Tuesday, January 5, 2021

What I Learned First

Friend Barb sent a picture of a nice quilt hoop and asked me if it was like mine.  I chuckled a bit and thought about the story of my handy dandy humble hoop.  As I was taking a drive in the countryside I started to think about how I quilt and that led to how I do things in general and that led to some philosophical thoughts I won't bore you with but coupled with those thoughts and the drive I came home feeling blog inspired!

Contrary to how I usually move, I really am a slow worker.  I cook from scratch, use utensils found at estate sales that other people have used, the kitchen drawers are not filled with cute gadgets that only do one thing.  I multi-task, improvise, compromise, think on the fly when I cook.  Recipes are suggestions.

When I work on a quilt I don't have a lot of tools and gadgets that serve just one purpose.  I don't have a drawer full of fancy rulers, a zillion colors of threads kept in an organized way.  I don't have a super duper sewing machine that could launch the Space Shuttle, I don't have one of those nice acrylic extending things that make for a nice flat surface to sew along, I don't even have a big ironing board.  I use a table top ironing board from Ikea and only just bought a wool mat woo hoo! I use scissors that cut, Jack the Ripper is my best friend, threads are kept in two baskets: white/neutral and colors.  I dig around a lot. I did graduate to a rotary cutter and cutting mat.

It's all very basic.  Portable.  Simple.  Do I envy the super quilters?  Sometimes.  Would I trade with them? No. There's a children's book called What You Know First and it's based on the scientific premise that when you do something new for the first time you will remember it best.   When I learned to quilt there were no rotary cutters or mats.  We were one step up from cutting templates from empty cereal boxes.  But that's how I learned.  Do it by hand.  Friend Marilyn still, after all her many years of making quilts still quilts with the stab method because that's how she learned so many years ago.

This is my humble hoop.  It's a simple, basic 14 inch embroidery hoop that a long ago neighbor mounted on little legs and a bottom for me.  I was so excited when I took my first stitches I stopped what I was doing and ran over to his house and hugged him. Not having to juggle the hoop, putting the base on my lap so I can stick my hand underneath, well, it revolutionized my quilting task.  This thing has been screwed and glued over the years but it still works.   It's been a very tempting thing to consider buying a Barnett hoop but the decisions are too many right now.  Square?  Round?  Flat base?  Padded base?  What if I don't like it?  

This is what I have space for in my life and house, it's not fast but fast isn't always best. I don't do things to be fast. I know some people who do fabulous machine quilting and a couple of times I've sent things out to be machine quilted. Does my slow way of quilting mean I'm a snob about hand work? I hope not. It's just what I learned first.

I am amending my post to include something I thought of on my drive but didn't carry the thought into the house but Robin ( in comments) touched on.

We continue to learn new things and adapt to new things and ideas.  Where would we be if we didn't learn and adapt to make our lives a bit better.  If we are stubborn about learning and adapting we would  still be using stone spears.  Certainly not computers.  I mentioned in a previous post that at retreat we are a room full of people who all do the same thing - quilt - but in different ways and it's all good.



  1. Interesting post. What I learned first can apply to so many things. I learned how to hand piece using those templates you talked about. Because I have that knowledge it deepens the experience of trying something new. I imagine the assembly in my head, figure out the best (not necessarily easiest) method for assembly, and then I consider how much time I want to devote to the project. Using a computer is not always smooth running for me. . . that's not what I learned first. But, just because it's a challenge, doesn't mean I don't want to learn new things, easier things, more efficient things. I'm with you - I don't need a new gadget for every construction. I don't have enough space to store it and it just doesn't make sense.

  2. its always interesting how others "quilt"....
    there's always something to be learnt from it too....and yes you don't need every gadget invented, its nice to keep it simple.

  3. I hear you. My mother was quilting in the days of cereal box templates and scissors only for cutting. She did eventually move on to a rotary cutter, but she never learned continuous binding (though I did try to encourage her to learn). The tiny hand stitches she ingrained in me when I was in junior high 50 years ago have made it nigh unto impossible for me to adapt to "big stitch", though I would love to do it.
    I have accumulated a few "one trick" gadgets, but many times I feel that if I have a way of doing something that already works, why get a gadget for it?

  4. No point in changing something that works well for you. Lovely post.

  5. Thanks for the post I chuckled because I’m always kind of looking for new methods to do something easier cheaper faster, whatever. And yes, my Bernina‘s could land on the moon which were retirement gifts to me, and justifiable because I do a large amount of sewing besides quilting. Besides they’re a heck of a lot cheaper than a Harley motorcycle or my neighbors Hermès Birkin purse, both well over 25,000. 🤦🏼‍♀️ To each his own I guess. Back to your hoop......The hoop I saw was from the THIMBLE LADY in Australia which your Aussie friends probably know. I thought it was quite inventive, as it raised above your legs but your legs actually supported it underneath. Her thimbles intrigued me too . Since you know I don’t enjoy hand quilting I do tend to look for tools or gadgets that will potentially increase the experience. You love hand quilting like I love hand Appliqué..... I could do it in my sleep. Very likely you cringe at machine quilting like I cringe at fusible appliqué. That said, I have always been a firm believer find what ever brings you joy, if it doesn’t bring you joy get rid of it-or don’t do it, whatever. And for heaven sake‘s don’t let the “quilting police” tell you you’re doing it wrong....if it works for you than it is right! When I teach my appliqué classes I do a show and tell of my progression so students don’t get discouraged when they start. It’s a reminder how clunky my work began compared to today. I want students to be inspired and encouraged to continue, and to explore new tools and techniques, because what works for me may not work well for them. I give them what I’ve learned to achieve my results as a starting point. Anyway, I turn to you for hand quilting advice since you are a devotee!

  6. I'm with Barbara.......everyone do what works for them.......thats the important bit......wished I learnt to hand quilt......

  7. I admire people who can hand quilt what ever way they like to.I even succumbed to machine stitching a bind on. I saw Barb do one on her post so I said if such an amazing quilt maker can do it so can I. Mind I would not do it for an all appliqued quilt. We have a saying if the hat fits , wear it.

  8. I love what you added in red about constantly learning and progressing. It was so thought provoking for me.
    I love your hoop and have hand quilted on a similar one a couple of times.