Sunday, October 6, 2013

Back in the Day

While I have been doing needlework all of my life, it wasn't until 1975 that I made my first quilt. As a freshman in college, separated from my true love by almost a thousand miles, I did needlework instead of partying. Always the boring and cautious type, I have very few memories to live down. (I might be the only person left of my generation who is truly qualified for public office.)

This was back in the day when a long distance phone call cost nearly a dollar a minute. After years of being constant companions, our universities were at opposite ends of a very large state. It didn't take me long to figure out that being with my guy mattered more than the degree I was after. I followed him to the great white Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I am not at all sure what I'm doing to the quilt here, my best guess is that I am using whatever I had to baste the layers, which looks a lot like yarn to me.

There was no quilt industry in '75, Quilt Market (the annual wholesale show) didn't begin until four years later. I bought my fabrics at the local JC Penneys. Remember back when department stores carried fabric? The only magazine devoted to quilters was Quilters Newsletter, and it may have still been a true newsletter, stapled together at Bonnie Lehman's kitchen table.

My directions for the quilt came from a very short article in Better Homes and Gardens. (Yes, I was reading "shelter" magazines at 18. See "boring" above.) I had a template cut from a Cheerios box, which I traced and traced and traced. My motto at the time was "the bigger the stitch, the sooner I'm done". I understand now that the quilt was basted together.

Quilting and I have come a long way since then. My bed quilts hold together more than a couple of years now. I'd rather work by machine than by hand, at least when it comes to making quilts. Fabric choices have exploded. There are classes and books and videos for learning just about anything a beginning quilter could want to know.

But I'm not sure there has been a moment as sweet as when I first spread that quilt out on the bed in our married housing apartment.  It was wonky for sure, held together with dreams of a future filled with love. The quilt didn't last very long, but the marriage it greeted is still going strong.


  1. Upper MI University was NMU? Lovely up there. Your post was a great love story!

    1. Nah, it was MTU, Michigan Technological University, in Houghton. We graduated in 1980, I with a degree in Bio Sci (pre med actually), he in Mechanical Engineering.

  2. A beautiful story!

  3. I'm just catching up on your blog --- loved this story. In many ways, it mirrors my own --- the being separated by distance. expensive long distance calls, almost daily letters (postage was much cheaper!). My own quilting started in 1974 --- teaching adult education classes, preparing for the bi-centennial. I'd been making clothing for many years, but the quilting hooked me. I enjoy reading your blog and the sharing of your experiences.