Wednesday

Confessions of a Quilt Addict

I confess. My name is Michelle and I am a quilter. Thing is, if there was a 12 step recovery program I'd decline without thinking. Unlike some other addictions this one has some great perks. Being creative is good for your soul. Of course, unless you get your family and friends to agree to be quilters too they may look at you funny when you must have a yard of that lucsious red when you already have yards and yards of perfectly good red but it's just not the right red to go with that print you just picked up last week. With this yard of red, you can start that new project. Your husband will gasp and declare that he thought you already started a new project which is about the time you declare that you have learned that technique and this is the new, new project. See, it's hard to stop.

I started sewing sooner than my earliest memory. Story has it that I would sit under my mother's cutting table, formerly known as the dining room table, using straight pins and scraps as voodoo dolls and humming to the sewing machine. I made my first Barbie doll outfit at about age 6. I made my first garment at age 9 and my first quilt at 16. I grew up in a home where my mother and grandmother sewed and I didn't wear store bought clothes until I was in high school. I didn't get a car when I graduated I got a sewing machine.

My quilting addiction started innocently enough. My then boyfriend's sister was having a baby. I designed this gorgeous teddy bear and appliquéd it onto a big piece of fabric. I used the no binding technique and sewed around the outside of the bear to secure the layers. It turned out, well let's just say it was perfect for a baby to spit up on. My next endeavor came years after when I made a signature quilt for my sister's first baby. I cut some awful lavender, blue and pink into squares and hauled them all with permanent markers to her shower. This quilt turned out better but again let's just say it was better for a baby to love. This is when I began my quest for knowledge about how to make a better quilt. I'd been to quilt shows so I knew what a good quilt should look like but I didn't know how to get one. I got a job at a daycare where my boss loved quilting. For one staff meeting she asked us all to bring fabrics and taught us how to make a block. We then made a bunch of blocks and traded with each other. That was it. I was officially hooked. What great therapy. I started buying any fabric I could afford. I'd scour Quilt Shop sales for good buys. Thinking back that is the ugliest fabric I've ever bought. WARNING: this could happen to you. That same year, my mom bought me a rotary cutting class and all the accessories to go with it for my birthday. I learned to make a nine patch. Now I had the skill to cut up all those fabrics. I made a few small quilts here and there for friends but it was not as satisfying as I thought it would be. Everyone would ooh and ahh but these were just plain quilts. I wanted more. I wanted a blue ribbon. A few years went by, my family moved and my job changed. I had a free summer, a stack of fabrics and a tiny apartment I shared with 2 kids and a husband. I thought I'd do a big clean out and finish up all those UFO's (unfinished objects) to make space. I made a quilt for every new baby in our church. Thing is I needed a piece here and there to finish up a project and I ended up with almost more fabric than I started with. My first design challenge was brought by a friend. She and her husband were adopting and wanted something special for their new son. She really wanted a Hawaiian theme so she asked me to use the fabrics she bought to recover the rocking chair, make curtains and a complete nursery set. I appliquéd hand drawn hibiscus flowers on a quilt that matched the fleece she purchased for the blanket I made. I made my first bed skirt and matching crib sheets but the passion for quilting outside the box surged within me. I could do something I'd never done before. With my mom right behind me I purchased a Handiquilter which is a a short arm quilter, then a machine to go with it. I was off, except for this one small thing. I quit my job to care for our 3rd child and another baby soon joined us for number 4. I wasn't sure what I would do with my time but once again my creative addiction solved my problem.

In 2003, I started my business called Dragonfly Stitches. I started quilting for others making baby quilts and nursery sets. My first queen size quilt job didn't turn out that well but once again I practiced until I was really good and I learned a lot from those mistakes. I took a few classes to learn a few new techniques. When my family bought a house I made sure it was big enough for a studio. I made enough quilts to join the craft faire circuit in my local area and I kept selling my quilts. I made a custom quilt for VooDoo Cat Publishing and a couple of other custom quilt more recently. This is the way it starts. Confidence keeps building which encourages the addict even further to collect more fabric and buy more tools. Networking really pays which is how I found Etsy and the support of the two teams I belong to, Idaho Indie Works for Idaho handmade artists and Quiltsy for Quilters around the world. I am an assistant manager for a MSN quilting group which has also taught me a lot about quilting and who I am as a quilter.

Today I am happy to confess that I love quilting. The act of using different colors to create in fabric is challenging and rewarding. Currently I am making and selling quilts locally and on Etsy while I continue to stay home with my children. I have unlimited access to a Nolting long arm and long arm quilting has become a passion that I love to do. Call me crazy but quilts talk to me and tell me what I should draw with thread on them. I created my own block making technique and I have started pushing myself to try innovative things with traditional patterns. I am diligently trying to use up my stash but I don't think that's possible since every step into a quilt store tempts me to buy more. The majority of my fabrics comes from friends or family and swapping with other quilters. I have family support so my mom, husband and kids are always on the lookout for a good deal. A few months ago, my husband got off work early and suggested I stop by a new quilt shop by myself that he found that was having a sale. NOTE: this is not normal spouse behavior.

I still don't have that blue ribbon. The joy of sending a quilt on to be loved by someone feels too good and so I've never kept one of my original works long enough to show. It is good enough that each of my older son's have won a blue ribbon at age 10. They are now 14 and 12. My husband has made 3 quilts so far. My 4 year old just made his first quilt block so he's starting the addiction too. I love to share my addiction with others. I reach out to those that want to learn and join my addiction. Come share with me. I know from experience that there really isn't a right and wrong way to quilt although others will tell you different. It's about creating with fabric and thread as your medium. Join me, I promise not to offer you a 12 step program.

Michelle's shop: www.dragonflystitches.etsy.com

3 comments:

Grandma Betty said...

Michelle,

What a wonderful story! Makes want to sign up for a quilting class like right now!

Thanks for your contribution to my blog!

Grandma Betty

Originals by Lauren said...

Great article. Quilting is a wonderful artform, and I love it too. Lauren

Jabaro said...

Nice article. I also love to quilt and know just how you feel. Keep enjoying it!