A lot can happen in thirty years… you can live in three different houses, two little boys can grow up to become men, a woman can fulfill her dream to become a school teacher and principal, two quilting books can be written and published, and two grandchildren can appear. The word “can” has always been a part of my vocabulary. I’m a determined sort of person.
I started quilting when I was eighteen and a freshman at Olivet College in Michigan (1974). My first quilt was for a friend’s new baby girl. Renee’ was the proud recipient of a quilt based on nursery rhymes. I don’t have a photo of it, which is probably a really GOOD thing. It was hideous, mostly constructed of gingham fabrics because they were cheap. Hey, it was college!
Roll the clock ahead two years, and I was married to Dean with a baby of our own, quilting into the wee hours of the night. I was hooked! If I wasn’t burping the baby, I was quilting. Sean was not quite four years old when his brother Loren was born. The four of us lived in a tiny house, and my quilting frame took up a good portion of the living room. The toy basket and stereo speakers were under the quilt frame, and quilts were on all our walls.
I made a lot of friends who were into quilting in those early years. I wrote my first book in that little house. America’s Pictorial Quilts was written out of frustration at not finding books on pictorial quilts. It was the early 1980’s, and while you could find pictorial quilts in magazines, there just wasn’t a pictorial quilt book to be found. I was blessed to be one of the first quilter/writers to be published by the brand NEW American Quilter’s Society. I participated as a teacher and exhibitor at the first AQS quilt show and contest in April of 1985, and for several years toured the country teaching what I loved: quilting.
Cyril Nelson of E.P. Dutton Publishers (now PenguinBooks,USA) became the editor for my second book, Contemporary Quilts From Traditional Designs. Cy joined me in my excitement with the changing face of quilting, and I was thrilled that he supported my second venture. I learned a lot about quilts, folk art and writing from Cyril, who sadly passed away in June of 2005.
Our second house, much bigger this time, placed us next door to one of quilting’s greatest:
Mary Shafer. Mary was a dear friend, and I loved spending time with her to learn about all types of quilts, patterns, and quilting history. We shared a love for gardening, and many of the plants in our yard were transplanted by Mary, sometimes in the rain. Two of her good friends, Gwen Marston and Joe Cunningham chronicled her work in exhibitions and several books. Mary was inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana in July 2007, less than a year after her death at age 96.
I owe a lot of my talents and love for quilting to two other people. First, to my mother, who from the age of 16 sewed all of her own clothes… and mine. She sewed curtains, upholstered furniture, and created just about everything she could make using fabric and thread and her Singer Featherweight. She had more talent in her little finger than I will ever have. And, second, to my friend Ami Simms, who makes a great partner to dye (fabric) with.
Quilting is an addiction. It can consume your life and take you to places you would never otherwise visit. It is the perfect therapy for hundreds of thousands of people world-wide. Quilts and quilting have a way of uniting people from all walks of life. I love that the invention of the Internet has given quilters yet one more way to connect.