift that comes from the heart. The thought that a quilt could be made in a reasonable time frame was unheard of. My market and audience is not necessarily the gals already making quilts, it is everyone else thinking about it! What I was able to do was reinvent a product that was already on the market but not being used to its potential and that is the Quilter’s Grid from Pellon®.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I hope that someone has been thinking about making a quilt but hesitant to jump in. Go ahead give it a try. Made by hand, from the heart.
What I have learned....from you
Have you ever heard the saying, “When I taught I learned more from the students than they ever learned from me?” Well that is what I'm thinking when I look back at the last six years of my life. Oh, things I have learned!
You could say the wing and the prayer that I started with are still by my side.
Success comes with growing pains and I have certainly had a share of those but the joy and excitement override those pains quickly.
I have learned that customer service with a smile and sincerity can make any person’s day. With a look of amazement and seeing “magic” before their eyes is the “AHHA” moment I enjoy watching during every demonstration. Whether it is before a crowd of 100 or just one in front of my table in the show booth I am always ready to give it my best shot showing them an amazing and achievable technique of piecing a quilt.
I have learned about the pride people put into their quilts and the heavy hearts they have while making memory quilts. I have seen tears, and shed my own, telling stories of my journey and listening to others. The truth of the matter is, a part of us goes into everything we make and it spells “LOVE”. What we really are saying is “I love what I did, for you”.
I have learned that answering and returning a call is usually a joy on both ends.
I have been reminded that there are many others that know a lot more than me.
However, I don't believe anyone else has had their hands on more 821 On Point fusible grid than myself in the last 6 years!
I have learned nuances and techniques for teaching, and a pot of coffee, even cold can keep me happy. I have learned that finishing a project is something to shout about and loudly!
I have learned that I am strong, helpful and kind to an audience that I never thought in my wildest dreams I would meet. That is YOU, thank you the lesson, I have learned a lot.
The beginning of my story never changes, of course, but the JOURNEY is ever changing, always exciting and different and that is a credit to all of you. Just like the quilts themselves, no two quilters are the same!
My most sincere Thank you,