You have been thinking about starting a hobby during lockdown maybe, searched through endless Facebook pages and suddenly you jump into UK Quilters United.
WOW . what a different world to discover. What a plethora of new things to learn, words to understand, techniques to discover and more. It’s mind-blowing.
But, remember, we all started somewhere. I have seen quite a few questions from new members to the Facebook group about what they need to get started. It set me thinking about how I got started myself. Way back then – I am not saying how far – I used to make most of my own clothing (can’t be bothered these days) using my Mum’s old Jones machine. I learned to sew on an old treadle at school but we did have basic Bernina machines to use during exams. I still lust after a treadle machine now and back then Bernina was the machine I said I would get. Back then it seemed the ultimate goal for any seamstress
If I move forward a few years I was given a Newhome machine for my 21st and that lasted for a lot more years than I am going to tell you. It gave me a great service, helped me make my first interview suit, lots of dresses for my daughter and many pairs of curtains. It’s still upstairs and needs a proper service, but I reckon it would still create some fabulous work. That machine had a few different feet to use, but I only ever used the basic sewing foot and sometimes the zipper foot. I think I might have once or twice had a go at a buttonhole.
Life got busy and that machine sat patiently. I had admired my best mates quilting for years, and still have the first quilt she gave me, upstairs (I tend to store things up there a lot) so when I wanted another I asked her. No – she said – I will show you how.
We bought the fabric. No special rulers, scissors, templates or anything. No walking feet. No specialist threads. We had polyester wadding. I dragged out the Newhome machine onto my dining table, dug out my pincushion and set to. Tumbling Triangles by the Lintotts. I drew the individual shapes, cut them out and constructed the quilt. Knelt on the floor to sandwich and hand baste and then quilted in straight lines. My Son has that quilt now – he wanted to use it in a photography shoot and somehow it never came back. You never forget your first one do you.
I suppose the point I am making is you don’t need any specialist equipment to get started. You don’t even need a machine if you want to hand quilt (I didn’t – I am far too impatient for that). You could even ransack your old clothing for fabric if you wanted to.
BUT – and that’s the biggie. BUT. BEWARE. This hobby is terribly addictive. Pretty soon I wanted more. I treated myself to a new Janome sewing machine (yes – I know Newhome became Janome now, but didn’t at first). Then I bought a bigger Janome machine with a larger throat. Now I have a Simply Sixteen Longarm machine as well. These have all been for landmark birthdays – but that’s not relevant. I don’t need them to make a quilt, but I wanted them. They make life easier for me.
I am a fabric hoarder. I probably will never use up the fabric I do have, and one day a worthy charity will likely benefit from it all, but for now, I am the keeper of that fabric. I could buy to suit each project, and finish one before I start another – but I don’t.
I don’t have many rulers .. just my strip ruler, a 12-inch block to square up, a 24 inch and a 12-inch straight ruler. I have bought a few templates over time, but have only ever used them once. I have made my own templates in the past too from cardboard, or perhaps an odd bit of firm plastic I likely found in the garage. I use most bamboo or 80/20 cotton wadding these days rather than polyester.
We don’t ever need specialist equipment to make a quilt. Anyone can start with the simplest of things. There are techniques to learn, not rules. I have no idea why we use a 1/4-inch seam, but in my tiny mind perhaps it because we quilters are frugal and like to make a little go a long way. I like the feel of cotton fabric but have used polyester in the past. I use moon thread mostly but have Mettler, Madeira, Guttermann and Aurifil in the box too. I do clean my machine regularly .. usually when I notice someone mention they did theirs. It goes off for a service now and then to keep it running well. I am more careful with the longarm machine which is a whole different thing and listen to the experts more. I haven’t had it long and am still learning what I can achieve with that.
What I do know is I love sewing, I have a thing for blue fabrics – the ones above I bought from Panicos up in Stockton for no reason other than they are blue, and I really enjoy patchwork and quilting. It’s kept me sane for many years and is my sanctuary when work or life gets stressful. I do hope you take as much pleasure from your own efforts as I do from mine.